by Gene Birmingham
A spirit of optimism and enthusiasm marked the 44th
Annual Debs Thomas Harrington Dinner at the Holiday Inn, Mart
Plaza on May 10. Using the theme, "Defending Labor Rights,
Human Rights and Civil Liberties", one speaker after another
gave honest expression to the obstacles faced by the labor movement
and the Left in general, but concluded on a note of hope for the
future. Reverend Calvin Morris, Executive Director of the Community
Renewal Society, and Master of Ceremonies for the occasion, told
the approximately 340 diners that he sensed real "energy"
in the gathered crowd. It could be felt in presentations by the
honorees, as well as those who introduced them.
Labor attorney and honoree Barbara Hillman was introduced by
Carl Shier, who reviewed the fine contributions she has made during
36 years as a labor lawyer. Ms. Hillman recalled that she was
one of only four women in her law class. "No male union member
would accept her," she was told at the beginning of her career.
Today women and people of color hold positions of power and influence
in the cause of labor. She is a senior partner in the law firm
that hired her 36 years ago.
After pointing out labor's mistake of fighting with itself
in past decades, a fragmentation which led to bad judges and bad
labor laws, Hillman sounded optimistic because unions are more
unified, the needs of all workers are seen to be the same and
those needs are being articulated. Recent campaigns to organize
workers are further reason for hope.
Frank Llewellyn, National Director of DSA, gave socialist expression
to contemporary issues. The rich are getting richer, the poor
are getting desperate, the cost of just getting by is going up,
and welfare reform is shrinking case loads while failing to get
people out of poverty. His case was strengthened by finding expression
of these problems in the mainstream press. Major socialist emphases
are health care for all, labor law reform and progressive taxation.
In her introduction of Tom Balanoff, Roberta Lynch reminded
the gathering that the days of labor's depending on a bargaining
table alone for its cause are past because labor laws are not
enforced, and bad laws have been passed. Today's situation calls
for fighting for workers' needs. A main task of labor is to confront
global capitalism. Organizing more members is a must, in order
to have a stronger presence in the political arena, and to hold
elected politicians accountable for their promises. Women, people
of color and immigrants are the new face of labor, in need of
being organized. If labor is to continue as a force for workers.
It is people like those at the dinner, she said, who can make
Tom Balanoff, president of SEIU Local 1, accepted his award
with optimism based on observing workers' willingness to take
risks and stand up for their rights, including undocumented workers.
He challenged labor leaders to engage in building more leaders,
a need for each new generation.
Featured speaker Professor Doug Cassel of Northwestern University
turned to his hero, Eugene V. Debs, for inspiration, as he focused
on the theme of the evening. Debs would embrace the cause of human
rights with the same spirit that energized him in the Pullman
strike of 1894, and his opposition to U.S. participation in World
War I, both of which led to time in jail. His gaining a million
votes in his run for president while in jail in 1920 forced President
Harding to grant amnesty to him and other protestors.
Human rights are a combination of individual dignity and communal
solidarity, said Cassel. The United States recognizes civil liberties
and political rights, but not the economic, social and cultural
rights accepted by most of the world's democracies. They include
the right to employment, or social security if employment is not
available; the right to adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical
care and family support; and universal education, the latter accepted
by the U.S. All of these rights are interrelated and interdependent.
The threat to civil liberties is seen in the round up of 1,300
people since September 11, held without benefit of lawyer or appearance
before a judge to be charged with something. Even their locations
have been withheld. None have been charged with terrorism. We
would do well to face this and similar issues in the spirit of
Eugene Debs, who never surrendered to his defeats, and thereby
ultimately made a difference.
Was the optimism of the speakers and gathered progressives
warranted, or only whistling past the cemetery? The rightness
of the case for rights and liberties does not require debating
that point. Hope for the future lies in following those who, like
Debs, have made significant differences in the past, even though
their times looked hopeless. It is a fight, but it remains possible
to make a difference.
by Harold Taggart
May Day 2002 activities in Chicago were, for the most part,
an experiment that deviated from the practices of the past two
years. The objective was to take the march through a working class
community rather than make the historical march up Michigan Avenue.
Few privileged people on Michigan Avenue have an interest in the
causes of equality, democracy, justice, redistribution of the
wealth, a living wage, equal opportunity, shorter workday, peace
and an end to police brutality, harassment and oppression. The
knee-jerk response of the average shopper found on Michigan Avenue
is: "Get a job."
Another experiment was to hold the parade on the weekend rather
than on May Day, which fell on Wednesday this year. The Chicago
chapter of Direct Action Network planned a march for Sunday, April
28, as part of a week of activities for the Midwest region. The
Chicago May Day Coalition initially planned to march up Michigan
Avenue. as usual but also on the weekend so working people could
participate. The May
Day Coalition opted for Saturday, May 4th, the anniversary
of the Haymarket incident. Two parades seemed to be counterproductive,
so April 28 became the compromise date.
The plan called for a march from Little Village through North
Lawndale to Pilsen. On the day of the march, the police, not present
initially, appeared in force and rerouted the march at one point,
claiming it was interfering with bus traffic. Consequently, the
march arrived at Harrison Park, the destination point, one hour
Although members of the Direct Action Network and others worked
hard to produce all the accessories needed for the theme "Carnival
Against Capitalism: Another World Is Possible," participation
from the region and communities was disappointing. To emphasize
the Midwest appeal, Direct Action Network altered part of the
theme to "Another Midwest is possible." They also employed
catchy slogans such as "We work, but Capitalism doesn't."
"Another world is possible" was the theme of protests
in New York City in February, 2002, against the World Economic
Forum. The theme is the refutation of Globalization advocates
who claim "There is no alternative" (or TINA) to Capitalism.
The sincerity of the TINA advocates is questionable since they
seem determined to expend any amount of money and lives and to
break any international law to stop anyone from trying alternative
The Direct Action Network devised three noble and functional
goals closely resembling the old Wobbly (Industrial Workers of
the World) tactics and strategies:
Enterprising artists made elaborate cardboard cutouts of the
faces of the eight May Day Martyrs. Stilt-walkers, elevated bicycles,
puppets, drummers, coffins and various placards and banners provided
the carnival atmosphere, rhythms and information but failed to
entice members of the communities to join in.
There are several possible explanations for the lack of participation.
The weather was dreary, cold and misty. Usually the parks that
were the assembly and termination points are busy with people.
They were empty that day. Fear of Homeland Security agents or
their proxies photographing participants was a valid concern especially
in a minority community. An anti-Capitalist theme does not appeal
to many who were nurtured on the sophisticated indoctrination
programs of the Capitalist system. Outreach might not have been
as extensive as it could have been. It's the least popular committee.
Also, outreach might have been too ambitious a project since it
extended to most of the Midwest Region. Debriefing sessions revealed
that communications broke down at several points.
In addition to the march, two weeks of events were scheduled.
Activities began on April 20 with a protest against Earth Day,
which has been co-opted by the corporations that made an Earth
Day celebration necessary in the first place.
On April 26, a critical mass bike ride through the Chicago
Loop kicked off a weekend full of activities. About 400 cyclists
participated. On April 27, workshops at the University of Illinois
under the theme "From Local to Global: the Midwest on fire,"
addressed major economic, social, educational and cultural problems
and generated a timeline of actions to address those problems.
One idea was to change the name of Balbo St. (named after one
of Mussolini's generals) to Haymarket Martyrs St.
On May 1st, actions began early in the morning at City Hall.
The biggest issues were the plight of the homeless and exploitation
of Day Laborers. The homeless got another kick in the teeth but
the Day Laborers got some commitment to curtail exploitation and
abuse by Day Labor service firms.
May Day ended with an evening of artists and entertainment
at the HotHouse in the Loop. Attendance was near the capacity
of 150. An event-filled evening of poets, labor and folk song
singers and bands provided five hours of fun and entertainment.
Warren Leming's one-act Cabaret play, Cold
Chicago: A Haymarket Fable highlighted the evening. Warren
directed the play and participated as a guitarist and narrator.
May Day and the underlying events that took place in Chicago
in 1886-87 remind us that the government and businessmen are more
than willing to suspend the Constitution when they feel their
interests are threatened. They did it in 1886 and on numerous
occasions since such as the Palmer Raids, McCarthyism and 2000
elections, and are in the process of doing it again. In their
opinion, the Constitution is a tool to keep the ordinary folks
in their place while protecting the property of the advantaged.
Those who know history are aware of the patterns and become
vigilant. Unfortunately, very few Americans know much about history.
A major goal of May Day is to inform Americans of their history
including the shameful episodes. A recent study by the National
Assessment of Educational Progress sampled 29,600 students and
found that only one in five pupils in the 4th to 8th grade has
more than a basic knowledge of U.S. history. As they progress
through school, they become twice as dumb. Only one in 10 high
school seniors has more than a basic knowledge of U.S. history.
The students are not to blame. The captains of industry decided
decades ago that the ideal assembly line worker was a man who
is "dumb as an ox." Our schools are doing exactly what
they are supposed to be doing. You can't have a few wealthy, privileged
nobles without multitudes of ignorant peasants.
by Thomas J. Broderick
Premeditated murder as practiced by the state under the term
capital punishment is nothing more than a system of cruel subjugation
and torture. The principal targets are the poor and people of
color. In Illinois, over 69% of the condemned population are people
of color. One hundred percent of the condemned women in Illinois
are of color. This punishment is offered up as justice to the
family and friends of murder victims and to those who view these
crimes from sensational news reports or fictionalized crime entertainment.
Justice has never been part of this equation. What we get is
revenge and spectacle. Justice would have to start long before
any particular murder is committed. A loving and caring home life
engenders justice. Education, work that pays a living wage, good
healthcare and housing speak to the idea of justice. These basic
human needs are denied to people in the United States and across
When a murder is carried out, the family and friends of the
victim(s) have their lives ripped apart. Yet our capital punishment
system offers these very victims the opportunity to create more
victims just like them: the family and friends of the accused.
And it offers this in the name of Justice. That's one sick system.
Grief counseling and help in putting together a new future is
what would help, not enticement for revenge, not help in building
a prosecutor's future.
The ritualistic killing of a killer, even when there is no
doubt of guilt, revives no dead. It turns back no clock. It allows
prosecutors and police departments to beat their chests and claim
effectiveness in a battle against crime in the arena of headline
and sound bite: the sentence of death as marketing tool.
Recently Governor Ryan's commission to fix the problems associated
with the death penalty here in Illinois provided over 80 recommendations
and still concluded that even with enactment of all of them, there
would be no way to guarantee that an innocent person would not
be executed. Many of these recommendations are good and should
be used throughout the prosecutorial process of all crimes (don't
rely on jail house snitches as witnesses, videotape all confessions),
but they don't abolish the death penalty and they would be costly.
Currently, under our death system, it is more expensive to
legally kill a condemned prisoner than it is to put them away
for life without possibility of parole. With more and more sophisticated
research tools being used, the opportunity to correctly identify
the guilty as well as the innocent, years after prosecution of
crimes, still only lets us release a living wrongfully convicted
person. We can't restore their life any more than we can restore
a wrongfully executed person to life.
Initially there was praise for the commission's work. Then
the prosecutorial gang and their political pals began to weigh
in on the side of pragmatism. The burden it would place on the
police and the prosecuting attorneys would be too great. The cost
of implementing the reforms would be prohibitive. Let's not forget
there is a budget crisis. There is talk from many of our elected
officials or candidates for office about maybe enacting some of
the reforms ("the ones that make sense") but not all
of them, or even half of them. This commission was established
to find ways to reform the death penalty system in Illinois, not
do away with it. Even enacting all 85 recommendations, the commission
admitted, would not guarantee absolute justice.
Justice is not about cost. Justice is not about worrying that
the police or the prosecuting attorneys have to work within a
fair system that might make them work harder. Justice is not about
finding or making a convenient fit to a crime that needs to be
solved. Justice is not about adding to the prestige of a prosecutor
or a police officer. Justice is about making sure that anybody
charged with a crime or anybody victimized by a crime is treated
as a human being with real rights and real problems. Justice,
in this context, is about protecting society from real threats
and actually helping the victims of crime, regardless of race
Even under the current unjust system, a death penalty case
drains away resources from county budgets at a huge rate. What
do these communities suffer when a death case is tried in their
jurisdiction? Previously allocated funds have to come from somewhere.
If they come from the law enforcement budget, what gets cut: Manpower?
Community outreach programs? Equipment? Training? If it doesn't
come from their budget, and is perhaps spread around, then maybe
education, health and social services, infrastructure, community
development programs, among others, share in the kill cost. What
is the benefit here? What do we gain?
Cost analyses of death penalty cases are not readily available,
however a comprehensive study in North Carolina concluded that
the death penalty costs North Carolina $2.16 million per execution
over the cost of a life without parole case. Now, under no circumstance
do I care about the dollar cost analysis of the death penalty,
however, in Illinois, with a budgetary problem, this argument
could be meaningful. Most people I know believe it is cheaper
to kill than to house for life. Of course, these same people believe
it is more expedient to house for life in a penal institution
than to provide adequate education or job training throughout
So what do we do now? Governor Ryan's moratorium, a wonderful
thing, is nothing more than the Governor's whim. He could change
his mind at any moment. The next elected Governor, and both the
Democratic and Republican candidates have stated that they support
capital punishment, could revoke the moratorium. The State Legislature
can put an end to the death penalty in Illinois. House Bill 576
(sponsored by A. Turner, D-9; W. Delgado, D-3; K. Yarbrough, D-7;
B. Currie, D-25 and W. Younge, D-114, the only downstate Representative)
calls for the abolishment of the death penalty in Illinois.
We need to put pressure on our State Representatives. The Bloomington
/Normal Group 202 of Amnesty International has sent letters and
supporting materials to all of the members of the House Judiciary
Committee II regarding the economics of the death penalty. The
Illinois budget is going to be the focus of the Legislature. As
twisted as it may seem, we need to hammer home the economics of
the death penalty to our representatives, if they are not clear
abolitionists. If you want good information on the economics of
death, contact Robert Schultz at the Chicago Office of Amnesty
International, by phone 312 435 6396 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
and tell him you want the Katherine Baicker report on The Budgetary
Repercussions of Capital Convictions or Richard Dieter's report
on death penalty costs.
There are three hearings scheduled by the Illinois Legislature
on the commission's report. These are moving targets. As I write
this, there are two scheduled in Chicago and one scheduled in
Springfield. They are supposed to be the last three Thursdays
in June (the 13th, the 20th and the 27th). Exactly when and where
as well as public input is yet to be finalized. As this information
becomes known, we will post it on the Chicago
DSA website: www.chicagodsa.org.
When Governor Ryan announced the moratorium, it stunned everybody.
He has stuck to his beliefs. He has been appropriately praised.
There is talk of his being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for
his enactment of the moratorium.
We need to accept the fact that there is a big problem with
the Illinois budget. Any Governor (Republican or Democrat) will
look for the easiest ways to fix the problem. These will include
attempts to cut state services, attempts to fire state workers
(union labor), and attempts to cut the "pork" from areas
that don't impact the Governor or his friends.
As a fellow abolitionist from Carbondale, Illinois, put it
recently, "He's going after social services. That's going
to make people mad. If we keep hanging on to his name, he's going
to bring us down. We need to step away from him. That's all I
have to say about it."
Well I say: Thank you, Governor Ryan, for the moratorium. Thank
you for the commission. Please commute the sentences of all of
the condemned who request commutation and know that balancing
the Illinois budget by cutting services and attacking labor is
not acceptable. You have been a surprise: the moratorium, your
trip to Cuba. But let there be a fiscal problem and you are just
another pol. Sorry, it's been good to know you, but I'm with the
abolitionist from Carbondale.
by Ron Baiman
We are here today to serve notice to our elected officials
that the "war on terror" and massive tax giveaways to
the rich do not justify cutbacks in social spending. We are here
to protest a fraudulent definition of "security" that
lets children go hungry, pushes families out into the street,
and denies access to medical care for the ill.
A recent Economic Policy Institute
(EPI) study shows that over half of African American and Hispanic
families with children under 12 do not make enough to meet basic
(absolutely no frills) needs. Nearly 37 million Americans, almost
one in three working families with young children, went without
some basic necessities such as food, shelter, or medical care
in 1999 near the peak of the economic boom.
In Illinois about one in four people in families with young
children (about 651,000 persons) have a family income below the
basic family budget. About 15% of these families "missed
meals due to lack of funds" and 14% were unable to access
necessary medical care. Families that moved from welfare to work
experienced greater hardships than families that stayed on welfare.
More than 400,000 families in Illinois pay over half of their
income on housing. In the U.S. 15 million families qualify for
federal housing assistance, but due to inadequate funding only
4.5 million families receive it. About 44 million Americans have
no health insurance.
There has been a lot of talk about economic recovery, but there
has been no economic recovery for working people. In fact since,
according to a just released National
Bureau of Economic Research study, the top 1% of taxpayers
have took home 94% of the growth in total income from 1973 to
1998, workers never had "a recovery" even at the height
of the economic expansion. The same study points to social policy,
especially tax policy as being at least as important as (independent)
economic forces in causing the growth in inequality.
Moreover, there is no guarantee that even this "technical
recovery" will continue. As a recent press report (New
York Times 3/23/02) notes, it has been dependent on an unforeseen
and unlegislated sharp rise in federal spending (a 10.1% increase
in 2001 fourth quarter compared to an average increase of 3.2%
over the last three years) and on a equally unexpected increase
in consumer spending of 6.0% in 2001 fourth quarter compared to
an already very high average of 4.3% growth over the last three
years (calculated from Department of Commerce 2/28/02 data).
And though some of the increase in federal spending was related
to September 11 and the "war on terrorism", most of
it was on other things: highways and school construction, Medicaid,
unemployment insurance, and municipal projects. Much of this spending
will not continue to increase without specific congressional authorization
or outlays from state budgets. This underscores the need for urgent
increases in federal social spending. This is what has kept the
economy from shrinking further. In addition to being based on
grossly misguided priorities, the Bush proposed social spending
cuts risk either driving the economy back into (technical) recession
and certainly will not help to push economic growth beyond the
current anemic "jobless recovery" level.
Similarly, rising consumer spending that has been dependent
on a rising household debt burden as households paid 14.3% of
their income to service their debts in the fourth quarter of 2001
(the highest rate since 1986 according to EPI 4/3/02 economic
snapshot) cannot continue indefinitely without corresponding increases
in household income.
But a Bureau of Labor Statistics report on April 5, 2002 indicates
a 2.8% annualized growth rate of hourly wages in 2002 first quarter
which is a point lower than that of 2001 fourth quarter continuing
the trend of slower wage growth since mid 2001. Current increases
in energy prices which are likely to increase inflation from its
current very low levels may act to further constrain consumer
As New York Times articles of 2/22/02 and 3/23/02 point
out this is a very weak reed upon which to base a recovery. If
business investment or net exports (the other two major components
of the economy) don't stage a major turnaround from their current
double digit rates of decline (-23.3% and -12.2% respectively
in 2001 fourth quarter), this "recovery" will not last
or will not be strong enough to provide needed future employment
and income. This kind of "jobless recovery" would be
similar to what happened in the early 90s.
From December 2000 to December 2001 Illinois unemployment has
increased 1.2% from 4.7% to 5.9% and the Chicago unemployment
rate has increased by 1.5% from 4.3% to 5.8%.
The Center for Urban Economic Development estimates indicate
that the unemployment rate in the Chicago metro area has increased
to levels not seen since the end of 1996. Basically all of the
gains of the last five years of expansion have been wiped out.
The adjusted (for "discouraged workers", "involuntary
part-time workers", and "voluntary part-time unemployed")
unemployment rate increased by about 2.3% from about 5.8% to about
7.8% (these numbers are less reliable estimates than the official
figures of the Bureau of Labor Statistics) again wiping
out all the gains since the end of 1996.
From September 11, 2001 to Dec. 31, 2001 an estimated 48,000
workers in Illinois exhausted their unemployment benefits. In
the first half of 2002 another 97,900 are projected to exhaust
benefits averaging about 3,770 workers a week (Center of Budget
and Policy Priorities 2/19/02).
The Center for Urban Economic Development estimates that from
the beginning of 1999 to the end of 2001, 77,467 workers lost
their jobs due to plant closings. The largest closings have been
in general merchandise stores, wholesale trade, and manufacturing.
The Bush budget will further exacerbate these social and economic
ills by misdirecting spending toward unnecessary military programs
and regressive tax cuts to benefit the rich.
The most striking waste in the budget is the 11% real increase
($46 billion) in military expenditure including:
The Bush budget does nothing to repeal the $1.35 trillion tax
cut, which when fully phased in will provide over 80% of its benefits
to the top 20% of taxpayers (41.4% to the top 1%). This tax cut
reduced federal revenues by about $57.7 billion in 2001.
At the same time the "Compassionate Conservative"
President proposes real cuts in domestic programs:
1) Amid recession Bush proposes to cut job training and dislocation
programs. Federal funding of the "workforce investment act"
which supports dislocated worker employment and training activities
would be cut by 12.5% or $5.1 million in real terms. Another part
of the act which supports adult employment and training activities
would be cut by 6.5% or $3 million in real terms.
2) Bush's $ 300 million cut in the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance
Program (LIHEAP) would result in a 20% or $ 19.3 million real
cut in LIHEAP funds for Illinois. According to the Bush administration,
LIHEAP provides heating and cooling services to 4.3 million households
each year, one-third of which include elderly people and one-half
of which include children under age 18. With this proposal Bush
is breaking a promise made during the Presidential Debates in
Boston. In this 10/3/00 debate Bush said:
"First and foremost, we have got to make sure we fully
fund LIHEAP, which is a way to help low-income folks, particularly
here in the East, to pay for their high fuel bills."
"First and foremost, we have got to make sure we fully
fund LIHEAP, which is a way to help low-income folks, particularly
here in the East, to pay for their high fuel bills."
3) llinois will lose 28% or $ 235.9 million in real terms in
federal highway planning and construction funding resulting in
the loss of 9,911 jobs. At the same time the Bush administration
would slightly cut FY2003 funding for mass transit in real terms.
Mass transit funding would be 23% and almost $ 1 billion in real
terms below what it was in FY2001 before Bush took over.
4) Illinois would lose $16.8 million in Community Block Grant
Development Funding as a result of Bush's cuts. CBGD funds support
affordable housing and other services, and economic growth, in
5) Key health programs such as the community access program
which works with providers to merge federal and local health services
such as the Children's Health Insurance Program and Community
Health centers to better benefit the uninsured and the underinsured,
would be slashed. Health Providers in Cook, Sangamon and Macoupin
counties, and Rockford, have received almost $3 million to provide
access to care for the uninsured under this program.
6) Bush has proposed the smallest increase in education funding
in seven years. He would provide no funds to address the estimated
$ 127 billion dollar school modernization needs, a $ 50 million
($2 million in Illinois) cut in "Even Start" funding
which provides tutoring and literacy training for low-income students
and their parents. He would also completely eliminate the $67
million LEAP program for State College Scholarship funding ($
3.6 million in Illinois).
7) The Bush budget would also impose freezes (or real cuts)
in: the $2.85 billion "Teacher Quality" initiative which
helps states and school districts reduce class sizes and better
recruit and train teachers, the $ 1 billion after-school lunch
program (frozen for the second year in a row), and the $665 Bilingual
8) Bush would cut $500 million from COPs (community policing)
funding and eliminate $ 565 million in federal funding for the
State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP).
9) Bush would eliminate federal funding for "Round II
Empowerment Zones", including East St. Louis, Illinois, one
of the 15 very depressed communities in the nation which were
to be targeted by the program. $150 million was requested by Clinton,
and by Bush in his first budget. This was reduced by Congress
to $45 million in FY2002. Bush proposes to eliminate the program
10) The Illinois share of the state revolving fund for clean
water would be cut by 13.4% or $ 8.5 million in real terms.
1) National Priorities
Project at: www.nationalpriorities.org
2) The Democratic
National Committee at: www.democrats.org/pdfs/budget2002/il.pdf
3) February 6, 2002 Democratic Staff Memorandum to Democratic
Members of the Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs,
and International Relations regarding a hearing on "The Standard
Procurement System: Can the DOD Procurement Process be Standardized?"
This was obtained from Congresswomen Schakowsky's office.
A somewhat truncated version of this article was presented
as testimony at the April 6, 2002, Workers'
Rights Board hearing on Illinois and the Federal Budget Crisis.
Michael Moore's latest book, Stupid White Men, was scheduled
for release in October 2001. Then came the World Trade Center
and Pentagon bombings. George W. Bush's popularity sky rocketed
led by the incessant martial drum beats of a highly partial media.
Bush, of course, was the subject of Moore's first chapter. Moore's
publishers assured him the book wouldn't sell the 50,000 copies
already printed. They wanted him to buy those copies and make
major revisions to the book. Moore refused. Librarians, smelling
a censorship rat, came to his aid and the book was released without
revision. It quickly rose to the top of Amazon.com's best seller
list and soon after reached the top of the New York Times
list. It has gone through more than a dozen printings.
The establishment also was out of touch regarding the extent
of American jingoism for Bush's proposed perpetual wars and racist,
authoritarian policies to pursue them. The return of McCarthyism
was not palatable to everyone. Thus it came as a major surprise
when one hundred thousand people trekked to Washington DC for
a weekend of protests beginning on April 20. In San Francisco,
a solidarity march drew an estimated 35,000 participants. Any
public display of lack of solidarity with the Bush administration's
emergency policies would provide aid and comfort to the enemy,
establishment spokesmen warned. It would be treason, they suggested.
Unfortunately, the contempt for solidarity carried over to
the protest. ANSWER
(Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) is an action arm of the International Action Center.
Several months ago ANSWER had scheduled a protest for April 27
stressing opposition to war and racism. Seeing the futility of
protests two weekends in a row, it rescheduled for the 20th and,
some say, with its preponderance of resources attempted to take
control of the entire protest.
The other major coalition was D.C.'s: United
We March for Peace and Justice. The name is a variation on
the jingoistic United We Stand slogan. It assembled south of the
The direct action groups, Mobilization for Global Justice,
gathered at 18th and H Streets to protest the International Monetary
Fund/World Bank semi-annual meetings scheduled for April 20-21.
Palestinian groups used the opportunity to stress their cause.
Although the Palestinians and other Muslim sympathizers were the
last to join, their issues became the primary and unifying issues.
The Muslim groups bused thousands of people of all ages to D.C.
Twenty-one buses drove in from Detroit. The Chicago area Muslim
community sent 155 people on a chartered plane, about 200 more
on four buses and numerous others in vans. With their major actions
taking place on the 20th and 22nd, a variety of transportation
modes were necessary.
Unlike the April 16, 2000 protests, only a handful of arrests
were made. D.C. Police Chief Charles Ramsey commended the protest
leaders for maintaining control this time. Chief Ramsey was a
little less than candid. In fact, it was the police that was more
civilized this time. In the 2000 protests against Globalization,
the police ran over protesters feet with motorcycles, rammed their
legs with bicycles, raided the convergence center and stole puppets
and signs that had taken weeks to make and had absorbed scarce
money. They made mass preemptive arrests and peppered the protest
groups with agents provocateurs. There were several reports of
these agents attempting to provoke activists into violent acts.
Police also searched for leaders, or those who appeared to be
leaders, and arrested them on trumped up charges. They suspended
This time, march permits were granted without the need for
a court to remind authorities that there is a Bill of Rights guaranteeing
some freedoms. Initially, the permit requested by Mobilization
for Global Justice was denied on the basis that the route went
past offices of major corporations such as Citigroup, Monsanto
and Occidental Petroleum, according to Washington Post
With Seattle, Philadelphia, Genoa and other sites of past violent
confrontations in mind, the city did take precautions. They "sanitized"
the protest areas of newspaper boxes, trash cans, benches, bike
racks and anything else that could be used for destructive purposes.
Those precautions and cooperative actions certainly were less
costly than the $10 million cost to suppress freedom of expression
in 1999 in Seattle.
This time, police were less visible than they are on an ordinary
day in D.C. Pockets of police cars could be seen in secluded areas.
Unseen were thousands of riot-geared cops, park police, federal
police and police and sheriff's deputies from surrounding Virginia
and Maryland communities.
The only incident I witnessed was a confrontation with the
Patriots Rally for America counter rally. It consisted of about
six-dozen people and was staged across Constitution Avenue from
the Ellipse. Featured speakers there were old cold-warriors like
Bob Dornan (affectionately known as B-1 Bob for his proclivity
to spend taxpayer's money on any Defense Department boondoggle.)
Nothing more than loud arguments took place. It appeared that
the primary police strategy this time was to protect one group
from the other i.e. do the job they are paid to do.
Logistics called for a multi-pronged march to converge at Pennsylvania
Av. East of the White House in mid-afternoon. The Ellipse group,
about two-thirds of the protesters, was directly south of the
White House. South of them, across Constitution Avenue, was the
tiny counter-rally group. Below it, was the United We March group
consisting mostly of students. Other actions took place at the
International Monetary Fund - World Bank buildings a couple blocks
west of the White House and, finally, on Connecticut Avenue where
many embassies are located. The result was two major bottlenecks.
From the convergence point, the combined groups marched east on
Pennsylvania Av. to 3rd Street located East of the Capitol Building.
There, musicians and speakers resumed entertainment and edification
for the marchers.
Fewer protesters were around on Sunday and Monday. Part of
the reason was that Ariel Sharon postponed his scheduled visit
to Washington and spoke on Monday to a pro-Israel lobbying group
conference via television. Also, the IMF/WB Spring meetings are
less important than those held in the Fall. Organizers decided
to postpone major protests against those predatory institutions
until the Fall meeting when they can become the major focus.
The gathering on the Ellipse was a model of different groups
working harmoniously. Jews, Arabs, Koreans and numerous other
ethnic groups bumped shoulders without any animosity or conflict.
Could it be that without ambitious politicians, brutal governments
and predatory businesses acting as catalysts, we would have a
much more peaceful world?
Compiled by Bob Roman
The Young Democratic Socialists
held a "Midwest Regional" conference at the University
of Chicago on April 6 and 7. The label "Midwest" was
more of an aspiration than a description as most of the two dozen
or so attendees were from the Chicago area. The meager turn out
was unfortunate as the content of the conference was actually
quite good. Promotion for the conference was hampered by an intervening
spring break and a collegiate tendency toward the last minute.
Barbara Ehrenreich provided the keynote address to the conference
on the evening of April 6. This was much better attended, drawing
a heavily Hyde Park audience to the auditorium of the Oriental
Institute. Though "keynote address" is not an accurate
description of the event, really. The event used the format of
a television talk show interview, with YDS organizer Erin Kaiser
playing the role of host. The two discussed various aspects of
Barbara Ehrenreich's latest book, Nickel and Dimed. Then
Erin Kaiser circulated through the audience with a microphone
to take questions from the audience. Most of the questions came
from YDS members and were generally pretty astute.
As part of the follow up to Ehrenreich's book, the Institute
for Policy Studies has started a web site, nickelanddimed.net.
The site content is a bit sparse at this point, with a few letters
from readers recounting their work experience, some links to other
resources, an opportunity to buy the book, and Ms. Ehrenreich's
Barbara Ehrenreich was among several DSA members on the panel
hearing testimony at the Chicago
Jobs with Justice Workers' Rights Board hearing on "Illinois
Confronts the Federal Budget Crisis" held on the afternoon
of April 6. The event was reasonably well attended. It featured
testimony on "Workers' Rights in the Current Economy",
"Health Care and Benefits", "Social Services, Education
and Housing", and the "New Global Economy".
There are three things worth noting about the hearing. First,
the testimony was terrific: an excellent blend of technical expertise
and life experience. One came away from the hearing with a real
appreciation for the dimensions of the problem. Second, the structure
of the event is rather odd, as most of the panel consisted of
people who are not in any position to do anything about the problems
described. In a symbolic way, I suppose, it's appropriate as these
are problems we must resolve, not leaving them to what
passes for elected political leadership. (Alderman Ricardo Munoz
and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky were on the panel hearing testimony,
it should be noted.) Yet it does leave one wondering what the
goals of the hearing were. Third, it shouldn't be a surprise,
but there was no press coverage.
Demonstrations around meetings of the World Bank and International
Monetary Fund have become a fact of life for these institutions.
This April's meetings also brought protests around the "War
on Terrorism", our involvement in the ongoing civil war in
Colombia, the Middle East, and possibly a few other issues as
well. There's been a fair amount written about the divisions among
the organizers of the demonstrations, particularly between ANSWER (which had
originally planned a demonstration for a week later) and United
We March. Even to the extent these quarrels represent genuine
political and philosophical disagreements (and they do), the quarrels
are far more important to the leadership than they are to the
people who march. Likewise, the farther away from Washington,
the less relevant the divisions.
DSA and YDS are part of the National
Student and Youth Peace Coalition, which means that we supported
the "United We March" demonstration. As a practical
matter, in Chicago, this was not a particularly meaningful distinction
as much of the transportation for both groups was arranged through
the Eighth Day Center for
Justice. Chicago DSA arranged for a half dozen bus travel
scholarships, contributed to the Washington "United
We March", and helped with travel expenses for a team
of street medics. With the Local's support, the University of
Chicago YDS rented a van for a delegation of a half dozen or so.
Once in Washington, they linked up with several other YDS chapters
and marched together.
Chicago DSA was among a motley crew of organizations that gathered
to "Give Bush a Message" when he came to Chicago to
raise several millions of dollars for Republican politicians.
Only several hundred people attended a lively demonstration in
the park just north of the Sheridan Hotel on North Water Street.
About the only press was Chicago public radio, WBEZ, which had
a succinct account in its local news. There was a good buffet
of speakers at the lunch hour rally. My personal favorites were
Reverend Calvin Morris and Bernice Bild. Reverend Morris pulled
together an extemporaneous sermon on Bush and justice. When he
began, it wasn't at all certain he would fly, but he did. Ms.
Bild has that rare talent of making a policy wonk speech accessible
By the time you read this, the Fast
Track trade negotiating authority will have passed out of
the U.S. Senate. Lobbyists against the bill are professionally
optimistic that once the House and Senate conferees negotiate
a compromise between the respective versions of the bill, it will
be defeated in the House. After all, they argue, it passed in
the House with only one vote and that was when many conservative
opponents of the Fast Track felt it their patriotic duty to vote
for it. Even if this is only professional optimism, it's time
to start writing your representatives again. In Illinois, all
the Democrats voted against the Fast Track; all the Republicans
voted for it. If your representative voted against the Fast Track,
thank them, but regardless of how they voted, urge them to vote
against the final bill.
The New Left, before it descended into Leninist hallucinations,
posed a real question: how can we make the left understandable
in American terms? The latest attempt at answering this question
has been to dust off yet another 19th century ideology, populism.
Jim Hightower's contribution to this effort has been the "Rolling Thunder Down
Home Democracy Tour", a cross between a chautauqua, medicine
show, and carnival. The event in Austin apparently went very well.
It will be coming to Chicago on Saturday, June 15, at Union Park
on Chicago's near west side. Just how well an ideology that reflected
the political economy of rural America of more than a century
ago will do in a 21st century America that is predominantly urban
and suburban is anybody's guess, but this event promises to be
quite the thing. For more information, go to http://www.rollingthundertour.org
or call Darci Andresen at 312.738.6123.
Leland Stauber has come out with a new book regarding market
socialism, Land Ownership and the Social System. The book
may be ordered on the web at http://www.atlasbooks.com/marktplc/00706.htm
or by calling 800.247.6553.