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New Ground 58

May - June, 1998


  • Fighting Globalization from Below: Niketown AntiSweatshop Rally by Bob Roman
  • Socialist Scholars Conference Studies How: A Better World to Win by Charity Crouse
  • Progressive Challenge Exceeds the Beltway, But Can It Reach Escape Velocity? by Bob Roman
  • Side Bar: The Fairness Agenda
  • So long, Saul by Carl Shier

  • Fighting Globalization from Below:

    Niketown AntiSweatshop Rally

    by Bob Roman

    More than 60 people gathered outside of Niketown on north Michigan Avenue on April 18, protesting the sweatshop conditions under which Nike products are made. The demonstration was part of an international campaign of action against sweatshops and part of a campaign against the Free Trade Area of the Americas then being discussed in Santiago, Chile, by the heads of state in the western hemisphere. Teach-ins on sweatshops and free trade at a number of major university campuses were conducted in the days immediately before and after the demonstration.

    The participation of Congressman Luis Gutierrez and gubernatorial candidate Glen Poshard guaranteed adequate media attention, even provoking a whining response from a Nike spokesman about being "unfairly targeted".

    Other speakers included Father Tom Joyce of the Eighth Day Center, Carlos Carrillo from the AFL-CIO Midwest Regional Office, Katie Jordan of the Chicago Chapter of the Coalition of Labor Union Women and Carwil James from the University of Chicago DSA Youth Section.

    The demonstration and teach-ins in Chicago were part of an International Days of Action coordinated by the Western Hemisphere Workers' Conference Against NAFTA and by the Campaign for Labor Rights. The confluence of actions against both sweatshops and the Free Trade Area of the Americas was accidental. The Campaign for Labor Rights had planned a Second International Nike Mobilization for April 18, and the Western Hemisphere Workers' Conference Against NAFTA, held last year in San Francisco, had planned a counter-summit in Santiago to be accompanied by demonstrations and other actions during April 15 through 18. Once discovered, the two agendas were melded.

    Thus while demonstrations were being held across the hemisphere and while President Clinton schemed with the Presidents, Prime Ministers and Foreign Ministers of North and South America, activists were also meeting in a "Summit of the Peoples" in Santiago, Chile.

    The actions in Chicago were organized by the Chicago Jobs with Justice Cross Border Organizing Committee and is the latest in a series of actions designed to support labor rights around the world. Chicago DSA and the UofC DSA Youth Section are among the several organizations participating in the CJwJ Cross Border Organizing Committee.

    Socialist Scholars Conference Studies How:

    A Better World to Win

    by Charity Crouse

    Comrades from all over the country gathered at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York City on Mar 20-22 at the Socialist Scholars Conference. Over two thousand people attended the three-day event, which featured 110 panel discussions and over 400 speakers.

    DSA-YS International Chair and Chicago DSA member Daraka Larimore Hall got things started during the Friday evening opening panel entitled "A World to Win: New Organizing for Social Change." Panel speakers included Elaine Bernard of the Harvard Trade Union Program and DSA member Bogdan Denitch.

    DSA-Youth Section members Oscar Owens, Co-Chair of the Youth Section and member of the conference steering committee, and Michael Key of James Madison University in Virginia spoke on the future of socialism in "The Next Generation of Socialists and the Future of the Movement" early Saturday morning. Youth Section Organizer Kevin Pranis spoke at two panels, one on the prison industrial complex with former Chicago DSA member Raybblin Vargas, and one of the last panels of the conference on the state of student activism.

    Other DSA members helped round out a substantial DSA presence. National Political Committee member Chris Riddiough was a panelist on the "Blair/Clinton: Toward a New Paradigm and New International?" panel. Pamela Donovan was a panelist for the "Whither Feminism II: In the Age of Austerity" panel. Joseph Schwartz and Bogdan Denitch confronted author Leo Panitch concerning his book The End of Parliamentary Socialism: From the New Left to New Labour. Former National Director Alan Charney spoke on the future of socialism as well as the future of independent politics in New York City.

    Several supplemental activities coincided with the conference and were incorporated into the presentations. "Films of Resistance: Many Faces of Neoliberal Struggle" included a roster of thirteen independent films covering topics such as the Iran-Contra affair and coming out in the workplace. An open town meeting on the '98 Juneteenth Chicago Convention of the Black Radical Congress augmented the already intensive and encompassing discussions.

    Tables were set up in the lobby of the college to provide a forum for hard-working socialist groups and publications, as well as a whole slew of sectarian fourth internationalists who were eager to denounce many of the panels and programs they were unwilling to attend. For the most part, however, one can't help but be encouraged by the sight of so many people willing to don the big "s" word and talk openly about the struggles that we'll all be wrestling with for many years to come. Sitting behind the national DSA table gave one the opportunity to converse with socialists of varying faiths, as well as acquaint one with DSA members from all over the country. Chicago DSA member Ralph Suter shared a table with the "Capital CD-ROM," where the Internationale surely helped accentuate the aims of the Socialist Theory Project.

    With over ten panels occurring simultaneously at designated periods throughout the day it was difficult to focus attention on just one pressing topic, but attendance at almost all the panels was over capacity. For many of those who went, it was a sign that we who struggle are not alone, and as Larimore-Hall mentioned at the opening of the conference, "we have a lot of work to do."

    Progressive Challenge Exceeds the Beltway, But Can It Reach Escape Velocity?

    by Bob Roman

    On the evening of Monday, April 21, the Progressive Challenge came to Chicago. Starting off with a town hall style meeting that brought together about 150 people in the UNITE hall at 333 S. Ashland in Chicago, the meeting was structured to present testimony from representative of various local organizations to local Congressional members of the Progressive Caucus.

    DSA was particularly well represented by the testimony of the Youth Section's International Secretary, Daraka Larimore-Hall. Daraka Larimore-Hall gave an impassioned, coherent presentation that linked the various aspects of DSA's agenda with the project at hand. He also pointed out that the attitude on campus is not so much conservative or apathetic as practical. Ideology is not enough if it is not accompanied by useful politics.

    Congressmen Jesse Jackson, Jr., Luis Gutierrez and Danny Davis attended the meeting, though only Representative Jackson was there for the entire program.

    This initial outreach / organizing meeting of the Progressive Challenge in Chicago was organized and hosted by Chicago Jobs with Justice Committee for New Priorities as one of their monthly forums.

    The Progressive Challenge is an effort to link the Congressional Progressive Caucus with the larger left grass roots network of single issue, constituent, labor and ideological organizations. The Institute for Policy Studies is very much the keystone organization of this project, which has brought together some 40 organizations including DSA, Americans for Democratic Action, United Electrical Workers, NETWORK, National Jobs for All Coalition to name a few. No one of these groups is a major player inside the Beltway, but together they have captured the attention of the Progressive Caucus and contributed to its growth.

    The Progressive Challenge began with a conference on Capitol Hill in January of 1997. The conference was followed by a year of public briefings, working groups and brain-storming which resulted in the Fairness Agenda (see side-bar). The Fairness Agenda was unveiled at a Progressive Caucus State of the Union on January 27 of this year.

    What brings the Fairness Agenda one step beyond political rhetoric is that each of the eight points have been accompanied by one or more pieces of legislation introduced by members of the Progressive Caucus.

    But the Progressive Challenge is still very much a creature of the Beltway. If it is to be significantly useful to the participating groups and to the Progressive Caucus, if it is to make a difference in politics and in life, it must expand beyond this central if narrow venue. This is the central purpose of this meeting in Chicago in addition to other meeting planned or being planned in Atlanta, the Bay Area, Detroit, New York, New England, New Orleans. Meetings have already been held in Sand Diego, Maine and Boston. The DSA Youth Section is exploring the possibilities of a Youth Progressive Challenge with the Center for Campus Organizing, U.S. Student Association and Student Environmental Action Coalition.

    In a very real way, the Progressive Challenge and the Fairness Agenda is the first fruit of the 1997 DSA National Convention. The focus of conversation and debate at the Convention was building a broader left. The Convention Resolution on Building a Broader Left called for a discussion among the democratic left on means for strengthening the progressive community, and it explicitly endorsed the Progressive Challenge as a venue for such a discussion, stating: "The Progressive Challenge represents a key center for this discussion in the context of its economic justice and equity agenda."

    While the Progressive Challenge has made a brave and hopeful beginning in Chicago and elsewhere outside the Beltway, it may be too early in the season for it to prosper immediately. In Chicago, at least, the Progressive Challenge lacks an institutional base and resources. It resembles the early days of Jobs with Justice in Chicago, before the local union movement made the commitment to provide the resources for office and staff. This is not so much a comment on the project's prospects as a comment on just how far its organizers have to go.


    The Fairness Agenda

    I. Enact a Fairness Budget for America

    America's abundant resources must be used to build a decent society. We propose cutting military spending and corporate giveaways and reinstating progressive taxation, while redirecting revenues to invest in human resources, such as schools and health care, and in infrastructure, such as mass transit.

    II Ensure Jobs, Living Wages, Benefits and Worker Rights for All

    Our nation depends on a vigorous and innovative workforce that is assured basic rights. We propose government job creation, especially in areas of high unemployment; laws requiring profitable companies to compensate workers and communities affected by job cuts; elimination of tax breaks for companies that provide excessive executive compensation; and stronger protections against labor rights violations and all forms of discrimination.

    III Ensure Equality for All

    Despite recent progress, there is still widespread discrimination in this country based on race, gender, disabilities, age and sexual orientation. Wage gaps by sex and by race and de facto segregation still exist. Two means of addressing these problems include sufficient funding for agencies that administer anti-discrimination laws and reinforcing affirmative action while exploring the integration of class-based criteria into such programs.

    IV Promoting a Just and Sustainable Global Economy

    Free trade agreements and World Bank / IMF structural adjustment programs have increased inequalities at home and abroad. We propose an international dialogue to develop alternative trade and development initiatives that encompass the protection of worker and women's rights, environmental standards, and food security, and tackle the issues of immigration and the need to reduce inequalities.

    V Support Demilitarization, Human Rights and a New Internationalism

    We propose: cutting military expenditures; negotiating to eliminate all nuclear weapons; shifting R&D priorities toward pressing domestic needs; stopping NATO expansion; banning landmines; ending subsidies for arms exporters and arms transfers for dictators; banning covert operations; shifting from unilateral military aid and U.S. controlled peacekeeping missions abroad to multilateral responses; and promoting real human rights abroad, which includes political, economic, social and cultural rights.

    VI Guarantee Sustainable Communities and Environmental Justice

    We propose: distribution of more no-strings federal funds, especially to poor communities; revisions in trade agreements to allow communities to enact strong environmental and labor laws; and retargetting federal insurance, subsides and loans for community development. On environmental justice, we propose: promoting the right to a clean environment and replacing subsidies for polluters with subsidies for ecologically sound products and services. We also support a shift to more sustainable agriculture that supports rural communities and a safe food supply.

    VII Provide Adequate Social Investment

    We propose: preserving Social Security and protecting it from privatization, remaking economic security structures to address the needs of the poor, offering universal access to affordable quality healthcare, protecting and expanding Medicare eligibility to people of all ages and income, creating a bill of rights to protect health care consumers, increasing funds for low-income housing assistance, and providing adequate funding for quality public education.

    VIII Limit Private Money in Politics

    Public outrage is increasing over the abuse of campaign finance loopholes, systematic influence-peddling, and political favors granted to special interests. Candidates who reject contributions from private sources, accept spending limits, and run shorter campaigns should have the options of receiving clean, disinterested money for their elections. Such a voluntary system would provide an alternative to private fundraising, create a financially level playing field and tighten loopholes.

    "So long, Saul, old friend. We will miss your information on foreign events, the election predictions and the dinners Marion and I have had with you and Jennie. You took a lot with you when you left us. But you left a lot more behind that we will never forget."

    by Carl Shier

    On Friday, March 13th, Chicago's democratic left lost one of its champions, Saul Mendelson.

    Saul Mendelson was a co-founder of the Debs Dinner in 1958. He was its treasurer for the first ten years and worked diligently to make it a success for 39 years. Saul received the Thomas - Debs Award in 1988.

    Saul Mendelson was also a real believer in union movement. He fought for the right of teachers to bargain collectively and he was a member and leader of the American Federation of Teachers.

    He was active in reform politics in Chicago, especially the campaigns for Harold Washington. He even ran for State Senator in 1970. He was the foreign policy specialist for the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA). Saul was the essence of the long distance runner.

    Memorial services were held on March 29 and on April 2 by the Harold Washington College Chapter of the Cook County Teachers Union.

    At the memorial service held at the 1st Unitarian Church on South Woodlawn, speaker after speaker recounted Saul's contributions. The service was ably MC'd by a retired colleague, Bob Clark. I spoke first and was followed by Saul's friend Deborah Meier, a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient who is now starting a new school in Boston. Amy Isaacs, National Director of the ADA, spoke of what Saul had meant on foreign affairs to the ADA. Other speakers included Senator Carol Moseley Braun, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle, State Senator Barak Obama, Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie and a good friend from New York, Myra Russell. The concluding remarks were made by an old friend, Harriet Lefley, who is now Professor of Psychology at the University of Miami Medical School.

    The Saul Mendelson Memorial at Harold Washington College had colleagues speaking of what Saul had meant to the professors because of his union leadership as Chair of the Chapter. The event was organized by the present Chapter Chair, Mike Ruggeri.

    For Jennie, his companion for 50 years and the mother of his children, and for all his friends, the two memorials were very important.


    Saul Mendelson

    You joined the Socialist movement at the age of 18. You chaired the Socialist Club at the University of Chicago. You taught and inspired students at DuSable High School. You fought in the civil rights struggles with the NAACP, with CORE, and with the Negro American Labor Council. You have held fast to your belief in democratic socialism.

    You fought for collective bargaining for public employees and were the vice-president of the Chicago Teachers Union High School Division when the first collective bargaining contract was achieved. You became a professor at Loop College (now Harold Washington College) and were its union chair from 1969 to 1986 in the Cook County College Local. Five of the times your union was forced on strike, you were your chapter's strike committee chair.

    You have been active in reform politics for years, as chair of the state IVI-IPO, and presently as chair of the South Side IVI-IPO. You have served on the national board of the Americans for Democratic Action since 1966. You participated as an area coordinator in all stages of the 1983 and 1987 mayoral victories of Harold Washington and in Charles Hayes' Congressional campaigns. This year's Democratic Party Convention will be your third, and you go to Atlanta as a Second Congressional District delegate for Jesse Jackson.

    You were one of the founders of this Dinner when it was known as the Debs Dinner and you served as its treasurer for ten years. On this seventh day of May, 1988, the Norman Thomas - Eugene V. Debs Award is given to you for living an active, dedicated life in the pursuit of the ideas and ideals of these two great socialists.

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