DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISTS OF AMERICA

May 24, 2011

The Following article originated at and is taken from DiscoverTheNetworks.com

At the height of the Cold War and the Vietnam War era, the Socialist Party USA of Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas split in two over the issue of whether to criticize or even denounce the Soviet Union, its allies, and Communism: One faction rejected and denounced the USSR and its allies, including Castro's Cuba, the Sandinistas, North Vietnam and the Viet Cong, and supported Poland's Solidarity Movement, etc.  This anti-Communist faction took the name Social Democrats USA. (Many of its leaders -- including Carl Gershman, who became Jeane Kirkpatrick's counselor of embassy at the United Nations -- grew more conservative and became Reagan Democrats.) The other faction, however, refused to reject Marxism, refused to criticize or denounce the Soviet Union and its allies, and continued to support their policies -- including the Soviet-backed nuclear-freeze program that would have consolidated Soviet nuclear superiority in Europe. This faction, whose leading figure was Michael Harrington, in 1973 took the name Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC), whose membership included many former Students for a Democratic Society activists. By 1979 DSOC had made major inroads into the Democratic Party and claimed a national membership of some 3,000 people. In 1982 DSOC merged with the New American Movement to form the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).

DSA describes itself as "the principal U.S. affiliate of the Socialist International" and ranks as the largest socialist organization in the United States. “We are socialists," reads the organization's boilerplate, "because we reject an international economic order sustained by private profit, alienated labor, race and gender discrimination, environmental destruction, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo.” "To achieve a more just society," adds DSA, "many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed. ... Democracy and socialism go hand in hand. All over the world, wherever the idea of democracy has taken root, the vision of socialism has taken root as well—everywhere but in the United States."

DSA summarizes its philosophy as follows: "Today … [r]esources are used to make money for capitalists rather than to meet human needs. We believe that the workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions should own and control them. Social ownership could take many forms, such as worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Democratic Socialists favor as much decentralization as possible. ... While we believe that democratic planning can shape major social investments like mass transit, housing, and energy, market mechanisms are needed to determine the demand for many consumer goods."

DSA seeks to increase its political influence not by establishing its own party, but rather by working closely with the Democratic Party to promote leftist agendas. "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," says DSA. "We work with those movements to strengthen the party’s left wing, represented by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. ... Maybe sometime in the future ... 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."

Until 1999, DSA hosted the website of the Progressive Caucus. Following a subsequent expose of the link between the two entities, the Progressive Caucus established its own website under the auspices of Congress. But DSA and the Progressive Caucus remain intimately linked. All 58 Progressive Caucus members also belong to DSA. In addition to these members of Congress, other prominent DSA members include Noam Chomsky, Ed Asner, Gloria Steinem, and Cornel West, who serves as the organization's honorary Chair.

DSA was a Cosponsoring Organization of the April 25, 2004 “March for Women’s Lives” held in Washington, D.C., a rally that drew more than a million demonstrators advocating for the right to unrestricted, taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand. 

DSA was also a signatory to a petition of self-described “civil society” organizations that opposed globalization and “any effort to expand the powers of the World Trade Organization (WTO) through a new comprehensive round of trade liberalization.” 

DSA endorsed Pay Equity Now! – a petition jointly issued in 2000 by the National Organization for Women, the Philadelphia Coalition of Labor Union Women, and the International Wages for Housework Campaign – to “expose and oppose U.S. opposition to pay equity” for women. The petition charged that: “the U.S. government opposes pay equity – equal pay for work of equal value – in national policy and international agreements”; “women are often segregated in caring and service work for low pay, much like the housework they are expected to do for no pay at home”; and “underpaying women is a massive subsidy to employers that is both sexist and racist.”

In the wake of 9/11, DSA characterized the terror attacks as acts of retaliation for American-perpetrated global injustices. “We live in a world,” said DSA, “organized so that the greatest benefits go to a small fraction of the world’s population while the vast majority experiences injustice, poverty, and often hopelessness. Only by eliminating the political, social, and economic conditions that lead people to these small extremist groups can we be truly secure.”

Strongly opposed to the U.S. War on Terror and America's post-9/11 military engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, DSA is a member organization of the United For Peace and Justice anti-war coalition led by Leslie Cagan, a longtime committed socialist who aligns her politics with those of Fidel Castro's Communist Cuba.

DSA publishes a quarterly journal titled Democratic Left, which discusses issues of concern to the organization and its constituents. The Founding Editor of this publication was Michael Harrington. DSA has also created a youth association called Young Democratic Socialists. 

Annual fees for membership in DSA range from $15 to $60 per year. DSA raises additional funds via sales made through its online Book Shop, which features dozens of titles by leftist authors, among whom are Michael Harrington, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Todd Gitlin, Stanley Aronowitz, Howard Zinn, Eric Foner, Tom Hayden, Manning Marable, Michael Eric Dyson, and Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward.

As of March 2010, some of DSA's most notable honorary chairs included Barbara Ehrenreich, Dolores Huerta, Frances Fox Piven (co-creator of the Cloward-Piven Strategy), Eliseo Medina (executive vice president of the Service Employees International Union), Gloria Steinem, and Cornel West.  

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