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New Ground 32

January - February, 1994


  • 1993 DSA Convention by Robert Roman
  • Anti-NAFTA Rally at the Merchandise Mart by Jim Madigan
  • Single - Payer Health Coalition Forms by Kurt Anderson
  • Labor Notes by Bob Roman
  • Veterans' Concerns Highlighted at Memorial Gathering by Jim Madigan
  • Paul Lenart On The Move by Perry Cartwright

  • 1993 DSA Convention

    by Robert Roman

    Some 70 delegates attended the 1993 DSA National Convention in Los Angeles over Veteran's Day weekend this last November. This was about a third of the possible delegates. Only four delegates from Chicago attended the convention: Donn and Karl Schneider, Jay Hughes and Bob Roman. As each delegate could vote up to three of their delegation's votes, Chicago's eleven votes were fully represented.

    The atmosphere at the convention was congenial and optimistic. For example, all of the resolutions voted upon at the plenary sessions were passed, almost without dissent or discussion. This unanimity is slightly misleading, though. Most of the action at the convention took place in the small group sessions where the resolutions were discussed, amended, recommended or not recommended for action.

    Technically, the small group sessions are committee hearings where the designated committees are responsible for reporting on a finished product for the convention to act upon. Over the years, the practice has been for each of the committees to preside over the sessions rather than actually make decisions themselves. The resolutions are voted upon, amended, etc., by the delegates attending the sessions rather than by the committee. The committee regards itself as bound by the decisions of the delegates attending the session though this is beyond what is called for in the rules of the convention. There were three such committees: Organizational / Constitutional Resolutions, Domestic Resolutions, and International Resolutions.

    The Organizational / Constitutional Resolutions committee had a particularly heavy workload. The committee dealt with competing resolutions regarding DSA's national structure, its name, and the cost of the convention for the delegates attending the convention.

    DSA's national structure has been a sore point for some time now, particularly with regard to the National Board. The original structure was convoluted enough for a Stalinist to love. The national staff had four levels of organization as their boss. The top level was the National Convention, a delegated body including at-large members that met once every two years and elected a National Political Committee (NPC) to take care of business between conventions. In interim years, the DSA locals elected members of a National Board which also included members of the NPC, the Chairs of the national DSA commissions, and delegates from DSA locals. The National Board was a standing body which, in theory, could have met any number of times but in practice only met once every two years. The NPC generally met four times a year, but selected a National Interim Committee (NIC) that included NPC members and others. The NIC took care of business between NPC meetings. As you might expect, the NIC has had a great deal of influence in directing DSA's national affairs and the National Board has become increasingly non-functional.

    The constitutional amendment passed by the convention deleted the National Board and mandated an off-year conference. Another amendment passed by the convention deleted the NIC, creating instead a Steering Committee that is smaller and consists entirely of NPC members. In theory, this should make the committee responsible for the ongoing administration of DSA's national affairs more responsible to the NPC, which has been a problem in the past. The only controversy here was the frequency of DSA National Conventions. A competing amendment calling for yearly conventions was defeated.

    The cost of the convention to the attending delegates has been another item of discontent for some time now. The mutterings of unhappiness that became audible at the 1991 convention here in Chicago have become a dull roar. Two resolutions asking for action were passed by the convention. It should be interesting to see what comes of this. The truth is that there has not been a big incentive for the national organization to deal with this; national conventions have been profitable events for an organization that is starved for funds. Travel generally makes up about half of a delegate's expenses. Tinkering with the venue and convention registration fees will not save a great deal of the convention delegates' money.

    The domestic resolutions committee also had a busy agenda. The convention passed a resolution on health care reaffirming DSA's support for a single-payer approach to national health care and specifically our support for the McDermott bill. A resolution on Women and Politics was passed which included a call to organize a speaking tour for international women representatives in 1994 - 1995, including "DSA member and Socialist International Women Vice-President Chris Riddiough along with international representatives". A "Breaking Bread" resolution was passed, urging DSA locals around the country to organize "Breaking Bread" events in their area. The "Breaking Bread" event is intended to be a "model of dialogue and organizing around a historical and political analysis rooted in Cornel West's proposed 'politics of conversion' [which] will enable us to develop this vision and to implement a program to challenge the power of market culture and corporate and financial elites." The convention was the occasion for the first such event, and it was a major success, drawing nearly 900 participants. Another is scheduled to happen in New York. A resolution on electoral politics was passed which effectively declared DSA "agnostic" on the issue of third parties. A more forthright endorsement of independent politics was defeated. Resolutions on Labor Law reform, Racism, DC statehood and the HUD budget were also passed. A resolution on drug decriminalization was tabled.

    The convention passed a number of resolutions on international affairs although a resolution intended to be a comprehensive review of international issues was not acted upon as it was received too late to be reasonably considered. Resolutions opposing NAFTA and GATT were passed. The convention also passed a resolution on "The DSA Americas Project". The resolution aims at expanding DSA's contacts with other western hemisphere socialist parties. As part of this campaign, the convention was addressed by Senator Porfirio Munoz Ledo from Mexico's PRD.

    A final report on the convention, including the texts of the resolutions passed by the convention, is available from the DSA National Office, 15 Dutch St, Suite 500, New York, NY 10038, (212) 962-0390.

    Anti-NAFTA Rally at the Merchandise Mart

    by Jim Madigan

    On Friday, November 12th, outside the Chicago's Merchandise Mart, members of Chicago DSA and Greenpeace rallied with others to draw attention to the major deficiencies in the then-pending North American Free Trade Agreement. Of particular concern were the lack of fundamental protection for workers and the environment. The demonstration was called in response to the pro-NAFTA "rally" held simultaneously in the plush lobby of the Merchandise Mart.

    The pro-NAFTA forces organized a well-orchestrated and exclusive affair, resembling in content and character the NAFTA agreement itself. The area where the "rally" was held was enclosed on all sides by a 10 foot high black curtain. Admittance to the "inner sanctum" was by invitation only. A group of more than 40 security guards and police formed a phalanx around the perimeter of the gathering while additional security, in groups of two's and three's, covered every entrance to the building. The reason for these precautions was obvious. It was not to protect the "dignitaries" inside but to ensure that all those with a dissenting point of view were kept outside.

    Chicago DSA played a major role in this action. Waiving placards that said "NOT THIS NAFTA", the DSA contingent not only marched and voiced their opposition to the agreement but also distributed over 600 informational leaflets, including Noam Chomsky's excellent Notes on NAFTA: the Masters of Mankind from the DSA National Office and Not This NAFTA: Toward a North American Fair Trade Agreement from Chicago DSA.

    Senator Paul Simon, Senator Carol Moseley Braun and Governor James Edgar, NAFTA supporters all, refused to attend the pro-NAFTA "rally". Mayor Daley made a brief appearance then scurried out a side entrance like a thief in the night. If these politicians seem to be acting like they have something to be ashamed of- they're right! They do! They've dealt the workers of Mexico, Canada and the United States a blow they may never recover from.

    Single - Payer Health Coalition Forms

    by Kurt Anderson

    On December 8th, a group of approximately 40 individuals belonging to several organizations (including Oak Park NOW, the League of Women Voters, the Older Women's League and the Fox Valley Pledge of Resistance, among others) met in the basement of the Oak Park United Church of Christ to discuss what they could do to publicize the single-payer option for health-care reform. Promotion and organization of the meeting was done through Chicago DSA and West Suburban DSA. What resulted was a loose coalition for single-payer reform.

    The coalition agreed that they could perform a number of tasks on a local level to promote the single-payer option. The most repeated comment was that there was a total lack of knowledge about health care reform, let alone about single-payer reform among the general public. A member of the Older Women's League explained that when she was speaking with a Democratic member of the Illinois House of Representatives, the discussion turned to health care. The representative was uninformed as to the single-payer option. This became the crux of our future plans. The coalition agreed that education of the public concerning single-payer would be the bedrock upon which real reform would take place.

    The coalition decided to become a clearinghouse for information on single-payer: articles, pamphlets and more. This information would then be collected from the members at monthly meetings, copied and distributed as needed . All this information would serve to further educate the various organizations. The coalition will also act as a media watch-dog of sorts and agreed to keep a library of opinion pieces for submission to local newspapers concerning single-payer.

    The meeting was also an excellent point of contact concerning other sources of information. Approximately ten groups signed up for a speaker from the Physicians for a National Health Plan's speakers bureau. Many groups also expressed interest in the chart books which PNHP has authored. These books will be made available to the members of the coalition at a reduced rate. The coalition was also given health-care reform post cards courtesy of the Illinois Campaign for Better Health Care. These cards may be addressed to Illinois congressmen and can be a useful tool to demand reform.

    The coalition is planning a January meeting with Representative Cardis Collin's Chief of Staff, Bob Kettlewell. There are tentative plans for public panels in the following months at the College of DuPage and the Oak Park Public Library. It is hoped these panels will broaden the interest in single-payer and will encourage other groups to become involved in the single-payer fight.

    The coalition has a packet of information on the McDermott bill and health care reform. If you would like a copy of the packet, or if you would like more information on the coalition, upcoming meetings and events, please contact Kurt Anderson at (708) 386-0468.

    Labor Notes

    by Bob Roman

    It's old news now, but you may not have heard: the Allied Industrial Workers have merged with the United Paperworkers International Union. The former Allied Industrial Workers is now the UPIU's Industrial Division, headquartered at the UPIU's national office in Nashville, Tennessee. The additional 50,000 AIW members makes the Paperworkers the 13th largest union in the United States.

    This should be good news to the locked out Staley workers who are represented by AIW Local 837. There has not been a great deal of movement lately in this conflict, but the corporate campaign continues. The current targets include some of the Staley company's major customers. The union is asking other unions, organizations and individuals to write to the CEO's of the largest customers expressing support for the locked out Staley workers and urging the company to cease using Staley supplied products. You should direct your letters to the following:

    Mr. Paul H. Smucker
    Chairman of the Executive Committee
    J.M. Smucker Company
    Strawberry Lane
    Orrville, OH 44667
    Mr. John McDonough
    Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
    Miller's Brewing Company
    3939 W. Highland Blvd.
    Milwaukee, WI 53201
    Mr. Richard D. Condie
    President and Chief Executive Officer
    Brach Candy
    1 Tower Lane
    Villa Park, IL 60181

    Be sure to make a copy of your letter and pass it along to the Staley Workers Solidarity Committee, ILGWU, 323 S. Ashland, Chicago, IL 60607.

    By the time you read this, the second preliminary organizing meeting of Chicago Jobs with Justice will have taken place. Jobs with Justice is the AFL-CIO's "semi-official" community coalition organization. It has been in business here in Chicago for a couple years now, and Chicago DSA has participated in Jobs with Justice campaigns, but it has largely been a modest, marginal group, representing mostly small unions, such as UE or the ILGWU. The reason is that responsibility for sponsoring Jobs with Justice is divvied-up among the major participating unions at the national level. No one has been willing to take responsibility for Chicago.

    This pattern is changing, mainly because.someone with a great deal of credibility and respect in the labor movement has taken an interest in the organization: the Honorable Charles Hayes, former Congressman from the 1st Congressional District. Charles Hayes' committment to Jobs with Justice has resulted in commitments of support from several of Chicago's major industrial unions.

    Veterans' Concerns Highlighted at Memorial Gathering

    by Jim Madigan

    On Veterans Day, November 11th, a group of fifty veterans, family and friends gathered at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fountain to honor veterans and to call attention to veterans' concerns. The annual memorial gathering was organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War and participants included members of Veterans for Peace, Gay and Lesbian Veterans and Chicago DSA.

    Unlike most traditional Veterans Day observances, the gathering at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fountain asked us to "honor the veteran and not the war". Of primary concern were the numerous problems facing many veterans (homelessness, joblessness and the lack of decent health care) and not the glorification of past conflicts. The group of speakers assembled at the memorial spoke directly to these important issues.

    Le Ly Hayslip, the Vietnamese author of the acclaimed memoir When Heaven and Earth Changed Places and the founder of East Meets West Foundation (a charitable and world peace organization) spoke about the urgent need to lift all economic sanctions now in place against Vietnam and the need for understanding and forgiveness between Vietnam and the United States. Ms. Hayslips' speech was very moving; this is a woman who suffered near-starvation, imprisonment, torture, rape and the deaths of family members during the Vietnam War but has still managed to maintain her faith in humanity.

    Maude DeVictor, an African-American Navy veteran, spoke to the special problems faced by women veterans and about the second class status they are often accorded compared to their male counterparts. Maude DeVictor was an Agent Orange pioneer and lost her job with the Veteran's Administration for "blowing the whistle" on administrative abuses and the knowing neglect of sick veterans. Following Maude DeVictor were additional speeches directed to important veterans' concerns delivered by Joe Miller of the VVAW's national staff and John Poole of the Eighth Day Center.

    The speakers program concluded with an urgent appeal for funds from Ray Parrish of the Midwest Committee for Military Counseling (MCMC). Ray Parrish heads the MCMC which is the only military counseling service between Philadelphia and San Diego. During its 17 year history, MCMC has helped hundreds of veterans with support, aid and counseling.

    The memorial service concluded with Steve Nelson of Veterans for Peace singing "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" as the assembled veterans and friends each laid a single flower on the sealed cover of the memorial fountain in remembrance of the men and women killed in America's wars.

    Traditionally, veterans' concerns have always been the private preserve of America's right wing. It is the sons and daughters of the poor and working class who fight and die in America's wars! Where is the left? Why are we so silent? The time is now: "honor the veterans...."

    Paul Lenart On The Move

    by Perry Cartwright

    Paul Lenart is leaving for Mississippi. Without Paul, there would be no West Suburban DSA. He was the original organizer and has devoted thousands of hours to making it grow. The branch will continue but Paul will be sorely missed.

    The branch was put together because there is a need for DSA to reach out to that majority of Americans who now live in the suburbs. We simply can't ignore them if progressive politics is ever to win. In its two year history, the West Suburban DSA has had considerable success. We've been very active in the Staley workers' struggle, NAFTA, health care and with the Midwest Radical Scholars and Activists Conference.

    We wish Paul well in his new undertaking and promise him that we will continue with the good work which he started.

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