March for Women's Lives
Young Democratic Socialists
DSA National Office
Fair Taxes for All Coalition
by Bob Roman
By the time you read this, the Illinois Senate should have
passed the latest iteration of the Health Care Justice Act. This
is the legislative equivalent of the proposed Bernadin Amendment
to the Illinois Constitution. The Bernadin Amendment would have
committed the State to institute a universal health care system.
The Health Care Justice Act would commit the Illinois state legislature
to passing a universal health care act by 2007. Rather than going
through the legislature, it sets up a task force of stake holders
to write the bill. This latest iteration is numbered SB 2581 and
The Campaign for Better
Health Care has been working versions of this bill for some
years now. They never had much success until the Democrats took
control of the Illinois legislature. Last session, the bill made
it through the Illinois House but was blocked in the Senate by
a few Democrats who took exception to the requirement that the
legislature pass whatever the task force composed. This was partly
a matter of principle, but you wouldn't be overly cynical to assume
it was the insurance industry attempting to preserve a veto over
whatever the task force my come up with.
Efforts to move the bill were given a boost by the fortuitous
coincidence of a National Day of Action on health care declared
by Jobs with Justice and the
labor movement. Chicago DSA participated in this by distributing
stickers and information encouraging people to call their state
legislators to support the bill. We targeted our members and individuals
that we've had contact on the issue for the past several years.
Many other organizations did the same. That some 50,000 stickers
were distributed in Illinois alone gives some idea of the size
of the campaign.
The Day of Action also involved a number of workplace actions
where health care is an issue. It linked up with SEIU's Hospital
Accountability Project that is intimately involved in hospitals'
care of the uninsured for an action at Christ Hospital. The Day
of Action in Illinois may not have generated much press but it
did generate some buzz in places where it needed to be heard.
The barricade in the Senate was removed by simply conceding
the issue. The proponents of the bill agreed that it would be
amended to allow the Illinois legislature to pass, delay or kill
the legislation composed by the task force. This doesn't exactly
"gut" the bill though it changes its nature considerably.
Universal health care is now not the inevitability that the original
bill implied, but it is still on a "fast track". This
issue removed, the bill now appears set for passage in the Senate
and, having made it through okay in the last session, passage
in the House.
That a major item of legislation should move in an election
year is partly to do with the Democrats controlling both houses.
Even more significantly, the bill has picked up some Republican
co-sponsors and a number of health care, insurance industry and
business endorsers (Chicago Chamber of Commerce!!). Much of this
all most certainly has to do with the deepening health care crisis:
the way issues of affordability and access to care are moving
up the class structure, the way insurance costs are affecting
hiring decisions by employers, the way these costs are affecting
labor relations, and the way these costs are affecting companies'
"ability to compete". All of these are things "we
told you so".
But some of this also reflects the symbolic role of the legislation
at this time. The Health Care Justice Act does not commit this
body of legislators to do anything while it also sounds great
without being specific. This is primo politician bait.
In fact the really hard part comes next. The task force will
be appointed, and just who is appointed will be important to its
success or failure. This is where leadership or its lack will
play a real role.
Then there is the actual work of the task force. Because public
hearings are an integral part of the plan, there is an opportunity
for grass roots organization to participate. Given that the legislation
now gives the Illinois legislature a veto, it would be wise to
also find ways of involving, even in an ex officio way, as many
members of the legislature as practical.
The product of the task force will almost certainly be some
manner of universal health care insurance plan rather than a health
care system. Because of the political power wealth brings and
because of the way creating opportunities for accumulating wealth
is such a part of the script for government in our country, there
will be a powerful inclination to try to do this with some mixture
of private and public insurance. It will probably resemble Nixon's
1971 approach to the problem that mandated standards for employment
based insurance with public subsidies for marginal and small employers
and a public system for those not employed.
This is a politically cheap and a fiscally expensive approach.
The public system will almost certainly be stuck with most of
the more expensive clients. Retaining employment based, private
insurance will not significantly reduce costs to employers or
employees even with public subsidies. Thus a disincentive to hire
and a competitive handicap for international business will remain.
The public cost will be greater at a time when state finances
are not good and politicians are unwilling to face the issue of
tax reform. And private insurance is generally more expensive
to run: more administrative overhead, the need to return a profit,
vulnerability to downturns in the financial markets that in turn
increase premiums. There are probably ways to minimize much of
this, but retain private insurance and you're stuck with them.
But a more radical approach will almost certainly be subject
to an attempted veto by the insurance industry and ideologues
of the right. Unless there is a significant change in public attitudes
in the next few years, the veto would likely be successful; the
legislature is now under no obligation to pass the task force's
The political demands on advocates of universal health care
are legion and constrained by time. The creation and operation
of the task force mandated to write the bill will require a focused
attention to detail. But the success of the task force will require
a canny and focused campaign of public education and agitation,
and not simply preaching to the choir, a mistake every one in
politics commits but one the left is particularly prone to do.
These are tasks beyond the capacity of any one organization, but
this adds the problems of consensus and coordination to the mix.
We can do it.
by Harold Taggart
The World Social Forum (WSF) was launched in 2001 to counter
the rising threats to individual sovereignty represented by organizations
such as the World Economic Forum (WEF). One of the objectives
of the WSF was to spawn regional and local models of itself around
the world. Chicago joined the movement in 2004 when the Chicago
Social Forum convened its first conference.
Areas such as Boston created Social Forums immediately after
the first WSF convention in Brazil. Chicago may have been tardy
jumping on board, but when it did, it enjoyed a success far exceeding
organizers' expectations. More than double the anticipated attendees
showed up at the registration desk on that cold January morning.
Several panels were standing room only. The large dining area
could not accommodate everyone at lunchtime.
Much of the credit must be given to the American Friends Service
Committee whose masterful organizing skills produced another seemingly
flawless conference. AFSC's talents and decency seems to have
struck fear in the hearts of Chicago Police and politicians. The
Chicago Sun Times recently reported that AFSC was one of
five organizations infiltrated by the police in 2002. It's not
uncommon for autocratic rulers to fear pacifists. Hitler feared
members of the peaceful White Rose Society so much that when they
were captured, he sent his personal hanging judge to conduct the
trial. The members, including the tiny Sophia Scholl, were tried
in the morning and beheaded in the afternoon.
If police and city leaders feel threatened by pacifists, they
are hallucinating and are unfit to hold positions of power in
a democracy. If the police have the time and money to spy on people
who exalt peace, there are too many officers and too much time
and money in the hands of the city. The incident was just a sample
of what is in store for people if groups like the WEF and World
Trade Organization (WTO) gain the control they are aiming for.
The theme of the CSF was "Another Chicago is Possible!"
It was derived from the WSF theme: "Another world is possible!"
The structure of the event, held January 31st at the spacious
Jones College Prep High School on South State St., included three
panel segments with 12 to 15 panels each. There was an opening
and closing plenary and several creative displays and other attractions
that ran continuously throughout the day. The endorsers and co-sponsors
were by and large social activist organizations.
The convention was a gold mine of information addressing environmental,
social and economic ills. It did an excellent job identifying
symptoms and causes of the problems and offered a variety of solutions
to cure the dysfunctional, morally bankrupt pathologies of the
nation. The social forums are looking at social symptoms. The
economic forums are creating the social problems. It raises the
question as to whether or not the social forums are attacking
an economic rogue elephant with a pellet gun.
Several speakers analyzed the failures of the people to cope
with the divisive efforts of the rulers. James Thindwa of Chicago
Jobs with Justice claimed the world's problems often are the result
of deliberate actions by the imperialists. A tactic of the imperialists
is to spend all the funds to induce starvation and reverse social
gains. They control all the weapons, military and economic, he
Speakers from South and Central America praised events such
as the anti-Globalization protests in Seattle in 1999. Those actions,
especially in the U.S. and Europe, greatly encourage Latin Americans
who face torture and death for supporting freedom and opposing
the globalization juggernaut. Some are putting their faith in
a world movement against globalization. Hector Reyes, of AFT Local
1600, said U.S. imperialism attacks from two wings with two different
weapons: the military and economic blackmail.
Gregg Shotwell, of UAW Local 2151 in Michigan and editor of
Bait & Ammo on-line magazine, expressed deep disappointment
in union responses to neo-liberal efforts to monopolize economic
control over our lives. Unions still think nationally and the
problem in global, he believes. Globalization also offers tools
like the Internet that can be used as weapons against predatory
At a forum titled "Globalization and War: Neoliberalism
& the Transformation of U.S. Militarism," panel member
Dave Ranney of Alliance for Responsible Trade said the Defense
Department has a new role. Defense is a minor issue in a one-superpower
world. The primary role now is to impose the rules of neoliberalism
on the world.
The promises of "peace dividends" and a more peaceful
world once Communism fell were empty. In fact the military budget
Are the WSF and its local fledglings a match for the mammoth
WEF? The WEF first met in Davos, Switzerland in 1971, so it has
a jump on organizing. It claims its mission is to create a better
world. It meets at a secluded hideaway high in the Swiss Alps.
Its proceedings are secret. It acts like it has something to hide.
Its seems more likely that its goal is to create a better world
for a world aristocracy and nobility.
The founder of the WEF is Klaus Schwab, an academic. The WEF
began as a forum for Europe's chief executives. Today, 1000 of
the world's leading companies attend. A couple hundred smaller
companies also participate.
By contrast, 80 thousand people from 132 (of 191) countries
attended the January meeting of the WSF which met in Mumbai, India.
In 2005, the meeting will be held again at its place of origin
in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The WSF bills itself as the "alternative
to globalization in favor of human development and surmounting
market domination of countries and international relations."
The enthusiastic attendance at the Chicago Social Forum is
testament to the felling of looming disaster associated with globalization
and the desire of many people to do something. There are a lot
of people with ideas who want to be heard. That appealing tactic
that will rally everyone behind it remains elusive. The new Karl
Marx is not there. Other forms of aristocracy have collapsed under
their own corrupt load of baggage. The neo-conservatives, who
have usurped control of the U.S. government, are hatching one
blunder after another. The massive, cumbersome WSF can't focus
on a single target as easily as the WEF can. If it ever does,
and wages a successful worldwide boycott against Coca Cola for
example, it could begin to build awesome power. The people-power
were there on January 31st.
New Ground goes to press right before the March 20th
Global Day of Action, so you won't read here how it came out.
But I can tell you that on one hand there will be many demonstrations;
people are not just upset about Bush's policies and his behavior,
they are energized. On the other hand, I was wildly optimistic
about the divisions within the peace movement. Cooperation between
United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and International ANSWER never
really developed, though neither are they in conflict. From the
perspective of the distant bleachers (where I sit), it seems that
UFPJ very early on decided that if they were going to be organizing
the U.S. participation in the March 20th Global Day of Action,
by golly it was going to be their affair, particularly the national
demonstration in New York.
This apparent foolishness is a manifestation of some genuine
ideological and political differences. International ANSWER has
been a wonderfully aggressive and disciplined organization in
organizing protests against the war; however, they're also led
by elements of the Workers World Party, a thoroughly unreconstructed
Stalinist cult. The basic political orientation is that of outsider
protest. UFPJ has its own Leninist elements, but its political
orientation is toward the mainstream even though electoral politics
is not on its agenda.
Here in Chicago, this division was reflected in the organization
of two primary events, though it would be somewhat inaccurate
to characterize the two parties as local representatives of UFPJ
and International ANSWER. All politics is local, after all, and
the national players are not strongly represented here in Chicago.
The Chicago Coalition Against War and Racism (CCAWR) essentially
wanted to complete the march the Chicago Police so rudely interrupted
a year ago. Their plan was a march down Michigan Avenue to the
Federal Plaza in the Loop, beginning at Noon. While many of the
folks around CCAWR might remember their interrupted march a year
ago as a proto-revolutionary, beautiful gesture of defiance, many
of those rounded up by the police regarded it as bloody hemorrhoid
of dubious necessity, one not to be duplicated unless demonstrably
required. In the days before we became too ironic to take ideology
seriously, they may have called it adventurism. These folks, organized
mostly around the American
Friends Service Committee and Chicagoans
Against War and Injustice, started early by obtaining a permit
for Daly Plaza and planning an indoor, "family friendly"
indoor rally at the Methodists' Chicago Temple across the street
in the morning. Those seriously peeved by Bush's imperious policies
might wonder how this protest would be noticed.
At this point it would be natural to start drawing distinctions
between "good" demonstrators and "bad". The
City of Chicago seemed to encourage this by denying CCAWR a parade
permit. In fact both groups are a motley collection of diverse
ideological, diverse theological, and diverse civic organizations,
some best characterized as mainstream, others as pretty far out
there. While attempts to merge the two events were never particularly
serious, both parties advertised the other's event. And furthermore,
there were a number of organizations that endorsed both events,
including Chicago DSA.
Both events had other events feeding into them. The afternoon
"Midwest Still Says No to War" march and rally had a
hearty bunch marching up from Chicago's southwest side to join
them. The morning "Chicago Faith, Labor and Community Still
Say No to War" indoor rally had a chartered bus arriving
from the Quad Cities. DuPage County peace groups planned a morning
rally at Downers Grove Main Street train station from whence people
could catch a train downtown. Chicago DSA made modest contributions
to CCAWR locally and UFPJ nationally, did a postcard mailing promoting
both events and another mailing to all the individuals in our
database residing in DuPage County for the Downers Grove rally.
In the Chicago area, rallies, vigils and marches were planned
for Arlington Heights, DeKalb, Oak Park and Wilmette. Elsewhere
in Illinois, a variety of events were being planned in Galesburg,
Oglesby, Peoria, Rockford, Springfield and Urbana, and I don't
think this is a comprehensive list.
This is the easy part: the politics of protest. But should
we effect regieme change at home, the mess that the Bush Administration
created will still remain.
Bridges of Memory: Chicago's First
Wave of Black Migration, an Oral History
by Timuel Black, Jr. Evanston: Northwestern University Press /
Chicago: DuSable Museum, 2003. 616 pages, hardcover, $29.95
Let me begin with the trivial. This is a physically lovely
book. Now and again I encounter a book that, as an object, is
just a pleasure to hold. In my more prosperous moments, the content
of such a book almost doesn't matter. For this book, the moths
in my wallet turned to gold.
But Timuel Black's book may not be what the casual browser
expects. The book includes a complimentary forward by the distinguished
University of Chicago historian John Hope Franklin and it is to
the point. It also includes a fulsome forward by Studs Terkel.
Studs Terkel has done some wonderful work with oral histories,
but he is not really an historian. He is a journalist, an entertainer,
and most especially a polemical storyteller. Terkel's people may
tell their own stories in their own words, but in sum they provide
chapters in Terkel's own narrative. Bridges of Memory deserves
Terkel's praise but the reader should not expect a book by Terkel.
What Timuel Black has given us, the first in a projected series
of three volumes, is basically an edited anthology of field notes.
While Black has an agenda, his interviews do not tell a story
in the way that Terkel's more popular work would have had them
do. Methodology was never one of my interests so I can't comment
on Black's interview technique, but I can tell you that much of
what you will get from this book will be based on what you bring
For someone oblivious to Chicago history and most particularly
to Black Chicago history, these interviews might quickly blur
into one geezer after another wheezing about How Tough Things
Were, How Better Things Were (even the women were prettier), What
I Accomplished, and The Kids These Days. So there's a point to
Well, yes. Imagine, if you would, that some decades ago Manhattan
had been hit by a few neutron bombs. There might have been some
property damage, some even severe, but mostly it would have been
depopulated and since become the home for people who could find
no refuge anywhere else. Even a Chicagoan can appreciate what
a cultural void this would leave. And if you had been there during
the glory years, wouldn't you wish to preserve a living memory
of what those times had been like? This may overstate what has
happened to Chicago's "Black Metropolis", but it is
the essence of it and of what Timuel Black intends.
There has always been a Black Chicago. Our contemporary city
was founded by Jean Baptiste Pointe de Saible (DuSable), after
all, and by the 1840s there was a small community of fugitive
slaves from the South and free Blacks from the East, mostly on
Chicago's south side. They were not well appreciated by their
neighbors. Blacks could not vote. They could not testify in court
against whites. Intermarriage was forbidden by law. Segregation
in schools, public accommodations and transportation was legal
and maintained. Chicago may not have cared for slavery, but neither
did Chicago care for slavery's victims.
It is one of life's multitude of ironies that by the time of
the first great wave of Black migration to Chicago, the legal
status of Blacks in Illinois had improved considerably. By the
1870s, Blacks could and did vote and formal school segregation
had been outlawed. Probably because Blacks did vote, when
the U.S. Supreme Court began voiding Federal civil rights legislation,
Illinois passed its own. If the Illinois laws were not especially
effective, neither were they dead letters. They were occasionally
enforced. This was enough to leave useful fractures in what was
a formidable wall of white fear, hatred and exploitation.
Even so, Blacks arriving in the city found they were severely
limited in where they could live, what jobs they could realistically
aspire to have, what education was available, what businesses
they might create. This resulted in a physically compact (Manhattan
is an apt comparison), solidary community. It also resulted in
a split ideology that on one hand aspired to be a part of (or
at least have access to) the larger society on an equal basis
and on the other hand, despairing of its practicality temporarily
or permanently, emphasized racial solidarity, "self help"
and alternative institutions.
It is the latter that informs Bridges of Memory. It's
true, as Studs Terkel points out in his forward, that the majority
of the interviewees in this first volume are well to do or upper
class members of the Black community but it's also beside the
point. The people Timuel Black selected for this first volume
are the pioneers, the institution builders. It forms Black's definition
of "the first wave", by which he means the people who
came to the city during the first flowering of African-American
institutions or their children. (Being more statistically minded,
I would have pegged the first wave as the half dozen or so years
either side of 1920.) It also informs the index to this volume,
in which individuals are pretty thoroughly indexed but organizations
Each interview is prefaced by an introductory essay by Black.
These essays are quite helpful in placing the subject of the interview,
both generally and frequently in relation to the author. Occasionally,
as in the introduction to the Willis Thomas interview, they are
minor nuggets of history in and of themselves. The introductions
are often admiring, sometimes with the affection of a friend,
but sometimes with an appreciation for accomplishment made more
piquant by a web of mutual acquaintance.
The introductions and the interviews portray a community whose
members were very much aware of one another, where competition
was a part of cooperation, where each one's victory was a victory
for more than just one's self. You can see this in the almost
routine awareness of "firstness". And why not? In a
community compressed and hemmed by racism, something as mundane
as becoming a taxidermist for a major museum became another open
door of possibilities.
Likewise, a portion of each interview is spent on location.
Where did you live and when? Who else was living there? The interviews,
cumulatively, give the sense that this is more than just of historical
interest. At the time, it would have been an item of gossip, of
important social information. Because in the circumstance of housing
inadequate in size and in quality and over-priced as well, information
about new places where it would be safe (permitted) to live was
of some immediate consequence. It might even be an interesting
project to map the locations mentioned in the interviews by date
The interviews are interesting in varying degree. My favorite
was actually the last, with Dr. Barbara Bowman, the head of the
Erikson Institute, a graduate school affiliated with Loyola University
in Chicago. This was mostly because of her discussion of her work
and the application of Erik Erikson's model of child development
For me, the most intriguing interviews were with Jimmy Ellis
and Morris Ellis, brothers and successful musicians. These interviews
caught my attention concerning a topic mentioned in almost in
passing: the merger of the segregated Black Musicians Union Local
208 with the white Chicago Local 10. Both brothers are rather
bitter about the merger, on the face of it a victory for civil
rights, because they feel Black musicians ended up losing more
than gaining anything from it. Both quit the union. What I find
particularly interesting about this is the thought of how much
more there may be to this story.
Musicians, performing artists in general and many other skilled
trades unions, are not just workers. Musicians can also be bosses
by being bandleaders or even impresarios. They are also property
owners, landlords in a sense, by being owners of intellectual
property. If they become sufficiently successful, they might become
themselves property: stars, "hot commodities". Many
unions recognize this by circumscribing the roles their members
can play in the union depending upon their role in the profession.
For example, one of the scandals that rolled off Ronald Reagan
like egg off teflon was the question of whether he was really
eligible to serve as President of the Screen Actors Guild based
on his role in producing the TV series "Death Valley Days"
(he was more than just the Host).
Indeed, Morris Ellis gives Red Saunders a disgruntled, sanctioned
member of Local 208 and a major community impresario, an unspecified
major role in bringing about the merger. Saunders had been sanctioned
because, Ellis says, Local 208 finally stopped letting Saunders
get "away with all kinds of stuff" in his employment
practices at his place of business. Given that Black praises both
the Ellis brothers as being businessmen as well as musicians and
given the nature of their specific complaints, one wonders just
whose ox was really gored by the merger and what else may have
happened to hurt the working Black musician. What intrigues me
is the thought that the merger and other changes in the music
entertainment business may be a great case study for what happened
to the larger community that Timuel Black is documenting: an after
the fact canary in the mine, so to speak.
Readers with an interest in history will find other such nuggets
of interest in these interviews. I'm serious when I suggest this
volume may be a worthwhile place to look for dissertation topics.
Scholars are one of Black's target audiences. The other is
"young black people under the age of forty" who know
little of this history. I'm a bit dubious as Americans in general
and The Kids These Days in particular tend to be fairly ahistorical.
But the timing of release of this book is great as many others
are thinking along the same lines. One example is the HistoryMakers
that on March 13 had an affair at the Palmer House where they
honored several dozen historical notables, including Timuel Black.
I think we are seeing the construction of a Myth comparable
to the classic American taming or winning of the "Wild West".
Myth is a necessary part of civilization, but there's always collateral
damage in such projects. Some may be concerned about scholarship
(always a casualty) but there are political concerns as well.
The HistoryMakers web site has an interesting institutional and
biographical dictionary wherein all ideology is erased from radicalism.
It's possible, for example, that Bobby Rush today would not object
to the Black Panther Party being described as simply a "progressive
organization", but I can't help but wonder what he would
have thought back then.
There's also a personal concern. Heroism is a great way of
setting the imagination afire, of priming ambition with possibilities
other than the often self-destructive hedonism of the consumer
culture. But luck always plays a role. For all the heroes feted
by such projects as the HistoryMakers, there are uncounted casualties
buried anonymously along the road, out of sight, out of mind.
The dark side of the heroic myth is that even in these relatively
benign times, it is the equivalent of encouraging human wave assaults
against automatic weapons.
It will be interesting to see to what extent, if at all, the
next two volumes of Timuel Black's work deal with ideology and
ideological organizations. In the meantime, if you have an interest
in history, buy this book. (The Chicago Public Library has many
copies, but you won't find them!)
by Perry Cartwright
Before I lose all of my declining memory, I think it might
be a good idea to write down why I became a radical.
My radicalism has always been a puzzle, and at times an embarrassment,
to my family. Sorry for any pain it may have caused. But the longer
causes and consequences remain. So does my faith in the ultimate
vindication of the things I stood for.
The roots of my radicalism go back a long way: to the Great
Depression of the 1930s. My dad became Postmaster of York, South
Carolina, in 1933, so our family never suffered. But three uncles
did. They had to come home with their families and to live with
Granddaddy. Their humiliation was palpable.
We all listened to FDR's "We have nothing to fear but
fear itself" speech. All four cotton mills in York shut down
for two years. Malnutrition was prevalent. Workers went out into
the nearby woods to pick green plants in the hope of warding off
pellagra. Brother Tom and I helped mother distribute Christmas
baskets to the same families two years in a row. She pointed out
to us how lucky we were. Class differences were pretty obvious.
Then came the great drought of 1934. Daddy volunteered to allow
our ten acre backyard for the purpose of corralling ten thousand
cows. The New Deal had bought up several million starving cows
in the parched Great Plains and brought them to the saturated
Southeast. They were sent out to local farmers who were hurting
from 5 cent cotton. That started the beef industry in the Southeast.
Brother Tom went on to become a noted animal geneticist.
I saw a beneficit government action, unrelated to private enterprise,
which really helped farmers in both South Dakota and South Carolina.
Also watched the Civilian Conservation Corps use unemployed young
men to contour-grade eroding farms. Also saw the WPA build a new
football field and pave some roads. The economy began to pick-up;
Keynesian economics they call it now.
One day a few of us kids were playing softball in the yard.
My dad came home and saw a black kid up at bat. That night he
asked me why the black boy was allowed to bat. "Because he
had been fielding and it was his turn to bat," I answered.
"In South Carolina we don't never let niggers come to
bat," snarled my dad. Where was the Presbyterian fairness
in that? Strom Thurmond would probably have added, "But we
do let 'em come to bed with us."
There was an Episcopal orphanage in York. I befriended Archie
Lee Chandler who was there because his widowed mother couldn't
afford to feed him and his sister. I brought him home to visit,
hitchhiked around the state and got to be great friends. He greatly
appreciated life outside the orphanage. We talked some politics
too. Fifty years later Archie was Chief Justice of the South Carolina
Supreme Court (and still a little bit liberal).
In 1939-40 I attended the University of South Carolina. Made
the Dean's list. But the following fall I hitchhiked out west.
Rode the rails and met unemployed white men looking for work.
I spent the fall working on a potato farm in Idaho. Hard work
and poverty, American style.
The next summer I hitchhiked up to Canada with an old friend
Erskine Smith. Maybe the change in latitude affected my brain.
I joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. In June, 1942, His Majesty
George V, King by the grace of God, etc, etc, bestowed upon a
country boy from South Carolina a set of wings along with a commission
as Pilot Officer. Also got a snappy uniform, which didn't hurt
my social life a bit.
Possibly the best thing I got out of my year in Canada was
to confront some strange new prejudices. Who, in South Carolina,
ever thought of hating a French Canadian? I'd always thought of
them as jolly fellows who rowed canoes while singing Allouette.
Can you imagine my surprise when Protestants from Ontario informed
me that those "pea soupers, frogs, papists" were conspiring
to turn Canada into a vassal of the Vatican?
Also, anti-Semitism was quite negligible in the small town
South where I grew up. But in Canada, I learned from my fellow
Americans, that maybe Hitler wasn't all wrong about the Jews.
How terribly wrong and confused those bigots seemed to be.
Everyone ought to know that the only permissible prejudice was
against colored people! I just couldn't add this new load of bias.
So I dumped the whole load.
Canadians are a pleasant people. They kind of hit a happy medium
between the good points of the British and the Americans. Still
have friends up there. Later on I became a bit embarrassed and
ashamed at the contrast between the behavior of American servicemen
In March 1943, I was sent to Britain. Coastal Command personnel
were integrated directly into the RAF. For the next year I lived
British. Fortunes of war dictated that I would visit every corner
of the country. Due to my status as a young serviceman, and an
officer, and a triple nationality (American, Canadian and British),
I was privileged to have first hand experience with more different
social strata than almost any Britisher was likely to have. It
was fun and educational. I liked the British but didn't like their
stuffy class consciousness. In America, we try to hide class differences.
In Britain, they flaunt 'em. Our squadron was housed briefly in
a castle that had been sequestered for the duration. The 17th
Century feudal landlord family had been bought out by a 19th Century
mill owner. He installed a silver bathtub. One day I stood in
the silver bathtub, and looked through the window down at the
squalid mill-village below. The mill workers still had tin bathtubs
to bathe in. I didn't have to be Charles Dickens to figure out
the gross unfairness of silver vs. tin.
I dated a Land Army girl a few times. The Land Army was a government
agency which recruited young women to work on the farms during
the wartime labor shortage. She was a college student, very smart,
very proper. On her day off, we went over to Stonehenge. She explained
to me the antiquity of the mysterious monoliths. "These Druids
painted themselves blue. They practiced human sacrifice, possibly
even cannibalism," she recalled in Mayfair accents. "It's
rather disconcerting to think that we British were still doing
that sort of thing while they were already building great civilizations
in Asia and Africa." Not a very radical thought today, but
a liberating thought for a young WASP in 1943.
That friendship might have gone some place, but I was soon
transferred to Long Kesh, Northern Ireland. Long Kesh was a RAF
base in WWII. That was the war fought to free Europe from German
rule. Nowadays, Long Kesh is a concentration camp where the British
put Irish patriots fighting to free their country from British
We patrolled the North Atlantic looking for German subs. Later
I was sent to Turnberry, Scotland, then Thornaby, Yorkshire, then
to King's Lynn, Norfolk. From there to a real atrocity, the destruction
of Hamburg. For three days the USAAF bombed the city with incendiary
bombs. For three nights the RAF followed up with high explosives.
The first man made firestorm in history developed. 100,000 people
died, 1,000,000 were left homeless. The Chief Marshall of the
RAF told us, "Gentlemen, try to find your assigned target.
But if you can't find it, then drop your bombs on any town. Our
primary objective is to bomb the German working class out of its
This talk about class warfare, coming from a Tory gentleman,
sure surprised me. I had been taught that it was very naughty
to think about such things. It did whet my appetite to learn more
I was assigned to a very cosmopolitan squadron. British, Canadians,
Americans, plus Norwegians, Dutch, French, and Polish fliers who
had fled from occupied Europe. They were the cream of anti-fascists,
both in deed and understanding. We talked between raids about
the political differences between fascism, Anglo-American capitalism,
and socialism. Our CO, a prototypal "Colonel Blimp"
tried to discourage any political discussion about the shape of
the post-war world. He went ballistic one night when Australian
navigator J. C. H. Handfield opined that (1) if we didn't stop
killing endangered species like tigers, we'd exterminate them,
and (2) that the Empire was probably going to have to grant independence
Blimp, an old India hand, roared "Gads, I'm actually afraid
to let you blokes take off in the morning. You might fly straight
to Russia, taking one of His Majesty's aircraft with you."
That did it. If things like environmentalism and national independence,
were going to be called communism then I was going to have to
be against Red baiting.
I had my adventures, and escapades, but I'm trying to concentrate
on those things that drove me leftward. I met an astute Jewish
girl from the east end of London. She and her sister were activists
in the Labour party. They were forever going to meetings to popularize
the Beveridge Plan. That was the detailed program drawn up by
Sir William Beveridge for a post-war health and pension system.
It became the basis for the 1945 Labour victory. Similar programs
were voted in all of western Europe. Even today, the Conservatives
dare not try to dismantle those universally popular institutions.
Naturally, my own political evolution was accelerated.
Well, finally, I transferred to the U.S. Army Air Force. The
pay and post-war benefits were better. The USAAF looked at my
service record and decided that I had done enough combat. I ended
up flying hospital planes loaded with the wounded. Up until that
time I had experienced a somewhat "glamorous" war, but
a year of flying those blind and burned and paralyzed men took
all the glamour out of it. I've been an unashamed peacenik ever
On July 16, 1945 we took a load of wounded into the E1 Paso,
Texas airport. The control officer asked me if New Mexico was
still there when we flew over it, "because it looked like
the whole state blew up last night, up in the direction of Alamogordo."
It was the site of the first nuclear test. On July 28 my brother
Tom was shot down over Hiroshima, Japan. He and his crew were
captured and put into the city jail. Tom, because he was the pilot,
was taken on to Tokyo for questioning. That saved his life. His
whole crew were in the city jail when the bomb went off. Months
later, the occupation forces recovered bits of their remains.
Forty years later the U.S. government finally permitted a documentary
to be made about American prisoners who perished in Hiroshima.
Didn't want to be hasty or to suggest that Americans too can die
in nuclear war.
This traumatic event climaxed four years of on the job training
for a drastic break with the status quo. After the war I enrolled
at New York University. Since then I've put in fifty plus years
of activity in the peace, civil rights and labor movements.
I joined the Socialist Workers Party. I felt that the Communist
party was undemocratic. We ran election campaigns, marched in
giant union marches against the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Law, protested
at the Dutch consulate against the Dutch attempt to re-conquer
Indonesia. Those things were the last great radical demonstrations
before the Cold War set in, and before the eruption of McCarthyism.
Then I went to sea. The Socialist Workers Party had a sizable
group of young seamen in the National Maritime Union. We were
against the Communist party leadership. Mistakenly, we sided with
the right-wingers, who won. They promptly turned against Socialists,
lumping us in with Communists. We learned a bitter lesson.
I made voyages to Buenos Aires, to Beirut, all over Europe.
Great experience. Visited socialists and saw their courage in
fighting repressive dictatorships. On my last voyage I got arrested
in Alexandria, Egypt, for having some radical pamphlets in my
pocket. I intended to take them to some university students, but
was betrayed by a fellow sailor. The police said, "We have
been asking questions for 6000 years, and getting answers for
6000 years [torture threat]. In rich countries like America they
can afford some democracy. We can't." I never told them who
my contacts were. A year later my grateful Egyptian contacts sent
profuse thanks. The whole episode made headlines.
My seaman's papers were cancelled when I got back to New York.
It's a free and equal country as long as you are a conservative.
So I returned to NYU for a year.
Then the party asked me to move to Flint, Michigan, for union
activity. Flint was the real key battle in 1937 to form the United
Auto Workers. The tradition was still alive in 1952. But the Red
Scare was at its peak. Union militancy faded, never to really
In 1954 I married Jean Fowler, a local school teacher. She
was non-political, but her school board tried to fire her for
marrying a socialist. We fought them and won, but again, I saw
that the ruling class permits only those ideas with which it agrees.
In 1955 we moved to Chicago. The McCarthyite Red Scare had
chilled the atmosphere. Socialist activity almost halted. Spies
and provocateurs infiltrated the movement (a la Russia). Sons
George and Carl were born in the late 1950s.
I went into sales to support the family. We bought a little
house in Hyde Park. Jean taught school.
About that time I became business manager for a little publication
called "Southern Newsletter." We advocated working class
unity across racial lines, desegregation, and unionizing the South.
We worked with Don West, Carl and Ann Braden, Myles Horton, and
other southern leftists. Well, history records that the unionizing
failed, but de-segregation became a great historic victory.
We had another victory. In 1959 the House Un-American Activities
Committee subpoenaed me to Atlanta. They had made a deal with
the governor of Georgia to smear the de-segregation movement as
a communist plot. They thought I would take the 5th Amendment.
I didn't, and made a speech denouncing their very Un-American
plot. The Chairman finally had me led off the witness stand. The
whole show made headlines. The Committee went out of business
the next year. I'd like to modestly claim a tiny bit of credit
for that human rights victory.
By the time of the 1960s youthful radicalism, I was into my
40s. I had heavy family duties but did march with Veterans for
Peace. The 1960s movement brought the wicked Vietnam War to an
However the 60s radicalism had two fatal flaws. It was all
middle class, which failed to bring in the working class. The
other thing that killed it was dope and libertine living.
By the 1980s I was living in the suburbs and working very long
hours to support my increased family responsibilities. But during
that decade, I worked with the West Suburban Interfaith Peace
Initiative. Allied with a national peace movement, we had a lot
of success in halting the mad bombers, and bringing about nuclear
détente with the Soviet Union.
1989 was an historic year. Communism came apart. It had fallen
behind the West in producing consumer goods.
Great excitement permeated the new American Left: a mixture
of old radicals and 1960s New Left radicals. A bunch of us organized
the Midwest Scholars and Activists Conference. It ran pretty successfully
for eight years. The Conference set off much good discussion.
It sought to unite the "Tribes of the Left" which had
become feasible due to the waning of fights between Socialists,
Communists, and Social Democrats.
Two large new ideas emerged. A group of thinkers led by Carl
Davidson laid out the idea of "Cy-Rev",
that the computer revolution had fundamentally altered the structure
of society. The theorizing continues.
The other idea, which I have pushed, is market socialism, which
holds that the old top-down, controlled, and totaled planned "communism"
failed. It must be replaced with a publicly owned economy but
one in which production is guided by the market. It seeks to combine
the equity of the socialist ideal with the proven productivity
of (boom time) capitalism.
So here I sit, the 81 year old patriarch of a successful family
of kids and grandkids. Makes me feel that I've had, at least,
some success in life.
On the other hand, I'm a creaky old partisan of an historic
movement that is at a low-point for the moment. My solace is that
American Imperialism is about as creaky as I am, as creaky as
British Imperialism was 100 years ago or the Roman Empire 1500
years ago. It shows many of the symptoms that foretold the demise
of other empires. It displays an alienating arrogance to the rest
of the world. It sends much of its productive capacity abroad,
not seeming to understand the obvious fact that this becomes a
fatal weakness. It lets its ruling class get richer, while the
rest of its people get poorer.
Some popular upheaval will change it and set up something better.
We socialists have learned some historical humility from the mistakes
we've made. So I won't attempt to describe it in advance. I'll
not be around but I can take some satisfaction from knowing that
I helped to lay the ground work.
Tickets must be reserved no later than Tuesday,
May 4. A limited number of tickets may be available at the
door at $50 per person. Make sure you and your organization
appear in the program book! Please call us for further details:
Or, for a PDF format flyer, click here.
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compiled by Bob Roman
Planned Parenthood is coordinating bus transportation from
Chicago to the April 25th March for Women's Lives in Washington,
DC. At last word, tickets will cost $125. Both DSA nationally
and Chicago DSA have endorsed the march, and Chicago DSA has set
aside some money to help subsidize Chicago DSA members and YDS
members wishing to go but unable. We don't insist that your dues
be up-to-date, but you do need to be a member. Just how large
a subsidy depends upon how many apply. Please call the office
prior to April 13.
By all accounts (and we had hoped to have one for you) the
YDS "Life After Bush" Conference in New York last February
20 - 22 was a successful outreach event. Some 300 people attended,
mostly non-members. Locally, the UofC YDS chapter packed a classroom
to hear DSA NPC member Ron Baiman talk about socialist economics.
Chicago DSA has added historic sound to its web site. The first,
apropos to Health Care Action Day, is a 1971 half hour "infomercial"
by Dr. David Stark Murray on the British National Health System.
This was done at a time when a National Health Insurance program
(something Britain has had since the turn of the last century)
seemed a real possibility here in the States. Dr. Murray was for
many years the head of the Socialist Medical Association and one
of the chief architects of their National Health System. He has
a lot to say that is still quite relevant about social medicine
today. The second recording is an event from 1958: a joint appearance
here in Chicago by Norman Thomas and Max Shachtman speaking on
the topic of socialism. This was an event that lasted, including
questions and answers, nearly two hours so it has been divided
into five segments. We are using very basic (and inexpensive!)
technology. The recordings are posted to the web as mp3 formatted
files. Thus they are very large and we do not recommend downloads
for persons with only a dial-up connection; it will take a long
time. The recordings are available on computer CD or audiocassette
for $5 each though if you're busted we'll send you a copy gratis.
for more details.
The lease was up and they had to move. Because Soho had become
way trendy and expensive, there was no way the National Office
could have stayed. Instead, they moved downtown to a block away
from where the World Trade Center stood and rents, because of
pending redevelopment, are relatively low. Their new address is:
198 Broadway, Suite 700, New York, NY 10038. The phone number
There they go again. The Republicans are proposing budget rules
that pretend to control the ballooning deficit by requiring counterbalancing
cuts in programs whenever an increase in spending is proposed.
Never mind taxes, for the only appropriate policy is to cut taxes.
Unemployment up? Cut taxes. Unemployment down? Cut taxes. Inflation
up? Cut taxes. Inflation down? Cut taxes. Federal revenue up,
down, unchanged? Cut taxes. One has to admire their consistency
even if their arguments are vacuous.
But what's worse is their proposed cuts: Education and Training
7%; Environment 20%; Health Care 11%; Justice System
16%; Veterans' medical benefits 17%. Veterans' benefits!
The amazing gall of these creatures! Do they think no one will
For more information on how you can help oppose this travesty,
go the Fair Taxes for All Coalition (of which Chicago DSA is a
member) web site: http://www.fairtaxes4all.org.
How times have changed. Some decades ago, the Chicago Historical
Society and the Chicago Labor History Society put up a plaque
commemorating the Haymarket affair on the wall of the Catholic
Charities Building, just down the street from the old police statue
that told the police side of the affair. This was in the early
1970s and the Weathermen had bombed the statue. The City had just
restored it and the site was guarded 24/7. Nonetheless, the plaque
on the wall of the Catholic Charities Building hardly lasted a
week before it mysteriously disappeared. No one saw a thing.
Now, as part of a beautification project, the City of Chicago
has commissioned sculptor Mary Brogger to create a bronze work
on the theme of Haymarket and the First Amendment. The sculpture
will be located in the Haymarket. This is a good thing, yet...
Irony piles upon irony here because it was not until the 1920s,
through the work of the new American Civil Liberties Union, that
the First Amendment was considered to have any relevance at all
to public property. Governmental bodies, such as municipalities,
were considered to have the same rights over "their"
property as any private landowner. If they did not like what you
had to say, they didn't have to let you say it. If you're wondering
why the Industrial Workers of the World had to flood Seattle (and
Seattle's jails) with soapbox orators in 1919, now you know.