Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee

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Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee

Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) was founded in 1973 by Michael Harrington, when he led a left wing faction opposed to the Vietnam War out of the old Socialist Party USA. DSOC's membership included many former Students for a Democratic Society activists and "undisciplined communists".

DSOC grew quickly in the late 1970s, making big inroads[1]into the Democratic Party.

By 1979 DSOC claimed a national membership of 3,000, loosely organized into 40 local chapters.

In 1982 DSOC merged with the smaller New American Movement to form the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) - now the largest socialist organization in the U.S.


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DSOC founding convention

The Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee founding convention Socialism'73 took place in New York City, October 12 and 13, 1973, at the Loeb Student Center, NY University and at the McAlpin Hotel. Speakers included;

Newsletter of the Democratic Left

DSOC's original publication was called Newsletter of the Democratic Left. It was published 10 times a year from 125 West 77th St., New York. Those listed as helping produce the October 1973 issue were David Bensman, Henry Bayer, Gretchen Donart, David Gaberman, Tom Kramer, David Kusnet, Jon Ratner, Ronnie Steinberg Ratner, Mark Schaeffer, Nancy Shier.

The editor was Michael Harrington, with Jack Clark as Managing Editor.[3]

Influencing the Democratic Party

DSOC leaflet, circa 1980

Between 1977 and 1979 DSOC played an important and highly visible role in the Democratic Party Mid-term convention in Memphis, organized a youth group, daveloped its local chapter network, took an active role in a number of local election campaigns, developed a strong Hispanic Commission that includes a largely Cuban chàpter in Miami, Chicano members in Texas and Puerto Ricans in New York and organized the Democratic Agenda coalition within the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Agenda alliance emerged from the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee "Democracy '76" project. At that time a Washington, DC, conference attended by some 500 people set up a network to influence the regional and national meetings of the Democratic Party Platform Committee.

Pleased with the result of its input into the drafting of the 1976 Democratic Party platform which DSOC termed "a rather progressive document," the DSOC organized the Democratic Agenda alliance in November 1977. DSOC and the DA both operated from national headquarters at 853 Broadway 1 Room 617, New York, NY 10003 (2l2/260-32701.

DA conference organizing was coordinated from DSOC' s Washington local (chapter) offices at 1730 N Street, NH, Suite 713, Washington, DC      

DSOC's Washington organizers emphasized that the DA is not a coalition of groups agreeing on a goal but, which have disparate analyses. They describe the DA as an alliance of "like-minded groups which share a broad social analysis, and which work together on a broader, more long-lived front and struggle.

According to attorney and treasurer of the Washington, DC, DSOC local Alex Spinrad "if there were a mass socialist organization, Democratic Agenda might be unnecessary: unionists like Doug Fraser and William Winpisinger, Congresspeople, and community activists could all operate within the common organizational framework of a democratic socialist movement . Unfortunately, such a mass socialist base does not exist yet, but the Democratic Agenda provides an exciting vision of the potential movement. "

Spinrad has argued that "Only by creating a coherent organizational framework - and a single broad analysis of social problems -can the left really achieve the long-lasting victories which can lead to truly exciting social change. That is why we are all socialists:because whether we are in the labor movement, the religious community,academia, we all recognize the need for an ideological framework on which to hang all, common, struggles."[4]



The Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee organized a DEMOCRACY '76 conference within the Democratic Party conference in Los Angeles in 1976.

Are there concrete programs that progressives can work for in this election year which could begin to democratize our social and economic institutions? D.S~O.C. thinks that there are . . . and has initiated a nationwide series of conferences to discuss the DEMOCRACY '76 program.
Already endorsed by political and union leaders - including George McGovern - DEMOCRACY '76 calls for a greater reliance on the public sector in creating genuine full employment - for a more progressive tax system - for increased social control of the corporate structures which increasingly control our lives - for democratic and public, rather than corporate, planning of our national future.


  • 10:00 A.M. Greetings Jo Seidita, Democratic National Committee, Burt Wilson, CAUSE coordinator
  • 10: 30 Workshops Full employment, economic . .restructuring. social democratization Public energy & utilities, Neo-conservatism and the starvtion of the public sector Public access to media Peacetime industrial conversion..
  • 3: 30 Wallace Albertson, President,CDC
  • 3:45 Michael Harrington, National Chair, DSOC, Author of The Other America; Toward a Democratic Left, Socialist



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A local seminar was also convened in Chicago, featuring John Conyers, Bob Mann, Ann Ladky, Day Creamer, and Robert Eisner.

Democratic Agenda/Socialist Caucus

For groups and organizations seeking radical social change within the Democratic Party, the National Convention of 1980 had at least one historic first - formation of a Socialist Caucus of delegates. Organized by the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and by the Democratic Agenda which was DSOC's cadre and supporters within the Democratic Party and was based in DSOC' s New York office and at 1730 M Street, NW, Washington, DC. Some 31 delegates and alternates from twelve states and Democrats Abroad attended the Socialist Caucus.

As a preliminary to the convention's Socialist Caucus meeting, , indeed as a "building event" and as a continued show of support for Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the Democratic Agenda sponsored a convention rally at New York's Town Hall. The speakers included Herman Badillo, Julian Bond, Fran Bennick, Harry Britt, Cesar Chavez, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI}, Douglas Fraser, Murray Finley, Michael Harrington, Terry Herndon, Ruth Jordan, Ruth Messinger, Eleanor Smeal, Gloria Steinem and William Winpisinger.

DSOC works within the Democratic Party, said Harrington, because of the party's relationships with organized workers, blacks, feminists, environmentalists and other "progressive groups."

The Socialist Caucus circulated a list of convention delegates who were caucus members, including;[6]


Congressional sympathizers

Nancy Lieber, International Committee chair of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, wrote a June 30, 1981 letter to Danielle Page, a staffer for Canadian Member of Parliament Ian Waddell.

Dear Danielle Page,
I'm sending along a list of Congresspeople and senators who know about us, democratic socialism, and -- perhaps Canada.
Only the first one is an open socialist, but the others are sympathetic in varying degrees.

The list was;

Hope this is of help and you recruit them to the cause!
In Solidarity,
Nancy Lieber
Chair, Intl. Committee

Prominent members

According to DSOC founder and chairman Michael Harrington, the influence of the group is disproportionate to its size because of the positions held by some DSOC members within the Democratic Party.

In 1980 prominent DSOC members included Rep, Ronald Dellums (D-CA); Hilda Mason, D.C. City Council, Harlan Baker, Maine state legislature; Jerry Nadler, New York state legislature, Perry Bullard, Michigan state legislature; Ruth Messinger, New York City Council; Harry Britt, San Francisco Board of Supervisors; Patrick Gorman, chairman of the board, Amalgamated Meatcutters; William Winpisinger, president, International Association of Machinists ; Irving Bluestone, vice president, United Auto Workers; Martin Gerber, vice-president, UAW, Sol Stetin, senior vice-president, Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers , Joyce Miller, national president, Coalition of Labor Union Women ; Dolores Huerta, vice-president, United Farmworkers, Cleveland Robinson, president, District 65, UAW;Victor Gotbaum, head of District Council 37, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees , New York, Mildred Jeffrey; Victor Reuther; James Farmer; Nat Hentoff; Gloria Steinem; Rosemary Reuther; Harvey Cox and Irving Howe.[7]

Socialism and Religion

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1979 New York convention

The New York Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, held its first annual convention, October 1979 in New York at the District 199, Martin Luther King, Jr. Labor Center. A panel on politics and social change was led by Norman Adler, director of political action, D.C. local AFSCME, New York State Senator Olga Mendez and Helen Polonsky, chairman of the New Democratic Coalition.

A panel on orgaiuzing the un employed was led by Seymour Posner the commissioner of Workers Compensation and chairman of the New York State Assembly Labor Committee.

The panelists discussed the pros and cons of whether the Democratic Party was a "viable vehicle for progressive action in New York City."[8]

Fourth National Convention

Some 150 delegates and 100 observers met at Houston's Airport Holiday Inn, February 16-19, 1979, for the fourth national convention of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC).

DSOC's leadership at the 1979 convention included;

The DSOC national board included;

DSOC's advertised convention participants were listed as including Rep. Ron Dellums (D-CA), Joyce Miller-president, Coalition of Labor Union Women, City Councillor Hilda Mason-DC Statehood Party, Maury Maverick Jr., San Antonio, Texas, James Farmer executive director, Coalition American Public Employees, William Holayter-political action director, International Association of Machinists, Jose Angel Gutierrez-La Raza Unida Party, Crystal City, Texas, Ruben Berrios-head of the Puerto Rican Independence Party and Kris Muller-Osten, a representative of the Willy Brandt led West German Social Democratic Party.

Michael Harrington's keynote speech stressed the need for DSOC, through its Democratic Agenda coalition, the Progressive Alliance headed by United Auto Workers president Doug Fraser and the Citizen-Labor Energy Coalition of IAM presidènt William Winpisinger to work together to force Congress to pass national health insurance, regulation of bank credit, a public energý corporation, full implementation of the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act, to drastically cut the defense budget and to force prompt Senate ratification of the SALT-II treaty.

1981 Convention

At the the Fifth Annual Convention of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee held in Philadelphia May 22-25, 1981, gay activist Harry Britt was elected Vice Chair, as were Trudy Robideau, Marjorie Phyfe and Rosemary Ruether. Others elected included Mike Rivas, Chair of DSOC's Hispanic Commission and William Winpisinger, head of the Machinists Union.[9],

Michael Harrington, DSOC national chairman, told a press conference that one~third of the 250-odd delegates from 50 chapters around the nation were trade unionists and one-third women. DSOC also has 50 elected officials among Its membership. The labor constituency, Harrington said, include "many staff members" of unions such as the UAW, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (lAM) in additon to shop stewards and" active unionists

Support by the liberal labor establishment was also emphasized. by the fact that among featured convention speakers were William Winpisinger;, lAM president and vice chair of DSOC, Martin Gerber, vice-chair of UAW, Henry Nicholas, president District 1199 and. Marjorie Phyfe, Machinists Non Partisan League and David Liivingston.

Further among labor people on the DSOC National Advisory Council were Victor Gotbaum and Jerry Wurf of AFSCME, Dolores Huerta of the United Farm Workers and Cleveland Robinson of UAW District 65.

Among the elected officials who "are socialists," Harrington named Rep. Ron Dellums (D-Cal), Hon. Gretchen Kafoury of Oregon, Ruth Messinger, of New York, Maryann Mahaffey of Detroit and Harry Britt of San Francisco.

Ramon Jimenez, a South Bronx community leader who was an invited speaker at the public meeting, chided the anti-Reagan' forces and sounded a note of urgency.

Tony Benn, a member of the British parliament and leader of the Labor Party, reminded the audience that 25 milion Soviet citizens died in World War 2 and that "we must not forget in Europe or in the United States what we owe. the Russians" for their heroism in that struggle.

Benn called for the closing of all nuclear bases in Britain 'and said that his party woould work for a nuclear free .zone in Europe. Unless the arms race is stopped, he said, "we will lose our liberties to our domestic military esabIishment. "[10]

Endorsement of New American Movement

In 1981, Michael Harrington, Ben Tafoya and Selma Lenihan (Organizational Director) on behalf of DSOC greeted the New American Movement saying,

Greetings to our friends in the New American Movement from you friends in the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee.

In 1981 the Oregon branch of DSOC saluted the Oregon New American Movement chapters: Corvallis, Eugene and Portland,

for their work on people's utility districts and plant closures.

The Chicago branch with Jone Johnson as Chair also saluted NAM members Milt Cohen and Vicki Starr, commenting,

Greetings to the 10th Anniversary of NAM. Chicago DSOC salutes Milt Cohen and Vicki Starr For unity in the struggle for democracy and socialism.

The East Bay Democratic Socialist Alliance which was a merger between East Bay New American Movement and East Bay DSOC congratulated NAM,

Congratulations to NAM for 10 years of dedicated contributions to the left, the country, and the world.

Other branches of DSOC to congratulate NAM were: Baltimore, Bay Area San Francisco, Austin TX and Detroit.[11]

Consumers Opposed to Inflation in the Necessities

Roger Hickey was executive director of Consumers Opposed to Inflation in the Necessities (COIN). An article posted in the September, 1979 edition of Democratic Left by Jane Midgley:[12]

ACCUSING PRESIDENT CARTER of continuing the "Nixon-Ford energy ripoff," William Winpisinger, president of the International Association of Machinists and vice-chair of

DSOC, kicked off discussion of the present energy situation at the first of a series of teach-ins on inflation. Organized by Consumers Opposed to Inflation in the Necessities (COIN), the June 27 Washington, D.C. teach-in brought together groups that want to curb inflation.


A fall offensive to combat energy inflation was announced by Heather Booth, head of the Citizen/Labor Energy Coalition...COIN Executive Director Roger Hickey noted that COIN is a "self interest coalition," since inflation threatens everyone's livelihood. More than 70 groups belong to COIN..."


"United Auto Workers President Douglas Fraser criticized the administration's policy of slowing economic growth as an anti-inflationary measure."


"The COIN analysis quotes Council on Wage and Price Stability Director Barry Bosworth as estimating that about one million additional unemployed and a loss of $100 billion in output would lower the inflation rate by only one percentage point.


"Mark Green, director of Congress Watch, attacked another supposed cure for inflation-weaker environmental and health and safety regulation. Calling regulation a 'scapegoat' for inflation, he urged continuing government regulation to control corporate abuse."


  1. Information Digest March 7 1979 p 63
  2. [1] Newsletter of the Democratic Left, October 1973, page 6
  3. [2] Newsletter of the Democratic Left, October 1973, page 7
  4. Information Digest, December 14, 1979, pages 366
  5. Conference Brochure
  6. Information Digest, Septemer 19, 1980, p 333
  7. Information Digest, September 19, 1980, page 331
  8. Daily World October 23, 1979, page 4
  9. NAM Discussion Bulletin no 35, Spring 1981 page 38
  10. Peoples Daily World, June 11, 1981, DSOC meet urges butter, not guns, page 5 and 18
  11. 10th Anniversary Booklet for the New American Movement, 1981
  12. [September, 1979 edition of Democratic Left by Jane Midgley (accessed July 2, 2022)]