by Bruce Bentley
Approximately 20 members of Midwest DSA gathered for its first
annual membership meeting during the DSA National Convention in
Columbus, Ohio last November. There was significant local representation
from Chicago DSA, Columbus DSA, Greater Detroit DSA and Madison
DSA. The purpose of the meeting was to: (1) evaluate the year
and a half of political work and fiscal status of MwDSA; (2) decide
on whether MwDSA should or could continue being a viable organization
and if so, what should its function be; and (3) caucus as a midwest
body to get increased regional representation on the National
First, Michael Heffron provided an overview on the state of
MwDSA in relation to its political work and financial status.
A synopsis of Mike's political work included revitalization of
Cleveland DSA; new chapter at Ohio State University; the Balanoff
for Congress Campaign in Chicago; the Anti-Columbia HCA Campaign
and Debs Dinner in Columbus. Financially, the total income via
fundraising was $33,008.64. Meanwhile the expenses totaled $44,953.81.
This leaves deficit and debt to the National Office of $11,945.56.
Due to the financial debt it is untenable for either MwDSA
or the National Office to further finance Heffron's salary. Mike
is now employed with SEIU Local 73 in Chicago. Frank discussion
followed on the strengths and weaknesses of MwDSA as well as its
future direction. The task of a organizer was enormous in the
large geographical area of the midwest. There is natural tension
of interests between national/local dichotomy as per the focus
of political work. The logistics of supervising an organizer is
problematic. Yet the majority of members agreed that MwDSA worked
well as a communication and resource network between locals. Members
voted unanimously to maintain MwDSA. Its function will be to maintain
communications, sharing of resources, political education and
fundraising via a quarterly newsletter. The debt will be repaid
to the N.O. as per its surplus funds. The possibility of hiring
another organizer has not been disregarded, but it is contingent
upon viable and surplus funding resources.
Since the convention there have been some new developments
in MwDSA. The first newsletter will be mailed around the beginning
of 1998. There is an additional $5000 balance in the MwDSA bank
account. Approximately $4800 will be sent to the N.O. thus reducing
the debt to $7,145.
Moreover, both Greater Detroit DSA and Columbus DSA are making
preliminary plans for fundraising dinner events for 1998. This
is exciting news. Frankly, my minimal and realistic expectations
for MwDSA were a newsletter and the start of fundraising dinners
in Detroit and Columbus. This is a fine beginning.
Needless to say, money is necessary for political work. Therefore
large fundraising dinner events like Chicago's Debs Thomas Harrington
Dinner are a efficient means for fundraising, maintaining organization
and visibility for the progressive Left, and as a forum for camaraderie
and solidarity. In addition, venues such as the Debs Dinners are
ripe opportunities for conferences and political education work
with the Center for Democratic Values as occurred at the DSA convention
Lastly, Midwest DSA caucused in order to get midwest representation
on the NPC. Our organizing effort paid significant dividends since
six representatives from the midwest were elected to the NPC.
New NPCers included: from Greater Detroit, Ron Aronson; from the
University of Chicago, Daraka Larimore-Hall, Raybblin Vargas and
Katie Romich; and finally, former MwDSA organizer Michael Heffron
and Bill Dixon from Chicago DSA.
Membership to Midwest DSA is $25.00 and can be sent to:
Ithaca NY DSA
Marsha Borenstein, New York City DSA
New York City DSA
Central New Jersey DSA
Julia Fitzgerald, New York City DSA
Karen Marie Gibson, at-large New York DSA
Los Angeles DSA
San Diego DSA
New York City DSA
Greater Detroit DSA
New York City DSA
San Francisco DSA
New York City DSA
Los Angeles DSA
Ithaca NY DSA and Philadelphia DSA
Daraka Larimore-Hall, Chicago DSA
(Bryn Mawr College) and Oscar Owens, (NYU)
by Gene Birmingham
"In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism.
In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy." (Fran
Lebowitz, in The Chicago Tribune Magazine, Dec. 28, 1997,
p. 22) That summarizes the day long conference on "Media
De-Regulation and the Public Interest", co-sponsored by Chicago
Media Watch, Justice Through Action and Loyola University, at
Loyola on Dec. 13, 1997. Conservatives used to call liberal programs
"creeping socialism". Now we witness creeping fascism
become leaping fascism, as conference speakers dealt with The
Telecommunications Act of 1996, court interpretations of the First
Amendment, and experiences of censorship.
Calling the Telecom Act "the heist of the century",
Professor Emeritus Jerry Landay of UIUC described how corporations
have been allowed to replace government in control of the media.
The Supreme Court, by stating the doctrine of corporate personhood,
allows corporations to be treated as persons in application of
First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and the press; and
in application of Fourteenth Amendment rights of due process of
law and equal protection of the laws. In one case, it was decided
that the Fairness Doctrine governing use of the airwaves contravened
First Amendment rights of broadcasters.
Professor George Gerbner of Temple University pointed out how
TV, the vehicle for "those with lots to sell and nothing
to tell", has replaced family, church, community and nation,
as storyteller for our culture. The good life is depicted by the
ability to spend, while the poor appear on newscasts as druggies
and criminals. Violent crimes continue in spite of people's disliking
because they are produced for the world market, where image and
action, which need less translation, are cheaper to produce. TV's
life story is one of domination and repression, telling viewers
the difference between the powerful and the vulnerable, with women
and minorities portrayed as victims.
Paul Klite of Rocky Mountain Media Watch, showed how the "news"
has been reduced to reports of crime, disasters, weather and sports
(the only industry which gets such free coverage), and trivialities
such as cooking, entertainment features and chitchat among news
presenters. The purpose is to attract viewers for advertisers.
Coverage of real news or issues is easily omitted without viewer
Washington attorney, Kathleen O'Reilly, and Robert McChesney
of the University of Wisconsin, said the Telecom Act of '96 is
based on lies. One was that it promised more competition, but
has instead resulted in more mergers. Seven baby Bells have become
five. Our economy is not based on competition but on elimination
of competition. The Telecom Act was a preemptive strike to get
the telecom industry out of the public sector. A few global alliances
are in the making to run the world of communication, making severe
damage to democracy inevitable.
Even local efforts to use the media, a far cry from corporate
owned outlets, face censorship. Salim Muwakkil, senior editor
of In These Times, called attention to the mainstream media's
almost complete ignoring of the Million Woman March in Philadelphia,
compared with coverage of the Million Man March and Promise Keepers
rally in Washington, D.C. Do you recall how little was broadcast
about the French elections which returned Socialists to power?
Claudia Valenzuela, who hosted the Voice of Guatemala before
it went off the air in 1996, expressed concern that people in
the U.S. be informed about how the peace accords are being put
into practice there.
The most blatant example of censorship was the personal testimony
of Napoleon Williams, who described being harassed for his attempt
to produce Black Liberation Radio in Decatur, IL. Trumped up charges
of his being a violent parent resulted in loss of custody of his
children. When he interviewed a DCFS worker by phone on his station,
he was charged with eavesdropping. The worker had declared him
to be a fit parent, for his listeners to hear. What makes the
whole affair sound phony is the failure of authorities to bring
his case to trial. He is left to suffer harassment. E-mail Napoleon
at: email@example.com; or phone (217) 423-9997.
What can be done? Speakers urged support of candidates who
stand for campaign finance reform, making possible election of
legislators willing to change policies. Use state anti-trust laws
in court. Operate teach-ins. Talk back to the stations. Observe
Turn Off TV for a Week efforts. Pursue court tests of First Amendment
cases. Demand that additional space on TV made possible by digital
technology be allocated for public use. Promote a Common Property
Amendment to the Constitution.
Carl Davidson of Networking For Democracy urged the Left to
get together on the subject of communications: set up stations
and web sites; provide access to the media in poor communities
through Community Technology Centers, where people could learn
possibilities and be trained; become producers, not just consumers
of telecom; and push for an end to political commercials.
Nazi German government appointed a propaganda minister to tell
lies to gain and hold power. '90's government in the U.S.A. has
given the propaganda job to Big Business, which uses incredibly
better media, to scapegoat women and minorities, justify the use
of our prison system as concentration camps for minorities, and
replace white, blue-eyed, blondes with the economically well off
as a new version of the master race. And using ignorance to gain
mind control doesn't even hurt... yet.
by Ron Baiman
On a cold and blustery Friday evening in mid- December, the
newly re configured "Citizen Action of Illinois" (ICA)
gathered in Bloomington, Illinois, to chart the direction of this
most important of progressive Citizen groups in Illinois for 1998.
There were three meetings. The ICA Board met, then the Policy
Council met. This was followed by ICA's 22nd Annual Convention.
The ICA Board is currently chaired by Mitch Vogel of the IFT.
Members includes Tom Balanoff, Marca Bristo, Carl Gallman, Robert
Kilbury, Paul Korman, Bill Magee, Joseph Moore, Dell Morrison,
and Alice Palmer. The Board functions as an executive committee
for the larger Policy Council (currently of 88 members), on which
I serve as a representative of Chicago DSA. Other prominent DSA
members, such as Quentin Young, are also on the Policy Council.
The Policy Council is chaired by Bill Magee of UNITE.
Key business items at the Friday meeting included approval
of the ICA's 1998 budget of $960,000, approval of a 1998 political
strategy, and fundraising plans. It also included a review of
1998 program resolutions: the famous "Blue Book" or
list of ICA positions on everything.
ICA appears to be on sound financial footing after its troubles
last year which resulted in the resignation of long-time director
and founder Bob Creamer. It has been reorganized and has taken
on a new name (its old name was Illinois Public Action) under
the direction of John Cameron. Cameron had served as Associate
Director under Creamer. Judging by the mood of the Council and
staff and the Convention the next day, ICA has weathered the storm
in good shape and will continue to serve as a vital venue for
progressive politics in Illinois. The extent of support for the
organization was apparent during the crisis, as progressive community
rallied with important financial contributions to insure its continued
existence. Major contributors include UNITE, SEIU, ATU, the Illinois
State Council of Carpenters, as well as individuals such as Cook
County Clerk David Orr.
The "Blue Book" is a laundry list of resolutions
on a wide variety of issues in a wide range of venues: local,
state, federal and international. Review of the Blue Book elicited
proposals and modifications from the Council including strong
support from housing activists and Latino community representatives
to reform the TIF's law to prevent Daley's current abuses, and
suggestions from me to put in language opposing international
bailouts of investments with tax payer money to fund repressive
regimes such as Indonesia. Congressman Bernie Sanders has been
charging that these bail-outs to regimes which violate worker
and civil rights are illegal under a law passed last year by Sanders
and Representative Barney Frank, both leaders of the Progressive
Caucus in Congress which DSA has helped to organize.
Other changes which I proposed or strongly seconded include
stronger language on consumer's right to know whether food has
been irradiated or genetically altered, international financial
regulation, and democratization of the Federal Reserve. Dr. Sydney
Bild and Bill Magee conveyed Dr. Quentin Young's desire to endorse
the "Bernadine Amendment" on Universal Health care in
Illinois. I was "volunteered" to write the economic
John Cameron than outlined a draft strategy including a major
strategic focus on education funding and tax reform, managed care
reform, and campaign finance and ethics reform. All these issues
are supported by overwhelming percentages of Illinois voters according
to polls. Cameron outlined a targeted paid media and complementary
grass roots activism (including ICA canvassers) in 6 targeted
legislative districts in Illinois, arguing that paid media without
back up support was ineffective.
Continuing to draw lessons from the victories of 1996 and defeats
of 1994, Cameron proposed making Illinois Senate President Pate
Philip into a negative symbol much as Newt Gingrich was pilloried
in 1996. Philip's reputation as a racist and sexist, and his single
handed blocking of the Governor's (serious) Education reform bill,
as well managed care protections, children's health care, and
campaign finance should make him a good target.
Cameron's political strategy priorities were passed. After
some discussion of fundraising plans the meeting was adjourned.
The ICA Convention followed on Saturday. Several hundred attended
and heard remarks by Illinois gubernatorial and other candidates
(Poshard, Burris, Burns, Schmidt, and others).
Poshard made the most forceful remarks: pro-labor, supporting
income tax financing of education and public financing of elections.
The characterization of him as "the most conservative of
the candidates" appears to be based on his personal "right
to life" and gun control positions which he did not discuss.
Burris emphasized his experience and pragmatism (you can't
get elected by advocating an income tax increase) in the form
of a pledge to increase support for education without an income
Burns also advocated increased support for education without
an income tax hike. He stressed accountability in government and
campaign finance reform.
Schmidt parallelled Burns' remarks, stressing his pro-choice
and gun control positions as opposed to George Ryan.
Overall it would appear that on economic issues Poshard is
the most progressive of the candidates. If Poshard can keep his
socially reactionary positions as personal convictions, which
he would not act on politically, he might be the best candidate
assuming he could get elected. He was much more animated and populist
than the other candidates who came across as elitist technocrats
by comparison. Though Schmidt has been endorsed by Netch he is
a friend of Daley's. Burn appears to be positioning himself as
a "good government" candidate but thereby lacks populist
substance. Burris likewise came across as pragmatic but not inspiring.
The convention continued with a luncheon presentation of the
"Milton M. Cohen" award to Frank and Bee
Lumpkin, stalwart radical activists, both of whom have had a long
and vital history with ICA, in the tradition of Milton Cohen.
The Convention than split into workshops on Health Care, Clean
Air and Safe Food, and Utility Deregulation. I attended the latter
and again expressed my disagreement with the basic principle of
deregulation including the current bill which, to its credit,
ICA was one of the key groups in opposition. This, perhaps, was
what led to the attack on Creamer's financial management. ComEd's
giveaway to the retail association gives early vindication that
the nay sayers (against deregulation, for re-regulation) were
The final event was a roundtable plenary on "Getting Money
out of Politics" which included Tom Bream (speaking for Tom
Balanoff who had to cancel at last minute), Jan Schakowsky, and
Cindi Canary (of Illinois Campaign for Political Reform). Jan
was excellent as usual. Bob Creamer was also recognized by the
floor for his outstanding contributions to the organization.
ICA is a vital and important forum for progressive politics
in the state both for networking and for implementing progressive
political strategy. It has important expertise in the legislative
arena in the form of an experienced, highly personable, witty,
and dedicated "Springfield hand", William McNary, as
well as other competent staffers. There are not many other professional
staffed organizations on the left, especially at the state level.
ICA is a critical organization of the left which should be a major
component of any coalition or alliance of the left as contemplated
at the most recent DSA convention.
by Bob Roman
William W. Winpisinger, DSA National Vice-Chair and retired
President of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace
Workers, died on December 11th, the day after his 73rd birthday.
"Wimpy", as he was affectionately known, began his
career as an automobile mechanic, having learned this trade in
the Navy during World War II. He started his IAM membership in
IAM Automotive Lodge 1363 and quickly rose from shop steward to
local lodge president. In 1951, only 26 years old, he became one
of the youngest members ever appointed to the IAM's national field
Winpisinger was elected President of the IAM in 1977. He quickly
gained a reputation for being blunt and outspoken by calling for
George Meany, the then President of the AFL-CIO, to retire, observing
that, at 83, Meany was too old and too conservative to lead a
workforce with an average age in the 30s.
In 1980, Winpisinger led a walkout of some 300 delegates and
alternates from the Democratic Convention to protest the Convention's
nomination of Jimmy Carter for President. The electronic media
ignored the walkout, and Carter operatives blocked the aisles,
pushing protesting delegates into seats.
Earlier at the 1980 Democratic Convention, Winpisinger had
addressed a Socialist Caucus organized by the Democratic Socialist
Organizing Committee, one of the predecessor organizations of
DSA. Some 100 people, including 40 delegates, came to their feet,
as Winpisinger concluded the caucus with a real stem-winder. Someone
shouted, "Wimpy for President". Winpisinger replied,
"I'm president of the only thing I want to be president of
right now. By the time I learn this job, I'll be ready to retire,
and that's it altogether."
William Winpisinger was presented with Chicago DSA's Thomas
- Debs award in May of 1989, a few months before he retired, at
the 31st Annual Thomas - Debs Dinner (see below). Milt and Sue
Cohen also received the Thomas - Debs award at that dinner, and
the featured speaker was Dr. Quentin Young.
Winpisinger was described as a "seat of the pants socialist"
because his radicalism came as much from an outraged sense of
justice as from a rationalized commitment to an ideology. As such,
he was very much a radical for our times. And because retirement
had not slowed him down, our loss is more than just sentimental.
You have been an inspiration during
these years of Reagan-Bush reaction.
You have spent a lifetime fighting the
good fight for the members of the International Association of
Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
You have helped metal and aerospace
workers throughout the world as a member of the Executive Committee
of the International Metalworkers Federation.
By working for a sane nuclear policy
for all people in advocating the conversion of arms production
to peaceful purposes, and as a founder and president of the Citizen
/ Labor Energy Coalition, the organization that protects the interests
of energy consumers, you have been exemplary.
You have been a credit to the Democratic
Socialists of America as a Vice Chair with your work, and with
your industrial program "Let's Rebuild America".
Above all your life has been a constant
act of sharing your time, your energy, and your enthusiasm. The
Norman Thomas - Eugene V. Debs Committee is honored to present
you with its award on this 6th day of May, 1989.
by Fred Whitehead
"Yours for the Revolution": The
Appeal to Reason, 1895-1922. Edited by John Graham. 322pp,
University of Nebraska Press, 1990. $19.95 paperback
In 1915, the largest circulation Socialist newspaper in the
world was the Appeal to Reason, published in a small southeast
Kansas town called Girard. Few today, even among Socialists, are
aware of this, so profoundly has our own history been stripped
away. With 700,000 subscribers, the Appeal was a powerful
voice for justice and freedom in America's heartland.
Arising from the social ferment of the 1890s, the Appeal
recognized the ideological weaknesses of Populism, which it criticized
in a friendly but penetrating way. The capitalist class could
not be reformed it would have to be replaced by the working class.
Under the editorship of J.A. Wayland, the Appeal combined
a popular style of writing with an astonishing range of weekly
themes, topics and issues. Wayland himself contributed his "one-hoss"
column, notable for clear, jargon-free prose.
Sections of this anthology encompass "common sense and
political philosophy", the class war, the land question,
the Socialist Party and socialist culture, and the impact of World
War I with its avalanche of anti-radical repression.
For a vivid documentary history of the life of early
20th Century Socialism in America, this is an outstanding book.
It includes cartoons, illustrations and photographs of figures
like Wayland, Debs, etc. It illuminates how the newspaper was
built into the level of true "mass media". From a scholarly
standpoint, it has been sharply criticized for various errors
by Professor Sharon Neet, but it is still a good start on the
way to recovering a vital part of our radical heritage.
The Chicago New Party continues to move forward, playing a
vital role in progressive left politics. Organizationally its
membership has grown to 690 members. The New Party is presently
hiring a second organizer and hopes to hire a third in '98.
The New Party's political program centers around the Living
Wage Campaign. Despite the defeat of the Living Wage Ordinance
by a vote of 31 to 17 in the City Council last July (see New
Ground #54, page 1), the New Party will turn this apparent
defeat into a tactical tool in the 1999 aldermanic elections against
two incumbents who voted against the ordinance.
The two target aldermen are Sam Burrell of the 29th ward and
Vilma Colom of the 35th ward. Both Burrell and Colom were cosponsors
of the Ordinance who none-the-less ended up voting against the
Ordinance. The New Party thinks that Burrell and Colom are particularly
vulnerable as these wards are potential bastions of New Party
strength. The 29th ward is located within the congressional district
of Representative Danny Davis who is also a member of the New
Party. Meanwhile the 35th ward is within the district of state
representative Miguel Santiago.
New Party member Willie Delgado is running against the politically
stained Miguel Santiago who faces corruption charges. The New
Party plans to take advantage of this municipal geopolitical scenario
and focus its resources in these wards and districts to support
Davis and Delgado and, ultimately, to defeat Burrell and Colom.
by Jim Williams
The National Committee of the Committees
of Correspondence met in Chicago during the weekend of November
Key topics included the Living Wage campaign and the best ways
that CoC could contribute to this movement. Methods of improving
the current national proposals were discussed.
A discussion was led by participants in an international conference
on Neo liberalism that was held in Cuba this past summer. Respondents
noted a large participation from most Latin American countries,
some European countries and from India. Discussion around the
conference focused on how to bring this discussion into the U.S.
movement, and how to inform the movement on struggles against
Neo liberalism (or "Globalization").
A number of papers were submitted to the NC on the "Schwartz
Proposal" that was being considered by DSA. Predictably,
there were "pro" and "con" papers. The Schwartz
proposal on movement strategy, however, was tabled by the CoC.
The content of the discussion, of course, goes on.
The next NC-CoC meeting will be held in San Francisco in April,
Compiled by Bob Roman
Stan Rosen, veteran DSA member and labor educator, has moved
to New Mexico after having "retired" from the University
of Illinois a year or so ago. While Stan is planning to return
to Chicago periodically, he'd love to hear from his comrades in
Chicago. He asked us to pass along his new address. Get in touch,
especially if you're planning to visit New Mexico:
Bruce Bentley is returning to Cuernavaca, Mexico, to continue
his study of Spanish, Mexican culture and politics. He is planning
to return to Chicago, possibly by August. Bruce has taken a leave
of absence from his position as Chicago DSA's representative to
the Midwest DSA Steering Committee. Harold Taggart has
been appointed, pro tem, in his place.
The National Park Service has given the Haymarket Martyrs'
Monument a National Historic Landmark designation. The monument
is in the Forest Home (Waldheim) Cemetary in Forest Park. The
Illinois Labor History Society holds title to the monument. A
dedication ceremony is being planned for Sunday, May 3rd at 2pm
at the monument site. For additional information, call (312) 663-4107.
The Illinois Campaign for Better Health Care is planning it's
Spring campaign around HB 626, the Managed Care Consumer Bill
HB 626 is a piece of state legislation that protects consumers
in managed care plans. The bill passed the state House but stalled
in the Senate. They have targetted a number of Senators for pressure.
To find out how you can help, call CBHC at (312) 913-9449.
I would like to thank Perry for his comradely and thoughtful
comments (New Ground,
#55, Nov/Dec, 1997) on my review of Christopher Pierson's
Socialism After Communism: The New Market Socialism (New Ground, #54, Sep/Oct,
1997). Perry is continuing on these pages a debate which he
and I have had for some time and I welcome this opportunity to
publicly exchange views with him on this topic.
I believe that Perry's remarks reflect a fundamental misunderstanding
of Pierson's and my own views. Pierson's major critique of Market
Socialism is that it is based on the presumption that an approximate
form of socialism will emerge form market relations if only the
ownership of firms is socialized. This, however, will not be the
case, as, left on their own, markets, will, over time, increasingly
undermine socialist goals and values, regardless of how agents
within markets are constituted (see for example, Capital,
Vol. I, Chap. 25). For example, Leland Stauber's vision, as outlined
by Perry (New Ground,
Jan/Feb, 1997) would likely create very large inequities of
wealth and power between communities, and would do nothing to
make accountable the sectional market power of oligopolistic and
monopolistic firms vis a vis other communities, states, and nations.
Because of this, Pierson, who explicitly endorses the socialization
of private capital in his book, and I, are not advocating "Market
Social Democracy" as Perry contends but rather "Socialism
with Markets". The latter requires extensive centralized
and decentralized democratic planning in addition to the
socialization of private capital ownership in order to achieve
and maintain socialist goals.
Markets will always be with us but they should not rule over
us. In addition to socializing profit, socialists must guide restrain,
and otherwise restructure markets, in order to achieve socialist
goals. This will require extensive and radical political democracy.