New American Movement

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The New American Movement was a national socialist organization that sprang from the U.S. "New Left" of the early 1970s. It merged with the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee in 1982 to form Democratic Socialists of America.


The concept of the New American Movement originated soon after the disintegration of Students for a Democratic Society in Chicago in 1969, when ·John Rossen, a one-time district organizer for the Communist Party USA and then the landlord of the SDS offices, distributed a number of pamphlets calling for a new revolutionary force based on a combination of Marxism and American nationalism, and organized the Johnny Appleseed Movement for Peace and Human Rights.

Rossen's ideas gave birth to two groups. Chicagoan Jeremy Rifkin took over Rossen's pamphlets and and graphics to form the People's Bi-centennial Commission, in which Rossen remained active until at least 1975, while another group developed other aspects.

For more detailed information on the communist/marxist affiliations of both Rossen and Rifkin, see:

"The Meaning of the Bicentennial: Volume One: The Peoples Bicentennial Commission", study, by Max Friedman, ACU Education and Research Institute, 1976, as well as the extensive testimony of Frank Watson and Mary O Walton, in the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee hearings "The Attempt to Steal the Bicentennial: The Peoples Bicentennial Commission", March 17 & 18, 1976.

Rossen's influence with the early New American Movement remained at least through the end of 1971, contributing an article to the first issue of NAM's newspaper New American Movement dated September-October 1971.

In January 1971, Rossen's ideas were adapted by three former SDS activists - Theirrie Evelyn Cook, one of the negotiators of the People's Peace Treaty with the Vietcong; Michael P. Lerner and Charles "Chip" Marshall, then enjoying a brief notoriety as leader of the Seattle Liberation Front, then trial for inciting a riot in response to the contempt citations in the Chicago 8 Conspiracy Trial. The three Seattle organizers circulated papers call1ng for the creation of a new revolutionary party which they then termed. the New American Community Party.

In the late winter of 1970 and into the the spring of 1971, this group worked closely with Rennie Davis in developing plans for the Washington, D.C. Mayday disruptions in support of the Vietnamese communists, with Lerner and Marshall becoming active leaders National Mayday Collective. The Mayday organization provided the New American Community Party with the opportunity to reach a large segment of the radical community and to receive input from New Left theoreticians such as Douglas Dowd and Staughton Lynd.

New members were gained and the name New American Movement began to be used.[1]

Early founders

Among the earliest founders of the New American Movement were James Weinstein of Chicago and West Coast radicals including Michael Lerner, formerly of the Seattle Liberation Front, Theirrie Cook, a supporter of the Peoples Coalition for Peace and Justice and Dan Siegel, former student body president at the University of California, Berkeley.[2]

In June 1971, a pamphlet and other materials calling for a NAM national organizing meeting began to be circulated, sponsored by Cook, Lerner and Marshall, plus Douglas Dowd, Karen Hamilton, Charles Fulwood, Joy Marcus, Roger Hamilton, Dan Siegel, Nina Marina, David Danning, Judy Oringer, Louis Feldhammer and Kathy Johnson - the latter on the staff of the People's Bi-centennial Commission.[3]

Early contacts

In the early days of NAM, contacts for the organization included Lynne Shatzkin and Jerry Coffin, NY, Michael Lerner, then working from the Cambridge Policy Studies Institute, a branch of the Institute for Policy Studies, Andy Starr, Philadelphia, Alice Lynd and Staughton Lynd, Chicago, Frank Blumer, Seattle, and Jim Williams, by 1975 a co-editor of the Communist Party USA trade union publication, Labor Today.[4]

First national conference

The first national meeting of the New American Movement was held in Chicago October 9-11. Up to 75 delegates and observers from 25 cities participated. The meeting laid the basis for a Thanksgiving conference on program in Chicago. The political principles, program, and structure of the organization were discussed;


Debate centered on what sort of organization N AM was to be, including its relation to the women's and non-white movements. It was the consensus of the group that N AM would attempt to become a mass organization as opposed to a cadre or sect group. In addition, it was agreed that NAM should focus on organizing working people, broadly defined.

We will encourage work in a variety of ways, including community, institutional, and factory work, and will not at this time favor one area. over another. It was also generally agreed that programs, rather than highly developed political lines, would be the distinguishing characteristic of NAM.

It was felt that certain minimum principles were necessary which would include a large number of people while, at the same time distinguishing NAM from liberal reform groups. The body passed a six point motion which attempted to set down these guidelines. In summary, the motion stated that:[5]

  • We recognize the existence of a ruling class which runs America for its own benefit.
  • NAM is committed to democratic socialism, which was defined as a society characterized by economic, racial, and sexual equality; by collective ownership and democratic control of the means of production; by the right to organize independent political parties and independent trade unions, and by the freedom to strike; by freedom of speech, freedom to demonstrate, and freedom of press.
  • We distinguish, a socialist society, defined in this way, from, both welfare capitalism in England and Scandinavia, and from existing societies that call themselves socialist.
  • The transition to socialism will require struggle.
  • Working people will be central to ,that struggle.
  • The liberation of women and non-white groups must be incorporated into every programmatic area.

Popular document

At the conference, a body was mandated to write a shorter version of the original NAM document in a style, adapted to mass distribution. People elected to this committee were:[6]

The committee was mandated to have the basic document written by October 23.1971

Early leaders

In 1971, the NAM National Interim Committee was composed of:

Travelers for NAM:

1975 NIC

New American Movement National Interim Committee members in 1975 included;

Frank Ackerman, Cambridge, Mass.; Sally Avery, Durham; N.C.; Edward Bolden, Iowa City; Harry Boyte, Chapel Hill, N.C.; Sandra Kricker and Jim Weinstein, San Franciseo: Roberta Lynch and Judy MacLean,Pittsburgh: Torie Osborn, Mlddlebury, Vt.; Jeff Johnson, Fred Ojile and Shirley Wyatt, Minneapolis: Julia Reichert, Yellow Springs Ohio, Peggy Somers, Berkeley; Melissa Upton, Philadelphia.: and Loren Weinberg, Washington, D.C..[8]

1976 NIC

Attendees at the Expanded National Interim Committee of NAM January 2-4, 1976 Pittsburgh, PA .

Roberta Lynch, Anne Farrar, Judy MacLean, Alan Charney, Steve Carlip, Holly Graff, Richard Healey, Mark Mericle, Carollee Sandberg, John Ehrenreich, Bill Leumer, Elayne Rapping

RIC respresentatives -Ellen Sugg (Port City Chapter, Industrial Heartland Region), Mel Tanzman (Brooklyn Chapter, Northeast Region), Joni Rabinowitz (Pittsburgh Chapter, Industrial Heartland Region), Noel Ignatin (Sojourner Truth Chapter, Midwest Region), Rick Kunnes (Ann Arbor Chapter Industrial Heartland Region), Dorothy Healey ( L.A. #4, Southwest Region), John Judis (East Bay Chapter, Northwest Region), Lee Holstein (Haymarket Chapter, Midwest Region), Laura Burns (Radcliffe/Harvard Chapter, Northeast Region), Dan Marschall (East Bay Chapter, Northwest Region), Glenn Scott (Austin Chapter, Southern Region), Alice Allgaier (St. Louis Chapter, Midwest Region), Dave McBride (Austin, Southern Region), Mark Cohen (Southern Region, Hal Adams ( Iowa City, Midwest Region);

Staff - Dave Ranney[9]

National Interim Committee 1981

Bill Barclay (PC), Laura Berg (Portland NAM), Holly Graff (PC), John Haer (Pittsburgh NAM), Rick Kunnes (PC), Halli Lehrer (Chicago Northside NAM), Christine Riddiough (Blazing Star NAM), Glenn Scott (Austin NAM), and Steve Tarzynski (Los Angelos NAM), Robert Shaffer (New York NAM).[10]

Favored working with the Socialists

In 1980, a group of Western NAM supporters issued a statement to the National Conference urging closer ties to the Socialist Party USA.[11]

We the undersigned Colorado-Wyoming NAM members. and friends, favor closer work between and the Socialist Party USA.

National Council meeting

In 1980 Liz Weston, Buffalo, was a delegate to the December 12-14 Chicago, National Council meeting of the New American Movement[12].


1975: August 7-10: Fourth National Convention of the New American Movement in Oberlin, Ohio; a Marxist-Leninist Organizing Caucus emerges within the organization. (Guardian, August 27 and October 1, 1975 in BTr-4)[13]

10th convention

In 1981 Liz Weston and Christine Riddiough, Co-Chairs of the Commission led a workshop entitled Socialist-Feminist Commission at the 10th Convention of the New American Movement. The convention was held in a union headquarters in Chicago and ran from July 29 - August 2, 1981.

Weston spoke alongside Susan Mead, Pitt NAM in a workshop entitled Organizing for Reproductive Rights.

Weston also spoke alongside Christine Riddiough, Co-Chair, Socialist Feminist Commission; Kate Ellis, Assoc. NAM, NY DSOC and Cheryl Johnson, Program of African Studies, Northwestern U. in a workshop entitled Feminist Strategies for the '80's.[14]

Gramsci and education


NAM's entry/merger with DSOC was a key mechanism[15]by which Gramscian thought became the mainstream of U.S. Marxism in the 1970s-80s. In essence NAM was the political continuation of the "praxis" wing of the Students for a Democratic Society as opposed to the Weather Underground.

NAM's interest in education also grew out of its members' engagement with the work of Antonio Gramsci. By the mid-1970s, several key figures had taken to heart his analysis of civil society and bourgeois hegemony. In turn, they not only led seminars for NAM members on his revolutionary strategy, but also incorporated his thinking into the organization's program for how to produce a social transformation in what they considered to be a non-revolutionary moment. This interest in Gramsci reflects NAM's approach to Marxism. The reader for its political education course, Basic Marxism: What It Is & How to Use It, clearly demonstrates the movement's critical engagement with this tradition of revolutionary thought.

Pre-merger convention

Approximately 380 delegates attended the eighth annual convention of the New American Movement[16]in Milwaukee, August 11-12, 1979.

Thanks to an associate membership" program for persons not wishing to be organizationally active within NAM, but who support its program, NAM can claim 875 members in thirty chapters. The most active NAM chapters are in Chicago, Dayton, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Detroit and the San Francisco Bay area.

The central debate were on what role, if any, NAM should play in electoral politics, particularly in the 1980 presidential campaign and on merger proposals from the Democratic Socialist Organizing Commttee (DSOC) headed by Michael Harrington.

Complaints against merger with the 4,000-strong DSOC were many and were led at the convention by the August 7 caucus mainly of ex-members of Trotskyist groups. They charged that DSOC was "social democratic," not "revolutionary socialist" like most of NAM.

DSOC was criticised for not taking the side of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), for being "reformist" and insufficiently feminist. NAM chairman Richard Healey and his mother, Dorothy Healey, reminded NAM that merger possibilities have been discussed in the past with the Mass Party of the People, the Socialist Party USA, the International Socialists (IS), and even briefly with the Socialist Workers Party.

The result was that NAM agreed to "non-merger talks" with DSOC and the possibility of strengthening DSOC's "left caucus." NAM was strongly opposed to becoming involved in DSOC's backing the Kennedy presidential campaign or draft movement.

Merger negotiating committee

After intensive debate, the 1980 New American Movement Convention passed a resolution (by a 2-1. margin) calling for negotiations with Democratic Socialists Organizing Committee, the election of a Negotiating Committee, and the development of a Negotiating Document. Frank Ackerman, Joanne Barkan, David Dollar, Richard Healey, Anne Hill, Katherine Kennedy, Roberta Lynch, and Liz Weston were elected to the Negotiating Committee. Holly Graff was added as the ex officio Political Committee member, and John Beverly became the first alternate. In the fall of 1980 this Committee developed a Negotiating Document which was reviewed by chapters and then amended and approved (by a ninety per cent margin) at the December National Council meeting.[17]


Washington DC Area NAM contacts as at 1981:[18]


Socialist Feminist Commission

The Socialist Feminist Commission was a part of the New American Movement in the early 1980s.[19] Its Gay and Lesbian Task Force's newsletter was the Working Papers.[20]

Members of the Socialist Feminist Commission and the New American Movement attended the National Socialist Feminist Conference in Yellow Springs, Ohio in July 1975.[21]

Old NAM communists

Kathie Sheldon ‎New American Movement, July 5, 2009


Herman Rosenstein, Milt Cohen, Ben Margolis, Dorothy Healey, Saul Wellman, Ben Dobbs

Photo by Scott Van Osdol, NAM convention 1981.


New American Movement Public Facebook Group


New American Movement Public Facebook Group exists for former New American Movement supporters, and those interested in the history of the organization. It was founded circa 2008

Membership, as of July 6, 2017;[22]



External links


Template:Reflist Template:Conferences

  2. New American movement's attempt to revive the New left, off to a slow start, Mark Ugolini July 14, 1972
  5. From New American Movement, Nov,-Dec, 1971
  6. From New American Movement, Nov,-Dec, 1971
  7. New American Movement newspaper Vol. 1/No. 2 1971
  9. Minutes of the Meeting of the Expanded National Interim Committee, January 2-4, 1976 Pittsburgh, PA
  10. NAM Discussion Bulletin No 5, Spring 81, page 1o
  11. Resolutions packet for the 1980 NAM convention, page 10
  12. NAM National Council meeting notice Dec 12 1980
  13. Chronology of Political Events
  14. NAM 10th Convention Agenda, July 29, 1981
  16. Information Digest August 24, 1979 p261
  17. NAM Discussion Bulletin No 5, Spring 81, page 1
  18. 10th Anniversary Booklet for the New American Movement, 1981
  19. New American Movement (NAM), 1973-1982, Kathleen Sheldon and Stephen Tarzynski Papers, 1973-1999
  20. Working Papers 1979
  21. Circle of the Witch information
  22. [1]