By: Trevor Loudon
At 31 years old, Brooklyn resident Svart, is probably the youngest National Director in the organization’s nearly 30 year history. She succeeded Frank Llewellyn who announced earlier that year that he was stepping down after ten years.
Maria Svart had been a member of D.S.A. since 2004. She first joined as a member of the University of Chicago Young Democratic Socialists chapter and quickly became active at the national level, serving as the feminist issues coordinator on the Y.D.S. Coordinating Committee and then co-chair for several terms. Her campus activism, through Y.D.S. and other student organizations, focused on “feminist, environmental, immigrant rights, anti-war and labor solidarity work.”
“I grew up in a family that in one generation went from working class to middle class, and our combined experiences inform my political analysis.” Maria said. “My grandparents and parents achieved upward mobility by using the kind of government programs that DSA fights to protect and expand — like the GI Bill and other federal student loans. My immediate and extended family members are in unions (Mineworkers, Firefighters, Postal Workers, Teachers and other public employees) – in fact my grandmother went out on strike for over a year during the Great Depression. My mother is a first generation U.S. citizen with parents who walked across the border from Mexico during the revolution. And, my first protest was in a stroller at an anti-nuke rally in the 1980s, so I understand the importance of grassroots pressure!”
After college, Svart became a campus organizer with the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, followed by seven years for the labor movement with the Service Employees International Union and the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Healthcare. At CIR, she “organized resident physicians to speak out in support of Medicaid and funding for safety-net hospitals.”
In recent years, Svart served as chair of the New York City D.S.A. local and was elected to the National Political Committee at the 2009 D.S.A. convention.
On the NPC, Maria has chaired the Program Committee, which has provided materials and guidance that have helped DSA locals and YDS chapters participate in the fight against state and federal budget cuts and to defend the rights of public employees. Throughout involvement in DSA, Maria has stressed the importance of understanding how patriarchy, racism, and other structures of oppression intersect with capitalism; the need to train more activists in the skills necessary to intervene effectively in politics; and the “crucial role of both public and internal socialist education in the building of our movement”