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New Ground 123

March - April, 2009

Contents

  • If You Can't Beat a Living Wage, Strangle It by Tom Broderick
  • Free Choice Is Just That by Tom Broderick
  • There's an Abolition Bill in the Illinois State Legislature. Comrades, Let's Rock the House by Tom Broderick
  • Lies, Damned Lies -- and Statistics: Resurrection West Suburban Hospital Cooks the PR Books by Bill Barclay
  • Nature Knows Best by Eric Schuster
  • You're Either At the Table or On the Menu by Bob Roman
  • Other News compiled by Bob Roman
  • Happy 100 Nelson Algren
    Some Recent Chicago DSA Activities

    New Ground 123.1 - 04.02.2009

    0. DSA News

    Working Together for Justice
    Commission on Global Financial Issues

    1. Politics

    Employee Free Choice Act
    Wage Theft in America
    Worse Than a Messy Divorce
    Abolition
    Living Wage

    2. Democratic Socialism

    More on "Empire"
    Nationalisation, Workers Control, and Workers Ownership

    New Ground 123.2 - 04.15.2009

    0. DSA News

    Working Together for Justice
    Beyond the Ballot: the YDS Winter Conference
    Rescue the Banks not the Bankers and Shareholders
    "But the banks are made of marble with a guard at every door, and the vaults are stuffed with silver that the workers sweated for."

    1. Politics

    Is It a Depression?
    Where Did the Money Go?
    Illuminating TIFs

    2. Democratic Socialism

    An Agenda for Social Democracy
    "A Whole New Kind of Struggle is Emerging"

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest

    New Ground 123.3 - 04.25.2009

    0. DSA News

    Working Together for Justice
    Chicago DSA Membership Meeting
    Democratic Left
    Disarmament

    1. Politics

    May Day Rally and March
    The Labor Movement's Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
    Socialist Success
    The Ludlow Massacre
    Franklin Rosemont, Surrealist Author, Artist and Activist, 1943-2009
    New Fashioned Unions

    2. Democratic Socialism

    The Bolivarian Revolution: Tragedy, Farce or Alternative?
    Understanding Marx


    If You Can't Beat a Living Wage, Strangle It

    by Tom Broderick

    Around four years ago, Ron Baiman suggested that Oak Park needed to have a living wage ordinance. Ron is an economist, and DSA comrade, who worked on the Cook County and Chicago living wage ordinances. Using a template from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, Ron fashioned an ordinance for the Village of Oak Park.

    Oak Park has a Board of Trustees made up of six trustees and a president, all with equal votes. I approached several members of the board individually, to solicit support. For something like the living wage ordinance to pass, we would need a simple majority. I lined up five trustees who said they would support the ordinance, but for two years, no board member would introduce the ordinance.

    Over those two years, the board was fractious. Meetings became tedious and full of enmity. At the next election cycle, all but one of the original five supporters were gone. Our supporters resigned, chose not to seek reelection, or were voted out of office.

    We decided to try to get a referendum on last November's ballot seeking a living wage ordinance. With the help of community members, we got ballot status at a Village Township meeting in March of 2008. Now we would see if we had a community that supported an anti-poverty tool that works.

    Ron and I began exploring for additional support beyond our DSA community. The Oak Park Coalition for Truth and Justice (OPCTJ), the Unity Temple Social Mission Committee and the Young Democratic Socialists (YDS) from Oak Park River Forest High School joined us.

    During the financial problems that were bubbling around us, the voters of Oak Park endorsed the ordinance with a 60% "YES" vote. Fifty-four of fifty-eight precincts voted in favor. So at the first Village Board meeting after the voters gave their recommendation, Ron and I presented the Board with copies of the ordinance and the vote tally. Greg Marsey, the one remaining supporter on the Board clapped. The rest of the board sat immobile.

    As the Board took no action, we went to the Board meeting on the day that Barack Obama was inaugurated as our 44th President. We tried to channel the electricity of the day. Reverend Jean Darling, pastor of the Peoples Church of Chicago and a resident of Oak Park and Ron Chew, member of the Third Unitarian Church of Chicago, also a resident of Oak Park, joined Ron and myself. We spoke to the dignity of work and workers and asked the Board to act in the spirit of change and hope and vote for a living wage ordinance. We noted that Oak Park prides itself in being a progressive community and that Chicago and Cook County already have Living Wage Ordinances as do at least 140 other localities in the US (as of 2006). We also said we would make the issue an election issue in the upcoming Village elections.

    The Board punted. On January 30th, I received an email from John Murtagh. He is the chair of the Oak Park Community Relations Commission (CRC). His email stated that "the Oak Park Village Board requested that the CRC conduct a review of Living Wage issues and prepare a recommendation for the full board's review."

    Ron and I attended the meeting of the CRC on Feb. 18th. Before the meeting started, John Murtagh told me that this was the first "meat and potatoes" issue the Commission had had to deal with in a long time. Murtagh presented the Board's "charge" and said that the CRC should be objective and nonpartisan. Every time a Commission member voiced what sounded like support (for example, that 60% of the voters had approved the referendum so that should give the Commission some direction) Murtagh would stop the proceedings.

    He had no problem presenting his version of doom and gloom: job loss, for example. I got the impression that several members of the Commission were enjoying themselves as Murtagh would get red-faced in reaction to something someone said.

    Out of the meeting, a subcommittee was formed to do the necessary research to resolve the Board's charge. Given his apparent hostility to the living wage ordinance, I'm glad that Murtagh decided against joining this subcommittee. He did question whether or not they were up to the task, which seemed a negative way to deal with his fellow Commission members.

    Subsequently, he sent an email to the Commission members pointing out that while the ordinance received a 60% "Yes" vote, Obama received an 84.3% "Yes" vote in Oak Park. He felt it important to consider this vote difference. Bamshad Mobasher, one of the Commission members, wrote back that all that told us was that Obama was more popular than a living wage ordinance and that Obama was probably more popular than any other candidate on the ballot.

    I also checked and discovered that 2,505 more votes were cast for a Presidential choice than were cast for, or against the Living Wage Ordinance, which is nearly an 8.6% vote difference there.

    We will continue to attend the CRC meetings and supply information. We will continue doing outreach. The UTSMC is going to ask the entire congregation to endorse the ordinance. We are trying to get help from ARISE, which is the Chicago chapter of Interfaith Workers Justice. We see no reason to allow a governmental body to exploit workers.


    Free Choice Is Just That

    by Tom Broderick

    H.R. 800 is known as the "Employee Free Choice Act of 2007" (EFCA). It starts out:

    "To amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish an efficient system to enable employees to form, join or assist labor organizations, to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes."

    The bill has passed the House. The Senate must act and then it goes to the White House. President Obama pledged to support the EFCA when he was a candidate for President of the United States. The labor movement spent hundreds of millions of dollars, and provided volunteers across the country to change the political landscape during the last election cycle. If Obama waffles or worse, promotes "bipartisan" change to the bill, we must fight back.

    This amendment is about enabling employees. It has no carrot for employers and employers are dedicated to defeat it. One of the founders of Home Depot, Bernie Marcus, during a conference call among CEOs, lamented that passage of the EFCA would bring the demise of civilization. Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

    Bank of America hosted the conference call. This is same bank that was forced to pay the salaries, severance and vacation pay to the United Electrical workers who occupied the Republic Windows and Doors plant in Chicago late last year. Workers standing up for their rights created this victory. I got one email from friends in Spain and another from a Peace Corp Volunteer in Mauritania cheering on the UE workers. The occupation was global news and the victory is a model.

    EFCA has three main components. Section 2 is titled Streamlining Union Certification. The basic change is that when 50% + 1 of employees within a "unit" wish to be represented by a labor organization, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) shall investigate the petition. If the Board finds that the petitions are valid and that no other group is currently recognized as the exclusive representative of the employees the Board will certify the labor organization as the representative of the employees.

    This changes the dynamic. Currently, the employers can call for an election. If the EFCA is passed, the employees decide whether an election to validate their wishes is needed, or if the 50% + 1 "card check" is a true representation of their choice. Certification becomes the employees' right, not the employers.

    Although employers decry this change as the end of democracy in the workplace, they are lying. There is no democracy in the workplace. Employers like the election process because they control the workplace.

    Mandatory company meetings used to skewer unionization -- Employer privilege. Firing pro-union employees -- Employer privilege, even if illegal, because the penalties are cotton candy. Threats of job loss, workplace closing, workplace relocation and other forms of retaliation -- Employer privilege, even if lies. Hysteria, threats and lies are fundamental to anti-union drives.

    Workers supporting unionization are harassed. The current process is sport for employers and workers are skeet. Employers hire anti-union professionals, including law firms, with entire sections dedicated to defeating unionization. Employers would call these people thugs, if employed by unions.

    By changing the process to allow workers to decide whether a card check or an election is what is necessary to secure their rights, the EFCA returns the right of forming or joining labor organizations to the workers. The employers get no say. That's what labor rights are about.

    At the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, Newt Gingrich had this to say about the EFCA: "This bill is a mortal threat to American freedom and we will never forgive somebody who votes for cloture or for passage."

    The next section is titled Facilitating Initial Collective Bargaining Agreements. This section sets a timeline and a procedure for giving the employees the representation they have chosen. It has three parts.

    The first says that within ten days of receiving notice from a certified employee representative, employees and employers must meet and commence collective bargaining. They must also make every "reasonable effort to conclude and sign a collective bargaining agreement." There is a caveat that both sides can agree on a different time frame.

    The second says that if after 90 days (same caveat as above), the employees and the employers have failed to come to an agreement, they "may notify the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service of the existence of a dispute and request mediation." At this point, the Service must promptly do what it can to bring both parties to agreement.

    The third says that if 30 days after the request for mediation (same caveat listed above), the Service cannot bring an agreement, the Service will refer the dispute to an arbitration board. "The arbitration panel shall render a decision settling the dispute and such decisions shall be binding upon both parties for a period of two years."

    This process is only applicable to the first contract agreement, meaning that employers will be free to bargain in bad faith and draw out "negotiations" during subsequent negotiations. So, even if the EFCA is passed and signed into law, as is, the labor movement has won only one important victory: bringing the right to organize back to workers themselves.

    A labor lawyer I spoke with says the provision of binding arbitration will be immediately challenged in the courts. The judicial system gave employers the right to interfere in what was a workers' process initially. The courts determined that employers had their free speech denied when not allowed to bully employees and their right to unionize. And yet the courts say I cannot yell "FIRE" in a crowded theater?

    Recently, I was listening to a radio program discussing the civil rights movement of the 1960s. During the program, some young African Americans voiced that there was no struggle like that one today.

    Wrong. There are struggles aplenty, and no less important. We've experienced decades of wealth transfer from the poor, the working class and the middle class to the rich. We've experienced growth in productivity without income growth except for the wealthy. What was substituted for wages and benefits was the ability to borrow with compound interest. We were allowed / forced to shop at the "company store." We were led into debt.

    What we aren't seeing is the street action that was such a visible and vital part of the civil rights movement. In the case of the EFCA, beyond spending money, worker actions may be necessary. Keep the UE action at Republic Windows and Doors in mind.

    The labor movement is a much-weakened force. It doesn't have the deep pockets of corporations. Neither can labor trump corporate ownership of media. What labor does have are people who are being screwed -- both inside and outside organized labor. Energizing that entire base is crucial. If we can't win real rights for workers under the Obama administration, with someone like Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor, then the labor movement might as well give up on the Democratic Party all together.

    The final section deals with enforcement. It's entitled: Strengthening Enforcement. Justice relies on enforcement. This section details remedies for violations. One plus in the amendment is that instead of simply providing only back pay to workers who have been discriminated against (fired, for example), the employer would have to also kick in two times that amount in damages.

    And finally, any employer who "willfully or repeatedly commits any unfair labor practice . . . shall, in addition to any make-whole remedy ordered, be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $20,000 for each violation."

    I may be missing it in my reading, but it would also be important to get the reinstatement of any workers who have been mistreated in any way during a union drive. The timeline in dealing with violations is shortened. Getting workers immediately back on the job would be a visible victory.

    Still, passage of the EFCA is no panacea. Permanent worker replacement will remain legal. Secondary boycotts will remain prohibited. Currently some unions are negotiating contracts that include "no strike" clauses and others are negotiating contracts that call for ignoring the picket lines of other unions. There is no strength in these scenarios. Neither is there worker strength when unions negotiate contracts with employers behind the backs of workers. It's possible that the EFCA could curtail this action as well. After all, with the EFCA, workers would have the right of certification.

    Passing the EFCA is critical, but we need to do more to create a vital and democratic labor movement. This is a big civil rights movement: the right of workers to better their lives collectively and democratically. This will take solidarity, brains, and the kind of courageous action we saw exhibited by the United Electrical Workers at Republic Windows and Doors.

    Editor's Note: The EFCA has been re-introduced in the current Congress but not all Illinois Democrats are on board. In any case, all Representatives and Senators need to hear from EFCA supporters. Call or write their offices or go to http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/freechoiceact_intro09/


    There's an Abolition Bill in the Illinois State Legislature. Comrades, Let's Rock the House.

    by Tom Broderick

    The death penalty is an act of violence used primarily as a prosecutorial tool. It is inhumane as well as fiscally irresponsible. Large amounts of money that would be better spent on crime intervention and prevention, substance abuse and mental health programs and assistance to victims of crime are diverted to snuffing life.

    Representative Karen Yarbrough (D-7) recently introduced HB 262 in the Illinois General Assembly. This bill takes our existing criminal code and removes the penalty of death from all crimes. If passed by our Legislature, Illinois could become one more abolitionist state.

    Originally, it was sent to the Judiciary II Criminal Law Committee. Committees are often burial grounds for bills. To get out of Committee a majority of the members would need to vote to send the bill to the floor of the House. This Committee has four Democrats and three Republicans. Three of the Democrats are cosponsors of HB262. The fourth Democrat, Emily McAsey (D-85) is a former Will County state prosecutor who supports the death penalty, as do all three Republicans. Not a good scenario.

    On Thursday, March 5th, a "substitution" was made in the Committee. Rep. McCasey was "substituted" and Rep. Karen Yarbrough, the bill's sponsor, became a Committee member. The bill was passed out of Committee. This substitution would need the backing of the House Democratic leadership. Now, we need to thank and encourage the cosponsors and put pressure on all other House members. Pressure must also be applied to the Senate.

    As of this writing, the additional cosponsors are Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25), Arthur L. Turner (D-9), Harry Osterman (D-14), LaShawn K. Ford (D-8), Deborah Mell (D-40), Esther Golar (D-6), Julie Hamos (D-18), Constance A. Howard (D-34), Al Riley (D-38), Deborah L. Graham (D-78), Jehan A. Gordan (D-92), Annazette Collins (D-10), Mary E. Flowers (D-31), Cynthia Soto (D-28) and Robert Rita (D-28).

    An effort was made to find a Republican cosponsor but without success.

    If you recognize any of the above as your Representative, take time to thank them for their leadership. If your Representative is not listed, give them a call and tell them you would like their support for HB262, the bill to abolish the death penalty. It's likely that between the time I write and the time you get this newsletter others will have added their names as cosponsors.

    Once you have spoken with them, call the Chicago DSA office (773.384.0327) and let us know who you are, who your Representative is and what response you got. Chicago DSA is working with the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (www.icadp.org) to halt this hate crime. As a resident of Oak Park, it's a pleasure to report that both of our Representatives (Ford and Graham) were quick cosponsors.

    Nationally, abolition activity is high. In 2007, New Jersey became the first state to legislatively abolish the death penalty since it was reinstated in 1976. By declaring the process unconstitutional, the New York Supreme Court abolished the death penalty in that state in 2004.

    Bills to end capital punishment have been introduced in at least eight other states: Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, New Hampshire, Maryland, Washington, Kansas and New Mexico. In New Mexico the House voted to abolish the death penalty and sent the bill to the Senate. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has indicated that he is considering signing the bill because of miscarriages of justice and high costs.

    The motivating factor behind many, if not all, of these bills is the extraordinary costs involved in pursuing an execution. Legislators, Governors and state commissions on capital punishment are experiencing the financial pain involved in trying capital cases. Moral concerns may be muffled, but the pinched pocket book does cause reaction.

    Like Illinois, many states have not carried out executions in years. People are condemned. They are put on death row. They are warehoused.

    Our state has an official moratorium on executions, enacted by then Governor George Ryan in 2000. As a State Legislator, Ryan supported the death penalty. As Governor, he was responsible for signing off on executions. Andrew Kokoraleis, who was executed on March 17, 1999, was the only person put to death by Ryan. That responsibility troubled him, and doubt led him to question the fairness of the system.

    Ryan eventually recognized that capital punishment is not justice. Just before leaving office in 2003, Ryan emptied death row. He pardoned four men who had been tortured into confessing to crimes they did not commit. He then commuted the sentences of 167 men and women to life without possibility of parole or in some few cases to finite terms.

    Illinois has condemned nearly 300 people to death since the reinstatement of the death penalty. Eighteen have been exonerated. This is a 6% failure rate for our justice system, the highest among states that seek execution. Illinois is the worst of the worst when it comes to condemning the innocent.

    It's been ten years since Illinois carried out an execution and the current Democratic Governor, Pat Quinn, says he has no plan to end the moratorium. But the moratorium exists at the Governor's whim. During our last gubernatorial election, the Republican candidate, Judy Baar Topinka, said she supported ending it.

    California, Maryland and Delaware have de facto moratoria. Nebraska has no legal method of execution. The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled that electrocution is unconstitutional and no alternative has been approved.

    Fourteen states, along with the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, have no death penalty. The states are: Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

    So far this year, there have been fifteen executions in the United States. All have been men in southern states. Texas has put eight to death; Alabama two; and Oklahoma, Tennessee, Florida, Virginia and South Carolina one each. Right now fifteen men are on death row in Illinois. Until we get rid of the abomination, more will join them. With your help, we can abolish this beast.

    As part of the campaign to build support for HR262, the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty asked for letters of support. The following is the letter submitted by Chicago DSA.

    Put an end to the death penalty now.

    The Chicago chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America is in full support of the Illinois Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty's campaign to end capital punishment in Illinois.

    Execution is a cruel and increasingly, unusual form of punishment that is masqueraded as justice. There is no need to execute a human being. Ensuring public safety is a vital responsibility of government. Incarceration is an alternative that can provide that necessary safety.

    However, incarceration is a response to a criminal action and it should not be considered the best choice. We live in a society that seems to enjoy punishment. Instead, we must focus on ways to intervene before crimes take place. We need to work with those who are incarcerated, with the goal of successful reintroduction of these human beings back into the world. We need to view punishment and incarceration as admissions of failures within our society.

    As socialists, we believe that a more humane and just society would go far in crime prevention and do a much better job of ensuring public safety. Free physical and mental healthcare, from cradle to grave, quality public education from pre-school through post-secondary, guaranteed housing, food and jobs that pay a living wage. These are all goals that a humane and just society should embrace.

    The execution process is inhumane. It is fallible. It is arbitrary. It is racist. It cannot be reversed, once carried out.

    A blue ribbon panel, appointed by former Governor George Ryan, investigated the capital punishment system in Illinois for two years. This panel made a good faith effort to recommend systemic reforms. Ultimately they reported that even if all the recommended reforms were put in place, there could be no guarantee that an innocent person would not suffer a wrongful execution.

    Abolition is justice!

    Tom Broderick, Co-chair, Chicago DSA


    Lies, Damned Lies -- and Statistics:

    Resurrection West Suburban Hospital Cooks the PR Books

    by Bill Barclay

    Recently Pat Shehorn, the new CEO at Oak Park's Resurrection West Suburban Hospital (RWS; she also continues as CEO at Westlake Hospital in Melrose), had initiated a PR campaign to rehabilitate the hospital's image in the minds of the surrounding community. In both ads and letters to the Oak Park newspapers, Shehorn has claimed that RWS is "among the 20 best places to work in health care." She has gone on to charge an unnamed union for allegedly distorting the facts about RWS quality record. Shehorn's PR campaign does not stop with the media blitz, however; as you enter the main lobby of the hospital, large banners proclaim the "20 best places to work in health care" message.

    If RWS is among the 20 best places to work in health care, it would represent an amazing turn around in a very short time. Many readers will remember that it was only last year that RWS housekeeping staff charged the hospital with discrimination against its African-American and Latino employees, alleging discrimination in job reassignments, on the job treatment, and firings by a white manager overseeing a largely African American and Latino workforce. In fact the employees went so far as to file a grievance with the Illinois Department of Human Rights and appeared before the Oak Park Community Relations Commission (CRC), asking the CRC to intervene in the conflict. As the discussion at the CRC made clear, the workers only took this unusual step because of WRS's refusal to consider their grievances. It is hard to believe that such a dramatic turn around as Shehorn's letter implies had occurred in such a short time.

    And, in fact, there is no evidence that a significant change in reality -- as distinct from PR -- has actually occurred. When examined closely, the "survey" that Shehorn cites and that is the source for her "20 best" ranking has serious flaws. First, there were a very limited number of entities included in the survey: only 238 "providers, suppliers and payers." In the U.S. there are over 6,000 hospitals alone, not to mention the additional categories of suppliers and payers. This is not a national survey, nor even a region-wide survey. The health entity itself determines whether or not to participate in the survey. Thus, comparisons are meaningless because we know nothing about the actual universe of participating health care facilities -- except that, in this case, it was quite small and was not the result of any recognized sampling technique.

    Ms. Shehorn's PR's offensive goes on to claim that the unidentified union -- we all know it is AFSCME -- uses outdated information about RWS. However, the claims that AFSCME makes do not comment at all on RWS as a place to work, the primary focus of Ms. Shehorn's PR attack. Instead, AFCME literature and mailings have reported on the measures (generally from 2007) used by the Health Quality Alliance as well as other surveys to rate RWS on quality of care, particularly certain types of emergency heart care. RWS did not do well on the surveys cited. Ms. Shehorn evades these legitimate concerns, providing no information that contradicts any of the conclusions presented.

    There are many dedicated nurses and doctors at RWS, but their efforts to improve quality of care too frequently fall victim to bottom-line revenue demands of the Resurrection Hospital chain. It is unfortunate that Ms. Shehorn, who recently replaced a CEO hostile to RWS employees' interest in unionization, has not taken the opportunity offered by a fresh start to unclench RWS's fist and reach out a hand to employees and the community. RWS working with the employees' desires to create a voice for themselves through union representation and being responsive to community interests and concerns gives us all the best chance of achieving high quality health care and to truly achieve a ranking of among the 20 best -- in fact, why not the best -- places to work in health care.


    Nature Knows Best

    by Eric Schuster

    Soil Not Oil: Environmental Justice in an Age of Climate Crisis by Vandana Shiva, South End Press, 2008

    An old Jay Leno joke goes, "NASA just released their new report on global warming or, as President Bush calls it -- Spring." But the concomitant economic and environmental crises the world now faces demands more than satirizing the last 30 years of neo-liberal political economy, as comforting as humor is when everything seems in a state of collapse. Indeed, collapse has led to a significant paradigm shift, in which the Triple Crisis that Vandana Shiva articulates in copious and convincing detail in her compelling polemic -- that global warming threatens human existence, that oil has become far too costly for the planet's ecological and social structures, and that these crisis have set off a global food crisis -- are now widely discussed within the mainstream in the industrialized world and beyond.

    "Industry and commerce," Marx wrote in Capital, are "supplying agriculture with the means of exhausting the soil". He would have been shocked, though hardly surprised, at how the unchecked globalized corporate production model is close to exhausting the Earth's ability to maintain a sustainable climate and food supply for its inhabitants. The contemporary data is truly alarming. The U.S. Department of Agriculture which tracks U.S. food insecurity says that 36.2 million people, of which 12.4 million are children, were food insecure in 2007, prior to the economic collapse. The most recent global figures from the Food & Agriculture Organization is 963 million hungry people, and more recent data suggest that the economic crisis will push this total well over one billion. The privatization of water resources so -- dynamically rejected in Bolivia -- continues apace, as the 1.4 billion people in the world without access to clean water and the 2.5 billion without sanitation are deemed potential new consumers (about 25 million people a year die as a result of water-related diseases).

    Though the increasing evidence of climate degradation has overtaken nuclear holocaust and terrorism as the principal prime-time fear in mainstream media and popular culture, the overall effect on public health is less sensational. Malaria, diarrhea, malnutrition, and infectious diseases are all compounded by global warming, as the World Health Organization believes that almost one third of global disease can be directly related to environmental risk factors. And it's not just the Global South that suffers, as evidenced by the deadly heat waves that baked Britain in 2003 and Chicago in 1995, and the recently renewed movement against the clean coal propagandists. Here Shiva's exposition of carbon trading and pollution quotas is enlightening, as she recalls (President Obama's National Economic Council chief) Lawrence Summers' 1991 memo to his World Bank staff recommending clients move "dirty industries" to less developed countries.

    The global economy's disastrous dependence on oil is a main theme of Shiva's, specifically the ways in which the political economy of oil is pursued at the expense of sustainable agriculture. The book focuses on the links between motorized transport, road building, and their manufacture and the negative consequences for rural communities and small farmers, as well as the interrelationships between the petrochemical monopolies and agribusiness. Shiva points out that ox carts, trees and cows are never, ever recognized as infrastructure, in the way that roads and transport are. Soil not Oil is also superb on the immense destruction that is the promise of bio-fuels, but does not analyze in depth the parallel structures that de-populate rural areas and enlarge cities of the Global South with millions of landless farmers that capitalism finds unemployable. The food crisis "Creates a disposable people," Shiva notes, but goes little further. That these struggles were wholly embraced at the 2009 World Social Forum (with significant contributions from the eco-socialist movement) is evidenced by the World Social Forum call for land and work rights, and energy and food sovereignty, for the world's poor, and is illustrative of how the global justice movement is seeking to articulate and inspire democratic political alternatives.

    Less well articulated here is the struggle over Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which Shiva tackled in an earlier book, Biopiracy: The Plunder of Nature and Knowledge. The GMO battle has been noisy in the industrialized world, where activists have seized on the urgency of opposing the patenting of the world's seed supply, and the public health issues related to GMO food, and Soil not Oil would have benefited from an updated examination of this critical topic. The anti-GMO struggle in Europe has been more successful, where popular clamor has forced the EU to reject initiatives by member countries to lift bans on GMO crops. Says GMO activist and Spectrezine editor Steve McGiffen, "smallpox is more popular in Europe than is GM food," citing a coalition that includes radicals, greens, anti-capitalist parties, and rural conservatives, who fear the power of big corporations, intensive agriculture, and the health, environmental and animal welfare problems associated with the GMO industry. In the U.S. GMO cultivation has gone from zero in 1980 to more than 100 million acres today, and its copious use is in evidence in each of our kitchens. Anti-GMO forces in the U.S. have so far been stymied by the inordinate power of Monsanto (whose employees have included Donald Rumsfeld, Clarence Thomas, and a host of EPA administrators) and its peers: ADM, Cargill, and the like.

    The defeat of the free-market fundamentalists in the recent U.S. elections -- which occurred after Soil not Oil was produced -- has unleashed a long-overdue optimism on the part of climate, energy and food activists and their supporters regarding prospects for change. But the new political environment presents a new set of problems. Amidst the challenges -- budget deficits, declining prices for energy, the immediate need to feed the hungry -- lies the more central role of our attitude to the current food / climate / energy crisis. Is it only a scientific and commercial error, correctable within a more benevolent capitalism? Or are the problems and solutions systemic?

    Shiva locates the problem within the "industrial paradigm," that of the industrial North and the market economy, made worse by "the effects of globalization and trade liberalization." Food sovereignty is a first-order solution, as industrial agriculture "is a recipe for eating oil," and Shiva cites Navdanya Farm, the Indian agricultural cooperative and bio-diverse organic farming movement that she helped found, as a living counter-example. More fundamentally, Shiva rejects a top-down sustainability structure as a continuation of "Eco-imperialism," and instead promotes "an Earth Democracy" wherein the transition to a post fossil-fuel economy is dependent on rejecting the "Mechanistic worldview" of industrialism. Such a shift would be "above all a political transition" away from the scarcities created by market structures. Shiva urges adapting a self-organizing and self-generating principal for social change, based on traditional ideologies of Shakti (the notion of creative energy in the feminine form) for rejuvenating work and society.

    By implicitly rejecting industrialism in all its forms, and by seeking solutions in a rural community that disdains the use of technical advances, Soil not Oil ultimately falls in the long tradition of utopian literature. Indeed, the clarion call for the intentional community retains a powerful pull on those who seek solutions to the chaos of capital, but it does not offer a realistic alternative for those millions in the world who are most in need. That Shiva makes no substantive reference to social class is less a refutation of traditional analysis (old or new), but rather a belief in the transformative power of what she calls the "renewable energy of ecology" to pull humanity back from the brink of destruction.

    But it does not account for capitalism's fortunate history of getting itself out of such crisis. That the current debate among the U.S. left is how best to temper (or support) a privatized jobs and stimulus program, and a health care program administered by the private sector, is illustrative of how capital remains in charge. Soil not Oil offers no guidance on this dilemma, nor does it comment on the notion that capital feeds on not just oil, but on the very crises it creates, a compelling idea put forward by Naomi Klein and others. That democratic movements by and for poor communities can transform national politics, as Shiva hopes, is undeniable, as the examples of Bolivia and Nepal demonstrate. But their transformative power lay in how they conceived their movements as an explicit challenge to the dominant forces of (internal and external) capital and it social classes, and thus turned crisis into a victory for bottom-up democracy. "Capitalism is always faced with crises," cautioned Tariq Ali in a recent Nation article. "Its ability to adapt and survive should not be underestimated." Nevertheless, Vandana Shiva's caution, that the social structure of energy and food production and consumption requires fundamental change, is a project that we must pursue.

    Editor's Note: Eric Schuster teaches History in Chicago.


    You're Either At the Table or On the Menu

    by Bob Roman

    Having spent a week in the hospital recently, I followed the Obama Administration's White House health care summit with some interest. That the principles Obama hopes Congress uses in drafting health care legislation emphasizes lowering the cost of health care over everything else (despite his remarks that bowed toward universality) was no surprise. Obama made it clear enough while campaigning for President that he had no interest in pushing for a universal publicly run health insurance plan (a.k.a. "single-payer"). What was a surprise was his Administration's hostility toward advocates of such a plan. That they did not invite a single advocate for the "single-payer" option until pressured to do so is hardly likely to have been a mistake. It was instead a message.

    The usual lefty narrative for why repeated attempts at a national health plan have failed is to blame the medical and insurance industries (or more generically the "capitalists"). We're not wrong about that. But the fact is that our government is structured to discourage any legislation that is not supported by some degree of consensus among all the interested parties. The need for a super-majority in the Senate to end debate is simply the most obvious aspect. There is also the committee system within the House and the Senate, the need for the co-equal House and Senate to negotiate their differences, the possibility of a Presidential veto and the super-majorities needed to over-ride it, and ultimately review by the courts. At each step along the way, there are opportunities for a willful party to kill outright or fatally sabotage a proposal.

    During the last significant attempt at systemic health care reform during the Clinton Administration, advocates of a "single-payer" approach to health care were every bit as enthusiastic in opposing Clinton's proposal as the usual suspects from industry and finance were. With no consensus, none of the competing plans went anywhere. "But. . .," Obama said, "this time will be different."

    So should advocates of "single-payer" get with the Obama program? Certainly Obama is correct in that the air of desperation that exudes from the less well off on this issue has not only grown but also spread to business and to health care providers. This gets politicians' attention. The aggravated distress provides a perfect rationale for some past supporters of "single-payer" to accept whatever comes out of the process and proclaim victory.

    But it also makes sense to continue demanding the whole loaf: in this session of Congress, HR 676 "Medicare for All" for example. But failing that, would we settle for legislation that allowed for and supported experiments in "single-payer" health care on a state level (HB 311, currently being considered by the Illinois General Assembly, for example)? Or would a reform that would gradually erode private insurance in favor of a public system suffice? At what point, if any, should advocacy for civilized social medicine become part of the veto process?


    Other News

    compiled by Bob Roman

    Happy 100 Nelson Algren

    The Nelson Algren Committee (http://www.nelsonalgren.org) will celebrate Chicago author Nelson Algren's centenary on Saturday, March 28, at 8 PM, in St. Paul's Cultural Center / Acme Art Works at 2215 W. North Avenue in Chicago. This year's event, the 20th annual, is also dedicated to Studs Terkel, one of the founders of the Nelson Algren Committee. Admission is $10, $7 for students and seniors, or less if you're broke. Refreshments will be available. The Nelson Algren Committee also uses the occasion to honor local artists and activists who demonstrate Algren's ideal of "a conscience in touch with humanity." This year's honorees are veteran documentary filmmaker Denis Mueller; pioneering urban environmentalist Ken Dunn, founder of the Resource Center; and Alma Washington, performer and union leader who keeps alive the memory of 19th-century labor and civil rights activist Lucy Parsons. Previous Algren Committee Award winner Don Rose will speak, and other past honorees will be in attendance. The festivities also include live performances of music and poetry, art, and recorded media. For more information, call 773.235.4267.

    Some Recent Chicago DSA Activities

    Chicago DSA sponsored the cablecast of Bill Donovan's documentary film Michael Harrington and Today's Other America. It was shown on Chicago's public access Channel 19 on February 26 and 27. Featuring a cast of rightwing and leftwing public intellectuals that would do honor to a CUNY student union (and then some), music by Bruce Springsteen and others, the documentary re-examines Harrington's historic book on American poverty, The Other America. The cablecast was available to all cable subscribers within the city of Chicago, but we have no information as to the actual audience: maybe hundreds, maybe thousands. If you missed it or live outside of Chicago, the film is available for rental or purchase from Film Makers' Library. See http://www.filmakers.com/index.php?a=filmDetail&filmID=1006 . If you'd like to arrange a public showing, call the Chicago DSA office at 773.384.0327.

    Our friends in the Chicago Socialist Party (.com) arranged for Dr. Axel Fair-Schulz of SUNY Potsdam to speak on "Back to Marx: Left Opposition in East German," and Chicago DSA signed on as a cosponsor. The event was held on Thursday, March 12, at the St. Paul Cultural Center, 2215 W. North Av in Chicago.

    So that the 6th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War would not pass unnoticed, Chicago DSA signed on as a sponsoring organization to the March 14 march and rally in the Pilsen neighborhood. Most of the CDSA Executive Committee did not have much in the way of expectations regarding turn out, feeling that the economy probably swamps concern over the war. But it is important that noise be made, attention be paid. By the time this issue reaches arrives in your mailbox, you'll know if we were pleasantly surprised. Regardless of the turnout, the event did have some drama in its organization as the City initially refused to grant a permit for the march. Ultimately, a permit was granted because the City became entangled in its own red tape. Organizers of the march suggested the City was opposed to demonstrations against the war though possibly it may be just anti-war demonstrations involving Andy Thayer. Either way, it was a victory for civil liberties.

    Chicago DSA endorsed Gary Schwab for President of the Oak Park Village Board in the April village elections. Call Tom Broderick at 708.386.6007 if you'd like to help.


    New Ground #123.1

    04.02.2009

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Working Together for Justice
    Commission on Global Financial Issues

    1. Politics

    Employee Free Choice Act
    Wage Theft in America
    Worse Than a Messy Divorce
    Abolition
    Living Wage

    2. Democratic Socialism

    More on "Empire"
    Nationalisation, Workers Control, and Workers Ownership

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    DSA News

     

    Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner

    Working Together for Justice!

    Friday, May 1, 6 PM - 9:30 PM

    Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro, Halsted & Madison, Chicago

    Honoring:

    Timuel Black

    Professor Emeritus of Social Sciences at the City Colleges of Chicago, Educator, Activist, Community Leader, Historian, Author: "Bridges of Memory"

    Jane Ramsey

    Executive Director, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs; Co-Chair, Justice Coalition of Greater Chicago; Director of Community Relations under Mayor Harold Washington

    Our featured speaker:

    Kim Bobo

    Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice; Author: "Wage Theft in America," "Lives Matter," and "Organizing for Social Change" (co-author)

    Tickets are $60 each and must be reserved by Tuesday, April 28. Contributions are not tax deductible.

    To order tickets online, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/d2009/order1.html
    To pay by check or money order, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/d2009/flyer51.pdf for a printable (PDF) flyer.
    For more information, including the Dinner Program Book, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/d2009/index.html

    Commission on Global Financial Issues
    The Socialist International's Commission on Global Financial Issues met in New York on March 31st, just prior to the G20 meeting in London. The Commission issued a message to the leaders at the G20 meeting that called for coordinated international action, from increased regulatory safeguards to demand stimulation to social justice:

    "From this crisis must come a new set of rules to govern our world; our citizens must not be subservient to the market. We must guarantee that markets serve our people's needs.
     
    "We cannot allow profits to be privatised while losses are socialised. The brunt of this crisis must not be borne by its innocent victims around the world."

    For an account of the meeting, see:
    http://www.socialistinternational.org/viewArticle.cfm?ArticleID=1993

    For the text of the open letter to the G20:
    http://www.socialistinternational.org/viewArticle.cfm?ArticlePageID=1360

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Politics

    Employee Free Choice Act
    The Employee Free Choice Act is one of the bottomline demands of the labor movement and despite large Democratic majorities in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, there's real doubt as to whether it will pass. Let your Representative and Senators know that you support its passage. Call or write to their offices today, or email them:
    http://www.unionvoice.org/campaign/freechoiceact_intro09/

    For more information about the act see:
    http://www.dsausa.org/pdf/Employee_Free_Choice_Act_flyer.pdf or
    http://www.iwj.org/template/page.cfm?id=118 or
    http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/employee-free-choice-act/home

     

    Wage Theft in America
    Wage Theft in America is the title of the investigative book written by Kim Bobo, the speaker at our upcoming 2009 Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner (see http://www.wagetheft.org/). A recent Government Accounting Office report confirmed that the Labor Department is indeed failing miserably in enforcing the law. See:
    http://blog.aflcio.org/2009/03/25/gao-labor-department-failing-miserably-in-enforcing-wage-laws/

    Consider for a moment what is likely to be happening in states like Illinois, where the minimum wage is higher than the Federal standard. If employers are paying minimum wage at all, which would you suppose it is?

    Worse Than a Messy Divorce
    DSA member Paul Garver summarizes the current split in UNITE-HERE in Talking Union. If you want to learn more, the dispute has been covered there in an ongoing basis. See:
    http://talkingunion.wordpress.com/2009/03/30/the-demerger-of-unite-here-more-than-a-messy-divorce/

    Abolition
    DSA member Tom Broderick will be part of a panel discussion on "Abolition of the Death Penalty in Illinois: How Do We Get There?" The forum will take place on Sunday, April 19, 12:45 PM, at Unity Temple (Balcony, East Classroom), 875 Lake St, Oak Park. Also on the panel: Ina Marks and Patrick McAnany. The discussion will be facilitated by Rich Pokorny. The event is organized by the Unity Temple Social Mission Committee.

    Living Wage
    DSA members Bill Barclay and Tom Broderick will be part of a panel discussion that also includes Rev. C.J. Hawking, the Executive Director of Arise (the local affiliate of Interfaith Worker Justice). The topic will be the proposed Oak Park Living Wage Ordinance and the discussion will be facilitated by Janet Holden. This event will take place Sunday, April 26, 12:45 PM at the Gale House, 124 N. Kenilworth in Oak Park. The event is organized by the Unity Temple Social Mission Committee.

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Democratic Socialism

    More on "Empire"
    Back in 2001, New Ground published a review of Hardt and Negri's book Empire. (See "Waiting for the Jedi" by Will Kelley at
    http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng79.html#anchor409833) Back then it was being hailed as the next big thing since maybe the third volume of Capital. Antonio Negri has continued elaborating the ideas. His four subsequent books (Reflections on Empire, The Porcelain Workshop, and Goodbye Mr. Socialism) are reviewed in Book Forum by Scott McLemee. See:
    http://www.bookforum.com/inprint/015_04/2973

    Nationalisation, Workers Control, and Workers Ownership
    State ownership of the economy is a typical dictionary definition of socialism. However, British socialist Arthur Bough offers this perspective:

    "The decision of the Labour Representation Committee to pass a resolution advocating support for Workers Self-Management is a tremendous step forward from the failed statist policies of the Left ­ including those that call themselves Marxists ­ of the last 100 years or more. Discussion of strategy and tactics within the Left is developing, and questioning many shibboleths. Its about time. Recent struggles, however, show that the Left, including the supposedly revolutionary Marxist Left, remains in large part tied to a Lasallean view of Socialism, a view of the world dictated by concern not with the direct self-activity and self-emancipation of the working-class, but of a top-down Socialism always seen through the prism of the State."

    To read more:
    http://boffyblog.blogspot.com/2008/12/nationalisation-workers-control-and.html


    New Ground #123.2

    04.15.2009

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Working Together for Justice
    Beyond the Ballot: the YDS Winter Conference
    Rescue the Banks not the Bankers and Shareholders
    "But the banks are made of marble with a guard at every door, and the vaults are stuffed with silver that the workers sweated for."

    1. Politics

    Is It a Depression?
    Where Did the Money Go?
    Illuminating TIFs

    2. Democratic Socialism

    An Agenda for Social Democracy
    "A Whole New Kind of Struggle is Emerging"

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    DSA News

     

    Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner

    Working Together for Justice!

    Friday, May 1, 6 PM - 9:30 PM

    Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro, Halsted & Madison, Chicago

    Honoring:

    Timuel Black

    Professor Emeritus of Social Sciences at the City Colleges of Chicago, Educator, Activist, Community Leader, Historian, Author: "Bridges of Memory"

    Jane Ramsey

    Executive Director, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs; Co-Chair, Justice Coalition of Greater Chicago; Director of Community Relations under Mayor Harold Washington

    Our featured speaker:

    Kim Bobo

    Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice; Author: "Wage Theft in America," "Lives Matter," and "Organizing for Social Change" (co-author)

    Tickets are $60 each and must be reserved by Tuesday, April 28. Contributions are not tax deductible.
    6 PM Cash Bar -- 7 PM Dinner -- 8 PM Program

    To order tickets online, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/d2009/order1.html
    To pay by check or money order, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/d2009/flyer51.pdf for a printable (PDF) flyer.
    For more information, including the Dinner Program Book, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/d2009/index.html

    Beyond the Ballot: the YDS Winter Conference
    Couldn't make it to New York? Here's what happened:
    http://www.ydsusa.org/news/beyond-the-ballot-2009

    Rescue the Banks not the Bankers and Shareholders
    The new plan to rescue the banks follows the same logic as the Bush-Paulson plan: throw taxpayer dollars at the problem to put off nationalizing financial institutions. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's vague proposal relies on another huge infusion of federal equity into "healthy" banks and a massive government insurance program to underwrite a "private market" for financial institutions' toxic assets. This plan is the same "lemon socialism" ­ socialization of the mega-losses of private financial institutions ­ that the Bush Administration put in place.
    http://www.dsausa.org/pdf/Rescue_Banks_not_shareholders.pdf

    "But the banks are made of marble with a guard at every door, and the vaults are stuffed with silver that the workers sweated for."
    So go the lyrics to the old protest song lamenting the stranglehold that the finance industry had on the rest of us. Not much has changed, except that today, due to their own greed, incompetence and arrogance, many banks are looking to restuff their empty vaults with our "silver."
    http://www.dsausa.org/pdf/The_Banks_are_made_of_Marble.pdf

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Politics

    Is It a Depression?
    The politics of the British-based EU think-tank Center for Economic Policy Research (not to be confused with the Washington, DC, think tank with the same name) are probably dubious for most DSA members, but economists Barry Eichengreen and Kevin H. O'Rourke have put together an interesting article with fascinating graphs. If it isn't a depression, they conclude, at least "the world is currently undergoing an economic shock every bit as big as the Great Depression shock of 1929-30. Looking just at the US leads one to overlook how alarming the current situation is even in comparison with 1929-30." See:
    http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/3421

    Where Did the Money Go?
    With Sheriff Obama riding to the rescue of capitalism by pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the banks, where has all the money gone? Loans? Into the Federal Reserve apparently. See Dallars & Sense "Economy in Numbers: Pushing on Strings":
    http://www.dollarsandsense.org/archives/2009/0509friedman.html

    And what are these "reserves" that banks are required to hold and why? For a painless and funny introduction to the economics of banking, see This American Life episode "Bad Bank":
    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1285

    Illuminating TIFs
    Good Jobs First's Jeff McCourt writes: "A specter is haunting Chicago City Hall--the specter of transparency for the city's massive Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program." To read more about the latest Chicago City Council prevarication:
    http://clawback.org/2009/03/31/chicago-aldermen-want-a-brighter-light-on-city's-tif-spending/

    A bill to recapture TIF benefits from companies that do not fulfil their agreements was introduced in the Illinois House by Representative John Fritchey. The bill, HB4326, is an amendment to the Illinois Municipal Code that provides "that any private individual or entity that receives benefits under this Act for the purpose of originating, locating, maintaining, rehabilitating, or expanding a business facility and that abandons or relocates its facility in violation of the agreement shall pay to the municipality an amount equal to the prorated value of the benefit." The bill passed the House 115-1 and is now before the Illinois Senate, cosponsored by John J. Cullerton and Don Harmon.

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Democratic Socialism

    An Agenda for Social Democracy
    Way down under, at the University of Queensland, the Whitlam Institute has just published the first in a series of essays. This is by John Quiggens, a Federation Fellow in Economics and Political Science at the University of Queensland. In this essay, Quiggens attempts to "restate the case for social democracy and
    to propose a policy agenda in response to the global financial crisis." See:
    http://www.whitlam.org/whitlam/images/whitlam_perspectives_1.pdf

    "A Whole New Kind of Struggle is Emerging"
    For a marxist perspective, see this interview of Monthly Review editor John Bellamy Foster:
    http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/02/a-whole-new-kind-of-struggle-is-emerging/

     

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Upcoming Events of Interest

    Events listed here are not necessarily endorsed by Chicago DSA but should be of interest to DSA members, friends and other lefties. For other events, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/page9.html.

    Friday, April 17, 11 AM
    International Day of Peasants' Struggles!
    Chicago Merchantile Exchange (20 S. Wacker, Chicago?)
    To protest the violations of the rights of peasants and agricultural workers due to the dramatically increasing liberalization of the world's food system. For more information, contact Tristan Quinn-Thibodeau Tristan@whyhunger.org

    Friday, April 17 through Saturday, April 18
    Ending the Cycle of War - Beyond Corporate Dominance:
    Which Way Forward for the Justice, Peace and Environment Movement?

    Peoples Church, 941 W. Lawrence, Chicago
    Illinois Coalition for Justice, Peace and the Environment Annual Meeting. Friday night features Riane Eisler, Dean Baker, and Robert Naiman. Registration for the entire event is $45, less for parts. For more information, go to http://icjpe.org/

    Sunday, April 19, 12:45 PM to 3 PM
    Abolition of the Death Penalty in Illinois: How Do We Get There?
    Unity Temple, Balcony, East Classroom, 875 Lake St, Oak Park
    Panel discussion with Tom Broderick, Ina Marks, Patrick McAnany. Sponsored by the Unity Temple Social Mission Committee

    Wednesday, April 22, 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM
    Bankers, Brokers, Bubbles and Bailouts:
    The Causes and Consequences of the Economic Crisis

    The Orientation Center, 2219 N. Rockwell Av, Chicago
    A United for a Fair Economy participatory workshop on the causes of the current economic crisis and what we can do about it. Sponsored by the Chicago Working Group on Extreme Inequality.

    Thursday, April 23, 8 PM
    Dolores Huerta
    NEIU Auditorium, about 5500 N. St Louis, Chicago
    DSA Honorary Chair Dolores Huerta will lecture as part of Northeastern Illinois University's Presidential Lecture Series. For more information:
    http://www.neiu.edu/NEIU%20Events/Jewel%20Box%20Series/Performing%20Arts%20Series/Events/Dolores_Huerta.html

    http://www.neiu.edu/NEIU%20Events/Jewel%20Box%20Series/Parking/Parking.html

    Sunday, April 26, 12:45 PM to 2:30 PM
    A Living Wage for the Village of Oak Park
    Gale House, 124 N. Kenilworth, Oak Park
    Panel discussion with Tom Broderick, Rev. C.J. Hawking, Bill Barclay. Sponsored by the Unity Temple Social Mission Committee

    Thursday, April 30, 6:45 PM
    Social Crisis and the Restitution of Karl Marx
    Lincoln Park Library, 1150 W. Fullerton, Chicago
    Historian William Pelz discusses what parts of Marx's life and analysis are being rediscovered and why. An Open University of the Left event.

    Friday, May 1 , 10 AM
    May Day Rally and March:
    Without Legalization, There Can Be No Equal Labor Rights

    Union Park, Lake & Ashland, Chicago
    Rally, followed by a Noon march to the Federal Plaza.

    Saturday, May 2, 11:30 AM
    Employee Free Choice Act
    Chicago DSA Office, 1608 N. Milwaukee, Room 403, Chicago
    Ned Burke leads a discussion of this pending legislation.

    Saturday, May 2, 2 PM to 6:30 PM
    May Day Party
    Quenchers Saloon, Fullerton & Western, Chicago
    Beer, Jazz, Beer, Raffle, Beer, Conversation, Beer, Jazz... Organized by the Chicago Socialist Party and co-sponsored by Chicago DSA, Open University of the Left, Solidarity - Chicago, U.S. Marxist-Humanists


    New Ground #123.3

    04.25.2009

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Working Together for Justice
    Chicago DSA Membership Meeting
    Democratic Left
    Disarmament

    1. Politics

    May Day Rally and March
    The Labor Movement's Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
    Socialist Success
    The Ludlow Massacre
    Franklin Rosemont, Surrealist Author, Artist and Activist, 1943-2009
    New Fashioned Unions

    2. Democratic Socialism

    The Bolivarian Revolution: Tragedy, Farce or Alternative?
    Understanding Marx

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    DSA News

     

    Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner

    Working Together for Justice!

    Friday, May 1, 6 PM - 9:30 PM

    Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro, Halsted & Madison, Chicago

    Honoring:

    Timuel Black

    Professor Emeritus of Social Sciences at the City Colleges of Chicago, Educator, Activist, Community Leader, Historian, Author: "Bridges of Memory"

    Jane Ramsey

    Executive Director, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs; Co-Chair, Justice Coalition of Greater Chicago; Director of Community Relations under Mayor Harold Washington

    Our featured speaker:

    Kim Bobo

    Executive Director, Interfaith Worker Justice; Author: "Wage Theft in America," "Lives Matter," and "Organizing for Social Change" (co-author)

    Tickets are $60 each and must be reserved by Tuesday, April 28. Contributions are not tax deductible.
    6 PM Cash Bar -- 7 PM Dinner -- 8 PM Program

    To order tickets online, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/d2009/order1.html
    To pay by check or money order, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/d2009/flyer51.pdf for a printable (PDF) flyer.
    For more information, including the Dinner Program Book, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/d2009/index.html

    Chicago DSA Membership Meeting
    Saturday, May 2nd, 11:30 AM at the Chicago DSA office: 1608 N. Milwaukee, Room 403 in Chicago. Ned Burke will lead a discussion of the Employee Free Choice Act. DSA National Director Frank Llewellyn will talk about the DSA National Convention that will be held in Evanston in November; he's looking for your ideas, opinions, and assistance. Non-members are welcome. For information, email chiildsa@chicagodsa.org or call 773.384.0327.

    If that's too dull, don't forget the Chicago Socialist Party's May Day-fest starting at 2 PM on Saturday, May 2, at Quencher's Saloon, Western & Fullerton in Chicago. Featuring free jazz by Undertow, a raffle, beer, beer, and still more beer, it goes until 6 PM or until everyone collapses.

    There will be an Executive Committee meeting at the regularly scheduled time of Tuesday, May 12, 7 PM at the Chicago DSA office. All DSA members are welcome to attend. Of special interest will be a review of the Dinner, finances for the upcoming year, and the June 6 membership convention.

    Chicago DSA's annual membership convention is scheduled for Saturday, June 6 at Noon in the Chicago DSA office. This will be a business meeting, including the election of officers (male co-chair and secretary are up for a two year term and the female co-chair may be open for a one year term) and adoption of a budget. A budget may be an interesting exercise.

    Democratic Left
    The Spring, 2009, issue of Democratic Left is now online:
    http://www.dsausa.org/dl/Spring_2009.pdf

    Disarmament
    With negotiations on nuclear disarmament between the U.S. and Russia beginning again, the Socialist International's Committee on Disarmament's recent meeting had special relavence:
    http://www.socialistinternational.org/viewArticle.cfm?ArticleID=1974

    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Politics

    May Day Rally and March
    On the theme of "Without Legalization, There Can Be No Equal Labor Rights. Rally begins at Union Park, Ashland and Washington in Chicago at 10 AM, Friday, May 1. March to Federal Plaza begins at Noon.

    The Labor Movement's Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform
    The joint statementment between the AFL-CIO and Change to Win begins: 'Immigration reform is a component of a shared prosperity agenda that focuses on improving productivity and quality; limiting wage competition; strengthening labor standards, especially the freedom of workers to form unions and bargain collectively; and providing social safety nets and high-quality lifelong education and training for workers and their families. To achieve this goal, immigration reform must fully protect U.S. workers, reduce the exploitation of immigrant workers and reduce employers' incentive to hire undocumented workers rather than U.S. workers. The most effective way to do that is for all workers- immigrant and native-born-to have full and complete access to the protection of labor, health and safety and other laws. Comprehensive immigration reform must complement a strong, well-resourced and effective labor standards enforcement initiative that prioritizes workers' rights and workplace protections. This approach will ensure that immigration does not depress wages and working conditions or encourage marginal low-wage industries that depend heavily on substandard wages, benefits and working conditions.' More:
    http://www.aflcio.org/issues/civilrights/immigration/upload/immigrationreform041409.pdf

    For DSA's statement on immigrant rights:
    http://www.chicagodsa.org/immigrantrights.html

    Socialist Success
    At BuzzFlash, Senator Bernie Sanders writes: "Representative Spencer Bachus is one of the only people I know from Alabama. I bet I'm the only socialist he knows. I'm certainly the only one the congressman from Birmingham could name after darkly claiming that there are 17 socialists lurking in the House of Representatives." More:
    http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/contributors/1956

    The Ludlow Massacre
    happened 95 years ago this April. If class war in the USA has become less violent, times haven't changed in how our country is run by the rich, for the rich. "daveusa" provides this meditation on Ludlow:
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/4/22/723273/-The-Ludlow-Massacre

    Franklin Rosemont, Surrealist Author, Artist and Activist, 1943-2009
    http://theragblog.blogspot.com/2009/04/franklin-rosemont-surrealist-author.html

    New Fashioned Unions
    At isgreaterthan, Erica Ellen Phillips writes: 'When the United Electrical union workers at Chicago's Republic Windows and Doors occupied their factory in the cold, early days of December last year, they were not alone. Hundreds of activists and community members turned out in solidarity, standing out front with picket signs and providing food for the workers inside. Many of these supporters were organized by a local group called Arise Chicago (formerly Chicago Interfaith Committee on Worker Issues), an example of a labor organizing model that is growing in cities across the country.' More:
    http://isgreaterthan.net/2009/04/new-fashioned-unions-a-profile-of-arise-chicago/

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    Democratic Socialism

    The Bolivarian Revolution: Tragedy, Farce or Alternative?
    At The Activist, published by the Young Democratic Socialists, Bhaskar Sunkara writes: '"We have it in our power to begin the world over again." These were the words of the radical Thomas Paine on the dawn of a great era of revolution that would bestow onto humanity the ideals of the Enlightenment. In this "postmodern era" Paine's words ring hollow. With the collapse of the Eastern Bloc the illusions upon which a nightmare reigned have been stripped bare. Much of the "radical left" has been exposed as not only incapable, but also unworthy, of being standard-bearers of democratic radicalism.' More:
    http://theactivist.org/blog/the-bolivarian-revolution-tragedy-farce-or-alternative

    Understanding Marx
    Brad DeLong begins by writing: 'In the beginning was Karl Marx, with his vision of how the Industrial Revolution would transform everything and be followed by a Great Communist Social Revolution-greater than the political French Revolution-that would wash us up on the shores of Utopia.
    'The mature Marx saw the economy as the key to history: every forecast and historical interpretation must be based on the economy's logic of development. This project as carried forward by others ran dry. Sometimes--as in, say, Eric Hobsbawm's books on the history of the nineteenth century--this works relatively well. But sometimes it led nowhere. The writing of western European history as the rise, fall, and succession of ancient, feudal, and bourgeois modes of production is a fascinating project. But the only person to try it seriously soon throws the Marxist apparatus over the side, where it splashes and sinks to the bottom of the sea. Perry Anderson's Passages from Antiquity to Feudalism and Lineages of the Absolutist State are great and fascinating books, but they are not Marxist. They are Weberian. The key processes in Anderson's books concern not "modes of production" but rather "modes of domination." And when Marx and Engels's writings became sacred texts for the world religion called Communism, things passed beyond the absurd into tragedy and beyond tragedy into horror: the belief that the logic of development of the economy was the most important thing about society became entangled in the belief that Joe Stalin or Mao Zedong or Pol Pot or Kim Il Sung or Fidel Castro was our benevolent master and ever-wise guide.'
    Some of DeLong's essay is arguable (and just what specifically is also arguable), but you'll learn something from the argument:
    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2009/04/delong-understanding-marx-lecture-for-april-20-2009.html

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