Convention Highlights through the Decades

In a few short days, delegates from around the country will gather in Atlanta, Georgia, for the biennial DSA convention. This year’s convention promises to be historic; over 1000 delegates from across the country will gather to conduct the largest meeting of socialists in DSA’s history. In anticipation, we revisited decades of coverage of DSA’s past conventions in Democratic Left. If these snapshots get you excited to learn more about DSA’s past, you can always check out the Democratic Left archive online. 

DSA Convention 1981 in Philadelphia: “Delegates OK Unity Steps”

“After two years of negotiations, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and the New American Movement have cleared almost all hurdles to merger.” Some 220 delegates adopted a resolution to approve the merger with the New American Movement that would make DSA into what it is today. Also featured: a profile of delegate demographics showing growth and change in the organization. 



DSA Convention 1983 in New York City: “New Structure for National Office”

Among other changes, the delegates adopted a resolution to have male and female co-chairs for the organization, and Barbara Ehrenreich was unanimously elected co-chair with Michael Harrington.




DSA Convention 1985 in Berkeley, California: “Timeless Values, New Ideas”

The first convention held on the West Coast showed how DSA had been expanding across the country since the merger. Feminist issues and anti-racist organizing strategy also received special attention through a pre-convention meeting and convention plenary. 


DSA Convention 1991 in Chicago: “DSA Convention Meets to Map Out Future”

Delegates celebrated the organization’s reaching 10,000 members “at an unprecedented time in the history of American democratic socialism.” 


DSA Convention 1993 in Los Angeles: “A Celebration of the Possible”

“The 1993 DSA National Convention, held during the days leading up to Congress’s disastrous NAFTA vote, was dominated by conversations about how to construct a visible and effective democratic socialist movement in this age of globalizing capital and social breakdown.” Check out this issue for excerpts from a speech by Cornel West and a political strategy document circulated among the membership. 


DSA Convention 2001 in Philadelphia: “A Time of National Crisis”

DSA’s 2001 convention took place shortly after the September 11 attacks. Convention delegates identified the “national crisis” at hand as being related not only to the terrorist attacks and “war on terrorism” that would increase US military intervention, but also the escalating impact of the global recession. “The crisis that began with the September 11th attacks changes the political ground, but not our goals,” Democratic Left reflected, and the convention’s priorities dedicated the organization to fighting on behalf of low-wage workers and building a peace movement across the United States. 


DSA Convention 2007 in Atlanta: “One More Step on the Road to Human Freedom”

The last time DSA’s national convention visited Atlanta, convention delegates were treated to a speech from a familiar democratic socialist politician, fresh off his successful bid for a Vermont Senate seat. 


DSA Convention 2011 in Washington, D.C.: “Obama is No Socialist, But We Are”

Beneath a red banner proudly declaring the above, delegates reacted to the recent resurgence of mass politics exemplified by the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and the Wisconsin demonstrations, and planned on building organizational capacity for the future. 


DSA Convention 2017 in Chicago: “Let’s Seize the Moment”

The first convention after DSA experienced its rapid post-Trump growth saw the gathering of 800 delegates and the adoption of our most recent national priorities (Medicare for All, Strengthening the Labor Movement, and Electing Socialists).