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New Ground 52

May - June, 1997

Contents

  • The 39th Annual Dinner Makes the Organization Proud by Carl Shier
  • Camping Out at the University of Chicago By Katie Romich
  • Arguing Matters by Bob Roman
  • Festival of the People I by Gene Birmingham
  • Go Left! Youth Section Winter Conference By Bill Dixon
  • Be There or Be Square by Bob Roman
  • Cowabunga! Third Wave Capitalist Economics by Ron Baiman
  • Simon says: Campaign Finance Reform! by Gene Birmingham
  • Don't Forget the Chicago 5! by Bob Roman
  • Letters

  • The 39th Annual Dinner Makes the Organization Proud

    by Carl Shier

    The return of winter on April 11th did not mar a successful 39th Annual Eugene V. Debs - Norman Thomas - Michael Harrington Dinner. While the snow prevented some from attending the Dinner, the turnout was excellent and the evening went well.

    Jo-Ann Mort, Communications Director of UNITE AFL-CIO and a member of the DSA National Political Committee was a perfect MC. She moved the program. She spoke of the need and value of the DSA. In a spirited manner, she saluted the come back of the U.S. labor movement under a new leadership.

    Several past Debs - Thomas - Harrington Awardees were at the Dinner: UNITE Secretary-Treasurer Arthur Loevy; AFSCME's Steve Culen and Rose Daylie; Lou Pardo; Vicki Starr; and two who have attended every Dinner for 39 years, Carl and Marion Shier and Saul and Jennie Mendelson.

    But not every regular Dinner participant could be there. Jo-Ann Mort reminded us of the death of Maxie Hill, President of the Bakery Workers Local 1, one week after he received the Award last year, and she announced the passing, two days before this Dinner, of the 1977 Awardee, Charles Hayes. Hayes was a pioneer organizer of the CIO Packinghouse Workers, a leader of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and a co-founder of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists. He was a former Congressman but, for Chicagoans, the important role he played was in the election of Harold Washington as Mayor in 1983. He loved the Dinner and attended most of them.

    Labor writer David Moberg was introduced to present the Debs - Thomas - Harrington Award to James Weinstein. David Moberg went over the history of James Weinstein as a author, historian, activist, and as the founder of In These Times, the weekly magazine of the democratic left. He spoke of Jim Weinstein's determination to continue the publication, a twenty year effort that not only includes the task of editing the publication but the hard chore of raising the funds so the bills can be paid.

    In accepting the Debs - Thomas - Harrington award, James Weinstein spoke some of the history of the left, in particular the willful historical ignorance of the old New Left that fated them to repeat all the old mistakes. He spoke of the reasons behind the establishment of In These Times, how he had hoped it would contribute to a revitalized left, and how he hoped it may still do so.

    Jack Parton, Steelworkers Director of Illinois and Indiana, made the presentation of the Debs - Thomas - Harrington Award to George Becker, President of the United Steelworkers of America. Jack Parton related the successful work of President Becker in fields of labor unity, solidarity, and strategy.

    George Becker began by saying how proud he was to receive the Debs - Thomas - Harrington Award. It will be in a prominent place in his office.

    Becker spoke of the need for economic justice and the role of the Federal Reserve Board in fighting full employment. The Board is the representative of economic forces that are not good for the American people.

    The struggles at Bridgestone - Firestone and at Ravenswood Aluminum showed the need to work with workers and their unions in all countries of the world. The great help the Steelworkers received in those struggles made victory possible. "So many countries had sympathy strikes, and in Argentina where they can strike in support of any cause, they struck for a whole week in support of our struggle," Becker said. "Without international solidarity, we could not have won. And we have to fight for the workers all over the world to raise their standard of living to what human beings should have."

    Workers are environmentalists. They have to be. They are exposed to hazardous chemicals in their work. Health and Safety work is environmental work.

    George Becker spoke with pride about his birthplace, Granite City, Illinois. In the 1920s, they had a Socialist Mayor and a Socialist Council and Eugene Debs was an honored speaker at many events. He also spoke of a relative of his wife, in Missouri, who ran for office as a Socialist when Norman Thomas ran for President. In politics today, Becker argued, unions should not give to parties but support individuals who stand for issues that concern the workers: "We should enter primaries to defeat incumbents who are against social and economic justice. Most important, we have to build grass root support on the ideas and issues that meet the needs of the people".

    The program ended with the singing of "Solidarity Forever", with gusto. One of the comments I heard as we left the room was how great it was to hear a trade unionist speak the way George Becker did.

    On a Personal Note....

    Great evening. While the attendance was good, especially with union activists, there was a shortage of DSA members participating. Was it the downtown Chicago location in the evening? Was it the price of the Dinner? Should there have been a Union rally like the Charles Hayes Dinner with a speaker like Robert Lekachman? With Chris Riddiough, Director of our DSA DC office coming in, should there have been a session before the Dinner on the political issues of the day? Would a Saturday lunch work better, preceded by a morning program? Can we move out of the downtown are and still have it as a Union event?

    These are matters to discuss before DSA plans the 40th Anniversary Dinner. Please tell us your ideas. Send your comments to Debs Dinner, Chicago DSA, 1608 N. Milwaukee, Rm 403, Chicago, IL 60647. Also consider participating in the Dinner Committee next Fall.

    I have to repeat as often as I can the value Bob Roman brings to the Dinner. There is so much work in preparing a Dinner. The soliciting letters, the Dinner tickets, the push for ads in the Program book, the announcement leaflet. Keeping track of whose money comes in and making the deposits. The arrangements with a hotel- and today it's not easy because hotels have now decided on charging rent in addition to the normal price plus 9.75% sales tax and 17% tip. The idea of using the Awards as the front page and the re-printing of the Hayes leaflet with the late ads. Bob does a yeoman job and as one who has worked closely with him on these Dinners, I have the greatest respect for his efforts and I hope the membership does too....

    This year we had a good group working on the Dinner, especially on the day of the Dinner. I'd like to thank Bruce Bentley, Donn Schneider, Ralph Suter, Kim Jones, Mark Weinberg, Bill Dixon, Charles Nissim-Sabat, Eric Ebel, Katie Romich, Michael Heffron, Finian Taylor, Michael Rabinowitz and Sam Ackerman.

    It is expected that the funds raised will be productively spent to further the goals of the movement.


    Camping Out at the University of Chicago

    By Katie Romich

    The Coalition Against Sexual Violence (CASV), a coalition of students at the University of Chicago, has brought together women and men from ethnic, feminist and queer organizations as well as athletic teams and sororities to pressure the university to create a women's center on campus. In the face of adamant administrative opposition to the establishment of a full-service women's center, the students have erected a pup tent on the University's main academic quads to symbolize both the absence and need for such an institution.

    The tent, a symbolic protest, also serves to provide the resources of a permanent women's center as volunteer staffers are trained to give out phone numbers, referrals for counseling and services, condoms, and lend books from a small library. This protest recalls 1960s University of Chicago student protests for student housing, women's health care, and against the Vietnam draft board.

    However, this is a slick Administration, skilled at deflecting the demands of those students who speak for the approximately 1500 others who signed petitions calling for a women's center. Administrators argue that a women's center would marginalize women, alienate men, and would be inappropriate for an academic environment. As well, a critical unspoken concern is that granting a women's center would start the University down the slippery slope of special interest group demands. And, as is quite clear, the University of Chicago would prefer to see its students, faculty and staff as disembodied minds rather than people facing specific prejudices.

    Like myself, other U of C DSA Youth Section members have played important roles in organizing, supporting and volunteering for the women's center movement. This effort has importance for us as democratic socialists, as people concerned with the trends of universities and higher education. The movement for a women's center is currently one of the few voices of dissent both being articulated by students and heard by administrators about the nature of the University. Our literature emphasizes the sexism and violence which women have to face as students, faculty and staff. We assert that the University has a responsibility to address these concerns. This vocal opposition is one of very few which has made it to mainstream campus discourse as well as Chicago-wide media.

    Given that the University of Chicago is a far from idyllic place of learning, it is critical that people be bringing positive alternative visions to the public discourse on the university. The establishment of a women's center could help to empower women and men to address and overcome the sexism ingrained in our society. Pragmatically, it could foster positive and progressive attitudes about sexuality and gender as well as help confront sexual violence. The presence of such an institution would demonstrate an acknowledgment that a specific oppression faces women and requires specific solutions. As democratic socialists, we see the critical importance of vocal dissent as well as positive alternative visions, both of which are central components of the struggle for a women's center on campus.

    On Friday, April 25, U of C DSA Youth Section members met with Ronald Aronson, director of the Center for Democratic Values. He spoke about the need for the left to engage in the building of radical coalitions. The Coalition Against Sexual Violence is a traditional sort of coalition, brought together to solve an immediate need based on common interests. The sort of center it envisions, however, would be the place where more long-term and profound coalitions could be fostered. Women's centers elsewhere act as locales wherein women and men organize around race, gender, and sexuality, address issues of community and diversity as well as receive services and referrals. The presence of such institutions encourages the process of finding the complex "common ground" from which diverse peoples can struggle collectively.

    Democratic socialists need such institutions in the same way that such institutions need democratic socialists. The establishment of a women's center on the campus of a notoriously conservative University would be an opportunity for the sorts of meaningful political linkages which democratic socialists must help build in order to strengthen the voice and power of the left.

    For more information, contact Katie Romich at 773-363-5365 or e-mail at kromich@uchicago.edu.


    Arguing Matters

    by Bob Roman

    The Chicago DSA membership welcomed Ron Aronson, Director and Organizer of the Center for Democratic Values (CDV) at a meeting at Roosevelt University on Saturday, April 26. The meeting was organized as part of a weekend blitz of Chicago, seeking participants and financing for CDV.

    The CDV is beginning its life as a "think tank" project of DSA. The Center has already sponsored a DSA-wide discussion on the role of government in society and published a pamphlet by noted economist Robert Heilbroner on the deficit debate. Other pamphlets, even books, are in the works, but CDV's next project is national conference this fall. The conference will be held in conjunction with the DSA National Convention in Columbus, Ohio, during the first week in November.

    The focus of CDV's first national conference is "Arguing with the Right", and this was the essence of Ron Aronson's message at the meeting. Arguing matters. Ideas matter.

    As Ron Aronson explained it, the CDV came out of a middle of the night illumination of the obvious: that among the many things the Left has lost, it has also lost its voice. It is this aspect of building the next Left that CDV addresses.

    It is not enough- it is in fact a recipe for defeat to not take the arguments of the Right seriously. For the Right has not simply generated lies and rationalizations justifying domination by wealth, the Right has developed a world view. We must not only answer the arguments of the Right, we must pose arguments that demand a response from the Right.

    The CDV collected some $200 at the meeting, and an additional contributions from a DSA member brought the total to $900. This is most of what the CDV needs to staff its national conference, but the expenses won't stop there. Please consider making a contribution. You may make it tax deductible by making the check out to the "DSA Fund". Send it to: Center for Democratic Values, DSA, 180 Varick St, 12th Floor, New York, NY 10014. For more information, contact Ron Aronson at 212-727-8610. Email: raronso@cll.wayne.edu


    Festival of the People I

    by Gene Birmingham

    About 75 people gathered at the Lodge Hall of Local 1487 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in DesPlaines, on April 5 to listen to speakers and to be entertained by musical groups. DSA's Steve De La Rosa found co-sponsors for the event in addition to DSA: Citizen Action of Illinois, Campaign for Health Care and Nation Associates.

    Speakers included Clem Balanoff, addressing Campaign Finance Reform and its implications for raising prices of products whose owners contribute to political campaigns. Maureen Kelleher of Dollars & Democracy described an effort of Roman Catholics and Friends (Quakers) to work for one person one vote legislation. Dialog groups are set up around the country on this issue.

    Liane Casten represented Chicago Media Watch, noting that the media do not give campaign finance reform good coverage. Liz O'Connor of SEIU Local 25 Justice for Janitors, spoke on a recent success in obtaining wage increases but not all the benefits they wanted. More organizing needs to be done.

    Music was provided by Mark Zeus, acoustic guitar player; The Pakk, a rock band; Gregory Flint and Erich Peterson, french horn players; and an alternative music group, ChromaZone. A magician, Art Widen, provided entertainment under the name RLD Perfect.

    De La Rosa says all those involved want to participate in another event. The Campaign for Better Health Care is being considered as a theme for the next gathering. Location and date are being worked out. Voter registration tables are a possibility for the next time, too.

    The purpose of these events is to keep issues before the voters, provide information for progressive groups in the next election campaign, and help them combine their efforts to elect candidates of the left. Steve is looking for people to serve on a Steering Committee to plan events, to help with mailings, phone tree, fax messages and letters to the editors. Contact him by phone at (630) 871-9070 or contact Gene Birmingham, West Suburban DSA at (630) 878-9909.


    Go Left! Youth Section Winter Conference

    By Bill Dixon

    On the last weekend in February, more than fifty students from across the country gathered at Capitol University in Columbus, Ohio for GO LEFT ! - a national conference of DSA's Youth Section. Conference goers joined DSA honorary chair Barbara Ehrenreich and DSA directors Alan Charney and Chris Riddiough for a weekend of searching political discussions and state of the art activist training, including an hour or two of full-throated hell raising against sweatshop labor. As the era of Clinton and Gingrich begins to fade from a bad dream to a bad memory, the US campus Left remains alive and thriving.

    Kicking off the weekend with characteristic garrulousness was Joseph Schwartz, a professor of political science at Temple University and a member of DSA's national political committee. Schwartz's topic was the "ABCs" of socialism, a kind of introduction to the current debate over the socialist politics. What does it mean to be a democratic socialist activist in the United States in 1997? What can socialism today even be said to stand for in the wake of liberal and social democratic decline, Communist collapse, right-wing radicalism, and global (and local, for that matter) capitalist triumph? Good questions like these as yet admit few good answers, and probably won't for some time to come.

    In answering queries from the floor Schwartz repeatedly made the point that for all of the ambiguities of the socialist project, it still remains the precondition to any serious attempt promote democracy and social justice in our time. Discussion returned to the hard questions more than once, demonstrating a healthy and more than passing interest among the participants in advancing DSA's level of political debate.

    But as enthusiastic as the discussion was, it didn't come near to the excitement of the demonstration against sweatshop client Guess jeans, which was organized later in the afternoon in a shopping mall in downtown Columbus.

    About half of us gathered outside the store's entrance, quietly, while everyone else dispersed throughout the mall passing out leaflets. At some point it occurred to someone to start chanting and shouting, and of course that's when the fun began. "No more sweatshops, shame on Guess"! Thirty of us letting that slogan fly drove a few customers out of the store, perhaps kept a few more from approaching anywhere near.

    It inevitably brought the mall's rent-a-cops promptly to our side. At first they kept telling us to stop making noise, which didn't work. But after about five minutes or so they gathered more of their rent-a-troops and escorted us through the mall and down the escalator and out on to the street, chanting and leafleting all along the makeshift parade route. On the street we continued the demonstration for the benefit of the local news teams.

    The conference continued with workshop sessions: global capitalism, youth culture, chapter-building, welfare reform, socialist-feminism. The format was a little unstructured but people seemed more or less happy to follow the discussions wherever they happened to go, fortunately.

    Barbara Ehrenreich spoke in the evening in a public event co-sponsored with Columbus DSA. She emphasized how strongly disenchanted the American people seem to be with what usually goes by the name of Big Government. Ehrenreich urged that with a few exceptions (health care, social security) the Left ought to be more "localist," and leave the defense of the centralized public sector to others. She also urged that socialists find the courage to offer genuine visionary alternatives to the current debate rather than settle for the least of the evils offered by the status quo.

    Sunday morning featured a talk by Chris Riddiough on DSA's Campaign for Economic Justice, the national project around which DSA's locals will soon be focusing their work. Riddiough explained the strategy of the campaign, which revolves around coalition-building with other progressive groups around issues of economic inequality. She also discussed DSA's work with the House Progressive Caucus, the group of Congressional leaders who are emerging as an important challenge to the dominant Clintonite line within the Democratic Party.

    The last session of the conference was an extended discussion on DSA's rapidly developing work around prison issues and criminal justice. The youth section's own initiative on these issues, the Prison Moratorium Project, has begun petitioning state legislators in New York to demand a halt to all new prison construction. Among African-American and many urban communities, prison issues have become a serious problem for public debate. What does it say about the United States when more African-American men are incarcerated than are in college? When we have in prison a larger proportion of our population than any other nation in the world? These issues take on a special relevance in a period when social spending by states is often cut in favor of more spending on police and prisons, particularly when the largest federal social spending initiative in over a decade was masked under the rubric of a "Crime Bill." A socialist organization looking to confront the intersections of racism and capitalism has every reason to join the growing debate on the what role prisons, schools, and jobs will play in shaping the future of life in US cities.

    The conference was larger than in recent years. DSA maintains a visible presence on more than twenty campuses across the country, even if the internal structure of the Youth Section remains a bit improvised and unstable. While this year has by no means been any kind of high tide for student activism, DSA has been able to keep up a serious and committed network of contacts. The next Youth Section gathering is scheduled for DSA's national convention, also slated for Columbus, Ohio. But do us a favor, won't you? Don't tell anyone down at Guess jeans that we're on our way back.


    Be There or Be Square

    by Bob Roman

    For almost two years, newspaper workers have been battling the corporate owners of the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News to win a just contract. The 19-month strike recently entered a new phase when the six striking locals initiated an effort to move the fight to the plant, and set up the contract campaign both in Detroit and throughout the companies' corporate empires. This campaign will include Action! Motown'97, the two-day mobilization of supporters nationwide for actions and rallies on June 20-21, 1997 in Detroit.

    Action! Motown'97 will help focus attention on anti-union USA Today parent Gannett Corporation which has already sunk more than $250 million in an effort to bust the locals of the Teamsters, Communication Workers of America and the Graphic Communications International Union.

    You can obtain additional information by contacting Chicago Jobs with Justice (312-226-6340) or Chicago DSA (773-384-0327). Action! Motown'97 has a website: http://www.action97.w1.com

    Your participation is essential! Please set aside Friday and Saturday, June 20 - 21, plan to be there.


    Cowabunga! Third Wave Capitalist Economics

    by Ron Baiman

    Lean And Mean: The Changing Landscape Of Corporate Power In The Age Of Flexibility By Bennett Harrison NY: Basic Books, Publication Date: 1994, 324 pages, $25.00

    In this excellent book, prominent progressive economic policy analyst Bennett Harrison offers an analysis of global advanced capitalist industrial development that contradicts many of the commonly accepted stylized "facts" regarding the new "third wave" global and flexible information economy. His work draws on an extensive and exhaustive interdisciplinary array of studies in Business Organization, Economics, Urban and Regional Planning, Sociology, and Political Science, as well as his own detailed investigations. From these roots Harrison constructs an alternate set of basic understandings which, as in his earlier works, highlights a dominant structural trend in the world economy which has profound theoretical and practical political implications for the left (Bluestone and Harrison, 1982) (Harrison and Bluestone, 1988).

    Harrison's major thesis is that industrial structure in the future world economy will be increasingly dominated by ever more extensive business organizations, networks, and alliances, that will use internationally coordinated resources and power for their own private advantage. Harrison concludes that far from devolving into small, independent, innovative and competitive market driven firms, the most successful business organizations and economies in the world exhibit a tendency for extensive cooperation, partnership, cross-ownership, technological exchange, joint marketing, and long-term supplier and sub-contracting relationships, or "concentration without centralization".

    The first part of Lean and Mean is devoted to "reassessing the idea that small firms are the economic development drivers". In this section Harrison, after a detailed statistical and data review of the extremely influential work of David Birch and other small business advocates, rejects their central policy conclusions. Citing multiple recent studies in the U.S. and abroad, including one by researchers at Dunn and Bradstreet who supplied Birch with his data, Harrison finds that in most developed economies, including the U.S., small firms are not generally more competitive, more innovative, or larger job generators, and that they certainly do not offer better working conditions, than larger firms (Birch, 1987). In this context, Harrison notes that large firms can and do engage in both mass and "niche" market production and are often better positioned for the later as well as the former.

    This statistical critique is supplemented by detailed institutional studies of the Northern Italian "industrial districts" and of "Silicon Valley". Harrison claims that evidence from Northern Italy suggests that the non-hierarchical, small business "flexible manufacturing" industrial districts in northern Italy, which were the inspiration for Piore and Sable's well known thesis in The Second Industrial Divide and for one of the development model's promoted in Michael Best's widely acclaimed The New Competition, are undergoing a transformation toward traditionally hierarchical large firm led industrial networks like those operating elsewhere in the world economy. Harrison also casts a critical eye at the "small business heroic entrepreneur" mythos of "Silicon Valley," citing evidence showing that the concentrated economic power of large defense contractors and of Stanford University were critical and remain central to the valley's high technology development.

    The second part of the book is devoted to detailed documentation of "flexible production" and "large firm-led production networks" in Japan, Europe, and the U.S., as well as an investigation of the labor and environmental failings of these developments. Harrison leaves no doubt that the Japanese government engages in extensive "capitalist planning" and that the Japanese private sector is "pervaded by hierarchy, asymmetric power, and the practice of long-term planning" (p. 162). In contrast to Japan, with its well developed hierarchically organized system of industrial "supply" keiretsu, and more "cobweb" conglomerate "networked" keiretsu, and to Europe with its private-public joint enterprises such as Airbus Industrie, Harrison is pessimistic about the prospects of most U.S. firms to engage in the kind of long-term planning and supplier relationship building that has proven so successful in other countries.

    One obstacle to the development of comparable long-term private and public networking and planning relationships in the U.S. is the deeply rooted suspicion of collaboration and "cartelization" which continues to be promoted by Neoclassically trained economists. However, other institutional factors such as the well developed "market for corporate control" leading to chronic investment "short-termism," absurdly high "hurdle rates" for investment return, and managers and board members with little to no actual product related experience, may be more serious obstacles to a "high-wage" path in the U.S. which would emphasize long-term process and product improvement over short-term accounting profit. Harrison's pessimism in this regard for the U.S. has been recently corroborated for the U.K., and by analysts comparing both countries to each other (Hutton, 1995) (Eatwell, 1996).

    In a chapter on "the dark side of flexible production" Harrison focuses on the low wages, contingent labor, and lax environmental standards at assembly plants for "high tech" companies which is a corollary of "flexible manufacturing." The data assembled here forcefully demonstrate that the social and human costs of the new organization of production are not being addressed within the current institutional framework.

    The book concludes with a chapter on economic development policy which nicely summarizes the Reich/Porter debate on "Who is Us" and outlines a number of policy proposals including: regulating the global companies and their networks, and stimulating government industrial/technology policy and inter-firm alliances and military conversion. Harrison sides with Porter and William Lazonick in arguing for the enhanced importance of local development and cooperation in addition to competition at the local level. He also notes that as the power of the multinational corporations to avoid national jurisdiction increases, efforts to license, tax, and otherwise regulate them have diminished to the point where, in the words of Raymond Vernon, the U.S. government's approach is now one of "a very light hand almost to the point of invisibility" (p. 229).

    The strength of Lean and Mean lies not so much in its policy advice, which is largely a summary of well-known positions, but in its detailed institutional and statistical documentation of the growing importance of non-market networking and planning relationships among concentrated capitals in the world economy. Harrison's data and analysis thoroughly refute any lingering doubt regarding the scope and significance of these developments which clearly require large-scale public planning and policy if resources are to be directed to the human development of those most in need.

    It is increasingly ironic, but not surprising, that in the face of this evident trend toward ever more extensive concentration without centralization in the private sector, conservative ideologies - and now some on the left - are calling for a small, limited, and balkanized public sector (Belkin, 1996). As many have pointed out, this would generally undermine democratic political power and socialist aspirations, and clear the way for the unconstrained pursuit of profit (Baiman, 1996).

    The weakness of Harrison's analysis lies in the area of policy recommendations. For example, Harrison's solution for the "dark side" of flexible manufacturing, is to induce companies to abandon "the low-wage path" through a "joining" of private and public sectors to provide the "three T's: technology, training, and technical assistance" to smaller suppliers, and through efforts to make the new large networked "lean organizations rather less mean" (p. 245). To his credit Harrison also touches on the need for "better and more vocally organized trade unions" or "other forms" of labor organization, and for a long term growth strategy led by public investment. However, missing a discussion of institutional arrangements and policies congenital with private ownership and profit seeking control of economic forces, the book fails to project a clear alternative to the glaring contradiction between increasingly concentrated private power and diminishing public leverage and welfare which it documents so well.

     

    References

    Baiman, Ron. 1996. "From Markets to Limited Government: A Look Down the Slippery Slope of 'Neo-Leftism'." Socialist Forum, No. 26.
    Belkin, David. 1996. "The Left and Limited Government." Socialist Forum, No. 26.
    Birch, David L. 1987. Job Creation in America: How Our Smallest Companies put the Most People to Work. NY: Free Press.
    Bluestone, Barry and Bennett Harrison. 1982. The Deindustrialization of America. NY: Basic Books.
    Eatwell, John. 1996. "Labour's Economics". Dissent, Spring.
    Harrison, Bennett and Barry Bluestone. 1988. The Great U-Turn. NY: Basic Books.
    Hutton, Will. 1995. The State We're In. Jonathan Cape.


    Simon says

    Campaign Finance Reform!

    by Gene Birmingham

    Do you remember from your history classes the dispute between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson about the nature of the newly forming American democracy, how Hamilton wanted the wealthier property owners to have more power than others while Jefferson wanted to distribute power in a somewhat more equal manner?

    "In our time, Hamilton has won", was the answer former Senator Paul Simon gave after he posed the question. He was speaking on "Campaign Finance Reform" at the First United Church of Oak Park on April 19, 1997. The event was sponsored by Protestants for the Common Good.

    Simon shared the podium with Ed Wojcicki, publisher of Illinois Issues. Wojcicki pointed to four pieces of the problem from his vantage point in Springfield, Illinois.

    · The amount of money donated to campaigns is growing rapidly, notably from gambling interests. The Illinois State Medical Society is the largest single contributor to campaigns in Illinois.

    · Money for candidates does not come from their legislative district, but from interest groups outside of their districts and from state legislative leaders who control the contributions.

    · No candidate wins in Illinois without the backing of their party's leaders.

    · Information about campaign financing is hard to come by because anyone seeking information is required to fill out a form fully identifying themselves, thereby making themselves vulnerable to the leadership if they want to run for office or institute reform.

    Simon described the problem in terms of incumbents who do not want to change the system which got them elected. On the other hand, almost no mail or phone messages are coming to legislators on this subject. He predicted that as little as 20 letters or calls per district would result in passage of some kind of reform. Individual letters or calls are more effective than petitions.

    Lack of campaign finance reform results in a welfare reform flawed by responding to those who contribute rather than to those who have needs. Reforms themselves always need further reform as the rich and powerful find ways around them.

    Simon's proposal for reform includes: 1) public financing of elections by voters' being allowed to check off an amount of their taxes, with candidates being given equal amounts for their use; 2) free radio and TV time in blocks large enough to deal with issues and cut the appeal of 30 second negative ads; 3) prohibit all private contributions. If the media resist providing free time, they need to hear public concern on the matter.

    Money will always talk, said Simon, but its power can be checked if the people are adamant enough about the issue.


    Don't Forget the Chicago 5!

    by Bob Roman

    Five people were arrested on felony charges during protest activities around the 1996 Democratic Convention. Although the trial judge has determined that there was no probable cause to arrest them in the first place, the Prosecution has persisted in pursing the matter. Trials are expensive. Please consider sending contribution. Make your check payable to "Eighth Day Center for Justice/FOL" and mail to:

    Eighth Day Center for Justice
    Attn: Sr. Dorothy Pagosa
    205 W. Monroe St
    Chicago, IL 60606

     


    Paulo Freire, the Brazilian author of Pedagogy Of The Oppressed and many other works, died on Thursday, May 1, at the age of 75.


    Letters

    Dear Editor:

    At the 39th Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner, the magazine Dissent had a special offer in the Program Book. For $16 one can receive four issues of the quarterly democratic socialist publication. Since 1955, I have kind of been the Dissent Chicago literature agent. It has been an honor because in the days of lack of faith and hope so many have dropped away. But for us long distance runners, it's been a pleasure to continue to work for socialism in our time. Send your $16 check to

    Dissent
    521 5th Ave, Ste 1700
    New York, NY 10017.

    Solidarity and the workers' blood is really RED!!

    Carl Shier

     

    Editor's note: Copies of the Program Book are available. Call (773) 384-0327 and leave your name and address.

     

    Dear Editor:

    For over a year now, members of DSA and other democratic socialist organizations have been participating in a variety of "left unity" discussions, both in face to face meetings around the country and through an Internet email list devoted to this topic. These have included meetings in Chicago as well as monthly meetings in New York that have been attended by Alan Charney, DSA's National Director.

    Committees of Correspondence (CoC), has already formally endorsed a left unity proposal. At its national convention last summer, CoC resolved to "explicitly explore and promote an organizational alliance between left organizations, including but not limited to the Committees of Correspondence, Solidarity, Democratic Socialists of America, Socialist Party USA, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization." In addition, CoC resolved to "make it clear in all its discussions with other organizations that our goal is to promote maximum organizational and political unity while promoting a structure that preserves diversity and innovation within such a combined alliance."

    There has even been talk of a merger. And there is widespread agreement that of all the organizations mentioned in CoC's resolution, CoC and DSA are the most likely candidates for a merger, given the similarity of views of their members. Mergers, however, can be very difficult and time-consuming, as people who were involved in the 1982 merger of New American Movement and Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (which resulted in DSA) will testify.

    Nevertheless, a looser alliance of the kind mentioned in CoC's resolution could gradually lead to a merger. Such an alliance would enable interested organizations to affiliate but would not require any of them to give up their present identities or governing structures. Among the benefits of such affiliation would be the sharing of some administrative and mailing costs, the publication of a joint news and discussion periodical, and (perhaps most importantly) the formation of a "united front" designed to achieve a larger and more effective democratic socialist public and political presence. The new alliance could also accept individual members who don't wish to be members of any of the affiliated organizations.

    So far, several DSA members who are participating in the email discussions have expressed interest in co-sponsoring a resolution similar to CoC's resolution (or stronger) at the national convention to be held November 8-9 in Columbus, Ohio. No one has any illusions that such a resolution would easily pass, much less that it would quickly lead to the formation of an actual alliance. However, there are many things supporters could do prior to the convention to increase its chances.

    If anyone reading this is interested in co-sponsoring, endorsing, or at least discussing a resolution regarding formation of a new democratic socialist alliance, please contact me by phone, email, or U.S. mail: Ralph Suter, 1529 W. Touhy Ave. #2, Chicago, IL 60626-2623; 773-743-6130; RLSuter@aol.com. [Note: To subscribe to the left unity email list mentioned in the first paragraph, send the message "subscribe jhurd_newparty <your e-mail address>" (without the quote marks and substituting your own email address) to majordomo@indiana.edu.]

    In solidarity,

    Ralph Suter

     

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