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New Ground 37

November - December, 1994


  • Thousands "Take" the Streets: Baffle Cops by Michael Sacco
  • Sidebar: Bring Holiday Solidarity to the Locked Out Staley Workers!
  • "Party at Ground Zero" by Robert Roman
  • What I Saw of the Revolution: the 1995 Midwest Radical Scholars and Activists Conference By Rhon Baiman
  • Religion and Socialism by Gene Birmingham
  • 1994 Mother Jones Dinner by Bruce Bentley
  • Sweden: Paradise Lost? by Kim Jones
  • Sune Ahlen Meets Chicago DSA by Bob Roman
  • Other DSA News

  • Thousands "Take" the Streets: Baffle Cops

    by Michael Sacco

    Decatur, Illinois, 10/15/94

    With police helicopters and airplanes circling overhead, Decatur, the heart of the Illinois "War Zone", looked like one. 8,000 unionists and supporters from across the nation took to the streets, performing mass civil disobedience to support the locked-out and striking workers at A.E. Staley, Firestone and Caterpillar.

    A scheduled march began attracting supporters to the union hall of UAW Local 751 hours before its start. This local, representing 1,800 UAW members in Decatur on an unfair labor practice strike against Caterpillar Tractor, rolled out the welcome mat for visitors with music and food.

    A beautiful tractor/trailer sound truck provided by Teamsters Joint Councils 40 and 53 of Pennsylvania, had made the log trip to provide support for the many speakers who brought messages of solidarity and inspiration to the assembled demonstrators.

    Among the dignitaries addressing the crowd were United Rubber Workers (URW) International President Ken Coss, Illinois AFL-CIO President Don Johnson, Teamster's International Vice President Dennis Skelton, and Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor of Illinois, Penny Severns. Penny Severens is a native Decaturite.

    International President Coss reflected on the work that the Decatur unions, including URW Local 713 which represents 1,200 striking workers at Firestone's Decatur plant, had joined together to accomplish. He said their example of solidarity must be replicated across the country.

    Throughout the day, charter buses gave picket line tours around Decatur. Rank and file "tour guides" shared their stories with the "tourists". This completely confused Decatur police, who apparently thought they were "up to no good" and consequently expended a tremendous amount of police power to follow the buses around town.

    In yet another waste of tax dollars to "protect" corporate interests, police kept aloft one helicopter and at least two light planes for more than three hours, to "observe" the crowd. Some participants felt the police went beyond observation, putting the crowd in potential danger with the intimidating tactic of hovering at less than 200 feet above them on several occasions.

    Before the march commenced, "mini-rallies" of several hundred were held at Cat, Firestone and Staley. Police were completely baffled by all of the activity, as monitoring of their radio frequencies confirmed.

    The four groups then converged on the top of the 22nd Street bridge that goes over the huge Staley corn-processing plant. The group "took" the bridge and strung a large banner proclaiming it as the "Workers' Memorial Viaduct in memory of Jim Beals.

    A UPIU / AIW Local 7837 member, Jim Beals was killed in the Staley plant after being forced by management to work in dangerous conditions. This happened shortly before the 763 union members were locked out in June, 1993. Father Martin Mangan of St. James Catholic Church in Decatur eulogized Jim Beals and dedicated the bridge in his memory.

    The energized marchers, now more than 8,000 strong, turned around, chanting and singing, and headed toward the Firestone plant a mile down the road. They challenged police barricades and numerous injunctions filed by the corporations involved in the disputes. As thousands joined the court-ordered two pickets per gate, dozens of company "rent-a-cops", many with video cameras, kept a watchful eye on the massive rally.

    Continuing past the Firestone plant, the march headed to the busy intersection of state highways 48 and 121, near the Cat plant. Hundreds sat down and tied up traffic for more than an hour in an act of mass civil disobedience. The point was mad, loud and clear, that this community where nearly ten percent of the work force is idled by these disputes, is losing patience with Corporate America.

    Only one arrest was made: Anne Feeney, a recording artist from Pittsburgh. Ms. Feeney made her personal statement to Decatur by lying down in the middle of another nearby intersection, snarling traffic. When police approached her, dozens of Decatur motorists left their vehicles and screamed at the police to leave her alone.

    The police made the arrest, reluctantly it seemed. They did not want to become the "media stars" they had become after the June 25th debacle when images of them gassing and clubbing unarmed demonstrators were beamed around the world. They made a conscious effort to stay out of camera range as much as possible.

    The city government, however, did not abdicate its responsibility to their corporate masters. Scores of police in full riot gear, accompanied by attack dogs, were packed into dump trucks. They frittered away the public treasury, awaiting "labor violence" that never came.

    Michael Sacco is editor of IBEW Local 336's newsletter, for which this article was prepared. You can help protest the mis-use of Decatur's police as goons by sending the enclosed postcards to Senators Braun and Simon, and to your U.S. Representative. Send both halves of each card and, oh yes, they take a 29 cent stamp.

    Bring Holiday Solidarity to the Locked Out Staley Workers!

    Contribute to the Caravan! Collect new or like-new toys and non-perishable food to make the holidays a little brighter for the Staley workers and their families. You can call us and we'll pick up the donations or use one of these drop-off points by Sunday, December 18th.



    Western suburbs:

    Join the Caravan!! Join us Tuesday, December 20th. The caravan will leave around 1 PM and converge in Decatur with other solidarity groups from across the midwest (St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee, Springfield, Peoria, Minneapolis, Champaign, Madison) and hold a press conference to show the Decatur community that these workers and their families have the support of untold thousands. We'll then join the workers and their families in their weekly Solidarity meeting and hear first hand about the Illinois War Zone and the battle for justice.

    Questions? Call the Staley Workers Solidarity Committee at (312) 549-3147.

    "Party at Ground Zero"

    by Robert Roman

    (with apologies to Fishbone)

    It's hard to be current in a bi-monthly publication, and the recent elections happened right before the deadline for New Ground, but we couldn't let the recent conflagration pass without comment. Unfortunately, the days of "scientific socialism" are past. No longer can an accurate assessment of the objective material conditions in the context of dialectical materialism turn every Jimmy Higgins into an instant Kevin Philips. Whither America? Your guess is as good as mine.

    The election results were worse than we generally expected. It was considered possible that the Republicans would gain control of both the House and the Senate, but it wasn't considered likely. It happened. The Single Payer initiative in California lost and the anti-immigrant initiative passed. The Republican sweep extended even to the state level, with Democratic governors and legislators exploding in flame like so many bone dry pines.

    Yet the democratic left did not do too badly. Bernie Sanders squeaked back into the House. DSA members Ron Dellums (72%) and Major Owens (89%) were reelected.

    The Democratic incumbents who were defeated tended to be the more conservative and centerist members of Congress. The ironies are manifest. We have a somewhat more liberal Democratic Congressional delegation being led by a somewhat more conservative president. No one is happy with the situation; no one wants to be identified as a Democrat- not even Bill Clinton?

    "And the World Will Turn to Floating Vapor Soon"

    So now we're back to fighting defensive battles. There'll be no more discussion about what kind of national health plan to have, at best we'll tinker with insurance reform- maybe. Bid a sad farewell to labor law reform, reproductive rights, a better Supreme Court, public education, civil rights....

    So what kind of bulwark can we expect Clinton to be? He won't be much of one, I think. Clinton was already in favor of a balanced budget amendment and a line-item veto. His welfare reform package differed only in degree from the Republican proposal. On other issues he is as likely to roll over and ask for a belly rub as he is to show his teeth with a veto.

    Luckily, the President is not the only option. The Republicans did not sleep through high school civics class. They remembered that the Federal government was designed specifically to provide a minority veto to the desires of the majority. They have very professionally demonstrated the utility of such a strategy for the past two years. If at least some of the Democrats in Congress are willing, there will be plenty of opportunities for bomb throwing and sabotage.

    The obstructionist strategy does have some pitfalls for the left that it did not have for the right. Destroying the ability of the majority to govern fits the conservative shibboleth of governmental incompetence just fine, and we need to be wise about just how such a strategy is implemented

    Third party politics will continue to be problematic. Certainly there's going to be a great deal of activist enthusiasm for the various third party projects on the left. Even Clinton doesn't seem to want to be identified as a Democrat. You'll notice that when he accepted "responsibility" for the electoral debacle, he did not include his role as head of the Democratic Party. But the natural tendency for the organizations clustered around the Democratic Party will be to circle the wagons rather than experiment.

    Don't dismiss the possibility of a third party or independent campaigns, though. The unruly rabble of organizations and players that's called the "Democratic Party" could split- in either direction, particularly if the electorate demonstrated an enthusiasm for the idea. Unfortunately, most of the grass roots enthusiasm for such a project is to our right. Not that a split is our balm in gilead. If it were to happen, the last of this century would remain Republican, but it could open up some longer term possibilities.

    It's more likely that we will continue to see an erosion of the relevance of party labels. Party loyalty, above the county level of government, has not been a major feature of U.S. politics for a long time. The next few years should see it drop to a new low and an increasing number of elected officials running independent, non-party campaigns.


    Stanley Aronowitz accused DSA of being only concerned about "what we're going to do on Monday". All right, I confess: What are we going to do on Monday? I wish I knew. Though in general terms, coalition politics will be the name of the game. It is vital that as broad a coalition as possible be mobilized to demonstrate that the "contract on America" is not acceptable. Time is critical; the Congressional conservatives will try to move very quickly. We must be there to say no!

    A forest fire burns off a lot of dead wood, allowing a renewal of the forest. It's our task to get in there and go to seed. And grow.

    "This is not a charade!"

    What I Saw of the Revolution: the 1995 Midwest Radical Scholars and Activists Conference

    By Rhon Baiman

    This year's conference was held on the weekend of October 14 - 17 at Loyola University. It featured may of the usual suspects, such as Stanley Aronowitz, Elaine Bernard, James Weinstein, Irwin Silber (Solidarity), Carl Boggs and Joel Kovel, as well as locally based lefty's such as Adolf Reed (Northwestern University's Political Science Department and Coalition for New Priorities), Carl Davidson (Networking for Democracy and Chicago's Third Wave Study Group), Perry Cartwright (LPA, DSA activist and promoter of market socialism), and many others.

    The conference kicked off with an excellent opening plenary in which Rafael Pizzaro from Local 1199 Hospital Workers Union in New York, Co-Chair of the Committees of Correspondence and DSA, related his experience as a member of a DSA/NOC joint youth observer delegation to the Mexican elections. After presenting a complex and detailed analysis of the various political forces and factions involved (including the mysterious disappearance of the right-wing PAN presidential candidate from public campaigning after a very successful national debate performance, indicating perhaps collusion between PRI and PAN operatives), Pizzaro concluded that the elections represented a real maturing of Mexican civil society and politics.

    Adolf Reed followed with a sober assessment of the current political period as being the "most ominous in my life time" because of the successful ideological and political offensive of international capital as expressed in NAFTA, GATT, and a pervasive climate of knee-jerk anti-government sentiment- this attack being directed particularly at "worthless minorities". Reed contended that race and class are important politically, criticizing theorists like University of Chicago sociologist William Julius Wilson for lending fodder to racists through the use of terms like "black underclass". As evidence for the continued political importance of race, Reed cited the recent racist remarks of Illinois senate president Pate Philips, and the resurgence of racist socio-biology in Charles Murray's Beyond the Bell Curve.

    Finally, Elaine Bernard, Director of Harvard Labor Studies, former President of the NDP in British Columbia and DSA member, gave a rousing talk on radical democracy and the left. Elaine Bernard structured her discussion around the question of social-collective and private responsibility. She noted that fire service (even after the great Chicago fire) was private, and the the Canadian Health program (the most popular government program in Canada) was started by the NDP on a provincial level in the 1960's as a universal program in contrast to the means-tested Great Society programs begun in the U.S. in the same period. This gave universal health care a strong constituency in Canada not enjoyed by the U.S. programs which became associated with their major civil rights, and other, "special interest" supporters. She quoted Margaret Thatcher saying there is "no such thing as society - only individuals and their families" and noted Thatcher's chastising of John Major for even using the term class in the phrase "classless society"! According to Bernard, conservatives like these promote the idea that there is only a role for markets and individual decision making, only individual responsibility and no social responsibility - that giving to the collective is a "rip-off". this is a substitution of markets for democratic decision making, a removal of agency - a "shit happens" philosophy. This is reflected in NAFTA and GATT which by including non-tariff barriers to trade in these agreements have opened the door to blocking almost all justice seeking social legislation. This is achieved by focusing on product rather than process, thereby ignoring conditions of production. This has been explicitly designed and openly acknowledged to be structured so as to "limit the extent to which governments can respond to pressures from their own citizens" in the words of a right-wing Canadian economist.

    Bernard contended that to organize opposition we have to focus on democracy. She advocates making political parties mean something and is an activist in the New Party. She is also vigorously supportive of efforts at workplace democracy, noting that a corporation is a feudal remnant and that the "doctrine of employment at will" gives workers no free speech or other fundamental democratic rights when working for an employer except the "right" to say: "yes sir, yes sir, three bags full". In fact, management has a first amendment "right" to hold captive audience meetings as the corporation is legally considered a person. She finally pointed out that by having a platform outside the labor movement (such as a social democratic NDP type party), dissidents within the movement can have greater influence over democratic reforms within labor itself. The narrow achievements of U.S. "business unionism", like employee based health care and pensions, have made it very profitable to bust unions in the U.S.

    Subsequent panels included an all day "Religion and Socialism" session organized by Perry Cartwright. It featured Jone Johnson, current leader of the Chicago Ethical Humanist Society and a past Chair of Chicago DSA, as a key note speaker, and other radical clergy such as Gene Birmingham, a UCC minister and a leader in West Suburban DSA. Jone described her evolution from a humanist to a socialist (She was raised as a religious humanist), partially influenced by Michael Harrington's book, The Politics at God's Funeral. She claimed that the 1993 Chicago meeting of the parliament of the world's religions, held in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the first 1893 Chicago parliament, was an affirmation of Elizabeth Katie Smith's attempt in 1893 to promote a "new religion" of dignity, solidarity and justice. Religion will inevitably have to be more pluralist and diverse in order to distance itself from its often authoritarian and divisive past and focus on world economic, social and ecological problems. Jone felt that religious movements can give meaning to life which is necessary to inspire socialist movements for political change.

    I caught the tail end of a session on "The Left and the Democrats: The Continuing Debate Over Electoral Strategy and Tactics" which featured James Weinstein, editor of In These Times, Elaine Bernard, and A. J. Julius of the New Progressive Party of Wisconsin. The success of the New Progressives, which operate within the Democratic Party, was highlighted by Julius with Weinstein's support.

    Weinstein was generally skeptical of the possibility or the efficacy of third party organizing in most states, noting that the non-partisan alliance swept into power by running both Democrats and Republicans in all districts. Weinstein contended that the important thing is to have an organized constituency and that the problem is that left democrats are elected as individuals.

    Bernard reiterated her support of the New Party and LPA. She felt that it was necessary for parties in the U.S. to stand for something and it was essential that such structures exist for labor and left political organizing.

    Lou Pardo, a volunteer with Senator del Valle, DSA member and activist with the Midwest-Northeast Voter Registration Education Project, emphasized how important it was to support independent progressive democrats.

    Others noted that SEIU's endorsement of Jim Edgar, even though Netch has a 92% voting record for labor, highlights the lack of credibility for labor on progressive issues. Stanley Aronowitz (from the audience) interjected that labor has not made the Democrats pay for their 1993 betrayal on NAFTA; that they don't "whisper" about a progressive tax system, welfare cuts, or shorter workweeks with a redistribution of jobs and income. Without labor, which contributes over $10 million in national elections and runs thousands of phone banks, the Democratic Party would collapse, but labor has no program for the Democratic Party.

    Elaine Bernard answered that this is what Labor Party Advocates is trying to do and that the NAFTA debate was a milestone in that it forced labor into broad based political opposition with the Democratic leadership, away from its past narrow focus on jobs. Weinstein supported Aronowitz's questions, noting that the only major change in labor's policies has arisen over the single payer system and that even in this case many unions are opposed. Weinstein predicted that the single-payer initiative will lose.

    Other sessions which I attended focused on Technology and the Economy, Haiti, and the Underclass Debate. In a session on technology, Aronowitz, Jerry Harris of the DeVry Institute and Chicago Third Wave Study Group, and Jim Davis of the National Organizing Committee, traced the impact of the information technology, or "information capitalism" in Harris's words, on left strategy. They generally endorsed the notion that jobs and income need to be delinked, that knowledge is now the major source of value, and that (for Harris) information workers are a potential new progressive class. Davis was more concerned about the new class of "worthless" unemployed and contingent workers who do not have the skills to generate sufficiently valuable information based production to make them employable in the new economy. Harris acknowledges the problems of this strata as the "Peril" of the information revolution. Aronowitz noted that in his new book, The Jobless Future, he and his co-author discovered that the productivity of engineers had increased 1000% in 7 years. According to Aronowitz, this conference is somewhere between the "old left and the new new left" in its partial but not sufficient emphasis on no work and post-work society. Aronowitz contended that labor needs to fight for a shorter work week and guaranteed incomes rather than for full employment, like the GM workers who struggled against excessive overtime. He also spoke out against nationalism which helps multinational capital.

    Questioners, such as myself, interjected that without reclaiming capital (in the words of Christopher and Hazel Gunn's excellent book of the same name), demands for shorter working hours and income were not likely to succeed in the face of increasingly mobile capital. I noted that Aronowitz's primary example of negotiated no-work guaranteed income was for longshoremen in the Brooklyn loading dock- a mostly non-mobile sector. Though I am sympathetic to Aronowitz and the Chicago Third Wave Study Group, I believe that a radical democracy approach such as that outlined by Elaine Bernard is politically more viable in the short run.

    I also attended a session on "Info-Rich and Info-Poor: the Internet and the Fight for Access", attended by members of the Chicago Coalition for Information Access, including Carl Davidson, Dan Kaplan, Kelly Pierce, Don Goldhammer, and Ida Mae Jeter from Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility. this included a discussion of community based strategies to achieve public access, greater access by the handicapped, and the need for a public infrastructure role like that of the French Minitel.

    Another session focussed on Rwanda, and was moderated by myself and featured Howard Stein, a radical economist and expert on African development issues from Roosevelt University, Dr. Deborah Edidin of Evanston Hospital who had just returned from volunteer work for Rwandan refugees, and Abdul Alkalimat of Twenty-First Century books. A debate ensued over the role of relief and international development efforts in Africa.

    While the conference was smaller than previous years, it appeared to be a great success. The atmosphere was lively and stimulating. There were many vendors and tables representing Chicago based progressive publishers (like Charles H. Kerr), a wide array of journals and magazines, and numerous left tendencies. Good debate, dialogue, partying, and networking with other representatives of the Chicago left was apparent, including a Friday night CoC party attended by many DSA'ers and joint members. The Midwest Radical Scholars and Activists Conference appears to be an established, vital component of the Chicago left and is an important way to begin consolidating our forces to "reclaim capital".

    Religion and Socialism

    by Gene Birmingham

    Yes, Virginia, there is a Religious Left in Chicago DSA. If only the state of Virginia could be as fortunate in its senatorial race this year; but unfortunately the Christian Right finds its expression in a candidate convicted of lying to Congress, to which the Democratic alternative sounds like only a state of sad affairs.

    A better hope was offered at the Midwest Radical Scholars and Activists Conference at Loyola University, October 14 - 17. Perry Cartwright, member of the conference planning committee, organized two sessions on Religious Socialism. The morning session heard Jone Johnson, DSAer and a leader of the Ethical Humanist Society, keynote the theme, "Empowerment and Values". Professor Enrique Dussell, of the University of Mexico and a visiting professor at Loyola, spoke on Liberation Theology in Latin America. He said that the political powers in Mexico blamed the uprising in Chiapas in part on Liberation Theology, which combines Marxist analysis and Christian teaching.

    The afternoon session heard Brenda Matthews, Afro-American activist in the west side Mount Ridge Baptist Church, call for greater church involvement in situations of urban crisis. Brother Finian Taylor, professor at Illinois Benedictine College in Lisle, Illinois, and a member of West Suburban DSA, traced a century of Roman Catholic Social Teaching, helping us to understand the present situation in his church. Charles Earp, a Protestant Evangelical Socialist connected with the Radical Jesus Project, outlined the connection between what is usually thought to be the Christian Right's religion and leftist politics, thus puncturing a common stereotype. Perry Cartwright offered a concluding statement of the place and need of religious socialism within a new economics. Reverend Gene Birmingham, pastor of St. Michael's United Church of Christ of West Chicago, Illinois, and a member of West Suburban DSA, moderated both sessions.

    West Suburban DSA includes Gloria Hannas, activist in Central American issues for the United Presbyterian Church, and Reverend Jonathon Reich, minister in the Unitarian-Universalist Church. What this variety of religious people find in common is socialism as a political expression of their religious faith. The religious backgrounds are incidental to the group's meetings and activities, which focus on current political and economic issues, such as universal health care. That religious orientations do lead to socialism becomes an invitation to DSAers of any religious affiliation to feel welcome. Those in the group with no religious affiliation will tell you that proselytizing is not the way of religious socialists. The terms "Christian" Right and "Religious" Socialism indicate the difference. Whereas the Right is self-consciously Christian, at least by its own definition, the Socialists are self-consciously religious, i.e. open to people of every or no religious background.

    DSA's Religion and Socialism Commission publishes one of the finer DSA publications, Religious Socialism. A one year subscription to this quarterly publications is $7.50. $15 includes membership (for DSA members) in the Religion and Socialism Commission. Make checks payable to "Religious Socialism" and mail to Religious Socialism, PO Box 80, Camp Hill, PA 17001

    1994 Mother Jones Dinner

    by Bruce Bentley

    The ninth annual Mother Jones Dinner was held at Sangamon State University in Springfield, Illinois on October 8th. Approximately 175 people were in attendance. Unions such as SEIU, AFSCME, Teamsters and the Staley workers of the UPIW were visibly represented. Labor activist and musician, Anne Feeney, established a jubilant and aspiring atmosphere as she led the crowd in numerous labor songs and chants. She recorded a live album during the event. In addition, the Staley workers' video "Struggle in the Heartland" was shown.

    The featured speaker was Diana Kilmury, vice-president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and co-chair of Teamsters for a Democratic Union. Indeed Ms. Kilmury was the highlight of the evenings. Her oratory skill was captivating as she excoriated the IBT "old guard" in their attempts to undermine the reform and democratic efforts of Ron Carey. Ms. Kilmury expounded upon a unique historical panorama/perspective of her rise in the IBT and TDU from a rank and file truck driver during the anti-democratic ancien regime of Fitzsimmons in 1974 to the present.

    In essence Ms. Kilmury subscribed a prescription of "radical democratic action" within unions as well as for the progressive left and labor within the macro democratic process in the U.S. As a Canadian, Ms. Kilmury adamantly opposes Clinton and the Democratic Party, which has sold out labor on NAFTA, GATT and Single-payer Health Care and striker replacement. She emphasized the need for a new party.

    Sweden: Paradise Lost?

    by Kim Jones

    May Day in Stockholm! This was to be a high point for me during my year in Sweden. Fifty thousand people, all part of the mainstream of Swedish society, descended on the streets of Stockholm, with red flags and banners held high, and the workers' bands played "The Internationale". All the watchwords of the Swedish style of democratic socialism were heard. Equality! Justice! Solidarity!

    However, in Sweden as in other Western democracies, entrepreneurial values have been increasingly widespread. There has been a growing focus on the individual in the Western world, and correspondingly less a sense of solidarity and equality. Even the new Social Democratic government has spoken of the need for some cutbacks in the level of social welfare; for example, the government is now attempting to cut back on sickness pay.

    I used to believe that a controlled, "humanized" capitalism, as in Scandinavian social democracy, was the logical and workable path, the "Third Way" if you will, between the extremes of a rampant free market and totalitarian Communism. My year in Sweden has taught me that it isn't enough now. The pressure from worldwide and domestic capital and their political allies to cut back social spending and worker protection has been so powerful, even in social democratic lands, that labor and its friends have been forced to merely hold on to what they have won so far. Meanwhile, by and large, Swedish companies have enjoyed record profits. In other words, capital in Sweden (and elsewhere) has been squeezing labor for every crumb of power they can get. The vaunted balance of power in Sweden between workers and capital has been slipping.

    In Sweden (and elsewhere) the offensive of capital against labor has sharpened my own sense of the existence of Class Struggle. Even in the most unlikely place, Sweden, when Big Business flexes its muscle and begins to dismantle, or at least call into question, a system which sought to ensure power for workers, what else do you call it?

    We are all hostages to Big Capital and the international market for capital and labor, whether it is here in the U.S. with NAFTA, or in Europe where the European Union is capital's grand seizure of power, or in Southeast where vulnerable workers are locked in firetrap factories working for starvation wages.

    The Swedish social democratic movement, as I viewed it, was frozen in its past; there are no fresh, new ideas now, only a defense of gains made over the years. I had the opportunity to ask Rudolf Meidner, the architect in Sweden of the wage-earner funds, what was next on the way as a transition from capitalism to socialism. Meidner's wage-earner funds plan was thought, at the time, to be THE way for the Western left to move forward, but it has since ended in miserable failure. His response was, "There is nothing left...".

    But it is still up to us as the Left, in all nations, to come up with new ways of achieving our still sound goals. If cultural values, such as equality and solidarity can be "unlearned", they can also be relearned and reasserted.

    Yet times have been tough for the left worldwide. In Sweden, the weak international economy during the reign of the recently defeated bourgeois government had created cuts in some welfare state services and had allowed unprecedented attacks on the labor movement. While the social cutbacks and the offensive by employers were not necessarily as draconian as in other industrialized lands, a recent poll revealed that equality was judged to be less important by Swedes than in the past. Meanwhile, even in the advanced welfare state of Sweden, people have had a hard time making ends meet and poverty has been growing.

    The welfare state as it has been constituted in northern Europe is no longer enough to ensure secure, meaningful work, the meeting of human needs, and true democratic control of society. Even the most pro-worker welfare state can eventually be subverted by capital. We, as American socialists, need to remind ourselves that class struggle is always with us and can come to the fore at any time, even in progressive Sweden, especially when the economy has been in the doldrums and when employers have thought that they could get away with attacks on the labor movement and on progressive programs.

    We, as DSA'ers, must continually seek to achieve and maintain a hegemonic edge, by building and maintaining our base. We must always be in the process of "selling" our vision, our message, and our agenda. The Swedish Social Democrats seem to have forgotten this. With long years in power, they have become, arguably, complacent and arrogant. The party has failed to effectively mobilize, to cultivate their grass-roots, to develop new ideas and approaches, and to seize the debate in the face of Sweden's most conservative government in decades, their recent victory notwithstanding. Despite several decades of power, the Swedish Social Democrats have not built a true anti-capitalist majority among Swedes. As important as history and tradition are to a movement, simply giving voice to the same old rhetoric on May Day is not enough in this time of radical economic and social change worldwide. We must fight the battle of ideas, too.

    What has been occurring in Sweden ought to remind us DSA'ers of the importance of building grass-roots politics and vigorous extra-parlimentary protest. Like all too many social democratic power structures, cultivating the grassroots has been ignored, with power emanating from the top down. However, an up and coming generation of young Swedish Social Democratic leaders-to-be is reminding us all that socialists must build more at the grass-roots level than we have in the recent past. Concentrating power in institutions, even social democratic ones, is not enough.

    We must fight for the allegiance of "ordinary people", with passion and imagination. This is something which the Swedish Social Democrats have mostly failed to do in the last few years. Instead, of late, the party has offered cold discussion of policy rather than a passionate defense of social democratic values and a long-range vision of a new society and economy.

    As DSA'ers, we must always keep the passion about what we are trying to do and be ready to defend it. There will always be a need for a Left. It may evolve quite differently from the present constellation. It may be more of a "rainbow" than just "red". It certainly will have more than a touch of "green". But there will always be those who seek a better world than the present one. Never forget, if HOW to achieve a democratic socialist society seems very problematic right now, it doesn't make the struggle for one any less valid.

    Sune Ahlen Meets Chicago DSA

    by Bob Roman

    Sune Ahlen, the former General Secretary of the Nordic Council of Trade Unions (NFS) met with DSA members and friends at the Chicago DSA office on Wednesday, November 2. The NFS is the umbrella organization of the union confederations of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. An SRO audience grilled Mr. Ahlen for two hours on various aspects of Swedish politics and welfare state policies.

    The news is not good. With a 12% unemployment rate, the Social Democrats are indeed preoccupied with job creation and deficit reduction. Unfortunately, they do not seem to have any idea how to go about it and seem to be hoping the European Union will save the day. As that is unlikely you may expect them to lose the next election.

    None-the-less, even in its decay, the Swedish welfare state is formidable. For example, half the 12% unemployed are enrolled in job retraining and education programs- and getting paid for it! Viewed from the mean streets of America, the streets of Stockholm seem paved with gold. If there's anything we can still learn from Sweden, it's the scale of what was (is?) possible still within the context of a capitalist society.

    But they're tearing up the paving bricks, and no one knows what to do.

    Other DSA News

    The next issue of Eco-Socialist Review should be coming out in December. Eco-Socialist review is the national publication of DSA's Ecology and Socialism Commission. A one year subscription (3 issues) is $10. Make checks payable to Chicago DSA and send to Chicago DSA, 1608 N. Milwaukee, Room 403, Chicago, IL 60647.

    Jonathan Reich produced a video of last year's Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner, including the dynamite speech by Barbara Ehrenreich. Copies are available for $20 each from Jonathan Reich, 703 S. 2nd St, DeKalb, IL 60115. Call (815) 758-6737 for additional information.

    Our thanks to Perry Cartwright and Rhon Baiman, who took responsibility for organizing much of DSA's participation in this year's Midwest Radical Scholars and Activists Conference.

    Chicago DSA recently acquired a new but used computer: an elderly but spry 286. It was free. We now have an ancient 8088 "XT" available for sale. Make us an offer.

     Add yourself to the Chicago DSA mailing list (snail mail and email).

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