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New Ground 138

September - October, 2011

Contents

  • Defending Public Service by Michael Baker
  • Socialism's American Roots by Michael Aubry
  • An Open Letter to Michele Bachmann by Robert Rudner
  • Other News compiled by Bob Roman
  • Hyatt Strike
    Talkin' Socialism
    National Convention
    End the War

    New Ground 138.1 -- 10.03.2011

    0. DSA News

    For a Common Strategy Out of the Crisis

    1. Politics

    Pre-Occupied
    The Not So Sweet Truth
    Poor Dears!

    2. People

     

    3. Democratic Socialism

    Joe Hill: the Man Who Never Died
    National Coop Month
    It's the Police

    4. Upcoming Events of Interest

    New Ground 138.2 -- 10.18.2011

    0. DSA News

    Membership Meeting

    1. Politics

    Occupied All the Time
    Know Your Rights
    Investing in Chicago's Communities
    Living Wage at the Airports

    2. Upcoming Events of Interest


    Defending Public Service

    by Michael Baker

    Under the direction of City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, the City of Evanston administration is recommending the privatization of a wide range of public services. The outsourcing of such services would likely result in the elimination of dozens of city jobs. About 45% of the affected jobs are held by Evanston residents.

    The recommendations for outsourcing were compiled by the city's "Budget Team" which was instructed to "review and make recommendations" regarding 39 public services. The study, titled "City Services and Service Change Ideas Evaluation, FY 2012 Budget Process," was unveiled by Mr. Bobkiewicz at the August 8th City Council meeting.

    The report lists the services being considered for subcontracting to private vendors and also the number of jobs supporting each service. The following extrapolation shows which services are being considered and the highest potential number of non-supervisory jobs that could be cut if the services are privatized: Alley Maintenance (17), City Vehicle Fleet Program (9), Crossing Guards (49), Forestry Services (17), Parks Maintenance (18), Recycling (10), Street Light Service (4), and Street Maintenance/Street Sweeping (9).

    In addition, the report recommends the elimination of Community Health Initiatives but is unclear about the fate of the Children's Dental Clinic, which has a patient list of 2,000. There is a growing demand for services at the clinic, formed in 1967, to provide free or low cost dental care for children. According to the report, the local private providers that accept Medicaid would be "unable to handle the volume in the absence of the dental clinic."

    If the City Council follows the privatization plan implied by the report, the results will be devastating for city workers. Furthermore, these privatization schemes will not solve our city's financial woes and will simply create new problems. Consider the following concerns about the further privatization of City services:

    • Cost Overruns: In November 2010, Evanston entered into a contract with Groot Industries to pick up garbage and yard waste. By February, 2011 the company raised its prices by $700,000 for the remainder of the 5-year contract. Who knows what further increases are in store up through 2015? A well-documented practice among private contractors in municipalities is to bid low, force the city into a long contract, and then increase costs.
    • Costs of Monitoring: Beyond actual contract costs, the city incurs costs associated with bidding, auditing and monitoring private contractors. Without spending money on proper oversight, other municipalities have discovered that contractors can get away with shoddy or incomplete work and massive cost escalation. This cost is often hidden in the budget to give the impression outsourcing the service is saving money.
    • Loss of Flexibility and Safety: City of Evanston employees, who were recently commended by the City Council for their dedicated work during the blizzard of 2011, are cross-trained to do many different jobs. Employees from several different departments, working as a team, stepped up to run the snow plows and clear the streets. That's how they managed to keep the city going -- by going the extra mile. Services performed by a private company are strictly defined by the precise terms of the vendor's contract. They cannot go an extra inch without charging extra dollars. During a weather or security emergency, we need the flexibility to coordinate services in-house.
    • Loss of Institutional Knowledge: Current City of Evanston employees have decades of experience among them. They know every twist and turn of the city's roads, alleys, sewers, parks and traffic lights. They know the neighborhoods. They know what works and what doesn't work. Loss of expertise to an outside private contractor is a steep cost that may not show up on a balance sheet.
    • Costs of Layoffs: The city must pay unemployment benefits to the employees it lays off, and these workers may also qualify for public welfare programs. Any laid off workers will lose income and health insurance, and Evanston businesses will lose customers.

    Fortunately, the citizens of Evanston are already voicing their opposition to privatization. The Community Labor Alliance for Public Services (CLAPS) co-chaired by Chicago DSA's Michael Baker, has been formed to raise awareness about the risks of privatization and the devastating impact on our community. At the August 8th City Council meeting, 1,600 signatures supporting public services were delivered to the City Council, and during the public commentary portion of the meeting, several citizens spoke out against privatization.

    Even though many citizens are already speaking out, more citizens need to make their voices heard. If you live in Evanston or know someone who does, here's what people can do:

    Two City Council meetings called "Citizen Budget Input Sessions" are being held on September 17 and September 22, and another meeting called "Mid-Year Budget Review" is being held on September 26. It is critical that as many people as possible attend and speak at these meetings to give their input. For more information, e-mail Chicago DSA at chiildsa@chicagodsa.org .

  • Contact your aldermen and tell her or him that you oppose privatizing public services.
  • Sign the petition to save Evanston public services at www.SaveEvanstonServices.org and encourage others to do likewise.

  • Socialism's American Roots

    by Michael Aubry

    The "S" Word: A Short History of an American Tradition By John Nichols, Verso, 2011, $19.95

    In his now famous 1989 essay, "The End of History?" Francis Fukuyama suggested that with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Communist Russia, history, as a dynamic process requiring ideological competition, was in effect "over." He writes, "What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government." The long ongoing historical dialectic between Western liberalism and its economic engine, capitalism, and Marxism-Leninism had been conclusively terminated by virtue of a capitalist triumph. Fukayama went on to observe that except for isolated pockets of socialism "in places like Managua, Pyongyang, or Cambridge, Massachusetts" (or, I might add, Chicago) the movement had ceased to be in "in the vanguard of human history." Absent the countervailing force of socialism, the world was now free to have a McDonald's and Starbuck's on every corner, and to be run by the casino economics of hedge funds and global banks.

    Ironically, "history" has proven Fukayama correct. In the twenty-two years since the publication of his essay, history has witnessed a vast expansion of capitalism, particularly in the conversion of Communist behemoth China into a de facto capitalist state that is currently rushing in juggernaut fashion toward becoming the biggest economy in the world. Meanwhile, in the United States, where Western liberalism and capitalism were built into its very foundation, the concept of socialism has been relegated to the trash bin of pernicious ideas, and reduced toa toxic epithet, the "S word."

    The obvious question is: Is Fukayama correct? Is socialism dead globally? And if it is, or is at least on life-support, can it rise again like a red Phoenix? Secondly, Fukayama's definition of history concerned the global dialectic, but what about the local dialectic within the United States? In other words, has American ideology (liberal-capitalism) always snuffed out the flame of any challenge, particularly that of socialism? High school history books and conventional acculturated wisdom would certainly have us think so. However, critically acclaimed journalist John Nichols has stepped into the arena in an attempt to set the record straight concerning the role of socialism in American history, and to evaluate its current status. Quite simply, Nichols suggests that socialism is not merely a footnote in American history, but is nothing less than an organic tradition that helped breathe life into what America became. Which is to say, America would not be what it is today without socialism. He shows how its egalitarian energy was present from the very beginning in men like Thomas Paine, through the mutual admiration of Lincoln and Marx, through its union organizing heyday from 1900 to World War II, through the civil rights movement, to the present where a congealed political process dominated by corporate monopolies more than ever needs, not socialism per se, but the debate that socialism, as well as other perspectives, nurtures. "One need not embrace socialism ideologically or practically to recognize that public-policy discussions ought to entertain a full range of ideas -- from right to left, not from far right to center right. Historically, America welcomed that range of ideas, and benefited from the discourse."

    In his passionate defense of American-style socialism Nichols, who pens among other things a political column for The Nation, writes with an engaging intelligence. He accomplishes his historical update by means of a loose chronology (more of a meandering) that is flexible enough to support the themes that that run through each of the six chapters in the book. The result is a kind of American Socialism's Greatest Hits. Nichols' unbridled passion for socialist ideals allows him to cast a wide net to harvest evidence for a socialist tradition at the heart of America. Whether you are already among the converted will likely determine whether you buy into all of his explication. Nevertheless, Nichols is very persuasive in his historical tracing of both the socialist spirit and its official manifestations.

    In the first chapter, Nichols sets the stage for his argument that socialism is inherent to the American spirit by tapping into that most American of Americans, Walt Whitman. Whitman is Everyman, a small "d" democrat, and the verses of America's poet appropriately drip with egalitarianism. Was there ever a more socialist line than the moving third verse of Whitman's "Song of Myself": "For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you"? Here we are also introduced to the Free Soil Party, the first on a long list of progressive political parties that have existed throughout America's history. These political parties pop up throughout the narrative and serve to bolster Nichols' point that a vibrant political dialogue, one that allowed challenges to free-market capitalism, had always been present throughout most of our history.

    Nichols is careful to point out that while Whitman was not officially a socialist, he was a "poet with room for socialism." That Whitman thus qualifies for membership is a trope Nichols uses to establish the roots of American socialism before it became an official entity. He does the same for the "spiritual father" of American socialism, Thomas Paine. Nichols devotes the next chapter to Paine, although, as he does throughout the book, he makes frequent digressions to comment on and make comparisons to current affairs. While these side trips are satisfying on one level, ultimately their sheer quantity is somewhat distracting from the socialist narrative. He spends a lot of time taking swipes at the current crop of red-baiters on the right, from Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, as well as criticizing Barack Obama. Admittedly, it is those very people on the right who have mounted a smear campaign against everything on the left, and that includes redefining socialism as a pejorative. However, giving their lightweight propagandist antics so much attention serves to unintentionally give them a measure of credibility in terms of their effectiveness. On the other hand, given Nichols' admiration for Paine, it may very well be Paine's spirit that drives Nichols' critical fervor aimed at the present.

    Nichols quotes Paine at length, borrowing from his better known works like Common Sense and The Rights of Man as well as lesser known tracts like Agrarian Justice. Like Whitman, Paine could turn a phrase that could make a socialist smile. He said, people should "not be governed like animals, for the pleasure of their riders." It is in such a sentiment, echoed in many different ways across Paine's voluminous writings, that Nichols finds the heart of a socialist beating in him. Nichols credits Paine with at least conceptualizing such programs as Social Security, child welfare, public housing, public works programs, and earned-income tax credits. It was Paine who insisted that justice needed to be built into any form of social organization: "It is only by organizing civilization upon such principles as to act like a system of pulleys, that the whole weight of misery can be removed."

    To this "socialists-at-heart" club Nichols next adds Abraham Lincoln. This is where parallel history is so revealing. Karl Marx (1818- 1883) and Abraham Lincoln (1809 ­ 1865) were just a few years apart in age, and each was engaged in his monumental work at approximately the same time. The first volume of Das Kapital was published in 1867, just two years after the Civil War ended and Lincoln was murdered. Nichols sees more than a temporal coincidence here. Like an archeologist, he carefully brushes away the dust and debris to reveal the shards of ideological commonality between the two historical giants. Nichols convincingly illustrates the revolutionary zeitgeist of the time the -- 1848 uprisings across Europe, the influx of European revolutionaries into the U.S., particularly into Lincoln's home state of Illinois, the journalistic activism of prominent socialist, Horace Greeley, and his influential and popular newspaper the Tribune with Marx as a contributor, the rise of Marx and Engels' International Workingman's Association, and of course the fermenting civil war in America, a war as much about economics as slavery. Nichols also points out that one of the most important products of this revolutionary period was the emergence of socialism as a legitimate language with which to interpret politics and social organization.

    It's in the last three chapters that I think Nichols hits his stride and becomes the most effective in making his case, due in no small part to the fact that he has much more to work with as he enters a period when socialism became an official social force in America. There he covers the heyday of socialism in America, including the long and productive socialist presence in Milwaukee, the socialist fight for First Amendment rights, and the role of socialism in the civil rights movement. It's during this period spanning almost 80 years that the unions rose to prominence and had their strongest role in the American workplace.

    The chapter on Milwaukee and union ascension could easily be expanded to book length (I wish it were) and serve as a powerful illustration of how American style socialism was and can still be effective. It was Milwaukee (not Chicago) that was the city "that works." "From the early 1900s to the 1960s Milwaukee was not just a 'hotbed of socialist activism.' What was then one of the largest and most prosperous of American cities was actually governed for decades by Socialists." During that time Socialists held the mayor's office and dozens of other city and county positions. The secret to their success was "sewer socialism," a socialism that was completely absorbed in local concerns as opposed to the lofty ideals of a more revolutionary global organization. Through orderly, honest government, and a healthy contempt for graft, Milwaukee socialists proved "that government could operate honorably and as an extension of the people, rather than as a burden to them." During the Socialist tenure Milwaukee was called the "best governed city in the U.S." and its various departments won numerous national awards. It was the only major city in the country that was debt free. The sewer socialist's credo was "efficient, transparent, frugal, and socially just government," and that individuals working together could "forge a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts." This is a timeless paradigm for any democratic society and is a vivid reminder of the disjunction between then and now.

    This section moves in a whirlwind of events and characters including long time Milwaukee mayor Frank Zeidler, who ran for president in 1976 on the Socialist ticket, and founding member of the Socialist Party and sewer socialist movement, Victor Berger. Berger launched the socialist newspaper, the Milwaukee Leader, in 1910 and had the temerity to oppose America's entry into World War I. He was subsequently persecuted by the Wilson administration under the Espionage Act. Nichols masterfully weaves it all together and is able to vividly illustrate the strength of a Socialist Party rooted in the streets where real people lived and worked, rooted in the plumbing they installed and in the bricks they laid, and the trolleys they rode, in the mom and pop businesses, the cultural centers and organizations, and in the heavy iron printing presses that gave voice to their journalistic fight.

    Unfortunately, with the rise and success of socialism came its eventual fall. There is the stinging irony that a son of Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy, would be a major force that took the winds out of the national social movement during the Cold War. There was irony too in the Democratic New Deal, bursting with socialist strategies, "stealing the thunder of the Socialists at the national level." World War II also took a toll on the movement, and by 1948 most of the unions were drifting from socialist and labor parties to the Democratic Party. Richard Nixon was on the horizon.

    But socialism was far from irrelevant yet. On August 28, 1963 the Washington Mall was packed shoulder to shoulder with 250,000, mostly African American, people. They had come by over 2000 buses and 21 special trains to answer the call for the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." The crucial thing to note here is the linkage of two operative words in the title: jobs and freedom. It's a conspicuous declaration of the evolving socialist mission in America that was underscored by Martin Luther King's mentor, Black activist, "the most dangerous Negro in America," union leader and radical Socialist, A. Philip Randolph. The 74 year old Randolph took the podium right before King and declared to the gathered sea of humanity:

    "But this civil rights revolution is not confined to the Negro nor is it confined to civil rights, for our white collar allies know they cannot be free while we are not; and we know we have no future in a society in which six million black and white people are unemployed and millions more live in poverty."

    Nichols taps into Randolph's socialist energy and how it influenced Martin Luther King, who, although not an official member of the Socialist Party, recognized that there would be no racial equality without economic equality.

    If we were to graph the popularity and influence of socialism in America, we would see that its final spike came during this time period. JFK is in office, and the last of the influential socialists, Michael Harrington, publishes his stark expose of poverty in the United States, The Other America, in 1962. The book, reputedly read by Kennedy, is the apparent inspiration for the War on Poverty program initiated by JFK and taken up by Lyndon Johnson as part of an expanded Great Society package of social programs. Nichols traces Harrington's evolving thought process regarding the implementation of socialist ideals in America, a process that led him to make a significant leap of faith that continues to be debated today. Harrington came to the conclusion that it was possible to work effectively within the existing political process, and to forge alliances with liberals and the Democratic Party. He was convinced that "liberalism leads to socialism," and by 1970 he left the old Socialist Party "with its seemingly endless sectarian squabbles" and looked forward to forging change within a "new" Democratic Party. Unfortunately for Harrington's vision, a "New Right" was fermenting at the same time and by 1980 a socialist's worst nightmare in the name of Ronald Reagan was installed in the White House. This was followed by a further repudiation of socialist ideals in a New Right dynasty of two Bushes, a de facto Republican in Bill Clinton, and a free-market disciple in Barack Obama. Harrington's new socialism, "Democratic Socialism," slipped quietly into the shadows, where it remains, largely unfulfilled.

    With this, Nichols brings us back to the present where he paints a bleak and cold landscape ruled by plutocrats. It's a land where a cowered liberalism slinks around with its tail between its legs. A place where a wealthy and powerful Right has built a potent propaganda machine that preys on an ignorant, uninformed electorate who are vulnerable and easily swayed, unable to distinguish indoctrination from real ideas. Sealing their fate willingly, the masses march unknowingly into economic slavery, chanting idealistic abstractions, and singing the praises of their masters. Anyone who is not firmly in the conservative camp is labeled a "socialist," and branded with an "s" representing one who is anti-American, and by association, a soul mate of draconian despots like Stalin and Mao, and one who wants to turn a vibrant capitalistic landscape into a drab European-style prison in which rugged individualism and freedom are shackled in cold steel chains with links forged from socialism's "S."

    Nichols ends with two observations. First, the biggest casualty in the withdrawal of socialism from the marketplace of ideas is debate. Healthy discourse requires the presence of different informed perspectives. In Fukayama's terms, history requires a counterpoint to capitalism. Secondly, Nichols expresses optimism for socialism to re-enter the debate. In a nation of have and have-nots he seesa frustration with the economy and unemployment, and an increasingly unfavorable view of capitalism among the electorate. He also sees hope in a younger generation that does not carry around the oppressive Cold War baggage of socialism.

    Within Nichols' otherwise persuasive prose a few qualification might be in order. Nichols has been accused by some of painting an idealistic, perhaps over simplified picture of American socialism. I don't think that idealism is anything to be ashamed of particularly when it descends from the heights of abstraction to be grounded in practical application. One might also take issue with Nichols' interpretation of selected events and quotes, and his occasionally taking them out of context to support his agenda. In a similar vein, is it a stretch to appropriate people like Whitman, Paine, Lincoln and King into the socialist fold? And finally, he does gloss over a factious situation when he writes as if the Communist Party and socialists (under various names) were all part of one big happy family. But, I'll leave a definitive opinion concerning historical accuracy to those who know history better than I do. Certainly Nichols has extrapolated from early historical behavior to capture a spirit that might well have been under the banner of socialism at a later time.

    What Nichols does do effectively is bare the heart of American socialism -- whether official or not. Although socialism's official history is short, Nichols shows that under a variety of manifestations, socialism was percolating from the earliest times in America. Most importantly, it is his dead-on-correct observation, echoing Fukyama, that without an egalitarian movement like socialism, democratic dialogue is simply not possible when left at the mercy of a single perspective, in the present case, an unmerciful capitalism. It is for that reason this book should be read widely, and for that reason I wish he had threaded that theme more throughout his narrative, rather than bringing it up mainly near the end.

    The title of the book's afterword is, "But What About Democratic Left Politics?" And "what about it" is precisely the crossroads that American socialism stands at today. Socialism has returned to the point just before Michael Harrington's leap of faith into the system. To be or not to be part of the system is a strategic calculation that is yet to be made with any firm resolution. Does socialism merely shout from the sidelines? Does it go head to head with the existing political alternatives? Does it work quietly at the grass roots level? Or does it do all three? Thus, one question that Nichols leaves largely unanswered ­- and perhaps it is one for another book ­- is whether socialism, by virtue of the fact that it "has existed," can and "will exist" in the future. And if so, what will it look like? Nichols makes a convincing case that it needs to exist and offers a couple of pages indicating that perhaps "something" is in the air that may usher in a new era of socialist involvement. Beyond that, in spite of Nichols' inspiring words, the reader with socialist sympathies is left looking up at a daunting mountain to be climbed. Nichols enters a knotty conundrum when first he says that one need not don the cloak of socialism to appreciate and support its ideals. Indeed, the core values of socialism are likely shared by liberals, progressives, and the left in general. But he quickly stumbles over the problem when he then says these seemingly interchangeable contemporary labels are pale euphemisms for what is at heart socialism; and as such they are timid and cerebral, and the only label that has any meaning, any teeth, is socialism. So while you don't have to be a socialist, anything less doesn't seem to get the job done.

    Why, then, don't liberal-progressives embrace the socialist banner? To many on the left the "s" word seems to still hold a threat of some kind, as if taking that final small step would rock the boat so much that it would swamp its occupants. And what about "Democratic Left politics"? Nichols seems to have little use for a party that has moved so far to the right. But then the question still remains; do socialists try to change the Democratic Party from within or work from the outside as an alternative? Round and round we go. There are many confusing and vexing aspects to the current state of affairs. It is no longer 1848, or 1900, or 1960 when a variety of factors conflated to allow socialism to bloom. In addition, there exists today from the right a toxic psychological warfare, an entrenched winner-take-all two party system, and capitalism is enjoying an unprecedented and unchallenged global domination. And meanwhile in America, those ironic archenemies, equality and freedom, continue to bicker with deadly consequences in the "culture wars." Those alleged twin pillars of the American value system are proving once again to be less than equals. The freedom pillar dominates in support of mythological attributes like rugged individualism, exceptionalism, religion, and of course, capitalism. Egalitarian equality on the other hand is a literal poor cousin. While it may be true, as Nichols argues, that socialism is an American tradition, it's also true that there is another more pervasive American tradition in which the individual always trumps the collective.

    A recent Alternet article stated that the CEO of Wal-Mart, Michael Duke, makes his average employee's yearly salary every hour. That's clearly a problem. So, is socialism the answer? It's a David and Goliath scenario. Nevertheless, Nichols and Fukayama are, of course, correct. Fukayama framed it when he wrote that in a "universal homogenous state," where all prior contradictions are resolved and all human needs satisfied, there is no struggle or conflict over "large" issues. Thus, all real discourse ceases and there remains only a strange and unsettling malaise of apathy and acceptance. The hype from the right claims that all human needs have been met, but that is an illusion bought and paid for by the ruling plutocracy. Reality reveals a deep chasm of unresolved conflict -- a pernicious conflict democracy cannot survive.


    An Open Letter to Michele Bachmann:

    Dear Representative Bachmann,

    Regarding the U.S. Constitution and the statement: "the very founders that wrote those documents worked tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States."

    It is clear the reverse of your assumption is the truth. Most founders did all they could to impede the manumission of slavery. Consider the Enumeration Clause of the U.S. Constitution, first article, second section, paragraph three, first sentence, (stricken 1865): "Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons."

    In 1787, the majority of constitutional convention representatives gave slave owing states extra votes thanks to the enumerating of human property at a sixty percent rate for a rigged electorate. Loading the dice of legislation was the whole idea behind '3/5ths.' What's striking is the term slave never appeared in the constitution until the lucrative institution was abolished. As a gentleman's agreement, the term "Other Persons" was the substitute terminology that implied "slave." With the order of power entitling slave states to seize the representation of their human capital, democratic process was curtailed until 1865. In fact, the final manumission of Black slaves was made all the more easy by the voluntary non-participation of the slave-states while in secession. It took the deaths of 600,000 men in uniform to correct the fault of their founding fathers and ours.

    When Republicans insisted upon reading the Constitution on the floor, for technical reasons the stricken parts went unread. This was unfortunate, since the Enumeration Clause included the bloodiest sentence in the founding document. Fortunes were made off the peculiar institution, with a legacy leaving paper trails to many a well established entity and well-heeled family. Next to the price of the land, the slave was the most expensive item whose unpaid labor drove the profit. In 1860, there were about 4 million slaves, who at conservative estimates would fetch about $1,000 per person, on average for each man, woman and child. The estimated Gross National Product for 1860 was about 4 billion dollars. You do the math.

    A century and a half since secession, the problems remaining continue to be compounded by the distortion of the facts on race in America. As the recent Pew survey showed, it is only a minority of Americans who actually know the Civil War was fought entirely over slavery. Meanwhile, the majority of white Americans assume a comfortable illusion that the war was about States' Rights -- a verbal cop-out that feels good on the mouth like cotton candy. As with the term "Other Persons," substitution enables injustice to persist.

    We must all be aware that the whitest part of African-American History was written law. We cannot miss the paper trail to those responsible. Yet Americans whose ancestors were at the receiving end of the Whip-Tip of History always recall more vividly than those whose ancestors were at the Whip-Handle. Too soft are the voices of conscience of those of the masters' descent. How long will this history remain undetected?

    Truly,

    Robert Rudner

    Editor's Note: Robert Rudner is cofounder of the Chicago Greens , an activist since the 1960s and a writer.


    Other News

    compiled by Bob Roman

    Hyatt Strike

    As New Ground went to press, UNITE HERE had called a one day strike against selected Hyatt hotel facilities in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu. In Chicago, the Hyatt Regency and the Hyatt McCormick were being struck. The last contract at these Hyatt facilities expired in August, 2009.

    At the Saturday, September 10 CDSA membership meeting, we decided to join the picket line at the Hyatt Regency after the meeting concluded. Six of us, including DSA's new national director Maria Svart, joined the picket line. We also had a second delegation marching at the Regency on Sunday morning.

    The Hyatt Regency has been particularly obdurate in dealing with pickets, starting by claiming Stetson Ave. that runs between the East and West towers is a private street thus off limits to pickets. When that failed, they moved in large concrete planters, scaffolding, and a couple of cross-country buses. For a while, the buses were kept running, creating a poisonous environment for pickets.

    In other news, Local 1 members ratified their first contract at the Blackstone Hotel, including a $96,000 payout for workers who had been fired during the campaign. The campaign began shortly after the hotel reopened in 2008.

    Hyatt Pickets
    Chicago DSA members and friends at the Hyatt Regency West Tower picket line on Saturday afternoon, September 10. Maria Svart, DSA's National Director, is 2nd from the left.

    Talkin' Socialism

    By the time New Ground 138 physically arrives in your mailbox, Episode 9 of Talkin' Socialism should be posted on the web. This episode features an interview with DSA's new national director, Maria Svart. Go to www.chicagodsa.org , where you'll find links to past episodes as well.

    National Convention

    Michael Aubry, Michael Baker, Bill Barclay, Lisa Horan O'Halloran, Jan Sansone, Peg Strobel were elected as delegates from the Chicago Local to DSA's National Convention. Peg Strobel announced that she would be running for election to the National Political Committee (DSA's board of directors). The meeting voted to endorse her candidacy. Peg Strobel is already actively contributing a number of projects at the national level.

    End the War

    At the August meeting, the CDSA Executive Committee voted to endorse the October 8 march on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the start of the Afghanistan war -- Obama's "good" war. The endorsement was mildly controversial. The politics of these marches over the past few years has tended to be good for those who are marxist-leninist anti-imperialist revolutionaries and not so much if you're not. The counter argument is: Who else is making any noise on this issue these days? The war needs to end sooner, not later, and any noise in that direction is worth adding to. There's another reason why this particular march is worth attending. The march will begin at Noon on October 8 at Congress and Michigan, and the plan is to march on Obama's campaign headquarters. For liberals (and some lefties) worried about Obama's re-election, it's too early to do much damage, but likewise the campaign themes are not set in stone. A large turnout might inspire some rethinking on the war. More information is at www.chicagomassaction.org .


    New Ground #138.1

    10.03.2011

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    For a Common Strategy Out of the Crisis

    1. Politics

    Pre-Occupied
    The Not So Sweet Truth
    Poor Dears!

    2. People

     

    3. Democratic Socialism

    Joe Hill: the Man Who Never Died
    National Coop Month
    It's the Police

    4. Upcoming Events of Interest

     



    DSA News

    For a Common Strategy Out of the Crisis
    The fourth annual meeting of the Presidium and Heads of State and Government from the  Socialist International family took place at the United Nations Headquarters on Friday 23 September, in conjunction with the general debate of the United Nations General Assembly. The agenda for the meeting included discussions on the current impact and consequences of the global financial crisis, the contribution of social democracy to combating racism and intolerance and how to ensure the success of the COP17 Summit in South Africa. READ MORE.



    Politics

    Pre-Occupied
    Chicago DSA, as an organization, has not been active in the Chicago occupation outside the Federal Reserve Bank at Jackson & LaSalle, though CDSA members have joined in at various times. The occupation outside the bank is part of a nation-wide series of ongoing protests that aspire to emulate Egypt's Tahrir Square demonstrations in effect. Some of the demonstrations have amounted to no more than a pimple on the ass of capitalism, but others, particularly New York and Boston, have shown some virulence, drawing support from unions and other organizations.

    The New York City occupation of Wall Street has begun attracting attention in a way that reminds one of the Republic Windows occupation some years ago here in Chicago. Adbusters claims some credit for getting the New York project off the ground. And the Young Democratic Socialists played a large role in the initial demonstration. A critique based on that experience can be found at The Activist; the comments are good, also, except when they're not. Salon.com has had some good coverage of the New York occupation, including this item that includes an interview with DSA member Chris Masiano. And a somewhat more positive assessment is at Talking Union. If a lack of focus is a major critique, Occupy New York is working on a Declaration of the Occupation of New York City.

    In a grand old tradition of lefty insurrections, the New York occupation has started a newspaper, The Occupy Wall Street Journal, no less. You can get a copy by contributing HERE. But it's also wise to keep some of your support close to home. You can find out how to help Occupy Chicago HERE.

    The Not So Sweet Truth
    October is National Coop Month, but we're going to begin by talking about some of coops' blemishes: coops and unions do not necessarily get along. This is particularly true of consumer coops and producer coops. The former institutions are owned by their customers, and you can see a reasonable if occasional conflict of interest. The latter are businesses that are owned essentially by other businesses, most typically farms that may be family owned but not necessarily. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) had a particularly tough time persuading the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange to allow its members to participate in CIW's penny-a-pound pass through program. They came around eventually.

    Now, on the opposite side of the country, a battle has been going on between American Crystal Sugar, a producer coop, and Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union. On August 1st, American Crystal Sugar locked out some thirteen hundred union members in several upper Great Plains states after the workers had rejected, very nearly unanimously, the coop's final offer. The issues touch on all the sore points of 21st Century collective "bargaining:" health care costs, outsourcing, seniority issues. The workers are still out. American Crystal Sugar has hired scabs. For more information on the lock-out and how you can help, CLICK HERE.

     

    Poor Dears!
    In the September 30th Washington Post, DSA Honorary Chair Barbara Ehrenreich writes:

    'The latest group to claim victim status is the rich. Actually the super-rich, whose wealth ordinarily exempts them from pity. While they are not yet subjected to airport profiling (except for early boarding and club access), they sense that the public is turning subtly against them -- otherwise how could President Obama propose raising their taxes?

    'Admirers of the rich, led by pundits and politicians on the right -- from Laura Ingraham to Larry Kudlow -- have long derided the victimization claims of African Americans, women, gays and the unemployed, but now they're raising their voices to defend the rich against what they see as an ugly tide of "demonization."

    'At a time when poverty is soaring, unemployment hovers grimly above 9 percent and growing numbers of Americans suffer from "food insecurity" -- the official euphemism for hunger -- this concern may seem a tad esoteric. At a time when executive compensation is reaching dizzying new levels and the gap between the rich and everyone else is growing as fast as the federal deficit, it may even seem a little perverse.' READ MORE.


    People

    Oak Park illustrator Estelle Carol has won the Union Communication Services' (UCS) "Unions Now More Than Ever" contest. She will receive a $500 prize for her winning entry. As part of the contest, UCS also will donate $1,000 to the workers' advocacy group American Rights at Work.

    The Chicago Area Women's History Council celebrates 40 years on Sunday, October 16 with an event featuring Tracy Baim, Heather Booth, Jackie Grimshaw, Maria Pasquiera, Jan Schakowsky, and Rima Lunin-Schultz, moderated by Cheryl Johnson-Odom. Tickets are $40 at the door. For more information, CLICK HERE.



    Democratic Socialism

     

    Joe Hill: the Man Who Never Died
    In New City, Hugh Iglarsh begins:

    "How does one write a biography of a figure like radical minstrel Joe Hill? By all rights, he should have been an invisible man, and in some ways was just that. Born into the lower reaches of the working class, Hill was another drop in the torrent of emigration from old world to new in the early years of the last century, drawn by economic osmosis to the thinly peopled rawness of the American West. There he became a human tumbleweed, bounced and jostled from place to place and job to job, until the hobo jungle and flophouse became his only home, his fellow laborers his only family." READ MORE.

     

    National Coop Month
    October is National Coop Month. One point of the project is to get people to consider coops, in their various forms, as an alternative to capitalism. Another is to educate people on the history of the cooperative movement. For a nice, explanatory bibliography, CLICK HERE.

     

    It's the Police
    The other Haymarket monument was to the police. After being blown up a few times, they eventually moved it from the Haymarket to the Chicago Police Department HQ, if I remember correctly. Chicago documentary film maker Paul Rettig is making a documentary of the statue's complicated history. More Information.



    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.

    Tuesday, October 4, 1:15 PM to 2:15 PM
    "Wangari Maathai and the Real Work of Hope"
    Jane Addams Hull-House Museum Resident Dining Hall, 800 S. Halsted, Chicago
    Lynette Jackson, associate professor of Gender and Women's Studies and African American Studies at UIC will discuss the book by Francis Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe. More Information.

    Wednesday, October 5, 9 AM to Noon
    Stable Jobs Stable Airport Ordinance Rally
    Chicago City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St, Chicago
    Rally in support of the SJSA ordinance on the occasion of its introduction. More Information.

    Thursday, October 6, Noon to 2 PM
    "County: Life, Death and Politics at Chicago's Public Hospital"
    Barnes & Noble Books, 970 E. 58th St, Chicago
    David Ansell discusses his new book. More Information.

    Thursday, October 6, 1 PM to 5 PM
    Gateway to Poverty
    Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington, Chicago
    National Employment Law Project's Paul Sonn headlines a panel discussion on the effects of poverty-wage jobs at Chicago's airports. More Information.

    Thursday, October 6, 3 PM to 4 PM
    9th Annual Distinguished Labor Leader Lecture
    IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, 565 W. Adams St, Chicago
    Richard Trumka speaks. Not only a miner, not only the President of the AFL-CIO, he's also a lawyer. More Information.

    Friday, October 7, Noon
    First Friday Action for Jobs
    State of Illinois Building, Randolph & Clark, Chicago
    Monthly demonstration and press conference in response to the Labor Department's monthly job report. More Information.

    Saturday, October 8, Noon
    US & NATO Out of Afghanistan Now
    Congress & Michigan, Chicago
    Rally, march, and rally against the war. More Information.

    Saturday, October 8, 5 PM
    26th Annual Mother Jones Dinner
    University of Illinois @ Springfield Public Affairs Center, Springfield
    Speaker: Karen Lewis, President of Chicago Teachers Union; music by singer-songwriter Tom Irwin. Tickets $25. Call Call Jack Dyer at 217.691.4185 or Terry Reed at 217.789.6495 for information.

    Monday, October 10, 4 PM to 6:30 PM
    Take Back Our Future!
    John C Kluczynski Federal Building, Dearborn & Jackson, Chicago
    Gather @ 4 PM, march at 4:30 PM: The Futures Industry Association and Mortgage Bankers Association are coming to Chicago. Join thousands of Chicagoans to send a clear message: We're taking back our jobs, homes, and education. More Information.

    Thursday, October 13, 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM
    "Great at Eight: Investing in the Whole Child from Birth to Eight"
    DePaul University, 150 W. Warrenville Rd, Naperville
    Voices for Illinois Children's "Kids Count 2011" symposium. Reservations required.

    Thursday, October 13, 7 PM to 9 PM
    "Inside Job"
    DePaul Art Museum, 935 W. Fullerton, Chicago
    Screening of the documentary on the global fiscal crisis of 2008. More Information.

    Friday, October 14, 7:20 PM
    Valuing Land Conservation & Stewardship
    DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church, 4 S 535 Old Naperville Rd, Naperville
    Discussion beginning with a showing of "Green Fire" about the life of Aldo Leopold. More Information.

    Saturday, October 15, 6 PM
    Protest Scott Lively
    Christian Liberty Academy, 502 W. Euclid Ave, Arlington Heights
    Protest Americans For Truth About Homosexuality's honoring of kill-the-gays bill promoter Scott Lively. More Information.

    Monday, October 24, 9 AM to 5 PM
    Reframing Reform: Immigration as the Solution
    DePaul Center, 1 E. Jackson Blvd, Chicago
    A conference bringing together voices from across the country in order to inform on the consequences of the failure to reform the current US immigration system. RSVP Required by October 10. More Information.


    New Ground #138.2

    10.18.2011

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Membership Meeting

    1. Politics

    Occupied All the Time
    Know Your Rights
    Investing in Chicago's Communities
    Living Wage at the Airports

    2. Upcoming Events of Interest



    DSA News

    Membership Meeting
    Chicago DSA will be having a membership meeting in November. This will be on Saturday at 12:30 PM on the 19th, a week later than our usual 2nd Saturday of the month. The premier item on the agenda will be a report back on the DSA National Convention. The meeting will be at the Chicago DSA office, 1608 N. Milwaukee Room 403. This is at the 3 way intersection of Milwaukee, North, and Damen avenues on the 4th floor. It's right near the Damen stop on the CTA Blue Line to O'Hare. For information, give us a call: 773.384.0327.



    Politics

    Occupied All the Time
    Any additional coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement is likely to take on a resemblance to the tedious repetition of cable news coverage during some slow-motion event. In fact, why don't we simply refer you to the horse's mouth: the Occupy Chicago site for the latest news. However, while there you should check out the minutes of the October 17 evening General Assembly. If the somewhat naive transcription is correct, this represents a pretty substantial offer of support from Chicago's labor movement, a move from politics to protest, as Bayard Rustin might have put it.

    This shouldn't come as a big surprise. For example, one doesn't usually think for Jonathan Tasini as wild-eyed radical lefty, but he comes pretty close HERE, and I do believe he expresses the frustration and anger of a majority of labor activists, staff, and elected officials, nevermind the rank-and-file, who may be only a few degrees behind in heat.

    Finally, New Ground is read by almost as many conservatives as it is by lefties. (Chicagodsa.org is a big tourist stop for the commie-Obama-birther set.) And some of you right-wingers are a pretty wild-eyed, rum lot, begging your pardon. (DSA is "not a normal organization" but a conspiratorial "political mafia," eh?) If you still don't get what's feeding these protests (Hint: it ain't DSA; it ain't SEIU; it ain't ACORN.), you can find some answers HERE. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this here is War & Peace.

    Know Your Rights
    The Illinois Civil Liberties Union has advice for those arrested at demonstrations HERE.

     

    Investing in Chicago's Communities
    The Chicago Political Economy Group and Stand Up! Chicago released a new plan entitled Investing in Chicago Communities; A Jobs Fund for a Future That Works. The Chicago Community Jobs Plan outlines our proposal to address Chicago s jobs crisis by creating 40,000 new jobs for the city s unemployed. The jobs plan would not only provide Chicagoans with living wage, full-time jobs that match their existing skills and experience, but would serve as an investment in our communities, making them safer, stronger and more vibrant. View the Plan. (PDF)

    Living Wage at the Airports
    Every now and again, it's time for a new coat of paint. This applies to Chicago's O'Hare and Midway airports as well as to the house next door. Chicago's approach to this is to put the airport concessions up for bid. Not only do the concession operators (similar in function to the operators of shopping centers) offer to pay more for the concession, they also offer to spend money rehabbing the space. Sounds like a great win-win idea, yes? Except for the employees at the stores and restaurants therein, who will lose their jobs with no guarantee of being rehired, not to mention rehired with seniority. And for their union that went through a good deal of work to help them organize and now will have to start the process, again, from scratch. It doesn't have to be this way. The workers can be a part of a win-win-win deal, and to that end a "Stable Jobs, Stable Airports" ordinance was introduced in the Chicago City Council on October 5. A coalition of unions and community groups held a rally / press conference that you can read about
    HERE. Progress Illinois has a more extensive account of the issue HERE.



    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.

    Wednesday, October 19, 7:30 PM
    Stories from Afghanistan
    St. Gertrude Church Social Hall, 1401 W Granville, Chicago
    Jerica Arendts and Jake Olzen, co-founders of the White Rose Catholic Worker, and Bob Palmer who recently traveled to Afghanistan talk about the effects of U.S. policies of war on ordinary Afghan people. More Information.

    Thursday, October 20, 6 PM to 8 PM
    Move the Money
    Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington, Chicago
    Join Congressional Representatives Jan Schakowsky and Danny Davis at a meeting to move the money from paying for endless wars and giving multi-millionaires huge tax breaks to funding jobs and human needs. More Information.

    Saturday, October 22, 8 AM to 3 PM
    African-American Labor History
    National Association of Letter Carriers Hall, 3850 S. Wabash Ave, Chicago
    The Illinois AFL-CIO and the Illinois Labor History Society present a conference celebrating the historic accomplishments of African-Americans in the labor struggle. Reservations required. Call Alvis Martin: 217.492.6815.

     

    Monday, October 24, 7 PM to 9 PM
    Educational Forum on HB 311
    Moe Joe's, 24033 W. Lockport St, Plainfield
    Featuring Ed Cole on single-payer public health insurance in Illinois. More Information.

     

    Wednesday, October 26, Noon to 1 PM
    Rally to Defend Collective Bargaining and Retirement Security
    Illinois State Capitol Rotunda, Springfield
    Rally to defend collective bargaining rights and pensions for public employees. More Information.

     

    Wednesday, October 26, 6 PM to 8 PM
    Are We Wisconsin?
    Jane Addams Hull House Museum, 800 S. Halsted, Chicago
    Join local organizers to discuss innovative approaches in the fight for workers rights in today's challenging economic and political climate. More Information.

    Friday, October 28, 4 PM to 5:30 PM
    Gale Force: a Forum on Gale Cincotta
    DePaul University Loop Campus, Jackson & State Room C100 (lower level), Chicago
    A forum on Gale Cincotta, "the Mother of the Community Reinvestment Act." RSVP and More Information.

    Sunday, October 30, 2 PM
    The Economics of Happiness
    Oak Park Public Library Veterans Room, 834 Lake St, Oak Park
    Oak Park Coalition for Truth & Justice's free film series. More Information.

    Tuesday, November 1, 5 PM
    Our Airports, Our Communities
    Roosevelt University's Gage Gallery, 18 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago
    Public forum on living wages, stable jobs at O'Hare and Midway airports and their affects on Chicago communities. More Information.

     

    Friday, November 4, Noon
    First Friday Demonstration for Jobs
    State of Illinois Building, Randolph & Clark, Chicago
    Rally and press conference in response to the Labor Department's monthly jobs report. More Information.

    Saturday, November 5, 6 PM to 9 PM
    Communism in Weimar Germany
    Wicker Park Art Center, 2125 W. North Ave, Chicago
    Dr. Norman LaPorte talks about what it was and why it failed. More Information.

     

    Saturday, November 5, 6:30 PM
    Media Democracy Day 2011
    Human Thread, 645 W. 18th St, Chicago
    How can we use our progressive media networks to deliver information and stories to our communities and make a difference? More Information.

    Monday, November 7, 10:15 AM
    March & Rally Against Cuts
    Federal Plaza, Dearborn & Adams, Chicago
    Rally then march at 11 AM against cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, HUD.... More Information.


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