Democratic Socialists of America

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Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the US. It is one of two official U.S. affiliates of the Socialist International. It was formed in 1982 from a merger of the Michael Harrington led Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and the smaller New American Movement.

DSA publishes a quarterly journal, Democratic Left.

About DSA

Circa 2000, Democratic Socialists of America was a national organization of about 7,000 members. There were about 15 local chapters. New locals had just formed in Oregon and Arizona and a long dormant local in San Francisco had a new organizing committee. In California locals existed in San Diego, Sacramento and East Bay, as well as San Francisco. The Los Angeles local had declined to non functioning in the last 6 years.

Over 50% of total DSA members lived in areas without locals.

In addition the national and locals, there were several Commissions. These groups dealt with specific issues and are not geographically organized. For example there is currently functioning Latino, Anti Racism, Feminism, Labor, and Religion and Socialism Commissions. The eco-socialism and African American Commissions are currently not functioning. Sacramento DSA, hosted both the Anti Racism and Latino Commissions[1].

Inspiration from Gramsci


While claiming to be socialist, Democratic Socialists of America is a Marxist organization, that draws heavily from the ideas of the late Italian Communist Party theoretician Antonio Gramsci.

Orange County California DSA acknowledged its debt to Gramsci in its February 1984 newsletter.

"Antonio Gramsci was a founder of the Italian Communist Party. He developed theories on "open ended Marxism" and independent Euro-Communism. His writings have remained influential among European parties of the left for several decades. They have also formed a vital part of the ideas that brought about the formation of today's DSA."


Past and present;[2]


Prominent members

Since its formation in 1982, many prominent people have been active in Democratic Socialists of America, including;


2013 leadership

National Political Committee

2011 leadership

Elected to serve on the National Political Committee – the leadership body described as “the engine room of the organization”, in November 2011, were;[4]

Plus the two YDS co-chairs, Sean Monahan (Philadelphia, PA) and Jackie Sewell (Lawrence, KS).

2009 leadership

The DSA leadership structure in 2009 consisted of[5];

2001 leadership

Nineteen people ran for the sixteen National Political Committee positions elected at the 2001 Democratic Socialists of America Convention. The winners were:

The Young Democratic Socialists representatives to the NPC (sharing the one Youth Section vote) were Joan Axthelm (Chicago) and Fabricio Rodriguez (Arizona).[7]

1997-1999 leadership

National Political Committee elected at the Columbus, Ohio, 1997 National Convention.[8]

Youth Section Representatives:

1995 leadership

1995 National Political Committee;[9]

The reserved Youth Section Seat was shared by Raybblin Vargas and Daraka Larimore-Hall.

1990 leadership

Elected, November 9, 1989 national convention in Maryland.[10]

Honorary chairs

Vice chairs

National Political Committee

1986 leadership

The 1986 National Executive Committee consisted of;[11]

1989 conference

Over 250 delegates, alternates, and observers gathered in Maryland on November 9.

Bogdan Denitch, DSA vice chair and member of the National Political Committee discussed changes in Eastern Europe in light of potential problems and prospects.

NPC member Joanne Barkan analyzed the emergence of a unified Europe in 1992 as the result of the trend toward globalization of national economies and assessed the impact of the European changes on left politics in the United States.

Robert Kuttner, author of The Life of the Party, analyzed the state of domestic politics . Delegates listened to descriptions of the ins and outs of labor struggles from Kristine Rondeau of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers and Sam Hughes of the United Mine Workers of America

The convention also noted Michael Harrington's absence at a tribute to him after lunch on Friday. After formal presentations by DSA members Carl Shier and Penny Schantz, convention delegates approached the microphone and spoke lovingly of their associations with Mike, their recollections of his past deeds, and their hopes for DSA carrying out his mission.

Mike's son, Alexander, ended the session by recalling eloquently his father's love of poetry as well as politics

Delegates' reactions to the convention were overwhelmingly positive. Janet Wilder from Boston noted, "People were looking for ways of overcoming old divisions in the organization and moving ahead as a group."

Baltimore's Dean Pappas, a veteran of the New American Movement, was glad to see more former NAM members at this convention than at other recent DSA meetings.

Youth Section activist Cindy Illig of Cleveland said, "I found it very positive, and I was excited that my friend whose first DSA meeting it was found it even more positive."[12]

1995 National Conference

November 10-12 Washington DC.


1996 endorsements


1997 National Conference


Columbus, Ohio was the location for DSA's 1997 National Convention.

Dan Cantor of the New Party, Lynn Chancer of DSA and Columbia University, Amy Isaacs of Americans for Democratic Action, Joseph Schwartz of DSA's National Political Committee and Temple University, and Cornel West, DSA Honorary Chair and Professor of Afro-American Studies at Harvard University; gathered at the convention's keynote plenary devoted to discussion of "The Challenges Facing the Broad Left."

DSA Youth Section Organizer Kevin Pranis and YS leader Raybblin Vargas plugged DSA's Prison Moratorium Project. The project, initiated by the YS and the NYC-based Urban Justice Center, targets state governments, calling fora five-year freeze on prison building and redirecting the funds to education and community investment.

At the Breaking Bread forum, where Cornel West shared the stage with writer Barbara Ehrenreich, Reverend Dr. Jeffrey Kee, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church, multicultural consultant Luella Tapo, Baldemar Velasquez of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, and local activist Bill Moss. Referring to President Bill Clinton's recent call for a nationwide dialogue on race, moderator Bob Fitrakis put the question to the evenings' participants: Can we recreate a coalition, multicultural and multi-racial, that stands for social justice in America?[14]

Elected Representatives, 1990

As of January 1990, D.S.A. members holding elected public office included;[15]

Using the Democratic Party

In 1995, DSA leader Joseph Schwartz wrote of the Democratic Party;.[16]

DSA is by no means naive about the Democratic Party leadership's general drift to the right. As the Democratic Party in most areas is barely an institution, let alone one that facilitates democratic participation, most DSA locals treat it as simply a line on the ballot.
Where progressives have the strength to battle corporate interests and use that line for democratic purposes, we support their efforts—witness Paul Wellstone and Carol Mosely Braun's Senate victories. But where that ballot line is captured by centrist and center right forces, DSA locals usually abstain from electoral work.

Taking over the Democratic Party

According to an article written in the Boston DSA magazine Yankee Radical, January, 2001, by Mike Pattberg; [17]

On the other hand, the Communist Party experienced the height of its numbers, power and influence when it abandoned its previous ultra-left course to become the Stalinist wing of the New Deal in the mid-1930s...

In any case, by the early 1960s some within the Socialist Party (including future DSA leaders), adopting a variant of the CP’s strategy 25 years earlier, had broken with prevailing labor party orthodoxy. (Or the belief that the SP should continue to run its own candidates without support from labor or anyone else, another version of the same idea.) They instead advanced the concept of “Realignment” in the Democratic Party; forging a coalition of labor, blacks and middle-class liberals and radicals to take over the Party by purging (democratically, of course) Southern racists, big-city bosses and other retrograde elements.

Long term goals

In 1997 DSA goals by 2017 included:[18]

A U.S. President from the Progressive Caucus, a 50 member socialist caucus in Congress, successful programs of the likes of universal health care, progressive taxation, social provision and campaign finance reform.

Radical Scholars & Activists Conference

In 1993 the Democratic Socialists of America was an endorser/sponsor of the Midwest Radical Scholars & Activists Conference. The theme of the conference was, "Popular Empowerment in the Clinton Era". The conference was held between Oct. 29 - 30, 1993 at Loyola University, Chicago.[19]

1982 7th Annual Summer Youth Conference

Source: In These Times, ad, August 11-24, 1982, p. 22:

"Organize: A socialist youth movement", 7th Annual Summer Youth Conference, to be held August 19-22, 1982, at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio.


For more information, please contact DSA Youth Section at 853 Broadway, Suite 801, N.Y., New York, 10003.

Invited speakers include:


  • socialists in electoral politics
  • workshops on disarmament, labor, civil rights, socialist feminism, community organizing, the economic crisis, theory, student aid cutbacks

Skills Training:

  • in campus, electoral, peace and community organizing

Towards a Revitalized Left


Sponsor: Western Region of Democratic Socialists of America

Site: Nourse Auditorium, 275 Hayes, San Francisco


"Radical Alternatives for the 1980s"

Source: The Guardian December 12, 1983, p. 8, Calendar section

Thursday-Friday, December 29-30 (1983) Radical Alternatives for the 1980s: A Conference on Education and Strategy for Progressive Youth Speakers:

To be held at District Council 37 AFSCME, 125 Barclay Street (Wall Street area, lower Manhattan), 9:00AM - 5:00PM, $15. Info: DSA youth Section, 853 Broadway, #801, New York, New York, 10002.

Conference: Beyond the Feminization of Poverty"

Source: Guardian, May 30, 1984, p. 16, "Calendar" section Washington, D.C. Friday June 1: Hear

Explore "Beyond the Feminization of Poverty: An Economic Agenda for Women". D.C.-Maryland Democratic Socialists of America forum. 8 pm Machinists Building, 1200 Connecticut Avenue, NW. Donation $3 ($1 unemployed)

Conference: "Student Activism in the 60s and 80s"

"Panel discussion featuring '60s Student leaders

Wollman Auditorium, Columbia University

Sponsored by Columbia National Lawyers Guild and Barnard-Columbia DSA

Source: Notice in the Guardian Calendar, issue of November 5, 1986, p. 10

Twenty-First Century Socialism conference

Hilda Solis

An "insurgent" Hilda Solis was a keynote speaker at the 2005 Democratic Socialists of America national conference "Twenty-First Century Socialism" in Los Angeles, with DSA leaders Peter Dreier and Harold Meyerson.

Saturday evening delegates recognized the contributions of DSA vice chair and columnist Harold Meyerson, Occidental College sociologist and longtime DSAer Peter Dreier and insurgent California Congress member Hilda Solis (D) who in turn provided in-depth perspectives of the political scene.

Other speakers included ACORN chief organizer Wade Rathke, Kent Wong of the UCLA Labor Center and Roxana Tynan of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.[21]

Congressional Progressive Caucus

DSA helped form and continues to work closely with the Congressional Progressive Caucus[22];

Since 1982, DSA has been working for progressive change. As a national organization, DSA joins with its allies in Congress' Progressive Caucus and in many other progressive organizations, fighting for the interests of the average citizen both in legislative struggles and in other campaigns to educate the public on progressive issues and to secure progressive access to the media.

According to the DSA website[23];

No, we are not a separate party. Like our friends and allies in the feminist, labor, civil rights, religious, and community organizing movements, many of us have been active in the Democratic Party. We work with those movements to strengthen the party’s left wing, represented by the Congressional Progressive Caucus...Maybe sometime in the future, in coalition with our allies, an alternative national party will be viable. For now, we will continue to support progressives who have a real chance at winning elections, which usually means left-wing Democrats

DSA, the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Institute for Policy Studies formed a triple alliance.

The "Back to Basics Conference"was held Oct. 9-11, 1998, at Chicago's Congress Hotel. Several hundred people attended the conference, which In These Times magazine sponsored and managed. In practice the conference urged the Left to abandon its dead-end, self-destructive course toward cultural politics and return to class politics[24].

DSA leaders, Chris Riddiough and Joe Schwartz, organized a panel to discuss "Building a Better Left", a call to work for greater Left unity and organizational strength. DSA is working with the Progressive Caucus in Congress and the Institute for Policy Studies. Labor is essential for an effective Left, along with people of color and women. What is envisioned is not a uniting of organizations, but a broad coalition willing to speak with one voice on issues of common concern. No consensus emerged from discussion, but the proposal remains alive.

Electoral flexibility

Circa 1982, DSA poster

While sometimes regarded as a leftist pressure group inside the Democratic Party, DSA's electoral tactics are in fact far more subtle and flexible. DSA members may join the Democratic Party and work closely with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, but also may work through the Green Party, the Working Families Party, or support local "progressive" coalitions or independent candidates such as Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders.

From a DSA's Democratic Left[25];

Electoral Politics As Tactic — Elections Statement 2000
The National Political Committee consciously chose not to endorse any major party presidential candidates. While understanding that for pragmatic reasons many progressive trade unionists, environmentalists, and African-American and Latino activists have chosen to support Al Gore, DSA’s elected representatives believe that Gore...represents a centrist, neo-liberal politics which does not advocate the radical structural reforms — such as progressive taxation, major defense cuts, and real universal health and child care — necessary to move national politics in a genuinely democratic direction...
Some DSAers may support Ralph Nader for president, if he appears on the ballot in their state. Others may support our Socialist Party comrade David McReynolds. Nader’s campaign is likely to appear on more state ballots and it has the potential to harness the energy of the protests in Seattle and Washington against the WTO and IMF...
But in states where the presidential race appears close next November, it is likely that DSA members with ties to mass constituencies will engage in pragmatic lesser-evilism and hold their nose and vote for the Democrat... DSA Vice-Chair Harold Meyerson’s electoral analysis in this issue concludes with a case for “critical support” of Gore. This position is by no means an official DSA “line,” but a perspective held to by many in the organization, but dissented from by numerous others.
It is inaccurate to describe DSA as primarily working within the “left-wing” of the Democratic Party.” The 1993 DSA convention in fact resolved “that the imperative task for the democratic Left is to build anti-corporate social movements which are capable of winning reforms which empower people...The fundamental question for DSA is not what form that electoral intervention takes...Rather, our electoral work aims at building majoritarian coalitions capable of not only electing public officials, but capable of holding them accountable after they are elected.”
DSA’s main task is to build grassroots, multi-racial, progressive coalitions...Neither flying the flag of a third party which lacks a mass social base, or placing uncritical faith in isolated progressive Democratic politicians will build a powerful Left...
DSA is no more loyal to the Democratic Party – which barely exists as a grassroots institution –than are individuals or social movements which upon occasion use its ballot line or vote for its candidates...Veterans of the left will remember that the 1968 Peace and Freedom Party and the 1980 Citizens Party arose at moments of greater left-wing strength and did not significantly alter the national electoral landscape. Nor has, unfortunately, the New Party, which many DSAers work with in states where “fusion” of third party and major party votes is possible (such as the DSA co-sponsored Working Families Party in N.Y. State).
DSA recognizes that some insurgent politicians representing labor, environmentalists, gays and lesbians, and communities of color may choose to run under Democratic auspices, as in the 1988 Jesse Jackson campaign, or operate as Democrats like Senator Paul Wellstone, and the 59 Democratic members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, one-half of whom are Black and Latino and all of whom possess strong labor backing and operative social democratic politics.
Electoral tactics are only a means for DSA; the building of a powerful anti-corporate and ultimately socialist movement is the end. Where third party or non-partisan candidates represent significant social movements DSA locals have and will continue to build such organizations and support such candidates. DSA honored independent socialist Congressperson Bernie Sanders of Vermont at our last convention banquet, and we have always raised significant funds nationally for his electoral campaigns. At the same time, we were pleased to have Democratic Congressperson and Progressive Caucus member Bob Filner of San Diego introduce Sanders at the convention, and note that Progressive Caucus member Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) will be honored at our annual Debs-Thomas-Harrington dinner this Spring in Chicago.
DSA is a modest, sometimes effective organization, whose members have greatest influence in community-level electoral politics. DSA is not an electoral organization, but rather a democratic socialist political organization which aims to bring socialism into the mainstream of American politics. We endeavor to do so through a two-pronged strategy of education and organizing. Much of our work is cultural and ideological: forums, debates, publications. But our voice can only be heard if we simultaneously play a central, activist role within struggles relevant to working people, communities of color, women, gays and lesbians and other oppressed constituencies. We operate within progressive coalitions as an open socialist presence and bring to these movements an analysis and strategy which recognizes the fundamental need to democratize global corporate power.
DSA strives to be a crucial socialist leaven within a mass movement for social justice. In the 2000 elections, most electorally-active, progressive constituencies will endeavor to elect progressives to Congress and to the state legislatures.
DSA will continue to be a voice inside — and outside — the electoral process, to argue against panaceas of ‘fixed’ markets, and for a bottom-up democratic, decentralized and environmentally sane economy.

Position on "reparations" for African-Americans

DSA Statement on Reparations[26]

DSA joins in solidarity with the position expressed by the Black Radical Congress (April 17, 1999):

Reparations is a well-established principle of international law that should be applied in the US...As the descendants of enslaved Africans, we have the legal and moral right to receive just compensation for the oppression, systematic brutality and economic exploitation Black people have suffered historically and continue to experience today.
Thus, we seek reparations from the U.S. for its illegal assault on African peoples during the slave trade; its exploitation of Black labor during slavery; and its systematic and totalitarian physical, economic and cultural violence against people of African descent over the last four centuries.
DSA, as a socialist organization, rejects the proposition that corporate wealth and individual property are the same. The wealth that we plan to re-distribute is corporate wealth not personal private property.
The wealth of the U.S. corporate class was developed from the exploitation of vast numbers of Africans and a great many indigenous peoples by slavery and the theft of indigenous wealth and land by the Spanish, the Portuguese, and the English-speaking peoples. The current wealth of the ruling elite and the poverty in African-American and indigenous communities are direct consequences of this incorporation by force and terrorism of these and other dominated communities into the capitalist system. And we, along with the Latino Commission of DSA, further call for reparations for the assaults and despoliation of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and their descendants, including Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and others, for the loss of their lands and the attempted destruction of their cultures and institutions. This includes supporting the land claims and other treaty-related social justice cases of the Native American tribal nations.
In pursuit of these reparations, we take the following steps:
1. DSA supports H.R. 40, introduced by Representative John Conyers, to study the issues related to slavery and to make recommendations to Congress.
2. We further recognize that reparations are fundamentally a social rather than an individual process. It is clear from a number of studies that the underdevelopment of communities of African Americans, indigenous people, and their descendants continues to this date. We recognize that this underdevelopment is a direct result of the crimes of the past, and the forced subjugation of these people and their incorporation into a White Supremacist society based upon the unfair and inequitable extraction of labor and capital from the work, and death, of these people.
We therefore call for monetary reparations to be in the form of public ownership of utilities and means of production. And we call for the investment of compensatory funds into publicly owned institutions for the development of their communities.
And public funds shall be used to promote the general welfare, education, health care, public transportation and infrastructure targeted on those communities historically denied lack of access to capital and education by prior governmental and corporate actions.
3. DSA will conduct internal and public education around the issueof reparations.

Adopted by the National Political Committee, October 6, 2002.

Support for 'Single Payer' health care

DSA is a driving force behind the campaign for socialized medicine in the US. It works closely[27]with allies such as U.S. Congressman John Conyers and Senator Bernie Sanders to move the debate in the appropriate direction.

DSA reaffirms its support for single-payer health insurance as the most just, cost-effective and rational method for creating a universal health care system in the United States.
In the House of Representatives, John Conyers has introduced H.R.676, the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. This bill has 77 co-sponsors. In the Senate, Bernie Sanders has introduced S.703, the American Health Security Act of 2009. His bill has not yet attracted co-sponsors.
These two pieces of legislation take different approaches to universal health insurance, but both take forprofit insurance companies out of the picture.
DSA asks our locals to contact their senators and representatives, and encourage them to co-sponsor these bills if they have not already done so.

In 1991, when Rep. Marty Russo {D-IL} introduced a bill into the U.S. House of Representatives calling for a single, universal, publicly-administered health care program. The Russo Bill is attracting the support of many progressive organizations - including DSA.[28]

Supporters are currently pushing for the Russo Bill to reach the floor of the House for a vote.Activists should contact their representatives to encourage their support. Contact your local to find out what other DSA'ers are doing to support the Russo Bill.

Steve Tarzynski, a member of the DSA National Political Committee and chair of the DSA National Health Care Task force, wrote in Democratic Left January/February 1994;[29]

We've met some of the modest goals that the national leadership set when DSA decided to make support for a single-payer Canadian-style health care system our major issue.

DSA members have served on the Clinton Health Care Task Force and in the leadership and rank and file of national and state single-payer coalitions. Perhaps most importantly, in 1991 we organized a twenty-two-city national tour of over forty Canadian health experts (from our sibling party, the New Democrats) that helped to galvanize the single-payer movement into action. No other organization was in a position to carry out such a major tour. We have done a good job as the socialist. current within the single-payer movement, but still have significant opportunities to improve DSA locals' level of activism and our recruitment of activists into DSA through this issue. In the coming year, as we close in for the final legislative phase of this fight, the national DSA leadership and the DSA health care task force will focus efforts in these two areas.
The DSA National Convention in November unanimously adopted a resolution that clearly reaffirmed our support of the McDermott-Conyers-Wellstone single-payer bills (HR1200/S491). It also stipulated DSA's advocacy of a "state option" for single payer in the final legislative package. The resolution also stated that DSA will organize and participate in anti-corporate campaigns targeting private health insurance, pharmaceutical lobbies, and any other corporate or political forces that seek to destroy real reform.
If a vote is delayed beyond fall 1994, DSA will also work in congressional campaigns that target anti-re form incumbents and that support, single-payer advocates. We will also continue our work in state campaigns to establish single-payer systems.
The most delicate aspect of our work is how we balance our efforts in improving the Clinton proposal and pushing for single-payer. This is not a new dilemma for the left. The tension between reform and revolution has existed within every socialist movement in Western industrialized democracies. It will always be with us. The solution lies in putting into practice Michael Harrington's notion "visionary gradualism."

Democratic socialists should project a vision of a moral society based on freedom, equality, and solidarity. We must also understand that reaching such a goal involves a gradual approach over a long period of years, with each reform becoming the foundation for the next. There is no other way, and history alone will judge the pace.

For details of the 1991 Democratic Socialists of America Health Care Speakers Tour.

Circa 2008 National DSA joined the Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care, a clearinghouse for groups supporting HR 676, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers.[30]]

The Employee Free Choice Act – A DSA Priority

In an article in DSA's Democratic Left, Spring 2007 DSA National Political Committee member David Green of Detroit wrote in support of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)-or "card check".[31]

What distinguishes socialists from other progressives is the theory of surplus value. According to Marx, the secret of surplus value is that workers are a source of more value than they receive in wages. The capitalist is able to capture surplus value through his ownership of the means of production, his right to purchase labor as a commodity, his control over the production process, and his ownership of the final product. Surplus value is the measure of capital’s exploitation of labor

Green went on to write;

Our goal as socialists is to abolish private ownership of the means of production. Our immediate task is to limit the capitalist class’s prerogatives in the workplace...
In the short run we must at least minimize the degree of exploitation of workers by capitalists. We can accomplish this by promoting full employment policies, passing local living wage laws, but most of all by increasing the union movement’s power...
The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) provides an excellent organizing tool (i.e., tactic) through which we can pursue our socialist strategy while simultaneously engaging the broader electorate on an issue of economic populism.

Green explained how DSA could play a role in getting the Act passed through the Senate after the 2008 elections.

The fact that we face an uphill battle in the Senate does not detract from the value of DSA doing organizing work around EFCA. At a minimum, we can force conservative senators to place themselves on record as opposed to EFCA. This would then make these incumbents even more vulnerable in the 2008 elections. If we replace only a few of these anti-labor senators in 2008, we should be able to pass EFCA in the next Congress.
DSA could play a role in organizing support for EFCA. We have locals and activists across the country capable of organizing successful public events – as demonstrated by our Sanders house parties. We have “notables” capable of attracting non-DSA members to public events. We have academics, writers and speakers capable of elucidating public policy issues in clear and simple language. We have a solid relationship with several major unions-UAW, USW, IAM.

Green went on to explain how DSA's EFCA campaign could work-DSA could organize public meetings in coalition with other groups, including the AFL-CIO’s Voice at Work Department, state AFL-CIOs and central labor councils, American Rights at Work, America Votes, Progressive Democrats of America, Committees of Correspondence, ACORN and state Democratic parties.

He listed individuals who could be invited to speak in support including John Edwards, John Sweeney, Cornel West, Barbara Ehrenreich, Leo Gerard, Ron Gettelfinger, David Bonior and Bernie Sanders.

We could have literature tables emphasizing DSA’s low-wage justice pieces. We could invite the state’s senators and urge them to sign a pledge to support EFCA when it comes before the Senate.
Each of the sponsoring organizations could distribute postcards to their members which the members would then mail to their senators urging support for EFCA. We could also circulate an on-line petition in support of EFCA through the website and email list of each participating organization. We could publish op-ed pieces on EFCA in local newspapers prior to each public meeting. Finally, the coalition in each state could organize members to lobby those senators who do not sign the pledge.

The benefits for Democratic Socialists of America?

How does DSA benefit from this campaign? First, as with the Sanders campaign, a campaign on behalf of EFCA will allow us to activate our locals – giving them a project that is achievable, practical, and will bring our work to a larger audience. Second, DSA should be able to recruit new members from those attending the public meetings in support of EFCA. Third, the campaign will strengthen our ties with organized labor – allowing us to solicit resources for future activities more easily.
Our challenge is to convince the public that the ability of working people to organize unions has a direct and positive impact on everyone’s wages, job security, pensions and health care. Walter Reuther once observed that powerful social forces are unleashed when altruism and self-interest intersect. EFCA offers such an opportunity

Backing Barack Obama

On March 3rd 2007, Barack Obama was a featured speaker at a meeting of labor unionists in the Hyatt Regency Chicago Loop Grand Ballroom[32].

Speaking in a vernacular and cadence that showed the Harvard Law School and Columbia University trained Barack Obama can connect with working class people, the third year U. S. Senator wowed and energized a mostly labor union crowd of about 1600 supporters this morning...

The event attracted some of Labor’s big hitters to join Obama on the dais and speak, including John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO and Gerald McEntee, President of AFSCME. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky [D-Evanston, 9th CD], an early and big-time supporter of Obama’s in the 2004 Senate Primary and Senator Dick Durbin [D-IL] also spoke...

Eight other individuals spoke at the rally, including local labor leaders and health care workers, as well as a local favorite for liberals, Dr. Quentin Young.

Cong. Jan Schakowsky [D-Evanston, 9th CD]: … Employers can intimidate, fire, threaten to move people from the day shift to the is a new day in our nation’s capital, it’s a new day for Resurrection workers and their friends, it’s a new day for immigrant workers, it’s a new day for all our working Americans who dream of the justice that ONLY the Union Movement can deliver. And, to the doubters I say, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Just wait until we have a Labor Department under President Barack Obama.

Of those speaking with Obama, John Sweeney and Quentin Young are confirmed Democratic Socialists of America members. Gerald McEntee is a reported member and Jan Schakowsky is at least a supporter. Only Dick Durbin has no known DSA ties.

Support for Obama Presidential campaign

Most DSA members actively supported Barack Obama in the November 2008 Presidential election;[33]

DSA believes that the possible election of Senator Obama to the presidency in November represents a potential opening for social and labor movements to generate the critical political momentum necessary to implement a progressive political agenda...
An Obama presidency will not on its own force legislation facilitating single-payer health care (at least at the federal level) or truly progressive taxation and major cuts in wasteful and unneeded defense spending. But if DSA and other democratic forces can work in the fall elections to increase the ranks of the Congressional Progressive and Black and La-tino caucuses, progressive legislation (backed by strong social movement mobilization) might well pass the next Congress.

DSA concentrated its forces on where it could serve the Obama cause best;[26]

For the past year, especially following the nomination of Barack Obama, many DSA members worked energetically on the presidential campaign, especially in swing states

Most DSA locals committed themselves fully to the Obama campaign in 2008.[33]

Sacramento DSA worked intensely on the Obama campaign through Super Tuesday and continues electoral work with the Sacramento Progressive Alliance.

New York DSA members were especially active;[26]

Some got up “at the crack of dawn,” says Jeff Gold, to take buses to support Obama in various locations in Pennsylvania, sometimes side by side with experienced trade unionists from Working America and at other times with first-time campaign volunteers...Another member traveled all the way to south Florida to help turn out Jewish voters for Obama...

"Progressive" Democrats such as Mary Jo Kilroy also benefitted; In Columbus, Ohio, DSA members campaigned for both Obama and congressional candidate Mary Jo Kilroy, who, after a suspenseful count of provisional ballots was declared the winner in December, raising the Democrats’ majority in the House to 257.

Democratic Left Magazine

Democratic Left is the regular publication of the DSA that has run from the 1970s to the present. Issues from 2000 - 2010 are publicly available on the Democratic Left website. The Newsletter of the Democratic Left was the forerunner of the Democratic Left, and was published by the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. DSOC later merged with the New American Movement and in 1982 formed the DSA.

DSA Labor Committee

In February 2009 Boston Democratic Socialists of America sponsored a forum on the Employee Free Choice Act with DSA Vice-Chair Elaine Bernard, MA SEIU Political Director Harris Gruman and Steve Schnapp from United for a Fair Economy before about 40 people. Out of that meeting a DSA Labor Committee emerged, organized by David Duhalde with several non-members, working to build support for EFCA. The group has been joining with Jobs with Justice and tenant groups to publicize other issues related to the economic crisis.[34]

Progressive Democrats for 2010

At DSA's November 2009 national Convention in Evanstown Illinois, the organization resolved to;[35]]

Finally, DSA will work in 2010 to insure that progressive Democrats who support many of the above items are reelected to Congress or replace right-wing Democratic or Republican incumbents. Only if the Democratic majority in Congress is not just preserved but expanded and moved to the left can any of the above progressive reforms be enacted. DSA PAC will explore hiring an organizer to help our members become more effective in electoral politics, especially inthe primary campaigns where we will promote true progressives.

Support for Conyers Jobs Bill

In May 2010, Rep John Conyers introduced a bill entitled "The 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act." The bill was "little noticed at the time but, today, after another 7 months of dismal jobs reports -- we have actually lost ground during 2010, creating fewer jobs than the growth of the labor force -- there was renewed interest in this legislation by a range of progressive groups". The Democratic Socialists of America National Political Committee made mobilization around the Act a national priority; Progressive Democrats of America "is developing a similar effort, as are both the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism and the (DSA controlled) National Jobs for All Coalition".[36]

Support for the Occupy Movement

In a Nov. 2, 2011 email to supporters, DSA National Director Maria Svart wrote of the DSA's strong support for the Occupy Movement which began on Sept. 17, 2011 with the original Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York City,[37]

"DSA and YDS members have been participating in the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York City and around the country from their beginning. This grassroots groundswell of activity is an exciting new development in the ongoing struggle for social and economic justice, and we are committed to supporting and building it. This fall is a critical time for members to be politically active, whether at OWS or in the offices of elected officials. Unless members of Congress feel enough pressure from their constituents, the Congressional Super Committee will soon propose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other important anti-poverty programs."

The organization further stated,[38]

"The Occupy Wall Street protests have invigorated the American Left in a way not seen in decades, and DSA has long emphasized the important role social movements play in improving the quality of life of ordinary people. So we have urged our members to take an active, supportive role in their local occupations, something many DSAers had already begun doing as individuals, because they believe that everyday people, the 99%, shouldn’t be made to pay for a crisis set off by an out-of-control financial sector and the ethically compromised politicians who have failed to rein it in."

On Nov. 2, 2011, DSA announced that it had launched an "Occupy Wall Street Page" containing,[38]

"examples of DSA members and members of our youth section, Young Democratic Socialists, participating in the Occupy Wall Street protests, including news articles, videos, and pictures featuring DSAers and DSA honorary chairs taking part in the protests, and personal accounts and analyses from DSAers themselves."

To view the many incidents of DSA's participation in Occupy demonstrations throughout the U.S., click here. On the page for each demonstration you will see a section covering the DSA's involvement.

External links


  2. DSA website, Locals, accessed Jan. 7, 2011
  3. DSA website, accessed November 18, 2013
  4. Dem. left. Winter 2012
  7. Democratic Left, Winter 2002, page 5
  8. Democratic Left, Issue 7/8, 1997
  9. Dem. Left Jan/Feb 1996
  10. Democratic Left, Jan./Feb. 1990, page 9
  11. Democratic Left, Jan/Feb. 1986, page 11
  13. Dem. Left July/Aug. 1995, page 23
  14. Democratic Left, Issue 7/8, 1997
  15. Democratic left, Jan./Feb. 1990, page 7
  16. Dem.Left, July/Aug. 1995 page 19
  17. Yankee Radical, January, 2001]
  18. New Ground 51, March - April, 1997
  19. Radical Scholars & Activists Conference pamphlet, 1993
  20. In These Times, August 11-24, 1982, p. 22, Calendar section
  21. Democratic Left magazine, Winter 2006
  25. Democratic Left magazine, Spring/Summer 2000
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Democratic Left magazine, Winter 2009
  27. Democratic Left magazine, Summer 2009
  29. Democratic Left, January/February 1994, page 2
  30. TYR March 2009
  31. Democratic Left magazine, Spring 2007
  33. 33.0 33.1 Democratic Left magazine, Summer 2008
  34. TYR, June 2009
  35. Democratic Left, winter 2009
  36. New Ground, 134, Jan./Feb. 2011
  37. DSA email to supporters: DSA Launches Occupy Wall Street Page, Nov. 2, 2011
  38. 38.0 38.1 DSA: DSA Members Participate in Occupy Wall Street (accessed on Nov. 2, 2011)