Successful Convention Moves DSA to Left

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin .... No. 1465 .... August 9, 2017

Successful Convention Moves DSA to Left

Dan La Botz

The socialist movement in the United States took a big step forward this past weekend as almost 700 delegates representing over 25,000 members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) met at the organization's biennial national convention in Chicago (Aug. 3-6, 2017). This convention, the first since DSA more than tripled in size following last year's election, brought together delegates from all of the country's major cities and many towns, large and small.

Most were new members who had joined in the last year either came out of the Bernie Sanders campaign or joined in reaction to the frightening prospect of the Donald Trump presidency. The convention cohered the hundreds of new members into a... national organization in what was virtually a re-founding of the DSA. It gave them the experience of beginning to run their own organization, and the delegates adopted constitutional changes and policy resolutions that moved the organization to the left.

DSA was founded in 1982 by the merger of Old Left activists from the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) led by Michael Harrington and by New Left activists of the 1970s who had created the New American Movement (NAM). Inspired by Harrington's notion (called the "realignment strategy") that it would be possible to reform the Democratic Party by driving out both the big city political machines and the South's white racist Democratic Party politicians, from the 1970s to the 2000s DSOC and DSA were oriented toward the progressive labor union officialdom, the leadership of the civil rights movement, and the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. DSA was affiliated with the Socialist International and identified with the Scandinavian Social Democratic parties that had successfully constructed welfare states with impressive programs of healthcare, education, and housing. By the 1990s it was clear that Harrington's strategy had failed and without a clear alternative perspective, a smaller, weaker DSA stumbled into the twenty-first century.

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