New American Movement
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The New American Movement (NAM) was an American New Left socialist and feminist political organization established in 1971. The organization continued an independent existence until 1982, when it merged with Michael Harrington's Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee to establish Democratic Socialists of America.
The New American Movement was established at a conference held in Davenport, Iowa in December 1971 by radical political activists seeking to create a successor organization to Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). SDS, the leading organization of the New Left movement in America, had recently disintegrated into warring political sects and the need was perceived for a broad-based new organization free of sectarian rancor.
The founding activists behind the New American movement were vigorous opponents of the war in Vietnam who sought a new organization to serve as a forum for discussing where and how to redirect their activities. The call to convene was issued by Michael Lerner. Lerner became distant from the organization shortly after it was founded and went on to start the magazine Tikkun.
In its early years, NAM shared much of the political framework of the New Communist Movement, but rejected the strategy of building a "vanguard party", a position prominent NAM members defended in a debate in the pages of The Guardian. The organization was built around local groups called "chapters," which emphasized Marxist study, discussion of contemporary issues, support of local labor actions, and work in the community to raise awareness.
National headquarters of NAM were located in Chicago.
By the early 1980s, after a great change in the American political climate and the departure of some of its more radical members, NAM had moved away from its original neo-Leninist orientation and adopted a more traditionally social democratic outlook, culminating in a merger with the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) in 1982 to form the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). At the time of the merger, NAM claimed 2,500 members.
Richard Healey, son of Los Angeles Communist Party leader Dorothy Healey, was a leader of NAM from its founding in 1971. After his mother resigned from the CPUSA in 1973, Richard worked on recruiting her to NAM, which she joined in 1974. In 1975 Dorothy Healey joined Richard on NAM's National Interim Committee, and later became a Vice Chair of Democratic Socialists of America in 1982.
NAM made use of comparatively high membership dues which were tiered on the basis of the member's income. According to one analyst, total membership of the organization never exceeded 1,500 at any point in the group's existence. Membership was based almost wholly in large metropolitan areas and on college campuses. NAM activity often took the form of a group study circle dedicated to the collective study of Marxist or feminist writings. The group was ultimately hampered by its limited size and seeming inability to progress beyond the realm of doctrinal discourse into the world of practical politics.
The official organ of NAM was a magazine called Movin' On. The independent journals Radical America and Socialist Revolution (later Socialist Review) were also vaguely associated with NAM, as were the weekly independent socialist newspapers The Guardian and In These Times, which had their share of supporters both within NAM and in other radical groups.
In addition to its magazine, NAM produced several other targeted publications, including the Reproductive Rights Newsletter, dedicated to organizing to preserve women's rights of access to contraception and abortion, the Anti-Racism Bulletin, as well as Women Organizing, a publication launched in 1979 and dedicated to questions of feminist organizing.
NAM continued an independent existence until 1982, when it voted to merge with Michael Harrington's Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC) to establish Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).
- Stephen E. Atkins, Encyclopedia of Modern American Extremists and Extremist Groups. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002; pg. 222.
- Max Elbaum, Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals turn to Marx, Mao, and Che. London: Verso, 2002; pp. 118-120.
- Mike Davis, Prisoners of the American Dream: Politics and Economy in the History of the U.S. Working Class. London: Verso: 1986.
- Dorothy Healey and Maurice Isserman, Dorothy Healey Remembers: A Life in the American Communist Party. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990; pp. 245-249.
- Hannah Frisch, et al., Working Papers on Gay-Lesbian Liberation and Socialism. Chicago: New American Movement, 1979; pg. 47.
- Hannah Frisch, et al., Working Papers on Gay-Lesbian Liberation and Socialism. Chicago: New American Movement, 1979.
- Glenn Scott (ed.), Anti-Racism Bulletin, Chicago, IL: New American Movement Anti-Racism Commission, Summer 1980.
- Glenn Scott, Undocumented Workers: Are They the Problem? Chicago, IL: New American Movement, October 1977.
- Stanley Aronowitz, The Death and Rebirth of American Radicalism. New York: Routledge, 1996.
- Victor Cohen (ed.) "The New American Movement: An Oral History," Works and Days, Vol. 28, Nos. 1 and 2, whole number 55/56 (Spring/Fall 2010).
- Victor Cohen, "The New American Movement and the Los Angeles Socialist Community School," Minnesota Review, No. 69 (Fall/Winter 2007).
- Ronald Radosh, Commies: A Journey Through the Old Left, the New Left and the Leftover Left. San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2001.