by Harold Taggart
About a dozen people attended a meeting on June 4 to decide
the future of the May
Day Coalition. They voted to continue the coalition with May
Day 2001 as its primary mission. While planning for May Day 2001,
the Coalition will support other causes. There was little enthusiasm
for continuing the chicagomayday.org Web site. However, many groups,
including some not involved in the original May Day movement,
are excited about creating an Indymedia organization. The voice
mail also will be allowed to lapse and probably has done so by
The Indymedia system will replace the Web site. It will be
capable of instant broadcast to Internet users. It also will have
links to Web sites of members of the Coalition. It could carry
selected articles from local newsletters and publications in a
format similar to the Commondreams Web site (http://www.commondreams.org/).
There is a great need for more Internet technicians.
The next major event will be the Republican National Convention
in Philadelphia (R2K) July 31-Aug 3. No effort will be made to
charter buses. Each Coalition member can make its own arrangements
and form its own entity groups.
No consensus could be reached on a goal to make May Day a national
holiday. Those mainly with anarchist leanings believe a national
holiday will cheapen and degrade the significance of May Day.
It should continue to be used as a forum for protest and opposition
to the establishment, not become a part of it, they argued.
There was agreement on the need to do more outreach. Tom Baker
volunteered to undertake coordination of that task. Greater labor-community
unity was a goal that all could agree to.
The next meeting of the May Day Coalition will be on July 15
at the New World Resource Center. The meeting is intended to outline
the activities of the upcoming year and work out details of the
May Day 2001 events. Also, July 15 coincides with Bastille Day,
a major holiday and fundraising time for the NWRC. A NWRC party
is to be held that Friday evening, July 14 at Quencher's Saloon.
On the Saturday evening of the May Day meeting, the Nicaragua
Solidarity Committee is sponsoring a rooftop party and fundraiser.
by Robert Roman
Sondra Patrinos, a founding member of the Committees
of Correspondence and its Chicago Chapter's long time Co-Chair,
died on Tuesday, June 13, of lymphoma. She was 59 years old.
I did not know Sondra Patrinos well. I only met and worked
with her on the CoC - DSA "Socialist
Summer School" project some years ago. There were two
reasons why that project worked well. One of the reasons was Ms.
Ms. Patrinos was a pleasure to work with. She was responsible.
She made things happen. Even if there were no other reasons than
these, she would be missed.
Sondra Patrinos is survived by her husband, James Williams.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, July 23, 1 PM at the
HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo Av in Chicago.
The Other American: the Life of Michael Harrington by
Maurice Isserman, New York: Public Affairs Press, 2000, 449 pp,
Maurice Isserman has done it again. If you're acquainted with
his previous work, you'll know that Isserman is a lucid writer
and an insightful historian of the U.S. left. This book is no
exception. With The Other American, Maurice Isserman has
written the definitive biography of Michael Harrington.
Having said these nice things, a definitive biography of Michael
Harrington has some of the character of William Buckley's famous
riposte to an introduction for Harrington, which called him "America's
foremost socialist". It's rather like being called the tallest
building in Topeka. There has, after all, only been one other
biography, Michael Harrington: Speaking American by Robert
Gorman, written in 1985. Will there ever be another?
Yet if there were ever a time for a retrospective of Harrington's
life and work, this does seem to be the time. The gestalt of contemporary
politics has a late 50s, early 60s feel; there's been a renewed
interest in Michael Harrington's best known work, The Other
America, even a film documentary re-examining its relevance
Some younger political people might vaguely know Harrington
as one of the founders of DSA and one of DSA's predecessor organizations,
the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee (DSOC). He was that.
Others will remember his commentaries on National Public Radio,
his great ability as a public speaker and as an author of books
on politics, culture and ideology. He was that. Others will remember
his political and organizational leadership. He was that. Others
will remember him on the wrong side of any number of issues. Yes,
he was that, too. Isserman's book covers all this and more.
The first sixth of the book concerns Harrington's early years,
his Catholic education, on through his brief stay with Dorothy
Day's Catholic Worker movement. You'll learn more about the early
Michael Harrington than you would if Harrington were telling the
story, but it really does provide a context for the rest of his
Certainly the next sixth of the book becomes much more understandable
in that context as this portion deals with Harrington's career
as a sectarian Trotskyist, a follower of one of the founders of
U.S. Trotskyism, Max Shachtman. In a sense, it was out with the
old religion, in with the new.
To be fair, this part is as long as it is simply because it
cannot be understood without providing an account of the history
of U.S. Trotskyism and of Max Shachtman. Even a relatively brief
thumbnail sketch makes for a significant digression. It also represents
a period of transition. If Harrington's conversion from Catholicism
to Trotskyism was abrupt, the transition from sectarianism was
a gradual affair, representing a growing involvement in the Civil
Rights movement and in mainstream politics. It is in the phase
of his career that Isserman characterizes Harrington as a "premature
Alas that factional squabbling remained a theme in Harrington's
life beyond this transition. Isserman takes a chapter to describe
the writing of The Other America, the political context,
the political consequences for both Harrington and the U.S., and
the personal consequences. But after that, it's back to the fighting.
But this perception (highlighted by some reviewers, most especially
Alan Wolfe in the New Republic) is not entirely fair. To
be sure, there is the famous incident where Harrington had the
new Students for a Democratic Society locked out of its offices;
he spent the rest of his life apologizing for that. And there
is Harrington's position on the Vietnam war. Not exactly in support
of the war Harrington would have denied that characterization.
But for those for whom ending the war was a matter of some urgency,
the words "distinction without a difference" somehow
come to mind. There is that. But the period just after The
Other America was highly fractious on the left no matter what
your politics. Blame it on something in the water, blame it on
something in the air, blame it on the FBI. There is that, too.
For Harrington, it seems to have been a misplaced loyalty to
Max Shachtman, an emotional commitment to the old Socialist Party,
and a failure to comprehend the realities of internal Socialist
Party politics. The end came in 1972. The Socialist Party supported
McGovern in the Presidental elections the way a noose supports
a hung man. In 1973, Harrington started over.
It is here that Isserman's book deserves some criticism. Harrington
started over by founding the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee.
I would contend DSOC was the most successful explicitly socialist
organization in the second half of the twentieth century in the
U.S. Once again, it's the tallest building in. But it deserves
more than 35 pages. Still, there's useful and interesting information
here about the Democratic Agenda project that made DSOC a player
in Democratic "Party" politics, providing a legacy of
credibility that DSA benefits from even today. And there is information
on how easily the plug was pulled on that success.
If the account of the 70s is brief, the account of DSA is even
briefer: 27 pages, or less when you consider that some of it is
devoted to the merger with the New American Movement, which formed
DSA. I suspect some of this has to do with the logistics, economics
and marketing of the book. Isserman had been working on it for
about a decade. It was on its second publisher. It was already
450 pages. And it may surprise you to learn that most of DSA's
early history is not to be found in the National Office. Don't
Unfortunately, DSA probably deserves less space than DSOC.
Distracted by the internal politics of the merger and its aftermath,
DSA never really adjusted to the changes wrought by the Reagan
revolution. It attempted to reinvent the Democratic Agenda with
various "Democratic Alternatives" conferences, but they
were conferences bereft of any substantive political function.
And, as Isserman observes, DSA "failed to invent a meaningful
political role for local members to play as socialists."
I think Isserman may be understating the problem. The question
may be: is there a meaningful political role for a socialist organization?
More to the point, the question is not whether a socialist organization
can play a meaningful political role; DSOC is but one example
that it can. Rather, is there any particular advantage to doing
so as a socialist organization?
This question predates DSA, DSOC and probably Harrington's
entire political career. For in the second half of the twentieth
century, most especially here in the States but gradually over
most of the rest of the world, ideology has lost its utility to
mobilize and direct masses of people not just socialism but all
It's not that ideology is irrelevant. Even a cursory look at
the Social Security debate, for example, demonstrates how policy
and politics are shaped by ideological subtexts, even if the ideologies
themselves are never presented as an argument. And that's the
point: ideology remains a subtext, a "hidden agenda"
if you will, and never an explicit part of the debate. Socialism
remains necessary, but does that require a socialist political
Harrington was a public spokesman for socialism in the tradition
of Eugene V. Debs and Norman Thomas. Isserman ends his book by
observing, "In the years since Michael's death, no claimant
has emerged to pick up the mantle of Debs and Thomas and Harrington.
Michael seems to represent the end of the line." The changed
role of ideology may be a major reason why.
The phenomenal success of the movement against neo-liberal
globalization has sparked controversy over the movement's direction
or even if it has a direction.
Michael Albert, editor of ZNet, the progressive online
magazine, broached the subject in an article titled "Yawning
Emptiness." Central to Albert's article was the Chicago May
Day weekend events. In particular, he was interested in the two-day
symposium April 29-30 organized by David Williams of Open University
of the Left and co-sponsored by Chicago Democratic Socialists
of America. Albert, who did not attend any of the forums, praised
the theme: Beyond the WTO and Corporate Globalism: Economic
Visions of a New Society. "The intent to address vision
was exemplary, in my view, but attendees reported that none of
the panels even perfunctorily fulfilled the stated agenda,"
Albert complained, even though each panel had vision in the title
and each panel was urged to discuss long-term aims and programs.
Activists everywhere "rarely put forth even the barest
hints of a vision, much less a compelling, well-worked out formulation
that could inform strategy and provide hope and orientation,"
Leftists are comfortable analyzing what is and offering short-term
remedies while avoiding long-term aims, Albert suggested. When
the average person is asked for solutions, he returns a blank
stare. Ask a Leftist the same question and the response is essentially
the same only it's shrouded in admirable but unsubstantial rhetoric.
Until there is a common vision and common aims, the movement will
not attract the broader elements of society necessary for its
success, Albert concluded.
Social critic and author Naomi Klein had a more optimistic
view of the movement. Her remarks were prompted by a conference
held a few days later in New York City. Klein penned her views
in an article titled "The Vision Thing" (The Nation,
July 10). Over 1000 people, vastly outnumbering the attendance
at the Chicago conference, appeared at a program billed as an
event that would "give birth to a unified movement for holistic
social, economic and political change." Visions were plentiful,
Klein said. One came from Arianna Huffington, another from David
Korten, and DSA's Cornel West was there to add another one.
Klein concluded that the massive effort, in the end, fulfilled
Albert's predictions. The movement is inherently amorphous. It
can not be shaped. However, that is its strength. What's more,
it is not easily targeted by its enemies in the corporate suites
and plutocrat mansions and their uniformed hatchet men. The affinity
groups that make up the mass demonstrations can meet on the spot
and change their entire objectives and directions.
Madeleine Albright experienced first hand recently the difficulty
of dealing with the amorphous mass when she dared to give the
keynote address at this year's graduation ceremony at University
of California, Berkeley. Police forces monitoring the Albright
protest planning on the Internet were convinced the participants
were too divided to be more than a harmless pest.
Fadia Rafeedie, of Palestinian ancestry and the equivalent
of the class valedictorian, was seated on the stage of the outdoor
Greek Theater. She shared the view of the audience with the Albright.
No fan of the Secretary of State, Fadia was thrilled by the events
that took place while Albright looked on in horror. The individual
actions of the divided groups unfolded as if orchestrated by the
director of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. First, a 15-foot
red and black banner unfurled displaying the colors of the International
Socialist Organization. Inscribed on the banner was the accusation:
"Madeleine Albright is a War criminal." The banner prompted
dozens in the audience to chant "end the sanctions now!"
As the security forces ripped down the banner and escorted the
chanters out of the theater, another banner unfurled denouncing
U.S. involvement in Colombia. Then in another section of the theater
a banner appeared condemning Albright's complicity in American
imperialism. Posters popped out from under gowns. As each poster
was confiscated by the harried security officers, another poster
popped up to take its place.
During the entire Albright speech, people were booing, chanting
and heckling, and security guards spent the entire time escorting
and dragging them out of the theater, according to Fadia. Madeleine
Albright's speech was uneven, even stumbling at times as she displayed
signs of distraction wondering what surprise would occur next.
In a last minute change, Albright had been rescheduled to speak
first. Immediately after the speech she was escorted quickly out
of the theater and into a waiting limosine, which sped away. The
events in the Greek Theater support Naomi Klein's assessment that
there is not one movement, but many, and they are effective that
Ironically, the movements' convergence points are created by
the corporations and plutocrats and their incessant and more and
more visible quests to expand their power, accumulate greater
wealth, and ultimately, hand control of the planet over to neo-liberal
Klein claims that "within most of these miniature movements,
there is an emerging consensus that building community-based decision-making
power whether through unions, neighborhoods, farms, villages,
anarchist collectives or aboriginal self-government is essential
to countering the might of multinational corporations."
The massive protests would have been impossible without the
Internet, Klein concludes. But the Internet plays an additional
role. It forms the movement. It creates a loose structure with
sparse bureaucracy and minimal hierarchy.
The successes over the past year confirm the adage: in diversity
there is unity.
compiled by Bob Roman
Some folks may not be hip to this, but Chicago DSA Co-Chair
Charity Crouse's day job is Managing Editor of Streetwise,
Chicago's newspaper for the homeless. At its annual luncheon this
past May, the Illinois Woman's Press Association awarded Ms. Crouse
its first and third place awards for news reporting in a non-daily
newspaper. The first place award, for team coverage, was for the
story "Chicago: City of Neighborhoods for Sale". The
story described the consequences of the real estate boom on Chicago's
neighborhoods. The third place award was for her story "Chicago
Opens Doors for Gay Youth". That story described teens kicked
out of their homes after coming out to their families. Congratulations,
The Citizen Advocacy Center held its second
annual Civic Fair at the College of DuPage this last June
24. Some four dozen organizations, including Chicago DSA, participated
in this year's event. It was fairly well attended: about 250 people
and 50 organizations.
The keynote speaker was DSA member and Chairman of the Health
& Medicine Policy Research Group, Dr. Quentin Young. The Fair
also held four panel discussions: "Affordable Housing",
"Democracy and Activism: Building Civic Muscles", "Smart
Growth: Quality of Life in Our Communities and Region", and
"Democracy and Cyber Space".
The fair received mention in the DuPage Daily Herald,
which also mentioned DSA's presence at the event.
For more information about the Citizen Advocacy Center, go
write CAC, PO Box 420, Elmhurst, IL 60126-0420, or call (630)
Incidentally, the Citizen Advocacy Center's Executive Director,
Theresa Amato, has taken a leave of absence to help run Ralph
Nader's campaign for President.
It's been in the works for quite some time now, but the Chicago
Federation of Labor is finally on the web. It's clearly still
something of a work in progress, but the contents include information
on labor history (including WCFL), bulletins on ongoing labor
actions (currently including the SAG - AFTRA strike against producers
of commercials and SEIU's action against Methodist Hospital in
Gary), where to find union products, and worker safety (including
links to the Michael Bruton Workplace Safety Foundation). Check
it out at http://www.cflonline.org/.
Organized labor has had its hands tied with restrictive laws
for about the last half century. The attitude in Congress has
been "too bad". Still, not a Congress goes by without
some effort at loosening Labor's bonds, and the 106th Congress
is no exception. There are two main bills that have been introduced.
In March of 1999, Representative Bernie Sanders introduced
HR1277, "The Workplace Democracy Act of 1999". The intent
of the legislation is "to amend the National Labor Relations
Act, to establish the National Public Employment Relations Commission,
and to amend title I of the Employment Retirement Income Security
Act of 1974 to provide for joint trusteeship of single-employer
pension plans". It represents a fairly significant attempt
at strengthening the right to organize and workers' and retirees'
rights. It was "disappeared" into committee and hasn't
been heard from since. It has no cosponsors.
At about the same time, Senator Paul Wellstone introduced a
much more limited bill in the Senate, S654, "The Right to
Organize Act". The proposed legislation is much more limited
in scope, being an amendment to the National Labor Relations Act.
It strengthens the rights of organizers to access the workplace.
It improves remedies for violations of the NLRA. And (the best
feature) it provides for a mechanism for reaching an initial contract,
something that is often problematic indeed. Like Sander's bill
in the House, it disappeared into committee. But Wellstone's bill
does have one cosponsor, Senator Edward Kennedy.
These are kind gestures but not news. Still, it's worth noting
that Senator Wellstone's bill has shown some feeble signs of life.
In May, Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. introduced Wellstone's
bill in the House, which assigned it the number HR4161. Like Sander's
bill, it has disappeared into committee and has no cosponsors.
No, it's not the National Liberation Front DSA. In the early
years of 1990s, Eric Fink (now a genuine Philadelphia lawyer)
and a small crew of other DSA members decided there ought to be
a North Lake Front DSA. The branch ran from Chicago's northern
border south to the Loop and from the lakefront west to Damen.
The branch had a few meetings but never established itself. Eric
moved back to Hyde Park then away from Chicago. For no good reason,
we've never taken the branch "off the books".
Well, it's about time. But rather than just dissolving the
branch, the we figured it would be good to see if there is any
interest in reviving the branch, either in its original form or
in some amended version. Sometime in the next two months, we'll
be organizing a meeting to find out. Until then, we'd appreciate
hearing from anyone interested in or supportive of NLF DSA. The
major missing piece is, of course, leadership, but any expression
of interest or participation would be appreciated. Call Bob Roman
at (773) 384-0327 or email at email@example.com.
by Sarah Klepner and Grant Newburger
On July 5, 2000 Judge Miranda, in the Court of Cook County,
in the State of Illinois, dismissed the charges on Sarah "Tobe"
Klepner and Grant Newburger. This marked the end of an important
battle in the war against public housing in Chicago.
The day after memorial day in 1998 1142 North Orleans, just
east of the Cabrini-Green public housing development, became an
important center of resistance to "Urban Cleansing".
That day city bulldozers made 1142 the last building standing
on a block that held 5 small business and several low income homes
only the day before. 1142 stood in the way of City plans to change
the face of the neighborhood as gentrification accelerated on
Chicago's Near North Side.
One of the floors of the 113-year old brick three-flat was
occupied by the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade (RCYB).
The RCYB had moved into that house in pursuit of its Maoist maxim
of sharing weal and woe with the masses. The Brigade was involved
in stuggles against police brutality and the closure of public
housing buildings in Cabrini Green. The heart of the struggle
against gentrifecation had been the struggle to keep buildings
occupied and the slogan "Hell No, We Won't go" had taken
on a new meaning. In this context, when Cabrini residents found
out that the RCYB's home was on the chopping block, they urged
the Brigade to fight for 1142.
The defense of 1142 N. Orleans was part of the defense of the
Cabrini Green community whose homes and culture were and are under
attack by the superstructure. It also became a rallying cry in
the broader, city wide struggle for affordable housing. The supply
of truly affordable housing across the city has been steadily
diminishing since 1990 due to demolition and condo-conversions.
A study concluded in 1999 showed Chicago with 153,000 very
low income families in dire need of housing. And that
situation is worsening rapidly. Yet in the face of this incredible
shortage, current city and federal plans will reduce the amount
of public housing available to very low income families by 40%.
These plans, along with cuts in public aid (welfare) threaten
to return Chicago to the days of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.
In this context a little house became a big battle ground.
Over the course of a year and a half, the community's demands
strengthened, 400 Cabrini residents signed a petition in support
of 1142, while the President of Cabrini Green appealed to the
Chicago Historical Society for assistance with converting 1142
into a Black history museum. This demand drew strength from oral
testimony that Megdar Evers stayed at the building while doing
civil rights work, housing desegregation no less, in the late
By April of 1999 the Seward Park Local Advisory Council had
passed a resolution supporting the building remaining on site
as a museum. The land under 1142 was scheduled to become part
of the park after demolition. The struggle had widened with hundreds
of people from across the city participating, including well-known
activists such as the Revs. Paul Jakes and Michael Yasutake.
In the month of April a continuous round the clock vigil were
held in 1142 to protect the house from the wrecking ball. Attempts
at shutting off the gas and an invalid eviction were held off
by the resistance of supporters. In order to win time for the
struggle to develop the RCYB raised a legal challenge to the city's
handling of their lease. The case was covered consistently in
the Chicago Tribune. The social struggle garnered a cover
of New City and several Streetwise articles.
This growing struggle represented a challenge to the City's
redevelopment that had to be stopped. When the legal case was
sent to the appeals court, the city upheld the tradition of disregarding
the demands of the propertyless, moving swiftly and with force.
On April 20, 1999, the entire Cook County Sheriff's eviction
department arrived on the scene. It took them over an hour to
reach the five people that were inside. The occupants were arrested
and the house was torn down the same day, destroying all the property
of the tenants.
The house was lost, but much was gained from the fight. It
brought forward new fighters for the power of the masses of people.
It also was an important lesson in taking on the superstructure,
and contributed to a politicized atmosphere around the housing
In March 2000, in the face of legal challenges, charges on
three of the protesters arrested in the eviction at 1142 were
dropped. The remaining two defendants were the most visible opponents
of the Chicago Housing Authority's (CHA) plan to demolish 18,000
apartments. Grant Newburger [who addressed DSA's June 17 meeting],
a key activist with the Coalition to Protect Public Housing, was
charged with "obstruction of process", while Sarah "Tobe"
Klepner, also active with the CPPH, and author of numerous articles
for Streetwise exposing CHA, was charged with "battery."
A statement calling on the Mayor and State's Attorney to drop
the charges was signed by a diverse group of organizations, including
the Justice Coalition of Greater Chicago, the 8th Day Center for
Justice, the Latino Union of Chicago and members of the Chicago
Chapter of Democratic Socialists of America.
Awareness of the housing crisis has increased since spring
1999, and connections are strengthening among groups across the
city of Chicago. This was evident at the two press conferences
held to present the statement of support to its targets.
A spokesperson for the Maxwell Street Preservation Society
spoke in between representatives of religious organizations, and
a fighter for Black contractors spoke along with a formerly homeless
advocate for the homeless.
An organizer for the Latino Union spoke as did a 33-year resident
of Robert Taylor Homes, another CHA development.
When the "Stop Urban Cleansing 2" went to trial,
there were supporters from three different CHA developments, religious
organizations, and prison and anti-police brutality activists
all recognizing that "an injustice to one is an injustice
After months of legal contention, on the day of trial, the
state made several offers, finally coming up with five days of
community service at a place of the defendants' choosing after
which the charges would be dismissed. It was clear that the powers
that be wanted to avoid a trial at which the policies of redevelopment
would be highlighted.
The outcome of the case is important as a model for sections
of people who are reluctant to stand up against urban cleansing
because they fear the repercussions. The Bulldozers of Urban Cleansing
continue to roll and the struggle has shown that it will take
something like 1142 only with more organization, and even more
support in order to stop those Bulldozers. It set another standard
as well that our movement will defend frontline resisters like
Grant and Tobe "It Is No Crime To Resist Urban Cleansing!"
Until the secret files are opened after the revolution, no
one can say with certainty that the broad support in signatures,
the mobilizations for the press conferences, and, finally, the
large turn out for the trial were decisive in the outcome of the
case. One thing is for sure, the housing movement is stronger
for it. Groups that might not have met otherwise came in contact
with one another, and everyone saw that when a strong stand is
taken, others will stand with you.