New Ground 127
November - December, 2009
- Call for Papers
- Save the Date
- DSA Labor Network
127.1 - 11.30.2009
0. DSA News
DSA National Convention
Emergency Response to the Afghanistan
2. Democratic Socialism
N+1 International by Bob Roman
3. Upcoming Events of Interest
127.2 - 12.15.2009
0. DSA News
Congress Plaza Picket
State Budget Blues
2. Ars Politica
Offers Iran a Word to the Wise
by Hugh Iglarsh
3. Democratic Socialism
A New Capitalism or A New World?
4. Upcoming Events of Interest
127.3 - 01.01.2010
0. DSA News
DSA in the News
Oak Park - Austin Health Alliance
One Year After
Health Insurance Reform
3. Democratic Socialism
Organizing for the Anti-Capitalist
Leftists, Liberals -- and Losers?
5. Upcoming Events of Interest
Slow Motion Budget Train Wreck
by Walker Stumper
Listening to the gubernatorial candidates
especially on the Republican side, you would be excused if you
didn't realize that Illinois has had to use one time non-recurring
budget gimmicks to cover $ 5.8 billion (22%) of its $ 26.08 billion
FY 2010 total General Funds Budget, and that the state budget
shortfall for FY2011 is expected to reach about $ 12 billion
or 45% of the total FY2010 budget -- see http://www.ctbaonline.org/New_Folder/Budget,%20Tax%20and%20Revenue
. By the time you read this, the numbers will have changed a
bit due to more recent estimations that Center for Tax Budget
Accountability (CTBA) had not yet put on-line and probably not
for the better.
Politicians continue to talk about "waste
and fraud" in government and "holding the line or even
cutting" taxes, but they don't mention that the state is
going to be 45% in the hole! You simple cannot cut your way our
of a hole that deep without impairing essential state services,
even if there is still some "waste and fraud" to be
cut. Moreover recent Census data show that Illinois is dead last
among the 50 states in the number of full-time non-educational
employees per 10,000 residents (see analysis by Anders Lindall
at AFSCME (312) 641-6060) and politicians are calling for more
Outside of the laughable nostrums proposed
by the Republican candidates, three approaches to dealing with
Illinois state budget problems are on the table and unfortunately
none "solve" the problem as all would leave a gapping
hole in the budget.
1) Democratic gubernatorial candidate,
current Comptroller Pat Hynes proposed to raise income taxes
only on households making $200,000 or more which he estimate
to be roughly the top 3% of filers, see: http://www.danhynes.com/hynesbudgetplan.pdf.
For this explicitly progressive income tax change to fly Hynes
would have to change the Illinois constitution that mandates
a flat state income tax. Illinois' current flat rate of 3% is
the lowest rate for high income filers in the country among states
that have income taxes, see: http://www.taxadmin.org/fta/rate/ind_inc.html.
This could present an almost impossible political challenge given
entrenched Republican opposition to tax hikes of any kind and
it makes it likely that such a change would not come soon enough
to deal with the FY2011 budget chasm. However, a bigger problem
is that Hynes numbers are off. According to Institute for Taxation
and Economic Policy (ITEP) analysis see: http://www.itepnet.org/Combine_Quinn_and_Hynes.pdf
, and confirmed by analysts at the CTBA, see: http://progressillinois.com/2009/10/20/report-hynes-flaw-tax-plan
, the Hynes estimate is off by about 50% as he assumes that millionaire
filers will pay his top rate of 7.5% on all of their income.
In fact, according to Illinois Department of Revenue data, only
about half of their federally reported adjusted gross income
is taxable in Illinois. So as attractive as the Hynes plan is
from a progressive point of view, it suffers a constitutional
political hurdle and only raises about half ($2.2 billion) of
what it claims to raise (see ITEP report p. 4): a small dent
in the state's $ 12 billion budget shortfall.
2) Governor Pat Quinn's 50 % hike in
personal income tax from 3% to 4.5% and corporate tax from coupled
with an expansion of the personal exemption from $2000 to $3000,
a hike in the corporate income tax from 4.8% to 7.2%, doubling
the residential property tax credit from 5% to 10% of property
tax capped at $500, and increasing the state earned income tax
credit (EITC) for low income filers from 5% to 15% of the federal
EITC. These changes would make the tax change progressive for
very low income filers of around $30,000 per household with property
and dependents, see http://www.itepnet.org/Combine_Quinn_and_Hynes.pdf
p. 4, though note that these calculations are for the "original"
Quinn plan with a $6000 personal exemption. The ITEP (see preceding
link) estimates that the Quinn plan would raise about $3.1 billion:
Hardly adequate to solve the state's budget problems.
3) The Responsible
Budget Coalition led by CTBA, Illinois Citizen Action, key
legislators, and numerous other progressive non-profits and unions,
is proposing a bill modeled on HB 174 that passed the state senate
but was not voted on the floor of the state House. This bill
would hike the basic income tax from 3% to 5%. It includes all
of the exemptions that Quinn included in the latest version of
his bill above (many of these were cribbed from HB 174). It would
lower taxes for households of four with average property taxes
if their household income is below about $30,000. It would also
increase the scope of the Illinois sales tax to include 39 services,
many of which are taxed by neighboring states. This is the best
of the current options in terms of raising state revenue as it
is estimated to net about $ 5.0 billion: see CTBA analysis at:
-%20final.pdf. However, even this is inadequate to address
the state's $ 12 billion hole.
Illinois desperately needs more revenue
to fund public services. Wait for a "battle royale"
on this come the start of the next fiscal year July 2010!
Editor's Note: Walker Stumper is
an anonymous Chicago DSA member who lives and breathes these
numbers for a living. For Rich Whitney's (Green Party) most recent
statement on the issue, see http://www.whitneyforgov.org/joomla/index.php.
by Tom Broderick
Shall the Village of Oak Park enact
a Living Wage ordinance stipulating that a) Village employees,
b) employees of contractors or subcontractors performing work
for the Village, and c) employees of businesses that receive
a significant financial subsidy from the Village, receive a living
wage indexed to inflation that would include health benefits
and time off?
This was the referendum on the Oak Park
ballot for the November 2008 election. Sixty percent of the voters
said "Yes." (See New
Ground 126 and 123.)
The Oak Park Village Board is the only
body that can enact this ordinance and the Board tasked one of
our citizen advisory commissions, the Community Relations Commission
(CRC), to research the impact of a living wage ordinance on the
Village. That work began in February of 2009 and it continues.
After nine months of hard and contentious
work, the CRC met on November 18, 2009 to consider a first draft
proposal that had been put together by members of the Commission.
Since the Commission began work on the
Living Wage Ordinance, not one member of the Village Board
had attended a CRC meeting until November 18. On that night,
before the Commission began discussing their proposal, Village
President David Pope waltzed in and delivered a lengthy monologue
about what the Village Board wanted and didn't want from the
Pope said the Board wanted the pros
and cons of enacting a living wage ordinance, rather than a proposal
to be voted on. Several members of the Commission tried to assure
Pope that they had put together a document that did what he was
One commissioner also pointed out that
the voters of Oak Park had endorsed a Living
Wage Ordinance and that should factor into the discussion.
Pope replied that Oak Park as a truly unique community, and said
that the voters probably responded to the referendum as a "Mom
and Apple Pie" issue. He suggested that the voters may not
grasp the far-reaching ramifications of a living wage ordinance.
It is astounding that the President
of the Village Board would come to a CRC meeting after the commissioners
had struggled with the issue for nine months, to tell them what
the Board wanted from them. What's the point of a citizen advisory
commission? Why serve on one? And what a brazen dismissal of
Does the Community Relations Commission
serve the Board? Does it serve the people of Oak Park? Both?
Who does the Village Board serve? One would expect that finding
a way to enact the wish of 60% of the electorate would resonate
with elected officials.
In addition, immediately after the October
CRC meeting, the chair submitted his resignation as chair. President
Pope refused to accept it, so this obstructionist, who has done
what he can to submarine the Living Wage Ordinance, continues
to chair the Commission. One of the commissioners asked President
Pope why he "usurped" the Commission. Pope responded
that he didn't think "usurp" was the right word. As
tension began to make itself felt, President Pope took his leave.
To its credit, eighty minutes after
Pope hijacked the meeting, the CRC presentation and discussion
of the draft went forward. One of the commissioners involved
in writing it, went through the document and presented the whys
and wherefores of their proposal.
Several commissioners asked questions
and offered ideas. The chair was critical and complained that
those members of the CRC who might have sided with him had left
the Commission. This chorus whine of one declared that he wanted
to submit his own "con" report to the Board. The chair
has preached "thoroughness and objectivity" since day
one. Hopefully he will be allowed to resign as chair and give
up any charade of objectivity. He is as partisan as I am.
The commissioners who worked on the
draft used our proposal as a template. Listening to the
presentation, I heard a couple of major deviations from our proposed
ordinance. Our proposal used a family that was two adults and
two children. The adults both worked full-time and one child
was in school and the other was of pre-school age. The CRC used
a family model of two full-time working adults and one child.
We stated an hourly wage of $14.84 was
needed to allow families to live without assistance. Using the
family chosen by the two members of the CRC, the figure became
$11.50/hour. This is a demographic issue that needa to be checked.
The other major deviation dealt with paid time off: the number
of vacation, sick and family leave days. Our proposal was more
The meeting ended around 10 p.m. with
aggravation permeating the room. The chair said the CRC would
never come to agreement no matter how long they discussed the
issue. He put on his coat and called for a motion to adjourn.
Receiving none, he sat down with his head in his hand. After
more discussion, there was a motion to adjourn that received
support. The chair bolted, only to return moments later. Why?
Perhaps because nearly all the commissioners stayed behind to
discuss the long evening's events.
In the near future, there will likely
be another public forum because the business community now wants
to be heard. Few of this community attended the first public
forum. In September, I asked a member of the downtown business
community for a read of this community's response to the Living
Wage Ordinance. I was told to get out my dictionary and look
up "ludicrous" and "lunacy." Somewhere in
there was the buzz on the street of commerce.
Apparently the owner of the Lake Theatre
said this ordinance would cost him half a million dollars. Time
for proof. Other business owners said that our proposed $14.84/hour
wage would cost businesses more than $17.00/hour once benefits
were factored in. Our proposal clearly stated in English that
if the employer provided benefits, such as health insurance,
these costs could be applied to the $14.84/hour rate. Madness
or meanness -- the business community must prove that its concerns
living wage is a successful anti-poverty tool. Governmental bodies and communities have a
stake in the fight against poverty. Whatever the outcome of the
CRC's work, our Village Board will make the choice to fight or
embrace economic inequality. La lucha continua.
Editor's Note: this is a slightly
revised version of the article that appeared in the print edition
of New Ground.
I Saw of the DSA National Convention
by Bob Roman
"Why Evanston?" the reporter
for a student newspaper wanted to know. "Because we got
a great deal on a union hotel!" I answered with just a bit
of asperity. But to answer the spirit of her question, DSA's
biennial National Convention rotates through the regions of the
country. The Midwest was next on the rotation. Chicago is a transportation
hub: accessible and cheap to get to. It was Chicago's turn.
Not that the Chicago Local's Executive
Committee had any great enthusiasm for the idea when it was proposed
in 2008. The first answer was no. The last time the Convention
was held in Chicago, 1991, we were able to subsidize all 9 of
our delegates. In addition to a significant registration fee,
each delegate is expected to pay into a travel fund that subsidizes
the travel of delegates who journey a great distance. The 1991
subsidy from the Chicago Local amounted to a few thousand dollars.
It was already clear in 2008 that we would not be in a position
to offer any subsidy to our delegation. If Chicago area members
were priced out of attendance, having the Convention here would
not do us much good. In the end, the formula was modified somewhat
for delegates travelling by public transit.
If 2009 found Chicago DSA in penurious
condition, time has not been kind to the national organization,
either. In 1991, there were several staff available to work on
the event. Today, DSA employs a full time National Director,
a part time clerk, and a full time Youth Organizer. (Frank Llewellyn
deserves congratulations for juggling the various pieces as well
as he did, but inevitably some dishes hit the floor.) Membership
is roughly half of what it was shortly after that 1991 convention.
And it is hard to say if the political environment is better
today or simply very different.
For all that gloom and ambiguity, the
2009 DSA National Convention turned out to be a much better,
more optimistic event than the 1991 Convention. Some of this
spirit of optimism comes from some long overdue changes to the
Convention itself. The typical DSA Convention had been something
of an exercise in "resolutionary socialism." While
the delegates would some time on discussing and setting the organization's
priorities, much of the rest of their time would be spent on
discussing and amending various organizational statements that,
no matter how relevant to the events of the time, would be forgotten
sooner than later. This was a considerable amount of work, often
shouldered by just a few delegates mostly, and usually not terribly
rewarding for the individuals or for the organization.
This Convention marbled decision and
discussion with education and skills building. While this practice
is not unheard of at DSA Conventions, this particular instance
was imported from recent Young
Democratic Socialists conferences, and it seemed to work
This Convention included some resolutions:
in particular three brief statements on the economy (see sidebar)
and a brief statement in condemning the witch-hunt against ACORN.
Most of the other resolutionary work was devoted to setting organizational
priorities. The drafts of these resolutions are on the DSA web
site (www.dsausa.org) and
the final versions will be posted soon.
The Thursday evening "pre-convention"
sessions were free, open to the public, and brought some attendees
from Evanston. The first session was a showing of Never
Turning Back , a documentary about a remarkable political
artist and resident of Evanston, Peggy Lipschutz. The documentary
was shown by its Producer and Director, Jerri Zbiral, and was
followed by a question and answer session. The second was a presentation
by Northern Illinois University labor historian Rosemary Feurer,
who took the opportunity to show a documentary she had co-produced,
Jones: America's Most Dangerous Woman .
The Friday evening outreach forum (a
DSA Convention tradition) brought together Interfaith
Worker Justice's Kim Bobo, Black
Commentator's Bill Fletcher, and Washington Post's
Harold Meyerson. All three of these speakers have appeared for
DSA in Chicago before, but this was the first time for all three
together. The topic was "The Politics of the Economic Crisis:
Right Wing Populism or Left Wing Resurgence?" People who
make a point of attending DSA events might have considered this
line up to be predictable. But each speaker brought a unique
perspective and style to a particular aspect of the topic; however
different the speeches, they were also complimentary. I couldn't
help but think of Neapolitan ice cream. I can't do their presentations
justice but this was one of the more powerful and informative
panels I've witnessed at a DSA event. It should be available
The Saturday evening banquet is also
a DSA Convention tradition. This time the speakers were to be
Harvard University's Elaine Bernard and In
These Times ' Joel Bleifuss. Unfortunately, Elaine Bernard
was suffering an allergenic reaction to medication and was unable
to come to Chicago. Much of Joel Bleifuss' speech was based on
an article by William Domhoff that will be appearing in the In
These Times January issue. DSA should have the speech online
Delegates also elected a new National
Political Committee (NPC). This body functions as DSA's board
of directors and is evenly split between males and females with
seats reserved for minorities. Also traditional at DSA Conventions:
only the male seats had more candidates (by one) than seats.
Only one female seat remains unfilled. No co-chairs were nominated
or elected. Five of the fifteen NPC members are from the Young
Democratic Socialists (YDS). This pretty much reflects the demographics
of DSA membership with a majority of members being either over
55 years old or under 30.
The delegates also elected the honorary
chairs and vice chairs of the organization (see sidebar). These
are roughly equivalent to the "advisory boards" that
many other organizations have, except that the positions are
somewhat less anonymous (more a part of the individual's public
biography) than most advisory board memberships. Like the NPC,
these positions must be balanced between male and female and
have positions reserved for minorities. There are vacancies to
be filled by the NPC.
As an experiment, selected sessions
of the DSA Convention were streamed live over the web. No one
was hoping for a large audience so much as learning how to do
it. And the small audience did report problems, so it was very
much an exercise in learning.
What I saw of the 2009 DSA National
Convention was very positive. The delegates were serious about
both their politics and their organization. They were serious
about cultivating new and young leadership. And YDS is showing
signs of organizational strength, with several of its stronger
chapters surviving changes in leadership. Finally, for the first
time that I can recall, the majority of delegates also regarded
DSA's finances as a serious political issue. These are
seriously good signs for DSA.
But good signs for DSA is not the same
thing as good signs for socialism in the U.S.A. Various Trotskyist
and communist organizations would have their own reasons for
agreeing, but what I mean is this: DSA's "market penetration"
among the population of lefties is shallow enough that we could
quadruple our 6,000 members while only somewhat increasing the
That population of lefties is not huge.
As a political movement, socialism (democratic or otherwise)
in the U.S. has been dead for many decades, despite sparks and
occasional flashes that last a few years before dwindling. As
Joel Bleifuss pointed out, the combined circulation of left publications
in the U.S. amounts to somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000,
making socialism very much a particular interest though larger
than miniscule. But the conflicts that fueled the growth of socialism
as a political movement in the 19th Century have not gone away.
People have devoted entire careers to
investigating American exceptionalism with respect to socialism.
(See, for example, New
Ground 74: "Lord, Lord, It's a Bourgeois Town"
) The task for DSA in the short term is not to solve that conundrum
but to provide political activists with a means of making sense
of the current crisis and the proposed solutions, and to grow
with respect to the larger left. This Convention gave me confidence
that DSA can reasonably do this.
In the longer term, DSA needs to be
able to do the above and to bring home the bacon on national
projects. This is an issue for small organizations on a national
stage. Doing that, DSA can begin to grow the left and not just
For more information see: http://www.dsausa.org/convention2009/report/convention.html
on the Economic Crisis: Towards a New Political Economy for the
Submitted by Ron Baiman and Bill Barclay
The goals of these three resolutions are:
(i) to create an adequate supply of well paying jobs to achieve
full employment and lasting economic security and prosperity
for all Americans; (ii) thus transforming the low wage sector
of the U.S. economy by providing jobs at a living wage; (iii)
while expanding the U.S. public sector by professionalizing and
increasing publicly funded human and social services work; and
(iv) supporting increased private investment in a high value
added, globally competitive, tradable (green technology or other)
goods to achieve trace balance.
A Permanent Jobs Program for the U.S.
to Meet Social Needs
The federal government should enact a permanent
long-term jobs program with the goal of creating and/or supporting
living wage social/human service, infrastructure, and new green
technology jobs. There are several sources of funding for such
a program, e.g. increasing the progressivity of the Estate Tax,
a surcharge on family incomes over $350,000, cuts in military
spending, etc. However, the single most important source of funding
should come from the financial sector through a financial transactions
For details on the size of the program
and some estimates of funding sources see "A Permanent Jobs
Program for the U.S. Economy in 2009: Economic Restructuring
to Meet Human Needs" by the Chicago Political Economy Group
(CPEG) at: http://www.chicagodsa.org/jobs.pdf
. Additional information on this type of program can be found
in Kuttner's Obama's Challenge, 2008. On political economies
that function without low wage sectors see Huber and Stevens
Development and Crises of the Welfare State, 2001.
Ending the U.S. Trade Deficit and
Raising Wages in Low Income Countries
For more than two decades the U.S. has
run a current account deficit. Much of this deficit had been
driven by the migration of manufacturing abroad, resulting in
stagnant or declining incomes as lost manufacturing jobs are
replaced by low wage service jobs. Under Article 12 of the WTO,
countries that run persistent and unsustainable trade deficits
may apply emergency tariffs as a remedy. The U.S. should invoke
this Article to cap and gradually reduce its trade deficits.
Revenue from these tariffs should be used to support raising
real wages and consumption in low-income trade surplus countries.
For background on this strategy see William
Greider, Come Home America 2009, (Chapter 6). Also see
"Solidarity Trade" policy in Baiman "Unequal Exchange"
paper in the Review of Radical Political Economy 38(1)
2006, or "Socialist trade policies" in Schweickart's
After Capitalism 2002.
Reindustrializing the U.S.
Existing tax policy contains incentives
for companies to move production offshore. This is counter to
the long term interests of the U.S. population and is part of
the reason for our persistent trade deficits. The federal corporate
tax code should be changed to provide tax deductions for domestic
value-added production and tax penalties for offshore production.
The tax can be implemented in a gradual fashion over some number
of years to allow a transition to domestic production.
For background on this economic strategy
see Greider Chapter 7. This policy is closely connected to the
Ending the Trade Deficit resolution above.
We have called our three resolutions "towards
a new political economy" because they are rooted in our
desire for an economy that meets the need for growth that is
both sustainable and equitable. Through these three resolutions
we have sought to create a vision of a political economy that
reconfigures the four sources of economic demand. We are seeking
(i) consumer spending that satisfies broad consumer needs and
desires, (ii) government spending that adequately supports public
infrastructure, and universal, high quality public services such
as health care, education, pensions and other transfer payments
to those in need, (iii) investment to enhance productive potential
in an environmentally sustainable way, and (iv) exports that
can be sold to pay for imports.
National Political Committee
- Theresa Alt
- David Duhalde
- Stuart Elliott
- Virginia Franco
- Paul Garver
- David Green
- Seth Hutchinson
- Barbara Joye
- Simone Morgan
- Michelle Rossi
- Jason Schulman
- Joe Schwartz
- Herb Shore
- Maria Svart
- Ranfrid Thelle
- Bogdan Denitch
- Barbara Ehrenreich
- Dolores Huerta
- Eliseo Medina
- Eugene "Gus" Newport
- Frances Fox Piven
- Gloria Steinem
- Cornel West
- Elaine Bernard
- Edward Clark
- Jose LaLuz
- Steve Max
- Harold Meyerson
- Maxine Phillips
- Christine Riddiough
- Rosemary Ruether
- Joseph Schwartz
- Motl Zelmanowicz
a New New Deal
by Jack Metzgar
A New New Deal: How Regional Activism
Will Reshape the American Labor Movement by Amy B. Dean and David B. Reynolds
(Cornell University Press, 2009).
In their Introduction to A New New
Deal, Amy Dean and
David Reynolds make a clear statement of what is becoming conventional
wisdom among both union and community organizers: "Labor
is unlikely to revive without becoming part of a larger social
awakening that aims to put the nation on a different course."
(p. 14) They waste little time assessing the prospects for such
an awakening because they are eager to explain their recipe for
nurturing it. But as they illustrate and trace the history of
their "regional power-building model," they actually
provide lots of evidence that we are likely in the midst of such
an awakening process.
I'm not referring to awakening moments
-- like the amazing resurgence of young people and minorities
during last year's Presidential election campaign - but
rather to a longer-term politicization of both unions and community
groups, often in concert with each other, over the last decade
or so. This process involves a redefinition of "politics"
as a year-round, mostly local activity focused on achieving influence
and then power over governing -- not a cyclical process where
temporary electoral mobilizations interrupt the "real work"
of labor and community activists and then leave governing to
the politicians. Focused on public policy changes that can make
real differences in working people's lives while shifting power
relations, this involves grassroots policy and political education,
leadership development, careful institution-building, all in
the service of what Dean and Reynolds call "deep coalitions"
among a wide range of locally-based progressive organizations.
The very powerful model Dean and Reynolds
advocate is based on this broader redirection toward a more expansive
practice of both politics and organizing. Though the range of
organizations and campaigns they report on and evaluate is both
extensive and diverse, it is but a small portion of the larger
landscape of increasing activism over the last two decades. For
Dean and Reynolds, the problem with this upsurge in activism
-- not just in its crushing defeats and demoralizing compromises
but even in its most heartening victories -- is its episodic
lack of permanent institution-building.
The stated purpose of their regional
power-building model is to build permanent structures that generate
well-targeted campaigns to advance a regional economic policy
agenda that "ultimately aims to establish a labor-community
movement [as] part of the region's governing fabric." Policy
wins on good jobs, living wages, affordable housing, and, more
broadly, on regional economic development with broad and sustainable
benefits for workers and working-class communities is one important
metric. But the other one, for Dean and Reynolds, is establishing
a dialectic where "[g]rowing and strengthening . . . grassroots
institutions become[s] a core way to strengthen a region's quality
of life." (p183)
Dean and Reynolds are supportive of
one-off campaigns for specific legislation, like living-wage
ordinances and community benefit agreements (CBOs), but frustrated
when such efforts don't strengthen and expand the unions and
community groups who foster them and the coalitions that have
often won significant reforms. Though they don't mention it,
the campaign against Wal-Mart in the City of Chicago two years
ago is a perfect example of the problem. Though the "Big
Box" CBO was not achieved, a number of other important things
were: Wal-Mart's further expansion into the city was blocked
and its national urban strategy was crippled; the Chicago City
Council passed the CBO, forcing Mayor Daley to veto it, and then
seven new aldermen were elected against the concerted efforts
of the vaunted Daley political "machine'; and the issue
of living wages was effectively advanced both locally and nationally.
But the powerful labor-community coalition that was generated
through that campaign dissipated, and with no agreed-upon explanation
of why the Big Box ordinance was not re-introduced into a City
Council where it presumably had the votes to override Daley's
A New New Deal
is a manual, addressed mostly to the labor movement, for how
to achieve deep coalitions that simultaneously exercise economic
and political power while developing long-lasting grassroots
institutions, including larger, stronger, and more aggressive
unions. It is based on the successful experience of such coalitions
in California -- specifically in Los Angeles and in the Silicon
Valley area around San Jose, where Dean was the head of the South
Bay Labor Council in the 1990s. The basic outlines of the regional
power-building model will be familiar to laborites who once took
the AFL-CIO's Union Cities program seriously and/or to those
involved in the national federation's current New Alliance efforts
to restructure central labor councils in at least ten key states.
The book has the strengths and weaknesses
of the manual genre. Personalities, including Dean's, count for
nothing, as do historical tensions and animosities among actually
existing leaders and institutions. As a result, the kind of story-telling
that makes for more interesting reading is subordinated to explaining
a formula for building a complex of institutions that can flexibly
adjust to all the messily specific contingencies of a diverse
array of metropolitan areas. Though clearly written and accessible
to a general audience, the book sometimes reads like a series
of PowerPoint presentations without the bullet points. What's
more, the formula is thought-through in detail based on a wide
variety of complex experiences, both in other California regions
and in Denver, Atlanta, Seattle, Milwaukee, Buffalo, Cleveland
The formula is easy to state -- developing
a regional policy agenda + deep coalitions + building aggressive
political action -- but meaningless without the formulas within
the formulas and the variety of potentially successful options
within each of those. The book is, in a word, deceptively simple
in its presentation but dauntingly complex in its understanding
of the practical difficulties and possibilities embedded in various
progressive forces within our society, not just the labor movement.
This makes it less than a pleasurable read. But it enhances its
value as a how-to manual. It is a book that demands to be studied,
not just read, and especially by people who are invested in fulfilling
the very real potential of progressive movements in this historical
On one reading I'm convinced that theirs
is the right formula, but, as they insistently show, each piece
is dependent on the others. If you live in a region with a weak
or sleepy central labor council or without key unions to champion
the process, their can-do spirit can seem utopian.
Still, though the regional power building
model is about how to bring various pieces of progressive activism
together into a self-developing system, it also highlights some
pieces that are absent or weak in many places, and there is a
lot for progressives to do in the absence of a full-blown program.
For example, their argument for "thinking regionally"
(vs. nationally, globally or too locally) is compelling no matter
what you do with it. Likewise, I get why we need regionally based
"think-and-act tanks" and why they need to be formally
independent of both academia and any existing labor movement
institution. But that doesn't mean some "simply-think"
tanks can't start developing a broader and deeper understanding
of regional economies. I also buy their formula for developing
deep coalitions around core and peripheral partners for whom
a regional economic development agenda is core to each partner's
different mission, but that needn't stop temporary coalitions
from trying to sustain their relationships as best they can.
Likewise, their "civic leadership institutes" will
not do what they want them to do without a well-staffed think-and-act
tank feeding a deep coalition to target effective political action,
but such institutes are a good idea anyway. (See http://building-partnerships.org
for a curriculum.)
In the current period progressives can
watch and hope for the best from our national Democratic champions,
firing off a regular stream of e-mails and mounting occasional
protest demonstrations. Or we can build regional power where
we live and work. Dean and Reynolds propose that 10 percent of
the funds the labor movement spends on "single-shot electoral
efforts" be shifted to long-term regional power building
around the country. In 2008 that would have been about $40 million.
I doubt that's enough to fund a new New Deal sufficient to our
current needs, but it sure could do a lot of social awakening.
Editor's Note: Jack Metzgar is the
author of Striking Steel: Solidarity
Remembered, Roosevelt University Emeritus Professor of Humanities,
and a member of Chicago DSA's Greater Oak Park branch.
by Bob Roman
By now you've heard the news: Bill Adelman
is no longer with us. He died of a heart attack on September
15. The thought that he won't be among the people I run into
at meetings and demonstrations takes some getting use to. He
was always good for a big hello and, time allowing, an extended
conversation on labor and radical history.
Since my acquaintance with Bill Adelman
spans pretty much my entire career as a lefty, his death seems
to something of a marker. I was not long living in the city when
the newly organized Illinois
Labor History Society called a rally to dedicate a plaque
remembering the Haymarket martyrs. The rally was held on a fine
May afternoon in 1970, if I remember correctly. The plaque was
posted on the wall of the Catholic Charities building just down
the street from the actual Haymarket. The Haymarket was then
occupied by a monument dedicated to the police and their side
of the story. The Weathermen had blown up the police statue once
already, so when I arrived early with some friends, the police
appeared very quickly, insisted there was no such dedication
scheduled, and came very close to arresting us "on suspicion".
We returned later for the rally and that was when I met Bill
Despite (or because of, more likely)
the police patrols, the plaque disappeared from its wall a few
weeks later. Some time later the police statue was moved to the
police academy. Years later, Bill Adelman was involved in getting
the monument to Haymarket and free speech erected around the
corner from the Haymarket.
And apart from his personal absence,
the movement has also lost a major resource. The essence of Bill
Adelman was education. He told labor's story in a way that made
it a parable of democracy and solidarity. He harnessed the power
of memory, helping to found the Illinois Labor History Society,
writing three historical tour books (Haymarket, Pullman, and
Pilsen), producing two films (Packingtown: USA and Palace
Cars and Paradise), and re-establishing May Day as an unofficial
In 1998, Chicago DSA honored Bill Adelman
at the Debs Thomas Harrington Dinner. The text of the award does
not include another dimension of Adelman's life, his political
activism that included, among other things, a run for Congress.
For more about the 1998 Dinner, see http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng59.html#anchor783315
. For some of Bill Adelman's work, see http://www.labortrail.org/lt-00-audio-adelman.html
compiled by Bob Roman
Call for Papers
Call for papers, workshop and panel
proposals: In Chicago during May Day weekend 2010, there will
be a conference to discuss, debate and analyze labor and social
struggles, both past and present.
The Institute for Working Class History
hopes to cover an array of important historical and political
topics. In addition to purely academic pursuits, conference participants
will have the opportunity to participate in the May Day rally
organized by the Chicago Federation of Labor and the Illinois
Labor History Society. If there is sufficient interest, we will
set up a Chicago labor history tour.
For additional information, write to
Institute for Working Class History, 2335 W. Altgeld, Chicago,
IL 60647 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
or go to http:// www.mayday2010.info
Save the Date
The 2010 Debs - Thomas - Harrington
Dinner will be held Friday evening, May 7. We will be returning
the Crowne Plaza Chicago Metro.
DSA Labor Network
Chicago DSA has endorsed a consumer
boycott of Chicago hotels if UNITE HERE Local 1 goes on strike
against them. The hotels mentioned were Blackstone, Starwood
(Sheraton, W, Westin), Hyatt (Regency, Park Hyatt, Hyatt McCormick),
Hilton (Palmer House, Hilton, Drake).
DSA's Labor Network (publishers of the
blog) is spreading to Chicago. As a first action, Chicago DSA
members are planning a picket line in support of Unite Here Local
1 on December 12. For more information, email email@example.com
A series of forums on labor topics will
be held next year.