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.

    1.  “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.

    1.  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.

    1.  “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.

    1. “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.

    5.  “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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            GOOD READS FOR SOCIALISTS OCTOBER 2014

            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:

            http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/19/upshot/scotland-independence-vote.html?ref=business&abt=0002&abg=1

            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…

            http://www.toomuchonline.org/tmweekly.html

            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

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-wilkes/towards-a-socialist-ameri_b_5898248.html

             

            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.

            http://links.org.au/node/4074

            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…
            http://grist.org/climate-energy/the-obvious-relationship-between-climate-and-family-planning-and-why-we-dont-talk-about-it/

            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.

            http://portside.org/2014-07-14/could-socialist-senator-become-national-brand

            AND NO SOONER DID WE RELEASE THIS MONTH’S NEWSLETTER THAN GREAT NEW READS KEPT CASCADING DOWN… SO WE WILL KEEP UPDATING HERE…

            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…

            http://portside.org/2014-09-29/freelancer-economy-here-should-we-celebrate

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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.”

                 

                Quotes:

                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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                    DC Mayoral Race Gets the Press, but Open Council Seat Draws the Crowds

                    September 1st, 2014  / Author: woodlanham

                    The Washington Socialist <> Labor Day 2014

                    By Bill Mosley

                    Readers of the Washington Post and other mainstream local publications can be forgiven for thinking that the only contest of interest in this fall’s District of Columbia election is the contest for mayor.  And indeed, that race has become more than the usual quadrennial coronation of the Democratic mayoral nominee, with two prominent independent candidates challenging Democrat Muriel Bowser.

                    But of at least equal interest is the race for the at-large DC Council seat being vacated by David Catania, who has chosen to run for mayor rather than for re-election to his seat.  The prospect of capturing an open seat has sparked a gold rush for the office, with 15 candidates qualifying for the ballot.

                    With serious contests for both mayor and councilmember-at-large, the 2014 election should generate greater-than-usual interest among DC voters, as well as progressive activists and organizations seeing an opportunity to elect candidates sympathetic to their causes.  Metro-DC DSA is one of these organizations, keeping an eye on candidates in preparation for its September 13 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).

                    At its February endorsement meeting, held in advance of the April DC primary election, Metro DC-DSA made endorsements in three DC Democratic Primary races, voting to back Andy Shallal, owner of the Busboys and Poets chain of restaurant/bookstores, for mayor, as well as two incumbents:  Eleanor Holmes Norton for delegate to Congress and Phil Mendelson for chair of the DC Council.  Norton and Mendelson won their primaries and are expected to cruise to victory in November, while Shallal finished fifth in a field of eight.

                    Also to be chosen by voters in the November 4 election are councilmembers from DC Wards 1,3, 5 and 6; a statehood (or “shadow”) senator and representative; a DC attorney general; members of the Board of Education from each of the eight DC wards; and approximately 200 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners, as well as a ballot initiative on legalization of marijuana.  This article will briefly discuss the more high-profile races.

                    Mayor

                    In addition to Bowser and Catania, the other well-known candidate in the race to succeed outgoing Mayor Vince Gray is Carol Schwartz, a former Republican councilmember and four-time unsuccessful Republican candidate for mayor, running this time as an independent.  Trailing the big three is a crowded field of independents and minor-party candidates – including Faith, the Statehood Green Party nominee and perennial candidate.  Also on the ballot are Libertarian Bruce Majors and independent Nestor Djonkam.  No Republican ran in the party’s primary.

                    It’s safe to say there is no true “progressive” among the top three candidates.  Bowser was a protégé of former Mayor Adrian Fenty and a supporter of his takeover of public schools.  She has been a cautious centrist who, among other actions on the Council, opposed the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA) which would have required Walmart and other big-box stores to pay a higher-than-minimum wage.  Perhaps more than any other recent measure before the Council, the LRAA exposed which candidates were willing to go to bat for DC’s low-wage workers and which supported the corporate agenda.  Bowser was the principal author of recent ethics legislation – coming in the wake of criminal convictions of three councilmembers and a federal investigation of Gray for campaign finance violations.  But her ethical image has been tarnished by charges that she helped a political supporter, the head of a nonprofit apartment complex, avoid public scrutiny of the company’s failing finances and the dilapidated condition of its building.  In her general election campaign thus far, Bowser has emphasized her Democratic Party affiliation and mostly avoided both the issues and engagement with other candidates. Bowser has been endorsed by the Metropolitan Washington Council of the AFL-CIO.

                    Catania, the Council’s first openly gay member, is liberal on social issues but business-friendly on economic issues.  He has promoted himself as an expert on education, with a record of supporting charter schools, and opposed the LRAA.  He initially opposed sick-leave legislation (Bowser and Schwartz consistently supported it) before later changing course and backing it. He is a self-styled “maverick” whose would bring a prickliness and combativeness to the mayoral suite that would pose a stark contrast to Gray’s self-styled collegiality.

                    Schwartz, who has been out of office since losing her re-election primary in 2008, compiled a fairly liberal record of the three on the Council, despite her Republican affiliation.  She was strong on tenants’ issues and was an early champion of requiring employers to provide sick leave for their workers — putting her at odds with Catania, who helped engineer her 2008 primary defeat.

                    When Catania entered the race, he was looking forward to a head-to-head contest with a compromised Mayor Gray, who would have to fight ethics charges with one hand and electoral opposition with the other.  Bowser’s defeat of Gray in the Democratic primary has made Catania’s path to victory much steeper, and Schwartz’s entry has two prominent white ex-Republicans competing for the same limited pool of voters, while Bowser is running on the strengths of her being a member of the city’s largest demographics – African-American and Democratic.  Catania has even asserted that Schwartz entered the race on Bowser’s behest to carve into his support, which both Bowser and Schwartz deny.  Whether or not this is the case, Bowser has the wind at her back, and it’s her race to lose.

                    At-Large Council

                    Unlike the mayor’s race, the at-large Council race provides real choices for progressives.  Under an oddity of DC election law, each biennial Council election includes races for two at-large seats, but no party may nominate more than one candidate in each election – effectively carving out a seat for a non-Democrat in this overwhelmingly Democratic city.  Catania’s decision to vacate the non-Democratic seat to run for mayor has attracted a large field of would-be successors.

                    The Democratic primary was won by incumbent Anita Bonds, who can be charitably described as an undistinguished party hack.  (She initially voted for the LRAA but then changed sides and voted against overriding Mayor Gray’s veto).  However, no winner of a Democratic primary has ever lost a general election during the District’s 40-year history of home rule, and Bonds is not expected to be the first.

                    It is the field of non-Democratic candidates that is generating the most heat.  Most of the hopefuls are political newcomers with thin or nonexistent records, drawn to an election where a candidate could win one of the two seats with a tiny percentage of the vote.  However, several candidates have established records and/or are running campaigns that raised hopes among progressives that the Council’s center of gravity could be pushed to the left.  These candidates are:

                    Graylan Hagler (Independent) — The 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 the 2010 jobs event at which he spoke and which was held in his church.  Among the progressive 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.

                    Eugene Puryear (Statehood Green) — He’s a younger candidate without much of a past in DC politics, but the Statehood Green Party is working hard for him to become the first candidate from their party to win a Council race since Hilda Mason.  Puryear identifies as a socialist and is a member of the Party of Socialism and Liberation, whose outlook and history was summarized in DSA’s guide to organizations of the socialist left.  Puryear was the 2008 PSL vice-presidential candidate and has been active in the antiwar ANSWER coalition.  His website emphasizes a more progressive DC budget, tenants’ rights, fairness for ex-prisoners and pursuit of DC statehood, as well as advocating a name change for Washington’s football team and national issues such as the Iraq crisis and immigrant rights.

                    Elissa Silverman (Independent) — Silverman, a former journalist, ran unsuccessfully in the 2013 special election for Council, losing to Anita Bonds.  She has built a profile as a favorite of DC’s “young progressives” who are largely newcomers to the District, to the left on social and livability issues but far from united when it comes to economics and social justice. Her principal true “progressive” credential is being a leader of the unsuccessful effort to ban corporate contributions to DC election campaigns.

                    Michael D. Brown (Independent) – Brown has been a DC Statehood (shadow) senator since 2006 and a strong advocate of statehood while lobbying Congress and promoting the cause outside of DC.  Brown would be expected to use his council seat to continue to promote statehood.  However, he doesn’t have much of a record on other issues.  He ran unsuccessfully against Phil Mendelson for the Democratic nomination for DC Council in 2010.

                    With the exception of Puryear, all of the above Council candidates were previously identified as Democrats, changing their registration to take advantage of the open seat reserved for non-Democrats.

                    The other at-large Council candidates qualifying for the ballot are less well-known:  Republican Marc Morgan; Libertarian Frederick Steiner; and independents Wendell Felder, Calvin Gurley, Brian Hart, Eric Jones, Khalid Pitts, Kishan Putta, Courtney Snowden and Robert White.

                    Ward Councilmembers

                    In addition to the at-large councilmembers, the District is divided into eight voting wards, each of which elects one councilmember.  Four of the ward seats are on the ballot this year; the other four will next be up in 2016.

                    In all of the ward races, the winners of last April’s Democratic primary have no opponents or at best token opposition.  They are:

                    WARD 1:  Brianne Nadeau, a newcomer who defeated Jim Graham in the primary, mostly stressing ethics.  She is largely a blank slate on other issues.

                    WARD 3:  Mary Cheh, incumbent.  She has something of a mixed record.  Significantly, she opposed the LRAA.

                    WARD 5:  Kenyon McDuffie, incumbent.  McDuffie is running for his first full term after winning the special election to replace Harry Thomas Jr.  He supported the LRAA, but otherwise his political profile is still being developed.

                    WARD 6:  Charles Allen, newcomer, a staffer for outgoing Councilmember Tommy Wells (Wells left his seat to run unsuccessfully for the nomination for mayor).  Allen is expected to carry on Wells’ record as a proponent of a livable, walkable city and a representative of “young progressives” (see description of Elissa Silverman, above).

                    Shadow Senator and Representative

                    In addition to having an officially recognized delegate to Congress (currently Norton), the District elects two “shadow senators” to six-year terms and a “shadow representative” for a two-year term.  The sole responsibility of these unpaid officials is to lobby Congress for DC statehood.

                    This year, one of the two shadow Senate races is on the ballot, with two-term incumbent Democrat Paul Strauss is being challenged by David Schwartzman of the Statehood Green Party.  Strauss has been fairly visible, and has been mostly known for getting celebrities to endorse statehood.  As the Democratic nominee, he is a prohibitive favorite to be re-elected.  Schwartzman is a longtime Statehood Green activist and member of the socialist organization Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, also described in DSA’s guide to socialist organizations.  He has been especially active in the DC Fair Budget Coalition, which advocates for greater spending by DC government on human needs and alleviating poverty.  John Daniel, a Libertarian, is also running, as is Glenda Richmond, an independent.

                    In the race for Shadow Representative, Franklin Garcia, a first-time candidate, is the Democratic nominee and prohibitive favorite.  He’s president of the DC Latino Caucus and a party activist.  No candidate ran in the Statehood Green primary, but afterwards the party selected Joyce Robinson-Paul for their slot on the ballot. She is a longtime statehood activist (she is currently vice president of the Stand Up! for Democracy in DC Coalition, a nonprofit organization that performs public education on DC statehood) and a former ANC commissioner.  Mark Moulton, a Libertarian, is also running.

                    Attorney General

                    This race was just added to the ballot and there was no primary.  In 2010 DC voters chose to convert this office from an appointed post to an elected office beginning this year, but the DC Council tried to postpone the first election to 2018, claiming the duties of the office needed to be clarified.  Attorney Paul Zukerberg, former DC Council candidate and advocate of marijuana decriminalization, led the successful court challenge to force the election to be held this year and, unsurprisingly, is himself running for the position and favored to win. The other candidates are Mark Tuohey and Edward Smith.

                    Council Chair and Delegate to Congress

                    Running against the DSA-endorsed incumbent Phil Mendelson for Council Chair is Republican Kris Hammond and independent John Cheeks.    Incumbent Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, also endorsed by DSA, is opposed by Republican Nelson Rimensnyder, Statehood Green Natale Lino Stracuzzi, Libertarian Sara Jane Panfil and independent Timothy Krepp.  Neither’s opposition is serious.

                    Ballot Initiative

                    In addition to races for elective office, the November ballot will have an initiative that would legalize marijuana for recreational use in the District.  This goes beyond a recent law that decriminalized (but did not fully legalize) marijuana.  A 1998 initiative legalized marijuana for medical use in the District.

                    *****

                    With all of this action, the 2014 election in DC provides a seldom-seen opportunity for progressives to have an impact on the outcome, especially on the composition of the DC Council.  Some elections force the left onto the sidelines; this one beckons us to become players.

                     

                     

                     

                     

                     

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