The day that we have all worked so hard for finally arrived
November 3. Not necessarily the election of Bill Clinton, but
the defeat of George Bush, and with him, twelve years of disasterous,
hateful, divisive laissez-faire capitalism.
Critical support for Clinton was hard for some DSAers to stomach.
He does lead the conservative Democratic Leadership Council, he
is the governor of a "right-to-work" state, and he did
make a conscious effort to distance his campaign from Blacks and
labor. And there is always the character issue.
Yet, throughout the campaign he was strongly pro-choice, he
has already announced his intention to end the ban on gays in
the military, he wants to renegotiate NAFTA and he wants to restore
some progressiveness to the tax structure. Most importantly, he
views governement intervention in the economy as part of the solution,
not part of the problem.
For In These Times publisher Jim Weinstein, Clinton's
election "means the end of the Cold War." For Noel Beasly,
International Vice-president, Amalgamated Clothing and Textile
Workers Union, it opens up new space for our agenda.
But Clinton is not going to be responsive to our agenda unless
we make him respond. Franklin Roosevelt once said to group of
labor leaders, "OK, you've convinced me. Now go out and make
me do it!" The first 100 days after January 20 are when we
have to be our most active. Set the tone, get involved in DSA!
Progressive forces in Illinois made history November 3 by electing
Carol Moseley Braun as the first African-American woman to the
Braun beat beat Republican millionaire Rich Williamson soundly,
57%-43%. Former DSA Youth Organizer Jeremy Karpatkin directed
Braun's field operations. Chicago DSA contributed volunteers and
money to Braun's campaign.
Chicago City Council member Luis Gutierrez was elected the
first Latino to the US House of Representatives from the midwest.
Former Black Panther Party leader Bobby Rush was also elected
to the US House.
Illinois also elected its first woman Supreme Court Justice.
For the third year, the Midwest Radical Scholars and Activists
Conference drew together more than five hundred left academic
and community activists, at Loyola University, October 23-25.
This year's theme was "500 Years: From New World to New World
Order." The opening plenary heard from: Manning Marable,
African-American Studies scholar at University of Colorado, former
DSA Vice-Chair and current leader in the Committees of Correspondence;
Elizabeth Martinez, Chicano studies scholar and a leader in the
Committees of Correspondence; Tony Mazzocchi, Oil, Chemical and
Atomic Workers Union leader and long-time advocates for a "labor
party"; and Andrea Smith, Chicago leader in the native American
group Women of all Red nations.
More than 80 panels were presented, of which Chicago DSA sponsored
four. The most successful, drawing about thirty folks, was a panel
on "The Democrats after the Election" which heard from
John Cameron, Research Director at Illinois Public Action and
DSA member; Bob Fitrakis, Central Ohio DSA leader and candidate
for Congress; and J. Hughes, Chicago DSA co-chair. The meeting
was notably free of the rancor of most such discussions, with
all agreeing that it made sense to treat participation in the
Democratic Party as a tactical decision for each local group in
each election, and not as a global principle. This position was
bolstered by Fitrakis' performance, outrageously militant as always,
and not at all identifiable as a meek capitulator to the Democrats.
Our panel on "Electronic Democracy" heard from Carl
Davidson, chief wheel behind the Conference and director of a
computer consulting firm for the Left, Networking for Democracy,
and Mike Muench, a Left Green activist. The 25 folks in this workshop
participated in a conversation which ranged all over the gamut,
from current legal battles over encryption of communications to
whether representative democracy can be completely replaced by
Our two workshops on Sunday morning were less well attended,
but deserve special mention to honor the valiant efforts of the
speakers: Linda Shapiro, director of the health and Medicine Research
Group, and Guidi Weiss, active in the Chicago DSA Health care
Task Force, spoke on the dangers and promises of the health reform
focus on "managed care." The group generally agreed
that while HMOs and their ilk may play an important role under
a single-payer national health insurance system, that they can
never solve the access or cost-containment problems facing health
care, though Clinton apparently thinks they can. Also Luther Snow,
Executive Director of the Community Workshop on Economic Development,
spoke on "Urban Development in the 90s," in spite of
being stood up by two other speakers.
Bogdan Denitch, Chair of DSA's International Affairs Committee
and founder of the Socialist Scholars Conference in New York,
on which this is modeled, was probably DSA's most visible representative
however. Bogdan spoke that Friday night to a gathering of the
various ethnic communities from former Yugoslavia, including a
coalition of Chicago Muslim groups working to protect Bosnian
Muslims. That talk was unfortunately much smaller than his previous
Chicago appearances in the Serbo-Croatian communities, since he
ran for office in Croatia this summer as a Social Democrat, and
is now tagged as a militant opponent of the nationalist and fascist
groups that most of the American ethnic groups support; many of
Chicago's Serbs and Croats boycotted consequently, and that evening
was a Muslim holy day. But his talk on Yugoslavia at the Radical
Scholars conference was much more successful.
The most dramatic of all, however, was his appearance on the
panel "Left Strategy." This panel heard from successively:
Abdul Alkalimat, a bookstore owner and advocate of black-led,
Marxian revolution, who advocated that the Left encourage more
Los Angeles-style "insurrections;" Elizabeth Martinez,
who demurred to proffer strategy, and instead talked about how
her trips to Cuba and China led her to join several Leninist sects,
until she found herself in the reform Communist Committees of
Correspondence (She did offer that we should try to learn more
from native Americans); Dan Swinney, of the Midwest Center for
Labor Research, who recounted the Center's effort to have the
Chicago City Council use the right of eminent domain to expropriate
run-away factories and give them to workers; Carl Boggs, a Left
Green who confessed that the Greens had become a big disappointment,
that he was burned out on giving strategic advice, and instead
recounted the theoretical inadequacies of Marxism; and finally
our star, Bogdan Denitch, who proceeded to dress down each of
the other panelists, especially Alkalimat, and argue forcefully
that while he would love to see a global movement of Green revolutionaries
led by people-of-color, that on this planet, the mass Left is
the hundred or so social democratic and labor parties, and that
if we wanted to have a strategy, it should be to emulate them
and work in coalition with them. While his arguments no doubted
convinced some of the 100 or so in the crowd, a heated discussion
with some of his fellow panelists did ensue.
But what do you expect when you bring together under one tent
everybody from authentic organizers for housing and community
development projects with neo-Maoist supporters of the Shining
Next years' conference is already in the planning stages, and
will take a different tack: clusters of similar community groups,
focusing on housing, health care and so on, will be asked to sponsor
and help organize three or four mini-conferences-within-the-Conference
on their concerns. We hope that with this structural commitment
to inclusion of community activist interests that we can tip the
balance away from the sectarian political and extremely academic
focus of some of the panels. If you are interested in participating
in the planning for the next conference, please call J. Hughes
Post-election meetings are a dime-a-dozen these days. A panel
discussion held November 15 at the United Electrical workers union
hall reiterated familiar and conflicting interpretations of what
the Clinton victory means for the left.
The first speaker was Mel Rothenberg, member of the Illinois
Committees of Correspondence (CoC) Steering Committee, and a professor
of Math at the University of Chicago. Prof. Rothenberg acknowledged
that the CoC was still formulating its opinions about many issues,
including electoral politics, but that nonetheless most members
had a long common experience in (Communist Party-based) electoral
action. He then went on to argue that very little could be expected
from the Clintn administration, in the areas of women's or minority
empowerment, and in his support for NAFTA.
Helen Schiller, the radical Alderperson representing Uptown,
the poor North side area of Chicago, spoke next. She first emphasized
that we did win in that we had to stop the Bush train, and we
did. Ms. Schiller attacked Mayor Daley as being "more Republican
than Edgar or Bush," whose policies are extremely regressive,
and whose circle of advisers have now gone on to help get Clinton
elected. She described city budget cuts that have been devastating
needed services, and called for a re-commitment to building grassroots
structures of popular power. In closing she described the plight
of low-income housing in Chicago and cautioned that no politician,
including the President, has the power to control the economy.
The third speaker was James Weinstein, editor of In These
Times. He began by saying that this election marked the end
of Cold War era, and that while he didn't disagree with Mel about
Clinton's defects, he agreed with Ms. Schiller that this was victory
for the idea of an activist government. The electiono permits
a revival of politics within the Democratic Party, with the increase
in women and people of color in elected positions. The Democratic
Party has shifted to the Left, regardless of Clinton. Clinton's
strategy was clearly to minimize his association with labor and
minorities in order to win back the Reagan Democrats, while at
the same time winning labor's cooperation by backing "universal"
health insurance, a striker replacement bill, military spending
cutbacks, and so on.They will inevitably come into conflict over
NAFTA, and Weinstein expressed hope that labor may now feel free
to be a little more independent and critical of Clinton. Weinstein
noted that Clinton had obligations to a very wide swath of constitutencies,
even those that he marginalized in his campaign.
Tim Black, professor emeritus at Chicago City College, spoke
last. He seconded the pessimism about the Clinton victory, citing
his experience with white Democrats' resistance to Harold Washington
and Carol Braun. He noted that he might like Clinton, but he didn't
trust him. The larger context, he insisted, were the trade agreements,
which could empoverish mst Americans, and the possibility of war
between the major powers.
After an intervention/question by a member of Labor Party Advocates,
Jim Weinstein presented a familiar DSA argument for the tactical
nature of decisions to work in the Democratic Party vs. 3rd parties.
He asserted that any group that couldn't get a candidate elected
in a Democratic Party primary, couldn't get an independent elected.
The responses quickly degenerated into a tirade against the Democratic
Party, which appeared to leave most of those in attendence more
bemused than convinced.
Should labor and progressives begin pressuring Clinton to the
left immediately or should the expected "honeymoon"
within the new government be extended for as long as possible?
Activists from the labor and progressive communities met shortly
after the election to discuss a response to the Clinton victory.
The round-table discussion, sponsored by the Amalgamated Clothing
and Textile Workers Union and convened by ACTWU Vice-president
Noel Beasly, explored the possibility of an action on Inauguration
Day, sending a delegation of displaced workers, homeless, and
the poor to Little Rock, Arkansas, and a petition drive.
Consensus developed on pressuring Clinton from jump street
despite the fact that this will most likely not be the strategy
of the AFL-CIO leadership. Some form of demonstration or rally
is likely for January 20, 1993.
Further discussions will take place December 7, 6:30 p.m.,
at the ACTWU building, 333 South Ashland Avenue.
By Carl Shier
The international socialist movement, and DSA in particular,
lost a true friend when Willy Brandt died recently.
When Brandt became president of the Socialist International,
the confederation of democratic socialist, social democratic,
and labor parties of which DSA is the US affiliate, he breathed
life into that body. He moved it from a near defunct, Eurocentric
organization into a truly international body with sections in
Never had the SI held a convention outside of Europe until
Brandt brought it to Vancouver, Canada, in 1978. As delegates,
we sat just behind the Swedish and Spanish delegationsone in power,
the other soon to be.
Brandt recognized the socialist intelligence of DSA founder
Michael Harrington. One of Mike's last task was to write the SI
Declaration of Principles in June 1989 at Brandt's request. The
program stressed the problem of North-South relations under capitalism.
Brandt's time as West German Chancellor and mayor of West Berlin
was highlighted by his ostpolitik, the policy which began
normalizing relations between West and East Germany and thawed
the Cold War until revived by Reagan, Thatcher, and Brezhnev.
For this, Brand won the Nobel Peace Prize, which was truly deserved.
As currently negotiated, the North American Free Trade Agreement
would be a disaster for all of the workers of this hemisphere.
President-elect Clinton, while expressing a desire to renegotiate
the contract, is already beginning to show signs that he will
not be pursuing the kind of language about worker rights and environmental
standards that we would like to see included in NAFTA.
To that end, the DSA Youth Section, with the help of Jose LaLuz,
Education Director for the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers
Union, has developed a fact-finding tour of maquilladoras along
the US/Mexico border.
There, workersprimarily womenwork for minimum wages and in
sub-standard conditions, while capitalists salivate at the prospect
of opening the entire country to these conditions.
Upon returning to the US, national and regional speaking tours
at campuses, churches, and union halls will educate the public
about the true meaning of free trade.
Testimony before legislators is also scheduled.
The trip is January 5-12, 1993 and participants are expected
to pay their own travel to Texas. Some financial aid may be available,
contact the CDSA office for more information. Women, people of
color, and bilinguals are especially encouraged to attend.
By David Peterson
Equality in school funding was one of several important issues
facing Illinois voters in the recent general election. Unfortunately,
the measure placed on the ballot as the "Education Amendment"
was defeated by a narrow margin, with a bloc of mainly white suburbanites
playing the decisive negative role.
In the end, the measure did get a "yes" from 57%
of the voters, but Illinois requires a 60 % majority to amend
the state's constitution. The strongest support came from the
inner cities and the rural areas, where the schools are suffering
The proposed amendment's brief and unambiguous 99 words caused
a storm of controversy throughout the campaign. Terming education
a "fundamental right," it said the "paramount duty"
of the state was "to guarantee equality of educational opportunity"
by taking on the "preponderant financial responsibility for
financing the system of public education."
The idea of "preponderant financial responsibility"meaning
more than half the cost of creating equal schools from kindergarten
through twelfth gradearoused the greatest hostility. This language
would have empowered the state to take whatever actions it required
to curb and compensate for the vast inequalities of the current
school system, not the least of which are its radical disparities
The white suburban vote was mobilized by the Coalition for
Accountable and Responsible Education, a business lobby, and was
editorially backed by both the Chicago Tribune and Crain's
"The suburbs will get nothing but an income tax increase
and get nothing back in return," declared State Senator Judy
Baar Topinka. "We're already paying through the nose for
everybody else's bills."
Spurred by the negative lobbying tactics of the regional business
class, it was this fearthe fear that what privileges the Haves
enjoy over the Have Nots could be eroded or compromisedthat drove
the amendment to defeat.
The fight for the amendment was not helped by some of the recommendations
of the Illinois Task Force on Educationeven though many if not
most of its members supported the measure. When, for example,
this group announced that an "adequate" level of per
pupil funding for state schools would be in the $3898 to $4304
range, one has to wonder: are they kidding? Adequate for what?
For the next generation of ditch-diggers, poker dealers, and soldiers
An adequate level of per-pupil funding would be at least three
times that amount. And this wouldn't even begin to take into account
the amount of capital-type funds that are desperately required
today to create pleasant, comfortable and well resourced environments
for learning 21st century skills. To get a clearer idea of what
these numbers mean, contrast the current detention centers called
schools called schools in the inner city with the best funded
districts in the state, which spend $12,000 per year and more
on each of their students.
The crass ideologues at the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland
Institute and others who jumped into the anti-amendment camp can
pretend all they like that there is no correlation between school
expenditures and student performance. In fact there is profound
correlation, and they know it.
Consider the contribution to the debate made in an op-ed by
Michael Kamin, a framer of the state's 1970 constitution language
on education. He wrote that passing the amendment would mean "one
achieves equality of educational opportunity by limiting opportunity
to the lowest common denominator that the state, by itself, can
reasonably afford . . . . This is the approach that it has taken
the Russians three-quarters of a century to repudiate."
Thus the conflict over the Education Amendment takes us to
the heart of a deeper conflict within our society.
The structure of US society is like a giant pyramid. And as
with a pyramid, the function of society's base is to support its
apex. Our society already supports a vast array of educational
opportunities for the privileged groups who occupy the top. They
already have all the resources they need to afford those opportunities.
Historically the government has had the responsibility of maintaining
the status quo. Those few cases where it implemented more egalitarian
ends where always rife with popular struggle. The privileged at
the apex do not want an educational system advancing people at
the base out of their poverty and powerlessness. In fact, what
they want is a system much like our current oneskewed along class,
racist and sexist lines, and grotesquely malfunded. All we have
is people and passion.
Thus the most important correlation is the one rarely mentioned:
the one between, on one hand, those people who benefit from living
within a class and racist society; and, on the other hand, those
institutional measures they must constantly adopt or reject to
preserve and defend the hierarchy of power and privilege they
The skirmish over the Education Amendment is just one part
of the on-going effort of people to achieve more decent and just
conditions in life. To be sure, this large struggle will not end
with the defeat of a simple piece of legislation.
300 workers at the Doe Run Company smelter in Herculaneum,
outside of St. Louis, Missouri, have been on strike since July
30. The company, which has lead mines in the state feeding the
smelters, wants to reduce wages by 53 percent to $8.50 per hour.
A few years ago, Doe Run's parent company, Flour Corp., succeeded
in decertifying the union at its mine operations.
The smelter workers voted 272-0 to strike and are battling
scabs with picket lines.
As the holidays approach and winter sets in, don't forget the
women and men strugglingto maintain a decent way of lifenot only
for themselves, but for all of us.
Gifts of food or funds can be sent to: Doe Run Employees Relief
Fund, 300 Grand Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63103.
Be sure to tell them where you heard of their fight.