The Democratic Socialists of America Fund was originally established in 1978 as the Institute for Democratic Socialism (IDS). Michael Harrington, who became famous for his 1962 work The Other America, was a founder of IDS as well as its sister organization, the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (now merged into Democratic Socialists of America/DSA). IDS’s mission, like that of the DSA Fund today, was to help spread democratic socialist ideals through educational materials and activist training.
Throughout the last quarter of the 20th century, IDS was part of several historic progressive projects and events. In December 1980, IDS organized a three-day conference, “Eurosocialism and America” that brought over 2000 U.S.-based activists to D.C. to meet with the leaders of social democratic and democratic socialist political movements from Europe and the developing world to explore how democratic socialist policy alternatives could benefit the United States. Speakers included heads of state or soon-to-be heads of state such as Willy Brandt of Germany, François Mitterrand of France, Olof Palme of Sweden, and Michael Manley of Jamaica.
A harbinger to today’s Medicare-for-All movement, in 1993 IDS (with help from organized labor such as the United Automobile Workers) brought trade unionists, doctors, and parliamentarians from Canada to speak at public forums and press conferences across the United States on the applicability of the Canadian single-payer health care system to the United States. The tour played a significant role in the creation of the single-payer movement in this country.
In the mid-1990s, IDS changed its name to the Democratic Socialists of America Fund. During this time, it lent significant support to the Prison Moratorium Project, coordinated by DSA’s youth section (now the Young Democratic Socialists of America). This effort to divest from private prisons into public education led Sodexho to abandon its carceral business practices.
Throughout this millennium, DSA Fund has continued to advocate for democratic socialism. More recent projects include supporting a Eugene Debs book project and GET UP, a popular education program about economic inequality. Each year, the fund has provided generous support to young socialists attending both the annual winter and summer youth conferences. In total, 10,000 college-age socialists have attended these events over the past 40 years.
Today the DSA Fund continues to build the socialist project and advance educational work around alternatives to capitalism.