Harold Washington for Mayor

Remembering Harold Washington

In These Times reposted an article they published back in 1983, on the occasion of Washington’s election as Mayor of Chicago. The article mentions, in passing, DSA’s involvement in the election. It begins:

CHICAGO—“We were slow to move from the protest movement into politics,” Harold Washington said just after he won the Chicago Democratic mayoral primary in February. “We were lulled to sleep thinking that passing a few laws was enough. But we’ve got to be involved in the mainstream political activity. That’s what’s happening here in Chicago,” he added. “And that’s the lesson that’s going out across the country.”

This “coming into political maturity” of minority groups that, as Washington says, once thought simple street protests were enough took a giant leap forward on April 12 when a sizable majority of Hispanic voters and enough left and liberal whites joined the overwhelming majority of blacks to give Chicago its first black mayor.


At Monthly Review Online, Michael Hoover provided a retrospective, where he judged:

It is, perhaps, unfair to have expected the institutionalization of populist policies and programs in such a short period of time. And long-term change might not have occurred even if Washington had lived longer. Reliance upon individual leaders does not address how urban growth policymaking and the competitive character of global cities respond to the dictates of capital markets. Thus, proactive restructuring without popular mobilization will surely result in business as usual. Neither an episodic “politics of the streets” nor an incremental “politics of the suites” can by themselves overcome the conventional way of doing things. A convergence of the two is necessary to both combat political stasis and to develop an enduring progressive politics.


Your editor doesn’t pretend familiarity with all of Washington’s biographies, but generally DSA gets mentioned in passing. Our involvement in that election was rather more than peripheral: One of Washington’s first stops outside the Black community was DSA. His victory had rather mixed consequences for the organization. This is something that deserves a more extended examination.


Published by

Chicago Democratic Socialists of America

The Chicago Chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, 3411 W. Diversey, Suite 7, Chicago, IL 60647

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