Maxine Phillips

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Maxine Phillips

Maxine Phillips was managing editor of Democratic Left for eight years and Director of Democratic Socialists of America in 1984-85. [1]

Early influence

Maxine Phillips came to activism through the Civil Rights Movement.

The flickering images on the small television screen brought the brutal beatings of Freedom Riders into our living room. I was 14, living in central Pennsylvania and ready to join the noble cause. My parents approved, in theory, but two years later, they were too scared to let my brother and me get on the bus to the March on Washington. I didn't hear Martin Luther King in person until a year before his death. . . When a college classmate asked me in 1967 to take part in Vietnam Summer, I said that I only wanted to focus on civil rights. Had I heard about King's speech at Riverside Church? he asked. If we didn't stop the war, we couldn't expect progress on civil rights. I was in. King's interconnected vision carried me from sweltering vigils on the steps of the Pennsylvania state capitol building to further activism. [2]

Conversion to socialism

Maxine Phillips, a Liberal Democrat was converted to socialism by Michael Harrington's lectures to her Catholic Worker group.[3]

DSOC Religious Commission

In 1977, John Cort attended the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee convention in Chicago. At the convention Cort and others organized a DSOC Religion and Socialism Committee (later Commission). Cort was elected coordinator and editor of the newsletter.

Among early leaders, co-editors and contributors to the newsletter were Peter Steinfels, Sister Mary Emil, Rosemary Ruether, Harvey Cox, Cornel West, Arthur Waskow, Joe Holland, James Luther Adams, Jim Gorman, Maxine Phillips and Jim Wallis. Monsignor George Higgins was also a contributor.[4]

Democratic Socialists of America

DSA executive director

In 1984 Democratic Socialists of America executive director was Maxine Phillips[5].

DSA Feminist Commission

In 1985, Ex Officio members: Barbara Ehrenreich, Dorothy Healey, Frances Moore Lappe, Hilda Mason, Marjorie Phyfe, Christine Riddiough, Rosemary Ruether, Maxine Phillips of New York and Esmeralda Castillo were listed on the National Officers and Staff of the Feminist Commission of the Democratic Socialists of America.[6]

In 1986 she was listed as a member of the Commission.[7]

Democratic Left

In 1991, the Editorial Committee of Democratic Left, the journal of Democratic Socialists of America, consisted of Joanne Barkan, Sherri Levine, Neil McLaughlin, Maxine Phillips, Jan Rosenberg and Mitch Horowitz.[8]

DSA Religion & Socialism Commission

In 2000, the Democratic Socialists of America Religion & Socialism Commission consisted of[9];

Religious Socialism is the journal of the Religion and Socialism Commission of Democratic Socialists of America.

In the late 2000s it was edited by Andrew Hammer. Contributing editors were Maxine Phillips, Harvey Cox, Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson[10].

DSA’s Cuba Letter

Maxine Phillips signed an April 2003 Statement on Cuba, initiated and circulated[11] by prominent Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) member Leo Casey, calling for the lifting of trade sanctions against Cuba.

“a statement circulating among democratic left/socialist folks, largely by members of Democratic Socialists of America, condemning the recent trials and convictions of non-violent dissenters in Cuba”.

The petition criticized Cuba's poor human rights record, but shared the blame for Cuba's problems with reactionary elements of the U.S. administration...

The democratic left worldwide has opposed the U.S. embargo on Cuba as counterproductive, more harmful to the interests of the Cuban people than helpful to political democratization. The Cuban state's current repression of political dissidents amounts to collaboration with the most reactionary elements of the U.S. administration in their efforts to maintain sanctions and to institute even more punitive measures against Cuba.

Many of the petition's 120 odd signatories were known members of DSA.

DSA vice-chair

Democratic Socialists of America Vice-Chairs in 2009 were;

Elaine Bernard, Edward Clark, Jose LaLuz, Steve Max, Harold Meyerson, Maxine Phillips, Christine Riddiough, Rosemary Ruether, Joseph Schwartz, Ruth Spitz, Motl Zelmanowicz.[12]

Debs-Thomas-Bernstein Awards Reception


On June 30, 2009, Boston Democratic Socialists of America presented its annual Debs-Thomas-Bernstein Award to Professor, author, and health care reformer Rashi Fein, along with the winners of a union election at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton, accepted by Sonia Marshall, the key organizer of the campaign. Sheila Decter of the Jewish Alliance for Law and Social Action presented the award to Rashi Fein. The event was held at the home of Marcia Peters and David Karaus. Mike Fadel of SEIU Local 1199 (formerly Boston DSA staff person) and the AFSCME-affiliated New England Organizing Project were benefactors of the event.[13][14]

Maxine Phillips was a supporter of the event.


On June 13, 2010, Boston Democratic Socialists of America presented its annual Debs-Thomas-Bernstein Award to "two champions of social justice and grassroots democracy, Georgia Hollister Isman and Jack Clark". Honorary Co-Chairs for the event were Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes, State Senator Patricia Jehlen and special guest Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz. Georgia Hollister Isman's award was presented by Andrea Miller of NARAL. Massachusetts AFL-CIO Vice-President Ed Collins and Janet Boguslaw from Brandeis University introduced the other honoree, Jack Clark, who then "entertained and informed us with a brief tour of U.S. Socialist history". David Knuttunen & Susan Davidoff were benefactors of the event.[15][16]

Maxine Phillips was a supporter of the event.

Center for Democratic Values

The Center for Democratic Values (CDV) was launched[17]at the 1995 Democratic Socialists of America National Convention as a means of contesting the current hegemony of capitalist ideas.

By 1997 CDV network members Ron Aronson, Nelson Lichtenstein, Harry Brod, Maxine Phillips, Rick Perlstein, Anna Marie Smith and Skip Oliver were all publishing op-ed pieces for the Progressive Media Network and local newspapers. Topics include arts funding in schools, the Teamsters election, the meaning of Clinton's reelection for women, and the use of polls in elections.

"Dissent" magazine

In 2009 the Dissent Magazine masthead[18] listed Maxine Phillips as Executive Editor.

Convention delegate

Maxine Phillips was a New York Democratic Socialists of America delegate to the DSA 2015 National Convention.[19]

Religious Socialism

In 2015, Democratic Socialists of America founded a new version of Religious Socialism.

We invite you to join us in making it useful both to people of faith within DSA and to the wider religious left.

The Editorial group consisted of;

Maxine Phillips is a former co-editor of the print edition of "Religious Socialism" and current volunteer editor of "Democratic Left." She has been an active member of Judson Memorial Church in New York City for more than forty years.[20]

NPC candidate

In August 2017 Maxine Phillips stood for election to the Democratic Socialists of America National Political Committee, at the National Convention in Chicago, from New York City Democratic Socialists of America.[21]

I became active politically through the civil rights and anti-war movements of the sixties and was involved with the National Welfare Rights Movement in the late sixties and early seventies. My mother came from Italy as a child, and my dad voted for Norman Thomas, my grandfather for Eugene Debs. Neither parent was particularly political, but we were always the most “liberal” in the room in our conservative Pennsylvania community. I was brought up in the Methodist church and, since coming to New York, have been active in Judson Memorial Church, which for decades has been in the forefront of social change and cutting-edge arts. When abortion was illegal, Judson developed a network of clergy who would find safe abortions for women. It is currently home to the New York New Sanctuary Coalition and has been involved in immigrant rights work for the last ten years. It was through a discussion group on corporate capitalism held at Judson that I learned about the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, which I joined in 1977.
Starting in 1977, I was active in the New York local of DSOC and became involved with the national Religion and Socialism Commission as one of the editors of its quarterly newsletter. I edited the local newsletter as well, and in 1978 was hired on national staff as managing editor of “Democratic Left” (Michael Harrington was the editor although he did no editing, only writing). After the merger with the New American Movement I became one of four national directors and eventually became National Director. I left in 1985 after my first child was born and became managing editor of “Dissent” magazine, retiring from the post of executive editor there in 2013. Between 1985 and now, I continued to work with the Religion and Socialism Commission and served on several search committees for DSA as well as the board of the DSA Fund. I was on the NPC from 2013 to 2015, and did not run at the last convention because of other commitments that have now ended. I’ve been on the Personnel Committee for a couple of years. I revived the Religion and Socialism publication as a website and have served as a volunteer editor of “Democratic Left” since early 2014. I have brought more diverse voices to both publications. I volunteer with a weekly clinic run by the New Sanctuary Coalition to help immigrants navigate the system and consider that I do this both as a member of Judson Church and as a DSA member. The New York Immigration Justice group is active with the New Sanctuary Coalition.[22]

Democratic Socialists of America Unity

Maxine Phillips supported the Democratic Socialists of America Unity grouping, established for the 2017 Democratic Socialists of America National Convention in Chicago.[23]

Upper Manhattan/Bronx DSA Closed Facebook Group

Members of the Upper Manhattan/Bronx Democratic Socialists of America, closed Facebook group, as of October 15, 2017 included Maxine Phillips .[24]

NYC-DSA Socialist Day School

May 12th and May 13th, 2017, NYC-DSA will host a Socialist Day School that will investigate the influence these historical movements have on our current moment and what lessons we can learn as activists and organizers fighting for socialism today.

Speakers include: Jabari Brisport, Meghan Brophy, Maurice Isserman, Dan La Botz, Mark Levitan, Joseph Luders, Bob Master, Nivedita Majumdar, Yotam Marom, Maxine Phillips, Frances Fox Piven, Rene Rojas, Kristin Schall, Joseph Schwartz, Gay Semel, Reg Wilson.[25]

Ravi Ragbir

New York Democratic Socialists of America February 1 2018.


Religion and Socialism Working Group member Maxine Phillips and Immigrant Justice Working Group members Nick Murray and Alan Yaspan celebrate in front of the federal court house after a judge ruled immigration rights leader Ravi Ragbir should be released from detention immediately.