Be there: Monday, June 14,
4 PM to 6 PM, @ 520 S. Michigan, Chicago
At what has become an annual event,
the striking workers of the Congress Hotel will be demonstrating
in favor of immigration reform as well as protesting management
obstinance. Join them, Chicago's labor and liberal and religious
and leftist communities, and Chicago DSA and "Slim"
the skelton in demanding an end to this impasse. See www.PresidentPicketsCongress.org
for more information. Be there or be square!
a Love Story: a Review
by Bill Barclay
The first question that might be asked
about Michael Moore's movie is, why the subtitle? After all,
it is clear early on that Moore does not love capitalism. When
I asked the audience this question at our showing of the film
in Oak Park, there were several answers; but most pointed to
what I think is Moore's intent. In the initial bloom of romance
we don't see our love's faults and failings, whether these be
merely the foibles that all of us have and our love learns to
live with, even feel affection for, or something more fundamental
that may doom the relationship.
In answering the question, Moore asks
us to step back to an earlier era, the 1950s and early 1960s,
part of what many have called the "golden age" of capitalism.
He shows us how we felt about the promises and seducements offered
by system (Moore does not use this term). Anita Bryant sings
about "a new day." In 1958 Flint, Michigan, has a parade
to celebrate GM's 50th anniversary (GM did not attend the 100th
anniversary event in 2008). And we are urged to "see the
USA in [our] Chevrolet." Yes, these were the times when
our love was fresh and the future glowing. Moore does remind
us that not all was perfect -- a scene of fire hoses being used
on demonstrators opposing segregation and bombs dropping on a
foreign land -- but these quickly flashed images probably embody
the amount of attention that many gave to them at the time.
The rest of Moore's film is the tracing
out of the faults and failings in the system we thought we loved.
By the end of the film no one can be in doubt that Moore believes
this relationship cannot be saved -- at least not without some
major changes. What those changes might be is perhaps less clear,
a point to which I will return.
the latest in a series of Moore movies with clearly progressive
politics. It is also certainly the most ambitious and difficult
because while, as Moore says, capitalism is not a form of government,
it is more than a system. Here I think Moore has missed something.
He also says that capitalism is not a religion. However, if one's
religion is one's core values and these core values are shared
with others such that there are bonds between the many; capitalism
it seems to me qualifies. In reality, capitalism has done much
to reshape what we usually think of as religion with the prosperity
gospel, epitomized in "name it and claim it," spreading
into much of formal Christianity.
And what is the promise of this religion?
Capitalism claims to offer individual freedom on a grand scale,
the liberty for any individual to achieve whatever s/he seeks
if s/he is good enough. Therefore the reasons for failure or
even simply mid-level success lie in the individual, not in any
larger institutional structure. Former British Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher articulated the essence of this belief system
when she said, "There is no such thing as society."
And it is this belief system that is
Moore's target in the film. A system is, of course, much more
difficult to define and call into question than a particular
issue such as Moore did with health care in Sicko. Thus
much of the film is Moore taking us on a tour of what he finds
the most egregious failings of our loved one. Of course he returns
to Flint and the auto industry. But now we see the town through
the eyes of finance, we watch the creation of romantic illusions
through the use of debt and then the collapse of these illusions
as houses are foreclosed and workers are laid off. In the process,
Moore removes the blinders of our love, and we end up with the
love of money rather than the fulfillment of our social selves.
Moore does this in a variety of ways, but perhaps the most memorable
is the "dead peasant" insurance policies where companies
take out insurance on employees with the company -- not the employee's
surviving family members -- as the beneficiaries. Like most Americans,
Moore returns again and again to finance and the role of financial
companies in the 2008 economic collapse. He tries to talk to
traders about derivatives and, partially in fantasy and partially
though some clever staging, tries to arrest the CEO of Goldman
Sachs. He also gets some members of Congress on camera to record
the sense of intimidation they felt when Paulson and the rest
of Bush's economic team said that their failure to approve the
bail out would destroy our economy. By the end of the movie Moore
has shown us a myriad of our (former?) love's failings.
But breaking up is hard to do, especially
if we don't know what the alternative is. Here is where much
of the progressive criticism of Moore's film has focused: he
doesn't give us an alternative, more specifically he doesn't
talk about socialism. This was also my impression after my first
viewing of the film. However, after watching it again, followed
by a discussion with the audience, I think Moore provides more
clues to an answer than I first recognized. His answer is perhaps
not a single, neat package. But he shows us two worker owned
and operated factories; he shows us how people -- including workers
at Republic Windows -- are beginning to seek alternatives. Perhaps
most significantly, however, he contrasts western and northern
Europe's "social capitalism" with what we have in the
U.S. He does not do this by going to Europe or showing us how
European institutions work differently than our own. Instead
he returns to the roots of our love affair but highlights the
promise we wanted our romance to fulfill: Moore poses FDR's economic
bill of rights and the struggle to gain these rights as the future
we should all fight for. He concludes by asking us to join him
in this fight. You can hear FDR here: http://www.youtube.com
Editor's Note: Capitalism: A Love
Story is now available on DVD. It may be ordered online at http://www.michaelmoore.com/books-films/capitalism-love-story
the 52nd Debs -- Thomas -- Harrington
by Bob Roman
Debs Thomas Harrington Dinner gathered together people representing
Chicago's legal, labor, liberal, and left communities to honor
the People's Law Office and the United Electrical Workers' Western
Regional President Carl Rosen. Author William Greider was our
featured speaker. The event was held on Friday evening, May 7,
at what is becoming its current home, the Crowne Plaza Chicago
Metro, located at Madison and Halsted in Chicago.
Kim Bobo was our Master of Ceremonies.
We have been so fortunate to have her help at our Dinners. In
my opinion, she's the best since Leon Despres.
Flint Taylor accepted the award to the
People's Law Office from GOPDSA Co-Chair Tom Broderick. Taylor
went on to recognize some of the people, present and not, who
helped found the law collective and helped make it one of the
major resources in defense of civil liberties in Chicago. He
spoke briefly about the history of the People's
Law Office and its current work.
Carl Rosen accepted the Debs Thomas
Harrington award from Chicago DSA Co-Chair Ron Baiman. Rosen
found this conceptually difficult. The United Electrical Workers
(UE) sees itself as, and tries its best to be, a rank-and-file
union; in that context, an officer of the union accepting an
award could be seen as presumptuous. So he used the occasion
to promote Warehouse Workers for Justice (www.warehouseworker.org
), a UE project that is organizing warehouse workers in Chicago's
southwestern suburbs, most of whom are not actual employees but
temp workers (despite years on the job for some) with all the
vulnerability that comes with that status.
The theme of this year's Dinner was
"Bring America Home!" This was a deliberate variation
on the title of William Greider's latest book, Come Home America,
though it works very well as a demand the left should be making
more vociferously of the Obama Administration. Greider's speech
was drawn mostly from the latter part of his latest book, and
dealt with what we can do to change the direction our country
is headed. It was an optimistic talk, and for those of you who
missed it, I would suggest reading the book. Or, if you live
in Chicago and have cable, the event was taped for later broadcast
on CANTV, Chicago's public access cable network.
As someone who has helped organized
these dinners for the past twenty years, I want to thank all
of you who supported this year's event. It was especially important
this year because DSA has become one of the right-wing's favorite
hate-objects. (To be fair, they have so many!) Considering
what's become of ACORN, this is not a trivial matter. In justifying
their passion, conservatives do exaggerate our influence. But
with your help, we'll do our best to live up to their paranoia.
For an unconspiratorial, all-volunteer
organization like Chicago DSA, this is a tall order. But the
52nd Annual Dinner was an optimistic affair, and the participation
this year of so many good people gives us all the more reason
to be so. Thank you.
of May Days: Labor and Social Struggles International Conference
by Bill Pelz
"May 1st is the only truly universal
day of all humanity, the only day when all histories and all
geographies, all languages and religions and cultures of the
world coincide." It was in describing a visit to the city
of Chicago, where International Workers' Day was born, that the
Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano penned these words.
"How fitting, in this spirit, that
trade unionists and labor historians, worker center organizers
and journalists from Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China,
Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel/Palestine, Japan,
the Netherlands, the Philippines, Scotland, Sweden, Turkey, the
UK, Venezuela, and all over the United States converged on Chicago
April 30-May 2 to participate in the conference A Century+
of May Days: Labor and Social Struggles convened by the Institute
of Working Class History and hosted by the International Studies
program at DePaul University." -- Danny Postel, conference
The conference joined a very diverse
group ranging from young activists to Japanese trade unionists
and a Japanese survivor of the atomic bomb, Dr. Theodor Bergmann,
a German anti-fascist who has long outlived Hitler, and numerous
distinguished intellectuals like Bryan Palmer, Canada's foremost
left labor historian, Lea Haro of the University of Glasgow,
Francis King from Britain's Socialist
History Society and Ottokar Luban from the International
Rosa Luxemburg Society (Berlin).
Over 163 participants discussed various
and diverse labor and social struggles -- both local and global.
Before the conference even formally began, almost three dozen
people gathered at Facets Multimedia
to watch the once banner US labor film Salt of the Earth.
Following the screening there was a lively discussion of both
the political and artistic significant of the film.
After over fifteen panels during the
day, Friday night saw a massive Labor and International Peace
Plenary with something like six dozen Japanese trade unionists
participating. Scores of conference participants took in the
May Day rally organized by the Chicago Federation of Labor
and Illinois Labor History Society (ILHS) . . . and an extensive
labor history bus tour led by Larry Spivack, President of the
ILHS on Saturday, May 1st. Then back to DePaul for more panels
and a plenary on the future of Labor History and Left History
that was well attended. Then, lack of rain and a heavy turnout
particularly by international guests, allowed a very enjoyable
outdoor banquet on Saturday night.
Sunday morning saw a plenary with Richard
Wolff, the noted Marxist economist form the University of Massachusetts
as well as a number of Chicago-based scholar activists. Sunday
also included a presentation by Chicago DSA's Reverend Gene Birmingham
on Religion and Socialism. Finally after more stimulating panel
discussions including talks by Chicago activist James Thindwa,
Katie Jordan (Coalition of Trade
Union Woman ) and Fritz Weber (from Vienna, Austria), we
reached Sunday night when the conference finally closed with
a rousing speech on "wage theft" by Kim Bobo.
The Institute of Working Class History
is planning an anthology of selected papers from the conference,
to be entitled A Century+ of May Days: Labor and Social Struggles.
Plans are very tentative, but another conference is being organized
for next year, possibly around a theme of the Paris Commune.
For further information and news of future events go to: www.iwch.info.
Editors Note: Dr. William Pelz is
a Professor of History at Elgin Community College, Chicago DSA's
Political Education Officer, and head of the Institute of Working
and Socialism Commission
by Rev. Gene Birmingham
The recent DSA National Convention accepted
a request to renew the Religion & Socialism Commission. There
is a long history of religion seeing in socialism an expression
of social justice. Socialism is not only about economics and
politics. It is a spiritual expression of the social nature of
The guiding philosophy of American culture,
rugged individualism, stresses a personal experience of God,
but backs away from working with all people for justice, except
for acts of charity. The Religion & Socialism Commission
invites all people to work together for the common good. Its
journal reads on the cover:
"Motivated by our different religious
traditions we believe that attitudes, priorities, and institutions
can be changed to reflect a just and democratic use of the universe's
bounty; we believe in the value of work that contributes to the
common good; and in the healing influence of respect for the
differences as well as the commonness of human experience."
Leaders of the Religion & Socialism
Commission have asked that each DSA Local sponsor an event of
religious socialism in 2010. There is a list of at least 57 people
on Chicago DSA's posting of members and interested people. This
is an invitation to any and all who would serve on a planning
committee for a Religion & Socialism event to contact me
with your own ideas: 630.787.9909. We can set up a time and place
Gray Panthers Offer a New Outlet
for Activism in Chicago
By Giudi Weiss
Remove the ideological label from DSA
and what do you get? The Gray Panthers.
Now in its 40th year, this long-standing,
multigenerational, progressive activist organization hasn't
had a presence in Chicago for a decade. But two dedicated souls,
activist Ralph Gougis and erstwhile DSA participant Marilyn Martin,
are determined to revive it. Fittingly, they're inviting DSA
members to join them.
The Gray Panthers Motto: Age and
Youth in Action
Forget the "Gray" in its name.
Gray Panthers span the generations -- and always have. Some call
this the organization's best-kept secret.
In fact, Gray Panthers has been multigenerational
from the start. The organization was born in 1970, when Maggie
Kuhn, leading a group of friends fighting ageist employment practices,
joined forces with students demonstrating against the Viet Nam
War. The press compared their militancy to that of the Black
Panthers, and so the first Gray Panthers network was born: age
and youth working together for social and economic justice and
Gray Panthers Issues Are Your
Today there are Gray Panther networks
(chapters) across the nation. The national organization currently
focuses on four major issues: health care (single-payer, of course),
the environment, peace, and civil rights and civil liberties.
Local networks address these topics and others, from national
issues like campaign finance reform, immigration, and workers'
rights to local concerns such as housing and transportation.
Not surprisingly, Gray Panther issues
echo many of DSA's concerns. There's much more information about
the organization and its positions at www.graypanthers.org
DSA Members Can Help Bring the
Chicago Network to Life
As Ralph and Marilyn gear up to rebuild
the Chicago network, what they need most is local interest. When
enough new members get on board, the network can earn official
Gray Panther status, elect leadership, start holding regular
meetings, build coalitions and partnerships, and, most important,
take action on the issues of greatest interest to its members.
Gray Panther actions can be anything from letter-writing and
petitions to rallies and street theater and much more.
If you're interested in joining this
nation-wide network of activists and helping to shape local actions,
contact Marilyn Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org
or Ralph Gougis at 773.924.2301.
compiled by Bob Roman
DSA at the U.S. Social Forum
DSA is participating in the U.S. Social
Forum this June 22-26 in Detroit, Michigan. At least ten thousand
activists from all around the country are expected to participate.
DSA and YDS are organizing five workshops and DSA is organizing
an "ice cream reception" for DSA members and friends
in the labor tent on Friday, June 25th. UAW Secretary/Treasurer
Elizabeth Bunn, and DSA Honorary Chair Frances Fox Piven are
just two of the DSA speakers at the Social Forum. The sessions
we are organizing:
- Movement Building and the Atlanta Fighting
- Socialism is the Alternative
- A Permanent Jobs Program for the United
States: Economic Restructuring to Meet Human Needs
- Reclaiming the Ivory Towers: Students
Achieving Access and Affordability
- WTF is Socialism Anyway???: The Campus
as a Battleground of Class Struggle
More information about DSA's workshops
and the reception will be available on the DSA web site (www.dsausa.org) soon. A complete
list of sessions at the U.S. Social Forum and other information
is available at www.ussf2010.org
, although the schedule will not be finalized until June.
Jobs Coalition Forms in Western
In an exciting development, a new coalition
is forming in the western suburbs around calling for an ongoing
federal program to create new jobs. The second meeting of this
group (its name is not yet settled) will be Saturday, June
12, 1:00 - 3:00 PM, UAW hall at 1700 Oakton Road in Montgomery.
Amy Dean, coauthor of A New New Deal: How Regional Activism
Will Reshape the American Labor Movement, will be the featured
Convened by the Confederation of Northern
Illinois Peace Groups, over forty individuals from labor, peace,
and other organizations met April 17 to discuss the possibility
of joining forces. The program featured Rev. Geri Solomon, from
and Justice; DSA members Dave Rathke, Illinois Education
Association, and Bill Barclay, Chicago
Political Economy Group; and Susan Hurley, Chicago
Jobs with Justice . The western suburbs are no longer the
bastion of Republicans, and people face serious problems with
un- or under-employment, foreclosures, balanced economic development,
etc. Those gathered decided to focus on jobs. For more information,
contact Peg Strobel: email@example.com
Jobs and Financial Reform
During the week of April 25 to May 2
there were large rallies for jobs and for immigrant rights. On
April 28, in Chicago more than 2000 people marched from Goldman
Sachs office (We were turned away from entering the office.)
to Federal Plaza where speakers from the AFL-CIO, Jobs
with Justice , Chicago
Political Economy Group , community groups and Democratic
candidate for the Senate, Alexi Giannoulias called on our representatives
to pass a jobs program and to finance it through a tax on trading
of financial assets. See some of the coverage here (
The next day more than 12,000 people
marched in NYC. The march went down Broadway into the financial
district and was focused on jobs and financial reform. Two days
later more than 20,000 marched again in Chicago denouncing the
new Arizona immigration law and calling for immigrant rights.
Chicago Political Economy Group
DSA members and CPEG founders Ron Baiman
and Bill Barclay were two of the speakers at a Global Studies
Association session on "The Political Economic Crisis"
in Champaign-Urbana on May 8. Bill described the rise of finance
in the US and the logic and revenue potential of a tax on the
trading of financial assets. Ron sketched the outlines of a new
political economy. The previous week, on May 1, Bill presented
the CPEG developed and DSA endorsed jobs program to the Champaign-Urbana's
Socialist Forum. You can find more on all of these presentations
Coalition to Save Community Banking
Meeting and Rally
Formed in the wake of the FDIC October
2009 seizure of Park National Bank and its sale to US Bank, the
Coalition to Save Community Banking has been working to call
attention to the plight of communities during the banking crisis,
to support legislation that would strengthen banks that invest
in struggling communities, and to convince US Bank to honor,
through a Community Benefits Agreement, some of the commitments
Park National made in the West Side, Oak Park, and Maywood. The
Coalition is beginning to work on the related issue of foreclosures;
US Bank is trustee or servicer on the 3rd largest number of foreclosed
properties in Chicago; and holds a significant number in Maywood
You're invited to a public meeting to
express your concerns and hear an update: Tuesday, June 8, Hope
Baptist Church, 5900 W. Iowa, Chicago, 6:30 - 8:30. The next
day, Wednesday, June 9, we will hold a rally downtown. For more
details, contact Peg Strobel: firstname.lastname@example.org
ICADP Annual Meeting
The Illinois Coalition to Abolish the
Death Penalty's Annual Meeting will take place on Tuesday, July
13th at 6 pm at the Illinois State Bar Association Offices, 20
S. Clark St., Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60603. The Annual Meeting
is free to members and $40 for non-members.
This year the ICADP will honor author
and attorney Scott Turow for his outstanding work toward abolition.
ICADP will also be honoring the Illinois State legislators who
are currently co-sponsoring our abolition bills, including Rep.
Karen Yarbrough, Rep. Angelo Saviano, Sen. William Delgado, Rep.
Barbara Flynn Currie, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, and Sen. Pamela
J. Althoff. Chicago DSA is an organizational member of the ICADP.
The ICADP is also having a benefit concert
at Fitzgerald's, 6615 Roosevelt Rd in Berwyn on June 15, doors
opening at 7 PM. Admission is $20.
For more information, go to www.icadp.org.
Socialist International Council
The next Socialist
International Council meeting will be held at the United
Nations Headquarters in New York on Monday 21 and Tuesday 22
June, opening at 10 AM on the 21st and concluding at 1 PM on
The Council agenda will focus issues
with regard to the global economy, as well as the continuation
of the debate on Climate Change in advance of the COP16 meeting,
and recent developments in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation.
As usual, the elected members of the
Presidium will meet on the eve of the Council, Sunday 20 June,
for a working dinner, preceded that day by the Finance &
Administration Committee in the morning and the Ethics Committee
in the afternoon.
DSA is a member of the Socialist International.
The last time the Council met in the States (strictly speaking
the United Nations) was in September of 1996. The composition
of the DSA delegation to this meeting is still under discussion
at press time.
Union Busting Is a Mortal Sin
Catholic Scholars for Worker Justice,
a national organization based largely in cyberspace (there's
a snailmail node in Massachusetts), on May 1st issued a statement
condemning union busting as a mortal sin. The statement begins:
"Union busting refers to the action
of any person who seeks to prevent employees from forming a labor
union, or who attempts to undermine or destroy an existing union.
This person is in grave material violation of Catholic Social
Doctrine on labor unions. This violation of Catholic Doctrine
constitutes material grounds for mortal sin, because it stands
in grave violation of: 1) both the letter and spirit of Catholic
Social Doctrine; 2) the roots of this Doctrine in the First Commandment
(idolatry), the Fifth Commandment (scandal), and the Seventh
The statement goes on to discuss these
points in detail.
Has anyone told Resurrection
Health Care they are in peril of their souls? On the other
hand, there's no evidence the Congress
Hotel would care.
More information about Catholic Scholars
for Worker Justice can be found at www.catholicscholarsforworkerjustice.org.
Thanks to Michael Baker, Bill Barclay,
Tom Broderick, and Peg Strobel, as they contributed material
to Other News.