by Robert Roman
Some 70 delegates attended the 1993 DSA National Convention
in Los Angeles over Veteran's Day weekend this last November.
This was about a third of the possible delegates. Only four delegates
from Chicago attended the convention: Donn and Karl Schneider,
Jay Hughes and Bob Roman. As each delegate could vote up to three
of their delegation's votes, Chicago's eleven votes were fully
The atmosphere at the convention was congenial and optimistic.
For example, all of the resolutions voted upon at the plenary
sessions were passed, almost without dissent or discussion. This
unanimity is slightly misleading, though. Most of the action at
the convention took place in the small group sessions where the
resolutions were discussed, amended, recommended or not recommended
Technically, the small group sessions are committee hearings
where the designated committees are responsible for reporting
on a finished product for the convention to act upon. Over the
years, the practice has been for each of the committees to preside
over the sessions rather than actually make decisions themselves.
The resolutions are voted upon, amended, etc., by the delegates
attending the sessions rather than by the committee. The committee
regards itself as bound by the decisions of the delegates attending
the session though this is beyond what is called for in the rules
of the convention. There were three such committees: Organizational
/ Constitutional Resolutions, Domestic Resolutions, and International
The Organizational / Constitutional Resolutions committee had
a particularly heavy workload. The committee dealt with competing
resolutions regarding DSA's national structure, its name, and
the cost of the convention for the delegates attending the convention.
DSA's national structure has been a sore point for some time
now, particularly with regard to the National Board. The original
structure was convoluted enough for a Stalinist to love. The national
staff had four levels of organization as their boss. The top level
was the National Convention, a delegated body including at-large
members that met once every two years and elected a National Political
Committee (NPC) to take care of business between conventions.
In interim years, the DSA locals elected members of a National
Board which also included members of the NPC, the Chairs of the
national DSA commissions, and delegates from DSA locals. The National
Board was a standing body which, in theory, could have met any
number of times but in practice only met once every two years.
The NPC generally met four times a year, but selected a National
Interim Committee (NIC) that included NPC members and others.
The NIC took care of business between NPC meetings. As you might
expect, the NIC has had a great deal of influence in directing
DSA's national affairs and the National Board has become increasingly
The constitutional amendment passed by the convention deleted
the National Board and mandated an off-year conference. Another
amendment passed by the convention deleted the NIC, creating instead
a Steering Committee that is smaller and consists entirely of
NPC members. In theory, this should make the committee responsible
for the ongoing administration of DSA's national affairs more
responsible to the NPC, which has been a problem in the past.
The only controversy here was the frequency of DSA National Conventions.
A competing amendment calling for yearly conventions was defeated.
The cost of the convention to the attending delegates has been
another item of discontent for some time now. The mutterings of
unhappiness that became audible at the 1991 convention here in
Chicago have become a dull roar. Two resolutions asking for action
were passed by the convention. It should be interesting to see
what comes of this. The truth is that there has not been a big
incentive for the national organization to deal with this; national
conventions have been profitable events for an organization that
is starved for funds. Travel generally makes up about half of
a delegate's expenses. Tinkering with the venue and convention
registration fees will not save a great deal of the convention
The domestic resolutions committee also had a busy agenda.
The convention passed a resolution on health care reaffirming
DSA's support for a single-payer approach to national health care
and specifically our support for the McDermott bill. A resolution
on Women and Politics was passed which included a call to organize
a speaking tour for international women representatives in 1994
- 1995, including "DSA member and Socialist International
Women Vice-President Chris Riddiough along with international
representatives". A "Breaking Bread" resolution
was passed, urging DSA locals around the country to organize "Breaking
Bread" events in their area. The "Breaking Bread"
event is intended to be a "model of dialogue and organizing
around a historical and political analysis rooted in Cornel West's
proposed 'politics of conversion' [which] will enable us to develop
this vision and to implement a program to challenge the power
of market culture and corporate and financial elites." The
convention was the occasion for the first such event, and it was
a major success, drawing nearly 900 participants. Another is scheduled
to happen in New York. A resolution on electoral politics was
passed which effectively declared DSA "agnostic" on
the issue of third parties. A more forthright endorsement of independent
politics was defeated. Resolutions on Labor Law reform, Racism,
DC statehood and the HUD budget were also passed. A resolution
on drug decriminalization was tabled.
The convention passed a number of resolutions on international
affairs although a resolution intended to be a comprehensive review
of international issues was not acted upon as it was received
too late to be reasonably considered. Resolutions opposing NAFTA
and GATT were passed. The convention also passed a resolution
on "The DSA Americas Project". The resolution aims at
expanding DSA's contacts with other western hemisphere socialist
parties. As part of this campaign, the convention was addressed
by Senator Porfirio Munoz Ledo from Mexico's PRD.
A final report on the convention, including the texts of the
resolutions passed by the convention, is available from the DSA
National Office, 15 Dutch St, Suite 500, New York, NY 10038, (212)
by Jim Madigan
On Friday, November 12th, outside the Chicago's Merchandise
Mart, members of Chicago DSA and Greenpeace rallied with others
to draw attention to the major deficiencies in the then-pending
North American Free Trade Agreement. Of particular concern were
the lack of fundamental protection for workers and the environment.
The demonstration was called in response to the pro-NAFTA "rally"
held simultaneously in the plush lobby of the Merchandise Mart.
The pro-NAFTA forces organized a well-orchestrated and exclusive
affair, resembling in content and character the NAFTA agreement
itself. The area where the "rally" was held was enclosed
on all sides by a 10 foot high black curtain. Admittance to the
"inner sanctum" was by invitation only. A group of more
than 40 security guards and police formed a phalanx around the
perimeter of the gathering while additional security, in groups
of two's and three's, covered every entrance to the building.
The reason for these precautions was obvious. It was not to protect
the "dignitaries" inside but to ensure that all those
with a dissenting point of view were kept outside.
Chicago DSA played a major role in this action. Waiving placards
that said "NOT THIS NAFTA", the DSA contingent not only
marched and voiced their opposition to the agreement but also
distributed over 600 informational leaflets, including Noam Chomsky's
excellent Notes on NAFTA: the Masters of Mankind from the
DSA National Office and Not This NAFTA: Toward a North American
Fair Trade Agreement from Chicago DSA.
Senator Paul Simon, Senator Carol Moseley Braun and Governor
James Edgar, NAFTA supporters all, refused to attend the pro-NAFTA
"rally". Mayor Daley made a brief appearance then scurried
out a side entrance like a thief in the night. If these politicians
seem to be acting like they have something to be ashamed of- they're
right! They do! They've dealt the workers of Mexico, Canada and
the United States a blow they may never recover from.
by Kurt Anderson
On December 8th, a group of approximately 40 individuals belonging
to several organizations (including Oak Park NOW, the League of
Women Voters, the Older Women's League and the Fox Valley Pledge
of Resistance, among others) met in the basement of the Oak Park
United Church of Christ to discuss what they could do to publicize
the single-payer option for health-care reform. Promotion and
organization of the meeting was done through Chicago DSA and West
Suburban DSA. What resulted was a loose coalition for single-payer
The coalition agreed that they could perform a number of tasks
on a local level to promote the single-payer option. The most
repeated comment was that there was a total lack of knowledge
about health care reform, let alone about single-payer reform
among the general public. A member of the Older Women's League
explained that when she was speaking with a Democratic member
of the Illinois House of Representatives, the discussion turned
to health care. The representative was uninformed as to the
single-payer option. This became the crux of our future plans.
The coalition agreed that education of the public concerning single-payer
would be the bedrock upon which real reform would take place.
The coalition decided to become a clearinghouse for information
on single-payer: articles, pamphlets and more. This information
would then be collected from the members at monthly meetings,
copied and distributed as needed . All this information would
serve to further educate the various organizations. The coalition
will also act as a media watch-dog of sorts and agreed to keep
a library of opinion pieces for submission to local newspapers
The meeting was also an excellent point of contact concerning
other sources of information. Approximately ten groups signed
up for a speaker from the Physicians for a National Health Plan's
speakers bureau. Many groups also expressed interest in the chart
books which PNHP has authored. These books will be made available
to the members of the coalition at a reduced rate. The coalition
was also given health-care reform post cards courtesy of the Illinois
Campaign for Better Health Care. These cards may be addressed
to Illinois congressmen and can be a useful tool to demand reform.
The coalition is planning a January meeting with Representative
Cardis Collin's Chief of Staff, Bob Kettlewell. There are tentative
plans for public panels in the following months at the College
of DuPage and the Oak Park Public Library. It is hoped these panels
will broaden the interest in single-payer and will encourage other
groups to become involved in the single-payer fight.
The coalition has a packet of information on the McDermott
bill and health care reform. If you would like a copy of the packet,
or if you would like more information on the coalition, upcoming
meetings and events, please contact Kurt Anderson at (708) 386-0468.
by Bob Roman
It's old news now, but you may not have heard: the Allied Industrial
Workers have merged with the United Paperworkers International
Union. The former Allied Industrial Workers is now the UPIU's
Industrial Division, headquartered at the UPIU's national office
in Nashville, Tennessee. The additional 50,000 AIW members makes
the Paperworkers the 13th largest union in the United States.
This should be good news to the locked out Staley workers who
are represented by AIW Local 837. There has not been a great deal
of movement lately in this conflict, but the corporate campaign
continues. The current targets include some of the Staley company's
major customers. The union is asking other unions, organizations
and individuals to write to the CEO's of the largest customers
expressing support for the locked out Staley workers and urging
the company to cease using Staley supplied products. You should
direct your letters to the following:
Be sure to make a copy of your letter and pass it along to
the Staley Workers Solidarity Committee, ILGWU, 323 S. Ashland,
Chicago, IL 60607.
By the time you read this, the second preliminary organizing
meeting of Chicago Jobs with Justice will have taken place. Jobs
with Justice is the AFL-CIO's "semi-official" community
coalition organization. It has been in business here in Chicago
for a couple years now, and Chicago DSA has participated in Jobs
with Justice campaigns, but it has largely been a modest, marginal
group, representing mostly small unions, such as UE or the ILGWU.
The reason is that responsibility for sponsoring Jobs with Justice
is divvied-up among the major participating unions at the national
level. No one has been willing to take responsibility for Chicago.
This pattern is changing, mainly because.someone with a great
deal of credibility and respect in the labor movement has taken
an interest in the organization: the Honorable Charles Hayes,
former Congressman from the 1st Congressional District. Charles
Hayes' committment to Jobs with Justice has resulted in commitments
of support from several of Chicago's major industrial unions.
On Veterans Day, November 11th, a group of fifty veterans,
family and friends gathered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fountain
to honor veterans and to call attention to veterans' concerns.
The annual memorial gathering was organized by Vietnam Veterans
Against the War and participants included members of Veterans
for Peace, Gay and Lesbian Veterans and Chicago DSA.
Unlike most traditional Veterans Day observances, the gathering
at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fountain asked us to "honor
the veteran and not the war". Of primary concern were the
numerous problems facing many veterans (homelessness, joblessness
and the lack of decent health care) and not the glorification
of past conflicts. The group of speakers assembled at the memorial
spoke directly to these important issues.
Le Ly Hayslip, the Vietnamese author of the acclaimed memoir
When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and the founder of
East Meets West Foundation (a charitable and world peace organization)
spoke about the urgent need to lift all economic sanctions now
in place against Vietnam and the need for understanding and forgiveness
between Vietnam and the United States. Ms. Hayslips' speech was
very moving; this is a woman who suffered near-starvation, imprisonment,
torture, rape and the deaths of family members during the Vietnam
War but has still managed to maintain her faith in humanity.
Maude DeVictor, an African-American Navy veteran, spoke to
the special problems faced by women veterans and about the second
class status they are often accorded compared to their male counterparts.
Maude DeVictor was an Agent Orange pioneer and lost her job with
the Veteran's Administration for "blowing the whistle"
on administrative abuses and the knowing neglect of sick veterans.
Following Maude DeVictor were additional speeches directed to
important veterans' concerns delivered by Joe Miller of the VVAW's
national staff and John Poole of the Eighth Day Center.
The speakers program concluded with an urgent appeal for funds
from Ray Parrish of the Midwest Committee for Military Counseling
(MCMC). Ray Parrish heads the MCMC which is the only military
counseling service between Philadelphia and San Diego. During
its 17 year history, MCMC has helped hundreds of veterans with
support, aid and counseling.
The memorial service concluded with Steve Nelson of Veterans
for Peace singing "Where Have All the Flowers Gone"
as the assembled veterans and friends each laid a single flower
on the sealed cover of the memorial fountain in remembrance of
the men and women killed in America's wars.
Traditionally, veterans' concerns have always been the private
preserve of America's right wing. It is the sons and daughters
of the poor and working class who fight and die in America's wars!
Where is the left? Why are we so silent? The time is now: "honor
by Perry Cartwright
Paul Lenart is leaving for Mississippi. Without Paul, there
would be no West Suburban DSA. He was the original organizer and
has devoted thousands of hours to making it grow. The branch will
continue but Paul will be sorely missed.
The branch was put together because there is a need for DSA
to reach out to that majority of Americans who now live in the
suburbs. We simply can't ignore them if progressive politics is
ever to win. In its two year history, the West Suburban DSA has
had considerable success. We've been very active in the Staley
workers' struggle, NAFTA, health care and with the Midwest Radical
Scholars and Activists Conference.
We wish Paul well in his new undertaking and promise him that
we will continue with the good work which he started.