Harry Britt

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Harry Britt

Harry Britt is a former California politician and socialist.

Appointed by Feinstein

Jan. 9 1979: San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein appointed well know Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee member Harry Britt to succeed slain supervisor Harvey Milk. In accepting the appointment, Britt said he considers himself the "third openly gay supervisor" from District 5 -- following Milk and Milk's aide Anne Kronenberg, a 25-year-old lesbian. Britt had wanted Feinstein to appoint Kronenberg, but Feinstein said she was concerned about Kronenberg's youth.[1]

Prominent DSOC member

According to Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee 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.[2]

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;[3]

DSOC 1981 Convention

At the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee 1981 conference, 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.[4],

Democratic Socialists of America founding conference

San Francisco board of supervisors member Harry Britt, addressed a "special unity convention session" on day two of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee/New American Movement Unity Convention in Detroit March 21/22 1982, that resulted in the formation of Democratic Socialists of America[5].

DSA vice chair

In 1984 Democratic Socialists of America vice chairs were Harry Britt, Ron Dellums, Dorothy Healey, Irving Howe, Frances Moore Lappe, Manning Marable, Hilda Mason, Marjorie Phyfe, Christine Riddiough, Rosemary Ruether, Edwin Vargas Jr, William Winpisinger[6].

American Solidarity Movement

The American Solidarity Movement was announced in early 1984 by Democratic Socialists of America, as a vehicle to support American labor unions it considered under attack, or on strike and in need of support.

Members of the Initiating Committee for an American Solidarity Movement were: Michael Harrington (convenor), Stanley Aronowitz, Balfour Brickner, Harry Britt, Harvey Cox, Rep. Ron Dellums, Bogdan Denitch, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cynthia Epstein, Jules Feiffer, Rep. Barney Frank, Msgr. George Higgins, Irving Howe, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Frances Fox Piven, Jose Rivera, Ray Rogers, Gloria Steinem, Peter Steinfels, Ellen Willis.[7]

FPP conference


According to the Communist Workers Party newspaper Workers Viewpoint March 9 1983, page 3, more than 300 people gathered in Los Angeles to organize a large solidarity conference to coincide with the 1984 los Angeles Olympics.

Organized by Federation For Progress, participants included CISPES, Gray Panthers, ACLU, Alliance for Survival, National Lawyers Guild, NOW, National Resistance Coalition, and United Against Black Genocide.

The conference opened with presentations from Michio Kaku, Wilson Riles, Jr. of the Oakland City Council and Nancy Baker of San Diego Coalition of Labor Union Women. It ended with a powerful presentation at the First Unitarian Church where Phillip Zwerling an advisory board member of the Greensboro Justice Fund was Minister.

California State Assembymember Maxine Waters, Ramsey Clark, Michio Kaku and San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt, "raised the political and spiritual challenges confronting the American people in the struggle for jobs, peace and equality."

Highlight of the conference was the discussion of plans for the 1984 Olympics. Participants were Carol Ono of Federation for Progress, Berkeley professor Harry Edwards, UCLA instructor Judy Chu and Mark Ridley-Thomas, president of the SCLC.



SURVIVAL FEST 84 was held August 5 1984 in MacArthur Park.

"Come To Hear And Strategize With Those Changing The 1980's"

  • How can we support each other in electing progressive local candidates?
  • How can we make electoral work serve the grassroots movements for a freeze, for U.S. out of Central America and human needs?
  • How can we over turn the racist dual primary system in the South?
  • Is working inside and outside the Democratic Party a viable strategy and how can it be done?
  • How can we formulate demands to revitalize our basic industries without falling into the pitfall of the chauvinist anti-import solution -- letting U.S. finance capital off the hook?

This event was organized by the Communist Workers Party front, the Coalition for a People's Convention. The event was advertised in a half-page notice in the Marxist weekly Guardian, their Book Supplement - Summer 1984, p. 12, and the Communist Workers Party and Federation For Progress were listed as participants.

Bay Area endorsers of the event included:

South Africa benefit

On January 17 1986, a benefit concert was held at Oakland's Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, for the National Emergency Fund of the South African Council of Churches.

Dinner Committee Members included Hon. Alan Cranston, Hon. Leo McCarthy, Hon. Barbara Boxer, Hon. Sala Burton, Hon. Ron Dellums (a DSA member), Hon. Don Edwards, Hon. Tom Lantos Hon. George Miller, Jr. Hon. Norman Mineta, Hon. Pete Stark, Hon. Willie Brown, plus Democratic Socialists of America members Julian Bond, Nancy Skinner, Harry Britt, John Henning, Adam Hochschild, Frances Moore Lappe, Stanley Sheinbaum, Communist Party USA affiliates Wilson Riles, Jr., Maudelle Shirek, Al Lannon, and Irving Sarnoff, and radical socialists Julianne Malveaux, Drummond Pike, John George, Peter Yarrow and actor/activist Sidney Poitier.[8]

DSA National Board meeting

Over 90 delegates and observers attended the Democratic Socialists of America National board in San Fransisco, November 9-11, 1990. DSA vice chair and San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt, "enlivened the event".[9]

DSA Elected Representatives, 1990

Democratic Left, Jan. 1990, page 7

As of January 1990, Democratic Socialists of America members holding elected public office included;[10]

State Assembly campaign

From the Minutes of Jan 5, 2002 SF DSA Steering Committee meeting;[11]

Tom Gallagher gave a report on Harry Britt's history in SF politics (for 14 years the successor to Harvey Milk, narrowly defeated in a run for Congress by Nancy Pelosi) and DSA (he was a national Vice Chair for many years). Britt is running for state assembly. The candidate to beat is Mark Leno, who has the big bucks, though he has been moving to distance himself from Mayor Brown. Holly Their and Steve Phillips are also in the race; the first was initially thought to be Brown's candidate, though the latter seems to be.
The primary election is Mar 5 or 12, 2002. There will be a lot of items on the ballot. Every Sat and Sun there are literature drops, and phoning every evening. Next Sat at 10 am there will be an office opening party for the campaign at 2150 Market St. Next Fri at 6 PM there will be a labor fundraiser; Britt was endorsed by the SF Labor Council. He also has the surprise endorsement of Carol Migden. There is also an email newsletter.
Tom says the staff says Britt has rejoined DSA.

2002 Assembly run

In March 2002 District 13 winner is poised -- along with Democrat John Laird of Santa Cruz, who won his primary yesterday -- to become the first gay man in the California Legislature.

Whether Mark Leno or Harry Britt wins, the district sends another liberal gay Democrat to the Assembly to replace Carole Migden, who was termed out and ran for the state Board of Equalization.

Migden, who used to be Leno's mentor, backed Britt, setting up a hot and vituperative race in San Francisco's liberal and diverse eastern half.

Britt challenged Leno from the left, attempting to push forward the progressive insurgency that captured a majority on the Board of Supervisors last November. While the more moderate Leno had the support of most of San Francisco's Democratic elected officials, from Sen. Dianne Feinstein on down, Britt commanded the backing of big labor and tenant groups.

The race split the gay community, which has long supported both men, and gave an opening to Holli Thier, a progressive lesbian and former Democratic Central Committee member, and former school board member Steve Phillips. With Mayor Willie Brown backing Phillips, the race tested old loyalties and new alliances.

Britt had to struggle to overcome the perception that in coming out of retirement from elective politics he was an honored but out-of-touch relic from the pioneering days of the gay rights struggle. He retired as a supervisor in 1992 after 14 years.

Leno had to overcome anger that he had changed long-held positions to curry progressive favor and move out of the shadow of the increasingly unpopular mayor.

Both Phillips and Thier were running far behind in early returns.[12]



  1. SFGate Mayor Feinstein appoints Harry Britt to succeed slain Harvey Milk Laura Perkins Published 4:00 am, Friday, January 9, 2004
  2. Information Digest, September 19, 1980, page 331
  3. Information Digest, Septemer 19, 1980, p 333
  4. NAM Discussion Bulletin no 35, Spring 1981 page 38
  5. Conference program
  6. DSA membership letter Oct 24 1984
  7. Democratic Left, Jan./Feb. 1984, page 6
  8. EBONY & IVORY invite you to attend a dinner benefit for theNational Emergency Fund of the South African Council of Churches
  9. Democratic Left, Jan./Feb. 1991, page 9
  10. Democratic left, Jan./Feb. 1990, page 7
  11. Minutes of Jan 5, 2002 SF DSA Steering Committee
  12. [https://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Leno-declares-victory-over-Britt-for-Assembly-2867101.phpSF Gate, Leno declares victory over Britt for Assembly Carol Ness, Nanette Asimov, Chronicle Staff Writers Published 4:00 am PST, Wednesday, March 6, 2002]