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New Ground

#151

November -- December, 2013

Contents

  • March on Springfield by Tom Broderick
  • Coming Out Swinging by Duane Campbell
  • Chicago Report by Bill Barclay and Peg Strobel
  • Remembering Gene Birmingham by Bob Roman
  • Other News compiled by Bob Roman
  • "The Feminine Mystique" at 50
    Socialist Reading Group
    We're Moving
    The New National Political Committee

  • Gender, Socialism, and Sports
  • The Blackhawks, Masculinity Studies and Socialism by Judith Kegan Gardiner
    Socialism and Sports by Lee Levin
    Are Sports the Great Equalizer? by Frida Berrigan

  • Grim No Matter How You Look At It by Ron Baiman
  • What's Wrong with the U.S. Economy? by Tom Suhrbur
  • The Status of Racism in the USA by Ruth Kovacs
  • Upcoming Events
  • New Ground 151.1 -- 12.02.2013

    0. DSA News

    Socialist Reading Group
    DSA in the News
    Socialist International

    1. Politics

    Standing with Walmart Workers
    Legislative Pension Grubbing
    A Living Wage for Aurora
    Salt Lake TPP Talks
    A Little Light in the Dark Corridors of Power

    2. Democratic Socialism

    The Crisis of Social Democracy
    Mondragon Bankruptcy

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest

    New Ground 151.2 -- 12.17.2013

    0. DSA News

    We're Moving
    Talkin' Socialism
    Remembering Mandela
    DSA National Convention
    DSA in the News

    1. Politics

    Pension Fallout
    November Jobs Report

    2. People

    Harold and Trudi Hill
    More Mandela

    3. Democratic Socialism

    Macro: The System Problem
    Micro: Governance

    4. Upcoming Events of Interest

    New Ground 151.3 -- 01.02.2014

    0. DSA News

    Chicago DSA Reading Group
    DSA in the News
    We're Moving

    1. Politics

    The 2013 Economy
    NAFTA at 20
    "Mayor 1%"

    2. Ars Politica

    Revolution at the Mall
    Last Laugh at Safeway

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest


    March on Springfield

    by Tom Broderick

    "Call the vote! Call the vote! Call the vote!" was loudly chanted in the capitol rotunda, outside at the rally and during the March On Springfield for Marriage Equality on October 22nd. The rainbow was ubiquitous: flags, banners, home-made and commercially produced signs, clothing, stickers, dyed hair, face paint. Music flowed from the stage at the outdoor rally. The Lakeside Pride Freedom Marching Band led the march. This was a celebration and a political statement.

    Grey skies, intermittent falling rain and chilly winds did not stop people traveling from across Illinois to tell our State Representatives to reject inequality and pass SB 10, the "Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act." The Illinois Senate passed it and Governor Pat Quinn, with pen in hand, told us that he will sign it when it comes to his desk. Some unknown number of legislators impeded expanding human rights by abolishing injustice based on gender identity.

    The rally, march and lobbying took place on the first day of the veto session. During this short period, our legislators can take up bills that weren't acted on before the last session ended, providing an opportunity to clear the slate. When a veto session occurs just prior to an election period, as is the case now, calling for a vote on any issue considered controversial is risky.

    Tired of bigotry, marriage equality supporters want to know who will vote for and against SB 10. Unless Representative Greg Harris, the prime sponsor of SB 10, is certain he has the votes to pass the bill, it's unlikely to come to a vote during this veto session. In his dealings with fellow legislators, he has no doubt been told by some that they will vote for SB 10 only if he has enough votes to pass it. By the time you read this, the veto session will have ended and we'll know.

    I traveled to Springfield on a bus sponsored by Berwyn Mayor Robert Lovero, Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, Berwyn Alderman Marge Paul and BUNGALO (Berwyn United Neighborhood Gay And Lesbian Organization). My thanks. The bus was full and several religious collars were clearly visible. There were at least four young children, one of whom handed out candy during our trip. Another shared sign making material.

    Near the corner where we exited the bus, there was a dour faced sentinel holding a tall black banner with white type that exhorted us to repent. Standing next to him was a young man who smiled and welcomed us. He distributed small blue and white placards that read "MARRIAGE EQUALITY" on one side and "LOVE IS LOVE" on the other.

    Several Berwyners went into the capitol to lobby their three legislators. Representatives La Shawn K. Ford and Elizabeth Hernandez were already publicly committed to voting for SB 10, so those two meetings were expressions of thanks and photo opportunities. On the way to Springfield, we were told that Representative Michael J. Zalewski's position was unclear. He voted for civil unions and was considered a likely "yes" vote, but there was uncertainty. During our meeting with Rep. Zalewski, several gay and lesbian couples introduced themselves and made personal cases for passage of the bill. He declared his support.

    At least three buses came from Oak Park. Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association (OPALGA) sponsored one bus, Oak Park Temple sponsored another and Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Church sent a bus with members from various Unitarian congregations. Some 300 Unitarians from more than 20 congregations took part. During the rally, someone on the stage read a list of Faith groups represented at the march and when she called out "Unitarians," she got the loudest shout back. She also announced that among others, Catholics and Buddhists were with us. One of the event's field organizers I spoke with noted that the Muslim faith was not mentioned.

    Chicago Teachers Union scheduled a bus, but I didn't see them. Someone said they were there, wearing red hats. UNITE-HERE! Local 1 sent a bus full of members and staff. They were very visible inside and outside the capitol building. Many wore their red t-shirts and carried their distinctive round UNITE-HERE signs. They broke up into teams and spent much of the afternoon lobbying legislators.

    Students from several high schools added their voices. I saw groups of students from Latin High School, Rudy Lozano Leadership Academy and Francis Parker School, and heard there were others.

    The bus ride back was uneventful. Oddly there was no story swapping or wrap up. One thoughtful person provided beer that was chilling on ice while we lobbied, rallied and marched. That gesture was absolutely appreciated.

    CELEBRATORY UPDATE: On Tuesday, November 5th, Rep. Greg Harris did call the vote. It passed 61 to 54 with two Representatives voting "Present" and one absent. All three legislators representing Berwyn voted in support. Same-sex marriage licenses will become available in Illinois on June 1, 2014. Yes we can can!


    Coming Out Swinging

    by Duane Campbell

     

    The 2013 Democratic Socialists of America DSA Convention was held in Emeryville, California on October 25-27. It brought together socialists from all areas of the country to build mutual support, solidarity and motivation to continue the activism needed in these difficult times.

    The Friday convention plenary began with reports from Maria Svart, our national director, as well as members of the National Political Committee and co-chairs of the Young Democratic Socialists. It included presentations on the politics of the current situation by Honorary Chair Gus Newport and Michael Lighty, political director of National Nurses United and former DSA national director.

    The East Bay local chapter hosted a public event for delegates and Bay Area supporters. The packed house heard rousing speeches by writer John Nichols, organizer Steve Williams and Catherine Tactaquin, executive director of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, followed by the local hip-hop artist Mario de Mira aka Nomi of Power Struggle. The Saturday banquet was addressed by David Bacon, author of The Right to Stay Home: How U.S. Policy Drives Mexican Migration (2013); SDS founder and prolific author Tom Hayden; and political comedian Nato Green.

    The NPC had set as a goal for the convention to initiate a two-year, grassroots member discussion of an updated political strategy for DSA, including revising or replacing Building the Next Left: The Political Perspective of the Democratic Socialists of America.

    Delegates and observers benefited from an impressive and diverse series of speakers and workshop leaders, including former national YDS chair Angie Fa; immigrant rights activist Alma Lopez; director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute Clayborne Carson; worker-owner and cooperative association board member Jenn Shepard, and many in the volunteer leadership of DSA. The speakers, along with dialogue in workshops, hallways and the usually malfunctioning elevators enriched the delegates' discussion.

    Personal sharing and exchanges at the convention strengthened our work by humanizing our activism. We learn from each other. Email, internet exchanges, and those painful conference calls can at times lead to divisions, while working together provides needed support for community building and to keep our energy and enthusiasm for the long haul to advance democracy and socialism in the U.S.

    Resolutions on our national priorities for the next two years and on the need to defend voting rights were passed after some healthy debate, and will soon be posted on at www.dsausa.org. Finally, the new 16 member National Political Committee was elected.

     

    Editor's Note: a version of the article first appeared at Democratic Left.


    Chicago Report

    by Bill Barclay and Peg Strobel

    This was an outstanding Convention the best we have been to over the past decade. As delegates we began by ditching Chicago's 20-degrees-below-normal temperatures for balmy California. Tough job, but someone's got to do the work of setting priorities for the next two years.

    We were excited by the enthusiasm and insights of young people at the convention, members of Young Democratic Socialists. Many of them are creating new DSA chapters and/or taking on leadership positions in established chapters.

    The convention furthered this dynamic through sessions designed to help DSA do what we must do to thrive going forward: engage and recruit a broader demographic than our current membership. A recent member survey indicated that DSA that 76% of respondents were male, two-thirds were between the ages of 52 and 84, and 92% were non-Hispanic whites. This is just a sample, not necessarily representative, but our sense, having given workshops at a number of established DSA chapters, suggests these numbers are not far off. However, it did not represent who was at the Convention.

    During lunch break, some of us joined a picket line at a Ford dealership where workers were beginning their second week off the job. We, wearing our DSA T-shirts, were welcomed.

    Peg was re-elected to a second term on the governing body, the National Political Committee. She joins 8 other long serving NPC members and 5 new NPC members who are under 40.

     
     
     
     


    Remembering Gene Birmingham

    by Bob Roman

    Those of you who receive the email editions of New Ground know that Gene Birmingham passed away on October 2 of 2013. We had a brief note about it in New Ground 150.2. When I attempted to write about Gene for that issue, I wrote one lame paragraph then quickly realized that everything I knew about him was in fragments that really did not make a narrative. The only thing for it was to bring Gene back on stage to speak for himself. I could do that because he wrote for New Ground now and then. You'll find titles and links to his articles at www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng150.html.

    Now, more than a month later, I'm giving it a second try. Writing about Gene hasn't gotten easier.

    Gene was a retired minister from the United Church of Christ, having been the pastor at West Chicago's St. Michael's Church until the end of the 1990s. He hadn't begun his calling in that denomination; he spoke of his education at Wheaton College as something he had recovered from. The only obvious personal manifestation of his profession seemed to be a talent for listening and a knack for catching green lights in traffic. He also had an interest in the intersection between politics and religion: How the values and sentiments of religion find expression in public policy.

    Just what led him to DSA, I don't recall. He joined sometime in 1990. In September of 1993, he became treasurer of Chicago DSA, elected at a special election to fill an unexpected vacancy. He finished the term but then spent the next few years concentrating on Chicago DSA's West Suburban (DuPage, Will, and Kane counties) branch. In 1996, he was back on the Chicago DSA Executive Committee, this time as secretary. He remained secretary until 2011.

    His service on the Executive Committee would have been a great gift even if Gene had only been the diligent and accurate scribe of meeting minutes that he was. But he also served as the master of ceremonies for some of our Debs ­ Thomas ­ Harrington Dinners. He did it well and did it graciously. Gene was also skilled in office administration. This may not sound like much, but mailings seemed to magically self-assemble with his assistance.

    Gene had other political affiliations besides DSA. He was for many years a Democratic precinct captain in Addison Township. Outside of Cook County, fyi, precinct captain is an elected position. He was active in the West Suburban Faith-Based Peace Coalition. As retired clergy, he remained active with his denomination, substituting at services during vacations, presiding over an occasional wedding, and helping with other tasks. Just a few months ago, he was proud to have presided at a "gay" wedding. They asked for him specifically.

    As a former Southsider, he was a big White Sox fan. He was also a big fan of Bruce Springsteen. In fact, I don't believe I'll ever hear a Springsteen cut again without thinking of Gene Birmingham. Pardon me while I go and spin some vinyl.


    Other News

    compiled by Bob Roman

    "The Feminine Mystique" at 50

    Episode 33 of Talkin' Socialism features DSA National Vice Chair Chris Riddiough who, interviewed by Peg Strobel, takes a retrospective look at Betty Friedan's book, The Feminine Mystique. How does the book read today? What did it mean to the women who read it then? The conversation ranges from the National Organization for Women to the Chicago Women's Liberation Union, from consciousness raising groups to the Equal Rights Amendment, and more. Hear it at www.chicagodsa.org /audarch6.html.

    Socialist Reading Group

    This really should have a better title. As is, it could be so boring. Or it could be a heck of a lot of fun. It's like this: People often like to talk about the stuff they're reading if only because the added perspectives give added dimensions to the text. In fact, one of the projects to come out of the 2013 DSA National Convention is a national reading group conducted as a webinar.

    But nothing really substitutes for person to person conversation. When Peg Strobel, back from the convention, mentioned this new national project, she found some enthusiasm for having a monthly reading group here in Chicago for DSA members and friends.

    Would you like to be part of the conversation? Then we'd like to hear from you. We're looking for suggestions regarding topics and reading material and venue. And the material doesn't need to be nonfiction. Back in 1995, for example, we did a summer series on "Ideology and Utopia" with readings from fiction.

    We intend to start this reading group in January or February of 2014. Please contact Dan Hamilton at 847.431.4569 with your interest and ideas.

    We're Moving!

    After something like 28 years in the same building, Chicago DSA is moving. Chicago DSA staffer Mark Davidson found the Northwest Tower Building when it was a nearly empty shell in the process of being rehabbed. The neighborhood was neglected, sometimes dangerous, and gritty. The landlord was politically friendly. The rent was cheap. We moved in.

    It hasn't been all 28 years in the same office. The first few years we moved just about every year, dodging the rising drywall. But we have been in 403 since 1988. Come the 21st century, we took over the office next door so we could have meetings in the office, and we added an air conditioner, mostly to cut down on the noise and dirt from outside.

    Built in 1929, the Northwest Tower (sometimes called the "Coyote Tower") is a gently art deco 12 story (190') masonry clad structure (architect: Perkins, Chatten, & Hammond). Its construction was financed by the long defunct Noel State Bank whose gorgeous headquarters still stands (as a Walgreens today) right across the street. The capital, it is said, came from the alternative pharmaceutical trade.

    Even after having been rehabbed, the Northwest Tower building was not in the greatest of shape. And the quarter century since has not been kind to the structure. The neighborhood, however, has become an expensive part of Chicago's party district. Judging by the number of bars, bistros and restaurants, it's not clear that anyone actually cooks at home in Wicker Park / Bucktown except to entertain and maybe not even then. Or that they go home sober on a weekend evening.

    The property has gone through two bankruptcies in the years we've been here. This last was rumored to be a saga of fiscal chicanery that involved ten different banks. But now that's all settled. The building (and the "fireproof" warehouse next door) is to become a boutique hotel.

    We need to be gone by the end of January, 2014. Where are we going? At press time, we don't know. But if you'd like to help, give the office a call at 773.384.0327.

    The New National Political Committee

    Elected at the 2013 DSA National Convention:

    Jared Abbott, Philadelphia

    Theresa Alt, Ithaca

    David Duhalde, Boston

    Stuart Elliott, Wichita

    Amber A'Lee Frost, New York City

    Paul Garver, Boston

    David Green, Detroit

    José Gutierrez, Washington, D.C.

    Barbara Joye, Atlanta

    Simone Morgen, Columbus

    Maxine Phillips, New York City

    David Roddy, Sacramento

    Joseph Schwartz, Philadelphia

    Peg Strobel, Chicago

    Alexandra Deane and Matthew Porter, Young Democratic Socialists Co-chairs


    Gender, Socialism, and Sports

    The Blackhawks, Masculinity Studies and Socialism

    At Democratic Left, Chicago DSA member Judith Kegan Gardiner began the conversation:

    As I walked to my Chicago neighborhood grocery store in late June, the streets were filled with people wearing red and black clothing. Crowds in a holiday mood spilled out of bars and partied in the streets.  Many people wore shirts depicting a stereotyped Native American man wearing face paint and feathers, that is, the insignia of the Chicago Blackhawks, which had just won the Stanley Cup trophy of the National Hockey League. Over a million fans reportedly gathered to celebrate the victory.

    MORE.

    Socialism and Sports

    Also at Democratic Left, Lee Levin responded:

    The two great loves of my father's life were the Green Bay Packers and golf.  Every fall Sunday we worshipped at the altar of the Green and Gold.  My brother and I learned, at an early age, that we could only talk during commercials and half time.  Our Sunday routines created my love of armchair sports.  Today, in addition to following pro football, I watch college basketball and football, pro basketball, baseball and tennis.  Too often feminists and leftists dismiss the importance of sports in society and only focus on the machismo culture encouraged by professional/college athletics.  Although that culture is real to an alarming extent, I dare say it is also an elitist attitude that is not conducive to mass organizing and needs to be re-considered.

    MORE.

    Are Sports the Great Equalizer?

    At Waging Nonviolence, Frida Berrigan made this contribution:

    Seamus watched the Red Sox ride roughshod over the Cardinals on Wednesday night. He sat on his dad's lap at the bar down the street and was mesmerized by the little men swinging bats and wearing gloves.

    MORE.


    Grim No Matter How You Look At It

    At Democratic Left, Ron Baiman (of Chicago DSA and the Chicago Political Economy Group) writes about the BLS October Jobs Report:

    Though payroll jobs (establishment survey) increased by 204,000 in October, overall employment (household survey) declined by 735,000, indicating that the U.S. employment situation remains dismal.  More telling, long-term employment of 27 weeks or more remains at 4.1 million, approximately double the level in prior recessions.  The official unemployment rate also remained essentially unchanged, increasing slightly from 7.2 percent to 7.3 percent.  The more accurate U-6 unemployment rate, which takes into account discouraged workers and workers working part time who would like full-time work, also rose from 13.6 percent to 13.8 percent in October.

    MORE.


    What's Wrong with the U.S. Economy?

    by Tom Suhrbur
    In 1970, my younger brother dropped out of high school and enlisted in the Navy. While in the service, he obtained a General Educational Development (GED) certificate. He also learned welding and other mechanical skills while in the service. When his tour of duty ended in 1974, he took a job at Pepperidge Farm as a maintenance mechanic. At the time, he was paid $12.75 per hour. In today's dollar, his wages would be $62.47 per hour.

    In an interview for this article, I asked him whether it was a union job? He responded, "No but they paid the union rate." What about benefits? He stated that he had health insurance, a (defined benefit) pension and other benefits that union workers received. Much has changed since then!

    Why has the U.S. economy been so slow to recover from the financial collapse of 2008?
    The Great Recession has lasted much longer than many economists expected. A major (but largely unspoken) reason for this fact is U.S. labor policies since 1970's.

    After WWII, wages were steadily improving for the working class. By the mid-1950s, unions represented over 1/3 of the labor force. Americans enjoyed the highest standard of living in the world. As Edward Kennedy said this rising tide of prosperity lifted "all boats, not just the yachts." Unions set the wages for non-union employees creating a broad "middle-class." Recessions in 1958 and 1960-61 lasted less than one year and were followed by eight years of rapid economic growth. Income gains as a result of increased productivity were fairly evenly distributed across all income groups until the mid-1970s.

    Subsequent recessions varied in intensity but the economy generally rebounded in a robust manner until 2008. The Great Recession has been the longest and deepest recession since WWII. To address the 2008 financial collapse, the government enacted a $700 billion banking bailout and $767 billion stimulus package. Technically, the economy was no longer in recession by 2010 but job growth has been very slow. For millions of Americans, it was and still is a depression. So what is different about 2008?

    Since the late 1970's, there has been a slow but steady erosion of income among the working class and lower middle class. Wages have not keep up with inflation. When factored into inflation, the minimum wage today for the low-income earners is 28% less than it was in 1968. Not only do the working poor have less to spend but so do many others. Unions, which had previously set the level of compensation for all workers, have been undermined. "Free trade" policies have resulted in a huge transfer of manufacturing to low wage economies. Even the threat of shifting jobs overseas has weakened unions. Since the 1981 PATCO Strike, it has been very difficult to win strikes. Employers aggressively fight union organizing campaigns in the private sector. They often violate the law knowing that the legal and political consequences for such acts are minimal. Today, unions represent only 11.3% of the labor force.

    In a labor market flooded with unorganized low-wage labor, power has shifted to the employers in collective bargaining. Concession bargaining has increased dramatically since 2008. And now, since the 2010 right-wing election victories in Midwestern state governments, open shop law have been enacted and stripped public sector unions of their bargaining rights in traditionally union strongholds. A weakened labor movement means lower wages for all.
    .

    As high paying manufacturing jobs have left the U.S., many workers ended up working for lower paid service sector employment. To keep up, many people are working longer hours than they did 20 years ago. Since 1973, there has been a 92% increase in people working second jobs. Besides second jobs and having both spouses working, private debt in the form of credit cards increased tremendously in response to declining wages in the labor market. For many Americans, keeping up or getting ahead in a low wage service economy is to work longer hours and to go deeper into debt via easy access to credit cards. To maximize their profit, corporations are increasingly relying on part-time and full-time temporary jobs, which are now 19.3% of the U.S. employment. Many wage earners cannot even find full-time employment today.

    In other words, many Americans were in a very precarious position when the economy crashed in 2008. Their standard of living rested largely on debt ­ credit cards and refinanced mortgages. When the housing market bubble collapsed and unemployment soared, workers no longer had the means to spend the economy out of recession let alone pay their mortgages. The U.S. economy, built upon the concentration of wealth among the upper class, cannot recover quickly, if at all, from the Great Recession. A rising tide of prosperity for the rich only lifts their yachts.

    If it were not for social programs inspired by the New Deal (Social Security, unemployment insurance, food stamps, worker's compensation, etc.), we would have soup kitchens, breadlines and social revolution. This would be the Second Great Depression. And yet, the "free market'' policies of the political right are intended to undermine the safety net created since 1932.

     


    The Status of Racism in the USA

    by Ruth Kovacs

    Simply put: Racism in the USA is alive and well.

    There are those who might believe that we have eliminated our racist ways. Black folks are free, can vote, attend colleges, enter high paid professions, live in integrated neighborhoods, be seen in public holding hands and even married to white folks without being stared at, and as final proof -- even become President of the United States.

    All of the above is true. But is it enough? Can we really say that Americans have finally become color blind and agree that "all men are created equal"?

    For instance - The world has seen the election of a President who is a person of color as finally a possible lack of racism in the USA. But do they realize how many folks voted for Obama because they desperately wanted anyone but another Bush -- even if he was black.

    The first evidence of racism that comes to my mind is the all too frequent number of unarmed young black men (boys!) who have been shot in the back while being pursed by zealous white police officers. Or perhaps being shot by a self-appointed law enforcer (whose name starts with Z) and having it go down in history that he was killed in self defense -- even though it is believed the victim had no weapon.

    And what about the statistics of folks on welfare, food stamps and living at poverty level? Although the majority of welfare recipients are white, the per cent of our minority population is far less than the per cent of black folks going to bed hungry. Why are so many folks in minority groups poor? We know: equal education and employment opportunities do not exist.

    Our prisons are overflowing. The injustice system has incarcerated thousands of folks for minor crimes. Thanks to the Illinois Governor who paid attention to a study done by college students, a review of folks on death row led to the release of prisoners wrongly convicted--by the way most of them were black. Mandatory sentencing in various states has been used to send youths to prison for long terms that are glaringly inappropriate. Once again, studies show "when in doubt--if he or she is black--lock them up".

    Another obvious flaw in the conviction and sentencing injustice system, is that folks with lots of money seem to get better deals than poor folks. Guess what color the poor folks brought to court are?

    Women fought for their rights -- especially to vote, and blacks have fought for voting rights. Good for the success women have had -- but just for comparison, many blacks in the south are still struggling to get to the polls. In fact, in recent years we've seen legislature passed that makes it even more difficult for black wannabe voters.

    Numbers, statistics, documentation, etc. are often very convincing, but personally, I don't trust most of the surveys and data available to prove or disprove any of the above. Just like I never quite trusted the vote counting that got George Bush elected for a second term. I've tried to remind you, dear readers, about things that we can observe just by paying attention.

    Do you still see some white folks shudder when a black person takes the seat next to them on the bus? Have you noticed how many events should be equally appealing to people of all ages and races, but the attendance is not racially proportionate? Are some of the high prices in restaurants, music events, airline tickets, etc. devices for segregation?

    Without a doubt, "we've come a long way" in our efforts to end racism. But it isn't just about black folks and race. Much of the above applies equally to other minority groups and people who are "different" like handicapped or GLBT folks. In fact folks who are too fat or too short are often overlooked or ostracized. We need to include "biased" or "prejudiced" in our discussions and efforts about the lesson that we are all brothers and sisters. We are all members of humanity.

    I'm glad I'm white and privileged and can speak out about these things. I hope you'll look in the mirror and see what you can do to help bring about the changes.


    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.


    New Ground #151.1

    12.02.2013

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Socialist Reading Group
    DSA in the News
    Socialist International

    1. Politics

    Standing with Walmart Workers
    Legislative Pension Grubbing
    A Living Wage for Aurora
    Salt Lake TPP Talks
    A Little Light in the Dark Corridors of Power

    2. Democratic Socialism

    The Crisis of Social Democracy
    Mondragon Bankruptcy

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest



    DSA News

    Socialist Reading Group
    We are looking at the first meeting taking place on Saturday January 11 at 2:30 pm at the DSA office. This might be at 1608 N. Milwaukee, but we may have moved the office (see New Ground 151, "Other News") by then. Stay tuned.

    We have decided that the reading for the first session will cover feminism and socialism, with two short selections (10-20 pages) from Nancy Frasier and Linda Gordon. Also at that first session, there will be a discussion to determine the readings for the third meeting and beyond. The second meeting, which will be the second Saturday in February, will cover Antonio Gramsci with readings including the "Hegemony and the Historic Bloc" section of the Gramsci Reader and a secondary reading from Roger Simon's Gramsci's Political Thought.

    For more information about the readings and the reading group, contact Dan Hamilton at 847.431.4569 or hamiltd@gmail.com.

    DSA in the News
    Cornel West is always good for a DSA mention when he speaks on a campus, and so it was in the Swathmore Pheonix. John Nichols gave us a plug, of course, when he wrote about Kshama Sawant's election to the Seattle City Council in The Nation. Nichols made a feeble attempt at historical context in his article, but it being The Nation, after all, that got it quoted in radio station KUOW's coverage of the election, scoring DSA another mention. A Young Democratic Socialists chapter has sprung up at the University of the South in Swanee, Tennessee, and this was news in The Swanee Purple, as was the chapter's first event. The Las Vegas Guardian Express carried this surprisingly sympathetic editorial regarding Wal-Mart and the "Democratic Socialists of Arkansas". Some six months earlier they had carried this item of Tea Party babble. The Department of Labor put together a list of "Books That Shaped Work in America" and of course it included some DSA authors, provoking this hiss from The Daily Caller. Neal Meyer, the new YDS organizer, had this item at In These Times putting Occupy in historical context. And Tom Broderick had this op-ed re: the TPP published in the Wednesday Journal.

    Socialist International
    The SI Council met in Turkey on November 11 and 12. No comment from your editor. A report is HERE.



    Politics

    Standing with Walmart Workers
    Greater Oak Park DSA helped organize turnout for the demnstration outside the Walmart near Diversey & Cicero on Chicago's far west side. But more DSA members participated through other venues. Bob Simpson provides an account of Chicago Jobs with Justice's mobilization HERE.

    Legislative Pension Grubbing
    Legislative leaders have released details on their extreme, pension-cutting proposal. The We Are One Illinois coalition responded with a quick analysis of the proposal. The Illinois legislature will vote on this plan on Tuesday, December 3. Now is the time to contact your state representative and senator. For the details, CLICK HERE.

    A Living Wage for Aurora
    At The Fox Valley Labor News, Pat Barcas begins:

    A movement has begun that would make Aurora the first city in Illinois to enact a living wage ordinance, which would require a minimum wage several dollars above the national minimum wage requirement.

    San Francisco, Calif., Santa Fe, N.M., Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wis. all have living wage ordinances in place. Chicago passed a living wage ordinance in 2006, but it was vetoed by Mayor Richard M. Daley.

    The labor group Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice aims to make it affordable to live in Aurora, if you work in Aurora. It held a panel discussion at the Prisco Center Nov. 14.

    MORE.

    Salt Lake TPP Talks
    At PublicCitizen's Eyes on Trade, Lori Wallach provides an update on what was agreed and, more importantly, what was not, at the latest round of negotiations in Salt Lake City:

    A week of intense TPP negotiations, marked with increasingly heavy-handed U.S. tactics, came to an end late Sunday night in Salt Lake City, Utah. Negotiators working on the 12 TPP chapters not yet completed were instructed to narrow disagreements to matters that the chief negotiators or trade ministers will decide. At least three chapters -- those covering intellectual property, state owned enterprises and medicine-pricing formularies -- did not reach this target. Talks on the controversial intellectual property chapter were extended and will continue for at least two more days.  There was no discussion of disciplines to counter currency manipulation despite 230 House and 60 Senate GOP and Democrats demanding such terms.

    MORE.

    A Little Light in the Dark Corridors of Power
    At the Economic Policy Institute, labor economist Jeff Faux is grateful for small things:

    The deeper you are in the inner sanctums of power, the slower you are to get disturbing news from the rest of the world. So, I suppose it should be no surprise that it has taken so long for a prominent member of the American policy elite to suggest openly to his colleagues that the core assumption upon which they have been managing the economic crisis might be dead wrong.

    MORE.



    Democratic Socialism

    The Crisis of Social Democracy
    At Social Europe, Marc Saxer begins:

    The crisis of social democracy runs deeper than the ups and downs of the electoral cycle. First of all, it is a crisis of political assertiveness. The crisis goes all the way down to the roots of the social democratic project aiming at striking a balance between the universal mandate of democracy and the particular interests of capital. In the post-war 'Golden Age', social democracy quite successfully tamed capitalism. Today, many do not trust social democracy to even try.

    In order to produce full capabilities for all, an emancipatory project needs to change the power structures of  political economy. This will call to resistance those who have an interest in upholding the status quo. Thus, in order to advance progressive policies against the interests of those who control resources, ideology and coercion, any emancipatory project needs to be able to mobilise power. Historically, this power came from the ability of the labour movement to mobilise the masses. Electoral victories mandated social democratic parties to utilize the state in the production of full capabilities for all. Strikes and mass protests empowered trade unions to bargain collectively with the capital side. Both pillars of the labour movement, parties and unions, are today less and less able to mobilise these power resources.

    MORE.

    Mondragon Bankruptcy
    Fagor, one of the larger units of the Mondragon cooperative federation, is headed into bankruptcy, a victim of the collapse of the Spanish housing construction industry. Some of the background and just how the coop federation is coping with this is covered by The Economist, The Guardian, and at Truthout.



    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.


    New Ground #151.2

    12.17.2013

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    We're Moving
    Talkin' Socialism
    Remembering Mandela
    DSA National Convention
    DSA in the News

    1. Politics

    Pension Fallout
    November Jobs Report

    2. People

    Harold and Trudi Hill
    More Mandela

    3. Democratic Socialism

    Macro: The System Problem
    Micro: Governance

    4. Upcoming Events of Interest



    DSA News

    We're Moving
    You knew that. It's the where. Our new address will be 3411 W. Diversey. If that sounds familiar, it's because of the Crossroads Fund and a number of other lefty groups make that building their home, as have others in the past. We're hoping to do most of the move on Saturday, January 4. If you'd like to help, email chiildsa@chicagodsa.org or call 773.384.0327.

    Talkin' Socialism
    Episode 34 -- We Need National Health Insurance
    Recorded 12.14.2013: Sheilah Garland and Dr. Anne Scheetz confront the chaos of "ObamaCare" and advocate for "single-payer" national health insurance. For more information, Dr Scheetz prescribes "Single-Payer FAQ", Healthcare Now, the Labor Campaign for Single-Payer Healthcare, Medicare for All, "When in Hotel, First Do No Harm".
    CLICK HERE.

    Remembering Mandela
    A brief DSA statement on Mandela's passing is posted at Democratic Left, along with a call to action by Bill Fletcher.

    Chicago DSA members, particularly Carl Shier and Kathy Devine, were active in the Illinois Labor Network Against Apartheid. Toward the end of 1991, Devine and Shier wrote about the work of the Network for New Ground. A year after the apartheid regime fell, Cole Wright and Kathy Devine visited South Africa as sort of political exchange students. Devine's account of that visit is HERE.

    DSA National Convention
    The DSA national web site now has a convention report including videos, pictures, resolutions, posted HERE.

    DSA in the News
    It's nothing exciting. DSA was mentioned in passing in an In These Times article about Tim Carpenter of Progressive Democrats of America. Also in passing by former lefty (and former DSA member) Ron Radosh in an article predicting a swing to the left among Democrats (as well as factionalism) at PJMedia. Somewhat more exciting, Massachusetts' 5th Congressional District held a special election wherein the Republican candidate waved the DSA scare flag in an attempt to flog his voters to the polls, it being a low-turnout election, after all. It didn't work, but he peppered online sites with press releases, and example being this Wicked Local item. We also got another passing mention in Yet Another Article About Kshama Sawant, this one by Bhaskar Sunkara and Micah Uetricht at In These Times.


    Politics

    Pension Fallout
    Passage of the Marriage Equality bill was a great moral victory, but its political consequences (the leash on social conservatives among Illinois Republicans, for example, is being shortened and jerked) are likely to be mild compared to the Great Illinois Pension Robbery.

    At In These Times, David Moberg noted:

    ...nearly all of the public employee unions have grown unalterably opposed to endorsing or donating to Quinn-and possibly all Democrats who voted for the pension bill. "Their decisions to sacrifice us to the gods of the 1% leaves us in a position where it is difficult to support them on any front," [AFSCME's] John Cameron says, "particularly the governor who pledged when he ran not to support any pension plan not negotiated with labor. And I can't imagine any of those legislators who voted for the bill who are up for election getting support of major unions."

    MORE.

    At Capitol Fax, Rich Miller noted the pattern of "yes" and "no" votes among Republicans and predicted:

    Ken Griffin told the Tribune last year that the ultra wealthy "actually have an insufficient influence" on politics. And now, Griffin, Rauner and the rest of the ultra-wealthy are making a big play to take over the party and then the governor's mansion. Everybody else had better pay attention.

    MORE.

    And of course, the pension bill has consequences for governing. At Crain's Chicago Business, Ralph Martire (Center for Tax and Budget Accountability) and Amanda Kass make two points:

    First, it ultimately will make the state's poor fiscal condition even worse. Now, how can that be, given the billions in savings projected by the bill's proponents? It's simple: The legislation is most likely unconstitutional....

    Second, the legislation fails to address the problem that led to the pension systems being underfunded in the first place: poor tax policy. Simply put, the Illinois tax system consistently fails to generate enough revenue to maintain the same level of public services from year to year, after adjusting solely for inflation. This is called a "structural deficit." It means that without adding or expanding any services, the state nonetheless will run a deficit....

    MORE.

    At Dollars & Sense, Chicago DSA's Ron Baiman adds that

    [The Chicago Political Economy Group] and others have repeatedly pointed out that Illinois' has a revenue, not a pension problem (the average Illinois state pension in 2011 was $ 27,000 comparable for a wealthy state to the $23,000 average among the states), and have offered numerous equitable and politically popular proposals to raise additional revenue including enacting a Financial Speculation Tax, and closing egregious business tax breaks....

    MORE.

    Illinois is not unique. At Truthout, Dean Baker observed:

    In the past two days we've seen a federal judge rule that Detroit can go bankrupt, putting its workers' pensions in jeopardy, and we have seen Illinois' Legislature vote for substantial cuts in its retirees' pensions. Undoubtedly these two actions are just the tip of the iceberg. We have opened up a new sport for America's elite: pension theft.

    The specifics of the situations are very different, but the outcome is the same. Public employees who spent decades working for the government are not going to get the pensions that were part of their pay package. In both cases we have governments claiming poverty, and therefore the workers are just out of luck.

    MORE.

    The We Are One Illinois coalition put together a FAQ sheet with information on the pension bill. They also have a nice little spreadsheet you can use to learn just how deeply pensions are being cut. And, if you want to do something about it, they also posted a record of how the legislators voted. It's all HERE.

    Finally, in New Ground 150.3, we noted reports of the Working Families Party expanding operations to Illinois, among other places. It's not clear that you're likely to see a separate "Working Families" ballot line on the Illinois ballot in 2014, but it is likely that you'll see an effort at having labor backed electoral campaigns, whether successful or unsuccessful, create a legacy for the next election, something that does not routinely happen today. And as a direct consequence of Kshama Sawant's election to the Seattle City Council, you may very well see a number of lefty independent candidates.

    November Jobs Report
    At the Chicago Political Economy Group, Bill Barclay observes:

    It should be clear that, by any reasonable definition, the Long Depression has not ended. We still inhabit an economy that is failing, over both the short and the long run, to create sufficient jobs, and especially sufficient living wage jobs, for our people. It is worth noting that a similar -- and in some cases more extreme -- pattern is true of much of Western Europe.

    MORE.


    People

    Harold and Trudi Hill
    are among the honorees at the annual Peoples World banquet. MORE INFORMATION.

    More Mandela
    On December 6, Portside's regular "Friday Night Video" feature put together an anthology of music inspired by and supporting the South African struggle for liberation. You can see the videos HERE.


    Democratic Socialism

    Macro: The System Problem
    At Truthout, Gar Alperovitz and Thomas Hanna use Fagor Electrodomesticos (a member of the Mondragon federation of coops) bankruptcy as an argument for going beyond cooperative enterprises:

    Mondragón itself, and proposals for systemic change based on larger-scale cooperatives in general, have only occasionally directly confronted some of the larger challenges that the market poses to cooperative institutional forms. Mondragón's primary emphasis has been on effective and efficient competition. But what do you do when you are up against a global economic recession, on the one hand, or radical cost challenges from Chinese and other low-cost producers, on the other?

    The same challenges face anyone who hopes to project a new system based on cooperative ownership in any country. There is nothing inherently wrong with such a system; far from it, the principle is one to be advanced and supported. The question of interest, however -- and especially to the degree we begin to face the question of what to do about larger industry -- is whether trusting in open market competition is a sufficient answer to the problem of longer-term systemic design.

    MORE.

    Micro: Governance
    Fagor is not the only major recent casualty in the cooperative sector. Britian's Cooperative Bank recently ran into some major financial difficulties. Worse, this failure, complicated by scandal and incompetence, became ammunition that the Conservatives and Liberals turned on Labor as well as the cooperative movement in general. At Co-operative News, Paul Gosling uses the opportunity to discuss how coop governance might be improved:

    Our system is democratic, of a sort, but it is not effective. In the words of Peter Hunt: "A structure designed for local community businesses doesn't work when scaled up."

    In preparation for this column, I phoned several co-operative societies to ask them what training they do of their member elected directors to ensure they can do their job. Only one society gave me an answer -- Lincolnshire. This happens to be one society that has consistently impressed me. I fear that some of the societies that failed to respond may have done so because they do little or no training of their non-executives. 

    MORE.


    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.


    New Ground #151.3

    01.02.2014

    Contents

    0. DSA News

    Chicago DSA Reading Group
    DSA in the News
    We're Moving

    1. Politics

    The 2013 Economy
    NAFTA at 20
    "Mayor 1%"

    2. Ars Politica

    Revolution at the Mall
    Last Laugh at Safeway

    3. Upcoming Events of Interest



    DSA News

    Chicago DSA Reading Group
    Chicago DSA's new reading group has its first meeting on Saturday, January 11, in the 3411 W. Diversey conference room at 2 PM. For more information, CLICK HERE.

    DSA in the News
    Kshama Sawant's election to the Seattle City Council continues to attract attention to DSA. Seattle Met's political gossip column "The Morning Fizz" noted that, speaking of socialism, Seattle's "mayor-elect Ed Murray informed reporters yesterday that, "speaking of socialism," he takes inspiration from Michael Harrington."

    We're Moving
    You know that. The latest news is that we're moving the minimum required to set up shop to the new location on Saturday, January 4. If you'd like to help, come by 1608 N. Milwaukee, Room 403, between 10 AM and 11 AM. For more information, EMAIL.



    Politics

    The 2013 Economy
    The Economic Policy Institute put together the 13 charts they felt best described the economy for 2013. They begin:

    As we say goodbye to 2013, the economy is still failing ordinary workers.

    What is being done to make it better? Not enough. Public spending and public investment are too low, wages for increasingly productive workers are flat or falling, and the minimum wage is inadequate.

    MORE.

    NAFTA at 20
    Chicago DSA was a part of the coalition that opposed NAFTA, arguing that rather than a "free" trade agreement, the U.S., Canada, and Mexico needed a fair trade agreement.

    After 20 years, what have been the consequences of NAFTA? To mark the anniversary, Public Citizen has released a study, NAFTA at 20:

    In 1993, NAFTA was sold to the U.S. public with grand promises. NAFTA would create hundreds of thousands of good jobs here -- 170,000 per year according the Peterson Institute for International Economics. U.S. farmers would export their way to wealth. NAFTA would bring Mexico to a first-world level of economic prosperity and stability, providing new economic opportunities there that would reduce immigration to the United States. Environmental standards would improve.

    Twenty years later, the grand promises made by NAFTA's proponents remain unfulfilled. Many outcomes are exactly the opposite of what was promised...

    MORE. (PDF)

    "Mayor 1%"
    Probably written with a New York audience in mind, Michael Hirsch's review of Kari Lydersen's new book on Rahm Emanuel begins:

    New Yorkers rejoicing in Michael Bloomberg's departure from office can be grateful for another small favor: they don't live in Chicago, where residents are stuck for at least two more years with an austerity-mad, street-brawling mayor who wields near absolute power over a City Council far more supine than the one we have here.

    Bloomberg, the billionaire CEO, is rarely abusive in public. He speaks well of the city even as he helps friends pick its pocket. When defending neocolonial police action in communities of color, he doesn't gloat about it - at least not within earshot of the press. Chicago's sharp-elbowed Mayor Rahm Emanuel is more like the schoolyard bully who brazenly steals your lunch and gives it to the rich kids. Think of him as Bloomberg's nasty little brother. Same pedigree. Different tack.

    MORE.


     

    Ars Politica

    .
    Revolution at the Mall
    What do the clothing chain Wet Seal and Russian constructivist artist Alexander Rodchenko have in common? At Working-Class Perspectives, Kathy Newman discovers something uncanny. CLICK HERE.

    Last Laugh at Safeway
    Dominicks closed all its stores in Chicago, and this is what it was like:


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    Events listed here are not necessarily endorsed by Chicago DSA but should be of interest to DSA members, friends and other lefties.


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