Michael Harrington

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Michael Harrington (1928 - 1989) was a socialist activist, member of the League for Industrial Democracy, and generally credited with inspiring LBJ's War on Poverty with his book, The Other America.[1][2][3]

Great Society

Harrington's is credited with laying out the objectives of the Democratic party's Great Society program of the 1960s under President Lyndon Johnson. Harrington's solution for U.S. social and economic ills was the Democratic Agenda program:

  • A federally-owned gas and oil corporation "on the model of the TVA;"
  • full employment with price controls "by putting Americans back to work as part of a national plan to meet desperately urgent human and economic needs;"
  • a comprehensive national health plan;
  • greatly expanded federal housing programs that would guarantee "the right to decent housing";
  • ending federal subsidies to agribusiness corporations while "providing encouragement" to "family farmers."[4]

Democratic Socialists of America

Harrington is one of the original organizers and founders of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA).[5][6] DSA membership is non-democratic, and not available to non-Marxists. "Democracy" and voting rights within the group only exist for dedicated Marxists to further the group's Marxist platform and agenda.

DSA founding convention

The Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee founding convention Socialism'73 took place in New York City, October 12 and 13, 1973, NY University. Speakers included;

  • David Lewis, leader, New Democratic Party of Canada, "US economic imperialism".
  • Michael Harrington
  • Workshops on the unions, feminism, racial equality, Democratic Party, equality and Detente with David Selden, Rose Laub Coser, Doug Ireland, Michael Walzer, Bogdan Denitch, Christopher Lasch
  • Panel on "socialism and the welfare state" with Irving Howe, Erazim Kohak, Norman Birnbaum.[7]

In These Times sponsors

In 1976 founding sponsors of the Institute for Policy Studies/New American Movement linked socialist journal were;

Democratic Agenda/Socialist Caucus

For groups and organizations seeking radical social change within the Democratic Party, the National Convention of 1980 had at least one historic first - formation of a Socialist Caucus of delegates. Organized by the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and by the Democratic Agenda which was DSOC's cadre of infiltrators in the Democratic Party and was based in DSOC' s New York office and at 1730 M Street, NW, Washington, DC. Some 31 delegates and alternates from twelve states and Democrats Abroad attended the Socialist Caucus.

As a preliminary to the convention's Socialist Caucus meeting, indeed as a "building event" and as a continued show of support for Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), the Democratic Agenda sponsored a convention rally at New York's Town Hall. The speakers included Herman Badillo, Julian Bond, Fran Bennick, Harry Britt, Cesar Chavez, Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Douglas Fraser, Murray Finley, Michael Harrington, Terry Herndon, Ruth Jordan, Ruth Messinger, Eleanor Smeal, Gloria Steinem and William Winpisinger.

DSOC works within the Democratic Party, said Harrington, because of the party's relationships with organized workers, blacks, feminists, environmentalists and other "progressive groups."

The Socialist Caucus circulated a list of convention delegates who were caucus members, including;[9]

American Solidarity Movement

The American Solidarity Movement was announced in early 1984 by Democratic Socialists of America, as a vehicle to support American labor unions it considered under attack, or on strike and in need of support.

Members of the Initiating Committee for an American Solidarity Movement were: Michael Harrington (convenor), Stanley Aronowitz, Balfour Brickner, Harry Britt, Harvey Cox, Rep. Ron Dellums, Bogdan Denitch, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cynthia Epstein, Jules Feiffer, Rep. Barney Frank, Msgr. George Higgins, Irving Howe, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Frances Fox Piven, Jose Rivera, Ray Rogers, Gloria Steinem, Peter Steinfels, Ellen Willis.[10]

Socialist International

Main article: Socialist International

According to Timothy Sears, Michael Harrington was the principal author of the Socialist International's new statement of principles, "but he found the process of writing-by-committee maddening. The initial draft he wrote was absolutely brilliant—some of the best he ever wrote." However, at the SI Congress in Lima, Peru in 1986, it was roundly criticized by those (particularly from the French Socialist Party) who "were essentially Blairites before Tony Blair" and considered his draft excessively “utopian.” They insisted on major changes to tone it down. Harrington also wrote the final version that was adopted, "which is quite good, but he was really frustrated with the whole thing". Harrington, Jim Chapin and Sears were Democratic Socialists of America delegates at the Lima Congress.

I remember Mike and Jim talking about whether we should publish his original draft as a DSA pamphlet. Someplace I must still have a copy of the original draft…[11]

During the seventies and eighties. At that time, Harrington was the SI's leading American spokesperson and a valued adviser and strategist for the SI's ruling triumvirate of Olaf Palme, Willy Brandt and Francois Mitterrand. According to John Mason,[12]

For over a decade, DSA's marginality at home was offset within SI councils by Harrington's brilliance as an essayist, and his energy and insight as a socialist strategist. But this also meant that DSA's connection to the SI was largely a one-man show Since Michael's death in 1989—and with the disappearance of the generation of European leaders who had welcomed him into their ranks—the relationship between DSA and the SI has never been the same.

Honors and awards

Eugene V. Debs award

Every year since the mid 1960s the Indiana based Eugene V. Debs Foundation holds Eugene Debs Award Banquet in Terre Haute, to honor an approved social or labor activist. The 1973 honoree, was Michael Harrington.[13]

Maurer-Stump Award

Harrington shared Maurer-Stump Award from the Reading-Berks Democratic Socialists of Pennsylvania with Bernie Sanders, Mayor of Burlington Vermont in 1988.[14]

Harrington symposium

On November 15 2007, the Tamiment Library in NYC held a symposium celebrating the life and work of Democratic Socialists of America Founding Chair Michael Harrington (1928-1989) and the official opening of the Harrington Papers. Invited speakers included DSA National Director Frank Llewellyn.[15]


  1. Kurtz, Stanley (2010). Radical-in-Chief: Barack Obama and the Untold Story of American Socialism. Simon and Schuster, 31. 
  2. Horowitz, David (2006). The Shadow Party: How George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Sixties Radicals Seized Control of the Democratic Party. Simon and Schuster, 85. 
  3. Everything you need to know about the war on poverty. Washington Post (January 8, 2014). “"Many historians, such as Harrington biographer Maurice Isserman, credit Harrington and the book The Other America (which John F. Kennedy purportedly read while in office, along with the MacDonald review) with spurring Kennedy and then Johnson to formulate an anti-poverty agenda"”
  4. Information Digest, December 14, 1979, pages 368
  5. Newsletter of the Democratic Left, October 1973, page 3
  6. Democratic Left, Sep. 1975, page 2
  7. [1] Newsletter of the Democratic Left, October 1973, page 6
  8. [2] In These Times home page, accessed March 6, 2010
  9. Information Digest, September 19, 1980, p 333
  10. Democratic Left, Jan./Feb. 1984, page 6
  11. TYR, Jan. 2008
  12. Dem. Left Millenium issue Part 2, 1999, page 4
  13. Eugene V. Debs Foundation homepage, accessed March 14, 2011
  14. [Reading Times, 1/3/88 by Deidre Riley, Socialist tells of need to expand awareness]
  15. TYR, Jan. 2008