DC/MD/Northern VA. Democratic Socialists of America

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DC/MD/Northern VA. Democratic Socialists of America

1990 AGM

The local's annual meeting, held June 16,1990 selected electoral politics, outreach work and D.C. Statehood activism as the top external priorities for the year. Producing local literature, working toward a more diverse organization and stressing member education were voted the key internal priorities.

The new 1990 Local's Executive Board consisted of  : Bill Mosley, Chair; Loretta Schuman and Peter Nixon, Vice-Chairs; Richard Bruning, Membership Secretary; Lisa Dowden, Treasurer; David Bryden, Arnie Chien, Suzanne Crowell and Krista Schneider, At-Large members. Board members selected as representatives of committees were Pleasant Mann, Publications Committee; and Joe Slater, Labor Committee.[1]

1990 endorsements

The DC/MD/Northern VA. Democratic Socialists of America local plunged into the electoral fray on June 12 1990 with a meeting to choose candidates for DSA's endorsement in that year's D.C. elections. Receiving the local's endorsement in September's Democratic Primary were Eleanor Holmes Norton for Congressional Delegate; Jim Nathanson for City Council, Ward 3; and Harry Thomas for City Council from Ward 5.

The local also endorsed DSA National Vice-Chair and Statehood Party member Hilda Mason for re-election to her at-1arge Council seat, the only general election endorsement made.[2]

Washington Socialist Newsletters 1989

The DC/MD/NoVa Democratic Socialists of America published a newsletter, apparently on a monthly basis in which they wrote about their meetings, officials, position articles, connections to other groups, etc.

  • May 1989 issue, Volume 10, Number 11

Statement of purpose: "The DC/MD/NoVa local needs the active participation of those members of the local community who are dedicated to economic justice, peace, and others goals of democratic socialism. All members who pay national dues receive Democratic Left, DSA's national publication. Join us!" Writers:

DSA members mentioned in the newsletter including those identified as its staff:

DS newsletter, P.O. Box 33345, Washington, D.C. 20033-0345

Book launch

In early September 1993 DC/MD/NoVA DSA sponsored a book party — in support of DSA member Marty Langelan's new book Back Off: How to Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers.[3]

"Economic Insecurity" meeting

In 1995, DC/MD/Northern VA. Democratic Socialists of America co-sponsored the first of DSA's national series of town meetings on economic security. This hearing was held in a church on September 27 and was scheduled to feature three members of Congress: Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Maxine Waters (D-CA). [4]

DC "Democracy"

At its national convention in November, 1997 DSA adopted a resolution urging its locals lo join the campaign for democracy in the District of Columbia.

DSA activists and locals around the country con help by writing and calling their members of Congress and demanding that they work with the people of the District to address the city's problems by expanding democracy and empowering the citizens-not through enacting punitive legislation and treating D.C. as their personal plantation.

D C / M D / N O V A DSA will provide materials to participating locals containing background information on the state of the District, sample letters and phone scripts, op-eds and other materials. Besides contacting their members of Congress, locals can place op-eds and letters lo the editor in their local newspapers, speak to other local organizations and apply other strategies to educate their communities and build support for democracy in D.C.

A movement to make the District the 51st state one of whose leaders has been Councilmember and DSA Vice- Chair Hilda Mason, with the local DSA chapter an active participant —gained momentum in the early 1980s.[5]

2001 endorsements

According to Pleasant Mann. The DC/MD/Northern VA local held a meeting for endorsements in DC races. The endorsed slate included many candidates from the Green Party (formed from a merger of the DC Statehood Party and the Green Party) which pushed progressive ideas (but lost). The local also endorsed two Democrats, who won easily: Eleanor Holmes Norton as delegate to Congress (serves on committees and speaks but cannot vote) and Florence Pendleton as shadow senator (in essence a lobbyist).[6]

Gay rights victory

In 2002 hundreds of District of Columbia activists joined Mayor Anthony Williams, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and members of the DC Council to celebrate the removal of Congressional restrictions on the District’s domestic partnership program after a decade-long struggle.

Even though the Council passed a 1992 act permitting any unmarried partners—gay or straight—to register with the city (DSA National Vice Chair and DC Council member Hilda Mason was one of the original backers), right-wing members of Congress blocked implementation of the program by placing a rider on the District’s budget.

The District, like Puerto Rico and other territories, is subject to budgetary and legislative oversight by Congress. Congress must approve the annual DC appropriations bill, and it uses this power to impose restrictions on the District.

Gay-rights organizations, such as ACT-UP DC and the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance, and the movement for DC democracy joined together to fight the ban, with DC/MD/Northern VA. Democratic Socialists of America and its members playing a significant role in the victory. DSA member Judy Nedrow chaired a local commission that developed strategy for the domestic partnership struggle, and Nedrow’s partner Christine Riddiough, former DSA Political Director, also played an important role on the commission. Riddiough was also former chair of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, a local gay-lesbian Democratic organization instrumental in convincing the District government to take up the issue.

The Stand Up for Democracy in DC Coalition, of which the DSA local was a member, conducted an annual campaign against this and other budget riders, holding rallies and walking the halls of Congress. Several of Stand Up’s members were arrested engaging in civil disobedience during congressional votes.

The local campaign finally gained the support of openly gay Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), who in 2001 was instrumental in having the ban removed. “This is a real step forward both in the domestic partnership fight and for DC sovereignty,” Riddiough said.[7]


A revitalized Washington, DC-area DSA local began meeting in 2009 and sponsored a meeting with Alex Main of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, who led a discussion of the recent coup in Honduras.[8]

Occupy DC involvement

Coleson Breen, holding banner at left, marching during an Occupy D.C. action

According to a report from Peter Bolton on November 23;[9]

DC DSA members Peter Bolton and Coleson Breen joined Occupy DC protesters yesterday for a protest outside Constitution Hall where the twelfth Republican Party presidential candidates debate was being held. Protesters invented ad hoc chants addressing the candidates. Chants included: "Romney, Cain, Gingrich: help the poor and tax the rich," "Jesus said to help the poor, who is it your fighting for" and "who is it you it you represent? Clearly it's the one percent!"
Before heading to Constitution Hall, Bolton and Breen met with Occupy protesters at the McPherson Square encampment including local DC occupiers and people who had traveled in from the occupations in Richmond, Memphis and Pensacola. Breen gave out coffee and snacks in an act of solidarity between DC DSA and the movement. The DC DSA members then went to an Egypt solidarity demonstration outside the White House where Egyptian-American anti-Mubarak protesters shouted back-and-forth slogans in both English and Arabic. The Egyptian protesters later joined Occupy DC for the protest at Constitution Hall. Tensions with the police did not arise at either site and the officers at the scene of the candidates debate even invited protesters to move closer to the building, behind a barricade across the street from the entrance.
The protests took place the very night that a contingent of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, called "Occupy the highway" arrived in Washington. Upon arrival in DC, the Occupy Wall Street protesters held a joint General Assembly with Stop the Machine outside the Capitol building. The protesters had marched from the OWS site in Zuccotti Park, renamed Liberty Square, to Washington over the last few days. OWS's website states that the goals of the initiative were "to make the new movement visible in more communities, to connect with other occupations along the way, and to further a national dialogue about how to reclaim our democracy." OWS says that the march was deliberately scheduled to coincide with the super committee decision deadline and that the protesters wished to "bring a message to Congress to end corporate welfare and tax breaks for the rich and to stimulate the economy by rebuilding the country's infrastructure and investing in education, clean-energy and public health." The super committee protest, however, was cancelled due to the committee's implosion over the last few days. Occupy protester James Ploeser tweeted, "Super committee #EpicFail. No need to shut it down, it shut itself down."
The action also comes as DC DSA anticipates the publication of a statement from Occupy Wall Street about its ideas and demands for change. The statement will be a interesting development for the movement and a further opportunity for DSA to engage with the movement and analyze its implications for public discourse and the political landscape.


  1. Washington Socialist. July 1990, page 1
  2. Washington Socialist. July 1990, page 1
  3. Dem. Left, Sept./Oct. 1993, page 26
  4. Dem. Left, Sept./Oct 1995, page 40
  5. [Dem. Left, issue #7 and 8, 1997, page 18]
  6. Dem. Left Summer, 2001
  7. http://www.dsausa.org/dl/Spring2002.pdf Democratic Left • Spring 2002, page 2]
  8. Democratic Left, Winter 2009
  9. DSA Occupy page, accessed Dec. 6, 2011