Reported in the February/March Democratic Socialist: “The new year marked the end of an era for DC/MD DSA as the local left its longtime digs at the Dupont Circle building for new quarters at the Woodward Building near McPherson Square. The move was necessitated by the sale of the Dupont Circle Building to new owners, who ordered all tenants to vacate pending renovation.” In the same issue, DC/MD DSA announced that it was accepting applications for the position of part-time staff organizer at $50 per week for 10 hours. The issue also announced that the DC/MD local, in an effort to encourage parents to attend meetings, would reimburse members for child care expenses.
On January 7, DC/MD DSA, along with the Philippine Support Committee, sponsored a forum at the Machinists Auditorium on “The Philippine Election: Solution or Illusion?” Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark lamented that the post-Marcos election would do little to help the Philippine people since U.S. forces in the region would ensure that the government serves U.S. interests no matter who wins. Also speaking were Romeo Capulong of the Philippine Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, Walden Bello of the Philippine Support Committee, Elsie Castense of the Washington Forum on the Philippines, and Chip Fay, a former Peace Corps worker in the country. DC/MD DSA Chair Bill Mosley introduced the program and Kathy Selvaggio of the Philippine Support Committee chaired the forum, which was telecast on C-SPAN.
NOVA’s January 13 meeting focused on homelessness in Northern Virginia. Dr. Eric Gopelrud, a professor of psychology at George Mason University, discussed ways in which DSA could become involved in the issue. NOVA was a participant in the coalition Northern Virginians Against Apartheid and contributing volunteer time at the Arlington Women’s and Children’s Shelter.
NOVA and DC/MD held membership meetings on February 9 and 11, respectively. NOVA’s meeting included a discussion of Central America and National DSA’s action plan for the spring, with local member and labor activist Jerry Oliveira talking about his experiences in El Salvador. The DC/MD meeting looked at DC politics in the upcoming year with local member Rich Bruning leading the discussion.
A National Lawyers Guild dinner on February 22 honored two DSA members, DC Councilmember and DSA National Vice-Chair Hilda Mason and her husband, activist Charles Mason.
NOVA DSA met on March 5 while DC/MD’s meeting on March 11 discussed the upcoming year’s key Maryland races. Many DSA members participated in the March for Women’s Lives to defend reproductive rights, held on the Mall March 9.
Both new and longtime DSA members were invited to “Meet DSA” on March 18, a program on the organization’s history, programs and future vision.
DC/MD’s April 8 membership meeting featured a discussion entitled “Close Calls and Disasters: U.S. Foreign Policy in the ‘Near’ Term” with IPS fellow Walden Bello. NOVA held its monthly membership meeting on April 14.
Many DSA members from the metro area and elsewhere in the country participated in the April 17-19 founding convention of the National Rainbow Coalition, held at the Washington Convention Center. Machinists Union President and DSA National Vice-Chair William Winpisinger provided the introduction for Rainbow founder Jesse Jackson’s keynote speech.
Jackson was back in DC to deliver another keynote speech, this one on May 2 at the New Directions Conference, which took place May 2-4 at the Convention Center. New Directions was a project launched by the DSOC in 1977 (originally called Democratic Agenda) and continued by DSA to move the Democratic Party to the left by building coalitions with progressive forces that operate within the party – movements for civil rights, labor, women’s rights, peace and others – as well as build DSA as the “left wing of the possible.” Besides Jackson, the roster of speakers was a virtual who’s who of the American progressive left: DSA Co-Chairs Michael Harrington and Barbara Ehrenreich; civil rights lawyer Eleanor Holmes Norton; U.S. Reps. Lane Evans, Ron Dellums, John Conyers, Charles Hayes and Major Owens; and notable left author/activists Robert Kuttner, Heather Booth, Gloria Steinem, James Farmer, Ann Lewis, Jeff Faux, Frances Fox Piven, Irving Howe, Harold Meyerson and Robert Reich. Labor leaders participating in the conference included Gerald McEntee, William Lucy and Carol O’Cleireacain of AFSCME; Morton Bahr and Jan Pierce of CWA, and William Winpisinger of the Machinists. Offering an international perspective was Michael Manley, former and future prime minister of Jamaica.
The significance of both the Rainbow and New Directions conferences was the topic of discussion at the June 6 DC/MD DSA meeting. The discussion was led by Hulbert James, the former research director of the Rainbow’s voter registration drive; and Bernard Demczuk, legislative staffer for the American Federation of Government Employees. As reported in the Democratic Socialist, “the picture that emerged was of a people’s social movement (the Rainbow) experiencing the pains of becoming a political organization and of a revival of traditional broad-left policy formation (New Directions) that fell short of either reflecting a movement or evolving into an organization.” The contrasting racial compositions of the two movements – the Rainbow being majority black (although one-third of its convention’s delegates were non-black) and New Directions’ activists being overwhelmingly white – presented challenges to their working together, the speakers said.
DC/MD sponsored a May Day celebration on May 1, with speakers including Michael Harrington, Dorothy Healey and Metro Washington AFL-CIO President Joslyn Williams.
DC/MD endorsed the candidacy of labor activist Paul Pinsky for Maryland House of Delegates from Prince George’s County. On May 31 local members participated in a literature drop in the county with Pinsky, who won his primary and the general election.
At its June 7 annual meeting, DC/MD elected its officers and board for the coming year. Elected were Rich Bruning, chair; Lisa Foley and Joe McLaughlin, vice chairs; Stu Elliott, recording secretary; Jeffrey Hops, membership secretary; and Debbie Goldman, re-elected as treasurer. Re-elected as at-large board members were Barb Pequet, Suzanne Crowell, and Tim Sears, and newly elected to the board were Dave Wildberger and Pleasant Mann. The local’s standing committees and three regional branches – Prince George’s County, Takoma Park and the newly established Bethesda-Rockville branch – planned to name their board representatives later. Speaking at the meeting were DC City Council Chair Dave Clarke and Paul Pinsky. At the meeting the local resolved to “immerse itself in the local political community,” according to the Socialist.
Writing in the July/August Democratic Socialist, outgoing DC/MD chair Bill Mosley pointed to the struggles of a socialist organization during the conservative onslaught of the Reagan years in which “activists have tended to abandon, if temporarily, the struggle for a brighter future in order to prevent the present from becoming even more bleak.” During the previous year the local’s “membership remained about the same size as last year; fundraising was the usual struggle; and we hardly became a major mover on the local political scene.” He also noted the “inability to keep a permanent staff member on board.” Yet despite these difficulties, the local could point to numerous accomplishments: its role in the New Directions project, successful outreach events, the Debs-Thomas dinner, its role in the successful referendum to preserve rent control, anti-racist work, and a renewal of activism in committees. He also pointed to greater DSA regional cooperation, with closer ties between the DC/MD and NOVA locals, the establishment of the new Bethesda-Rockville branch and the continuing work of the Prince George’s and Takoma Park branches, and joint work with Baltimore DSA – featuring activism in Maryland statewide politics and joining with that local to staff concessions at Baltimore Orioles games to raise funds for DSA.
NOVA, at its April 13 meeting, established for the first time annual local dues in the amount of $12. In the past, the Socialist noted, the local had been funded by monthly pledges and the annual spaghetti dinner.
During the summer of 1986, DSA organized along a range of fundraising and electoral activities. On July 19 and 20, DC/MD organized a fundraising yard sale at the home of Dorothy Healey, Richard Healey and Debbie Goldman. DSA performed concession work at an Orioles game on July 19. A DC/MD membership meeting on July 8 considered political endorsements in the September 9 primary elections. For DC offices, the local endorsed Dave Clark for Council Chair, Hilda Mason and John Gibson for council at-large, Frank Smith for Ward 1, and Harry Thomas for Ward 6. In Ward 3, the local decided that Jim Nathanson and Mark Plotkin would both be worthy candidates and left it to voters to choose between them. It declined to make an endorsement in the races for mayor, delegate to Congress and Ward 4. In Maryland, the local endorsed the Steve Sachs-Parren Mitchell team for governor and lieutenant governor; Leon Billings for Congress from the 8th District; Albert Wynn for State Senate and Claire Bigelow and Paul Pinsky for House from Prince Georges County; and Alex Williams for Prince George’s States Attorney. The Socialist also noted that three DSA members had been named to less-publicized DC offices: Chris Riddiough to the Alcohol and Beverage Control Board; Howard Croft to the DC Parole Board, and Dan Jordan to the Rental Accommodations Committee.
Also during the summer, Lucy Duff, a DSA member in Prince George’s County, was one of 11 defendants acquitted on July 15 after being arrested in the Capitol Rotunda on April 14 protesting a bill that would aid US-funded mercenaries in Nicaragua. And over Independence Day weekend, several DC/MD members attended the first-ever national DSA “Socialist Summer School” in Pawling, NY.
DC/MD DSA roared into fall by staffing a booth all three days of the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival. It followed with a September 10 forum at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church on international terrorism, co-sponsored with the Middle East Research and Information Project, with featured speaker Fred Halliday, an internationally known analyst of terrorism. A second advertised speaker, Christopher Hitchens, was a late cancellation. The forum was covered by the Wall Street Journal.
NOVA and DC/MD held membership meetings on September 14 and 16, respectively, with the latter a discussion of the results of the September 9 primary elections.
On September 20, several DC/MD members traveled to Baltimore for a final shift working concessions at an Orioles game alongside Baltimore members. On the same day the local co-sponsored, along with the George Washington University Hillel, a showing of the McCarty-era classic film Salt of the Earth about a protest by mine workers in New Mexico. The film’s producer, Paul Jarrico, flew in from Los Angeles to speak at the showing.
Showing how little some things changed over the decades since 1986, both the Labor Day and November and December editions of the Democratic Socialist reported on the September 26-29 “Sanctuary Celebration” to make DC a Sanctuary City, “one where city employees are instructed not to cooperate with the Immigration and Naturalization Service in their search for undocumented refugees from U.S. proxy wars in Central America.” The centerpiece of the action was a march on September 28. DC Councilmember and DSA Vice-Chair Hilda Mason welcomed the assembly to the city.
DSA National Co-Chair Michael Harrington was the featured speaker at NOVA’s Seventh Annual Spaghetti Dinner on October 30 in Arlington.
On November 18, Roger Wilkins of the Institute for Policy Studies and author Gar Alperovitz were the speakers at a DC/MD forum on the just-concluded midterm elections.
The November Democratic Socialist featured an article by Ben Ross about activism by Montgomery County DSA. He reported that about half the “100-odd” members in the county took part in the unsuccessful campaign of Leon Billings for the 8th District congressional seat. Although Billings lost the Democratic primary, “he put together what was widely regarded as the most effective grassroots campaign in the county” that year. After the election, a joint meeting of the Takoma Park/Silver Spring and Bethesda/Rockville branches decided to merge into a single countywide branch.
The year closed out with the DC/MD Antiracism committee holding a potluck dinner and general membership meeting in a discussion of Cornel West’s pamphlet “Toward a Socialist Theory of Racism.” And in November, DC/MD announced the launch of a pledge plan to encourage members to contribute a set amount to the local each month. Subsequent evaluation concluded that this project was at best a modest success.
The year for the area DSA locals started with their hosting the organization’s January 16-18 National Board meeting in Washington. The meeting kicked off with a January 16 public forum at the Machinist Union auditorium on “Iran/Contragate and the Current State of American Politics” with John Judis of In These Times, Roger Wilkins of the Institute for Policy Studies, DC/MD DSA member Ruth Jordan and DSA National Political Committee Member Bogdan Denitch.
The key issues of the following two days’ meetings, held at First Congregational Church, were DSA’s relation to the Rainbow Coalition and its posture toward US intervention in Central America. Following opening addresses by National Co-Chair Michael Harrington and political director Jim Shoch, the organization resolved to: develop a working relationship with the Rainbow, use its leverage in the labor movement to ensure that Jesse Jackson’s presidential campaign be given full consideration by the AFL-CIO, “make every effort” to hire an organizer to work with the Rainbow and minority communities, and initiate a discussion on the question of a DSA presidential endorsement leading up to the fall 1987 national convention.
The Central America debate centered on whether DSA should adopt a non-critical position of “solidarity” toward the Nicaraguan Sandinista government and other left movements in the region, or whether it should adopt a position, endorsed by the National Executive Committee (NEC) of “critical support” – to express concern over anti-democratic tendencies while still calling for a halt to US intervention. A compromise was achieved that re-emphasized DSA’s opposition to intervention and stripped some of the more critical language from the NEC resolution.
On February 9 Jim Wallace, a member of DC/MD DSA as well as the organization’s national Religion and Socialism Commission, joined German feminist theologian Dorothee Soelle for a discussion of “Socialism and the Christian Faith” at DC’s Wesley Theological Seminary. The February 10 DC/MD local meeting featured a discussion on working with DC Mayor Marion Barry.
DSA members from around the country traveled to Washington for the April 20-27 mobilization in opposition to U.S. policy in Central America and Southern Africa. DSA held a special preparatory meeting on Easter Sunday, April 19, which persons planning to participate in the April 27 non-violent civil disobedience were urged to attend. The meeting also included a focus on expressing a socialist viewpoint at the overall mobilization.
On June 13, DC/MD held its annual meeting during which it elected new officers and board members. Rich Bruning turned over the chairpersonship to Lisa Foley as he moved to the job of treasurer, while the members also elected Joe McLaughlin and Karen Tramontano as vice-chairs; Bill Mosley as membership secretary, and Dave Wildberger, Suzanne Crowell and Ron Millar members at large. In addition, Les Goldner joined the board as a representative of the Montgomery County branch. At the meeting Tanya Blagrove and Kurt Stand spoke about retaining space for one’s personal life while remaining politically active; Suzanne Crowell, a member of the NEC, gave an update on the national organization; national staffer Sherri Levine, along with Foley and Crowell, led a discussion of the DSA-initiated poverty project; and Bernard Demczuk spoke of the potential of the Rainbow Coalition and the Jesse Jackson presidential candidacy.
Bruning, in a summer Democratic Socialist article, assessed the previous year’s DC/MD activities, calling it a time of “both advances and setbacks.” He cited a strengthening of the local’s infrastructure and communications, although “membership probably declined slightly and attendance at membership meetings and forums has fallen noticeably.” He cited as successes the regular publication of the Democratic Socialist (five times during the year); the computerization of the mailing list and of information from membership surveys; a new local literature piece; development of a phone tree; establishment of the Montgomery County branch; the forums conducted by the Cultural and Education Committee; and the reconstituted pledge plan which helped the local remain financially solvent. He also cited the local’s successful work in electoral politics, helping re-elect Hilda Mason to the DC Council, aiding Paul Pinsky’s successful campaign for Maryland House of Delegates, and being an active presence in Leon Billings’ ultimately unsuccessful campaign for Congress from Maryland.
Washington-area locals took the lead in reviving an old DSOC tradition, a regional DSA retreat, pulling together a conclave of Mid-Atlantic locals at the Bishop Claggett Center in Buckeystown, MD, from June 26-28. Participating in the retreat were members from DC, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. The three days featured political discussions as well as socialist socializing, softball, swimming and communing with cows at the working farm bordering the Monocacy River.
In the Labor Day Socialist, Kurt Stand reported that the DC/MD local had formed a committee to develop closer working relations with the Rainbow Coalition in DC and Maryland. The local was planning a series of meetings with Rainbow leaders and putting together a “working strategy group to find the best means of bringing our ideas and programmatic suggestions to the Rainbow.”
A small delegation of DC/MD members participated in the fourth annual convention of the Maryland Citizen Action Coalition, held October 17 at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County campus.
In November, DC/MD participated in “Justice for All,” described by local chair Lisa Foley in the Washington Socialist as “a national day of awareness of poverty, initiated through DSA’s Poverty Project and joined by other national groups.” An event organized by the local drew some 100 people to hear activists speak out against poverty in the District of Columbia.
DSA held its biennial national convention in DC’s First Congregational Church from December 4-6, which included a special outreach program on the first night featuring DSA National Co-Chair Barbara Ehrenreich, former (and future) Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley, Rainbow Coalition Executive Director Ron Daniels, and farm labor organizer Baldemar Velasquez. Perhaps the convention’s most significant action was its endorsement of Jesse Jackson for president.
Local DSA members noticed a change in the first newsletter that hit their mailboxes in 1988. Gone was the newsprint tabloid format used the previous four years in favor of a magazine-sized publication printed on heavy stock. In addition, the name of the newsletter had reverted back to its previous name, the Washington Socialist. The format change, the Socialist explained, “was made to give us more flexibility in production – we can print as few or as many pages as we want; the newspaper format was less forgiving and flexible and curtailed our ability to be current because of the long lead times needed for production and printing,” and because it lowered production costs. Calling it the Democratic Socialist, although it embraced local members outside DC, “cost us any real geographical distinction” and Washington Socialist was the preferred name in an informal poll, the Socialist reported. In addition, the newsletter moved from quarterly to monthly production and now called itself a product of “DC/MD Democratic Socialists of America,” with NOVA no longer included on the masthead.
On February 26, DC/MD DSA introduced a new booklet it had produced: Witness to Two Worlds: Salvadoran Refugees in Washington, written by labor activist Katherine Sciacchitano. The booklet examined how US foreign policy, designed to preserve “low-wage havens around the world,” fueled the stream of Salvadoran refugees to the United States into low-wage sectors, with no protection and no benefits and constantly under the threat of deportation. The pamphlet was introduced at a forum that featured Schiaccitano, Francisco Acosta of the Salvadoran labor federation UNTS, Kevin Brown of the Service Employees International Union, and Dora Genovez, who worked with Brown in the Justice for Janitors campaign.
Also in February, a local DSA Women’s Brunch began meeting as a “feminist sub-group within DSA,” the Socialist reported. Topics discussed ranged over such issues as sexism, “the portrayal of women in the media, relating feminism to a socialist/anti-racist analysis, work and personal conflicts, and . . . reproductive issues.”
DC/MD’s March 8 membership meeting featured left economist Jeff Faux speaking on “An Economy for the Democratic Left.” Then on March 19, it held a “film-on-video” party to watch the movie Burn, a fictionalized look at colonialism in Latin America starring Marlon Brando.
DC/MD’s April 11 membership meeting featured a discussion of “Taking Back the Family: A Left Agenda” led by DSA member and Service Employees International Union organizer Debbie Goldman. The discussion centered on the American Family Celebration, a campaign to strengthen working families that would center on a May gathering in Washington. The meeting also included a showing of the AFL-CIO’s video “Child Care Challenge: Union Solutions.”
On April 19, DC/MD held a fundraiser for Bernard Demczuk, a DSA member and official of the American Federal of Government Employees, for his campaign as a Jackson delegate to the Democratic National Convention. About 40 people attended and contributed around $300. One week later the local held another fundraiser, this for DSA-endorsed candidates for DC Democratic State Committee: Chris Riddiough, Joslyn Williams, Romaine Thomas, Ruth Jordan and Mildred Goodman. Rich Bruning, writing in the Washington Socialist, noted that the event marked “the rare appearance, outside of City Council meetings, of three councilmembers at the same event:” Hilda Mason, Jim Nathanson and Harry Thomas [but also see the description of the 1983 Debs-Thomas Dinner above]. The event drew 40-50 people and raised about $300.
Also during 1988 an active local labor committee was at work, holding a meeting on April 28. The group sponsored a May 19 talk by labor historian David Montgomery.
The April Socialist reported that DC/MD had signed on to the national Campaign to End Hunger and Homelessness. The newsletter also reported on its revived phone tree for local meetings and events and solicited volunteers.
DC/MD’s May 10 membership meeting featured a discussion of educational reform from a left perspective led by DSA members and University of Maryland Professors Jim Wallace and Larry Roper. The meeting was held outside DC for a change, at the U. Md. College Park campus.
DSA participated in the May 14 American Family Celebration in DC, an event coordinated by the Coalition of Labor Union Women and sponsored by more than 100 groups. As reported by Chris Riddiough in the Washington Socialist, the event was “intended as an initial step in a campaign to regain progressive political space from the conservatives in the area of ‘family’ issues.” The campaign’s demands included enactment of family and medical leave legislation, increasing the minimum wage, pay equity and support for child care.
DC/MD held its annual meeting on June 4 at the Mount Pleasant Library in DC. It featured a panel discussion on the Jesse Jackson presidential candidacy with DSA National Field Director Shakoor Aljuwani, Jackson labor coordinator Dan Cantor, and DSA National Vice-Chair Dorothy Healey. Departing local chair Lisa Foley assessed the accomplishments of the past year, and elections were held for officers and board members. Elected were Bill Mosley and Rich Bruning, co-chairs; Lisa Foley, membership secretary; Trudy Scanlan, treasurer; and board members Bill Spencer, Joe Slater, Doug Green, Dave Wildberger, Suzanne Crowell and Anne McCormick. The meeting was followed by a picnic in Rock Creek Park.
DC/MD kept up an active schedule of activities through the summer, including: participation in the annual DSA Mid-Atlantic Retreat, held June 24-26 at the Baltimore’s College of Notre Dame of Maryland; a yard sale fundraiser on July 9; a women's brunch on July 10; the July 12 local membership meeting, a discussion of feminism’s and DSA’s roles in each other, led by local members fresh from the national DSA feminist retreat; and a pool party on July 16. In addition, a number of local members traveled to New York for a June 30 tribute to DSA co-founder Michael Harrington, who was ill with terminal cancer.
Also during the summer of 1988, local DSA members discussed the formation of the New Directions Caucus (not to be confused with the New Directions coalition described earlier), a nationwide grouping within DSA. A letter announcing the formation of the caucus pointed to DSA’s declining membership and shrinking locals and called for “a renaissance of grass-roots activism, a revived national debate of radical policy alternatives, and rapid growth of our membership.” As reported by Lisa Foley in the September 1988 Socialist, the caucus “wants a climate in which to discuss such issues outside of formalized pressure-creating mechanisms where DSA officially charts its course.” The signers had been criticized for “secrecy and fostering division within DSA,” Foley noted, but the caucus pledged openness and called for other members to join it.
On August 2, the local transmitted to the national office a report on its activities as part of a nationwide survey by DSA on chapter work. It reported that the local had approximately 250 dues-paying members, of whom 40 to 50 could be considered active. The report said that its members consisted largely of “government employees, union staff, students, faculty [and] social change/lobbyists.” The local raised about $4,000 annually, about 75 percent of which was spent on the newsletter. The local reported holding monthly membership and board meetings, producing a monthly (except August) newsletter and having no paid staff. It cited its principal political activity as working with the Jackson presidential campaign and the Rainbow Coalition, involvement in local electoral campaigns, organizing the DC Justice for All event and continuing to be involved in local economic justice work and having close ties with Justice for Janitors, among other labor organizations, and the Washington Peace Center. The local cited among its activities the publication of "Witness to Two Worlds" and its forum on Salvadoran refugees, the women’s brunches, a talk by labor historian David Montgomery and a planned fall course on the history of socialism. On help needed from the national office, the local said it would like to be notified when Barbara Ehrenreich was in DC so that it could host a meeting or event with her, problems with delivery of bulk copies of Democratic Left, and increasing trouble getting the Machinists to confirm meeting space at their headquarters.
DC/MD DSA headed into fall with a packed agenda. At its September 6 membership meeting it discussed issues likely to be taken up at the November 11-13 DSA National Board meeting in Los Angeles. The local also finalized a merger with Northern Virginia DSA, with the merged local to be called DC/MD/NOVA DSA. The Washington Socialist would serve members in Northern Virginia as well as DC and Maryland, the newsletter reported, and added that a canvass of NOVA members had indicated widespread support for the merger. “A top priority of the local’s leadership” would be to “stimulate independent activity by Virginia members on issues of special interest to that jurisdiction,” the Socialist said.
Two weeks later, on September 20, the local held a special meeting in which it heard presentations from DC Council at-large candidates Bill Lightfoot and Tom Chorlton, with the outcome an endorsement of Chorlton. The meeting was covered by Washington City Paper’s “Loose Lips” columnist who wrote an extensive piece on it (Lightfoot won the election). Also in September, a Women’s Brunch on the 18th featured the topic “socialist feminism and the family.”
In October, DC/MD’s October 4 membership meeting featured the election of delegates to the National Board meeting in Santa Monica, Calif.: Rich Bruning, Jenefer Ellingston, Bill Mosley and Kurt Stand; with Kevin Brown, Lisa Foley and Joyce Northwood elected as alternates. The local scheduled a fundraising party to help pay the delegation’s travel expenses. The following evening, DSA member Tim Sears led the first of five classes on the history of socialism.
On October 11, the local hosted a talk by Ruben Zamora, vice-president of the Democratic Revolutionary Front (FDR), El Salvador’s opposition party. The forum was part of a national tour sponsored by DSA and the Institute for Democratic Socialism. The event packed the Machinists Union auditorium. As reported in the Socialist by Dave Wildberger, Zamora asserted that the “U.S. government’s policy of counter-insurgency in El Salvador ‘is in real trouble. . After the ordeal of Vietnam, the U.S. administration has been developing the most sophisticated and, I must say, the most inhuman method of training soldiers to stop an insurgency that is the expression of what a people want for their own country,’” Zamora told the audience. Also speaking at the event was Francisco Acosta of the Salvadoran organization FENESTRAS.
Dan Carter of the United Farm Workers attended the local’s October 25 board meeting to speak about the union’s grape boycott, and the local endorsed the boycott.
In November, in addition to the local’s participating in the National Board meeting in Santa Monica, Calif., a women’s brunch was held on the 20th.
The DSA National Board meeting was a topic of the December 6 local membership meeting. That meeting also analyzed the recent national and local elections and what they meant to for the Democratic Party and the left. A holiday party followed.
The work of committees and projects continued throughout December, with a combined meeting of the Outreach/Education/Finance committees on December 11, and a women’s brunch on December 18 on the topic of abortion rights.
The newly merged local urged all members to participate in a January 8 executive board meeting on the state of the local DSA chapter and participation of women in DSA leadership and cadre. The following week, the January 17 membership meeting featured a workshop on reproductive rights.
The January Washington Socialist announced its annual membership renewal drive, increasing local dues from $12 to $15, the first increase in many years. It also called for “the active participation” of members rather than just their money.
Also in the January Socialist, Dave Wildberger and Lisa Foley provided a readout of the November 11-13 National Board meeting held in Santa Monica, Calif. Among its resolutions: creating a task force on how to strengthen locals (Foley was named to the task force), continuing to work with the Rainbow Coalition and organizing conferences on family and social policy and on the “new working class” of low-waged and underemployed workers. The authors noted that local delegates considered the meeting underattended and that amendments to the DSA constitution could not be considered due to the lack of a quorum.
The local participated in the planning and execution of “counter-inaugural” activities taking place January 18-21 in opposition to the beginning of four more years of Republican rule in the White House. These included a soup kitchen in front of Union Station (where an inaugural ball would be held inside), a dance and party, and a discussion forum.
The January 17 local discussion of reproductive rights resulted in the launch of the Metro-DC Coalition for Choice (MDCCC) to “preserve and expand reproductive rights in the District of Columbia,” wrote Gemma Flamberg in the March Socialist. While the coalition was initiated by DSA, it was “anticipated that the newly formed MDCCC will include representatives of reproductive rights organizations, women’s groups, labor, organizations of people of color, gay and lesbian groups, senior citizens’ groups, local writers and artists, and members of Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.” The coalition set an ambitious agenda for the near term, including working with a NARAL petition drive for reproductive rights on International Women’s Day (March 8), and participating in the April 9 March for Women’s Lives.
Northern Virginia members of the newly merged local met on January 26 in Alexandria to discuss what DSA should be doing both in Virginia and the wider region and to create a Virginia-based working group.
The March 14 local membership meeting featured a discussion of labor topics, focusing on the status of the Eastern Air Lines strike. Two days later, the local sponsored a discussion at the Communications Workers of America headquarters on “The Idea of Progress and Revolutionary Tradition” featuring author and Georgetown professor Norman Birnbaum.
Feminist activism was the local’s theme for April, much of it centered around DSA’s participation in the April 9 March for Women’s Lives on the Mall. Approximately 100 DSA members from around the country participated. National DSA sponsored a post-march reception featuring Barbara Ehrenreich, Frances Fox Piven, local member Lisa Foley and DSA youth organizer Elissa McBride. The previous afternoon, the local held a forum on “Socialist Feminism: An Agenda for the 1990s” co-sponsored with Potomac Valley Greens.
MDCCC held a meeting and get-together on April 22, and a Women’s Brunch was held on April 30. The MDCCC adopted as its priorities countering Operation Rescue’s harassment of women seeking services at reproductive health clinics and supporting local funding for abortions. Also that month, the local’s April 11 membership meeting featured a roundtable on the topic “Facing 1990: Setting a Progressive Agenda for the City.”
DSA labor activists initiated the Washington Committee in Solidarity with Eastern Air Lines Workers to support the Machinists’ strike against the airline. The group organized daily lunch-hour pickets at Eastern’s ticket office at 16th and K Sts. NW. In the May Socialist, Bill Mosley said the local’s support for labor was part of its program to increase its support for union struggles in general, in line with National DSA’s “American Solidarity” movement to work more closely with labor.
On May 6, a small meeting of mostly active members discussed how to bring more members into the local’s leadership group. The May 9 local membership meeting featured a discussion of DC’s environmental concerns, including the state of the local recycling program. Then on May 20 it held one of its periodical yard-sale fundraisers.
The local held its annual meeting on June 3 at the Mount Pleasant Library, with about 40 members in attendance. The meeting featured a discussion on “Generations of Socialism” featuring local members Dorothy Healey, Horst Brand, Brian Doherty and Krista Schneider. National staff member Sherri Levine reported on the national’s activities. The meeting resulted in the office of co-chair being replaced by a four-person steering committee in order to distribute leadership tasks among more persons. Elected to the steering committee were Arnie Chien, Programs Coodinator; Bill Mosley, Financial Coordinator; J. Peter Nixon, Outreach Coordinator; and Krista Schneider, Administrative Coordinator. Others elected were Rich Bruning, Membership Coordinator; and Kevin Brown, David Bryden, Ingrid Goldstrom, Loretta Schuman and Kurt Stand, board members at-large. A picnic at Piney Branch Park followed.
A number of DC/MD/NOVA DSA activists participated in a meeting of the DSA Religion and Socialism Commission held in Arlington from June 2-4. Andrew Hammer, a Northern Virginia member, was named to the commission’s executive committee.
A women’s brunch was held on June 11 and MDCCC continued its schedule of monthly meetings. MDCCC added to its agenda supporting the boycott of Domino’s Pizza, whose owner was a major contributor to Operation Rescue. The coalition also held a benefit event at the Tracks bar on July 8.
The DSA Mid-Atlantic Retreat was held June 23-25 at the Claggett Center in Buckeystown, MD. The theme of the retreat was “What Kind of Organization is DSA? What Kind of Organization Do We Want It to Be?” Workshops were held on socialist feminism, labor support work, labor and the Rainbow, the history of socialism, socialist perspectives on crime and drugs, and campus organizing.
Several local DSA members participated in the July 1-3 national DSA leadership retreat in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
The local’s July 15 membership meeting featured a discussion of an amendment to the national DSA constitution, submitted by the local, that would allow a secret ballot for the election of national DSA officers.
August opened with rally on the 2nd, organized by MDCCC and the DC chapter of NOW and co-sponsored by DSA, that drew some 300 people to the Capitol steps in support of Medicaid funding for abortions in DC. Then on August 5, the local’s membership meeting featured a discussion of the Nov. 10-12 DSA convention to be held in Baltimore.
A number of DC-area DSA members participated in the DSA Youth Section summer conference, held August 17-21 at Findlay College in Ohio.
Michael Harrington, DSA’s founding leader and co-chair and the principal spokesperson for American democratic socialism since the 1960s, died on July 31 after a long bout with cancer. A number of local DSA members attended his New York memorial service on September 15, and the DC/MD/NOVA local held its own memorial on September 21 in DC.
The next regular membership meeting, held on September 12, featured a discussion on violence against women, as well as the election of delegates to the national convention to be held November 10-12 in Baltimore.
During the summer, the local formed a DC Politics Committee which met and drew up an endorsement plan for 1990’s local elections. As described in the September Socialist by Rich Bruning, one element of the plan would be the development of position papers on issues such as education, housing, the environment, health care and criminal justice. The committee would draw up a questionnaire as well as look at candidates’ voting records and public comments. Candidates responding to the questionnaire would be invited to a public DSA endorsement meeting. If the local did endorse a candidate, the committee would take responsibility for orchestrating a program of support, including fundraising, leafleting, phone banking, postering and election day work. The committee held a followup meeting on September 13.
MDCCC was particularly active in September, starting with its participation in a September 12 lobby day in Congress to keep local funding of abortion in the DC budget. The coalition held its general meeting on September 16, and that evening participated in the Take Back the Night march.
A newly formed DC/MD/NOVA DSA public employee caucus held its first organization meeting on September 19 at AFGE headquarters. Recognizing that a substantial number of local members – at least 20, according to caucus member Bill Mosley – were federal workers, the caucus aimed to: discuss issues of interest to federal employees and explore paths of action; use knowledge gained on the job to truly fulfill the mission of serving the public; provide a vehicle for recruiting progressive federal employees into DSA; and provide DSA federal employees with a network for sharing information and ideas that can connect their ideals to their place of work.
October opened with a series of MDCCC meetings: an “evaluation meeting” on the 2nd, a meeting on campus organizing on the 3d and a general meeting on the 4th.
DSA was both a local and national sponsor of the Housing Now march and related events held October 5-7. DC/MD/NOVA DSA helped publicize the events, which included lobbying on October 5-6 and a march on the 7th. A contingent of DSA members from the local area and other cities participated in the march.
At its October 10 membership meeting, the local discussed issues that would arise at the DSA National Convention.
The October 29 Women’s Brunch was held at Great Falls and included a hike.
In November, MDCCC was active in responding to Operation Rescue’s attacks on reproductive health clinics in the DC area. It also participated in Mobilize for Women’s Lives, a November 12 reproductive rights march in DC to which it provided transportation directly from the DSA convention in Baltimore.
At the DSA Convention, held November 10-12 in Baltimore, two DC/MD/NOVA members – Suzanne Crowell and Kurt Stand – were elected to the National Executive Committee. Members of the local drafted and helped pass a resolution to establish a DSA Environmental Committee. The local’s resolution to provide for secret-ballot election of officers failed.
DC/MD/NOVA DSA’s November 14 membership meeting featured a report-back from its delegation to the national convention.
On November 14, the local’s federal employee caucus sponsored a forum on the federal health care program and how a successfully run program could be a first step toward a national health system. Speakers were David Schlein, AFGE 14th District Vice-President; and Shari Miles from the office of Rep. Ron Dellums (D-Calif.).
A newly formed local DSA environmental working group held its initial meeting on October 30.
December opened with a meeting of MDCCC on the 2nd, with a women’s brunch on the following day that featured a discussion of readings from “In a Different Voice.”
On December 14, a study group of the local held a discussion on Michael Harrington’s Socialism: Past and Future, led by local member Horst Brand. The group held additional discussions on the book the following year.