The Wall Street Journal called us "global village idiots."
James Wolfensohn, president of the World Bank Group, called us
"ill advised." Even some of our own comrades on the
Left and within DSA itself believe that those of us who participated
in the media spectacle called A16 are anything from silly, middle-class,
privileged kids to dangerously misguided and disorganized fools.
Let me relieve you of any of your misapprehensions.
I scheduled a week of vacation from my job and boarded a plane
to Washington National Airport on Tuesday. I had arranged for
a place to stay with some women I had never met before: Lindsay,
an ex-Chicagoan who was active in the movement to bring anti-racist
politics and thinking to Chicago's queer activist communities,
and Alexis. After a quick ride on DC's impressive public transport
system, I arrived at their home in Columbia Heights, a racially
and economically mixed neighborhood undergoing gentrification,
a few miles directly north of the White House. I would be on my
own for the beginning of my visit; Robyn and Charity, my comrades
from Chicago, would arrive later in the week.
It took just a few moments before I realized that my host lived
at the organizational epicenter of activities for the week. The
Mobilization for Global Justice's Convergence Center was a short
walk (past the pack of television cameras that faced the door
of the Cuban Interest Section on 16th Street NW) as were the other
venues for the weeks events.
During the first few days of my visit to Washington, DC, I
surveyed my options and the city. I attended a variety of educational
workshops: the World Bank Bond boycott, third-world women's activism
against the IMF and World Bank, the bourgeois and worker's histories
of the two institutions, women activists in the third-world and
the impact of structural adjustment programs on women.
These were just the events I attended; there was no shortage
of opportunities to become enlightened on the devastating effects
of structural adjustment policies, liberalism, and political economy
in general and in specific. Various organizations from ACT UP
to local DC Universities hosted well-attended day-long teach-ins,
conferences, and panel discussions. Local DC community organizations
even joined in the efforts by inviting the visiting activists
to their ward and ethnic community forums that coincided with
the week of activities. Officials from the IMF and World Bank
had even agreed to a public debate against our own forces of truth
and right. At the same time, the Mobilization's Convergence Center
offered a different array of possibilities: daily trainings in
non-violence, jail solidarity, blockades, legal and medical support
with special sessions to deal with issues of gender, race, and
Throughout the week, I wandered the city and bumped into more
than a chance handful of comrades from Chicago, some of whom I
had never met before and who lived in my own neighborhood of Uptown.
On Thursday, the frenzied atmosphere of the District really
began to take hold of the residents and the increasing numbers
of protesters. I spent the morning with Harold Taggart at the
weekly audience our fine Illinois senators grant their constituents.
Unfortunately, the senators spent that morning pandering to schoolchildren
who asked standard "provocative" questions that received
less than provocative answers and avoiding questions from the
herd of Steelworkers who also filled the overcrowded room.
Later, after breakfast, I happened upon a small but noisy rebellion
against Starbucks at one of their shops on a corner in Dupont
Circle. The crowd of activists, young and old, overflowed onto
the street and gathered many stares and comments from passers-by.
Throughout the rest of the day, I rode the trains around the city
and continuously bumped into people who had just arrived in town
for the weekend's protests.
Thursday night, I secured my agenda for the remainder of my
visit when I attended the nightly "spokescouncil" meeting.
These meetings had been occurring for the previous five evenings,
but I had foregone attending them because I was still unsure of
my readiness to participate in the planned actions. I was afraid
that I would be letting myself down if I missed out on this opportunity
and instead merely attended the legal rally on Sunday. However,
everyone I met who sought to participate in the action appeared
to be much more prepared for the possibility of arrest and more
organized in that they were already in affinity groups. I, on
the other hand, would necessarily neglect my supervisory obligations
at work if I were arrested and I hadn't any idea of how to form
an affinity group.
The spokescouncil meeting was unlike anything I had ever seen.
Hundreds of people filled the sanctuary of a local church. Anyone
except the media was allowed to attend, but only "empowered
spokes" one person from each affinity group who wore a flashy
paper party hat were allowed to speak.
After a few opening remarks and triumphant protest songs, the
facilitator, a woman named Starhawk, led an exercise where people
stood up and yelled out their vision of victory for the action
on Sunday. An impressive array arose from the crowd. Many activists
said that they wished to shut the meetings down, a very tangible
goal. Several others wanted respectable mainstream media coverage.
Some prayed for our own safety and sanity. Many hoped that we
could set an example for others who would seek us out and join
us to participate in similar, upcoming actions. The most memorable
vision came from one woman who stood up and said that she hoped
that the people of the world would see that Americans are willing
to put their privilege on the line and stand with them to resist
injustice, violence, and poverty.
The facilitators began to describe the scenario for Sunday
as it was currently conceived. The map of the city surrounding
the IMF and World Bank buildings was divided into over a dozen
"pie slices." Affinity groups would choose to either
secure a slice of the pie or to be a "flying squad,"
meaning that the affinity group would float around the protest
area at its own directive. The planning committee had designated
four meeting places where the incoming busloads from around the
country would drop their loads to disseminate throughout the area.
The DC cops had taken it upon themselves to assist us in shutting
down the city on Sunday and Monday mornings by erecting barricades
around our target buildings. The plan appeared to be that we should
confront the police at their barricades. However, at the time,
all of this seemed very perplexing.
Fortunately, the facilitators interrupted the meeting so that
new people could break out and form affinity groups. Still unsure
of myself, I went with the flow and found myself in a room of
activists. Many were more unsure and confused by the terminology
and the scenario than I was. A man from the Mobilization assisted
us in deciding what sort of affinity group each of us would like
to be in based on the amount of risk we wished to take and what
sort of experience we had.
My affinity group ended up consisting of a random bunch: an
Israeli environmental activist and member of Hadash, three local
high school students, a Canadian, a documentary filmmaker, Alexis,
Robyn, and Charity. We would meet again the following day at the
local office of Friends of the Earth. After the spokescouncil
meeting adjourned, the Israeli environmentalist got me drunk on
tequila and we mused for a few hours on the problems of the American
Left and the failings of the Mid-East peace process.
The next evening Friday I spent in still more planning meetings.
I was operating on little sleep and no time to eat, so my momentum
came only from the promise of excitement on Sunday. The spokescouncil
meeting had increased dramatically in size such that people stood
in stairwells, looked in from outside through the windows, and
crowded onto the balcony and stage of the church's sanctuary.
The agenda was similar to Thursday evening's meeting, but with
more detail. As a representative of a new affinity group, I was
required to choose what our task would be during the action. We
had decided earlier to be part of a blockade, so we joined in
a pie spoke cluster which already contained just about a dozen
other affinity groups. Of course, the cluster required yet another
meeting as well, which lasted until 1 o'clock Saturday morning.
Saturday began with a fright. I woke up and found that the
Convergence Center had been raided and shut down by the DC police.
Apparently, the cops had a bundle of rags and a can of paint thinner
with Molotov Cocktails and vegan vegetable soup with pepper spray.
Within an hour, the organizers had opened a new center, but all
of their supplies, puppets, and cooking materials were still locked
up in the old center. Later in the day, the lawyers for the Mobilization
were able to have the puppets released from their captivity. However,
discouragement had affected some members of our affinity group
and we lost three members to paranoia and rumors of planned violence
On Sunday, our affinity group met at 20th and I Streets NW
at 6 a.m. When we arrived, I could see a small line of people
stretched across the intersection. I ran to join them. Just as
we were locked arm in arm, a fleet of police motorcycles and a
cruiser came speeding right up to us. The motorcycles were able
to get around us, but the cruiser had to turn away. In just a
few more minutes, hundreds of other people arrived on the scene
and we moved a block south to face the police barricade at 20th
and Pennsylvania. There we remained for the next eight hours as
we prevented delegates, media, police, and even an angry resident
who just wanted to take his Burger King meal home with him from
crossing through our line.
All possibilities of fear were taken away, and so was all boredom
nixed. For eight hours, we were audience to impromptu percussion
outfits and jazz ensembles, radical anti-capitalist lesbian cheerleaders,
street theater, and parades full of puppets. We gave interviews
to media while we loudly called out people in the crowd who looked
like potential delegates who might want to cross our line. Everyone
who passed by us commented that we were doing a great job. A family
of tourists snapped our pictures and shook our hands. Some bystanders
claimed to envy us in our collective power and dedication; two
even joined us.
Around 10 a.m., we learned that we had not been successful
in stopping the meetings but that some delegates had been unable
to pass through our barricades. Our blockade had to make a decision:
would we abandon our line? A roving gang of black-bloc anarchists
confronted us and reminded us that we were not alone. Just a block
away at 21st and Pennsylvania, many activists were locked to each
other. If we were to leave, they would be more susceptible to
police violence. At that point, our decision was simple: we held
our blockade in solidarity until they were finished. At 2 p.m.
and with vicious sunburns and bloated bladders, we abandoned our
line and returned to dull reality.
As befits a city on the edge of the plains, Chicago's May Day
was a sprawling event, underpopulated for the space it occupied,
but noisy, fun, educational at times, and possibly even politically
The events began to be planned soon after the Battle in Seattle.
Though "planning" is a loose description of the process
where there were a multitude of socialist, anarchist, communist
and religious cooks throwing vegetables and tofu into the stew
and frequently at each other. Tasks were accomplished whenever
an individual was inspired to move, not infrequently far too late
to be very effective. Yet, come May Day, it happened. It is a
wonderful thing that such a bumblebee could fly. That it flew
so well may be a sign of the times.
Chicago DSA and Chicago DSA members were among the significant
players in this "conspiracy", along with the Open University
of the Left, the HotHouse, Hammerhard MediaWorks, Eighth Day Center
for Justice, Art and Revolution, Jobs with Justice, Chicago Coalition
for the Homeless, Pueblo sin Fronteras, Chicago Greens, SEIU,
AFSC and the Illinois Labor History Society, to name just a few
of the 45 participating organizations. One often heard speculation
about the Chicago Police Department as being among the informal
participants in the planning process.
Educational and fundraising activities preceded the main event.
The Open University of the Left organized a series of five panels
addressing, in various ways, the question typically posed to protestants:
if you don't like this system, what would you replace it with?
Four of these were held at Loyola's near north campus on Saturday,
April 29th. A fifth was held on Chicago's near south side, at
the HotHouse on Sunday afternoon, April 30th, followed by a highly
successful fundraising party at the same location. Some of these
events were sparsely attended indeed while others had quite an
May Day dawned, warm and rainy, with some 200 demonstrators
outside Chicago's Board of Trade. This was originally planned
as the start of a morning of civil disobedience and as such it
attracted the full attention of the news media. Anarchists and
journalists were crestfallen that it went no further than being
a large, noisy picket line, but this did mean that journalists
had to at least mention the issues presented by the demonstrators.
The main event was three noontime marches which all came together
for a 1 PM rally at Tribune Tower on Chicago's near north side.
Chicago DSA joined the largest of the three, which approximated
the route of the "original" May Day march (historian
Bill Adelman confided that they were unable to establish the exact
route) up Michigan Avenue.
The major theme of the Michigan Avenue march was to have been
support for the Day Laborers Organizing Project. In fact, aside
from a stop at the Art Institute in support of SEIU's organizing
efforts there, it was difficult to discern any particular message;
the march was a potpourri of protest, puppets, ideology and plumage.
Some 700 participants danced and shuffled their way up a rainy
Michigan Avenue to the Tribune Tower, where they were joined by
several hundred marchers from Chicago's west side Puerto Rican
and Mexican communities. The rally at the Tribune Tower was an
ending for May Day 2000 in Chicago, not a period but an ellipsis,
which was followed by another rally that afternoon in Chicago's
Loop, which will be followed by
The 42nd Annual Debs-Thomas- Harrington Dinner, held in the
ornate ball room of the Congress Hotel in Chicago on May 5, was
moderated by William McNary of U.S. Action and Illinois Citizen
Action, and dedicated to honoring Congresswomen Jan Schakowsky
with the annual Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner award. The dinner
was as usual, inspiring, exhilarating, and fun, but this time,
also serious and thoughtful.
Bill McNary is a man whose ability to rouse a crowd and speak
the truth is second to none. He set an upbeat and militant mood
with a joke about the cheese lobby trying to include cheese in
the communion through extravagant financial "contributions".
He noted the just breaking news of the tremendous victory of the
Northwest Suburban "Justice for Janitors" campaign.
Bill's energetic and passionate oratory was matched by Carl
Shier's heartfelt introduction to Jan Schakowsky. He noted her
long history of unbending and principled leadership for progressive
causes and her renown organizing skills which allowed her prevail
in the race for the 9th District seat in Congress.
The much loved and venerated (by progressives!) Congresswomen
Jan Schakowsky next accepted the award with great emotion and
thanked some of the important people in her life many of them
past awardees for working with her on her chosen path. Jan noted
how she is trying to exploit her "nugget of power" as
much as possible, most recently by helping to move Democratic
Party debate on prescription drugs costs in the direction of price
controls rather than toward more "business friendly"
(and ineffective) policies. Her rallying cry for the evening was
that: "Progressives need to stop whining and start winning!"
In his remarks, DSA's National Director, Horace Small, built
further on this theme by stressing that "the new DSA is not
the old one" in that the new one is much more committed and
serious about activism. He cited the leading role that the "new
DSA" played in the Washington anti-IMF/World Bank demonstrations.
This included bringing more than 300 people to DC and his serving
as co-chair, with Michael Moore, of the main teach-in rally before
the demonstrations which was broadcast on C-Span and received
other press coverage.
The featured speaker at the dinner was Harold Meyerson, editor
of the LA Weekly, prolific writer for Dissent and other left media,
DSA strategist and visionary, and one of the foremost political
commentators on the left. Meyerson gave a talk which, in the best
tradition of democratic socialism, was unlike a typical (non-democratic
socialist!) post awards dinner talk deep, serious, and intensely
thought provoking and engaging. This was a serous discussion of
the burning issue of our times to which the dinner was dedicated:
"Fighting Back: Building the New Movement Against Corporate
Greed and Globalization."
He started with a description of his recent experiences in
Seattle and with the Justice for Janitor's strike in L.A., claiming
that both represented a turning point that they dramatically increased
public awareness of the magnitude and dimensions of the fight
against capital and global capital. He highlighted in particular
his astonishment at watching on-lookers in Beverly Hills spontaneously
contribute cash to "Justice for Janitors" demonstrators
as they marched through their neighborhood.
In the case of the "Justice for Janitors Campaign",
he noted that the "solution" was clear and straightforward:
recognize the union and raise wages and benefits for the janitors.
However, he claimed that in the struggle against corporate globalization,
the movement knows more about what it is against than what it
is for. For example we are clearly against plant closings and
20% and then 40% reductions in living standards in already desperately
poor countries like Indonesia, because of an IMF restructuring
program, but is not so clear what we are for.
Meyerson noted that some on the left (Corn and Cooper in The
Nation) have set a two year "deadline" for the movement
against "free trade" to have definable goals. He contended
that the problem is deeper than just setting goals, saying that
the left needs to provide an in-depth analysis and find models
and workable reforms with which to even grapple with and understand
the brave new world of corporate globalization. He cited in particular,
the work of Jane D'Arista, of the Economic Policy Institute and
University of Boston, who has outlined a plan for a "democratic
Federal Reserve" for the world in which rich nations would
have half the votes and the most populist poor nations the other
half. Meyerson noted that this was structured much like Michael
Harrington's proposal for a global "Economic Security Council"
outlined in his last book: Socialism Past and Future.
On a more concrete institutional level, Meyerson claimed that
two institutions standout as "Archimedean points" of
leverage for organizing for a more democratic and just world economic
order. The first is the European Union, which for all of its failings,
is a multinational body which has attempted to set politically-based
(as opposed to market-imposed) standards for worker rights, and
other environmental and social programs, which "level up".
This effort is in contrast to the exclusively commercial and property
rights "leveling down" focus of the WTO, for example.
Meyerson's second key organization was more surprising. He
drew an historical analogy to the role of the early railroad and
steel unions in the U.S. which were the first national organizations
to oppose the already national (and not local or state) power
of the large corporations at a time when federal governance was
minimal. Like these early U.S. industrial unions, Meyerson claims
that the U.S. AFL-CIO has emerged as one of the strongest supporters
of international labor standards. This he attributes to the earlier
and more extensive experience of the U.S. labor movement with
the devastating impact of "free trade" policies (most
notably NAFTA). A "free trade" impact which European
Unions, for example, are just now beginning to experience.
He also cited John Sweeny's comments to the "biggest players"
(overwhelmingly corporate and rich-country, lobbyists and representatives)
at the neo-liberal international economics confab at Davos, Switzerland.
In this forum Sweeny has come out in direct opposition to the
neo-liberal agenda, stating that: "A world organized solely
as a market cannot and should not survive."
Meyerson concluded his remarks by claiming that the new AFL-CIO
is really a "Harringtonite" institution in that it has
recognized the importance of broad coalitions with other progressive
constituencies and the need for global social-democracy if not
democratic socialism. Perhaps we have indeed come full circle
with John Sweeney's DSA membership!
In any case few could argue that Meyerson's remarks were not
thoughtful and directed to the critical issue of our times: How
do we face the brave new world of global capital? His notion that
we in DSA may be on the programmatic and ideological cutting edge
of this battle conveyed the sense that once again history is moving
in our direction (though not in the classic Marxist sense yet!)
and was certainly invigorating for those of us who would dare
to believe this.
The dinner ended with the usual chorus of "Solidarity
Forever", but I dare say that the guests who remained to
the end of Meyerson's lengthy address were more taken by the thoughts
of the evening than by the quality of the singing!
An excellent recent reference on neo-liberalism is Arthur MacEwan's
Neo-Liberalism or Democarcy: Economic Strategy, Markets, and Alternatives
for the 21st Century (New York: Zed Press, 2000).
It happened in April, just prior to the marches protesting
the International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington, DC (in
activist lingo, "A16"). About 120 students and youth
gathered for a conference, "The Fightback - Students, Labor,
and the Corporate Economy", hosted by the Young Democratic
Socialists (YDS) and the University of Delaware Student Labor
Action Coalition (UDSLAC). The sponsors of the Fightback were:
Center for Campus Organizing, 180/Movement for Democracy in Education,
Student Alliance for the Reform in Corporations (STARC), Student
Environmental Action Coalition, United Students Against Sweatshops,
Prison Moratorium Project, Student Labor Action Project, Student
Peace Action Network, and Students United for a Responsible Global
Environment. While the largest contingents came from the Midwest
and New York State, participants came from all over the US, as
well as Canada, Mexico and Sweden.
What was remarkable about this conference was that these young
activists weren't coming to hear Manning Marable, Noam Chomsky,
Barabara Ehrenreich or other lefty icons, but to listen to and
learn from each other. The activists at the Fightback were there
to get informed about campaigns students and youth are leading.
They wanted to have conversations about how to better work together,
stay informed, and think about what kind of priorities the youth
& student movement should have. Rather than just another clearinghouse
of information by a number of different organizations, the Fightback
was a conference for youth and student activists by youth and
student activists to network, learn, and strategize.
The Fightback had its beginnings in conversations between YDS
and other national youth organizations, such as the Students in
Alliance to Reform Corporations (STARC), 180/Movement for Democracy
in Education (180/MDE) and the Center for Campus Organizing. These
organizations worried that while students are expected to become
part of mass mobilizations and to find ways to rally for progress
and change, little has been done to ensure that youth organizations
are themselves educated and trained or have a promise of existing
for more than five years. Most youth organizations receive attention
and funds when first starting out, but in many instances, as time
goes on and other new projects develop, the attention and funds
dwindle and the networks and infrastructure that were so carefully
(and sometimes not so carefully) built come tumbling down. New
organizations are built in their place, but most often without
the knowledge of the successes and failures of youth organizations
before them. Rather than building upon our history of youth activism
and politics, the wheel is re-invented and old knowledge and networks
The Young Democratic Socialists (and its predecessors) is the
exception to this rule, fortunately, because of the long-standing
support of the DSA and its predecessors. With this support, the
organization is able to keep on staff a youth organizer, which
is invaluable to the life and organization of a national youth
group. The DSA support also allows YDS to have some institutional
memory in past publications, Coordinating Committee and Conference
notes, and, of course, from the membership that goes on to be
the supporters of YDS as they themselves were once supported.
Most importantly, because of the autonomy given to YDS, it is
able to be a real youth organization that makes its own mistakes,
celebrates its own successes, and has its own decision-making
system that teaches leadership and organizational skills while
enjoying the support of DSA. Most youth organizations don't have
these luxuries. This is perhaps why YDS was integral to the formation
of the Fightback.
The conference was held at the University of Delaware, just
an hour and a half from Washington, DC, and lasted for the Friday
and Saturday before the Anti-IMF rallies. Transportation was arranged
for the attendees to go down to Washington, DC on Sunday and non-violence
training was provided for those who were interested in direct
action. Participants had a range of workshops and plenary sessions
to choose from. These were generally hosted by youth activists
engaged in the topic at hand. The topics covered included the
new opportunities for student labor alliances, the politics of
immigration, socialist feminism, environmental racism, democratizing
the university, the prison industrial complex, racism within and
outside the movement, anti-sweatshop work and the global economy,
and many more.
Most important, however, was the chance to break out into small
groups and then, finally as a complete group, discuss the issues
learned about in the workshops and plenary sessions, what it is
to be a youth activist, and what can we do to make sure others
have that opportunity. The international students - from YDS's
sister organizations in Sweden, Mexico and Canada - added an important
perspective to these questions. In the break-out sessions, participants
answered questions like, "How do we work better as a movement?",
"What should our relationships to unions and non-governmental
organizations be like?" and "What issues should be a
priority for the student movement?" Some answers focused
on what a student movement would look like and whether the US
has a coherent one, the diversity of ideologies encompassed in
student activism, and the need to keep a bottom-up decision making
process available to everyone. The discussion also touched on
the ways that corporate globalization has united many causes and
the need to look at our past to help us find ways to our future.
In sum, the conference was a great success. It was able to
bring students from far and wide to meet, discuss, and learn from
each other and it was done in a context of democratic socialism.
Many who attended were able to see democratic socialism for what
it is and liked it. Sadly, not as many student movement leaders
were in attendance as expected - drawn away to the DC pre-protest
activities organized by big NGO's - a common problem faced by
the student movement (we go to adult organizational events, but
don't support our own). But the students and youth who did attend
took the questions and information posed seriously. While not
a pivotal point in the history of the student movement, the Fightback
contributed to its continuing growth.
Special thanks is given to the Chicago DSA for its generous
contributions as a local and as individuals. Your help made much
of the conference possible. A report of the conference is in the
works and should be ready for distribution by the end of the summer.
General Wesley Clark, the general who commanded NATO forces
during the Kosovo War, took an early retirement. He stepped down
under a cloud of controversy. The war that was acclaimed as a
turning point in how war is fought demonstrated that wars could
be won by air power alone, U.S. leaders had bragged. In reality,
the war was fraught with fraudulent claims of successes. General
Clark has been chosen as the scapegoat.
In the March-April 2000 issue of New Ground, we reported that
the genocide of Kosovar Albanians was grossly exaggerated. We
also reported that the "accidental" bombing of the Chinese
Embassy in Belgrade was no accident. Now Newsweek Magazine (May
15, 2000 issue) in a story titled "The Kosovo Cover-up"
reported that the Serb army suffered little damage. This contradicts
the claim by Secretary of Defense William Cohen that Serb forces
in Kosovo had been severely crippled. For instance, Newsweek reported
that about 14 tanks had been destroyed. NATO had claimed 120 were
destroyed. Striking safely from 15,000 feet, NATO planes destroyed
far more farm wagons with a limb mounted on them than they did
tanks. The same discrepancy applied to artillery pieces and armored
vehicles. A decoy bridge was destroyed numerous times.
In this "most successful air campaign ever," billions
of dollars were wasted, the stockpile of Cruise Missiles nearly
depleted and NATO "won" what the Serbs had offered before
the war began. The Serbian military was not defeated. The Serbian
and Kosovar citizens were defeated.
Frequent conflicts and wars, valid or invalid, are necessary
to justify the huge expenditures allotted to the U.S. military.
This is done even though there is no enemy that could launch a
conventional war against our homeland. What we have to fear most
is terrorist attacks. Our frequent, baseless conflicts and wars
create the anti-American hatred that produces those terrorists.
In 1954, the Pentagon submitted to President Dwight David Eisenhower
a plan code named "end run." End Run called for a nuclear
first strike against the Soviet Union. Eisenhower asked if the
Pentagon could guarantee that no Soviet Bison or Bear long-range
heavy bombers would escape the attack and strike the United States.
The Pentagon said it couldn't. On that basis, Eisenhower did not
approve the plan to annihilate the Soviet Union and nearly 200
million people. The United States passed up the opportunity to
fulfil Hitler's dream.
Since then, the Pentagon has been obsessed with creating a
shield that would stop a counter attack if the United States launched
a nuclear attack against another nuclear power.
The speaker was Michio Kaku, professor of nuclear physics at
the City University of New York. The occasion was part of the
IMF/World Bank protest in Washington D.C. Professor Kaku spoke
on April 14, 2000 on the subject of the Ballistic Missile Defense
system, commonly called Star Wars. Professor Kaku is a leading
expert on string theory and a world-renowned physicist. He spoke
eloquently against any further research for weapons in space.
Professor Kaku recently found the plans for the U.S. nuclear strike
against the Soviet Union as he researched newly declassified Pentagon
documents. His point was that when these weapons exist, they can
fall into the hands of unstable, demented or misguided leaders
in any nation.
No first-class physicist will work on the Star Wars project,
Kaku said. Consequently, second-rate physicists are doing the
work. The constant failures are testament to the quality of people
the Pentagon got to do the research, Kaku said.
The BMD protest and teach-in was the first major action of
the weekend that brought about 35,000 people together in Washington
D.C. to register their disapproval of the role the International
Monetary Fund and World Bank play assisting transnational corporations
to loot and plunder third world nations. About a hundred people
attended the BMD teach-in outside the Treasury Department. An
equal number of police kept vigil over the group that assembled
a couple blocks east of the White House. The police conducted
an in-your-face confrontation with the attendees. At seemingly
regular intervals, they nudged the protesters into a smaller and
smaller area for no apparent reason other than annoyance.
The actions of the police on Friday were typical of their approach
for the rest of the weekend. They acted unpredictably. They prodded,
probed and provoked. The police that were visible did not wear
the black riot gear that was standard attire for Seattle police
during protests against the World Trade Organization in November
and December 1999. D.C. police did, however, wear transparent
protective visors and many had transparent hand-carried shields
that were about five feet tall. Visible faces of the officers,
unlike in Seattle where black visors of Darth Vader-like uniforms
concealed the faces of officers and deputies, reduced the tension
felt by protesters. Possibly the change was not to reduce tension.
On Sunday, when the main march was held, the sun was bright and
the temperature rose above 80 degrees. The humidity was near 100%.
Several men and women protesters stripped to the waist. Police,
in their bulletproof vests and full-body garb, were sweating like
pigs. Several suffered heat prostration and had to be taken to
nearby medical facilities for treatment.
The reduced tension was misleading. On Saturday morning, Alcohol
Tobacco and Firearms agents raided the Convergence Center, the
heart of protester activity. What was a jar of artists' paint
thinner to normal people and a tank of propane gas for heating
food to sane people, were Molotov Cocktails in the cynical minds
of D.C. law-enforcement officers. The fire marshal and D.C. police
entered shortly after AFT agents found the "weapons arsenal."
They arrested some giant puppets and confiscated signs and other
materials used to create a carnival atmosphere and send a colorful
message during marches. Two people were arrested.
Police raids and suspicious vehicle stops uncovered other "terrorist
tools." These tools were heating system pipes. They are used
to bind several protesters together so that it is more difficult
for police to physically remove their limp bodies from intersections
or other strategic locations. With much fanfare, the police displayed
the contraband to the excited media as if they were caches of
illegal arms or drugs. Never mind that this kind of tubing and
pipes are found in nearly every basement in America.
The cunning police also frustrated banner hanging or drops
and strategic structure climbing. They asked all hardware stores
in the area to remove anything, including bicycle locks, that
could be used as a climbing tool.
The police had the guns, but the protesters had the brains.
The protesters had the advantage. Within two hours of the closing
of the original Convergence Center, a new Convergence Center was
up and running in a nearby Latino church and community center.
On Saturday, two major protest actions were held. One was at
a Gap outlet in Georgetown. The second was at the Justice Department
located on Pennsylvania Av. between the White House and Congress.
It began an hour later at 3:00 p.m. It was held to oppose the
Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) which has grown to over two million
inmates, one-fourth of all the world's prisoners. The U.S. has
more people incarcerated than any other nation in the world. Only
Russia, which was the recipient of blueprints of our system after
the fall of Communism, has more people in prison per capita. The
transfer of the model of our system to Russia totally failed except
for the crime part. Although many people in our jails are innocent
as was proven recently by a group of students at Northwestern
University, the count is skewed the other way by our failure to
put most of our wealthy criminals in jail. If young, novice students
can do a better job solving crimes than our professional police,
prosecutors, and judges, it's time to overhaul the system.
The PIC protesters numbered six people at 3:00 p.m. At 3:30
p.m., the number had swollen to 2,000. Giddy with their success,
the leaders seemed reluctant to end it. For about an hour, protesters
marched in the standard oval on the sidewalk just north of the
Department of Justice. Then, like a projectile from a slingshot,
they sped off toward the White House and IMF and World Bank buildings.
The police, apparently caught off guard, hustled to keep up.
Metal portable barriers surrounded all the target buildings.
No one made an effort to break through them even though they represented
little more than a token obstruction. The march went north and
past all the buildings.
At 19th and "Eye" streets, I saw Medea Benjamin,
co-founder of Global Exchange, a human rights group located in
San Francisco. Medea was scheduled to have a press conference
with an official from Bolivia regarding that nation's experiment
with the privatization of the drinking water system. The Bolivian
drinking water experience was fundamental to understanding the
roles of the World Bank and IMF. The Bolivian drinking water system
was privatized and turned over to the California-based Bechtel
Corporation. Shortly thereafter, many Bolivians were spending
one-quarter of their incomes on their water bills. There were
massive demonstrations, and the experiment was discontinued.
I caught up with the March 21st and Pennsylvania, where they
doubled back, turned north on 20th St. and recrossed "Eye"
St. At K St, home of most lobby and public relations firms, police
had set up a barricade manned by dozens of police officers. This
was a narrow block with no exits except each end of 20th St. A
couple dozen additional police moved forward and boxed in the
leading third of the marchers. A third line of police drove the
rest of us back toward "Eye" St.
To everyone's surprise, the police announced that the forward
group was under arrest for parading without a permit. Technically,
people walking in the streets as opposed to on the sidewalks,
are parading. However, that didn't stop the police from also arresting
those on the sidewalks, several of whom were local shoppers. They
arrested 617 people. That was the largest mass arrest of the weekend
and occurred the day before the official protest starting time.
The rest of us were wondering around in the middle of Pennsylvania
Av., technically parading, and were not arrested.
Most of those arrested opted for "jail solidarity."
That involves refusal to give a name or any other information.
They are processed, initially as John or Mary Doe. That creates
a huge amount of paper work for the police. Usually they are given
the option to pay an amount, about $50, and be released or demand
a trial or hearing depending on local laws. Those who refused
or couldn't pay the fine, were held. Ultimately, those people
were charged with jay walking and let go for a $5 fine. The crime
was expunged from their records.
The tone of the demonstration and police responses was set
early in the weekend. The police continued to annoy, irritate
and provoke at every opportunity. The protesters were determined
to avoid violence. Each time a police officer bumped into someone,
ran over someone's foot with his motorcycle or instigated some
other form of confrontation, the chant of "No violence! No
violence!" went out from the crowd. Violence remained the
exclusive domain of the police and the state.
About 200 people attended a Rally Against Hate on the anniversary
of Martin Luther King's assassination, April 4, at the Geneva
Road Baptist Church in Wheaton, IL. The rally resulted from the
formation of a coalition by Progressive Independents for Action
for the purpose of speaking out against hate crimes, lest their
perpetrators assume that silence would mean assent, if not approval.
Chaired by DSA member, Steve De La Rosa, the coalition included
DSA member, Libby Frank, among representatives from NOW, Donn
Schneider from West Suburban DSA, Stuart Anderson, DSA member
of ACLU, and Gene Birmingham, Chicago DSA, identified as United
Church of Christ clergy.
Other groups were NAACP, Metro-West Suburban Peace Coalition,
American Association of University Women, Pax Christi, Du Page
Voices for Racial Justice, Citizen Advocacy Center of Elmhurst,
Du Page County Federation of Labor, Parents and Friends of Lesbians
and Gays, Baha'i Youth Services Institute which performed a symbolic
dance, Synagogue Congregation Etz Chaim and the Anti-Defamation
League, which supplied the keynote speaker, Shoshana Buchholz-Miller.
Other speakers were author, Glenette Turner, social poet, James
McGrew, and Pastor Andre Allen of Second Baptist Church of Wheaton,
who delivered excerpts from King's "I Have a Dream"
speech. Music by "Mighty Joe" provided entertainment
until the rally began. The host church, represented by Pastor
Lynne Kelley, provided child care and a program in keeping with
the rally theme. Refreshments and conversation followed the rally,
offering opportunity for participants to become acquainted. An
offering of $550, in addition to other receipts, for a total of
$700, convinced the coalition to continue to address the hate
crime issue in Du Page County.
After expenses, the offering was given to the Rapid Response
Network of Voices for Racial Justice, by which people concerned
with hate crimes could respond quickly and unitedly to hate crimes.
A Pledge in the program read:
No matter where hate violence occurs, the community will be
damaged. In order to heal our community, we pledge:
May 13 marked the anniversary of the Philadelphia police department's
annihilation of the MOVE organization. To commemorate the barbaric
incident, world-wide demonstrations were organized. The demonstrations
centered around another Philadelphia legal system injustice: the
framing of Mumia Abu Jamal for the murder of a Philadelphia police
In Chicago, approximately 250 demonstrators turned out for
the Mumia protest. In Paris, France, more than 2,000 demonstrated.
The disparity is indicative of the lack of a sense of morality
and justice among Americans. Unless told to do so by the media,
most Americans don't know when to be outraged by a gross injustice.
For instance, the U.S. has the highest prison population in the
world. Where is the popular outcry? The government is recording
all of our phone, e-mail and fax communications. Where is the
What they lacked in numbers, the Chicago demonstrators more
than compensated in enthusiasm. The clouds, cold and wind did
not dampen or cool the spirits of the protesters who gathered
on the southwest corner of the Federal Plaza. For one and one-half
hours, speakers railed against police brutality, injustice in
the legal system and the fate of Mumia Abu Jamal who was tried
for his political views, not to find the killer of a Philadelphia
police officer. Speakers ranged from Congressman Danny Davis to
former death row inmates who had been found innocent. Parents
of some who had been killed "mistakenly" by police also
About 3:00 p.m. the protesters stepped off on a march scheduled
to go through the center of the loop then down Lake Shore Drive.
The March went up then back down State St. where numerous shoppers
and tourists were treated to vibrant chants and colorful signs
succinctly proclaiming the outrages of the legal system. The march
then went east through Grant Park and over to Lake Shore Drive
without incident. Police were everywhere. They were on horses,
bicycles, foot and in a variety of vehicles.
Fulfilling a promise to my wife, I left the protest at 4:00
p.m. at Lake Shore Drive and Balbo. As I arrived at the intersection
of Balbo and Columbus, a large Paddy Wagon turned the corner on
Balbo and drove toward my comrades on Lake Shore Drive. All had
been peaceful at that point.
Since then, those who stayed reported that that 12 people were
arrested at Lake Shore Drive and Roosevelt. I was told that a
policeman grabbed a flag. The owner resisted and other police
assisted. Protestors held on the their comrade and the melee began.
Protesters moved onto Lake Shore Drive. This was part of a
contingency one of the coalition groups had planned and had not
informed the rest of the group. They shut down that busy thoroughfare
for about twenty minutes. Then the arrests began. Witnesses said
the police were generally restrained and seemed to be acting under
orders not to break up the demonstration or attempt to splinter
it. The cops were as aggressive as possible within these constraints.
Some officers were spotted hiding their badges at this time.
After the Lake Shore Drive incident, the rest of the rally
participants continued on to the Aquarium. There they were not
restrained from interacting with the museum visitors.
The Chicago DSA Membership Convention will be Saturday, June
17, the exact time and venue still to be determined. The membership
convention (a fancy name for a membership meeting) will elect
three officers, adopt a budget for the coming fiscal year, and
some manner of work plan. Resolutionary socialism is also in order.
The three officers to be elected to a two year term are the
female Co-Chair, Treasurer and Political Education Director. The
formal duties of these officers are specified in Chicago DSA's
Constitution, but all of the positions offer opportunities for
creativity and growth.
Ideally, the budget and workplan should have some degree of
integration. This year will be more important than usual as Chicago
DSA is in a good position for organizational and programmatic
growth. Your participation is important! For more information,
call the CDSA office (773 - 384 - 0327) or any CDSA officer.
The student anti-sweatshop movement continues to gather steam
in Chicago, with the recent decision by DePaul University to sign
on with the WRC as the monitoring agency for the university's
licensed products. This follows by some months a similar victory
at Loyola University.
Unfortunately, things are not going so well at the University
of Chicago, where the Young Democratic Socialists chapter has
been a key component of the anti-sweatshop coalition from its
beginning. The University Administration has decided to sign on
with the FLA, an agency generally considered to be an industry
"paper tiger". The Administration has, however, offered
to continue talking about the issue and has helped sponsor forums
on the issue, possibly hoping to filibuster the issue to death,
or possibly wishing to find a profitable compromise.
None of these campaigns are happening in isolation, however,
as the students from various university campuses around Chicago
are meeting regularly and exchanging information with students
around the country.
An example of such coordination was the direct action at the
Old Navy store on State Street on May Day. Students from the UofC
YDS and Anti-Sweatshop Coalition and students from Loyola infiltrated
the store in small groups. At a pre-arranged moment, they gathered
together to descend the store escalator while singing "Solidarity
Forever" and leafleting the patrons. Exiting the store, the
demonstrators performed a skit illustrating the forced "race
to the bottom" that characterizes corporate globalization.
Prison Moratorium Project & Raptivism Records are proud
to announce the release of the No More Prisons Hip Hop Compilation
CD, which is now available at record stores (Tower, Virgin, HMV,
Warehouse, etc.) in NYC, Boston, Chicago and California, as well
as online (www.Amazon.com, www.CDNow.com).
The CD, recorded to educate the public about prison expansion
and raise funds for activism, contains 23 original tracks and
features more than 70 artists, including Group Home, Apani, Last
Emperor, Cocoa Brovas, Grandmaster Caz, Hurricane G, dead prez,
Danny Hoch, Prof. Cornel West, Daddy-O, Edo G., Vinia Mojica,
Last Poets, Kool DJ EQ, OGC, Chubb Rock & more.
PMP and Raptivism are also sponsoring a 40-city No More Prisons
"raptivist" tour to raise awareness, publicize the CD
and provide training to young prison activists. The tour will
feature experienced young organizers and artists from the CD who
will be available for conferences, workshops, trainings, spoken-word
performances and hip hop show.
For more information, contact Kevin Pranis at (212) 727-8610
x23, email email@example.com or go to www.nomoreprisons.org .
The year 2000 is the centennial of Eugene V. Debs' first campaign
for President. The Debs Foundation maintains Eugene V. Debs' home
in Terre Haute, Indiana, as a museum, and it has announced that
it will be sponsoring a "scholarly conference assessing the
influence of Debs on 20th Century America". The conference
is being cosponsored by Indiana State University and is planned
for Friday and Saturday, November 10 and 11, in connection with
the Foundation's annual banquet. The sessions will be held on
the ISU campus and will be open to the public.
As the 1999 DSA National Convention passed a resolution encouraging
the commemoration of the centennial of the founding of the Socialist
Party in 2001, this conference should be of special interest to
DSA members. For more information, call (812) 237 - 3443 or email
The Debs Foundation has just recently established a website:
www.eugenevdebs.com . The site is very attractive and informative
but is heavy on graphics. Consequently, it's best viewed with
a fast connection or with patience.
While us lefties have every reason to be encouraged by recent
events, there's still plenty of bad news. When last we visited
HR 434, the "NAFTA for Africa" act was stalled in conference
committee, paralyzed by the extreme differences between the version
passed by the House and the version passed by the Senate (see
New Ground, #68, page
10; #64 page 3; #63
page 1). Possibly goaded by a changing political climate,
the House and Senate conferees reached an agreement which largely
follows the Senate version in that it includes the Caribbean Basin
Initiative. The Senate, after evading some obstructionist maneuvers
by opponents, passed the bill by 77 to 19. The House passed the
bill by 309 to 110, with some very progressive legislators like
Danny Davis and Major Owens voting on the wrong side of the issue.
One hopes that it was a profitable legislative transaction, at
least, and not ignorance.