October Newsletter: DSA’s DC general election endorsements and action; climate change challenges, everyday events and post-summer activism renewal

October 2nd, 2014  / Author: woodlanham

The_Washington_Socialist1346533384Welcome to the October 2014 edition of The Washington Socialist, the online newsletter of the DC Metro Democratic Socialists of America.

What with all contributors still breathing hard after that doorstop Labor Day issue that you probably haven’t finished reading yet, this is a terse and newsy newsletter this month, mostly about everyday stuff. Raymond Mungo, in his 1970 classic Famous Long Ago, called it “ped-Xing” – the grinding everyday work of activism. Most of our accounts in this newsletter are about that everyday work, those everyday events that add up to significance and change.

First, what’s on the calendar for October: UPDATED (Oct. 9) below
Metro DC DSA’s next membership meeting, Saturday, Oct. 11 at 1:30 p.m. in room A9 at the Martin Luther King Jr. main library building, features a presentation on the “Green New Deal.” David Schwartzman, a professor emeritus at Howard University, a Statehood Green Party activist and a member of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS), will deliver a visually augmented presentation on the Green Party’s “Green New Deal” proposal, with Q and A afterward. David Schwartzman is an environmental scientist and a veteran advocate for solar and renewable energy. He has published articles on Green energy in various socialist publications. The MLK branch is at 901 G St NW, Washington, DC; accessible either from Gallery Place or Metro Center Metrorail stations. Check the Meetup site for any new information on this event.

Other events:
>>Brian Kovalik has invited all fellow DSA members in the DC area to come over to the Lamont St Collective (1822 Lamont St NW, 20010) this Friday, October 3rd, for a film screening and discussion of The Internet’s Own Boy. The film starts at 7:30 p.m. The film documents Aaron Swartz’s life, work, and suicide. Aaron was an internet prodigy who committed his life to the democratization of information, net neutrality, and internet freedom. Aaron tragically chose to take his own life two years into a long legal battle that would likely have lead to a jail term for him. It stemmed from his attempt to democratize JSTOR, a publicly funded but privately controlled information database that includes many scholarly publications. The discussion of the film will be led by David Segal, the executive director of Demand Progress, an organization Aaron Swartz founded.
>>DC Metro DSA’s first Happy Hours in Virginia kick off Thursday, October 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the Heavy Seas Alehouse, 1501 Wilson Blvd., “with our brothers and sisters of DC DSA. No agenda, no schedule, no topic, just some good conversation and beer.” Heavy Seas Alehouse is a block or two from Rosslyn Metro. Parking is on the street. There is also free parking a few blocks away. RSVP on the Meetup site. Organizers say “we will reserve a table whenever we have an estimated head count.”
>>UPDATE: The monthly Socialist Salon, Thursday, Oct. 16, features “Marxism and African Social Movements After World War II: A Group Discussion led by Nicole Gerber.

Nicole will start off this event with a 20-25 minute introduction, then open the meeting to Q and A and discussion.  The event will focus on the theories of struggle, identity and national liberation proposed by Franz Fanon, Sekou Toure, Chinua Achebe and Nelson Mandela, how they attempted to implement socialist policies with an “African character” in the independence and post-independence era, and how these efforts were affected by the Cold War and neo-imperialist economic policies in the West.

The Salon meets Thursday, October 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Hunan Dynasty, 215 Penna. Ave. SE; best Metro approach is Capitol South.  Updates on the Meetup site .

October’s articles:
Metro DC DSA has endorsed candidates in November’s DC General Election, and will be planning various forms of support for them. Our endorsement release merited a mention in the WaPo political blog. Bill Mosley provides a wrapup of the local’s endorsements and their reasons. Read complete article

An event that definitely qualified as significant on its own was the Climate March in New York City Sept. 21 that drew more than 300,000 climate non-skeptics. DSA’s presence there (check the national’s Facebook page) was substantial, youthful and included several DC Metro DSA members. One of them was Andy Feeney, who offers a couple of observations about the overall radical presence in the march and provides some extended “good reads” evaluations of a handful of radical analyses of the climate crisis under capitalism. Read complete article

The furor over Ferguson, Mo. and the murder of an unarmed young African-American man in that town continues to roil observers around the country, including panelists and audience at a recent meeting at Busboys and Poets. Ingrid Goldstrom provides an account. Read complete article

DSA’s relationship to the local chapter of Jobs with Justice continues and the organization’s plan of work for the near future was outlined at its most recent meeting. Kurt Stand was there and reports. Read complete article

The excitement over Scotland’s recent referendum on splitting from the United Kingdom appears to be masking more unpleasant aspects of politics in the UK itself, several London School of Economics professors told an audience in the District recently. Ingrid Goldstrom outlines the narrative of two parties, one ostensibly socialist, beginning to look more and more like one another. Read complete article

And there are more of our usual “good reads” here, including Sam Pizzigati’s latest “Too Much” and news on the recent Swedish election that sounds dispiritingly like the report from the UK, above. Read complete article.

Readers’ Role: Our readers — that’s you — are part of this conversation. Submit contributions to The Washington Socialist at a number of levels — send us nominee for “Good Reads” (they should be available online so send links); send news and notices of activism; submit articles. Send to woodlanham@gmail.com.

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    Metro-DC Democratic Socialists of America Endorses Hagler, Puryear for DC Council, Robinson-Paul for U.S. Representative; Reaffirms Support for Norton, Mendelson

    October 1st, 2014  / Author: woodlanham

    DC Politics Roundup

    The Washington Socialist<>October 2014

    By Bill Mosley

    At its Sept. 13 membership meeting, the Metro-DC local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America endorsed independent Graylan Hagler and Statehood-Green Party candidate Eugene Puryear for the two at-large seats on the District of Columbia Council being contested in the Nov. 4 election.

    DSA also endorsed Joyce Robinson-Paul of the Statehood Green Party for U.S. representative, an unpaid position created to lobby Congress for DC statehood.

    DSA’s endorsements were based on the candidates’ past activism and advocacy as well as their current campaign platforms.  Key to receiving DSA’s endorsement was their support for such issues as affordable housing, educational equality, economic justice and willingness to fight for DC statehood [A candidate forum focusing on statehood is set for Oct. 2; see separate brief at the bottom of this article].

    In endorsing the two challengers for the at-large Council seat, the local noted that both Hagler and Puryear had strong progressive credentials that mirrored DSA’s priorities.  Even though a Democrat has always won one of the two seats at-large seats – in each election, one at-large seat is reserved for a non-Democrat – the consensus of members attending the meeting was that DSA should support candidates with the strongest visions for promoting economic and social justice, regardless of party.  One of the two seats is currently held by Democrat Anita Bonds, who is running for re-election.  The other seat is open, with incumbent David Catania leaving office to run for mayor.

    Hagler, minister of Plymouth United Congregational Church of Christ, is a long-time activist in progressive causes.  He has worked with DSA on a number of projects and events, most recently on a 2010 event on promoting full employment at which he spoke and which was held in his church.  Among the organizations and causes he has worked with are United for Peace and Justice and the union UNITE HERE.  He also has emphasized community empowerment, opposed attempts by Congress to impose a death penalty on DC, and opposed school vouchers.  In 1991, before he moved to DC, he ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Boston.

    Puryear is working to become the first candidate from his party to win a Council seat since the late Hilda Mason, a longtime DSA member, left office in 1999.  Puryear identifies as a socialist and is a member of the Party of Socialism and Liberation, and was the 2008 PSL vice-presidential candidate.  He has been active in the antiwar ANSWER coalition, and his campaign emphasizes a more progressive DC budget, tenants’ rights, fairness for ex-prisoners and pursuit of DC statehood.

    Robinson-Paul, a Ward 5 advisory neighborhood commissioner, has a long record of community activism and advocacy for DC statehood.  She is currently vice president of the Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition, a nonprofit organization that educates the public on the need for DC statehood and how to achieve it.  Metro-DC DSA has worked with Stand Up! on a number of projects, including a 2013 survey of tourists on the Mall on their attitudes toward DC statehood.

    Prior to the April primary, DSA endorsed two incumbent candidates in their successful races for Democratic primary nominations – Eleanor Holmes Norton for Delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives and Phil Mendelson for DC Council chair – and the local continues to support them in the general election campaign.  At that time, DSA also endorsed Andy Shallal, owner of the Busboys and Poets restaurant/bookstores, in his unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for mayor.  In this general election round, DSA decided not to endorse any of the current candidates for mayor.  The local also decided on non-endorsements in races for ward councilmembers, attorney general and U.S. senator.

    The local is planning activities to support its endorsed candidates.  Members who would like to participate in DSA’s work in the DC election should contact Bill Mosley at billmosley@comcast.net.

    DC Residents Pack Senate for Statehood Hearing

    A Sept. 15 hearing by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee on DC statehood brought hundreds of District residents to the Dirksen Senate Office Building to hear Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Vince Gray and other local officials recount the District’s suffering under congressional control and make the case for full and equal citizenship for the citizens of the nation’s capital.  Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), who chaired the first congressional hearing on DC statehood in more than two decades, acknowledged that legislation on statehood had no prospect of advancing in this Congress – with a bare Democratic majority in the Senate and Republican control in the House – but that the hearing was nevertheless important as a way to “continue the conversation.”  Even in the absence of movement on a bill, the strong turnout at the hearing showed that a critical mass of DC residents is engaged in the issue and motivated to build a stronger statehood movement in the District.

    Statehood Advocates To Hold Candidate Forum

    The Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition and the DC Statehood Coalition will co-sponsor a forum on Thursday, Oct. 2 for candidates for DC delegate to the House of Representatives, attorney general, U.S. senator and U.S. representative.  The candidates will be asked to focus on how they plan to use their offices to promote DC statehood.  The forum will take place between 6:00-8:30 pm in the Great Hall of the Martin Luther King Memorial Library (Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro).

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      A Medley of Socialist Approaches to Climate Crisis

      October 1st, 2014  / Author: woodlanham

      The Washington Socialist<>October 2014

      By Andy Feeney

      When DSA members from around the country joined the People’s Climate March in New York on Sept. 21, we represented just a fraction of the socialist contingent.    No doubt in part to recruit new members at the march, but also in response to the growing gravity of global climate change and emerging popular movements to stop it (or at least slow its advance), many different currents on the U.S. left have recently been addressing climate change and environmental crisis.   Here are the platforms and/or statements of several groups, “ecosocialist” and otherwise, that DSA supporters should find worth considering.

      >>“Our Planet, Our Movement,” from Against the Current, newsletter of the Trotskyist group Solidarity.   Not only the growing climate crisis, but also number of other environmental indicators show our current civilization to be unsustainable, the editors of Against the Current warn.  Added scientific research and technological innovation is needed to head off catastrophe, yet “green capitalism” cannot provide a real solution in the end.  Socialist transformation will ultimately be required.   In the meantime, however, “the crisis cannot ‘wait for the revolution’ if we’re going to avoid the collapse that could well become irreversible — according to a mounting mass of scientific evidence — within a few decades.”

      Arguing that “the struggles to halt environmental destruction and capitalism itself must be waged simultaneously, and inextricably,” Against the Current goes on to address the essential role of organized labor in the fight for sustainability as well as the painful dilemmas of workers who are currently employed by industries contributing to climate catastrophe.  The statement goes on to provide electronic links to leftist activists who have proposed ways to address the economic needs of coal miners, auto workers and other employees of such anti-green industries while working to achieve the long-term solidarity needed to make climate activism successful.  To access the statement, click here:  http://solidarity-us.org/site/node/4233.

      >>Howie Hawkins, Green Party Platform for Governor of New York.  In the Sept. 21 People’s Climate March, supporters of the New York Green Party and Howie Hawkins’ campaign for governor were easy to identify from their bright green shirts, and in certain stretches along the route, there seemed to be a lot of them.  Hawkins and the New York Green Party have an elaborate political platform addressing many urgent issues of importance to the left, with planks on raising the minimum wage, reinvesting in public housing, providing better mass transit for all New Yorkers, preserving net neutrality, resisting efforts to privatize public education, and many other issues besides.

      In addressing environmental problems, Hawkins and the New York Greens identify several priorities, including a Green New Deal for the state, a ban on fracking and the closing of existing nuclear power plants, the achievement of a zero-carbon emissions energy system by 2030 in part through subsidies for distributed power systems and small-scale solar and wind power, a phasing out of large animal feedlots, the labeling of GMOs in food, a ban on antibiotics in animal feed, a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides that contribute to Colony Collapse among bees, and efforts to support small farmers in New York State through restrictions of corporate acquisition of farm land and economic and technical assistance for small producers.  For more on the platform, click here:  http://www.howiehawkins.org/platform.

      >>“Building an Ecologically Sound and Socially Just Economy,” by Fred Magdoff, Monthly Review magazine, September 2014.  Fred Magdoff, a long-time leftist with close ties to the Monthly Review school of Marxism, also is a professor emeritus of plant and soil science at the University of Vermont and has written frequently in MR on environmental topics, including the ecology of nutrient circulation within healthy soils.  He is author of the Monthly Review Press book What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism.  In this article, Magdoff focuses heavily on capitalism’s addiction to exponential economic growth and the incompatibility of such growth with environmental sustainability.  In a green and socially just economy, he writes, “Once socially determined basic human needs (material and non-material) are met – and after deciding how much is enough – the economy stops growing with only neutral or positive side effects for society.”

      Some other principles in Magdoff’s list include creating a society of small, relatively self-sufficient communities, having workplaces and residences be closer so as to minimize transportation needs, moving towards a more bicycle-friendly society, and agricultural production “based on soil and above-ground habitat management” that makes plants better able to defend themselves against insects and disease.  In Magdoff’s ideal society, “integrated animal-crop farms will be encouraged,” with farm animals treated humanely and their manure, along with human wastes to the maximum degree feasible, being recycled back to the soil.   The green society also will require shorter average work weeks, the elimination of planned waste in the economy, much greater income equality, and an education system that encourages compassion, cooperation, reciprocity and sharing, egalitarianism and a reverence for the natural world rather than their opposites.   At WS press time Magdoff’s article is available for free at http://links.org.au/node/4078.

      >>“Change the System, not the Climate,” from the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy & Socialism.  This is a 28-page booklet produced collectively by some 24 different CCDS members, with 15 pages devoted to a somewhat scholarly overview of current climate trends and a discussion of economic and technological forces driving them.  Unfortunately the text is not free of typos, but the booklet is visually appealing with some striking photographs and charts.  Sources cited include Bill McKibben’s .350 org, NASA, the IPCC, the Royal Society of London and the International Energy Agency, along with Al Gore and Marx.

      Among the recommendations in the final section of the booklet are support for a global fossil fuels divestment campaign, as endorsed by McKibben and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, among others; a focus on green job creation, as proposed at the World Congress of the International Trade Union Confederation in May 2014; radical reductions in the U.S. military budget to free up money for investment in green jobs, and “social control of capital up to and including nationalization of the energy and finance sectors of the economy.”   CCDS lists several more immediate priorities as well, including fights against tar sands oil production and natural gas fracking and the promotion of organic agriculture.  The booklet briefly endorses the Green Party’s “Green New Deal” also, including its call for a carbon use tax coupled with “robust” efforts to protect the incomes of working class and poor people who would otherwise be hurt by such a tax.   Single copies are available for $2.50 apiece, with cheaper rates for bulk orders, from CCDS Treasurer, 6422 Irwin Ct., Oakland, CA 94609.

      >> “Capitalism, Socialism, and Sustainability,” by Mark Schaeffer of DSA.  As posted by Mark Schaeffer to DSA activists before the Sept. 21 climate march, this outlines a possible democratic socialist approach to tackling global environmental crisis while also addressing growing economic inequality.   It can be printed out as a four-page 11.5” by 8” brochure for ease of distribution to other marchers.

      On one point, the DSA brochure is arguably contradictory:  it quotes a warning from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. against civilizations collapsing by deciding to make necessary changes “too late,” yet in another passage it states that a socialist society can be achieved through nonviolent struggles, “continuing over generations,” to expand democratic rights, institutions, and social relations “within a mainly capitalist system.”  The brochure adds, “These centuries-long struggles continue in our time on many fronts…‘  Whether most green activists believe the fight to curb climate change can extend over “generations” and “centuries” without producing global catastrophe is unclear.  The bulk of the brochure, however, outlines a number of paths to a green future that socialists can pursue immediately.  Stating that “business as usual is leading toward catastrophic collapse of the natural systems that billions of people depend on for their livelihood,” Schaeffer writes that achieving a sustainable economy will require “fundamental political and social change on every scale from household to planet,” adding:  “System change can only be achieved by uniting movements for social justice, peace, and human rights as well as environmental justice and stewardship.”

      Issues around which such activists can unite, the brochure indicates, include the creation of green jobs, especially through government-funded modifications to existing infrastructure; the fight for fair trade; the uprooting of environmental racism so that minority communities are not forced to be dumping grounds for toxic waste; campaigns for reproductive choice and access to family planning; fights for healthier workplaces; reductions in the working week and year; expanding and improving public transit; democratic local and regional planning; improved public education; the promotion of “diverse forms of economic democracy” including co-ops, worker-owned enterprises and community-owned agriculture; and campaigns to block fossil fuel and other hazardous technologies, including via divestment campaigns. [Editor’s note: on Sept. 30 Schaeffer sent some updates to the DSA Activist list for inclusion in future versions. Those changes may be included in the document referenced here by the time readers see this article.]  To access the brochure, click here:   http://www.dsausa.org/capitalism_socialism_and_sustainability.

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        Local Town Meeting on Ferguson, Mo. Killing Addresses Problems and Solutions

        October 1st, 2014  / Author: woodlanham

        The Washington Socialist <> October 2014

        By Ingrid Goldstrom

        “We are sick and tired of being sick and tired” was a mantra of those who gathered on August 28, to mourn the loss of Michael Brown and others, and to call for systemic/ structural/institutional  change.

        The Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW) held this  national town hall meeting “Ferguson and Beyond,” cosponsored by Busboys and Poets (where the event was held), the Institute for Policy Studies and radio station WPFW.  Frustration was palpable in the largely African-American, multigenerational crowd.  Among the speakers were Dr. Ron Daniels, President of IBW; Barbara Arnwine, President of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights; Jasiri X, Hip Hop artist and activist; Danny Glover, actor and activist (who participated by telephone); and the very warmly welcomed Dick Gregory, comedian and activist,

        Leaders of a broad coalition of civil rights groups (including, but not limited to, the National Urban League, NAACP, Rainbow Push Coalition, A. Philip Randolph Institute) issued a unified action statement of 15 steps to promote reform and stop police abuse.  Among these were calls for federal investigations and reviews by the Department of Justice, specifically on the killing of the unarmed Brown, and more generally on all police killings, as well as the use of excessive force and racial profiling.  They noted that closing the gap on data collections to monitor these activities is essential.  They also recommended the use by police officers of Body Worn Cameras (BWCs) and dash cameras in police vehicles.  Calls for community policing were also heard.

        Activists of the civil rights movement in the ‘50s and ‘60s have been re-traumatized by Ferguson’s example of federal military weapons in the hands of law enforcement – the militarization of the police.   Particularly painful for older civil rights activists was the fact that Brown’s body was left in the street for four hours, reminiscent of how people who were lynched were left in the streets.

        Of late, there seems to be incremental progress in some places in some of these arenas; for example, the Justice Department is moving forward with some investigations and locally DC will be testing body cameras.

        White DSAers need to reach out to our African American and Latino sisters and brothers about what we can do to help them achieve the goals they set forth as we all struggle for social justice.  For example, in anticipation of the November 4th elections, can we help both locally and in state-wide races?  One thing we can do as individuals is to be vigilant about submitting reports on police misconduct that we see.

        Of course, there is a longer and more fundamental struggle at hand – confronting racism wherever it exists.  Local metropolitan area DC DSA members can avail themselves of the opportunity to join others to speak openly and honestly about issues of race at the monthly Busboys and Poets A.C.T.O.R. (A Continuing Talk on Race).   See their website (www.busboysandpoets.com) for more information.

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          Taking Stock – Moving Forward: Jobs with Justice Steering Committee Meeting

          October 1st, 2014  / Author: woodlanham

          The Washington Socialist <> October 2014

          By Kurt Stand 

          After a summer hiatus, DC Jobs with Justice steering committee met on September 4 with a wide range of activities planned for the coming months.  Activities that will build on struggles engaged in – and victories won – during the past year.   And it is important to note the nature of those victories; for they speak to the core values of the coalition – justice for workers.  Over the past year, JwJ played an active, leading role in the successful fight for a wage theft law. Although wage theft (forcing people to work uncompensated overtime, not paying full wages due and the like) has always been technically illegal, previously there was no mechanism to allow those cheated to claim what had been stolen from them.  Another important victory was  DC City Council passage of a sick leave bill; meaning workers no longer can be fired for taking time off when ill – or when their children are sick,  And a third victory was won with passage of a graded minimum wage increase, to be implemented over the next few years.

          Given the realities of poverty and injustice within DC, however, JwJ is looking forward to greater gains in the future.  Thus  although DC  — alongside Montgomery and Prince George’ s County – was in the vanguard of the initial successful drive to increase local minimum wage in the absence of federal action (due to Republican recalcitrance) other cities have now taken that battle further by pushing for (and in some instances) winning an increase to $15.  That number is now the local goal and a new campaign is underway to that end.  So too is a campaign to include tipped employees, who labor with a minimum wage of $2.77 per hour.   Because of the strength of restaurant and hotel industries in the District, these workers have been excluded from previous gains.  JwJ is supporting a Restaurant Opportunities Center initiative to launch a public campaign to ensure that workers now excluded will be included in any future increase.  JwJ is also supporting the work of Respect DC, which is fighting to improve pay and working conditions of Walmart workers, focusing at the two stores recently opened in Washington.  And, in addition to supporting the efforts of coalition members, JwJ will soon announce the launch of a campaign of its own focusing on hours and schedule for the ever-growing number of contingent, part-time, sub-contracted workers that are features of our local (and of the national) economy.

          Two members of DSA took part in the meeting.  Other organizations represented included:  American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 12, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 2336, Employment Justice Center, GW Roosevelt Institute (student organization), International Socialists Organization,  Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA), One DC, Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC-DC), Service Employees International Union (SEIU)  Local 32bj, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW)  Local 400, the Washington Peace Center, and Washington Teachers Union (WTU).


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            The UK’s parties are Tweedledum and Tweedledee

            October 1st, 2014  / Author: woodlanham

            The Washington Socialist <> October 2014

             By Ingrid Goldstrom

            Alumni of the London School of Economics and Political Science heard a detailed update on the current state of British politics from two current LSE faculty Aug. 29.

            Professors Tony Travers and Simon Hicks from the LSE Department of Government in London spoke at Washington, DC’s Meridian House, saying that they believe that today there exists “little ideology” in British policies; that there is no substantive difference between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party (does this sound familiar re the Democratic and Republican parties in the US?).

            Despite an economic growth rate of 3.2% per year, there is growing inequality in Britain.  Yet, it is not debated whether austerity is the way forward – the Labour and Conservative parties simply differ on the question of how fast to continue in that direction.

            Like DSA, the Labour Party is part of the Socialist International (SI) so this is a disappointment to DSA members.

            Travers and Hicks identified three events which will have profound impact over the next three years: (1) the September 18 Scottish independence referendum; (2) the British elections in 2015 (at the moment they think the Labor Party will narrowly edge out the Conservatives); and (3) a possible 2017 referendum about British membership in the European Union.

            Party loyalty has dropped sharply. In the 1950s, 97 percent of the British population identified with one of the major parties; today only 65 percent do so.  This fact makes for major uncertainty in upcoming events.  Of great concern is the rise and success of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) described in Wikipedia as a “Eurosceptic right-wing political party” advocating an exit from the UK’s relations with the European Union and a five-year moratorium on immigration.  Their policies essentially make them the British ideological equivalent of the Tea Party in the U.S. although they operate as a separate party in a parliamentary system.

            One of the three major events Travers and Hicks discussed – the September 18 referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom – has since resulted in a “no” vote for independence.  The professors predicted that this would be the case, as well as the very close vote. They also predict that once the older, post-World War II generation literally dies out, younger generations of Scottish voters will vote in an independent Scotland.

            For now, those interested in British politics should keep a keen eye on the future, more incremental steps toward greater power for Scotland and the ripple effect this has on the UK as a whole, and to the upcoming 2015 elections and the role of UKIP as it potentially gains previously “safe” Labour seats.





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              October 1st, 2014  / Author: woodlanham


              The Washington Socialist<>October 2014

              Sometimes the most interesting phenomenon is the good read that pops up in the MSM, or mainstream media as the slang puts it. Here’s an NYT piece with some punch, and a groping sense of class conflict in separatist efforts:


              Sam Pizzigatti’s “Too Much” blog for IPS always amuses with a portrait of one or more greedhead moguls in his “petulant plutocrats” hall of shame. This time (Sept. 29; search for it) his “In Focus” section is headed “Why an Unequal Planet Can Never Be Green.” Read on…


              Michael Bindner posted this on the Metro DC DSA Facebook page. It’s an excellent and accessible roundup indicating that socialist practices are related, and easily imaginable from, our everyday lives in an already mixed economy; one of the pathways to altered consciousness



              Swedish voters recently dumped a right-wing government, as expected – but the news, by this account from the International Journal of Socialist Renewal, is not all that good, with neoliberal hegemony splitting the Swedish left.


              Population is a key element in both managing social provision and combating climate change. Yet, a writer for Grist observes, we talk about it last, or never. How to change that…

              Portside, an invaluable outlet for left analysis and opinion, presents a profile of Vermont’s Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose gestures toward an insurgent presidential candidacy have fired up progressives all over the map. The origin of this piece may surprise.



              The new economy offers the freedom to do without security in the “Freelancer Economy” — how good a deal is that? Portside links to a fine “Working In These Times” post…


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                DC Election choices, labor issues and the growth puzzle, local DSA action and more in our third Labor Day issue…

                September 6th, 2014  / Author: woodlanham

                Welcome to the Labor Day 2014 issue of the Washington Socialist, the email newsletter of the DC Metro Local, Democratic Socialists of America. This issue marks our second year of monthly publication, and the 16 articles (the most in any issue so far) we publish this month brings the total to 220.
                Whether we are simply long-winded or profound (and we have been both) this has been two years of keeping the socialist cause, ideals and analysis before a national capital that is ill-served by its capitalist media. We will keep it up, and want to remind the reader that she or he, DSA member or not, is welcome to submit articles, reports on local action and the like. Add to the chorus. Articles to woodlanham@gmail.com
                Coming up in September: the local will meet September 13 in a regular membership meeting at which it will consider endorsements in local races.  The meeting will be held from 1:30-2:30 pm at the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Public Library, 1630 7th St. NW (Shaw/Howard Metro).

                DCDSA has weighed in on the debate over common carrier status for the mega-cable broadband providers. September 10th has been declared “Internet Slowdown Day” by at least one activist group; check it out and see if it’s something you want to get in on.

                Our articles begin with Kurt Stand’s account of the birth of Labor Day, an oft-told story that gets richer in this tale of the twists and turns of the US labor movement that made the day both important and distracting for the interests of working people. [read complete article]

                Next, some pieces on local actions and DSA work. Jose Gutierrez reports on the Young Democratic Socialists conference in Pennsylvania [read complete article] and Bill Mosley provides a rundown on the upcoming DC elections. [read complete article] Kurt Stand details a local DSA event exploring the New York trial of DSA member Cecily McMillan for assaulting a policeman and the implications of official attacks on the Occupy Movement. [read complete article] and Dan Adkins assesses the ways to fight utilities that resist sustainable energy sources. [read complete article]

                Labor issues for Labor Day: and they begin with an article on Ukraine and the consistent subtext of this and other current disputes: workers and their families under fire from authoritarian capital on all sides, despite the guise of sovereignty. [read complete article] Jose Gutierrez reviews a new book asking why the US doesn’t have a labor party. [read complete article] Dan Adkins reviews another book on the sources of creativity and how they can democratize the workplace if nurtured. [read complete article]

                National issues are engaged by Andy Feeney, who reviews four differently left books on the financial crisis; [read complete article] Cecilio Morales examines Paul Ryan’s alleged reforms of the welfare system and finds them – spoiler alert – wanting; [read complete article] Dan Adkins looks at dangers to both US workers and families and their EU counterparts in the latest trade pact proposals; [read complete article] and Bill Mosley details the nation’s total failure to address transportation problems realistically and with an eye to the future. [read complete article]

                The knotty problems of labor, economics and growth are on the agenda too; Andy Feeney traces the concept of economic growth as necessary to capitalism from Adam Smith to today’s steady-state theorists; [read complete article]; Lucy Duff analyzes the central role of Karl Polanyi in the development of a sustainable alternative to growth-hungry modern capitalism; [read complete article] the bellwether role of the passenger pigeon in the rapacious growth of the US economy provides a metaphor for Bill Boteler’s account of habitat and species loss. [read complete article]

                And something completely different: Carolyn Byerly walks us through some tasty, lefty mystery novels by Donna Leon that have the additional advantage of taking place in Venice [read complete article]

                Last but never least: Good Reads, stories on the left you may have missed; links you can use. [read complete article]

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                  Labor Day’s Forgotten Roots

                  September 1st, 2014  / Author: woodlanham

                  The Washington Socialist <> Labor Day 2014

                  By Kurt Stand

                  Labor Day, like other holidays and traditions in the United States, has largely been stripped of its content over the years.  Often ignored except as the last summer holiday weekend, perhaps most people no longer recall its connection to the trade union movement.  Where rallies and parades are held, they are generally no more than occasions for politicians to salute those who work without speaking to the need for changes in law and public policy to restore labor rights, promote social insurance, and establish “jobs for all,” economic policies.  Exceptions exist, of course, but fewer and fewer, the exhaustion of the labor movement after decades of losses making it harder to use the day as reason to celebrate, making it harder to use the day to mobilize for militant action.

                  Perhaps this is only natural, for Labor Day itself has an ambiguous history, having been used to divert support from the working-class radicalism and international solidarity associated with May 1st.  That shift took place during the 1950s, because May Day’s association with Communists made it suspect during the McCarthy era (an association all the more disturbing to the Red-baiters because its roots – just as with March 8th International Women’s Day’s roots – lay in class struggles that took place in the United States).  Our history, however, has not only erased May Day traditions from our collective memory; it has also erased the true legacy of Labor Day.  For it too was initiated by socialist trade unionists and conceived as a means of militant demonstration against a rapacious capitalist class that seemed to know no bounds or limits in the push to expand and exploit.  A popular 1880s poem about railroad robber baron Jay Gould  (who famously claimed that he could hire half the working-class to kill the other half) gives some idea of the prevailing mood:


                  Jay Gould’s Modest Wants


                  “My wants are few; I scorn to be

                  A querulous refiner;

                  I only want America

                  And a mortgage deed of China;

                  And if kind fate threw Europe in,

                  And Africa and Asia,

                  And a few islands of the sea,

                  I’d ask no other treasure

                  Give me but these – they are enough

                  To suit my notion –

                  And I’ll give to other men

                  All land beneath the ocean.”


                  It was against this background that Peter J. McGuire – General Secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a leader of the Socialist Labor Party – proposed to the New York Central Labor Union in New York in 1882 that a day be set aside in early September for workers to show their strength through public rallies.  Slogans issued in the marches held those first years show the issues which most concerned unionists of the time.  These included “We must crush the monopolies lest they crush us,” “Strike with the Ballot,” and “Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, and eight hours for what we will.”    This last reflected the focus on the demand for the 8-hour day, a demand that, although advocated by individual unions, was a demand that could only be won through political means by becoming universal.

                  Labor Day reflected a transition phase in US labor; the 8-hour day demand was central to the formation of the American Federation of Labor, which was to rapidly outgrow the Knights of Labor as the principal organization of US workers.  The Knights embraced the values of collective organization and brought together black and white, women and men, unskilled and skilled (but had one blind spot: Chinese workers were excluded), whereas the AFL was rooted in craft unionism and eventually came to stand for division embracing white not black, men not women, skilled not unskilled (sharing only the Knights’ prejudice against the Chinese).  But this was not inevitable: The drift toward a unionism of exclusion was contested by socialists and other labor radicals, contested by the excluded themselves.

                  The path not taken until the rise of industrial unionism and the birth of the CIO can be seen in some of the calls for those early Labor Day parades.  In 1884, the New York Central Labor Union established the first Monday of September as the date of the parade, urging Central Labor bodies in other parts of the country to similarly act. It called the celebration “a universal holiday for workingmen,” in which all who toiled for a living would be welcome, stating “No distinction of color will be made; race prejudice will be ignored, religious differences will be set aside; but all men will be on an equality provided he earns his daily bread.”  The Chicago Trades and Labor Assembly that year made it clear that women were welcome too, passing a resolution stating:  “That the first Monday in September of each year be set apart as a laborer’s national holiday, and that we recommend its observance by all wage workers, irrespective of sex, calling, or nationality.”

                  Showing another connection lost through the years, Labor Day demands and actions in 1884 and 1885 were used to build support for the subsequent call in 1886 for May 1st as a day for strikes and marches demanding the 8-hour day.  The outlook of the early craft union leaders, for the most part, reflected the radicalism of the era’s labor struggles. Decentralized action by local groups seemed to them to be the basis for a more self-sustaining working-class movement – and a socialism rooted in worker’s organization — than the large mixed assemblies of the Knights or the local mixed skilled and unskilled locals built by revolutionary anarchists (a strong force in Chicago and other industrial centers at the time).  If we learn from a history forgotten we should remember how militancy betrayed itself when the potential for unity was not made a priority, when decentralization was set against solidarity rather than becoming its complement.

                  That said, those early Labor Day marches provide a legacy we should remember and uphold, for the conditions which they then fought are with us again.  A statement issued by the Minneapolis Trades and Labor Assembly in 1884 shows that connection with advice still worth heeding:

                  “[We call upon workers to demonstrate] to capitalists, bankers and their hirelings the power you possess when thoroughly understand how to think and legislate for yourselves.  While you drudge and toil away your lives for a bare existence, these idlers and non-producers live in luxury and debauchery, squandering with a lavish hand that which belongs to you – that which your labor produces. …

                  “They have tried to deny us the right to organize – a right guaranteed by the constitution of this government.  Therefore we call on you to show that we defy them; that you will organize; that you have organized; that the day of deliverance is approaching.  To do this we ask you to join in our ranks celebrating the day.

                  “The Trades and Labor Assembly proclaims to be labor’s annual holiday the first Monday of September.  Leave your benches, leave your shops.”



                  Poem is from:

                  Richard O. Boyer and Herbert M. Morais, Labor’s Untold Story, (1955) p. 73.

                  Labor Day quotes are from:

                  Philip S. Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the United States, Volume 2, (1955) pp 96-97.


                  Other sources for time period:

                  Foster Rhea Dulles & Melvyn Dubofsky, Labor in America: A History (1993 – original edition 1949)

                  Morris Hillquit, History of Socialism in the United States, (1971 – original edition 1910)

                  Pete Rachleff’s article from Portside: http://portside.org/2014-08-25/looking-back-labor-days-turbulent-origins



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                    Report on Socialist Organizing Weekend/Young Leaders Retreat

                    September 1st, 2014  / Author: woodlanham

                    The Washington Socialist <> Labor Day 2014

                     By Jose Gutierrez

                    Several under-40 year-old Metro DSA members participated in a national retreat located in Bolivar, Pa. The event served as both the Young Democratic Socialists’ (DSA’s youth section) summer conference and activist training for DSA members under 40. One of the event’s main purposes was for YDS and younger DSA members to interact and learn from each other. Our contingent was composed of seasoned DSA & YDS conference attendees as well as those who had never registered for a national gathering.

                    DSA chapters represented included members from Atlanta, Detroit, DC, New York City, Philly, Providence, Sacramento, and Utah. YDS chapters included New York, Ohio, Texas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and California. Attendance seemed equally split between YDS campus activists and DSA local members.

                    Many of us arrived Thursday night. We took part in several workshops and sessions Friday thru Sunday. We shared information about the state of our chapters and the situation that we faced in our corner of the country.

                    Caucuses met during lunch and included: writers, LGBTQ, women, people of color, ableism/disability, and education. The identity based caucuses want to develop members in their identity areas because they want YDS and DSA to have a more diverse membership and leadership.

                    The weekend was also the YDS annual internal, and the primarily campus organization voted on two key agenda items: to shrink the coordinating committee (their volunteer leadership body) and their Activist Agenda (the national priorities). Members decided to shrink the coordinating committee from twelve to six seats, with 50% quotas from women and people of color. The student activists also voted to maintain work fighting student debt as their main focus in the coming year.

                    I was impressed by the diversity of the participants that took part: ethnic, class, gender, and sexual orientation. This diversity was better than previous DSA conferences that I’ve attended. Also learning from comrades on what has worked for them and what does not was very useful. I hope that all of the participants will be able to continue the conversation that we started in Bolivar, Pa. and I look forward to the next time we get together.


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