Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America (MDC DSA) is a chapter of the national Democratic Socialists of America, the largest socialist organization in the United States. As of Summer 2021, the DSA has over 94,000 members nationally. Locally, we count over 2,500 members in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Northern Virginia, and DC.
Together, we organize to build workplace democracy, demand a right to housing, confront immigration detention profiteers, stand up to Amazon, ensure a just energy transition, and fight fascism. Through political education, internal organizing, and social events, we are also creating a space to learn, grow, and build solidarity with each other.
Why Democratic Socialism?
Capitalism is a system designed by the owning class to exploit the rest of us for their profit. Capitalism keeps us in a constant competition with each other in order to prevent the working class from organizing to build something better. It cannot be reformed into a just system.
Democratic socialism is a project of radical imagination. We believe in a political system where ordinary people have a real voice in our workplaces, neighborhoods, and society. This requires a restructuring of our economic and political systems to value people over profits. It means growing membership in unions, building economic cooperatives, and expanding services to include the entire working class.
Democracy isn’t a static vision. It’s something we fight for. We know that change isn’t a singular event but an ongoing process that will continue throughout our lifetimes. What powers the DSA is our commitment between friends, neighbors, and strangers to organize and fight for a better world. A space for all of us not just to survive—but to flourish—is possible.
What does the DSA do?
DSA working groups organize around specific campaigns such as tenant organizing, defunding the police, supporting and organizing unions, engaging in electoral campaigns, and helping realize the Green New Deal. We also organize volunteers to build up DSA into an independent political organism itself. For example, our Publications Working Group manages our information networks, our Comms Team helps shape our messaging, our Administrative Committee manages our tech tools, and our Design Team helps develop art assets and mold our aesthetic.
While the DSA is not a political party, we organize ourselves as a quasi-political party to build power independent from the corporate and wealthy interests that pull the Democratic Party to the right. Given the constraints of the two-party system, we believe that the most effective path to electing socialists and members of the working class is through the Democratic ballot line.
Who can join the DSA?
DSA is a vehicle for the working class—people with different histories, stories, and philosophies—to unite and organize AGAINST capitalism and FOR some form of democratic socialism. Our strength comes from our diversity. Members can join regardless of their country of birth or citizen status. Our organization has members in their late teens to their late eighties. Many members of DSA are often members of other political organizations or unions. Our members have a wide range of political philosophies, with some calling themselves communists and others anarchists, progressives, social democrats…
We actively encourage building solidarity across organizations and learning from our non-American comrades. We also try our best to meet people where they’re at. It’s extremely rare for all members to agree on every issue. Crucially, we practice solidarity by engaging in debate to form democratic consensus on our strategy and tactics. Influencing the DSA is as easy as joining, meeting fellow members, voting in internal elections, engaging with our working groups, and organizing to make it happen. We are not a centrally-run organization—we welcome your ideas, philosophies, and visions for the multi-racial working class.
Are there any elected socialists?
Hundreds of democratic socialists have been elected across the country. At the national level, there are currently four elected DSA members — Rep Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Rep Jamaal Bowman (NY), Rep Rashia Tlaib (MI), and Rep Cori Bush (MO). Rep Ilhan Omar (MN) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (VA) both describe themselves as democratic socialists and have close and historic ties to the DSA.
There are also many locally elected DSA members: Janeese Lewis George (DC District Council, Ward 4), Gabriel Acevero (Maryland House of Delegates, 39th District), and Vaughn Stewart (Maryland House of Delegates, District 19) in addition to multiple ANC Commissioners and DC State Board of Education reps.
How long has the DSA been active?
Nationally, the DSA has its roots in the New Left movement of the 1960s. It arose from the Socialist Party of America and the New American Movement, under the leadership of Left activist Michael Harrington, who formed the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC). DSOC emerged from the Socialist Party in the 1970s, from a left riven by the Vietnam War.
Harrington, author of The Other America, led DSOC as it joined with other left organizations to become DSA in 1980. Michael Harrington and socialist feminist author Barbara Ehrenreich served as DSA’s first co-chairs. A comprehensive account of our organization’s history is available on the National DSA website.
The local chapter of the DSA has been active since the organization’s formation in 1982. The DSA was close allies of progressive David Clarke throughout his tenure on the DC Council, and both Frank Smith Jr. (Ward 1, 1983-1999) and Hilda Mason (At-large, 1975-1999) were members of the DSA while serving on the DC Council.
From 1992 the local DSA diminished along with the wider left until 2016, when a surge of political refugees from the Bernie Sanders campaign reignited the hope for a socialist future. Since then, the organization has grown into a modern political force at both regional and federal levels.