In its first membership meeting of the year, the local on January 9 discussed continuing labor struggles, focusing on Eastern Air Lines and Pittston Coal. Then on January 28, DSA National Organizational Director Patrick Lacefield and Democratic Left Editor Sherri Levine traveled to DC for an informational meeting and exchange with local members on national DSA activities.
On January 28, the women’s brunch included a tour of the National Museum of American History’s exhibit “Men and Women: A History of Costume, Gender and Power” which local member A.C. Warden was involved in organizing.
MDCCC’s February 10 meeting featured a talk by Tanya Thomas, director of NOW’s Women of Color Program. The coalition then co-sponsored a February 13 forum entitled “Medical empowerment of women: women’s self-held and reproductive freedom – a video and discussion of menstrual extraction with pro-choice respondents.”
The local held its February membership meeting on the 13th, featuring a discussion of unfolding events in Eastern Europe. In addition, February featured a full roster of organizing and planning meetings by the local’s committees: the labor committee on February 11, the federal employee committee on February 26, and the local politics committee on the 28th. On February 20, the local organized a phone bank at the Central Labor Council offices to solicit renewal of local dues.
The March 11 Women’s Brunch featured a reading and discussion of fiction and poetry in celebration of International Women’s Month. Feminist activism was a highlight of March, with an MDCCC meeting on the 10th featuring a discussion of DC “boarder babies;” and a meeting on the 12th to develop a DSA women’s issues element for the local’s in-progress progressive agenda document.
By March, the local’s Cultural and Education Committee had revived itself after a lapse and held a meeting on the 11th to focus on developing the local’s public programs.
On March 30, the local held a panel discussion on the shape of DC politics in the current election year.
DSA member Richard Healey was a panelist, along with Maurice Jackson, on a Mayday program by the Institute for Policy Studies entitled “Democracy Under Capitalism, Democracy Under Socialism: What Have We Learned?”
DC/MD/NOVA’s membership meeting on May 8 featured a discussion of current events in and affecting El Salvador.
The annual Mid-Atlantic Retreat was held June 1-3 at the Claggett Center in Buckeystown, MD.
Endorsement of candidates in 1990 DC elections was the topic of the local’s June 12 membership meeting. Endorsed candidates for September 11 Democratic primaries were as follows were as follows: in DC, Dave Clarke for mayor, Eleanor Holmes Norton for delegate to Congress; Terry Lynch for councilmember-at-large; Jim Nathanson for councilmember, Ward 3; Harry Thomas for Councilmember, Ward 5; and Jesse Jackson for shadow senator. In Maryland, DSA endorsed Marc Elrich for Montgomery County Council, District 5; Ira Lechner for state senate, Montgomery County, District 20; Paul Pinsky for state house, Prince Georges County, District 22; and Terry Bohrer, state senate, Prince Georges County, District 2. For the November 6 general election, the local endorsed Hilda Mason for councilmember-at-large. All were Democrats except Mason, who represented the DC Statehood Party. Winning their primaries and the general election were Mason, Norton, Nathanson, Thomas, Jackson, Elrich and Pinsky. Losing their primaries were Clarke, Lynch, Lechner and Bohrer.
The local held its 1990 annual meeting on June 16 at the Mount Pleasant Library. The major portion of the meeting was a discussion and adoption of plans and priorities for the coming year. A picnic at Rock Creek Park followed.
The focus on feminist issues continued in June, with MDCCC staffing a literature table at the annual Gay Pride Day celebration on June 11. The coalition discussed antiracist work and fundraising at its meeting on the 19th, and a women’s brunch featuring a discussion on pornography was held on the June 24.
A second brunch that morning, organized by the labor committee, featured a talk by labor organizer Jose LaLuz.
The June issue of the Socialist contained detailed stories on several ongoing local DSA projects. It announced that the DC politics committee had completed its working paper on major issues facing the District, released as a 32-page document addressing tax policy, drugs, health care, occupational and environmental health, and housing. The document was distributed to all Democratic candidates for mayor.
Also in June, the federal employees’ caucus was active in a campaign to convince Sen. John Warner (R.-Va.) to reverse his opposition to reforming the Hatch Act. The revisions to the act would lift many restrictions on political activity by federal workers. After an 11th-hour series of calls by DSA federal workers in Virginia, Warner reversed course and supported the bill, which passed the Senate and eventually became law.
A less-than-optimistic take on local activity was offered by Arnie Chien, a member of the environmental working group. Writing in the Socialist, he said the group had decided to oppose a planned conversion of the Benning Road incinerator to a polluting “waste-to-energy” plant and had asked the River Terrace Citizens, a neighborhood group opposing the conversion, if DSA could distribute its literature at a rally the citizens were organizing. “The conversation did not go well,” Chien wrote, as the group saw DSA as a late-comer to the issue and not earning of their trust, and declined to allow DSA to distribute the literature. In part because of this setback, the environmental working group had ceased meeting.
Local elections were a focus of the local in September. On the 5th the local held a work party for Dave Clarke, its endorsee for mayor of DC. It held a meeting in Alexandria on September 12 to discuss electoral work in Virginia. Then on September 18 the local membership meeting discussed the results of the recent primary elections while also electing delegates to the November 9-11 National Board meeting. The September 30 women-only Women’s Brunch featured a discussion of local elections and how feminists deal with electoral politics.
The local endorsed the September 15 Take Back the Night rally and march against rape. It also was participating in the activities of a local coalition, oriented around the Washington Peace Center, challenging the aggressive U.S. response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
The October 9 local membership meeting featured a discussion of the upcoming National Board meeting and considered endorsement of candidates running for office in Virginia. The members voted to endorse Mac Cantor’s ultimately unsuccessful campaign for Congress from Virginia’s 10th District. Then on the 15th, the Federal Employee Caucus met to discuss action around the threat of furloughs.
The local participated in an October 20 demonstration at the White House against the Gulf War. The Washington Socialist calendar noted that demonstrations happened every Saturday but the 20th was “DSA’s day to swell the scene.”
In preparation for the upcoming National Board Meeting, the local held a November 3 fundraising party to help pay the expenses of the local’s delegation. The following day the Women’s Brunch featured the topic of “Women in Eastern Europe.”
The local’s November 13 membership meeting was held at the Dupont Villa restaurant rather than the usual venue of the Machinist building. The discussion topic was “The Economic Crisis: What Does it Mean?”
DSA member and Maryland ACLU Director Stu Comstock-Gay was a panelist at a November 30 program at Montgomery College on whether drugs should be legalized.
On December 9 the local held a discussion on which projects to adopt for the near term. Two days later it held a discussion forum on the 1990 elections and prospects for the city and the progressive community with panelists Sam Smith of the Progressive Review and DSA member and Democratic Party activist Ruth Jordan. The December 11 membership meeting featured a discussion on Israel and the occupied communities with panelists from the local Palestinian community.
In the final Washington Socialist of the year, local chair Bill Mosley provided a readout of the National Board meeting, held November 9-11 in San Francisco. The meeting’s principal accomplishment, he wrote, was the adoption of a priorities statement that emphasized working on national health care, support for labor, and a recruitment drive to increase national membership from 7,000 to 9,000 members. As a likely invasion of Iraq loomed, a contentious issue was whether to direct locals to “immediately begin mobilizing” an effort to prevent war in the Middle East or to support a weaker version encouraging locals to mobilize against war “to the best of their abilities.” The weaker resolution prevailed despite DC/MD/NOVA’s support for the stronger one.
A February 12 meeting at the Machinists billed as an “educational meeting” featured the topic “The State of DSA: Problems and Prospects,” led by the local’s NPC representatives Suzanne Crowell and Kurt Stand. The meeting also included the adoption of a process for making endorsements in the upcoming election for a Ward 2 councilmember. One week later, the local held a strategy meeting on its role in DSA’s national health care project.
The March 12 “educational meeting” – the new name for what had been billed as a membership meeting – featured an open discussion on “the social vision of the left” and a vote on an endorsement in the Ward 2 special election. That vote led to an endorsement of Jim Zais for the seat vacated by John Wilson’s moving to the post of council chair. He was selected following a review of “an exhaustive questionnaire,” according to the Socialist, and a discussion among members. Zais ultimately lost the election to Jack Evans.
In the March 1991 Socialist, John Zeh wrote about an effort in the DC Council to provide benefits for the unmarried partners of city workers similar to those available to spouses. DSA National Vice-Chair Chris Riddiough was working to establish a city commission to study the issue as head of the Coalition for Domestic Partnership Benefits.
The March Socialist also announced the launch of DSA’s national campaign for single-payer healthcare and the local’s role in it through its National Health Insurance Campaign Committee. The committee held a March 7 meeting at the Central Labor Council offices with health activists from the labor community, and followed that with a March 17 strategy meeting.
As the US invasion of Iraq unfolded, the local became an active member of the Washington Area Coalition to Stop Intervention in the Middle East. Antiwar demonstrations were held each Saturday outside the White House.
Also in March, the local launched its own discussion bulletin, a local version of Socialist Forum. Titled Hundred Flowers and edited by Pleasant Mann, it featured articles from members on the local’s strategy and priorities.
The local held a forum on March 21 featuring DSA NPC member Bogdan Denitch on the topic “Socialism and the New World Order.”
The DSA Women’s Brunch continued its regular meetings, with a March 24 discussion of “War, Peace and Women.”
On March 26, local chair Bill Mosley testified before the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Commission against proposed Metro fare hikes. Rather than raise fares, which would drive riders away from Metro and into cars, he proposed instead dedicated funding from a tax on employer-subsidized parking and a local gasoline tax.
The April 9 local educational meeting featured a discussion on the topic “Why is the Left Not Popular?” Then on April 13, the newly minted Video Club gathered to watch Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. The following day, the Women’s Brunch visited the Anacostia Museum to see the exhibit “Gathered Visions: Paintings, Fabric Art and Drawings by African American Women.”
On May 4, an old tradition was revived – the Northern Virginia Spaghetti Dinner, once a fundraising staple for the NOVA local and now embraced by the merged chapter. The dinner featured an address by DSA National Vice-Chair and Machinists Union President William Winpisinger speaking on “Can Labor Save the Democrats?”
The May 14 local educational meeting discussed the topic “Marking DSA a More Diverse Organization.”
On May 19 the Women’s Brunch featured a talk by local member and filmmaker A.C. Warden on “A Concerned Traveler’s View of East Africa.”
Local members served as hosts for the May 31-June 2 conference of DSA’s Religion and Socialism Commission, held at DC’s Hotel Harrington and featuring the theme “New Visions for the Religious Left.”
The local held its annual meeting on June 15 at the Mount Pleasant Branch Library, followed by a picnic at Piney Branch Park. The highlight of the meeting was a discussion on the topic “The Crisis of Activism and Prospects for Left Renewal.” The meeting also included the election of officers and board members for the 1991-92 term. Due to a lack of candidates for local office, including the lack of a candidate for chair, the membership appointed an interim committee to administer the local’s affairs and propose a workable leadership structure for the near term as well as recruit candidates for leadership positions. An interim committee was appointment consisting of Suzanne Crowell, Ben Davis, Bill Mosley, Peter Nixon and Woody Woodruff. That committee proposed the creation of a three-person administrative committee to carry out the day-to-day business of the local’s executive board, which also would consist of representatives of projects and committees. The interim committee put the proposed structure up for discussion and possible adoption at the local’s September 10 membership meeting.
For the local, the highlight of the summer was the August 31 “Solidarity Day” labor march on the Mall. DSA members from a number of locals around the country joined local activists. DSA held a post-rally reception at Kelly’s Irish Times.
At the September meeting the local adopted the new leadership structure proposed by the interim committee. It also included the election of delegates to the DSA National Convention to be held November 8-11 in Chicago. This meeting was held at the Washington Peace Center rather than at the Machinist Hall.
Early October was dominated by health-care activism, highlighted by the visit to DC of Julie Davis, president of Ontario’s New Democratic Party; and Canadian physician Dr. Gord Guyatt, a member of the Medical Reform Group of Ontario. The visit was part of a nationwide tour sponsored by national DSA to educate the public on Canadian single-payer health care as a model for the United States. On October 2 Davis, who also served at secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Federation of Labor, was the guest at a labor breakfast held at AFGE headquarters. The same day, Guyatt led a lunchtime briefing on “Women’s Health in Canada.” The two were the guests of honor at an evening reception at the Machinists Hall. The following evening, Guyatt appeared at the Carnegie Library along with Cathy Hurwit of Citizen Action and Dr. Jesse Barber of the Health Care Action League for a discussion on the topic “Health Care: the Canadian Experience.”
Tied into DSA’s health-care work was its continuing advocacy of a bill before the DC Council to provide health-care and other city benefits to the unmarried partners of District employees. On Oct. 24, Gemma Flamberg testified for DSA before the Council’s Committee on Government Operations in favor of the bill. “It is time that we recognize that people live in all types of family structures – and share the same types of concerns and responsibilities as those who live in so-called ‘traditional’ families,” Flamberg said in her testimony.
The rest of October and early November focused on looking ahead to the November 8-11 DSA Convention in Chicago. The October 10 DSA membership meeting (no longer billed as an “educational” meeting) was held at the Washington Peace Center and featured a discussion, led by local NPC members Suzanne Crowell and Kurt Stand, on issues to arise at the convention. Fundraisers were held on November 2 (in DC) and 3 (in Lanham) to raise funds for the local delegation’s expenses.
At the national convention, the DC/MD/NOVA local, in a close vote, successfully fought to retain the National Board, which met in even-numbered years between the biennial conventions; the 1992 board meeting was set for June in DC. In the debate over whether to retain the Board, local member Lisa Foley, as reported in the February Socialist, answered those who thought annual national meetings were unnecessary by saying that the Board “draws a different constituency than the convention – more local, more inclined to local-building discussions.” Also following the local’s emphasis on local-building, its proposal to establish a Local Development Committee with the authority to spend $3,000 to aid locals was approved. Five members of the local were elected to the National Political Committee: Howard Croft, Suzanne Crowell, Chris Riddiough, Krista Schneider and Kurt Stand.
The local endorsed and participated in the November 12 “Save Our Cities” march to force a political focus on the policy of domestic spending cutbacks that had endangered urban areas.
DSA’s “Video Rangers” gathered on December 16 to watch and discuss the movie Salvador. Then on December 16 the local held a yard sale fundraiser.
The December 5 local membership meeting focused on an assessment of the DSA national convention and an update on and evaluation of local projects, especially the health-care campaign. Two evenings later local held a holiday party/fundraiser.
The local started the new year with a business/executive board meeting on the 8th, but no general membership meeting for the month was scheduled.
DSA members joined the picket line in support of striking Jefferson Hotel workers on January 17 and again on February 21.
Health care remained a focus of the local during the year. Following up the previous year’s Canadian single-payer events, the local initiated a campaign to urge the DC Council to pass a resolution in favor of establishing a single-payer health care system in the United States – the first step “toward the eventual goal, in the absence of a national program, of the adoption of a single-payer system for the District,” wrote Bill Mosley in the February Socialist. The local also, as part of the Reproductive Health Access Project, published a critique of health care legislation pending before the DC Council, and it worked with the Baltimore local to mobilize a bill introduced by Del. Paul Pinsky in the Maryland legislature to establish a single-payer system for the state. Local DSA members attended and spoke in favor of single-payer at a January 14 health-care town meeting held by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton.
The local’s February 12 meeting featured a talk by local member Tim Sears on “Labor in the New Europe” based on his recent travels in the former Warsaw Pact countries.
The March 12 membership meeting featured a talk by DSA National Director Michael Lighty on “Prospects and Challenges for DSA.”
Feminism was high on the local’s priorities during the year. In addition to the ongoing Women’s Brunches, the local hosted a national DSA contingent in the April 5 March for Women’s Lives.
The local held an informal brunch meeting on April 25 to discuss the direction of the local and elect delegates to the June 12-14 DSA National Board Meeting in DC.
The September Socialist reported that three DSA members had been elected to the DC Democratic State Committee on May 5. Incumbent members Ruth Jordan and Joslyn Williams were re-elected and Rick Powell was voted to a first term. On a less happy note, Williams (also president of the Metropolitan Washington AFL-CIO) was defeated for re-election as the committee’s chair, and DSA member Richard Rausch was defeated for a seat on the committee.
On June 12 the local held an event at the Machinist Auditorium with DSAers Barbara Ehrenreich, Dorothy Healey, Jo-Ann Mort and Hilda Mason discussing “The Democrats in ’92: What’s the Democratic Left to Do?” The forum before a packed house was the local’s swan song at the Machinist building, as the union was in the process of selling its historic headquarters and moving to Upper Marlboro, Md.
The June Socialist contained an announcement of an opening for a part-time local staff organizer to begin work in the fall.
The National Board met June 12-14 at the Gallaudet University Silver Spring campus (actually located just over the line in upper Northwest DC). Writing in the September Socialist, Woody Woodruff predicted that it would be the last Board meeting, “at least in its current form.” Locals who opposed the Board – who had argued at the Convention that biennial national meetings were sufficient – declined to send delegates to the 1992 Board, depriving it of a quorum and the ability to pass binding resolutions. The Board recommended that the NPC set up a group to study whether to retain the Board or a similar non-convention strategy meeting. The meeting included discussions of “socialist values,” the “stagnation of capitalism” and electoral work with speakers including Gar Alperovitz, Paul Pinsky and local and national DSA activists. One forward-looking session explored the environment/jobs conundrum, with Chicago DSA member J. Hughes stating that “democratic socialism is a necessary but not sufficient condition for environmental solutions.”
The local held its annual meeting on September 12 at the Mount Pleasant Library, a discussion of 1992-93 programs and projects and featuring the election of a new local board. Elected to the board were Josh Silver and Bill Mosley, coordinators; Ben Davis, membership secretary; Lisa Dowden, treasurer; Pleasant Mann, publications committee; Woody Woodruff, Washington Socialist; Anne McCormick, cultural and education committee; Lia Tutt, Virginia branch; and Tim Sears, Maryland branch. A third coordinator position, reserved for a woman, was unfilled.
Local member Chris Riddiough was one of three representatives of DSA at the conference of Socialist International Women in Berlin held September 11-13. The other DSA representatives were Jo-Ann Mort and Penny Schantz. Riddiough was elected the organization’s vice-president for North America.
The newly elected Executive Board met on October 13. It adopted a budget and decided its top priorities would be opposing the referendum, forced onto the ballot by Congress, to establish a death penalty for the District; for the DC initiative to limit campaign contributions; and for the Maryland initiative supporting reproductive choice. It also initiated work on a conference to bring together local progressive activists from different organizations.
On November 3 the local held an election-night watch party to witness the end of the Reagan-Bush era and the election of Bill Clinton.
Health care remained on DSA’s radar as a number of local and national members attended a Universal Health Care Strategies Conference in Crystal City Nov. 7-8. DSA also had a presence at the subsequent convention of the American Public Health Association conference, held Nov. 9-11 in DC.
There continued to be a DSA presence in Northern Virginia, with the NOVA branch meeting on November 14.
The national DSA Feminist Commission met Jan. 8-11 in DC, guided by the theme “Socialist Feminists: Who Are We Now?” DC/MD/NOVA DSA took the lead in organizing its opening session, a forum entitled “Beyond the Year of the Woman: Implications for a Feminist Agenda.” The program at the Old Post Office Pavilion drew more than 100 and featured remarks by Patricia Ireland (NOW), Heidi Hartmann (Institute for Women’s Policy Research), Ruth Jordan (DSA and DC Democratic State Committee), Gwen McKinney (McKinney & McDowell) and Kay Ostberg (Human Rights Campaign Fund). As reported by Chris Riddiough in the Socialist, the speakers “discussed the impact of the 1992 elections on women, with a focus on the impact that increased numbers of women in Congress and in state legislatures will have on legislative directions.” Other sessions of the conference included building a multi-racial women’s movement, setting a feminist agenda across various movements (gay/lesbian, environmental, health, peace, etc.) and looking at feminism across generations. Numerous DC/MD/NOVA DSA activists played significant roles in the conference, including Riddiough, Lisa Foley, Gemma Flamberg, Cindy Deitch, Anne McCormick and Judy Nedrow.
In early 1993 the local undertook an ambitious effort to unite the local left, seeing an opening with the fall of European Communism. An initial meeting on January 21 that also included representatives of the Communities of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS) ended with a consensus that the project should continue.
An effort to bring DSA to the grassroots took the shape of a February 19 CHAMMP (Columbia Heights/Adams Morgan/Mount Pleasant) house party in Mount Pleasant. Leaders of the DC statehood movement spoke on “Prospects for DC Statehood in the Clinton Administration.” Featured speakers were Josephine Butler of the DC Statehood Party and Nkechi Taifa of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
The February DSA membership meeting, held at the Institute for Policy Studies, featured a discussion of the topic “A Progressive Approach to Crime” led by discussants Josh Silver and Doug Green.
On March 1 a group of local members gathered in Cheverly to discuss DSA’s action in promoting Paul Pinsky’s bill for single-payer health care in Maryland. And DSA members in Northern Virginia held another organizing meeting on March 11.
On March 12 the local held a forum at the Old Post Office Pavilion entitled “The Economy, Stupid: A Left Response to Clintonomics.” Speakers were Larry Mishel and Thea Lee of the Economic Policy Institute, and John Willoughby and Howard Wachtel of American University. The event drew about 60 people despite an imminent snowstorm.
The local’s April 13 membership meeting featured a discussion of the North American Free Trade Agreement. The following evening, many local members attended a talk by DSA Honorary Chair Cornel West on “Philosophy and Multi-Cultural Education” at Prince George’s Community College.
A DSA contingent marched in the April 25 March for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation on the Mall. DSA held a post-march reception at Herb’s Restaurant featuring Sven Robinson, an openly gay member of Canada’s House of Commons. The following day, a number of DSA members participated in the “Health Care if a Human Right – Not a Business!” rally and civil disobedience at the Capitol, demanding a single-payer system and attending to the health-care needs of the lesbian, gay and bi community.
The May Socialist featured a piece by Anne McCormick soliciting volunteers to join the local’s Cultural and Education Committee. McCormick noted that the committee, which organized the Washington premiere of the film Seeing Red, the opening session of the DSA Feminist Commission meeting and a variety of debates and discussions, needed “new members, new ideas and new energy.”
The local held a “Beer & Socialism Happy Hour” at Food for Thought Restaurant on May 7. Then on May 18, the monthly membership meeting featured a discussion on “A Mission and Vision for the Local Left” with leaders from DSA and other left organizations.
DSA held its National Political Committee (NPC) meeting in DC on May 22-23.
Over 40 left activists representing several organizations met on June 5 as the steering committee for a “Unite the Left” effort. As described by Woody Woodruff in the September Socialist, the group planned a “series of public forums on issues . . .that will amount to a “permanent conference” of local progressives.
The local’s June membership 8 meeting, again at the Old Post Office Pavilion, featured a discussion of DSA’s mission.
One of the highlights of the summer was a dinner and discussion between local members and National Director Michael Lighty at Food for Thought on July 20. On August 7, the local held a yard sale fundraiser. Later that month, a number of local members marched in the DSA contingent at the 30th anniversary commemoration of the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom.
The local held its Annual Meeting on September 11. The meeting featured a panel discussion on, as reported in the September Socialist, “how national DSA’s current wrestling with the question of a mission and vision for the organization translates into effective local work.” The meeting also featured a discussion and vote on the local’s priorities, election of new leaders to the local Executive Board, and election of delegates to the national convention in Los Angeles to be held November 11-14 in Los Angeles. Among actions taken at the meeting was an endorsement of Dave Clarke in the special election for DC Council Chair, which he subsequently won.
In advance of the annual meeting, Woody Woodruff, writing in the September Socialist, noted that an increasing amount of the local’s time was being devoted to “organizational maintenance” – issuing the newsletter, organizing membership meetings and special events. “A small – and shrinking – group of DSAers is finding this problem more and more consuming,” Woodruff wrote. “The organizational maintenance effort has sometimes been all that the leadership and activist core has been able to manage; wrestling alligators has pushed the goal of draining the swamp into the middle distance.” The local left felt “handcuffed and drained by the numbing sequence of Reagan-Bush-Clinton and unsettled politics worldwide.” This, he wrote, made the project of uniting organizations and activists across the local left even more relevant.
On September 15 the local sponsored a reception at the Stewart Mott House for local member Marty Langelan, a leader of the DC Rape Crisis Center, who spoke about her new book Confronting Harassers: Success Stories by Women (Honest and Direct Tactics that Work). About 50 people attended.
Four local DSA members – Suzanne Crowell, Bill Mosley, Chris Riddiough and Tim Sears – served as delegates to the November 11-14 national convention in the Manhattan Beach suburb of Los Angeles. Mosley, writing in the December Socialist, noted that the overall turnout was a disappointment: only 70 delegates of a hoped-for 200 attended, and the four-person DC/MD/NOVA contingent fell far short of the 23 delegates allotted to the local. Mosley attributed the low turnout to “ the high cost of travel from other parts of the country and the time squeeze experienced by many members due to increasing professional and family responsibilities. Also to blame, perhaps more so, is the decline in the number of active locals, and local activists, across the country” despite growth in the national organization’s membership, then standing at 11,000.
At the convention, the DC/MD/NOVA local took a key role in discussions over the fate of the National Board, helping to broker a compromise that converted the meeting held in years between conventions into an Activists’ Conference without decision-making powers but which would be “an important source of ideas and guidance for the national leadership.” On another local priority, the convention endorsed DC Statehood and committed locals to lobby their members of Congress on the issue with guidance from DSA statehood activists. Three local members were elected to the NPC: Suzanne Crowell, Chris Riddiough and Kurt Stand.
On November 23 and again on December 7, DSA members joined the picket line with locked-out workers at the Madison Hotel, and the local pledged to swell the crowd for future dates. Then on December 10, the three-day Socialist International Women’s Conference kicked off at the Old Post Office Pavilion with a public forum on “Women, Environment and Sustainable Development” featuring UN Vice-Chair Birgitta Dahl and Canadian New Democratic Party Leader Audrey McLaughlin. A number of local DSA members attended all or parts of the conference.
On December 10, new DSA National Director Alan Charney met with several local activists over breakfast at Avignone Freres restaurant in Adams Morgan. The discussion revolved around how the national and local could support each other, with recruitment and organizing training being key topics. Charney said the national would emphasize building up the eight to 10 key locals, of which DC/MD/NOVA was one.
On December 18, the local held a holiday party and fundraiser in Lanham to celebrate “Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah and/or the Feast of Saturn.”
On January 4, the left unity steering committee met and agreed to formally calling itself the “Left Unity Project” (LUP). It also agreed to hold a public event on left perspectives on crime. A followup meeting took place on January 27.
On January 10 the newly formed MetroWatch, a watchdog organization for transit users endorsed by DC/MD/NOVA DSA, held a town meeting on Metro performance at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library. The event drew about 40 people and coverage from Channels 5 and 8 and WTOP and WAMU radio.
On January 13 about a dozen local DSA members met with leaders of the Socialist International, many of them members of their national legislatures, for an informal chat at the Sheraton Carlton Hotel during a conference on world governance.
The local held a membership meeting January 25 at the Old Post Office Pavilion. The agenda featured a review and assessment of the local’s activities going into the year. The announcement of the meeting in the January Socialist outlined planned events and projects, including the LUP crime forum, a public event on health care, a revived Labor Committee and “expanded activity in the socialist publications sphere” – and added that “a low level of commitment on the part of the local membership is endangering these projects,” calling for increased member involvement in local activities.
On February 5, Bill Mosley from the DC/MD/NOVA local – along with Rich Bruning from Baltimore – represented DSA at a strategy session with health-care activists and Sen. Paul Wellstone on Capitol Hill, bringing together organizations supporting single-payer health care. The meeting ended with a consensus to continue to insist on single-payer principles and push the Clinton health-care plan in that direction.
The Left Unity Project’s forum “Crime in the Community: Real Solutions, Left Perspectives” took place on February 25 at the Old Post Office Pavilion. Speakers were author Clarence Lusane, Rahim Jenkins of the Righteous Men’s Commission, staff counsel Ray Moore of the House Government Operations Committee, and criminal justice professor Sylvia Hill of UDC. About 40 people attended.
Two events took place simultaneously on February 27: a meeting of the local Labor Commission and a Women’s Brunch.
On March 22 the local held a joint membership meeting and Left Unity Project working session at the Old Post Office Pavilion.
DC/MD/NOVA DSA was an endorser of an April 22 forum entitled “Single Payer Health Care: An Agenda for Action” at the Old Post Office Pavilion. Speakers were Carolyn Clancy, Physicians for a National Health Program; Mohammed Akhter, DC public health commissioner; Frank Clemente, senior policy advisor to the House Government Operations Committee and a leading congressional health-care expert; and Robert Reid, MD, a Canadian physician.
Another DSA-sponsored forum at the Old Post Office took place on April 29. LUP was the organizer of “The Jobs Crisis: The Global Economy and the World of Work.” Speakers were writer and labor activist Bill Fletcher; Nat Blandon of Black Workers for Justice; Emilie Junge of the Metropolitan Women’s Organizing Project; and Paul Pumphrey of the Mickey Leland Rainbow Coalition of Montgomery County.
On May 1, the local joined the Left Unity Project and the local chapter of the Socialist Party for a May Day picnic in Rock Creek Park. Later that day, many local DSA members attended a reception at the home of member Stocky Everts for Dissent editors Michael Walzer and Mitchell Cohen.
DSA and LUP were sponsors and among the organizers of the July 15-16 State of the District Conference at Plymouth Congregational Church. A multiracial group of about 75 activists participated, representing a cross-section of local progressive activists. DSA representatives were instrumental in having single-payer health care included in the platform for DC that was adopted at the conference.‘
Several local members attended the August 12-14 DSA Activist Conference, the successor to the National Board Meeting, in Oberlin, Ohio.
On August 27, local members held a cookout and meeting to discuss revitalizing the local. The event drew about 10 people, about half of them newer and previously inactive members – some of whom showed an interest in becoming more involved in local activities.
On September 13, DC/MD/NOVA DSA-endorsed candidate Paul Pinsky won his primary election for Maryland Senate from Prince George’s County.
A DSA/Left Unity Project forum on electoral prospects for progressives was held September 16 at the Old Post Office Pavilion. About 20 people turned out to hear Rev. Graylan Ellis-Hagler, Doug Hess of DC New Democracy, Lenore Friedlander of Justice for Janitors and Sam Jordan of the Statehood Party.
The local held its annual meeting on September 17 at the Hyattsville Branch Library. About 20 members attended. The key decision was to adopt a proposal by member Tim Heath to develop a DSA training institute to teach organizing skills to activists, especially those on college campuses. A picnic at Lane Manor MNCPP Park followed that featured a talk by Rey Davis of the Student Coalition Against Racism on engaging youth in social change.
Several local members attended the DSA regional activist conference held in New York, October 8-9.
At the October 12 local membership meeting, members discussed the activist conference and national DSA priorities. They also endorsed Marion Barry in the election for DC mayor, Hilda Mason for re-election to DC Council and Leslie Byrne for re-election to Congress from Virginia, and re-affirmed their support for Paul Pinsky for Maryland Senate. All but Byrne won their general election races.
DSA was represented at the founding meeting of the DC Community Action Network (DC-CAN), a coming together of progressive organizations as well as social service providers. About 50 people attended the founding meeting and the group agreed to continue meeting to plan actions to build a grassroots network to challenge entrenched interests.
Several DSA members joined a December 7 downtown picket against building owner Oliver Carr.
During late 1994 the local attempted to form a speakers’ bureau of health care activists to give talks supporting single-payer at churches, neighborhood meetings and other gatherings. But an early meeting to plan the program was poorly attended and the project was abandoned when key activists withdrew. Another blow to local plans came before the end of the year when Tim Heath, the main motivator of the training institute project, relocated out of the DC area and the project failed to launch.
On January 11, DSA National Director Alan Charney met with the local’s executive board where he pitched the idea of holding the 1995 National Convention in the DC area, with the business sessions held at the 4-H Center in Chevy Chase and an outreach event in the District. The board agreed and offered suggestions for speakers and topics for the outreach forum, with a “Breaking Bread” event featuring Cornel West favored by many members.
On February 2 several DSA members were represented at a small meeting to discuss the future of the Left Unity Project. There was a rough consensus that DC-CAN had taken the lead in uniting grassroots activists and that LUP’s role might be one of an educational committee.
On February 7, the local’s membership meeting featured a discussion on “The Contract On America: Responding to the Right-Wing Assault, Advancing a Left Alternative” led by Chris Riddiough, Howard Croft and Dave Richardson.
On February 11 the twice-postponed town meeting of the DSA-backed DC-CAN took place at Plymouth Congregational Church. Eighty activists, a cross-section of the DC progressive community, held a spirited discussion on the troubled financial state of the District and how it affected health care, education, transportation and home rule.
On February 13 Alan Charney traveled to DC again to promote the national organization’s “War Against the Poor” campaign to defend AFDC, Medicaid and other public programs from budget cuts. Local members meeting with him offered ideas on a local spin to the campaign.
At the local’s February 21 executive board meeting decisions were made to move ahead with fighting the GOP Contract with America and organizing a Breaking Bread event featuring Cornel West at the DSA Convention.
DSA members participated in the February 25 meeting sponsored by DC New Democracy (DCND), like DC-CAN a nascent progressive coalition for the District, on DC’s budget crisis. The meeting produced a range of proposals for progressive social change in the District going far beyond budget matters. Members also were present at a March 7 rally at Freedom Plaza, also in protest of proposed cuts to the DC budget.
A number of DSA members participated in a March 21 downtown protest that ended in mass arrests after demonstrators briefly blocked Pennsylvania Ave. The march, headed by Justice for Janitors, was – as reported in the May Socialist -- part of week-long protest against tax breaks for wealthy business owners, developers and other corporations while city services were slashed in the face of the District’s ongoing budget crisis.
On March 28, the executive board agreed to endorse DCND’s alternative DC budget and to invite Barbara Ehrenreich, who planned to be in DC in mid-march, to speak at a local event. The event was cancelled days before the planned May 12 date due to Ehrenreich’s illness.
A contingent of local DSA members participated in the April 9 Rally for Women’s Lives on the Mall.
Several DSA members joined an April 15 march of about 75 people, organized by DC-CAN, from the Reeves Center to Freedom Plaza, to protest budget cuts being forced on DC by the federal government.
The Left Unity Project, DSA and COC sponsored an April 21 forum at All Souls Church on “Environmental Justice and DC in the Global Economy.“ DSA member Bill Mosley was on the panel, speaking on the environmental impact of highways and the need for vigorous support for public transit.
The May Socialist reported that DC/MD/NOVA DSA had joined DCTV, the local cable access channel, with the intent of eventually establishing a DSA news and discussion program.
DSA organized a May 9 phone bank to urge DSA members around the country to write letters to their members of Congress and Newt Gingrich to oppose the “Contract on America.”
DSA was a sponsor of a May 17 forum entitled “Mainstreaming Poverty: Economic Security and the American Dream” at Trinity College, with Jeff Faux of the Economic Policy Institute the featured speaker.
The local held a yard sale fundraiser May 20 in Mount Pleasant, raising about $600.
Dave Richardson and other DSA members were among the organizers of the June 1-4 conference “Third Parties ‘96” at George Washington University, a discussion of the potential for progressive political action outside the Democratic Party orbit.
On June 26, the local sent letters to members of the DC Council urging them to reverse their vote to cap AFDC payments to poor women.
The summer of 1995 largely featured planning meetings for local projects: hosting the DSA convention and the “Breaking Bread” public meeting, the People’s Hearing in opposition to planned GOP budget cuts, and the local TV access program.
The fall kicked off with a local DSA membership meeting on September 14 that discussed ongoing local projects, including the national convention and the People’s Hearing. The meeting also featured election of local delegates to the national convention. DSA National Director Alan Charney attended.
On September 20 several DSA members joined a Justice for Janitors-led blockade of the 14th Street Bridge in protest of Oliver Carr and other anti-worker DC building owners.
“The People’s Hearing: Fight for Economic Security” took place on September 27 at Plymouth Congregational Church, with about 60 people attending. DSA member Howard Croft moderated. The speakers – Rep. Bernie Sanders, DSA’s Chris Riddiough, Plymouth Minister Graylan Ellis-Hagler, David Schlein of AFGE, Kathy Pierson of the Coalition for Fiscal and Political Accountability and Lynn Turner of Justice for Janitors – as described by Keith Willis in the November Socialist, discussed “economic security through the gamut of issues including concerns of Union locals, the inadequacies of education, and the tyranny of the Federal Government in the city of Washington. . .Following the speakers a number of witnesses testified for their individual organizations to show that indeed the struggle, though small at the moment, continues to make gains against an inherently hostile system.”
The DSA National Convention kicked off November 10 at the 4-H Center in Chevy Chase and ran through November 12. The highlight was the first-night public outreach event, held at First Congregational Church in DC, the “Breaking Bread” discussion featuring Cornel West, Barbara Ehrenreich, author/activist Clarence Lusane, Georgetown law professor Mari Matsuda and Afro-Latino activist Roland Roebuck, with Richard Healey as moderator. About 500 people attended the forum, which focused on the need to build multiracial alliances for economic and social justice. The convention also featured “Surviving the Nineties,” a forum on sustaining local activism featuring Dorothy Healey – a veteran of a half-century of socialist activism – and DSA field organizer and “Generation X” member Carmen Mitchell. Local members elected to the NPC were Anne McCormick, Chris Riddiough, Loretta Schuman and Kurt Stand.
The December Socialist announced that the local had formed a working group to focus on economic insecurity, following up September’s People’s Hearing. The group aimed to reach out to involve other organization with an emphasis on economic issues and to prepare a pamphlet for public distribution.
The local held its annual meeting and holiday party on December 9 at Luna Books. Howard Croft and Suzanne Crowell led a discussion of the current times and what they meant for DSA and its work. The new slate of board members and officers was approved, with Bill Mosley turning over the chairmanship to Pleasant Mann.