Jim Chapin

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Jim Chapin

James (Jim) B. Chapin (1942-2002) was a teacher (Rutgers and Yale), political operative (vice chair of Democratic Socialists of America, senior adviser to New York City Public Advocate Mark Green), textbook author (he was especially happy that his American history text was used in Texas, where every district had to purchase the same books), writer (national political analyst for United Press International), and citizen (board member for 22 years of the Queens Public Library; chair of National Hunger Year, an organization founded by his late brother, the singer Harry Chapin).[1]

Democratic Agenda

More than 1,200 people attended the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee initiated Democratic Agenda Conference held November 16-18, 1979, at the International Inn and Metropolitan AM Church in Washington 1 DC. The conference focused on "corporate power'; as the key barrier to "economic and political democracy," concepts many Democratic Agenda participants defined as "socialism.'

The Democratic Agenda meetings attempted to develop anti-corporate alternatives" through influencing the direction of the Democratic Party during the period leading to the July 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York.

Constituency meetings included implications of a Stagflation Economy for Socialist Organizing - Bill Thomas, chair, Oregon Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee; Jim Chapin, DSOC National Director[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]

New American Movement 10th convention

In 1981 Jim Chapin, Past National Director, DSOC and Bill Thomas, Oregon DSOC led a workshop entitled Building the Democratic Agenda: State and Local Perspectives 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.[4]

Tribute to Ben Dobbs

On Sunday, June 7, 1981, the Los Angeles Chapter of the New American Movement sponsored a Tribute to Ben Dobbs for "His lifelong commitment to socialism". The event was held at the Miramar-Sheraton Hotel, Santa Monica, California. Sponsors of the event included Jim Chapin.[5]

Democratic Socialists of America founding conference

Jim Chapin, former political director Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, spoke at the day one "Democratic Agenda:Fighting back Inside the Democratic Party" session of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee/New American Movement Unity Conference in Detroit March 21/22 1982, that resulted in the formation of Democratic Socialists of America[6].

DSA Conference delegate

In 1983 Jim Chapin and Diana Chapin were New York delegates to the Democratic Socialists of America conference in New York City, October 14-16, 1983[7]

DSOC national officers

Following a convention decision to expand the number of at-large seats on the national board and to elect eight men and eight women to those seats, a serious political campaign to win those seats took place. Harrington termed this development .. a sign of the growing political strength of Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. The at-large members of the new board will form its executive committee, which also includes DSOC's national officers.

Elected to at-large seats were: (men) Greg Akili (San Diego), Harry Boyte (Minneapolis), Jim Chapin, Jack Clark and Frank Lugovina (New York City), Roger Robinson (Detroit), Jim Wallace (Washington, D.C.), and George Wood (Champaign-Urbana); (women) Jeanne Kettelson and Mary Roodkowsky (Boston), Nancy Kleniewski (Philadelphia), Nancy Lieber (Sacramento-Davis), Marjorie Phyfe (New York City), Trudy Robideau (San Diego), Nancy Shier (Chicago) and Cynthia Ward (Stony Brook, Long Island) . [8]

Socialist International

According to Timothy Sears, Michael Harrington was the principal author of the Socialist International’s new statement of principles, "but he found the process of writing-by-committee maddening. The initial draft he wrote was absolutely brilliant—some of the best he ever wrote." However, at the SI Congress in Lima, Peru in 1986, it was roundly criticized by those (particularly from the French Socialist Party) who" were essentially Blairites before Tony Blair" and considered his draft excessively “utopian.” They insisted on major changes to tone it down. Harrington also wrote the final version that was adopted, "which is quite good, but he was really frustrated with the whole thing". Harrington , Jim Chapin and Sears were DSA delegates at the Lima Congress.

I remember Mike and Jim talking about whether we should publish his original draft as a DSA pamphlet. Someplace I must still have a copy of the original draft…[9]

DSA member

In 1990, Jim Chapin was a member of the Democratic Socialists of America.[10].

In 1994 Jim Chapin was a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. He was named as a senior policy adviser to the New York Public Advocate Mark Green and a Vice Chair of the Democratic Socialists of America.[11]

Socialist Scholars Conference

Michael Schiffer, John Mason and Jim Chapin, World Hunger Year, Democratic Socialists of America were speakers on the The Politics of Security in a Disarming World panel sponsored by The Center for European Studies at the Tenth Annual Socialist Scholars Conference. The conference was held April 24-26, 1992 at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, New York City.[12]

"Michael Harrington and Today's Other America"

In 1998, a new film based on late Democratic Socialists of America leader Michael Harrington was released. "Michael Harrington and Today's Other America-Corporate Power and Inequality" featured interviews with Bogdan Denitch, Congressman Bernie Sanders, Frances Fox Piven, John Kenneth Galbraith, Rush Limbaugh, Senate Ted Kennedy, Jim Chapin, Robert Kuttner, Charles Murray, Robert L. Hellbroner, Joanne Barkan, Joseph Murphy and Bob Herbert. [13]


  1. Democratic Left • Winter 2002
  2. Information Digest, December 14, 1979, page 372
  3. Information Digest, Septemer 19, 1980, p 333
  4. NAM 10th Convention Agenda, July 29, 1981
  5. Tribute to Ben Dobbs program, June 7, 1981
  6. Conference program brochure
  7. DSA Conference delegate list Oct. 12 1983 update
  8. [1]
  9. TYR, Jan. 2008
  10. 8th Socialist Scholars Conference, April 6-8 1990, conference program
  11. Revised list of committees of the 1994-1995 DSA National Political Committee
  12. SSE Tenth Annual Conference Program, 1992
  13. [Dem. Left Winter 1998, page 2]