The explosive growth of DSA, both nationally and locally, following the 2016 election remade the organization into one that was both younger and largely composed of members with no personal history with the organization.
The changes in DSA motivated a group of mostly longer term members to establish the Socialist Heritage Caucus within the Metro-DC DSA local. The caucus, which was formally recognized by the local in October 2018, adopted a mission statement that cited its purpose as the exploration of “the history of DSA both locally and nationally, as well as the history of left politics and culture locally, nationally and internationally, in order to provide a historic perspective that can contribute to the present-day thinking and practices of Metro-DC DSA.”
Since that time the caucus has assembled a contact list of about 30 members and held brunches every two or three months at a variety of restaurants around the area, mostly social events but also featuring discussions on current issues and developments within DSA. The caucus also became the sponsor of the periodic tours I have been conducting of sites in DC relevant to the city’s radical history as well as explorations of local museums to find works and artifacts relevant to the left. Recent radical tours have taken place in the Adams Morgan neighborhood and the National Portrait Gallery/Smithsonian American Art Museum.
I also am in the process of drafting, with the assistance of members of the caucus, a chronological history of the local DSA chapter covering the years 1982–2016, beginning with the merger of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) and the New American Movement (NAM) that led to the creation of DSA and covering events through the election of 2016.
A recent project of the caucus has been to scour past issues of the Washington Socialist, going back to the early 1980s, for articles reflective both of DSA’s past and present. Called “Reflections from the Past,” the series began in November with a September 1984 interview of longtime left stalwart Dorothy Healey and continued the following month with a September 1986 piece by Suzanne Crowell on the recent (as of that time) history of the DC labor movement. More informally, members of the caucus have been sharing links and articles of interest on both historic and contemporary issues.
The caucus, which is still in the building stage, plans to expand its activities with more public events in the future. All members of DSA are invited to become members. If you would like to join the caucus mailing list send a message to Socialist_heritage@mdcda.org.
See Prof. Joe Schwartz’s history of DSA at https://www.dsausa.org/about-us/history/