|National Director||Maria Svart|
|Founded||March 20, 1982|
|Merger of||Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee|
New American Movement
|Preceded by||Socialist Party of America|
|Headquarters||New York, NY|
|Youth wing||Young Democratic Socialists of America|
|Regional affiliation||São Paulo Forum|
|International affiliation||Socialist International (1982–2017)|
|Members in the House of Representatives|
|Members in state legislature|
51 / 7,410
|Members in local government|
132 / 500,396
|Part of a series on|
the United States
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is a multi-tendency, democratic-socialist, and labor-oriented political organization in the United States. Its roots are in the Socialist Party of America (SPA), whose leaders included Eugene V. Debs, Norman Thomas and Michael Harrington. In 1973, Harrington, the leader of a minority faction that had opposed the SPA's transformation into the Social Democrats, USA (SDUSA) during the party's 1972 national convention, formed the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC). In 1982, it merged with the New American Movement (NAM), a coalition of intellectuals with roots in the New Left movements of the 1960s and former members of socialist and communist parties of the Old Left. Upon the DSA's founding, Harrington and the socialist feminist author Barbara Ehrenreich were elected co-chairs of the organization.
The DSOC, which Harrington described as "the remnant of a remnant", and, after the merger, the DSA soon became the largest democratic-socialist organization in the United States. Initially, the organization consisted of approximately 5,000 ex-DSOC members and 1,000 ex-NAM members. The organization retained around 6,000 members until large membership boosts from the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign, the presidential victory of Donald Trump, the 2018 election of DSA member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the COVID-19 pandemic. By 2021, membership peaked at over 95,000 and the number of local chapters was 239, before declining to around 85,000 members by 2023. The organization is credited with the rise of millennial socialism, as the median age of its membership was 33 in 2017, compared to 68 in 2013.
The DSA's stated goal is to participate in "fights for reforms today that will weaken the power of corporations and increase the power of working people", with a long-term aim of social ownership of production as public enterprises, worker cooperatives, or decentralized planning. To this end, it has endorsed candidates for political office and led various organizing campaigns for organized labor, public electricity, social housing, tenants unions, and abortion rights, among others.
Though the DSA is not a political party in the conventional American understanding of the term,[c] its members have run in elections and been elected. Some of the organization's members in Congress have initiated various pieces of legislation central to the modern progressive movement in the United States, including the Medicare for All Act in 2003 by John Conyers and the Green New Deal in 2019 by Ocasio-Cortez. Former longtime members of the United States House of Representatives, including Conyers, Ron Dellums, House Whip David Bonior and Major Owens, have been affiliated with the DSA. More recently, the number of concurrent DSA representatives and other officeholders has been increasing. Most notably, in November 2018, Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib were elected to the House. In November 2020, Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib were reelected and were joined by two more DSA members, Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman.[b] In November 2022, Greg Casar was the fifth DSA member elected to the House.[b] As of July 2023[update], 51 state lawmakers and 132 local officials were affiliated with the DSA.
Formed in 1982 by the merger of the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) and the New American Movement (NAM), the DSA is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization. At its founding, it was said to consist of approximately 5,000 members from the DSOC, plus 1,000 from the NAM. Dorothy Ray Healey served as Vice Chair in 1982.
The DSA inherited both Old Left and New Left heritage. The NAM was a successor to the disintegrated Students for a Democratic Society. The DSOC was founded in 1973 from a minority anti-Vietnam War caucus in the Socialist Party of America (SPA)—which had been renamed Social Democrats, USA (SDUSA). DSOC started with 840 members, of whom 2% had served on its national board, and approximately 200 of whom came from SDUSA or its predecessors (the Socialist Party–Social Democratic Federation, formerly part of the SPA) in 1973, when the SDUSA stated its membership at 1,800 according to a 1973 profile of Harrington.
The red rose is part of the official DSA logo, having traditionally been a symbol of socialism since the 1886 Haymarket Affair and the resulting May Day marches. It was drawn from the logo of the DSOC, its precursor organization, and previously of the Socialist International, which shows a stylized fist clenching a red rose, the fist replaced by a biracial handshake pertaining to the DSA's staunch anti-racism. The fist and rose logo was originally designed for the French Socialist Party in 1969 and later shared by socialist and labor political organizations worldwide.
In electoral politics, the DSA was very strongly associated with Michael Harrington's position that "the left wing of realism is found today in the Democratic Party". In its early years, the DSA opposed Republican presidential candidates by giving critical support to Democratic nominees like Walter Mondale in 1984. In 1988, the DSA enthusiastically supported Jesse Jackson's second presidential campaign. Since 1995, the DSA's position on American electoral politics has been that "democratic socialists reject an either-or approach to electoral coalition building, focused solely on a new party or on realignment within the Democratic Party". During the 1990s, the DSA gave the Clinton administration an overall rating of C−, "less than satisfactory".
The DSA's elected leadership has often seen working within the Democratic Party as necessary for socialist visibility and electoral victories, rather than forming third parties. In the early 2000s the DSA was critical of the Democratic Party leadership, which it argues is corporate-funded. The organization has stated:
Much of progressive, independent political action will continue to occur in Democratic Party primaries in support of candidates who represent a broad progressive coalition. In such instances, democratic socialists will support coalitional campaigns based on labor, women, people of color and other potentially anti-corporate elements. Electoral tactics are only a means for democratic socialists; the building of a powerful anti-corporate coalition is the end.
In 1984, the DSA endorsed Walter Mondale in the 1984 United States presidential election. In 1987, the DSA endorsed Jesse Jackson in the 1988 Democratic Party presidential primaries, to Jackson's disapproval.
In 2000, the DSA took no official position on the presidential election, with several prominent DSA members backing Green Party nominee Ralph Nader while others supported Socialist Party USA nominee David McReynolds and others voting for Democratic nominee Al Gore.
In 2004, the organization backed John Kerry after he won the Democratic nomination. In its official magazine, the DSA's Political Action Committee said that Kerry's defeat would be taken as a defeat of the mainstream left, but that "a Kerry victory will let us press onward, with progressives aggressively pressuring an administration that owed its victory to democratic mobilization from below." The only resolution on upcoming elections at the DSA's 2005 convention focused on Bernie Sanders's independent campaign for the Senate in Vermont. The organization's 2007 convention in Atlanta featured record-breaking attendance and more participation by the organization's youth wing. Sanders gave the keynote address.
In 2008, the DSA supported Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama in his race against Republican nominee John McCain. In an article in the March 24 edition of The Nation, DSA members Barbara Ehrenreich and Bill Fletcher Jr., along with Tom Hayden and Danny Glover, announced the formation of Progressives for Obama, arguing that Obama was the most progressive viable Democratic presidential candidate since Robert F. Kennedy in 1968.
Following Obama's election, many on the political right began to allege that his administration's policies were "socialistic", a claim rejected by the DSA and the Obama administration alike. The claim led DSA National Director Frank Llewellyn to declare that "over the past 12 months, the Democratic Socialists of America has received more media attention than it has over the past 12 years".
In the 2016 presidential election, the DSA endorsed Sanders for president. Sanders's candidacy prompted a surge in DSA membership among young voters. The DSA made clear that Sanders's New Deal-inspired program did not sufficiently prioritize worker ownership, but considered his campaign a favorable development in contemporary American politics, since he was a self-identified democratic socialist who favored worker ownership of the economy and "a lifelong champion of the public programs and democratic rights that empower working class people". The DSA ran the internally focused #WeNeedBernie campaign to mobilize DSA supporters for Sanders. After Sanders lost to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primaries, the DSA called for Republican nominee Donald Trump's defeat, but did not officially endorse Clinton.
In 2020, the DSA endorsed Sanders for president again after an advisory poll reported 76% of the participating membership approved his endorsement, despite objections from part of the membership about Sanders's statements on, among other topics, slavery reparations. No other candidates were included in the poll. After Sanders dropped out in April 2020, the DSA explicitly did not endorse the presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden. Two DSA chapters (Colorado Springs and Salt Lake City) voted to endorse Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins.
In May 2020, 91 "founders, officers and activists" of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in the 1960s criticized the DSA's failure to endorse Biden in an open letter "to the New New Left From the Old New Left" published in The Nation. Daniel Finn of Jacobin responded that in invoking the specter of fascism under a second-term Trump, the former SDSers were engaging in "melodramatic hyperbole" and that climate change was not an issue that could wait until 2024 or 2028. "No socialist", he argued, "who campaigned for Bernie Sanders should feel guilty about abandoning [the Democrats] and concentrating on building a movement that is the only real hope for the planet’s future".
In 2023, DSA member and former DSA honorary chair Cornel West announced his campaign in the 2024 United States presidential election, initially with the People's Party, then with the Green Party. As of July 2023[update], the DSA has not made an endorsement in the 2024 presidential race, and DSA members have expressed split views on West's campaign despite widespread admiration for him, with some citing controversies within the People's Party or the potential for a spoiler effect, and others arguing the campaign could be an opportunity to make socialist ideas more visible.
On June 26, 2018, DSA member and endorsee Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the Democratic primary against incumbent Representative Joseph Crowley in New York's 14th congressional district in an upset, virtually guaranteeing her the congressional seat in the heavily Democratic district, which spans parts of the Bronx and Queens. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi dismissed the win as "not to be viewed as something that stands for anything else" and said it represented change only in one progressive district. Conversely, Democratic National Committee head Tom Perez called Ocasio-Cortez "the future of our party". The Trotskyist International Committee of the Fourth International critiqued her and the DSA as a "left" cover for the "right-wing Democratic Party", particularly in regard to foreign policy. Six weeks after Ocasio-Cortez's primary victory, DSA member and endorsee Rashida Tlaib won the Democratic primary in Michigan's 13th congressional district. Both Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib won their general elections to become members of Congress.
Ocasio-Cortez's victory and the subsequent publicity for the DSA led to more than 1,000 new members joining the organization the next day, approximately 35 times the daily average and its largest ever one-day increase in membership. These signups helped boost the organization to 42,000 members nationally in June 2018. That number increased to 50,000 by September 1, 2018.
In the 2020 elections, at least 36 DSA members won office, earning more than 3.1 million votes. Four DSA members were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, including incumbents Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib and newly elected members Jamaal Bowman[b] and Cori Bush. DSA members were unsuccessful in being elected to the House in West Virginia (WV-2), Mississippi (MS-1) and California (CA-12).
In Tennessee, Marquita Bradshaw won the Democratic nomination for the 2020 Senate election in an upset. Initially not nationally endorsed, she was endorsed by the Memphis-Midsouth chapter of DSA and after her primary victory was also endorsed by Tennessee's other DSA chapters, in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Middle and Northeast Tennessee. She lost the general election to Bill Hagerty.
In November 2022, Greg Casar[b] was the fifth DSA member jointly elected to the House.
In the United States elections of 2017, the DSA endorsed 15 candidates for office, with the highest position gained being that of Lee J. Carter in the Virginia House of Delegates. DSA members won 15 electoral offices in 13 states, bringing the total to 35 (having changed its electoral strategy at its national convention, the DSA had anticipated picking up approximately five seats): city council seats in Pleasant Hill, Iowa (Ross Grooters), Billings, Montana (Denise Joy), Knoxville, Tennessee (Seema Singh Perez), Duluth, Minnesota (Joel Sipress) and Somerville, Massachusetts (JT Scott and Ben Ewen-Campen); and the seat in the Virginia House of Delegates contested by Carter, among other offices. 56% of the DSA members who ran in this election cycle won, compared to 20% in 2016. These results encouraged dozens more DSA members to run for office in the 2018 elections.
In the 2018 midterm elections, DSA anticipated reaching 100 elected officials nationwide from its strategic down-ballot campaigns, with most of those in state and local races. 39 formally endorsed people ran for office at the state and local levels in 20 states, including Florida, Hawaii, Kansas and Michigan; Maine's Zak Ringelstein, a Democrat, was its sole senatorial candidate. Local chapters endorsed around 110 candidates in total. Four female DSA members (Sara Innamorato, Summer Lee, Elizabeth Fiedler and Kristin Seale) won Democratic primary contests for seats in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, with Innamorato and Lee defeating incumbents. Additionally, Jade Bahr and Amelia Marquez won their primaries in Montana for the State House and Jeremy Mele won his primary for the Maine House of Representatives. In California, Jovanka Beckles won one of the top two spots in the primary and advanced to the general election for a State Assembly seat in the East Bay. Ultimately, about a dozen members (or non-members who were endorsed) won office in state legislatures. In the aggregate, the DSA had backed 40 winning candidates at the state, county and municipal levels. DSA members elected to state legislatures in 2018 include Hawaii Representative Amy Perruso, New York Senator Julia Salazar, and Pennsylvania Representatives Fiedler, Innamorato, and Lee.
The 2019 Chicago aldermanic elections saw six DSA members elected to the 50-seat Chicago City Council: incumbent Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and newcomers Daniel La Spata, Jeanette Taylor, Byron Sigcho-Lopez, Rossana Rodriguez-Sanchez, and Andre Vasquez. The six newly elected DSA members informally organized the Chicago City Council Socialist Caucus in 2019, later formalizing it in 2021 as the Democratic Socialist Caucus. In the 2019 off-year elections, DSA members made further gains by capturing over a half dozen city council seats across the country; Dean Preston became the first democratic socialist elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 40 years, while Lee Carter was reelected to the Virginia House of Delegates.
In 2020, the DSA made significant gains in state legislatures. Over 30 DSA members and endorsed (either nationally or by local chapters) candidates were elected in 16 states, including five in Pennsylvania and seven in New York.[d] Notable victories were in West Philadelphia, where Rick Krajewski beat a 35-year incumbent, and in New York City, where a slate of five candidates was (re)elected to the state house and the state senate. All DSA incumbents were reelected, with the sole exception of Jade Bahr, who lost her race for the Montana House of Representatives.
Dozens of DSA members and affiliated candidates have won races for local offices since 2020. Most notably, Nithya Raman, endorsed by the national DSA, won her race for Los Angeles city council in district 4, and Janeese Lewis George won her race for Washington, D.C. city council ward 4, after winning her primary against incumbent Brandon Todd. Dean Preston was reelected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. José Garza was elected as district attorney for Travis County in Texas and Gabriella Cázares-Kelly was elected county recorder in Pima County, Arizona Other DSA-affiliated candidates were elected to city councils in Austin, Aurora, Oakland, Burbank, Berkeley, Mountain View, South San Francisco, Redwood City, Sacramento, Burlington, Madison, Stoughton, St. Petersburg, and Portland, Maine.
In March 2021, an all-DSA leadership of a state Democratic party was elected for the first time in its history, sweeping the leadership of the Nevada Democratic Party. After the elections, the entire Nevada Democratic Party staff resigned. On March 4, 2023, a "unity" slate of candidates was elected, ending DSA leadership of the party.
In June 2021, the Buffalo, New York chapter-endorsed candidate, India Walton, won the Democratic Party primary election for mayor, defeating incumbent Byron Brown. Following the primary election loss, Brown qualified for the general election as a write-in candidate. In November 2021, Walton lost the mayoral race to Brown, who earned 38,338 write-in votes to Walton's 25,773 votes.
In late 2019, the New York City DSA chapter established the Public Power NY Coalition, aimed at expanding public renewable energy in collaboration with organized labor and DSA members in the New York state legislature. According to campaign organizer Ashley Dawson, the Coalition was formed after private utility company ConEd increased electricity prices; it was also concerned about ConEd's fossil fuel lobbying, failure to invest in upgrading its energy infrastructure, and respiratory illnesses caused by pollution in low-income and minority neighborhoods.
In March 2023, DSA members in the U.S. House Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman[b] wrote to Governor Hochul to urge the passage of the Build Public Renewables Act (BPRA).
In May 2023, the DSA claimed that the four-year organizing campaign led by New York state chapters enabled the BPRA to pass. DSA and progressive media called it "the biggest Green New Deal victory in U.S. history" due to its provisions for public renewable energy, unionized public jobs, electricity price discounts, and closing natural gas plants.
In the early 1980s, the estimated membership of the DSOC was 5,000, but after its merger with the NAM and subsequent founding of the DSA, the membership of the new organization grew to an estimated 7,000 in 1987. In 2002, Fox News said there were 8,000 members in the DSA.
In 2017, the organization passed a resolution calling for the national office to provide the group's paid members with a copy of a financial report in non-convention years. A first such report covering 2017 and the first half of 2018 was published in August 2018.
The DSA saw large membership boosts from the Bernie Sanders 2016 presidential campaign, the presidential victory of Donald Trump, the 2018 election of DSA member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2020, organizers said the DSA had attracted about 10,000 new members since March of that year. According to DSA leaders, after Bernie Sanders dropped out of the 2020 presidential race in April, many leftists previously aligned with his campaign moved over to the DSA.
In November 2020, the organization claimed over 85,000 members, and by 2021 the DSA claimed around 95,000 members, with at least a dozen members in every congressional district. According to the finance data for the 2021 DSA convention, the organization collected $4.6 million in membership dues in 2020. The DSA allows membership dues waivers for members who "may be experiencing financial problems right now".
In 2023, the DSA had approximately 85,000 members, a decline from 2021, when membership peaked at around 95,000 members. Some DSA members, such as Seattle Councilwoman Kshama Sawant, have argued that this decline was primarily due to dissatisfaction with decisions of DSA congresspeople on military aid to Israel and the 2022 United States railroad labor dispute. Others have claimed this membership change was due to a general decline in interest in socialism since the presidential election of Joe Biden, or insufficient chapter engagement in membership recommitment drives.
Biennial national conventions represent the DSA's highest authority and help guide it and its policies. Conventions are held every odd-numbered year. Convention delegates are primarily chosen by local chapters from their membership, but some are selected at-large for members not associated with a specific chapter.
Governance of the DSA between conventions is by its National Political Committee (NPC), which since 2001 has been a 16-person body. The DSA's constitution states that at least eight of the NPC's members shall be women and at least four of "racial or national" minority groups. An 17th vote is cast by the representatives of the DSA's youth wing, which elects one male and one female delegate who split the vote. The NPC meets four times a year.
The NPC elects an inner committee of six, the Steering Committee, including five of its own members and one representative of the youth section. At least two of these are constitutionally required to be women and at least one a person of color, with the National Director and the Youth Section Organizer also participating as ex officio members. The Steering Committee meets bimonthly, either in person or by conference call.
The DSA is organized at the local level with guidance from the NPC and works with labor unions, community organizations, and campus activists on issues of common interest. Nationwide campaigns are coordinated by the organization's national office in New York City. As of July 2023[update], the DSA lists 206 official chapters and organizing committees in all 50 states, as well as 126 student chapters. In addition, some chapters organize with the DSA or YDSA titles, but are not officially recognized by the organization.
Main article: Young Democratic Socialists of America
The Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) is the DSA's official student section, governed by a National Coordinating Committee consisting of YDSA members from and elected by the broader YDSA membership. YDSA chapters and members are encouraged to pursue and promote a democratic socialist political education and participate in social justice activism, often taking part in anti-war, labor, and student-issue marches and rallies. YDSA publishes The Activist, which also houses a newsletter, The Red Letter. Its national activities revolve around supporting DSA campaigns and initiatives and organizing various student conferences, usually in New York City. YDSA was a full member of the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) until 2018, following DSA's 2017 vote to leave the Socialist International for perceived neoliberal tendencies.
YDSA has annual national conventions, similar to DSA's biannual conventions, where delegates selected by YDSA chapters vote on the YDSA platform and priorities. YDSA also has annual winter and summer conferences meant to connect student organizers and provide organizational and political education.
YDSA expanded following youth support for Bernie Sanders's 2016 presidential candidacy. According to a YDSA organizer, the group expanded from 25 to 84 registered chapters between 2016 and 2019.
As of June 2023[update], the DSA listed 125 official YDSA chapters.
The DSA hires staff to "fulfill the goals set by DSA's elected volunteer leadership." The DSA states that staff do not set its political goals and do not provide political advice.
Staff include the National Director and positions in finances, organizing, communications, development, operations, and grievances.
The Institute for Democratic Socialism (IDS) was founded in 1978 as a 501(c)(3) organization under the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee to distribute funding to promote democratic socialist ideals via political education and activist trainings. The IDS continued under the DSA upon its founding and, in the mid-1990s, IDS renamed itself the Democratic Socialists of America Fund (DSA Fund).
In December 1980, the IDS organized a three-day conference, "Eurosocialism and America", attended by over 2,000 U.S.-based activists and featured democratic socialist and social democratic activists and leaders, including Jean-Jacques Honorat, Ron Dellums, Olof Palme, Willy Brandt, Michael Manley, François Mitterrand, Joop den Uyl, and Rudolf Meidner. The event included speeches about economic democracy and the Meidner Plan, advances in social democracy in Sweden, the Netherlands, and France, democratic education, and revitalization of democracy in movements and parties.
In the 1990s, the DSA Fund directed resources to the Prison Moratorium Project led by the youth section of DSA, which aimed at divesting from private prisons and contributed to Sodexo partially divesting from private prisons.
In the 21st century, the DSA Fund provides support for students to attend YDSA winter and summer conferences, and for democratic socialist political education.
The DSA does not officially recognize caucuses, but they are independently formed by members within the organization. Caucuses play a significant role in the DSA's internal politics, and most members on the National Political Committee are affiliated with a caucus or similar grouping. Caucuses are primarily used to organize DSA members around specific ideological tendencies and political organizing priorities.
Since 2017, caucuses have played a central role in the organization. According to the Alliance for Workers' Liberty, more than 70 percent of resolutions at the 2021 DSA National Convention were written by the various DSA caucuses.
The table below displays information about some major caucuses.
|Caucus||Ideology||Associated publication||NPC affiliations|
|Bread and Roses||The Call|
3 / 17
0 / 17
|Green New Deal Slate[e]|
0 / 17
|Libertarian Socialist Caucus||Assembly|
0 / 17
|Marxist Unity Group||Cosmonaut|
2 / 17
|Reform and Revolution||Reform & Revolution|
0 / 17
|Socialist Majority Caucus||The Agitator|
2 / 17
4 / 17
|Red Star ||Zenith|
3 / 17
The DSA publishes Democratic Left and Socialist Forum, quarterly magazines of news, analysis, and internal debate. Democratic Left continues in an uninterrupted run from the original Newsletter of the Democratic Left published by the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee, a DSA predecessor, since its establishment in 1973. In 2008, DSA members active in the American labor movement founded Talking Union, a blog that focuses on labor politics, working-class struggles and strategies.
Left-wing quarterly magazine Jacobin is considered very close to the DSA, although they are not officially affiliated. In 2014, Jacobin's founder and then-editor Bhaskar Sunkara, a DSA member, praised DSA founder Michael Harrington and said Harrington was “very underrated as a popularizer of Marxist thought".
Several DSA caucuses have their own publications, including The Call, run by Bread and Roses; Assembly, of the Libertarian Socialist Caucus; Partisan, affiliated with the Communist Caucus and other smaller caucuses; Cosmonaut, affiliated with the Marxist Unity Group; The Agitator, by the Socialist Majority Caucus; and Reform & Revolution by the caucus of the same name.
DSA members espouse a range of ideological positions, including democratic socialism, eco-socialism, libertarian socialism, communism, and Trotskyism. DSA members have varying positions on market socialism and democratic economic planning, and reform and revolution.
The DSA's constitution states that it may expel those who are "in substantial disagreement with the principles or policies of the organization or if they consistently engage in undemocratic, disruptive behavior or if they are under the discipline of any self-defined democratic-centralist organization." But the DSA allows double membership with other groups and de facto does not enforce the clause against democratic centralism. For this reason, a significant segment of Socialist Alternative, a Trotskyist and democratic centralist party, has joined DSA since 2020 to promote the formation of an independent socialist party and "unity in action". A major caucus within DSA, Marxist Unity Group, also practices democratic centralism, but support of democratic centralism remains a minority position.
The dominant position in DSA regards the abolition of capitalism and the realization of socialism as a long-term goal, therefore the organization focuses its immediate political energies on reforms within capitalism that empower working people while decreasing the power of corporations.
The DSA characterizes its vision of socialism as an economic system based on a range of models for social ownership, including publicly owned enterprises, worker-owned cooperatives, and decentralized planning. The DSA rejects traditional centralized economic planning in favor of a combination of democratic planning and market socialist mechanisms. Additionally, because the DSA does not believe capitalism and private corporations can be immediately replaced with socialism, it is favorable to expand corporate regulations and organized labor to make private businesses more accountable to the public interest in the short term.
The DSA holds that there are many routes to its goal of democratic socialism, while rejecting social democracy and authoritarian socialism:
We believe there are many avenues that feed into the democratic road to socialism. Our vision pushes further than historic social democracy and leaves behind authoritarian visions of socialism in the dustbin of history.— Democratic Socialists of America
One older leaflet detailing the group's ideas, "What is Democratic Socialism?", states that "no country has fully instituted democratic socialism". Nonetheless, according to the DSA, there are lessons to be learned from "the comprehensive welfare state maintained by the Swedes, from Canada's national healthcare system, France's nationwide childcare program, and Nicaragua's literacy programs". The DSA lauds the "tremendous prosperity and relative economic equality" established by the social democratic parties of Scandinavia and parts of Western Europe, while the organization maintains its goal to move beyond capitalism entirely.
Positioning itself as an anti-racist and anti-fascist organization, the DSA connects this fight against fascist groups to its broader struggle against capitalism, saying on its website: "We believe that the terror unleashed on our comrades can be defeated. We also believe that the wider system of racist oppression can be defeated, but only with the ending of the capitalist system which birthed it".
Members have been present at various anti-fascist marches and protests, including counterprotests against the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Boston Free Speech Rally, and many other right-wing rallies surrounding the removal of Confederate monuments and memorials. The DSA positions itself with other left-wing groups who fight fascism in the United States, including the Industrial Workers of the World and groups involved in the antifa movement. The organization also criticizes the police in the United States for their handling of anti-fascist activities and Black Lives Matter protests.
The DSA believes in defending communities from neofascist violence and building a multi-racial working-class movement. This involves deplatforming reactionary and racist groups and events, believing that a united front of left-wing organizations needs to confront these forces wherever they appear.
The DSA has long been a supporter and defender of the labor movement in the United States and has also argued for the increase of international worker solidarity. The DSA believes in a livable minimum wage for all workers, but it notes that this fight only goes so far and is only the first step in building a more humane economic system: "Ultimately the minimum wage only works for those lucky enough to find a job – even a low paying one – and it doesn't really "work" for them, because it doesn't come with health benefits, adequate schools, or enough money to set aside for retirement". DSA members have been supporters and active participants in fights to increase the minimum wage across the country, including the Fight for $15 protests.
The DSA opposes right-to-work laws, which are seen as an attack on the rights of workers and the historic advances of the labor movement. It is argued that the enactment of these laws reduces the efficacy of collective bargaining agreements, putting workers at a disadvantage. In a statement released in 2014, the organization said: "Such 'right to work' laws consciously aim to weaken union strength; they are the main reason why the 'right to work' is, as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, 'the right to work for less'".
The DSA argues that financial elites have consciously fought to destroy union power in an effort to solidify the hegemony of markets and corporate power. The organization believes that for an equitable and sustainable economic system, the production of wealth should be under the democratic control of those who produce it. The DSA also emphasizes the role played by immigrants, women, disabled workers, LGBTQIA+ and workers of color in the broader labor movement, believing that all barriers between working people must be broken in order to help create and maintain a broad and unified labor movement.
The DSA is committed to the rights of the LGBT community, connecting anti-gay prejudice to capitalist exploitation. This includes pushes for equal rights and protections for all those who identify as LGBTQIA+ as well as rights to housing, jobs, education, public accommodations, and healthcare. The DSA recognizes that those who are most discriminated against based on identity are disproportionately women and people of color. The organization also seeks to ensure public schools are safe places for LGBTQIA+ students and that students should have total access to facilities that reflect their gender. The DSA supports the protection of same-sex marriages, but it "views marriage as only a first step in recognizing the diversity of human relationships".
The DSA aligns itself with the socialist feminist movement. The organization holds that capitalism is built on white supremacy as well as male supremacy. The DSA maintains that reproductive rights are central to the feminist movement. Connecting democratic socialism and socialist feminism, the DSA says "that birth control and safe abortion should be provided as part of a comprehensive single-payer healthcare program". Believing that electoral politics can only take socialist feminism so far, the organization also says that the emphasis must be on community-based grassroots movements. The DSA further says that socialist feminism must include the rights of the LGBTQIA+ community.
In 2016, the DSA issued a statement of solidarity with Venezuela. The statement called the sanctions placed on Venezuela by the Obama administration unjust and illegal. It called for the United States to cease its interference in Venezuelan affairs, saying: "We call on the President and Congress to reverse these actions and stop seeking to undermine the Venezuelan people and their legitimate, democratically elected government".
At the 2017 DSA Convention, the group announced its withdrawal from the Socialist International (SI). The resolution passed states that the DSA will "[build] direct relationships with socialist and left parties and social movements around the world that we can learn from and which share our values.... Our affiliation with the Socialist International hinders our ability to develop stronger relationships with parties and social movements that share our values and which, in many cases, are bitterly opposed to their country's SI affiliate(s)". This was viewed as the DSA voicing its opposition to the SI's perceived acceptance of "neoliberal economic policies".
At the 2017 convention it also passed a resolution which solidified the DSA's solidarity with the cause of the Palestinian people and with the controversial Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement: "Democratic Socialists of America condemns all efforts to deny the right of Palestinians in the United States and their allies to free speech, assembly, and academic freedom". The resolution further condemned Israeli actions, comparing those actions to apartheid. The DSA has shown its solidarity with Ahed Tamimi. The statement also reiterated the DSA's support for the liberation of the Palestinian people.
The DSA opposes United States intervention in the Syrian Civil War. A statement issued in April 2017 called the intervention by the Trump administration a violation of both domestic and international law. In the same statement, the DSA called for protests of Trump's actions and for the lobbying of Congress to halt any further intervention.
At the 2019 DSA Convention, the group announced its support for open borders. At the 2021 DSA Convention, the organization's members voted to apply for membership in the São Paulo Forum, a conference of leftist political parties and organizations largely from Latin America and the Caribbean.
In 2019, the DSA published a statement against U.S. intervention in Venezuela during the Venezuelan presidential crisis, arguing that both the "increasingly top-down Venezuelan government as well as the fractious Venezuelan opposition ... bear significant responsibility" for the crisis. A DSA delegation of the International Committee traveled to Caracas, Venezuela in June 2021 to meet with Nicolás Maduro and to attend the Bicentennial Congress of the Peoples (Spanish: Congreso Bicentenario de los Pueblos), considered not an autonomous body, but rather "an assemblage of national and foreign supporters" of Maduro launched "to coat itself with a veneer of international support". The DSA International Committee was criticized both externally and by DSA members for giving legitimacy to the Maduro administration, as well as for having its delegation stay at one of Caracas's most expensive hotels, the Gran Meliá Caracas, where rooms cost $200 a night, and for partying despite the COVID-19 restrictions in Venezuela. It was also criticized for giving "a bad name to the international left in Venezuela".
On February 26, 2022, the DSA issued a statement condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine while arguing that the United States and NATO provoked Russia. The statement called for the United States to withdraw from NATO and "end the imperialist expansionism that set the stage for this conflict". This statement was criticized by Democratic congresspeople, as well as politicians who were affiliated with the DSA. Critics called the DSA statement "tone-deaf". Others defended the statement and criticized the responses from mainstream media and politicians attacking the organization. According to Intelligencer, "The suggestion that the U.S. was somehow to blame for Vladimir Putin's war of aggression was seized on by the DSA's critics across the ideological spectrum—from the New York Post to Democratic congressional candidate Max Rose—while setting off a round of recriminations and counterstatements among American leftists."
See also: Sunshine Policy
The Sunshine Policy (햇볕정책) is the policy toward North Korea proposed by South Korean liberals, which American liberals have widely condemned since the 2010s. In particular, former president Barack Obama opposed the Sunshine Policy and supported the "Strategic Patience" (전략적 인내) policy, which rejected any dialogue with Kim Jong-un and preferred only sanctions against North Korea. In opposition to Obama, the DSA supported the Sunshine Policy.
During Donald Trump's presidency, the Strategic Patience policy was largely abandoned, as Trump met with Kim Jong-un three times;[g] these meetings did not result in the lifting of U.S. sanctions on North Korea, and the Trump administration continued to uphold a travel ban on the country, which the DSA condemned.
Since Joe Biden's election as president in 2020, the DSA International Committee (DSA IC) has called on the Biden administration to support the Sunshine Policy and lift the Trump-era U.S. travel ban on North Korea. The DSA IC states that this would reinstate American activists' ability to engage in cultural and educational exchanges in the country and allow them to play a role in peace talks and negotiations for the reunification of separated Korean families. The DSA opposes all forms of sanctions against North Korea.
See also: Israeli–Palestinian conflict
The DSA opposes Zionism and the current form of the State of Israel. It views the current form of the State of Israel as an imperialist ethnostate. The DSA supported Israel during the late 20th century, including socialist and progressive individuals and movements inside the state, with Jo-Ann Mort, former vice-chair of DSA, describing the group as formerly having been "the place to go on the left if you were a socialist and you were pro-Israel".
On August 5, 2017, members of the organization nearly unanimously passed a motion to formally endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Alternet noted that this had been a divisive issue between older members trying to "reconcile socialism with Zionism" and younger members who considered the movement a "time-tested means of nonviolent protest" and "the most powerful force to combat Israeli apartheid in the 21st century".
In 2021, the DSA attracted criticism from the socialist left due to a vote by U.S. Representative Jamaal Bowman, an elected member of DSA,[b] in favor of providing $1 billion in additional annual aid to Israel, in violation of DSA's anti-Zionist and pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions platform. Bowman was also criticized for meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on a trip to Israel organized by J Street.
In response, many DSA members and the DSA National Political Committee (NPC) condemned Bowman's actions. In a statement, the National Political Committee expressed the "importance of developing greater accountability for DSA electeds" and vowed to "reevaluate our national endorsement process." In this statement, the NPC said it "will not re-endorse Bowman unless he is able to demonstrate solidarity with Palestine", but that his criticisms of the Israeli government and perceived progress on this subject due to DSA engagement with his office did not warrant his expulsion from the organization. Petitions for and against Bowman's expulsion circulated within DSA in 2021, with the national BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group endorsing his expulsion.
In February 2022, Bowman removed his sponsorship of the Israeli Relations Normalization Act, which some NPC members considered a win from engaging with Bowman's office. Others in DSA challenged this interpretation, including the BDS Working Group. In March 2022, the NPC voted 9–8 to punish the BDS Working Group for alleged disruptive behavior, which included dechartering it, moving its work to the International Committee, and banning its leadership from DSA leadership positions. A subsequent petition against the NPC's decision gathered 1,416 signatures, while another petition with 361 signatures argued that it was an "unfortunate but necessary decision" due to the working group's alleged inappropriate behavior and for acting independently of the elected NPC leadership. Various Palestinian organizations condemned the NPC's decision and urged a boycott of DSA until it was rescinded. Multiple NPC members resigned in reaction. Ultimately, the NPC unanimously voted to rescind its decision to decharter the BDS Working Group, while maintaining the leadership suspension. The leadership suspension has since expired.
In April 2023, Bowman co-led a letter to President Biden with Senator Bernie Sanders urging a probe into the use of U.S. weapons to commit human rights abuses against Palestinians. The letter called for restricting $3.8 billion in annual military aid to Israel and "immediate action to prevent the further loss of Israeli and Palestinian lives".
In July 2023, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution, 412–9, declaring that "The State of Israel is not a racist or apartheid state, Congress rejects all forms of antisemitism and xenophobia, and the United States will always be a staunch partner and supporter of Israel." Among those voting against the resolution were DSA members Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Bush, and Bowman, who each cited the Israeli government's human rights abuses against Palestinians. Casar voted for the resolution.[b]
Originally: O'Rourke, William (November 13, 1973). "Michael Harrington: Beyond Watergate, Sixties, and reform". SoHo Weekly News. Vol. 3, no. 2. pp. 6–7. ISBN 9780791416815. Archived from the original on December 18, 2020. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
At least 48 DSA members were on the ballot this November, and at least 36 won office, earning more than 3.1 million votes for socialist candidates altogether.
I'm beyond proud to receive the endorsement of Chattanooga Democratic Socialists of America.
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The Recruitment Drive ended this past weekend, and we now have more than 85,000 DSA members!! (...)
DSA believes in the abolition of capitalism in favor of an economy run either by "the workers" or the state
DSA's national platform calls for abolishing capitalism
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