By Bill Dixon
Most progressive activists, and certainly most New Ground
readers, have probably already heard about the soon-to-be-proposed
Free Trade Agreement of the Americas
(FTAA), the extension of NAFTA-style free trade which aims to
encompass the whole of the Western Hemisphere.
This is in no way thanks to the media coverage that the FTAA has received in the
US. Coverage has in fact been virtually nil. Rather, word has
spread about the FTAA thanks to the sustained mobilization of
the fair trade movement, which burst into high visibility at the
Seattle WTO protests more
than a year ago and shows no signs of fading out yet.
A crucial round of negotiations for the FTAA will begin in
Quebec, Canada, on April 18, where authorities have been bracing
for massive protests for months. And protests there will certainly
be, perhaps even better organized and attended than even the Seattle
and Washington, DC, actions last year.
Will the real message behind the anti-FTAA forces get heard
in the midst of the chaos? During the Seattle protests, debate
too often degenerated into the virtues of law and order versus
the people's democratic right to assembly. This is an important
question, but it has little bearing on the issue of globalization.
And of course it made easy fodder for media-driven sensationalism
and distraction from the tougher issues raised by globalization
and the WTO.
Like the WTO, the FTAA talks aren't just a symbol for a more
abstract problem. The fair trade movement must itself recognize
and convince a wider public that with the FTAA Americans North
and South face a real danger of historic proportions. That's why
the Quebec protests present the anti-FTAA forces with such an
important opportunity, and hopefully won't become yet another
cat-and-mouse drama between protesters and cops.
Exactly what real world threats does the FTAA pose? Details
about the agreement have been kept secret since negotiations began
in earnest 1994. In broad outline, however, FTAA talks have tried
to emulate the "success" of NAFTA. FTAA aims to open
trade through the classic neo-liberal formula that goes far beyond
the removal of tariffs and other formal trade restrictions. Instead,
FTAA seeks to cripple government power in virtually every possible
domain, from regulating business to ensuring decent wages and
basic environmental standards to providing publicly funded services.
The FTAA will almost certainly continue the NAFTA provision of
"investor to state" dispute resolution which gives corporations
(but not unions or advocacy groups) the legal standing to sue
foreign governments directly without their home government's consent.
The NAFTA experience with this provision has been a disaster.
Secret hearings guided by only the vaguest standards have ruled
again and again in favor of corporate demands against established
law and clear public interest.
The coming fight over FTAA will differ from the free trade
battles of the 1990's in at least one major respect. Unlike the
Clinton Administration, the Bush team is adamantly opposed to
any real linkage between free trade on the one hand and labor,
environmental, and human rights on the other. The Clinton Administration
at least paid lip-service to joining trade with progress on social
justice even as they vacillated in practice between weak support
for this principle and outright betrayal of it. The Clinton ambiguity
on this question was a reflection of genuine ideological confusion
toward the new global economy, conflicting ties to business and
labor, as well as the habits of empire deeply ingrained from the
There are no such divided loyalties on the part of the Bush
Administration, driven as it is by a slavish loyalty to big business
and a total hostility to the labor movement. That's why it's so
important for the fair trade movement to make itself heard - loud
and clear - on progressive alternatives to the FTAA, including
enforceable labor and environmental standards.
In the long run, it is obviously not enough to simply stop
the FTAA. Rather the Left must confront the historic task of transforming
the very nature of globalization, even though we now face in US
the worst conceivable political climate and the paralyzing possibility
of recession. Will the Quebec protests rise to this challenge
and show the world that there may yet be hope for an alternative?
By Harold Taggart
Competition is the conscience of the market place. Without
it, the businesses that hold the power over our economic lives,
become despotic. Corporations constantly preach the virtues of
competition. There would seem to be no more need for competitors
to meet together than for all the dogs and cats of a city to gather
in the park at noon every day. Would they meet to brag about how
they were going to under price their opponents in the room while
providing superior goods and services?
They do seem to have a constant need to meet. The internal
motto of Archer Daniels Midland, the giant agribusiness corporation
is: "The competitor is our friend. The consumer is our enemy."
The competitor wants high prices, the consumer wants low prices,
according to ADM logic. ADM logic seems to be shared by most businesses.
The Council on National Policy meets every quarter. The Business
Roundtable has more frequent meetings. Every June, the richest
U.S. businessmen meet with politicians and military brass at Bohemian
Grove in California. The consumer is viewed as prey; the competitor
as someone with whom to unite and band together to make the kill
easier and more plentiful.
Since 1971, the world's most powerful business leaders have
been meeting with world political and military leaders in a gathering
called the World Economic Forum. Headquartered in Davos, Switzerland,
which is tucked high up in the Alps, world leaders meet away from
prying eyes, but close to the money they worship. Here they collude
on ways to increase their wealth and power to the detriment of
ordinary people. Here, the powerful prey on the weak as Charles
Darwin determined was nature's law. Here, a conscience is an overwhelming
This year, during the last week of January, as the world's
greediest 3000 most powerful people met in Davos, 10,000 people
were meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Porto Alegre is unique in
that the city is controlled by the Workers' Party of Brazil and
is a genuine participatory democracy.
In Porto Alegre the best-known Progressives of the world gathered.
The enigmatic theme of the WEF is: "Committed to improving
the state of the world." The theme of the World
Social Forum is: "A different world is possible."
According to Norman Solomon the theme of the WEF translates to:
"A different world is impossible, and we intend to keep it
The main message out of Porto Alegre is that the revolution
that burst into public view in Seattle in 1999 is not dissipating.
According to Solomon, the massive amounts of information coming
out of the working groups and plenary sessions will require months
of distillation before a clear consensus can be determined. However,
the battle lines were defined succinctly as neo-liberalism versus
Social forces from around the world
have gathered here at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre.
Unions and NGOs, movements and organizations, intellectuals and
artists, together we are building a great alliance to create a
new society, different from the dominant logic wherein the free-market
and money are considered the only measure of worth. Davos represents
the concentration of wealth, the globalization of poverty and
the destruction of our earth. Porto Alegre represents the hope
that a new world is possible, where human beings and nature are
the center of our concern.
We are part of a movement which has
grown since Seattle. We challenge the elite and their undemocratic
processes, symbolized by the World Economic Forum in Davos. We
came to share our experiences, build our solidarity, and demonstrate
our total rejection of the neo-liberal policies of globalization.
We are women and men, farmers, workers,
unemployed, professionals, students, blacks and indigenous peoples,
coming from the South and from the North, committed to struggle
for peoples' rights, freedom, security, employment and education.
We are fighting against the hegemony of finance, the destruction
of our cultures, the monopolization of knowledge, mass media,
and communication, the degradation of nature, and the destruction
of the quality of life by multinational corporations and anti-democratic
policies. Participatory democratic experiences - like that of
Porto Alegre - show us that a concrete alternative is possible.
We reaffirm the supremacy of human, ecological and social rights
over the demands of finance and investors.
At the same time that we strengthen
our movements, we resist the global elite and work for equity,
social justice, democracy and security for everyone, without distinction.
Our methodology and alternatives stand in stark contrast to the
destructive policies of neo-liberalism.
Globalization reinforces a sexist and
patriarchal system. It increases the feminization of poverty and
exacerbates all forms of violence against women. Equality between
women and men is central to our struggle. Without this, another
world will never be possible.
Neo-liberal globalization increases
racism, continuing the veritable genocide of centuries of slavery
and colonialism which destroyed the bases of black African civilizations.
We call on all movements to be in solidarity with African peoples
in the continent and outside, in defense of their rights to land,
citizenship, freedom, peace, and equality, through the reparation
of historical and social debts. Slave trade and slavery are crimes
We express our special recognition and
solidarity with indigenous peoples in their historic struggle
against genocide and ethnocide and in defense of their rights,
natural resources, culture, autonomy, land, and territory.
Neo-liberal globalization destroys the
environment, health and people's living environment. Air, water,
land and peoples have become commodities. Life and health must
be recognized as fundamental rights which must not be subordinated
to economic policies.
The external debt of the countries of
the South has been repaid several times over. Illegitimate, unjust
and fraudulent, it functions as an instrument of domination, depriving
people of their fundamental human rights with the sole aim of
increasing international usury. We demand its unconditional cancellation
and the reparation of historical, social, and ecological debts,
as immediate steps toward a definitive resolution of the crisis
this Debt provokes.
Financial markets extract resources
and wealth from communities and nations, and subject national
economies to the whims of speculators. We call for the closure
of tax havens and the introduction of taxes on financial transactions.
Privatization is a mechanism for transferring
public wealth and natural resources to the private sector. We
oppose all forms of privatization of natural resources and public
services. We call for the protection of access to resources and
public goods necessary for a decent life.
Multinational corporations organize
global production with massive unemployment, low wages and unqualified
labour and by refusing to recognize the fundamental worker's rights
as defined by the ILO. We demand the genuine recognition of the
right to organize and negotiate for unions, and new rights for
workers to face the globalization strategy. While goods and money
are free to cross borders, the restrictions on the movement of
people exacerbate exploitation and repression. We demand an end
to such restrictions.
We call for a trading system which guarantees
full employment, food security, fair terms of trade and local
prosperity. Free trade is anything but free. Global trade rules
ensure the accelerated accumulation of wealth and power by multinational
corporations and the further marginalization and impoverishment
of small farmers, workers and local enterprises. We demand that
governments respect their obligations to the international human
rights instruments and multilateral environmental agreements.
We call on people everywhere to support the mobilizations against
the creation of the Free Trade Area in the Americas, an initiative
which means the recolonization of Latin America and the destruction
of fundamental social, economic, cultural and environmental human
The IMF, the World Bank and regional
banks, the WTO, NATO and other military alliances are some of
the multilateral agents of neo-liberal globalization. We call
for an end to their interference in national policy. These institutions
have no legitimacy in the eyes of the people and we will continue
to protest against their measures.
Neo-liberal globalization has led to
the concentration of land ownership and favored corporate agricultural
systems which are environmentally and socially destructive. It
is based on export oriented growth backed by large scale infrastructure
development, such as dams, which displaces people from their land
and destroys their livelihoods. Their loss must be restored. We
call for a democratic agrarian reform. Land, water and seeds must
be in the hands of the peasants. We promote sustainable agricultural
processes. Seeds and genetic stocks are the heritage of humanity.
We demand that the use of transgenics and the patenting of life
Militarism and corporate globalization
reinforce each other to undermine democracy and peace. We totally
refuse war as a way to solve conflicts and we oppose the arms
race and the arms trade. We call for an end to the repression
and criminalization of social protest. We condemn foreign military
intervention in the internal affairs of our countries. We demand
the lifting of embargoes and sanctions used as instruments of
aggression, and express our solidarity with those who suffer their
consequences. We reject US military intervention in Latin America
through the Plan Colombia.
We call for a strengthening of alliances,
and the implementation of common actions, on these principal concerns.
We will continue to mobilize on them until the next Forum. We
recognize that we are now in a better position to undertake the
struggle for a different world, a world without misery, hunger,
discrimination and violence, with quality of life, equity, respect
We commit ourselves to support all the
struggles of our common agenda to mobilize opposition to neo-liberalism.
Among our priorities for the coming months, we will mobilize globally
On April 17, we will support the international
day of struggle against the importation of cheap agricultural
products which create economic and social dumping, and the feminist
mobilization against globalization in Genova. We support the call
for a world day of action against debt, to take place this year
on July 20 and the mobilization for the World Conference against
Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
(Durban, South Africa - 31 August-7 September 2001).
The proposals formulated are part of
the alternatives being elaborated by social movements around the
world. They are based on the principle that human beings and life
are not commodities, and in the commitment to the welfare and
human rights of all.
Our involvement in the World Social
Forum has enriched understanding of each of our struggles and
we have been strengthened. We call on all peoples around the world
to join in this struggle to build a better future. The World Social
Forum of Porto Alegre is a way to achieve peoples' sovereignty
and a just world.
Tens of thousands of protesters descended on the nation's capital
to voice their disapproval of the election crime wave that installed
a mentally and morally challenged Texan as President of the United
The media reported that the size of the protest crowd was the
largest anti-inaugural outpouring since Nixon's inauguration in
1973. Anti-Bush activists appeared to equal or outnumber Bush
well-wishers - a ratio demonstration organizers could hardly have
dreamed would happen.
Organizers in Chicago, which included DSA members, hoped to
fill one bus (about 40 people) gathered from Chicago and Milwaukee.
A massive outreach campaign and scholarship help from DSA and
other groups for low-income people, drew numbers larger than expected.
Chicago alone filled four buses. Many others from Chicago, including
YDS members, took other means of transportation.
In Washington D.C., protesters weathered the cold, rain and
sleet to mock and disrupt the proceedings. Street theater, signs,
chants, music and individual entertainers sent a strong message
and entertained protesters while perplexing Bush supporters.
Seasoned demonstrators knew the brutality, violence and damage
that characterized the Seattle demonstrations in 1999 and the
Washington, Philadelphia and Los Angeles protests in 2000 would
not be repeated at the inauguration. The truce was announced by
Washington D.C. police chief, and former Chicago cop, Charles
Ramsey when he stated that police would not be in riot gear, but
would wear Class B uniforms. Veteran activists knew this meant
the police had taken provocation out of their action plan and
were not going to raid, riot, provoke incidents or make mass,
random arrests. Consequently, the anti-inaugural became a peaceful,
About a dozen arrests were made. The message that the police
were removing violence from their arsenal of tactics does not
mean they suddenly became enlightened. It means that tactically
using force would have been a nightmare. Rich Republicans were
everywhere and would have been caught up in the melee. People
wearing cowboy boots, large hats, fur coats, and loaded down with
expensive jewelry would not have been as fleet as those in tennis
shoes. The former would absorb the bulk of police projectiles
and chemical weapons. The primary job of the police, after all,
is to serve and protect the wealthy.
The courts overruled inauguration organizers' attempts to restrict
demonstrators to protest pits far from the parade route. They
did allow restrictions on signs and puppets. However, the protesters
proved to be resourceful. Many defied the ban. At least two large
puppets were at the 14th and Pennsylvania protest site.
The Disgruntled Delegation of Concerned Caribou appeared in
elaborate costumes to raise concern about the new administration's
contempt for the wilderness and its ecosystem. Several caribou
assisted by polar bears surrounded another pretend President George
Bush and banished him from the wilderness.
Joan Roney and Matthew Power from Rainforest Relief in New
York, got around the sign bans and sent their message from the
reserved seats near the Capitol steps, a few yards away from where
Bush took an oath. Needless to say, the Bush campaign team did
not invite them. They had acquired tickets from friends. Forbidden
to carry or wear signs of any type in the guest areas, they painted
their bodies with messages such as: "Hail to the Thief"
and "No democracy?" As Bush took the oath of office,
Joan and Matthew rose, disrobed, and there, for all to see, were
the messages. Joan and Matthew were removed immediately, taken
to the police station and interrogated. They were forced to disrobe
again for photos for evidence. They were asked if they held any
animosity toward George Bush or wanted to hurt him. They responded
in the negative. They are not violent people and wish no harm
to anyone or anything.
Vendors on E Street had a terrible day. When we arrived about
10:00 am their tables were stacked high with Bush inauguration
memorabilia. When we left about 4:00 p.m., their tables still
were stacked high with Bush memorabilia.
Protesters liberated one set of bleachers. The occasional Bush
supporter that dared to venture into the area quickly decided
to find another location when police pointed them in the direction
of their valued, reserved seats occupied by noisy youths wearing
rings in all parts of the body and hair colors not designed by
nature. Wiley organizers placed a row of girl scouts at the entrance
to the second tier of bleachers. Protesters refused to break through
the line since the diminutive skirt-bedecked guards were not attired
in riot gear. About a dozen ticket holders dared to sit in the
section equipped to hold several hundred.
Bush intended to walk the 16-block distance from the Capitol
steps, where he was sworn in, to the White House and savor the
adulation of the American people. Seeing the route lined with
greetings such as "Bush cheated," "I voted with
the majority, I voted for Gore," "Reelect Gore in 2004,"
and sticks holding up the middle fingers of gloves, his sensitive
eyes were spared, and he rode rapidly up Pennsylvania Av. safely
ensconced in a bulletproof limousine.
Protesters didn't limit their wrath to Bush. Thousands marched
around the Supreme Court building. The most conservative protesters,
the Voters March crowd, held a rally at DuPont Circle, several
blocks north of the White House. Then they marched down to the
White House as a group. They criticized the voting system, but
were not as critical of the economic system as were the more boisterous
crowds along Pennsylvania Av.
As captain of one of the buses, I got an opportunity to talk
to dozens of protesters. They came from a variety of professions.
Students were the most numerous, however. One thing they had in
common was that they all believed the government had been hijacked
by election fraud and a partisan, corrupt Supreme Court. They
loudly conveyed that message to Bush and the Supreme Court. It
was refreshing to know that damage control by the media did not
As a Cook County Election Judge, I have some insights into
the possible forms of election fraud. The breadth of fraud in
Florida left me gasping in amazement. Nearly every possible trick
was used. Fraud to that extent usually is reserved for the State
Department and CIA for use in "democratic" elections
of pro-U.S. dictators in third-world nations. Who does the Bush
family know with State Department and CIA credentials?
The Bush family motto seems to be: "Let no election go
unstolen." George Herbert Walker Bush, according to the PBS
documentary "Coverup," was instrumental in negotiations
in 1980 to trade arms to Iran in exchange for Iran holding 52
U.S. embassy hostages until after the election. The hostage crisis
disgraced Jimmy Carter. Its continuation had a major impact on
the outcome of the election.
George H W Bush would not have been elected in 1988 had the
full extent of the Savings and Loan Scandal been known. Reagan
and Bush kept the lid on the scandal up through election day,
allowing billions of dollars of additional bad loans to accrue.
At least two elections have taken place now which have all
the earmarks of a blatant subversion of the Constitution. A coup
took place in November, 2000, and not a single tank was needed.
Tens of thousands were outraged. Tens of millions were coup clueless.
By Ian Marlier
Two hundred feet from the Supreme Court, on January 20 at 1:30
in the afternoon, the United States Government decided that some
other people got to have rights that I didn't have.
They closed a public street to me. Not to "all
people" but to me, specifically, as an individual. This still
bugs me. I tried to cross the street and Lieutenant O'Brien of
the Capitol Police told me that I couldn't. He wouldn't say why,
only that he said so, and therefore it was the case. There were
people on the other side of Lt. O'Brien, walking down the other
side of the street, but they, he said, "were cleared"
so it was different. Hardly a satisfying answer or a legal one
for that matter, but since he had a couple of riot cops around
him, I decided not to push the matter any farther than asking
for his name. As I walked away a couple of other protestors crossed
the same street a block farther down, and walked, without being
questioned, to the very spot to which I had just tried to cross.
The actual, unstated reason was simple enough. I am young and
I was wearing baggy jeans and a field jacket and sticker that
said "Due process my ass," and was crossing from the
side of the street on which 30,000 protesters were forming a human
chain around the Supreme Court to the "no protest" side
of the street on which the Capital Building is located. As such,
I was a threat to begin an unauthorized demonstration where such
displays were forbidden.
An hour earlier two other U of C students and I had been pushed
off the Capitol grounds by Officer Loughery and several of his
colleagues. The swearing-in ceremony ended around 12:30 or so.
The three of us were wandering around, carrying a coupe of signs
and looking for other protesters. We ended up at the corner of
First Street and Independence Avenue, at the base of the hill
on which the Capitol sits and the exit point for those attending
the ceremony. 150,000 Bush supporters walked out First Street,
passing through a 100-foot wide choke point. No one was protesting.
No signs were in evidence.
So the three of us held up our signs and walked back into the
crowd, doing what we could to fill the width of the street and
failing miserably. After ten or fifteen minutes the Capital Police
informed us that we had to back up from where we were standing
and move off to a sidewalk on the side of the street, out of the
way of the exit. We didn't think that we had to, and so we stood
and debated the issue for a couple of minutes. In the end, a handful
of officers formed a small wall and walked us backwards.
I was in Washington with a group of eleven people from the
University of Chicago YDS chapter. We all shared some common traits:
young, loud, and pissed off not only that George W. Bush was about
to become our president but also at the manner in which it had
been decided that he would be. Sitting by while the events of
the day took place didn't suit any of us; we all needed to take
some action if we were going to be satisfied with ourselves. We
drove from Chicago, overnight, in snow and rain in the mountains
of West Virginia, and we joined others coming from around the
country to protest the Inauguration of our esteemed President.
The morning started at Du Pont Circle, where we listened to
dozens of speakers protest the election and the Supreme Court
decision that elevated Bush to the Presidency. We met up with
members of other YDS chapters from around the country and began
to plan our day. Part of our group wandered off to join a larger
YDS group; others, myself included, decided to find some action
on our own.
Those of us who broke away walked to the Supreme Court, where
we saw a group of African-American women dancing around an effigy
of Justice in funeral attire. We saw police in riot gear protecting
the Supreme Court building from a group of peaceful protesters,
and two lines of tour busses insulating the Capital from those
who might express dissent. We picked up a couple of signs between
us and walked down the street, ending up at the exit point from
the Inaugural Ceremony.
As a whole, the group ended the afternoon at Freedom Plaza,
on Pennsylvania Avenue by which the Inaugural Parade travels.
Several thousand protesters chanted and sang and danced in the
street as Bush's motorcade passed. Chanting "not my president!"
and "hail to the thief!" a motley crew collectively
refused to acknowledge Bush's ascendancy. Snipers watched from
rooftops and a helicopter hovered as demonstrators expressed their
viewpoint on the inauguration, the election, and the state of
Tim Donaghy, a University of Chicago YDS member, had an interesting
experience of the inaugural parade:
"So, most of the official protests passed without much
incident, but one image has kind of stuck with me. After most
of the day was over I wandered down by the parade route and walked
along Pennsylvania Avenue towards the White House. The parade
had degenerated to high school marching bands, second rate TV
stars (Delta Burke?!) and lock-stepping cowboys, and lots of
people had gone home, but for some reason there were still at
least some people sitting and cheering in the freezing rain.
I was following behind these three or four teenage anarchists
who were shouting anti-Bush slogans as loud as they could. Every
block or so there was a radio broadcasting booth with a set of
loud-speakers, and the anarchists kept sticking their heads in
and shouting "Free Mumia" (or something) hoping to
get a little bit of amplification... The obnoxious pageantry
and the facade of national unity was amusing, but disturbingly
so given the context."
There was a small amount of violence. Protesters elsewhere
on the parade route briefly scuffled with police, as a result
of which several were arrested. For the most part, protesters
chose not to instigate a fight with the police, and civil disobedience
was met with firm and occasionally unreasonable, but peaceful,
response. At the end of the day, 6 people had been arrested for
protest related activities, and one protester had been arrested
for smoking marijuana in a Silver Springs, MD subway station.
It is doubtful that anyone decided on the strength of protester
insistence that Al Gore actually won the election, or that John
Ashcroft is a dangerous choice for Attorney General. Less doubtful
is the conclusion that the next four years are not going to be
calm and quiet. Many of the protesters were young and idealistic
and felt themselves at the forefront of a movement with which
they intend to stay. As a YDS member from another college said
to me, "the thing that really kicks about this whole event
is that we're meeting all of these other people. I mean, I didn't
know all you guys, but now I do, and that makes me an my movement
stronger, on my campus, and makes you and your movement stronger
on your campus."
After the Inaugural, the YDS group from the U of C stayed the
night in a mission a couple of blocks from Union Station, sharing
a basement with the free state established by the medic team.
Here, too, solidarity carried the day. Different groups struck
up conversation, exchanged e-mail addresses and promised to help
each other in the future. Drinking at a house party thrown by
a couple of activists, still further connections were built.
Earlier in the afternoon, standing in the midst of people leaving
the inauguration, my spirit was sinking. People would see our
signs and react with hands and elbows to our kidneys as they walked
by, or snide comments ("get a life," "get over
it," "get a job," "go to school," "burn
in hell"). One man grabbed my arm and ripped my sign away,
then threw it on the ground. A couple of people gave a thumbs-up,
but just a few.
Then a man came back after walking by and tapped me on the
shoulder. I turned to him. He shook my hand and said "I don't
agree with you on this one, but thank you for being here. At least
you're expressing your viewpoint instead of sitting at home on
your sofa yelling at the television. It's a good sign for your
So perhaps all is not lost. Whatever else we might be, the
youth of this nation, those with dreams of a better day, are seen
by some as legitimate actors on a national stage. Some people,
it seems, are willing to step outside of their carefully constructed
box and acknowledge the possibility that others, that we,
might have something to contribute to a better society.
By Bob Roman
The Chicago Coalition
for the Homeless (CCH) held its annual meeting on the evening
of Thursday, February 1, in the Chicago Cultural Center's ornate
Preston Bradley Hall. The only real item of business for the meeting
was the ratification of the committee nominated candidates for
the CCH Board of Directors. None the less, a couple hundred people
attended the meeting. They came to hear DSA National Honorary
Chair Cornel West.
As usual, Cornel West's affiliation with DSA was not mentioned.
Rather, much was made of his promotion to full professor, "a
title held by only 14 of Harvard's 2,200 faculty members".
It certainly is an honor Dr. West deserves, but it also leaves
one wondering if the Harvard faculty couldn't benefit from a good
Cornel West was introduced by another DSA member, Congressman
Danny Davis. Congressman Davis is also no slouch as speaker. I've
heard him speak for over a quarter of an hour while saying nothing
more than a half dozen variations on it's nice to be here yet
still have the audience in the palm of his hand throughout. This
time he was as artful as ever and rather more substantive: as
he is on occasions that genuinely engage his interest.
Despite a reputation as "intellectually aggressive and
highly cerebral", Cornel West is not exactly a linear speaker.
In a speaker less skillful, this trait can lead to a presentation
resembling a vacuous monologue. But Cornel West develops his thoughts,
and his segues, between topics and through the range of culture,
popular to classical, are done with an elegance that resembles
a verbal ballet. If one is as tired as I was and as easily distracted
by the hallucinatory architectural decoration of the Cultural
Center, it's easy to come round suddenly and find the speech somewhere
entirely other: disconcerting, perhaps, except to a veteran rider
of the Chicago Transit Authority.
None the less, the speech was about capitalism. The speech
was not simply an indictment of capitalism's manifest injustice;
it was a discussion of how the modes of domination in our society
result in our being less than fully human. Interwoven were themes
of mortality, which may sound as if the speech was morbid. It
was not. For example, in praising committed activists, those "long
distance runners", he described them as people "so maladjusted
to injustice they take time out of their short lives to be a part
of the struggle". Mortality, yes; morbidity, no.
Yet it was not until the end of the speech that Dr. West named
the enemy, capitalism. He did it in passing; blink and you missed
it. Perhaps this should not be a surprise in view of his recent
book, The Future of Progressivism.
This is a style of discourse owing much to the original new left
of the early 1960s. It was an attempt to find a way of communicating
in an "American" way, without labels or ideological
conceptualizations. In the 21st Century, it seems we are mostly
new leftists even as the SDS fades from memory.
This was the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless' 20th anniversary.
It's hard to imagine Chicago without the Coalition. The organization
has made a substantial difference in state of the very poor in
Chicago. While many non-profits pay lip service to the labor movement,
CCH has been there for the movement. The meeting celebrated the
occasion by presenting Les Brown, the founder of much of the Homeless
movement in Illinois, with an award. CCH Executive Director John
Donahue observed that Les Brown was extraordinary in working his
way down the staff hierarchy.
The meeting also previewed a draft cut of an infomercial being
produced about the CCH. The draft includes a brief shot of AFSCME
Council 31 Director Henry Bayer pitching a living wage. The video
is being produced with a grant from the MacArthur Foundation and
the Weibolt Foundation.
This illustrates the dilemma of the CCH and many other community
groups. The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless wants desperately
to think of itself as the Chicago Coalition of the Homeless,
and many of its projects and activities reflect that aspiration.
Yet with a staff of 27, neither in financing nor in membership
is the CCH an organization of the homeless. It depends on money
from corporations and the well to do.
All things considered, the CCH balances this contradiction
extraordinarily well, better than many other community groups.
But if we are to get beyond leftism as an act of charity, NGO
dependence on corporate foundation financing will need to change.
As if the labor movement didn't have enough to do already, it's
time for organized labor to become a source of financing for strategically
selected community groups and to become participants on their
Compiled by Robert Roman
As New Ground goes to press, plans for actions in solidarity
with the demonstrations planned in Quebec around the FTAA Summit
were still being developed. The work is being done by an ad hoc
"FTAA Working Group". Essentially, there are four aspects
of the project, each being handled by a sub-committee.
One sub-committee is engaged in facilitating participation
by Chicagoans in the demonstrations in Quebec City or in other
actions along the border. Chicago DSA has pledged $100 toward
travel scholarships. For more information about going to Quebec,
call 312.660.3700 x 6273 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Another sub-committee is working on education about the FTAA
and related issues. At press time, they had already held a "Training
for Trainers". This was intended to educate people about
the FTAA with the intent that the participants would then be able
to make a presentation about the FTAA to their union, church,
student or community group. If you have an event that needs a
speaker, or a group who would like a workshop or teach-in on FTAA,
please contact Mary at email@example.com.
A local action sub-committee is working on plans for a demonstration
in downtown Chicago. This will be held on Saturday, April 21,
but specific details were not yet available.
Finally, another group is working on outreach to union, community
and constituent groups to rally support for both the specific
actions being planned and for opposition to the FTAA.
To learn how you can help, call Kelly at 773.539.3264 or Emily
May Day Coalition is planning a march and demonstration on
Tuesday, May 1, around themes of global justice. While the route
was still being determined, the march will begin 11:30 AM at the
Chicago Board of Trade. During the week preceding May Day, the
intent is to hold street and guerrilla theater actions around
the city to bring attention to the May Day activities, to educate
the public about global justice issues, and to encourage people
to call in sick and join the march and demonstration. For additional
information, call Harold at 847.676.8530.
of Chicago Young Democratic Socialists were among sponsors
and were among the main organizers of "The Global Justice
Tour Midwest Gathering". Other sponsors were The Environmental
Concerns Organization, UofC Environmental Center, the Anti-Sweatshop
Coalition, Young Democratic Socialists, Creative Progressive Action,
Students Together Opposing Prisons, and University of Chicago
Student Government. This was a conference intended to educate
activists, students and others, about the FTAA and related issues.
It was one stop in the Call to Action Collective's nation wide
"Global Justice Tour 2001 Conference: Citigroup, the FTAA
and Global Forest Destruction". The conference also included
sessions on skills building. The conference was held Friday March
2 through Sunday March 4 on the University of Chicago campus.
The issue wasn't quite dead on Tuesday, January 23. About 100
people came to the Hothouse
on Chicago's near south side to hear over a dozen speakers, including
Chicago DSA Co-chair Charity Crouse, address the question "Where
Does the Left Go From Here?" It's almost needless to say
that there was no consensus on the question; indeed, a few of
the speakers did not even address the question. But, amazingly,
all of the speakers were quite good about observing the time limit.
Possibly it was the gentle but insistent presiding by Chicago
DSA Political Education Director, Mark Weinberg. Or possibly the
outcome of the election left everyone feeling unusually cooperative.
The forum was organized by the Open University of the Left and
cosponsored by Chicago Area Greens, Chicago DSA, the Hothouse
About a month later, on Sunday, February 25 at the Hothouse,
Chicago DSA was among the cosponsors of a similar forum organized
by the Chicago chapter of the Black Radical Congress. Entitled
"After Election 2000: The Fight Against Racism and for Democracy",
the forum featured a much smaller panel of speakers and drew a
rather smaller audience.
The Chicago DSA Queer Commission was among the sponsors of
the International Women's Day Conference held at the DePaul Center
in downtown Chicago on Saturday, March 10. The conference resulted
from the determination of a few individuals that this year, unlike
last year, there would be an event to mark the day. They put out
a call on the internet and things truly mushroomed from there.
The conference was the venue for a very impressive range of forums,
reflecting a multitude of cultures. As is typical of conferences
organized thusly, it probably could have been better promoted,
but this conference is something that should become a Chicago
Citizen Action's Build Illinois Transit project has had legislation
introduced into the Illinois legislature to provide $4.4 billion
throughout the state for new and expanded transit services. The
bills, HB 670 and SB 225, have bi-partisan support. Representative
Jack McGuire of Joliet is the lead House sponsor and Senator Miguel
del Valle is the lead Senate sponsor. In addition, the Center
for Neighborhood Technology is planning a series of "Connecting
Communities Summits" around the Chicago metropolitan area.
These are intended to develop grassroots "input" into
transportation planning. For more information, call Citizen Action
at 312.427.2114. Chicago DSA is an endorser of Build Illinois
At the 1999 DSA National Convention, DSA activists started
talking about doing strategic planning for the organization. There's
been a long term concern about the role of the organization in
U.S. politics and the organizational strategies and development
needed to fulfil the role.
This is rather different than the "Mission / Vision"
discussion that spanned at least two DSA National Conventions.
Instead of producing a manifesto, this will be a facilitated process
at a retreat with the object of coming to a consensus concept
and plan of action.
The retreat is tentatively planned for mid-July at a rural
conference center near Philadelphia. It will be by invitation
only, using a process known as "Future Search". Although
the retreat will be invitational, the Future Search process requires
the presence of all the major "stakeholder groups" to
work well. Acceptance and implementation of the work of the retreat
will be, of course, up to DSA's governing bodies.