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New Ground 61

November - December, 1998


  • Back to Basics: A Conference on the Future of the American Left by Harold Taggart and Gene Birmingham
  • Democrats Don't Lose Shirt: Labor Made the Difference by Kurt Anderson
  • October 30th Day of Action: North America Is a War Zone! by Amy Traub, Dan Graff and Bob Roman
  • CBHC Annual Meeting by Bob Roman
  • Social Democratic Party (SPD) Wins Big in Germany by Kurt Anderson
  • People and Folks: A Review by Bruce Bentley
  • Other News Compiled by Bob Roman
  • A Quick Note on the 1998 Elections
    October 17 Day of Action
    Economic Democracy
    Post Election Forum

    Back to Basics: A Conference on the Future of the American Left

    by Harold Taggart and Gene Birmingham

    "To explore how we (the Left) can increase our presence in the mainstream of American political and intellectual life" was the way James Weinstein, editor of In These Times magazine, stated the purpose of the "Back to Basics Conference". The conference was held Oct. 9-11, at Chicago's Congress Hotel. Several hundred people attended the conference, which In These Times magazine sponsored and managed. In practice the conference urged the Left to abandon its dead-end, self-destructive course toward cultural politics and return to class politics.

    Guests, speakers and panelists included a wide variety of stellar figures of the Left. Syndicated talk show host, Jim Hightower, was emcee for the Friday evening (Oct. 9) plenary session, and typified the tone of the conference. Sandwiched in among his hilarious down-home Texas jokes were serious calls to fight predatory corporations and embrace Joe six-pack.

    Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, the Left's primary preference for president in the 2000 election, key-noted the conference with an emphasis on the Left's need to join the middle and lower economic segments of society in a common effort for reform if needed changes are to be made in the electoral process. As opposed to the Republican's equating of morality with sex, he defined morality in terms of a living wage, affordable health care, quality education, adequate nutrition for all children and curbing domestic violence, all of which are true family values. Republicans cloak greed and selfishness behind the mantle of "individual opportunity". Wellstone wants us to campaign for education, health care and jobs, saying, "We all do better when we all do better".

    At the Oct. 10 plenary, Dr. Quentin Young described the sick U.S. health care system, which costs $4,000 per person. Canadians pay half as much for universal care, better care, and a life span two years longer than ours. The HMOs, PPOs, etc., represent capitalism in its purest state: profits have priority over patients.

    Environmentalist Barbara Dudley emphasized a need repeated by others, that the Left has to reach out to the beer and pretzels working majority in America. Rather than viewing the struggle as Left vs. Right, she called us to see it as top vs. bottom, with the largest group in the middle, where our focus should be. Pointing out that most Leftists are past age 40, the need to enlist youth is obvious. No one expected Marx's prediction of capitalism's collapse to occur. In fact, very few mentioned his name at all.

    Joel Rogers, founder of The New Party, listed people's concerns: education, campaign finance reform, environment, raising the minimum wage, and concern about global capitalism. Neither Democrats nor Republicans take this list seriously. Liberalism relied on favorable government regulation and mass politics to deal with problems. A new time calls for new politics, emphasizing economic strategy, citizen participation, and electoral strategy.

    A wide variety of Working Panels offered opportunity for discussion to the variety of interests represented. The "Religion and the Left" panel asked religious and secular Leftists to unite on shared values, regardless of the different languages used to describe them. A major illustration was the Saul Alinsky approach of organizing religious institutions to confront injustice on their own turf.

    The panel on Campaign Finance Reform combined with a focus on Proportional Representation in voting, which would allow third parties, minority groups and women greater opportunity to be elected. Panel leaders called for a united movement of single-issue groups to work toward finance reform, as the necessary pre-condition for any other kind of successful reform.

    DSA leaders, Chris Riddiough and Joe Schwartz, organized a panel to discuss "Building a Better Left", a call to work for greater Left unity and organizational strength. DSA is working with the Progressive Caucus in Congress and the Institute for Policy Studies. Labor is essential for an effective Left, along with people of color and women. What is envisioned is not a uniting of organizations, but a broad coalition willing to speak with one voice on issues of common concern. No consensus emerged from discussion, but the proposal remains alive.

    The panel on Feminism, led by Barbara Epstein, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Roberta Lynch, provided a good description of its decline as a movement. While it accomplished changes, it is too weak to go much further without focusing on class, race and other disparities among women, especially those of the poor and working class. Women cannot expect revolution in the near future, but must be in the struggle for the long haul.

    Other panels, which we were unable to attend, included Welfare Reform, Public Education, Environment, Value Talk, Class in America, African American Politics, The Media, and several on Labor.

    Among the better solutions offered for problems by this august body was a proposal for a national charter system to replace the current state charter system to rein in and, if necessary, terminate predatory, anti-social corporations. Someone suggested a three-strikes-and-you're-out law for repeat corporate offenders.

    The outstanding success story of the conference was the New Mexico Green Party. As a result of flukes, determination, a spectacular leader (Carol Miller), party rivalries, an energized staff, demographics and a flexible campaign strategy, the party managed to become a major party which entitled it to an automatic spot on the ballot along with the Democrats and Republicans. Tedious, time-consuming petitions are no longer necessary for getting on the ballot.

    Although 60 percent of registered voters in New Mexico list themselves as Democrats, the governor, one senator and two of the three representatives are Republican. The Green Party received significant help from the Governor who believed the Green party would split the Democrats. Exit polls showed, however, equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans voting for the Green party. The Greens targeted areas to campaign in, such as Albuquerque, where half the state's population resides, instead of remote, less populated areas.

    One of the most rewarding segments of the conference, but under-attended, was the Sunday Brunch. Guests and speakers could table-hop among the round, 12 seat, tables, and talk personally with a wide variety of people. Much time was devoted to the issue of the Left in roles as spoiler and infiltrator. No consensus will be reached on that subject in the near future.

    The conference was both a hope for the future and a success in its own right. Congratulations is due In These Times for its organization and management of the conference. (Who says leftists can't be highly efficient?) The Green Party has set an example of success. Another conference would be useful to focus on next steps, whether by forming another party, or ways of cooperation among groups, now that many groups have become better acquainted, have seen the value of networking, and have heard the call to work together. In the meantime, it remains for all of us on the Left to build on the good foundation that was laid.

    Democrats Don't Lose Shirt: Labor Made the Difference

    by Kurt Anderson

    As if Friday nights weren't good enough, the resignation of Newt makes November 6 an especially Good Friday. His missteps on the final budget deal depressed Republican base turnout and ads specifically designed to attack Clinton backfired. Newt's predictions that a Republican pickup of less than five seats would be disastrous was correct. It ended his political career. Ironically enough, Newt the historian forgot one of the most repeated lessons of history: revolutions almost always eat their fathers.

    Any new Republican leadership which comes forward will have to place a kinder gentler face on it's anti-worker and anti-family agenda. On a recent Nightline, Bill Paxton (R-NY) said that there is a movement to take the party back to the Reagan Republican era. Is that supposed to be a step forward or backward?

    Organized labor played a significant role in the essentially defensive victories across the nation. Unlike the 1996 elections in which the AFL-CIO spent millions on TV ads attacking Republicans' voting records (and hence attracting much attention as exemplified in California's Proposition 226), unions spent their time and money in 1998 reaching out, educating and activating their members. 22% of all voters in 1998 were members of union households as compared to 14% in 1994. This was an increase of over 6.7 million more union household votes than in 1994. In addition, the AFL-CIO unions registered 500,000 additional union voters, sent 9.5 million pieces of mail to union households and made 5.5 million personal phone calls. The efforts of the Christian Coalition pale in comparison.

    In addition, labor defeated the Proposition 226-like Measure 59 in Oregon with 53% of the vote. Also, the coalition which defeated Prop. 226 in California was held together to make sure that Senator Barbara Boxer was re-elected and that Grey Davis was the new Governor of California.

    The AFL-CIO has also been actively recruiting union members to run for public office. Six hundred union members ran for public office in 1998. Nevada elected a waitress and member of the Culinary Workers' Union to the Nevada State Senate. She is the first woman union member to hold a Senate seat in the state's history.

    Most importantly, though, issues ruled election day with union-household voters. Preserving Social Security, support of public education, a patient bill of rights and stronger laws protection the rights of workers to join unions were the hottest issues with union households. Overall, 71% of all union households voted Democratic. Luckily for the Democrats, they didn't win back control of the House thus avoiding another 1992-1994 debacle of rudderless wandering.

    October 30th Day of Action: North America Is a War Zone!

    by Amy Traub, Dan Graff and Bob Roman

    If the recent media blitz about globalization has taught us anything, it is that the entire world is now tremendously interconnected, that what happens abroad can profoundly affect conditions here and vice-versa. The Youth Section of the Democratic Socialists of America, both nationally and here in Chicago, are currently working on an international campaign in support of the labor rights of factory workers in Tijuana, Mexico.

    In this particular case, the hundred some workers at the Han Young factory in Tijuana weld truck chassis exclusively for Hyundai Motors, a Korean corporation. Due primarily to unsafe and unsanitary working conditions - including absence of ventilation, faulty equipment, and lack of protective gear - workers at Han Young decided in June of 1997 to form a union so they could collectively bargain for better conditions.

    After the overwhelming majority of workers voted to join an independent union, the government labor board declared that the election was invalid since the workers were already represented by a union. This union, the CROC (Confederacion Revolucionario de Obreros y Campesinos) was one of the corrupt organizations closely tied to the PRI, the political party which has ruled Mexico for the last 70 years. Without the knowledge of the people working there, the Han Young management had negotiated a "protection contract" with the CROC in which the company paid off union leaders in exchange for labor peace.

    "The CROC collects money directly from the employers and holds no meetings," explained one worker, "its representatives only come to the factory when there is trouble, to tell the workers to go back to work."

    It is understandable that workers would want to exercise their rights (guaranteed by the Mexican Constitution and, theoretically, by NAFTA) to organize an independent union that would actually represent their interests. Yet results of three separate labor board supervised elections, all in favor of independent unionization, have not resulted in recognition of the union. Workers have been bribed, threatened, fired, beaten, menaced with arrest, mislead, defamed, and victimized by suspicious "accidents".

    Thousands of other workers in Mexico's northern maquiladora (export-oriented manufacturing) sector face similar conditions when they try to claim their legal rights. They are exploited as cheap labor by transnational corporations under the rubric of "free trade" even as their own basic freedoms to organize amongst themselves and speak out about their working conditions are violated with impunity.

    The international solidarity efforts that Han Young workers have explicitly called for (including marches, boycotts, demonstrations, letters from prominent religious leaders and organizations, speaking tours by Han Young workers, hunger strikes and even solidarity actions by Hyundai workers in the corporation's home country of Korea) have already had some success. Because of international pressure, workers who had been illegally fired were reinstated with back pay. But the independent union, democratically elected by the plant workers on several occasions, has still not been officially recognized. Without recognition, they cannot legally negotiate a contract or go on strike. That's why international efforts continue, and youth members of the Democratic Socialists of America in the U.S., the New Democratic Party in Canada, and the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) in Mexico planned simultaneous demonstrations in cities across the continent on October 30th.

    Forum on Han Young Workers

    On Thursday, Oct. 29, on the University of Chicago DSA sponsored a forum on the striking Han Young workers. Nearly thirty students and community members attended the forum, a very good turnout in the face of horribly stormy weather that evening. Panelists included David Moberg, a senior editor at In These Times and journalist specializing in labor issues, Amy Traub, a student at the University of Chicago and coordinator of the Han Young support work on campus, and Dan Graff, a representative the Labor Rights Task Force of the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee, which has been helping coordinate Han Young solidarity support in the Chicago area.

    The panelists provided an update on the situation at Han Young, where workers have been on strike for union recognition since May 1998, and analyzed the crisis in light of the impact of NAFTA, economic globalization, and the potential internationalization of the labor movement.

    The forum also served as the lead-in for a protest of a local Hyundai dealership, scheduled for the next day as part of an International Day of Action to support the Han Young strikers. The DSA Youth Section (as part of the International Union of Socialist Youth) held events in New York, Boston, Santa Barbara, San Diego, and Chicago.

    Hyundai Protest on Chicago's South Side

    On Friday, October 30, thirty folks, mostly from the University of Chicago, picketed Quality Hyundai at 92nd St. and Western Ave. in Chicago. Chanting "Hyundai, Hyundai, respect labor rights!" and "Hyundai Motors, we'll cut you down to size, unless you respect the right to unionize!", the protesters received support from honking motorists during rush hour traffic.

    The dealerships' management was clearly irritated, and one staffer informed us he would definitely notify Hyundai headquarters of the action. The highlight of the day: a prospective car buyer talked with protesters and then opted not to shop at Hyundai. "Keep up the good work," he shouted as he drove away.

    September 19th Day of Action

    The October 30th National Day of Action in support of Han Young workers was not the first this fall. On Saturday, September 19th, the Campaign for Labor Rights coordinated a similar effort. The DSA Youth Section planned its day of action on October 30th because a number of its chapters, including the University of Chicago, did not begin their academic year until after September 19th.

    The Chicago action was coordinated by the Chicago Jobs with Justice Cross Border Organizing Committee and the Nicaragua Solidarity Committee Labor Rights Task Force. Some 40 people, including 9 DSA members mostly from the UofC Youth Section and Greater Oak Park DSA, turned out for a picket line outside of New Rogers Pontiac-Hyundai at 27th and Michigan in Chicago. The management there was more than irritated, but after a Donald Duck tantrum, the afternoon passed peaceably.

    North America Is a War Zone

    In other cross border action, the Dana Workers Alliance, along with the AFL-CIO, Canadian Labour Congress and the National Union of Workers in Mexico, has filed complaints under the side agreements to NAFTA against the Dana Corporation for firing union supporters and brutalizing employees at its Echlin brake plant in Itapsa, Mexico. In the States, the UAW, Steelworkers and Paperworkers represent some 12,000 Dana workers. Other members of the Dana Workers Alliance include the Teamsters, Canadian Auto Workers, UNITE and UE.

    The railroad industry has become increasingly international as well. As a consequence, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Maintenance of Way Employees, and STFRM (the Mexican rail union) have formed an alliance to share information and coordinate action.

    U.S. and Canadian railroads have long owned lines across the northern border, but Mexico has recently privatized its railroads. Organized into several regional monopolies, the privatization law requires majority ownership by Mexican investors; however, all but one of the regional lines are dominated by U.S. railroads. U.S. staffing practices are spreading south of the border, resulting in layoffs.

    The internationalization of the U.S. rail industry has spread beyond Mexico. The Kansas City Southern, for example, not only has a 49% stake in Mexico's northeastern railway, TFM, but also runs Panama's railway. The Wisconsin Central also runs the freight service in New Zealand and Britain.

    CBHC Annual Meeting

    by Bob Roman

    On Friday, October 9, the Campaign for Better Health Care held its Second Annual Meeting in Chicago at the Spertus Institute Conference Center. The event combined a Candidates' Forum, presentations on healthcare legislation at the local, state and federal levels, a discussion on future strategies, and an evening fundraising event.

    Many of the 100 people who attended the Annual Meeting came to attend the Candidates' Forum. The forum was focused on candidates for U.S. Senate and Illinois Governor. It didn't go well; none of the candidates attended. Democrats Carol Moseley Braun and Glen Poshard did recruit campaign representatives to attend. Republican George Ryan did try to send a representative but Peter Fitzgerald did not bother to respond. The sessions were moderated by Chicago Reporter Editor Laura Washington.

    But the afternoon discussion of strategy was the more important and the more interesting portion of the annual meeting. The discussion began with a panel discussion moderated by Ms. Carmen Velasquez, Executive Director of the Alivio Medical Center. The panelists were Tom Balanoff (SEIU Local 73), Tom Wilson (Access Living), Sue Clark (Illinois Nurses Association), Rev. Richard Bundy (Interfaith Committee on Worker Issues), and Dr. Warren Furey (American College Physicians).

    It should be no surprise that beyond a common agreement in favor of a universal health care system, the panel did not represent a real consensus. At some point, a consensus will be necessary, but for now this lack is not a problem. This minimal agreement for a universal system translates into a broad, enthusiastic support for the proposed "Bernardin Amendment" to the Illinois Constitution. Named for the late Cardinal Bernardin, this amendment would require the state legislature to enact an unspecified universal health care system by the year 2000.

    Furthermore, a consensus was not the point of the panel; rather, it was intended that the panel and the audience would generate ideas for actions during the upcoming year. And for this purpose, the panel's diversity generated ideas like a dog breeds fleas. Sorting out this harvest will be the task of a meeting in December.

    But the discussion was notable for its lack of any sense of enemies. Everyone allowed as to how the healthcare industry is an obstacle, and it was roundly condemned for its domination of public policy and its inhuman values. But there was no suggestion that this is inherent to the nature of our society.

    In this way, the campaign for health care reform is something of a populist movement, and in fact, the current changes in the health care industry do resemble somewhat the changes the U.S. economy at the end of the 19th century when the populist movement was at its peak. It would be easy to make too much of this, but it is likely that the nature of the discussion will change as the transformation of the industry is consolidated.

    Social Democratic Party (SPD) Wins Big in Germany

    by Kurt Anderson

    Never in Germany's post-war history has the ruling party ever taken such a beating as the CDU-FDP coalition took in September. So What?

    Although the CDU had been ruling since 1982, they attempted to make the ridiculous claim that they were the party of reform and new ideas. German voters did not buy it. Double-digit unemployment, Kohl's inability to make eastern Germany a "blossoming landscape" as he promised before re-unification and Kohl's dismantling of an adequate safety net caused German voters to dump Kohl and the CDU in historic numbers. I generally don't like to bore readers with facts unless it's to add insult to injury, so here goes.

    The CDU did not gain one single Wahlkreis or voting district in Germany. In fact, the CDU lost over 115 voting districts to the SPD. This translates to an additional 46 SPD seats in Germany's parliament for a total of 298 seats. The CDU now has 245 seats, the Greens were reduced to 47 seats, the FDP lost three seats and are at 44 and the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) picked up 5 seats and enters the parliament for the first time with 5% of the total vote.

    Moreover, the CDU lost 2.4 million of its voters to other parties: 1.6 million to the SPD, 14,000 to the Greens and 275,000 to the PDS. Overall, a majority (52.7%) of Germans voted for left parties: SPD, PDS and Greens. The SPD only lost votes to the PDS (321,000). The far right in Germany, however, was not able to muster even the 5% of the vote needed to gain entry to the German parliament. I always like to see that the most dangerous country of the 20th Century is keeping the overt fascists out of Parliament. The SPD appealed to a wide variety of voters. Women, students, unemployed and Protestants made up the bulk of the SPD's voting block.

    Now What?

    American media treated the victory of the SPD and its candidate for Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, with a quick glance. The general feeling was that he was a Germany Clinton/Blair hybrid and that there really wasn't going to be much change. Schroeder's and the SPD's campaign was "We're the new middle". And Schroeder ran a vague campaign of promised economic growth without cutting welfare benefits and even increasing some. As the campaign moved further forward, Schroeder stayed in the middle: there should be some sort of tax reform, and perhaps there should be an increase in the gas tax.

    His number one promise, was to fight high unemployment. With a few weeks left in the campaign, the immensely powerful Deutsche Gewerkschafts Bund (DGB), the German equivalent of the AFL-CIO, weighed in with the SPD saying that they were the party which could best fight unemployment. Kohl was surprised and outraged. The DGB had been running a year long media campaign about addressing the unemployment problem and this raised national consciousness about it. If Schroeder can't deliver, the DGB could make things very uncomfortable for Schroeder and the SPD.

    Two days after the elections, Timothy Garton Ash, Professor of History at Oxford summed up the general feeling about Schroeder and the SPD: "Germany will not change. The only question is whether Schroeder will be in a position to complete the dismantling of the German welfare system."

    But the SPD and Schroeder are not Tony Blair or Clinton and Germany is not England or the U.S. Schroeder grew up poor and a solid member of the working class and makes no apologies for it. He had been part of the SPD's far left in the 1960s and 1970s. He admitted that, at that time, he was a Marxist. In other words, he was no Tony Blair. He was the first person to speak in Parliament without a tie. (If you know how Germans are sticklers for decorum then you'll know what a big deal this was.) He was vocal during the political outbursts of the time. As he slowly moderated he views, he made his way up the SPD party ladder.

    As to what his real ideas are for Germany, we'll slowly see that unveiled. The SPD is in coalition with the Green Party. This is a coalition which will be fragile when the time comes to weigh job creation versus environmental impact. But for now, the Greens appear ready to heel. The Greens backed off of a massive gas tax hike to a moderate SPD hike. Also, the Greens will have 4 key cabinet posts: Health, Environment and Vice-Chancellor Foreign Minister. The rest of the cabinet will be SPD members. Most interestingly enough, Schroeder may face the greatest fight from one of his cabinet members, Oskar Lafontaine, Finance Minister and de facto head of the SPD.

    Lafontaine is an immense power in the SPD, a dedicated socialist and a shrewd tactician. Lafontaine ran for the SPD Chancellorship in 1990 saying that the cost of reunification would be dangerous. He was right. Five years later he mounted a putsch to wrestle the SPD Chairmanship away from a moderate. After Schroeder and the SPD won in September, Lafontaine said, "I want to thank the voters for trusting Gerhard Schroeder and me."

    Already there are questions about who's actually running the coalition. A recent German magazine cover depicts Lafontaine as the puppet master and asks "How Long Can Schroeder Stand Up?". In the recent coalition negotiations with the Greens, Lafontaine lead the fight against the "new middle" making sure that his economic and finance ideas were the basis for any agreement.

    Dark Horses on the Left

    Also on Schroeder's left are the dark horses from eastern Germany, the PDS. The PDS is the remnants of parts of the former Communist Party of East Germany. For the first time in the PDS' eight year history, they have achieved the 5% of the national vote needed to be a party in Parliament.

    Under the Chairmanship of the controversial Gregor Gysi, the PDS unashamedly ran as Socialists, promoting the rights of gays and women, the right to abortions, workers' ownership of production, anti-fascism, anti-capitalism and the dismantling of neo-liberalism. The PDS pulled in 19.5% of the vote in eastern Germany and 1.1% of the vote in the west. The PDS has doubled its vote total since 1990. The PDS also won 24% of the vote in a state election in a northern German state.

    On election night Gysi said, "We are the left opposition." Gysi further stated that the PDS can be counted on when conservative SPD members will not vote for a certain law. The PDS, however, will be a thorn in Schroeder's left side if need be. Asked why the PDS achieved such massive gains in the east, Gysi replied, "When one does not know if one has a job next year, or if they can pay for their house, then a wonderfully renovated train station is no replacement. The PDS understands that. Kohl didn't."

    Gysi and the PDS believe that their party will grow. They are already forming an informal caucus with other left parties in Europe. The PDS also hopes to gain seats in the European Parliament.

    Germany is at a historic crossroads for Germany and Europe. Germany can decide to put together a block of left European countries to counter a failing neo-liberalism. England, France and some eastern European countries could be major players in such a block. Firm rules on currency speculation and strengthening of a European Charter on workers' and communities' rights could be proposed, if nothing else.

    But we are at an unprecedented time in history where the left controls many governments in Europe. They have the power to propose changes which could support the masses of workers who elected them to office rather than put a nicer face on the dismantling of social structures. Such a stance could make its way over to America and infect workers and politicos here. It's would be a shame to pass it up.

    People and Folks: A Review

    by Bruce Bentley

    People and Folks: Gangs Crime and the Underclass in a Rustbelt City by John M. Hagedorn. Lake View Press, Chicago, 1998 2nd Edition, 320 pages, $ 29.95 Cloth; $17.95 paper

    El Fisgon Cartoon

    Every day we hear of gang violence whether it is from the news media or in the urban experience of our communities and schools. This upsurge in gang activity, particularly since the early 1980's, has affected most citizens in some way. Is this merely a phenomenon of alienated youth? A growing crime problem based on the deterioration of values? Is it a consequence of the culture of poverty? Is the increase due to the economic conditions of globalization? What is the cause for the increase in gangs and how does this relate to the increase in prison population? What and who defines a crime? What is the voice of the gang member?

    John Hagedorn, a criminologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, sets out to examine these questions and obtains some answers in the second edition of this work. In Milwaukee, Hagedorn seeks to examine the socio-economic conditions that has led to the explosion of gangs in the 80's and whether the gangs were an autonomous local development or as some claimed, "exported" from the gang organizations in Chicago.

    In his methodology, Hagedorn includes the variables of race, class, gender and age. In the tradition of the Chicago School he sets out to obtain community based data, but expands the methodology by utilizing collaborative research via interviews with gang members. His objective is to counter the dominance of the law enforcement paradigm which tends to see gangs as a "crime problem", hence the solution of increased laws, criminalization and incarceration.

    This inadequate response contrasts to Hagedorn's cogent thesis, namely that the rise of gangs and the drug economy in larger and smaller cities in the 80's was due to the economic restructuring of the 1980's which in turn increased the urban underclass. By the same token, the rise in gangs has a direct correlation to the rise in prison population. This thesis is the strength of Hagedorn's work as a point of social analysis as well as his objective to influence public policy toward a program of jobs and education, the re-examination of the values of our consumer society, and the transformation of gangs into political organizations as advocates of progressive change in poor urban communities.

    Hagedorn argues that the modern gang, particularly Black and Hispanic, increasingly female, including adult members, has adapted to these economic conditions differently than the traditional gangs of Thrasher and Yablonsky where the member eventually matured out of the gang by obtaining an industrial job. Instead, the modern gang is becoming "institutionalized". It is also clear that the drug policy of incarceration is a failure and that the incarceration of gangs members has inadvertently led to the recruitment and solidification of gangs in and out of prisons. Thus DSA's Prison Moratorium Project would benefit from the work of Hagedorn as well as a possible opportunity for coalition work.

    Let's examine Hagedorn's work more closely. The book's first seven chapters focus on gang formation, structure and organization. In this second edition the only addition is chapter 8 which includes follow up interviews with male and female gang members. They discuss their past experience in gangs and their present activities, employment, etc.

    First, in regard to gang formation, for Thrasher gangs are a sub-cultural ethnic response to create social order in an disorganized community in order to assimilate to the socio-economic conditions. This type of gang was essentially a corner "play group." These gangs were "transitory" structures with an interstitial function: between adolescence and adulthood; between a disorganized community to one of stability; and between a stage of delinquent conduct to a maturing out process where there was access to a low skill job market. In contrast, Hagedorn argues the modern gang differs in that they are primarily Black and Hispanic and consequently gang formation is augmented by racism, joblessness and blocked access to structures of power.

    Hagedorn comically exhibits through interviews with gang members how police inadvertently augmented gang identification and organization by making statements to 'corner groups' or breakdance groups "hey you are the 1-9's right?" Subsequently the group identified themselves as the gang called the 1-9's. Sometimes the gang leadership structure was created in the same manner when police would identify so and so as the leader. In sum, Hagedorn explains that Milwaukee gangs formed according to the classical model of Thrasher which is premised on unique local conditions.

    It is dubious that gangs can be exported; however, Milwaukee gangs tend to follow the cultural traditions (i.e. slogans, gang etiquette & structure) from the Chicago gangs. This was influenced by gang members moving from Chicago to Milwaukee. In fact, members resented any reference that their origin was Chicago based, thus local conditions are primary. Moreover, the modern gang has become a seemingly 'permanent' or institutionalized structure into adulthood in which the informal drug economy has replaced the vacuum of deindustrialization.

    In regard to gang structure, Hagedorn argues that gangs are not organized crime structures as law enforcement contends. Milwaukee gangs are organized primarily by age division.

    Youths join gangs initially between the ages of 13-16 (juniors) by "hanging out" on a corner, centering around activities as alcohol, marijuana, and delinquent acts. Eventually group cohesion is solidified in the gang through "conflict" (Coser) with other gangs and the police.

    The second tier is age 18+ (seniors) where the focus of activities is on survival needs. Drug selling is done on an individual street level, not an organized activity. The two tier structure of juniors and seniors is not a single organized structure, but does have a formal and informal relationship. Hagedorn notes that law enforcement has a vested interest in the criminal definition that gangs are "organized crime" because they receive federal grant funds to support gang units.

    Besides deindustrialization, Hagedorn found that the social and economic institutions that assisted the early immigrants to adapt and assimilate in urban centers are disappearing. Thus gangs and the drug economy are filling this void. Hagedorn builds on the work of William Julius Wilson who showed that prior to the '60's, there was social organization in cities which created a sense of community. Wilson claims urban centers have been hurt by the increase in the young poor and that the Black middle class has fled the inner city. Wilson argues that this has led to a disorganized underclass.

    In contrast, Hagedorn asserts that poor communities are not disorganized, but have adapted to the socio-economic conditions with illegal social and economic organizations such as gangs and the underground drug economy. Furthermore, Hagedorn points out that urban violence is a method to regulate the drug industry and that most gang violence is intragang related.

    Hagedorn's research does not answer why there has been a rise in female gang members. Nevertheless, he poises two interesting questions: Is increase in female gang members an adaptation to the liberated working woman? That is, she is as tough and violent as men? Or has economic change reinforced traditional and oppressive gender roles for women too?

    In summary, Hagedorn argues that it is necessary to understand the gang phenomena not as a crime problem, but as a segment of the underclass and where public policy must focus on jobs and education instead of prisons.

    The major contribution of People and Folks is theoretical and methodological. The strength of the work lies in Hagedorn's thesis that the rise of gangs in the '80's is related to urban deindustrialization and how this led to law enforcement defining gangs as a crime and drug problem and therefore the institutionalization of gangs, criminalization and incarceration. Thus how crime is defined determines its solution or social policy. Hagedorn's collaborative method of interviewing gang members directly is sound. Although Hagedorn warns that the method of interviewing gang members is filled with dangers on its reliability, etc., at times he appears to cross the boundary of neutrality which can skew objective research. The use of words like "police tactics of repression," "hustling" (that is, petty crime, which is not mere "hustling" if your kid was mugged), the use of the pejorative term "white boys", are not going to build bridges with community agencies or policy makers. Hagedorn was surprised that the police, schools, community agencies rejected his analysis. It may not be the analysis, but the use of language. Although we have our point of view, if we want to influence policy, language should be utilized for clarification of conflict and to enhance dialogue in order to obtain consensus for change.

    Hagedorn is correct about the negative affects of the consumer society. The culture of consumerism was addressed by Erich Fromm who warned of its dehumanizing effect and referred this as the "sickness of culture". However, the corollary is that sub-cultures do not escape the sickness of the macro culture. The politicization of gangs must be approached with extreme caution. Paulo Freire emphasized that the sub-cultures of the oppressed must become bastions of prosocial culture, transformation and politicization. When working with gangs there is the danger that the worker wants to be "hip", romanticizing gangs as well as the quagmire of cultural politics.

    Along with deindustrialization, I think there are some deeper issues that have led to the rise of gangs. The culture of consumerism ties directly into the central mirco issues of adolescent psychology which include: "dependency" and "power." Consumerism feeds into the dependency crisis of early adolescence where the youth must successfully separate from parent (i.e. increase independence). The consumer culture creates a trap for parents and where the overindulged or spoilt child runs rampant. Objects weaken kids since they depend on the object for their meaning and essence versus developing and trusting one's inner capacity for creativity and power (Fromm). In addition, kids are a commodity whether in the forms of sex abuse or of corporate profiteering from teen hospitalizations, incarcerations and medications. My experience in schools shows this to be a cross class and race phenomena.

    A constant theme is abandonment from father and the mother who violates generational boundaries and uses the kid to be her "little man" and "friend." Kids do not want adults to be their friends because that is the function for peers. Teens want the experience of strong authentic adults who exhibit their "internal strength and power" to love, to guide and to "challenge."

    The rise in gangs reflects this crisis of "dependency", that is, one is dependent or a follower of the group versus confidence in one's internal experience of self. Frequently in our school I see students who "want" to go to prison. This seemingly irrational behavior has a rational objective. It frees one from the responsibilities of independence and it is an escape from freedom (Fromm). Thus once again as Hagedorn pointed out, law enforcement inadvertently reinforces these adolescent behaviors through incarcerations.

    Failure to establish a degree of independence in early adolescence (12-14) triggers the problems of mid teens (15-17) such as: gangs, hospitalizations, prisons, drugs, alcohol, pregnancy etc. These are maladaptive forms of dependency. These problems get exacerbated by issues of abuse, poverty, severe learning problems and an educational system that does not meet their unique educational and social needs.

    On a deep level these teens know that they are not strong and rather than face one's internal sense of inferiority and self hate, they reach out for forms of false power and identity (Adler). We have to be "somebody," why not be a gangbanger or criminal since it's a symbol of power. Teens use aggression to control adults via fear, who then misconstrue and label this behavior as sociopathic or psychopathic. Thus the prisons, hospitals and drug prescriptions overflow. Under this mask of pseudo power is a scared and hurt kid. Teens want strong adults to model, teach and provide an environment where they can develop a "sense of identity based on one's experience of self as the subject and agent of one's powers" (Fromm).

    If Hagedorn and other researchers synthesize this type of macro-micro analysis it would negate the trap of being caught in a false dichotomy and be a formidable and palatable analysis for policy makers.

    Other News

    Compiled by Bob Roman

    A Quick Note on the 1998 Elections from Chris Riddiough, DSA National Director

    All of you have probably read the general results of Tuesday's elections, but there is some news that hasn't generally been published:

    All of the 55 members of the Progressive Caucus running for reelection won their races. Of the three who retired (Furse OR1, Stokes OH11, Torres CA34) all were replaced by progressives who should be encouraged to join the Progressive Caucus (Wu OR1, Tubbs OH11, Napolitano CA34).

    In addition, the increase in numbers of Democrats in the House was due to the election of Progressives. These include: Tammy Baldwin (WI2), the first open lesbian to be elected to Congress and a strong progressive; Rush Holt, an environmentalist from NJ12; Jan Schakowsky, a consumer advocate and women's rights supporter from IL9.

    With these elections the Progressive Caucus can continue to grow and become a powerful force in Congress. Call, fax, write, e-mail your member of Congress and encourage them to join the Progressive Caucus (if, of course, they are progressive). Urge current members of the Caucus to play a leadership role. For more information, contact me Chris Riddiough at criddiough@dsausa.org or Karen Dolan of the Progressive Challenge at kdolan@igc.org.

    October 17 Day of Action

    Despite the rain, several dozen people formed an informational picket line outside Niketown on north Michigan Avenue in Chicago. This action was part of an international effort to pressure Nike to pay a living wage at its production facilities around the world. The picket line included a contingent of DSA members from the University of Chicago and elsewhere. The Chicago action was organized by the Chicago Jobs with Justice Cross Border Organizing Committee. Chicago DSA helped mobilize for the event through its labor support list and, at the UofC, through the Anti-Sweatshop Coalition.

    Economic Democracy

    The fall series of public forums on Economic Democracy has gone very well, the last of the series being held just as New Ground goes to press. Between two and three dozen people attended each session. Generally, the presentations were stronger than the question and comment sessions, and one was left with the impression that there are bits and pieces of new (and not so new) ideas that are just beginning to come together.

    Post-Election Forum

    Senator Jesus Garcia and Bernice Bild from the Committee for New Priorities addressed a joint Chicago DSA / Illinois Committee of Correspondence forum on the 1998 elections. Senator Garcia gave a technical, electoral perspective on the outcome. Bernice Bild provided a look at the outcome from more of a policy perspective.

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