By Bob Roman
At the very beginning of the 1960s, the legal foundations of
segregation and Jim Crow were crumbling. But if segregation and
discrimination were less and less the law of the land, it was
still very much the practice of the land. The progress of the
Civil Rights movement was, for many, just about as rewarding as
waiting for water to boil. Despite two Supreme Court decisions
outlawing segregation in interstate bus service (the Irene Morgan
decision in 1946 and the Boynton decision in 1960), it was still
not possible for African - Americans to receive equal services.
In the South, regardless of the law, they still had to ride in
the back of the bus.
To turn up the heat, activists around the Congress of Racial
Equality planned and executed a series of "Freedom Bus Rides"
through the South that did nothing more than claim the legal rights
then recognized by the Supreme Court. The trail of burning buses
and broken bodies may not have seemed encouraging at the time,
but it was really old Jim Crow that took a beating. The Freedom
Rides have become a part of history and legend, a symbol of speaking
truth to fear, hatred and impunity.
Now a new generation of freedom activists is putting this legend
in the service of a fight for freedom and equality for immigrants
to the United States. With the campaign to make English the "official"
and only language, with the exclusion of immigrants from benefits
when welfare was "reformed", with various and sundry
gratuitous acts of hatred and robbery, with an immigration bureaucracy
far more interested in exploiting the numerous "gotchas"
in the law than in service, with the paranoia generated by a politically
motivated "war" on "terrorism", it is this
constituency that has been branded "other", denied access
to government services, imprisoned, exploited and expelled.
Organized by a coalition of community, religious, activist
and political groups, but most especially by the union movement,
the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride
envisions several bus caravans from all across the country converging
on Washington, DC, for a day of lobbying then proceeding on to
New York for a monster rally. Along the way, each caravan will
stop for rallies, photo ops and additional participants.
Many of these rallies will not be small. The Chicago leg of
the Freedom Ride will depart the Federal Plaza at Dearborn and
Adams on Saturday, 10 AM, September 27. The kick off rally is
expected to draw more than ten thousand. The final rally in New
York is expected to draw hundreds of thousands.
Each member of the coalition brings its own agenda to the table,
but as a coalition, the Freedom Ride is organized around essentially
three basic demands. The first is for a new amnesty program for
undocumented, tax paying workers in the U.S. This has become a
particularly urgent issue in the context of the current drive
for alien registration. This demand also includes an "improved
road" to citizenship. The second is for better family unification
laws. The current laws are so restrictive that there is an outrageous
backlog of family members waiting to come to the States. The third
is for improving the rights of undocumented workers to organize.
In particular, the coalition has in mind the recent Supreme Court
extraordinary "Hoffman" decision that denied back pay
to a worker illegally fired for organizing activities protected
under the National Labor Relations Act simply because of his immigration
status. The AFL-CIO has filed a complaint with the International
Labor Organization over this decision as the Supreme Court appears
to have violated a number of agreements to which the U.S. is a
While the Coalition has not promoted any specific legislation,
Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez has introduced HR440, the
"U.S.A. Family Act", that addresses many of the Coalition's
concerns. At present, the bill has 17 additional cosponsors, including
Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. The U.S.A. Family Act is
much more than just an amnesty program; it seeks to remove many
of the "Catch 22" provisions of the current law that
make applying for work permits, residency and citizenship a risky
business for aliens. As a back up, perhaps, some of the cosponsors,
including Gutierrez, have introduced a bill that is more simply
an amnesty, HR 152, "The Immigration Adjustment Act of 2003".
Neither bill addresses labor's concern over the Hoffman decision.
Both bills exploit the conservative fetish of judging people as
"deserving" and "not deserving"; HR440, for
example, requires applicants to demonstrate they have not "received
public cash assistance". Neither bill addresses the longer-term
questions of immigration policy that make such amnesties desirable.
By Jorge Mújica
If Mexican migrants in the US noticed anything in President
Fox's State of the Union address, it was his references to them.
The first one, his thanks for their contributions to the economy.
The second one, his remark on a needed bilateral migration agreement
with the United States. The third and last one, his call to Congress
to "advance" on the issue of their right to vote from
Migrants have "contributed", not very willingly,
but much forcibly, with over 9 billion dollars to the Mexican
economy this year. At a record setting pace, it is thought that
by the end of the year México will have had received over
12 billion dollars from their citizens abroad. Over 1 million
families depend on the remesas: money transfers from relatives
Fox's remark, however, fall very short on what migrants feel
it should be done by the Mexican government: first, to regulate
the money transfers, so companies like Money Gram and Western
Union, and their counterpart in México, Elektra (a department
store chain owned by former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari),
don't steal over 1.5 billion dollars in hidden fees and dollar-peso
exchange rates well over international market transactions. Second,
migrants have been actively looking for state-sponsored programs
to invest part of the money in productive ventures for impoverished
regions in México, and the only thing Fox's government
has done is to increase federal requirements for investment by
On the issue of an immigration accord, migrants have given
up on the Mexican government because of the repeated refusals
by the US government. At the beginning of September, Mexican'
Foreign Relations Secretary Ernesto Derbez toured the United States
insisting on a bilateral treaty, only to hear Collin Powell's
refusal over and over. Far from confiding in the Mexican government,
migrants have turned to efforts like the Freedom Ride, an action
organized by US trade unionists to take their issues directly
to Washington. Migrants also see as a threat the possibility of
Fox's acceptance of the Border Security and Immigration Act of
2003, proposed by congressman Tancredo, which would bring workers
as "guests", allow them to work for 9 months and then
force them to go back to México to apply for a new job
Fox seemed to have based his foreign policy on his friendship
with George Bush, and therefore put all his eggs in a single basket,
basket that broke on September 11, 2001. Ever since, his chance
for an immigration agreement has been zero.
But the most skepticism steams from the third reference to
migrants in the State of the Union address: the vote from abroad
for over 15 million Mexican citizens living in the United States.
So far, Fox has not sent an initiative to Congress to advance
the issue of voting rights for Mexicans abroad. His reference
to the issue at the State of the Union address sounded more like
an apology than an intention to move on it.
And the apology comes at a bad time. Migrants lobbying for
the right to vote got two good candidates in the ballots but neither
of them won a congressional seat. One of them, Manuel de la Cruz,
was declared twice a winner on the July 6th mid-term election,
and twice his seat was given to the Workers Party, a political
organization sponsored by the Revolutionary Institutional Party
to undermine the leftist Party for the Democratic Revolution,
At a Bi-national Meeting on Workers Rights held in México
City this August, 37 organizations decided to recognize De la
Cruz as a "shadow congressman" and give him full support
on his effort to give migrants a voice. More than that, migrants
called the three main political parties to agree on one basic
political point in their agendas: full political right to vote
and be voted for by the next federal election, 2006.
The call reminds the federal Congress that the state of Zacatecas,
with 1.5 million citizens living in the United States, already
went ahead with a constitutional reform that would give zacatecanos
living abroad the right to participate in the state's election
for governor in 2004 and to elect two "at large" state
If Vicente Fox and his party, the conservative National Action
Party, want to keep the seat they won after 71 years of PRI's
rule, they would have to do better. Promises, apologies and "thanks
for your dollars" won't do. Mexican migrants are awake, and
they like taking matters into their own hands.
by Mat May and Jessica Shearer
The YDS delegation to
the 2003 International Union of
Socialist Youth (IUSY) Festival was a success. The Festival
was held July 23 through 29 in Greece and hosted by the PASOK
Youth. In order to explain why the festival and more specifically
the YDS delegation to the festival was "successful,"
it will be useful to explain the purpose of our international
festivals and why we as democratic socialists in the US participate
in them. The festival is designed to provide a place for democratic
socialist and social democratic youth to share experiences in
an informal setting and, generally speaking, learn from our international
comrades about movements for socialism throughout the world. Given
the role that the US occupies in international politics, our comrades
throughout the world are rather interested in our perspective
of the actions of our country. Many folks are amazed that there
are socialists in the US.
In a IUSY context our organization is often in the position
of taking leadership on questions of specific policy proposals,
and the trends and dynamics of international politics while we
provide leadership on questions of how and why to interact with
racial justice, feminist, and queer movements. While we know that
we still have a lot to learn in all these fields, simply being
part of the necessarily dynamic multi-tendency American left we
have found we have a lot to offer on these subjects. Specifically
our delegation addressed seminars on immigrant organizing, men
and feminism, white activists organizing against racism, patriarchy,
queer movements, and queer women's rights.
All in all, we stayed quite busy. We attended and addressed
seminars in the morning and in the afternoon, essentially talks
given by activists, ranging in topic from "fighting homophobia,"
"race, youth, and prisons," "expanding the EU,"
etc. Because Daraka Larimore (formerly of UofC YDS and formerly
the YDS National Organizer), our representative to the governing
body of IUSY, the Presidium, had primary responsibility for the
programming for the human rights and labor tents and because a
U.S. perspective both on our government's policies and on our
unique relationship with social movement was in high demand, our
relatively tiny delegation played a large role in this series
of seminars. Every one of our five member delegation moderated
or spoke at over 20 seminars. The range of subjects we were able
to speak on was greatly increased by the presence of two veritable
experts in our delegation. Jill Hickson, former Foreign Policy
staffer for the late Senator Wellstone, is fluent in Farsi, currently
organizing in Uzbekistan, and generally very knowledgeable on
the politics of Central Asia and the Middle East. Kira Brunner,
New York based journalist has spent blocks of time in central
and eastern Europe, with a focus in the Balkans, a particular
asset at this festival where the combined Balkan delegations fell
just short of a thousand participants.
In the early evening, we attended conferences (longer talks)
to hear panels of well-known leaders in international politics
including among others Shimon Peres (former just about everything
Israel Labour), Felipe Gonzales Ex-Spanish Prime Minister), Susan
George (Executive Director of ATTAC) and the Constantinos Simitis
(Prime Minister of Greece). During the interim time, our delegation
held bilateral meetings with delegations from Serbia, France,
Germany, Netherlands, Cameroon, and Colombia. We had less formal
(because of logistical difficulties on their end) meetings with
members of the 300 person strong Fatah Youth delegation from Palestine,
the PRD from Mexico, as well as the PRI (the PRI are fighting
a dirty game to try and secure IUSY and ultimately SI membership
for themselves). Our delegation also organized a meeting with
all of the Latin American and Caribbean delegates to discuss the
FTAA and the upcoming ministerial meeting in Miami: an opportunity
to work with our sister parties in the Americas on an activist
project of interest to all of us and many of our important allies
in the United States. We started a list serve to generate communication
on this topic and several parties are particularly interested
to use this event to mobilize their nationals and party members
who are currently living in and around Miami.
Much of our time in the bi-laterals was spent explaining the
political system in the US (e.g. the Electoral College,
the two-party system, why DSA doesn't run candidates, how we interact
with other social movements the history of American socialism)
and learning about how our international comrades do politics
in their respective countries. All in all, the festival is rather
informal. There are no political decisions made in IUSY as an
organization; policy is written at the IUSY Congress, not the
Members of some delegations expressed interest in traveling
to the US to organize against Bush's bid for reelection in 2004.
Others looked to us for leadership on how to incorporate an anti-Bush
rather than an anti-American message into their own ongoing demonstrations
against the new US imperialism. We exchanged contact information
and will be following up with them.
Greece is more beautiful than I anticipated. The festival was
in Kammena Vourla, a small town on the coast northeast of Athens.
We slept in small tents and generally camped out for seven days.
There were also organized sporting events including the international
socialist football (soccer) championship and intensely competitive
beach volleyball. When we were not in meetings or giving talks
or attending conferences, we enjoyed the beach and the historic
sites in Athens.
As a final thought, the festival reaffirmed for me the importance
of YDS participation in the international struggle for democratic
socialism. Over 150 years ago, Marx sounded the tocsin for isolationist
workers movements: "[the bourgeois] compels all nations,
on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production
in one word, it creates a world after its own image." Socialism,
as we are becoming more keenly aware, must be international if
it is to be at all.
We understand capitalism as a worldwide system of oppression
and exploitation, deterritorializing the structures of stability
and democracy throughout the world. Securing prosperity for all
of the world's people in the 21st century will require working
within, and indeed creating new, international public spheres
and democratic institutions. A new ethic of international civic
activism is required.
As a reaffirmation of our dedication to the development of
stability, democracy, equality, peace, and more equitable distributions
of wealth across the international divisions of labor, our delegation
recommends an informal educational campaign to our membership.
As a possible research topic, membership may wish to discuss what
it means to play a principled role in the international movement
for democratic socialism. This suggestion could be taken up by
contacts and tailored to fit the needs of its members. Based on
its geographic proximity with Mexico, YDS Phoenix, for example,
may wish to begin an education campaign about the FTAA and what
the Americas Committee within IUSY is doing to prevent the passage
of this agreement. To this end they may contact the YDS International
Committee for education, contact information, and coalitional
More generally our delegation calls on YDS to further its involvement
within IUSY. As the largest political youth organization in the
word, IUSY is an important place for socialists in the US interested
in working towards an international Left majority. Also, as activists
in "the belly of the beast," as it were, we provide
a unique and irreplaceable perspective that help form the strategy
and policy of the Socialist International.
Editor's Note: Mat May is the YDS International Secretary.
Jessica Shearer is Co-Chair of YDS.
compiled by Bob Roman
The Open University of the Left is conducting another series
of study groups on the American Empire. Beginning on Thursday,
September 11, these classes will meet every other Thursday at
the New World
Resource Center, 1300 N. Western in Chicago, from 7 PM to
9 PM. The topics will include: 9/25: American History as an Imperial
Project, 10/9: U.S. Foreign Policy Since WWII: the Empire Asserts
Itself, 10/23: Globalization and the American Empire, 11/6: The
Empire at Home, 11/20: War on the World as a Military Campaign,
12/4: War on the World: What It Means for the Rest of Us, 12/18:
Confronting Empire: How to Respond?
This series is not the only program planned for the fall. The
New World Resource Center has also formed a book club that will
be meeting regularly and the Open University of the Left will
be cosponsoring many of these sessions. Additional events will
be announced as opportunities present themselves.
For additional information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
or call 312.909.0127.
The 18th Annual Mother Jones Dinner will feature author Elliot
Gorn and actress Margaret Orner. Elliot Gorn recently wrote Mother
Jones: the Most Dangerous Woman in America. Margaret Orner
will perform the one woman play Mother Jones: My Life and Times.
The event will be at the University of Illinois at Springfield
Public Affairs Center a 6 PM on Saturday, October 4. Tickets are
$25 each and may be obtained from the Mother Jones Foundation,
PO Box 20412, Springfield, IL 62708-0412. For more information,
call Mettie Funk at 217.544.0555 or Hallie Maynor at 217.522.1182.
The Campaign for Better Health Care will be holding its 7th
Annual Strategy and Awards Meeting at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza
in Chicago on Thursday, October 30. This is a change of venue
from the Congress Hotel as the Congress is currently in the midst
of a labor dispute that shows no immediate signs of ending. This
particular meeting will especially consider the fate of HB 2268,
the Health Care Justice Act (a legislative version of the proposed
Bernardine Amendment to the Illinois Constitution, see New
Ground 87, Other News). HR2268 passed the Illinois House
but has not been voted on in the Senate. It will be up for consideration
in the November veto session. The Campaign has designated November
3 as a Health Care Action Day and is organizing call-ins to State
Senators' district offices. For more information, call the Campaign
at 312.913.9449 or go to http://www.cbhconline.org.
The AFL-CIO Organizing Institute is recruiting potential candidates
for its paid job training and placement program for career positions
as union organizers. Qualifications include commitment to economic
justice, good communication skills, a willingness to work long
and irregular hours and ability to do extensive travel or relocate.
We are accepting applications for the following training dates
in Chicago, December 5-7; Minneapolis, October 24-26; and Detroit,
November 14-16, 2003. Women, people of color and bilingual applicants
are encouraged to apply. To be considered for one of these trainings,
please contact Kimberly Roberts at 312.492-6569.
In the aftermath of the Iraq war, the Committee for New Priorities
has been devoting considerable energy to establishing a new labor
coalition named "Chicago Labor for Peace, Prosperity and
Justice" (CLPPJ). Its goal is to help "connect the dots"
between the interrelated issues of peace, prosperity, justice
and security, bringing into focus the economic and social costs
to working families of the current U.S. domestic and foreign policies.
CLPPJ will be producing educational materials for union members,
is planning a series of educational workshops, and will play a
role in the National Labor Assembly for Peace (sponsored by US
Labor Against the War) to be held in Chicago October 24 - 25.
For more information, contact Elena Marcheschi at 312.666.3037
or email email@example.com.
Citizen Action will be holding its annual convention on Saturday,
October 25, at the Renaissance Hotel in Springfield.
This year the convention will focus on "Building a Better
Illinois", a program that explores shaping the progressive
political strategies for success in 2004 at both the state and
federal level. For more information, contact Larisa Morrison at
the Citizen Action Chicago office: 312.427.2114.
The foundation's annual award banquet will honor Molly Ivans,
the Texas based syndicated columnist and author, on Saturday,
November 1st. For more information, go to http://www.eugenevdebs.com
or call 812.232.2163.