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New Ground 75

March - April, 2001


  • The FTAA, Quebec, and Beyond by Bill Dixon
  • Carol Simpson cartoon
  • Forum vs. Forum by Harold Taggart
  • Sidebar: Porto Alegre Call for Mobilization
  • Counter Inaugural Carnival by Harold Taggart
  • YDS Inaugural Protest by Ian Marlier
  • Cornel West at Preston Bradley Hall by Bob Roman
  • Other News compiled by Robert Roman
  • Anti-FTAA Action
    Mobilization for Global Justice
    Call to Action
    Post Election Post Mortems
    International Women's Day Conference
    Build Illinois Transit
    DSA Strategic Planning

    The FTAA, Quebec, and Beyond

    By Bill Dixon

    Most progressive activists, and certainly most New Ground readers, have probably already heard about the soon-to-be-proposed Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA), the extension of NAFTA-style free trade which aims to encompass the whole of the Western Hemisphere.

    This is in no way thanks to the media coverage that the FTAA has received in the US. Coverage has in fact been virtually nil. Rather, word has spread about the FTAA thanks to the sustained mobilization of the fair trade movement, which burst into high visibility at the Seattle WTO protests more than a year ago and shows no signs of fading out yet.

    A crucial round of negotiations for the FTAA will begin in Quebec, Canada, on April 18, where authorities have been bracing for massive protests for months. And protests there will certainly be, perhaps even better organized and attended than even the Seattle and Washington, DC, actions last year.

    Will the real message behind the anti-FTAA forces get heard in the midst of the chaos? During the Seattle protests, debate too often degenerated into the virtues of law and order versus the people's democratic right to assembly. This is an important question, but it has little bearing on the issue of globalization. And of course it made easy fodder for media-driven sensationalism and distraction from the tougher issues raised by globalization and the WTO.

    Like the WTO, the FTAA talks aren't just a symbol for a more abstract problem. The fair trade movement must itself recognize and convince a wider public that with the FTAA Americans North and South face a real danger of historic proportions. That's why the Quebec protests present the anti-FTAA forces with such an important opportunity, and hopefully won't become yet another cat-and-mouse drama between protesters and cops.

    Exactly what real world threats does the FTAA pose? Details about the agreement have been kept secret since negotiations began in earnest 1994. In broad outline, however, FTAA talks have tried to emulate the "success" of NAFTA. FTAA aims to open trade through the classic neo-liberal formula that goes far beyond the removal of tariffs and other formal trade restrictions. Instead, FTAA seeks to cripple government power in virtually every possible domain, from regulating business to ensuring decent wages and basic environmental standards to providing publicly funded services. The FTAA will almost certainly continue the NAFTA provision of "investor to state" dispute resolution which gives corporations (but not unions or advocacy groups) the legal standing to sue foreign governments directly without their home government's consent. The NAFTA experience with this provision has been a disaster. Secret hearings guided by only the vaguest standards have ruled again and again in favor of corporate demands against established law and clear public interest.

    The coming fight over FTAA will differ from the free trade battles of the 1990's in at least one major respect. Unlike the Clinton Administration, the Bush team is adamantly opposed to any real linkage between free trade on the one hand and labor, environmental, and human rights on the other. The Clinton Administration at least paid lip-service to joining trade with progress on social justice even as they vacillated in practice between weak support for this principle and outright betrayal of it. The Clinton ambiguity on this question was a reflection of genuine ideological confusion toward the new global economy, conflicting ties to business and labor, as well as the habits of empire deeply ingrained from the Cold War.

    There are no such divided loyalties on the part of the Bush Administration, driven as it is by a slavish loyalty to big business and a total hostility to the labor movement. That's why it's so important for the fair trade movement to make itself heard - loud and clear - on progressive alternatives to the FTAA, including enforceable labor and environmental standards.

    In the long run, it is obviously not enough to simply stop the FTAA. Rather the Left must confront the historic task of transforming the very nature of globalization, even though we now face in US the worst conceivable political climate and the paralyzing possibility of recession. Will the Quebec protests rise to this challenge and show the world that there may yet be hope for an alternative?

    Carol Simpson cartoon

    Forum vs. Forum

    By Harold Taggart

    Competition is the conscience of the market place. Without it, the businesses that hold the power over our economic lives, become despotic. Corporations constantly preach the virtues of competition. There would seem to be no more need for competitors to meet together than for all the dogs and cats of a city to gather in the park at noon every day. Would they meet to brag about how they were going to under price their opponents in the room while providing superior goods and services?

    They do seem to have a constant need to meet. The internal motto of Archer Daniels Midland, the giant agribusiness corporation is: "The competitor is our friend. The consumer is our enemy." The competitor wants high prices, the consumer wants low prices, according to ADM logic. ADM logic seems to be shared by most businesses. The Council on National Policy meets every quarter. The Business Roundtable has more frequent meetings. Every June, the richest U.S. businessmen meet with politicians and military brass at Bohemian Grove in California. The consumer is viewed as prey; the competitor as someone with whom to unite and band together to make the kill easier and more plentiful.

    Since 1971, the world's most powerful business leaders have been meeting with world political and military leaders in a gathering called the World Economic Forum. Headquartered in Davos, Switzerland, which is tucked high up in the Alps, world leaders meet away from prying eyes, but close to the money they worship. Here they collude on ways to increase their wealth and power to the detriment of ordinary people. Here, the powerful prey on the weak as Charles Darwin determined was nature's law. Here, a conscience is an overwhelming burden.

    This year, during the last week of January, as the world's greediest 3000 most powerful people met in Davos, 10,000 people were meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Porto Alegre is unique in that the city is controlled by the Workers' Party of Brazil and is a genuine participatory democracy.

    In Porto Alegre the best-known Progressives of the world gathered. The enigmatic theme of the WEF is: "Committed to improving the state of the world." The theme of the World Social Forum is: "A different world is possible." According to Norman Solomon the theme of the WEF translates to: "A different world is impossible, and we intend to keep it that way."

    The main message out of Porto Alegre is that the revolution that burst into public view in Seattle in 1999 is not dissipating. According to Solomon, the massive amounts of information coming out of the working groups and plenary sessions will require months of distillation before a clear consensus can be determined. However, the battle lines were defined succinctly as neo-liberalism versus civil society.

    Porto Alegre Call for Mobilization

    Social forces from around the world have gathered here at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre. Unions and NGOs, movements and organizations, intellectuals and artists, together we are building a great alliance to create a new society, different from the dominant logic wherein the free-market and money are considered the only measure of worth. Davos represents the concentration of wealth, the globalization of poverty and the destruction of our earth. Porto Alegre represents the hope that a new world is possible, where human beings and nature are the center of our concern.

    We are part of a movement which has grown since Seattle. We challenge the elite and their undemocratic processes, symbolized by the World Economic Forum in Davos. We came to share our experiences, build our solidarity, and demonstrate our total rejection of the neo-liberal policies of globalization.

    We are women and men, farmers, workers, unemployed, professionals, students, blacks and indigenous peoples, coming from the South and from the North, committed to struggle for peoples' rights, freedom, security, employment and education. We are fighting against the hegemony of finance, the destruction of our cultures, the monopolization of knowledge, mass media, and communication, the degradation of nature, and the destruction of the quality of life by multinational corporations and anti-democratic policies. Participatory democratic experiences - like that of Porto Alegre - show us that a concrete alternative is possible. We reaffirm the supremacy of human, ecological and social rights over the demands of finance and investors.

    At the same time that we strengthen our movements, we resist the global elite and work for equity, social justice, democracy and security for everyone, without distinction. Our methodology and alternatives stand in stark contrast to the destructive policies of neo-liberalism.

    Globalization reinforces a sexist and patriarchal system. It increases the feminization of poverty and exacerbates all forms of violence against women. Equality between women and men is central to our struggle. Without this, another world will never be possible.

    Neo-liberal globalization increases racism, continuing the veritable genocide of centuries of slavery and colonialism which destroyed the bases of black African civilizations. We call on all movements to be in solidarity with African peoples in the continent and outside, in defense of their rights to land, citizenship, freedom, peace, and equality, through the reparation of historical and social debts. Slave trade and slavery are crimes against humanity.

    We express our special recognition and solidarity with indigenous peoples in their historic struggle against genocide and ethnocide and in defense of their rights, natural resources, culture, autonomy, land, and territory.

    Neo-liberal globalization destroys the environment, health and people's living environment. Air, water, land and peoples have become commodities. Life and health must be recognized as fundamental rights which must not be subordinated to economic policies.

    The external debt of the countries of the South has been repaid several times over. Illegitimate, unjust and fraudulent, it functions as an instrument of domination, depriving people of their fundamental human rights with the sole aim of increasing international usury. We demand its unconditional cancellation and the reparation of historical, social, and ecological debts, as immediate steps toward a definitive resolution of the crisis this Debt provokes.

    Financial markets extract resources and wealth from communities and nations, and subject national economies to the whims of speculators. We call for the closure of tax havens and the introduction of taxes on financial transactions.

    Privatization is a mechanism for transferring public wealth and natural resources to the private sector. We oppose all forms of privatization of natural resources and public services. We call for the protection of access to resources and public goods necessary for a decent life.

    Multinational corporations organize global production with massive unemployment, low wages and unqualified labour and by refusing to recognize the fundamental worker's rights as defined by the ILO. We demand the genuine recognition of the right to organize and negotiate for unions, and new rights for workers to face the globalization strategy. While goods and money are free to cross borders, the restrictions on the movement of people exacerbate exploitation and repression. We demand an end to such restrictions.

    We call for a trading system which guarantees full employment, food security, fair terms of trade and local prosperity. Free trade is anything but free. Global trade rules ensure the accelerated accumulation of wealth and power by multinational corporations and the further marginalization and impoverishment of small farmers, workers and local enterprises. We demand that governments respect their obligations to the international human rights instruments and multilateral environmental agreements. We call on people everywhere to support the mobilizations against the creation of the Free Trade Area in the Americas, an initiative which means the recolonization of Latin America and the destruction of fundamental social, economic, cultural and environmental human rights.

    The IMF, the World Bank and regional banks, the WTO, NATO and other military alliances are some of the multilateral agents of neo-liberal globalization. We call for an end to their interference in national policy. These institutions have no legitimacy in the eyes of the people and we will continue to protest against their measures.

    Neo-liberal globalization has led to the concentration of land ownership and favored corporate agricultural systems which are environmentally and socially destructive. It is based on export oriented growth backed by large scale infrastructure development, such as dams, which displaces people from their land and destroys their livelihoods. Their loss must be restored. We call for a democratic agrarian reform. Land, water and seeds must be in the hands of the peasants. We promote sustainable agricultural processes. Seeds and genetic stocks are the heritage of humanity. We demand that the use of transgenics and the patenting of life be abolished.

    Militarism and corporate globalization reinforce each other to undermine democracy and peace. We totally refuse war as a way to solve conflicts and we oppose the arms race and the arms trade. We call for an end to the repression and criminalization of social protest. We condemn foreign military intervention in the internal affairs of our countries. We demand the lifting of embargoes and sanctions used as instruments of aggression, and express our solidarity with those who suffer their consequences. We reject US military intervention in Latin America through the Plan Colombia.

    We call for a strengthening of alliances, and the implementation of common actions, on these principal concerns. We will continue to mobilize on them until the next Forum. We recognize that we are now in a better position to undertake the struggle for a different world, a world without misery, hunger, discrimination and violence, with quality of life, equity, respect and peace.

    We commit ourselves to support all the struggles of our common agenda to mobilize opposition to neo-liberalism. Among our priorities for the coming months, we will mobilize globally against the:

    On April 17, we will support the international day of struggle against the importation of cheap agricultural products which create economic and social dumping, and the feminist mobilization against globalization in Genova. We support the call for a world day of action against debt, to take place this year on July 20 and the mobilization for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (Durban, South Africa - 31 August-7 September 2001).

    The proposals formulated are part of the alternatives being elaborated by social movements around the world. They are based on the principle that human beings and life are not commodities, and in the commitment to the welfare and human rights of all.

    Our involvement in the World Social Forum has enriched understanding of each of our struggles and we have been strengthened. We call on all peoples around the world to join in this struggle to build a better future. The World Social Forum of Porto Alegre is a way to achieve peoples' sovereignty and a just world.

    Counter Inaugural Carnival

    By Harold Taggart

    Tens of thousands of protesters descended on the nation's capital to voice their disapproval of the election crime wave that installed a mentally and morally challenged Texan as President of the United States.

    The media reported that the size of the protest crowd was the largest anti-inaugural outpouring since Nixon's inauguration in 1973. Anti-Bush activists appeared to equal or outnumber Bush well-wishers - a ratio demonstration organizers could hardly have dreamed would happen.

    Organizers in Chicago, which included DSA members, hoped to fill one bus (about 40 people) gathered from Chicago and Milwaukee. A massive outreach campaign and scholarship help from DSA and other groups for low-income people, drew numbers larger than expected. Chicago alone filled four buses. Many others from Chicago, including YDS members, took other means of transportation.

    In Washington D.C., protesters weathered the cold, rain and sleet to mock and disrupt the proceedings. Street theater, signs, chants, music and individual entertainers sent a strong message and entertained protesters while perplexing Bush supporters.

    Seasoned demonstrators knew the brutality, violence and damage that characterized the Seattle demonstrations in 1999 and the Washington, Philadelphia and Los Angeles protests in 2000 would not be repeated at the inauguration. The truce was announced by Washington D.C. police chief, and former Chicago cop, Charles Ramsey when he stated that police would not be in riot gear, but would wear Class B uniforms. Veteran activists knew this meant the police had taken provocation out of their action plan and were not going to raid, riot, provoke incidents or make mass, random arrests. Consequently, the anti-inaugural became a peaceful, festive carnival.

    About a dozen arrests were made. The message that the police were removing violence from their arsenal of tactics does not mean they suddenly became enlightened. It means that tactically using force would have been a nightmare. Rich Republicans were everywhere and would have been caught up in the melee. People wearing cowboy boots, large hats, fur coats, and loaded down with expensive jewelry would not have been as fleet as those in tennis shoes. The former would absorb the bulk of police projectiles and chemical weapons. The primary job of the police, after all, is to serve and protect the wealthy.

    The courts overruled inauguration organizers' attempts to restrict demonstrators to protest pits far from the parade route. They did allow restrictions on signs and puppets. However, the protesters proved to be resourceful. Many defied the ban. At least two large puppets were at the 14th and Pennsylvania protest site.

    The Disgruntled Delegation of Concerned Caribou appeared in elaborate costumes to raise concern about the new administration's contempt for the wilderness and its ecosystem. Several caribou assisted by polar bears surrounded another pretend President George Bush and banished him from the wilderness.

    Joan Roney and Matthew Power from Rainforest Relief in New York, got around the sign bans and sent their message from the reserved seats near the Capitol steps, a few yards away from where Bush took an oath. Needless to say, the Bush campaign team did not invite them. They had acquired tickets from friends. Forbidden to carry or wear signs of any type in the guest areas, they painted their bodies with messages such as: "Hail to the Thief" and "No democracy?" As Bush took the oath of office, Joan and Matthew rose, disrobed, and there, for all to see, were the messages. Joan and Matthew were removed immediately, taken to the police station and interrogated. They were forced to disrobe again for photos for evidence. They were asked if they held any animosity toward George Bush or wanted to hurt him. They responded in the negative. They are not violent people and wish no harm to anyone or anything.

    Vendors on E Street had a terrible day. When we arrived about 10:00 am their tables were stacked high with Bush inauguration memorabilia. When we left about 4:00 p.m., their tables still were stacked high with Bush memorabilia.

    Protesters liberated one set of bleachers. The occasional Bush supporter that dared to venture into the area quickly decided to find another location when police pointed them in the direction of their valued, reserved seats occupied by noisy youths wearing rings in all parts of the body and hair colors not designed by nature. Wiley organizers placed a row of girl scouts at the entrance to the second tier of bleachers. Protesters refused to break through the line since the diminutive skirt-bedecked guards were not attired in riot gear. About a dozen ticket holders dared to sit in the section equipped to hold several hundred.

    Bush intended to walk the 16-block distance from the Capitol steps, where he was sworn in, to the White House and savor the adulation of the American people. Seeing the route lined with greetings such as "Bush cheated," "I voted with the majority, I voted for Gore," "Reelect Gore in 2004," and sticks holding up the middle fingers of gloves, his sensitive eyes were spared, and he rode rapidly up Pennsylvania Av. safely ensconced in a bulletproof limousine.

    Protesters didn't limit their wrath to Bush. Thousands marched around the Supreme Court building. The most conservative protesters, the Voters March crowd, held a rally at DuPont Circle, several blocks north of the White House. Then they marched down to the White House as a group. They criticized the voting system, but were not as critical of the economic system as were the more boisterous crowds along Pennsylvania Av.

    As captain of one of the buses, I got an opportunity to talk to dozens of protesters. They came from a variety of professions. Students were the most numerous, however. One thing they had in common was that they all believed the government had been hijacked by election fraud and a partisan, corrupt Supreme Court. They loudly conveyed that message to Bush and the Supreme Court. It was refreshing to know that damage control by the media did not fool everyone.

    As a Cook County Election Judge, I have some insights into the possible forms of election fraud. The breadth of fraud in Florida left me gasping in amazement. Nearly every possible trick was used. Fraud to that extent usually is reserved for the State Department and CIA for use in "democratic" elections of pro-U.S. dictators in third-world nations. Who does the Bush family know with State Department and CIA credentials?

    The Bush family motto seems to be: "Let no election go unstolen." George Herbert Walker Bush, according to the PBS documentary "Coverup," was instrumental in negotiations in 1980 to trade arms to Iran in exchange for Iran holding 52 U.S. embassy hostages until after the election. The hostage crisis disgraced Jimmy Carter. Its continuation had a major impact on the outcome of the election.

    George H W Bush would not have been elected in 1988 had the full extent of the Savings and Loan Scandal been known. Reagan and Bush kept the lid on the scandal up through election day, allowing billions of dollars of additional bad loans to accrue.

    At least two elections have taken place now which have all the earmarks of a blatant subversion of the Constitution. A coup took place in November, 2000, and not a single tank was needed. Tens of thousands were outraged. Tens of millions were coup clueless.

    YDS Inaugural Protest

    By Ian Marlier

    Two hundred feet from the Supreme Court, on January 20 at 1:30 in the afternoon, the United States Government decided that some other people got to have rights that I didn't have.

    They closed a public street to me. Not to "all people" but to me, specifically, as an individual. This still bugs me. I tried to cross the street and Lieutenant O'Brien of the Capitol Police told me that I couldn't. He wouldn't say why, only that he said so, and therefore it was the case. There were people on the other side of Lt. O'Brien, walking down the other side of the street, but they, he said, "were cleared" so it was different. Hardly a satisfying answer or a legal one for that matter, but since he had a couple of riot cops around him, I decided not to push the matter any farther than asking for his name. As I walked away a couple of other protestors crossed the same street a block farther down, and walked, without being questioned, to the very spot to which I had just tried to cross.

    The actual, unstated reason was simple enough. I am young and I was wearing baggy jeans and a field jacket and sticker that said "Due process my ass," and was crossing from the side of the street on which 30,000 protesters were forming a human chain around the Supreme Court to the "no protest" side of the street on which the Capital Building is located. As such, I was a threat to begin an unauthorized demonstration where such displays were forbidden.

    An hour earlier two other U of C students and I had been pushed off the Capitol grounds by Officer Loughery and several of his colleagues. The swearing-in ceremony ended around 12:30 or so. The three of us were wandering around, carrying a coupe of signs and looking for other protesters. We ended up at the corner of First Street and Independence Avenue, at the base of the hill on which the Capitol sits and the exit point for those attending the ceremony. 150,000 Bush supporters walked out First Street, passing through a 100-foot wide choke point. No one was protesting. No signs were in evidence.

    So the three of us held up our signs and walked back into the crowd, doing what we could to fill the width of the street and failing miserably. After ten or fifteen minutes the Capital Police informed us that we had to back up from where we were standing and move off to a sidewalk on the side of the street, out of the way of the exit. We didn't think that we had to, and so we stood and debated the issue for a couple of minutes. In the end, a handful of officers formed a small wall and walked us backwards.

    I was in Washington with a group of eleven people from the University of Chicago YDS chapter. We all shared some common traits: young, loud, and pissed off not only that George W. Bush was about to become our president but also at the manner in which it had been decided that he would be. Sitting by while the events of the day took place didn't suit any of us; we all needed to take some action if we were going to be satisfied with ourselves. We drove from Chicago, overnight, in snow and rain in the mountains of West Virginia, and we joined others coming from around the country to protest the Inauguration of our esteemed President.

    The morning started at Du Pont Circle, where we listened to dozens of speakers protest the election and the Supreme Court decision that elevated Bush to the Presidency. We met up with members of other YDS chapters from around the country and began to plan our day. Part of our group wandered off to join a larger YDS group; others, myself included, decided to find some action on our own.

    Those of us who broke away walked to the Supreme Court, where we saw a group of African-American women dancing around an effigy of Justice in funeral attire. We saw police in riot gear protecting the Supreme Court building from a group of peaceful protesters, and two lines of tour busses insulating the Capital from those who might express dissent. We picked up a couple of signs between us and walked down the street, ending up at the exit point from the Inaugural Ceremony.

    As a whole, the group ended the afternoon at Freedom Plaza, on Pennsylvania Avenue by which the Inaugural Parade travels. Several thousand protesters chanted and sang and danced in the street as Bush's motorcade passed. Chanting "not my president!" and "hail to the thief!" a motley crew collectively refused to acknowledge Bush's ascendancy. Snipers watched from rooftops and a helicopter hovered as demonstrators expressed their viewpoint on the inauguration, the election, and the state of the country.

    Tim Donaghy, a University of Chicago YDS member, had an interesting experience of the inaugural parade:

    "So, most of the official protests passed without much incident, but one image has kind of stuck with me. After most of the day was over I wandered down by the parade route and walked along Pennsylvania Avenue towards the White House. The parade had degenerated to high school marching bands, second rate TV stars (Delta Burke?!) and lock-stepping cowboys, and lots of people had gone home, but for some reason there were still at least some people sitting and cheering in the freezing rain. I was following behind these three or four teenage anarchists who were shouting anti-Bush slogans as loud as they could. Every block or so there was a radio broadcasting booth with a set of loud-speakers, and the anarchists kept sticking their heads in and shouting "Free Mumia" (or something) hoping to get a little bit of amplification... The obnoxious pageantry and the facade of national unity was amusing, but disturbingly so given the context."

    There was a small amount of violence. Protesters elsewhere on the parade route briefly scuffled with police, as a result of which several were arrested. For the most part, protesters chose not to instigate a fight with the police, and civil disobedience was met with firm and occasionally unreasonable, but peaceful, response. At the end of the day, 6 people had been arrested for protest related activities, and one protester had been arrested for smoking marijuana in a Silver Springs, MD subway station.

    It is doubtful that anyone decided on the strength of protester insistence that Al Gore actually won the election, or that John Ashcroft is a dangerous choice for Attorney General. Less doubtful is the conclusion that the next four years are not going to be calm and quiet. Many of the protesters were young and idealistic and felt themselves at the forefront of a movement with which they intend to stay. As a YDS member from another college said to me, "the thing that really kicks about this whole event is that we're meeting all of these other people. I mean, I didn't know all you guys, but now I do, and that makes me an my movement stronger, on my campus, and makes you and your movement stronger on your campus."

    After the Inaugural, the YDS group from the U of C stayed the night in a mission a couple of blocks from Union Station, sharing a basement with the free state established by the medic team. Here, too, solidarity carried the day. Different groups struck up conversation, exchanged e-mail addresses and promised to help each other in the future. Drinking at a house party thrown by a couple of activists, still further connections were built.

    Earlier in the afternoon, standing in the midst of people leaving the inauguration, my spirit was sinking. People would see our signs and react with hands and elbows to our kidneys as they walked by, or snide comments ("get a life," "get over it," "get a job," "go to school," "burn in hell"). One man grabbed my arm and ripped my sign away, then threw it on the ground. A couple of people gave a thumbs-up, but just a few.

    Then a man came back after walking by and tapped me on the shoulder. I turned to him. He shook my hand and said "I don't agree with you on this one, but thank you for being here. At least you're expressing your viewpoint instead of sitting at home on your sofa yelling at the television. It's a good sign for your generation."

    So perhaps all is not lost. Whatever else we might be, the youth of this nation, those with dreams of a better day, are seen by some as legitimate actors on a national stage. Some people, it seems, are willing to step outside of their carefully constructed box and acknowledge the possibility that others, that we, might have something to contribute to a better society.

    Cornel West at Preston Bradley Hall

    By Bob Roman

    The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) held its annual meeting on the evening of Thursday, February 1, in the Chicago Cultural Center's ornate Preston Bradley Hall. The only real item of business for the meeting was the ratification of the committee nominated candidates for the CCH Board of Directors. None the less, a couple hundred people attended the meeting. They came to hear DSA National Honorary Chair Cornel West.

    As usual, Cornel West's affiliation with DSA was not mentioned. Rather, much was made of his promotion to full professor, "a title held by only 14 of Harvard's 2,200 faculty members". It certainly is an honor Dr. West deserves, but it also leaves one wondering if the Harvard faculty couldn't benefit from a good union.

    Cornel West was introduced by another DSA member, Congressman Danny Davis. Congressman Davis is also no slouch as speaker. I've heard him speak for over a quarter of an hour while saying nothing more than a half dozen variations on it's nice to be here yet still have the audience in the palm of his hand throughout. This time he was as artful as ever and rather more substantive: as he is on occasions that genuinely engage his interest.

    Despite a reputation as "intellectually aggressive and highly cerebral", Cornel West is not exactly a linear speaker. In a speaker less skillful, this trait can lead to a presentation resembling a vacuous monologue. But Cornel West develops his thoughts, and his segues, between topics and through the range of culture, popular to classical, are done with an elegance that resembles a verbal ballet. If one is as tired as I was and as easily distracted by the hallucinatory architectural decoration of the Cultural Center, it's easy to come round suddenly and find the speech somewhere entirely other: disconcerting, perhaps, except to a veteran rider of the Chicago Transit Authority.

    None the less, the speech was about capitalism. The speech was not simply an indictment of capitalism's manifest injustice; it was a discussion of how the modes of domination in our society result in our being less than fully human. Interwoven were themes of mortality, which may sound as if the speech was morbid. It was not. For example, in praising committed activists, those "long distance runners", he described them as people "so maladjusted to injustice they take time out of their short lives to be a part of the struggle". Mortality, yes; morbidity, no.

    Yet it was not until the end of the speech that Dr. West named the enemy, capitalism. He did it in passing; blink and you missed it. Perhaps this should not be a surprise in view of his recent book, The Future of Progressivism. This is a style of discourse owing much to the original new left of the early 1960s. It was an attempt to find a way of communicating in an "American" way, without labels or ideological conceptualizations. In the 21st Century, it seems we are mostly new leftists even as the SDS fades from memory.

    This was the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless' 20th anniversary. It's hard to imagine Chicago without the Coalition. The organization has made a substantial difference in state of the very poor in Chicago. While many non-profits pay lip service to the labor movement, CCH has been there for the movement. The meeting celebrated the occasion by presenting Les Brown, the founder of much of the Homeless movement in Illinois, with an award. CCH Executive Director John Donahue observed that Les Brown was extraordinary in working his way down the staff hierarchy.

    The meeting also previewed a draft cut of an infomercial being produced about the CCH. The draft includes a brief shot of AFSCME Council 31 Director Henry Bayer pitching a living wage. The video is being produced with a grant from the MacArthur Foundation and the Weibolt Foundation.

    This illustrates the dilemma of the CCH and many other community groups. The Chicago Coalition for the Homeless wants desperately to think of itself as the Chicago Coalition of the Homeless, and many of its projects and activities reflect that aspiration. Yet with a staff of 27, neither in financing nor in membership is the CCH an organization of the homeless. It depends on money from corporations and the well to do.

    All things considered, the CCH balances this contradiction extraordinarily well, better than many other community groups. But if we are to get beyond leftism as an act of charity, NGO dependence on corporate foundation financing will need to change. As if the labor movement didn't have enough to do already, it's time for organized labor to become a source of financing for strategically selected community groups and to become participants on their boards.

    Other News

    Compiled by Robert Roman

    Anti-FTAA Action

    As New Ground goes to press, plans for actions in solidarity with the demonstrations planned in Quebec around the FTAA Summit were still being developed. The work is being done by an ad hoc "FTAA Working Group". Essentially, there are four aspects of the project, each being handled by a sub-committee.

    One sub-committee is engaged in facilitating participation by Chicagoans in the demonstrations in Quebec City or in other actions along the border. Chicago DSA has pledged $100 toward travel scholarships. For more information about going to Quebec, call 312.660.3700 x 6273 or email noftaa@onebox.com.

    Another sub-committee is working on education about the FTAA and related issues. At press time, they had already held a "Training for Trainers". This was intended to educate people about the FTAA with the intent that the participants would then be able to make a presentation about the FTAA to their union, church, student or community group. If you have an event that needs a speaker, or a group who would like a workshop or teach-in on FTAA, please contact Mary at praxisafsc@igc.org.

    A local action sub-committee is working on plans for a demonstration in downtown Chicago. This will be held on Saturday, April 21, but specific details were not yet available.

    Finally, another group is working on outreach to union, community and constituent groups to rally support for both the specific actions being planned and for opposition to the FTAA.

    To learn how you can help, call Kelly at 773.539.3264 or Emily at 773.583.7728.

    Mobilization for Global Justice

    The Chicago May Day Coalition is planning a march and demonstration on Tuesday, May 1, around themes of global justice. While the route was still being determined, the march will begin 11:30 AM at the Chicago Board of Trade. During the week preceding May Day, the intent is to hold street and guerrilla theater actions around the city to bring attention to the May Day activities, to educate the public about global justice issues, and to encourage people to call in sick and join the march and demonstration. For additional information, call Harold at 847.676.8530.

    Call to Action

    The University of Chicago Young Democratic Socialists were among sponsors and were among the main organizers of "The Global Justice Tour Midwest Gathering". Other sponsors were The Environmental Concerns Organization, UofC Environmental Center, the Anti-Sweatshop Coalition, Young Democratic Socialists, Creative Progressive Action, Students Together Opposing Prisons, and University of Chicago Student Government. This was a conference intended to educate activists, students and others, about the FTAA and related issues. It was one stop in the Call to Action Collective's nation wide "Global Justice Tour 2001 Conference: Citigroup, the FTAA and Global Forest Destruction". The conference also included sessions on skills building. The conference was held Friday March 2 through Sunday March 4 on the University of Chicago campus.

    Post Election Post Mortems

    The issue wasn't quite dead on Tuesday, January 23. About 100 people came to the Hothouse on Chicago's near south side to hear over a dozen speakers, including Chicago DSA Co-chair Charity Crouse, address the question "Where Does the Left Go From Here?" It's almost needless to say that there was no consensus on the question; indeed, a few of the speakers did not even address the question. But, amazingly, all of the speakers were quite good about observing the time limit. Possibly it was the gentle but insistent presiding by Chicago DSA Political Education Director, Mark Weinberg. Or possibly the outcome of the election left everyone feeling unusually cooperative. The forum was organized by the Open University of the Left and cosponsored by Chicago Area Greens, Chicago DSA, the Hothouse and Solidarity.

    About a month later, on Sunday, February 25 at the Hothouse, Chicago DSA was among the cosponsors of a similar forum organized by the Chicago chapter of the Black Radical Congress. Entitled "After Election 2000: The Fight Against Racism and for Democracy", the forum featured a much smaller panel of speakers and drew a rather smaller audience.

    International Women's Day Conference

    The Chicago DSA Queer Commission was among the sponsors of the International Women's Day Conference held at the DePaul Center in downtown Chicago on Saturday, March 10. The conference resulted from the determination of a few individuals that this year, unlike last year, there would be an event to mark the day. They put out a call on the internet and things truly mushroomed from there. The conference was the venue for a very impressive range of forums, reflecting a multitude of cultures. As is typical of conferences organized thusly, it probably could have been better promoted, but this conference is something that should become a Chicago tradition.

    Build Illinois Transit

    Citizen Action's Build Illinois Transit project has had legislation introduced into the Illinois legislature to provide $4.4 billion throughout the state for new and expanded transit services. The bills, HB 670 and SB 225, have bi-partisan support. Representative Jack McGuire of Joliet is the lead House sponsor and Senator Miguel del Valle is the lead Senate sponsor. In addition, the Center for Neighborhood Technology is planning a series of "Connecting Communities Summits" around the Chicago metropolitan area. These are intended to develop grassroots "input" into transportation planning. For more information, call Citizen Action at 312.427.2114. Chicago DSA is an endorser of Build Illinois Transit.

    DSA Strategic Planning

    At the 1999 DSA National Convention, DSA activists started talking about doing strategic planning for the organization. There's been a long term concern about the role of the organization in U.S. politics and the organizational strategies and development needed to fulfil the role.

    This is rather different than the "Mission / Vision" discussion that spanned at least two DSA National Conventions. Instead of producing a manifesto, this will be a facilitated process at a retreat with the object of coming to a consensus concept and plan of action.

    The retreat is tentatively planned for mid-July at a rural conference center near Philadelphia. It will be by invitation only, using a process known as "Future Search". Although the retreat will be invitational, the Future Search process requires the presence of all the major "stakeholder groups" to work well. Acceptance and implementation of the work of the retreat will be, of course, up to DSA's governing bodies.

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