Monday, August 15, 2016

Mary Stewart for SEIU 503 Statewide Election 2016

Mary Stewart for
SEIU 503 Statewide Secretary-Treasurer in 2016


Serving and Representing Members:


General Council Delegate:  2010, 2012, 2014, 2016

CAPE Statewide Secretary:  2012-current

Central Table Member:   2013, Co-chair 2015

Specials Coalition:  2011, Co-Chair; 2013 & 2015

Arbitration Screening Panel:  2010-current

President Revenue Local 150:  2014-current

Acting Chief Steward;  2015-current

Union Steward:  2009 to current,

Revenue JLMC Rep/Labor Chair:  2013-2016

Labor Ed. Resource Center ULead Graduate 2015 



As your Secretary-Treasurer I’ll:
*         Commit to continuing to work for and represent every member,
*         Answer your questions-tell your stories,
*         Watch over your dues and report on union financials,
*         Be collaborative in reaching solutions-goals,   
*         Work to promote the goals and mission of the Union,
                 
As your Secretary-Treasurer I support:
*         Greater strength through improved transparency and trust,
*         A union which is representative for all members,
*         Social justice issues benefiting all,
*         Making our union more inclusive & promoting new leaders, and
*         Never ceasing the fight for better work-places, member rights and contracts

As Labor Unions continue under attack, I’ll fight against:
*         Corporate-dark money in politics and its sources
*        Unfair voter restrictions and those seeking to buy elections

Additional Qualifications:
30+ years in accounting, banking, credit &Tax
9 years Tax Auditor – Department of Revenue
Endorsements:
Linda Burgin
Past President-SEIU 503
Past Secretary–Treasurer-SEIU 503

Barbara Casey
Past Secretary–Treasurer-SEIU 503
Past Treasurer-SEIU 503 CAPE Council

Mike Scott
Vice President-SEIU 503
President-ODOT 730

Rhonda Morgan / Wayne Ground
President-DHS/OHA / Treasurer-DHS/OHA

Kathleen Lamar
President-DOJ

Blake Whitson
President-Dept. of Education

Noel Magee
Dept. Fish & Wildlife-Central Table

Austin Folnagy
Treasurer-SEIU CAPE Council
Dept. Business & Employment

Ann Montague
Past Chair Lavender Caucus

John Taylor
Chief Steward-University of Oregon

To those who pledged to vote for me –
Thank You All !!



Sunday, July 17, 2016

Changing the Paradigm: Women, National Liberation and Revolution in the 21st Century

A new book puts recent bombings in a larger context.

  


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

I was in the middle of reading Meredith Tax’s exceptional book, A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State (Bellevue Literary Press, 2016), when the Istanbul terrorist bombing took place. As is so typical of the U.S. media, the level of analysis was superficial. We were given the horrific details but beyond that there was little background as to what might have unfolded on that terrible day. Some mention was made of the Kurds and then Daesh (the so-called Islamic State). The most recent report I have seen is that the suicide bombers may have been Chechens.
  
Yet it was Tax’s book that actually put the bombings in a much larger context, one that looks at the historic oppression of the Kurdish people, the role of the current administration in Turkey in covertly encouraging—if not supporting—Daesh, and the struggle over the future of the Middle East. What makes this work unique is the manner in which it looks at these issues from the standpoint of women. Tax examines the struggles in that region through central attention to the link between national oppression, patriarchy and evolving global capitalism, and in this context, illuminates the complexities of the moment.
 
Tax has been an outspoken leftist in critiquing the manner in which many on the left have either fallen prey to knee-jerk anti-imperialism, i.e., if the United States is involved in a situation a) it must be the central player; and b) anyone opposing it must be a positive force, or post-modern visions of the world that permit cultural relativism particularly when it comes to women. For Tax, both of these approaches—which are often linked—are disastrous not only for women but for progressive forces. In that sense, A Road Unforeseen represents an effort to challenge, if not put to bed, a decrepit paradigm that is leading progressive forces into an ideological and political cul de sac.
What brought the current incarnation of the Kurdish movement to Tax’s attention was the unique role women were playing in the struggle in northern Syria in the region known as “Rojava.” Bits and pieces of this story made their way into leftist and mainstream media over the last few years as military units of Kurdish women (and their allies) engaged the Daesh, regularly defeating the latter. This stood in contrast to the near total collapse of the Iraqi military in the face of the Daesh offensive next door.  Thus, the question that emerged was, who was behind these units and what was this struggle really about?
 
Tax gives the reader a look at the 20th-century struggle of the Kurds for freedom, a struggle that found the Kurds frequently played off by either one imperial power against another, or on a regional basis, one nation against another. U.S. readers may be most familiar with the situation that unfolded in Iraq when, in the 1991 war, President George H. W. Bush called upon the Kurds—in northern Iraq—and the Shiites—in southern Iraq—to revolt against Saddam Hussein, only to abandon them when the goals of the U.S.-led coalition were satisfied. The Kurds (and Shiites) suffered terribly, some of which was eased through the introduction of the no-fly zone, prohibiting Hussein’s planes and helicopters from attacking those regions.
 
Yet, in many respects, the heart of the Kurdish struggle is to be found in Turkey where the Kurds account for approximately 20% of the population and have suffered vicious oppression at the hands of various Turkish governments as those governments attempt to dissolve the Kurdish people into a larger Turkish mass. In Turkey arose the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which was ultimately declared to be a terrorist organization by the Turkish government and by the U.S. Tax presents the PKK, however, as far more complicated.
 
The link between the PKK and the struggle in northern Syria against Daesh becomes much clearer later in the book, but Tax’s examination of the plight of the Kurds in Turkey is not only informative but heart-wrenching. Turkish governments have repeatedly acted to suppress each and every example of Kurdish strivings for public recognition, including but not limited to the ability to speak their own language. Every political act by Kurdish movements, when it is perceived by the Turkish government to be threatening, is condemned as terrorist, leading to jailings, killings and other forms of persecution.
 
It is worth noting here that the rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan and its specific repression of the Kurdish people represents a continuity in oppression rather than a qualitative shift. The dominant discourse, since the end of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of the secular Kemalist state (named after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the “father” of modern Turkey) has been that there exists only one people in Turkey. Whether during periods of so-called democratic rule or military juntas, this discourse has prevailed and with it the oppression of the Kurdish people.
The AKP has represented a break with the secularist Kemalist forces and a move in the direction of what some people describe as “moderate Islamism.” This Islamism is much aligned with that of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. The Erdogan regime has had objectives of moving Turkey in the direction of an Islamist state, ending secularism and entrenching a socially conservative authoritarian regime in power. This has included significant repression of popular democratic forces including but not limited to the Kurdish movement.
 
The hatred of the Kurdish forces by the Turkish regimes, including but not limited to the AKP, can be illustrated by their tolerance of Daesh—at least until very recently—contrasted with their antipathy toward the Kurdish movement. The AKP regime has been prepared to cut off supplies to besieged Kurdish areas in Syria that have been threatened by Daesh. They have, additionally, been prepared to turn a blind eye toward Daesh forces in transit through Turkey. At the same time, the AKP regime has carried out severe repression against the Kurds, labeling most acts of protest—whether peaceful or not—as terrorist. Martial law has been used and Kurdish political parties have been repeatedly rendered illegal. Thus, portraying the AKP as “moderate Islamists” is taken as a sick joke not only by the Kurdish movement, but by pro-democracy and pro-women activists in Turkey who have experienced the horrors associated with the regime.
 
The PKK, on the other hand, rose as a fairly typical left-wing national liberation organization in the 1980s, though possessing certain unique features, e.g., not following any of the socialist or so-called socialist states. It chose military action against the Turkish state, concluding that there was no other path. The story of its ups and downs, as well as the role of the iconic and all-present PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan was striking in that Tax makes no effort to gloss over crimes committed by the PKK or the equally troubling tendency, within the PKK towards the deification of Ocalan. Instead, this reads as a critical analysis of a movement that has undergone dramatic transitions, including in its understanding of women and patriarchy.
The heart of the book is actually about patriarchy/male supremacy and the redefinition of liberation  For Tax, the revolutionary trend within the Kurdish movement represents an anti-fascist and anti-misogynist force in the region. The link between the anti-fascism and anti-misogynism is key.  Tax examines the rise of religio-fascist movements like Al Qaeda and Daesh and sees in them not a revivalist movement but a demonic, barbaric force which seeks to create a neo-fascist "paradise" in the Muslim World. Central to this mission is the renewed oppression of women, including but not limited to overthrowing all of the gains that had been won by progressive and revolutionary forces in the Muslim world during the 20th century.
The religio-fascists may use the rhetoric of a return to the seventh century, but the seventh century that they reference never existed. Instead, this is a movement which gained great support from both Saudi Arabia and the U.S. during the Cold War as an effort to both counter the then Soviet Union but also to crush the broader Left and progressive nationalist movements in the region. The base of this movement, however, are men, and specifically men who have been cast aside by a changing (neo-liberal) global economy.  These alienated men see no future for themselves but rather they see a future in a mythical past. Al Qaeda and Daesh offer that and contained within that future is a barbaric oppression of women.
 
The PYD-led struggle in northern Syria is part and parcel of this anti-fascist/anti-misogynist effort. It is a struggle that Tax identifies as having arisen, to a great degree, out of the evolution of the PKK (in Turkey) whereby the struggle came to be understood as far broader than on the military plane and, most importantly, that the struggle of women for freedom was moved to the center of the theory and practice of the movement, and away from its periphery/afterthought.
 
In discussing conflict in Syria I was initially concerned Tax was going to walk around the question of the Assad regime. While Tax explains the vibrant anti-fascism of the PYD in its struggle with Daesh, I would argue that the greatest source of terror in Syria has been the Assad regime, though in no way am I suggesting that Daesh is in any respect progressive. Rather, the Assad regime has been brutally repressive and there are sufficient facts now commonly understood that demonstrate that it was Assad’s lethal repression of peaceful protests in 2011 that sparked the militarization of the conflict.
 
As the story unfolds it becomes clear that Tax does not walk away from a critique of Assad. She holds him responsible for the horror that has unfolded, though she does identify the internationalization of the conflict, particularly the introduction/intervention of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In fact, she gives important note to the manner in which Assad cooperated with Al Qaeda, in originally providing them safe transit into Iraq, only to later jail and then free their (now Daesh) militants when the Syrian conflict became militarized (an act that she correctly identifies as having been aimed at trying to make the conflict appear to be sectarian and, at base, a war against terrorism). A weakness in her portrayal of the conflict, however, is little attention to the destructive role of both Russia and Iran, key allies of the Assad regime.
In writing this review I have resisted the impulse to retell the entire story. This has been difficult because not only is the book excellent, but the story is compelling. Yet it is the analysis that situates what is otherwise described as a struggle against terrorism or a struggle for national freedom as a more complicated struggle for the emancipation of women, and thereby the emancipation of society, that gripped me as a reader and activist.
 
Tax closes her book with cautionary notes. Among other things, as an experienced leftist, she has all too often witnessed the romanticizing of various struggles and the blurring of reality. There are countless examples where leftists from the global North have seen only one side of a struggle and drawn overly simplistic conclusions. Khmer Rouge-led Kampuchea/Cambodia was a dramatic and tragic example of this. In the case of women, there have been many progressive and revolutionary movements in which women have taken leadership only to be thrown backward into traditional roles upon the “success” of the movement. Thus, Tax is fully aware that the future is not written but is the result of the struggles and ideas which we elaborate in the present. Indeed, the future is very much related to how we understand the past. In that regard, A Road Unforeseen leaves the reader with both a sense of optimism for the possibilities of a truly radical road, while at the same time a soberness as to the many real dangers that await anyone traveling toward the "undiscovered country."

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a talk show host, writer and activist.  He is the author of 'They’re Bankrupting Us!' And Twenty Other Myths about Unions. Follow him at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

An Italian Communist Views Italian And American Politics

We caught this interesting post on the Marxism-Leninism Today blog. 

Alessio Arena is the General Secretary of Fronte Popolare, a Marxist-Leninist activist group centered in Milan and Turin. He is also the author of Où Vont Les Italiens? Entre Réactions et Résistances au Nouvel Autoritarisme (Éditions Delga, 2012) [Where are the Italians Going? Reactions and Resistance to the New Authoritarianism] He visited the United States for three weeks in June, during which MLToday did the following interview.

MLT: Why are you visiting the U.S.?

AA: This is my first trip outside Europe, and I decided to come to the U.S. basically for political reasons to learn more about the culture, society and politics of the country that is the center of imperialism. Though I have seen some tourist attractions, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the World Trade Center, Wall Street, Times Square, the Metropolitan Museum, and Greenwich Village, including the statue of Garibaldi in Washington Square Park, this was not my main interest.

Mainly, I have been interested in trying to understand the prospects for the rebirth of a Communist party and left movement in the United States. For this reason, I have met with many people including trade unionists, Bernie Sanders supporters, peace activists, an activist in the Free Mumia campaign, and various communists and Marxist-Leninists, including of course those involved with MLtoday.com.

MLT: Why is this important for you at this moment?

AA: Given recent developments like the coup in Brazil and the attempts to undermine the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela and Bolivia, that there is little hope for socialist and people’s movements in the world without a strong movement in the United States to restrain the hand of imperialism. Moreover, whatever positive happens with the left in the United States has a powerful impact on the left elsewhere in the world.

MLT: Tell us something about Fronte Popolare.

AA: Fronte Popolare is a militant organization inspired by Marxism-Leninism that was founded a year ago September by a split of the Young Communist Leagues in Milan and Turin (the most important industrial and financial centers of the country) from the Communist Party Refoundation. Its goal is to contribute to the reconstruction of the revolutionary thinking that corresponds to the needs and expectations of Italians today.

There were many things leading up to this split. I myself was a Communist militant in this party for eight years. In the end, because of our differences with the party over participation in popular struggles, we concluded that the party had become hopelessly revisionist.

Fronte Popolare is small but has a young and very active cadre. The average age is 25. It has organizations in Milan and Turin. It has activists in the trade unions and works closely with the USB, the 600,000 strong public sector union affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions, as well as with other unions known as CUB and COBAS, and the opposition within the CGIL, the mainstream trade union federation. We have supported strikes and factory sit-ins by workers. We also work with students in high schools and universities. We work with local collectives that defend public property against speculators who are attempting to privatize it. We also work with anti-fascist collectives that defend democratic rights and the constitution against the growing rightwing threat. We have a website and make regular video transmissions for a leftwing wing video site.

MLT: Does Fronte Populare consider itself a Marxist-Leninist party?

AA: No. We do not consider ourselves a political party. A party is not only a tool but also a formation that demands a certain level of organization and the development of internal functioning and external methods of work in the society. We consider ourselves a Marxist-Leninist activist organization that is laying the basis for a party.

It would be wrong for a small group as ours to call itself a party. A party signals the stage at which revolutionaries can in some way contest power. It is necessary for us to grow in numbers, gain experience, and establish greater roots in the working class. In other words, a party must be capable of posing at all levels of the society the problem of power. In Italy at this moment no one on the left can seriously claim to have attained this level. Fully aware of its own insufficiency, our organization nonetheless recognized that the time has come to assume its responsibilities and contribute to the gathering of forces necessary to reconstitute a revolutionary vanguard.

MLT: Could you tell us something of the history of Italian Communist Party, namely what led to the dissolution of the once great and powerful CPI in 1991?

AA: We consider the history of the PCI (Italian Communist Party) fundamental to our heritage and our identity. Obviously, it is difficult in a few lines to analyze the complex process of the ideological and political decline of the PCI. Of course, this is a complicated question and the fate of the CPI cannot be separated from the collapse of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, the dissolution of the CPI also had uniquely Italian causes. You might say that the history of the CPI was related to the application of Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony.

That is, for 40 years the party worked very successfully to build Communist centers of power within Italian capitalism. It controlled the largest trade union. It had considerable influence in the universities and media. It controlled many cities and towns. And in the center of the country particularly around Bologna it built a very successful cooperative movement (la Ligue des Cooperatives) that ran factories, controlled construction, did food processing and so forth. Indeed, this cooperative movement was a major player in Italian capitalism. This strategy made a lot of sense during the Cold War, when the presence of U.S. imperialism in Italy, including military bases and troops, made an open struggle for power inconceivable.

Yet, this very success generated tremendous rightwing pressure within the party. Of course, there was resistance to this pressure. But in the end, these social democratic forces prevailed. It is up to Communists today to rethink the strengths and weaknesses of Gramsci’s ideas in light of this history and our new situation.

On top of this, there was the problem of external ideological pressure during the Cold War, the state repression of the workers’ movement over dozens of years and the infiltration and treason that harmed the party.

All such analysis is necessary to go forward but not to rebuild an experience that is definitely over. The slogan of refounding the Communist Party is valuable but not as a project of nostalgia and not with the revisionists and class collaborationists now in charge of the Communist Party Refoundation. For them refoundation is just a marketing ploy. For us it means pulling the important lessons from the past to build the future.

MLT: How do you regard the European Union?

AA: The Fronte Popolare participates in Eurostop, a platform of opposition to the EU that unites many forces in all countries. A valuable presence in this struggle is the union USB. In general we consider “Europeanism” incompatible with the international and patriotic perspective that we wish to build in Italy.

We think that the struggle for political power will happen by the reconquest of national sovereignty and by the formation of institutions capable of posing the question of popular power at a national level. It is for this reason that we are preparing to fight against the constitutional reform of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi by proposing the slogan of winning back the Constitution of 1948, because this was a constitution that represented the heritage of the Resistance and that aimed to radically transform our country.

The British decision to leave the EU opens up a good prospect for this fight. We will use Brexit to build a left way for an “Italexit” and an end to the E.U.

MLT: While you have been in the U.S., Italy has held municipal elections. What is your assessment of the outcome?

AA: This election represented perfectly the state of confusion and the absence of alternatives that typifies Italy today. The country has suffered the loss of 700,000 youth who have left the country seeking work abroad, a phenomenon that duplicates the Italian past. The unemployment and insecurity destroy the hopes and expectations of people and require retirees to use their savings to support their children who cannot make a life of their own. The corrupt politicians in the service of the bourgeoisie are seen by the population as part of the problem not a solution. And thus electoral participation is reduced. All options of the so-called left are simply ignored by the people because they lack credibility.

The sole exception is Naples, where the mayor, Luigi De Magistris, is an independent leftist who has built an interesting model of citizen participation, in the context where the only national parties that support him (PRC, PCdl and SEL) represent hardly 5 percent of the vote.In the main, the outcome was a catastrophic setback for the ruling PD Party of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The PD won in Milan and Bologna but lost in Rome and Turin to the 5 Star Movement, in Trieste to the center-right, and in Naples to De Magistris. In general, the people know what they don’t want the politics of Renzi and patrons of the UE and NATO, but the only alternative is the 5 Star Movement.

The 5 Star Movement , however, is no real alternative. It began as an anti-corruption movement spurred by the popular comedian, Beppe Grillo, and funded by a web media entrepreneur, Gianroberto Casaleggio. Though it has acquired some populist trappings, it is in fact a dangerous movement based on the promises of social media and an illusory futuristic vision of a web-based democracy. It is a movement strongly backed by Goldman Sachs.In this context, Fronte Popolare works openly for class politics in cooperation with all sincere democrats while solidly affirming its Communist identity.

MLT: What is your assessment of the way forward for the American left today?
AA: Even though we seriously study the situation in the U.S. and know the situation of the American left quite well, it would presumptuous to give advice. Still, there are obvious similarities in the situation faced by Marxist-Leninists in our two countries.

We think, of course, that it is important to be clear on one’s own ideology, but with confidence in one’s ideology one can work with all kinds of people. The most important thing at this stage is to organize and participate in action of all kinds—strikes, demonstrations, festivals, memorials, meetings, and so forth. Only action, particularly struggle, brings people to the movement. Of course, it is difficult to organize actions when your numbers are small.

Therefore, it is necessary to look for allies with groups that are willing to undertake united action. In the future, such alliances might develop into deeper unity.This at any rate is our perspective. Next month in Milan, for example we are organizing a festival with food, music, political discussions, and international participation. It will include a day devoted to the Free Mumia campaign. This is a tremendous undertaking and expense for a small organization, but we must do things like this to grow and have an impact.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Sanders Statement on Democratic Party Platform

BURLINGTON, Vt. – U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders issued the following statement on Sunday on a Democratic Party platform draft:

“The lesson of Brexit is that while the very rich get much richer, working people throughout the world are not seeing the global economy and an explosion of technology benefiting their lives. In fact, in the United States the middle class has been in decline for 35 years while there has been a huge increase in income and wealth inequality. Unfettered free trade has made multi-national corporations more profitable and their CEOs richer, but it also has led to the loss of millions of good-paying jobs in this country and a race to the bottom.

“The challenge for us today is to take on the greed and power of Wall Street and corporate America, and create a government and an economy that works for all of us and not just the 1 percent. In our anger and frustration, we must not succumb to the bigotry and divisiveness of Donald Trump and others like him.

“This is precisely what the struggle over the Democratic Party platform is about. We need to create a Democratic Party which fights for working families and not wealthy campaign contributors.

“I am glad that we have won some very important provisions in the platform drafting process so far, but much more needs to be done.

“There is very good language in the platform that calls for breaking up the largest Wall Street financial institutions and a 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act. I am glad that the platform drafting committee is on record to expand Social Security, to create millions of jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure and to end the outrageous tax loopholes that enable the very rich and large profitable corporations to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

“Unfortunately, however, the platform drafting committee voted down some very important provisions. Despite Secretary Clinton’s opposition, as a candidate for president, to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, her supporters in St. Louis voted down a proposal to keep the trade deal from coming up for a vote in Congress. The Clinton delegates also voted down definitive language to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Despite the growing crisis of climate change, they voted against a tax on carbon, against a ban on fracking and against against a requirement for 100 percent clean energy by 2050.”

“The platform drafted in St. Louis is a very good start, but there is no question that much more work remains to be done by the full Platform Committee when it meets in Orlando on July 8 and 9. We intend to do everything we can to rally support for our amendments in Orlando and if we fail there to take the fight to the floor of the convention in Philadelphia. It is imperative that this platform be not only the most progressive in the history of the Democratic Party, but includes a set of policies that will be fought for and implemented by Democratic elected officials.”

Sanders also discussed the platform during an appearance Sunday on “State of the Union” on CNN.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Support Striking Twin Cities Nurses!

The Minnesota AFL-CIO has issued the following request for solidarity with striking Twin Cities nurses. This important strike comes after the Verizon strike. We seem to be entering a period of large and concentrated strikes. Please help!

Nearly 5,000 nurses at Allina hospitals in the Twin Cities are on a seven day strike. They are standing up for their patients and to keep healthcare affordable for fellow nurses.

Walking the picket line can work up an appetite. Let’s give them a hand and send some meals their way. If anyone is able to donate lunch or dinner (easy stuff like pizza, sandwiches, etc., Nothing that needs refrigeration or to be kept hot), please contact Geri Katz at 651-252-5510 or geri.katz@mnnurses.org.

You can donate to any of the following strike locations:

Abbott Northwestern Strike HQ: Stewart Park, corner of 26th St and 10th Ave, Minneapolis, behind Abbott. Quantities: Usually several hundred people at once. Smaller crowd in the evening, maybe 100-150.

Phillips Eye Institute HQ: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, 2315 Chicago Ave S, Minneapolis. Much smaller location. Quantities probably only need to be enough for a couple of dozen people.

Mercy Hospital HQ: Classic Bowl, 11707 Round Lake Blvd, Coon Rapids. Numbers: hundreds.

United Hospital HQ: St. Paul RLF. Quantities: hundreds

Unity Hospital HQ: home of Bill and Cheryl Cox, 7701 Terrace Rd, Fridley, across the street from Unity. Smaller than United, Abbott and Mercy, but still hundreds.

Thanks in advance for helping our Minnesota Nurses Association sisters and brothers.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bernie Sanders, Labor, Ideology and the Future of American Politics---A necessarily controversial post

Bob Master has written a well-argued analysis of where we are just now as part of the left, and particularly the labor left, in the US. The article captures the contradictions of the moment and will be controversial. For those reasons, and not because of my agreements and disagreements with what Master has written, I hope that this post gets shared and discussed. CWA's endorsement of Sanders and the Verizon strike and this analysis done by the Legislative and Political Director for CWA District One have kept me proud of my CWA membership.



The Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, contrary to all expectation, has become the most important left insurgency in the United States in nearly half a century. A year ago, even his most optimistic supporters might have hoped that Sanders would enliven the presidential debates by challenging Hillary Clinton on issues of Wall Street power and big money corruption, and perhaps garner a quarter to a third of the primary vote. Instead, Sanders won primaries and caucuses in 23 states, and amassed over 12 million votes and nearly 43% of the pledged delegates. And all this while unapologetically and unabashedly proclaiming himself a “democratic socialist,” re-legitimizing a systemic critique of US capitalism for the first time since the one-two punch of Cold War reaction and neoliberal triumphalism froze the left out of mainstream American discourse two generations ago. The power of Big Banks, job-killing trade deals, ending the corrosive influence of big money in elections, eliminating private insurance companies from the health care system, and the merits of a “political revolution” became staples of prime-time presidential debates. Once stunning poll numbers now seem commonplace: 43% of Iowa caucus goers, including roughly a third of Clinton supporters, describing themselves as “socialists”; a New York Times poll late last year which said that 56% of Democratic primary voters had a “positive view of socialism;” and Sanders’ overwhelming support among young voters, by margins as high as 84% in Iowa and New Hampshire, but even reaching the low 60s in states like South Carolina, where he was otherwise crushed. Indeed, Sanders’ remarkable popularity among “millennials” prompted John Della Volpe, the director of a long-running Harvard University poll of young people, to tell the Washington Post that Sanders is “not moving a party to the left. He’s moving…the largest generation in the history of America…to the left.”[1] Something significant is definitely going on.

At this writing, just after the California primary, it appears virtually certain that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, and despite her historically high unfavorable ratings, she is likely to defeat Donald Trump in the November election. But the unexpected breadth and fervor of the Sanders movement signifies that the shifts in US political discourse engendered by the financial collapse of 2008 and the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011 are enduring. Bernie Sanders did not produce this moment—after all, he has been saying literally the exact same things about American society for over 40 years. But as in any movement moment, when the zeitgeist shifts and a leader’s vision gives voice to the hopes of tens of millions of people, the unthinkable suddenly becomes possible.

Despite its enormous promise, the movement has displayed critical limitations. Although Sanders worked hard to enrich his campaign’s analysis and message on issues of concern to people of color, the primacy he gave to questions of class, economic inequality and corporate power evidently prevented many African-Americas and Latinos from seeing themselves in his campaign. This is confounding given that African-Americans were especially hard hit by the ravages of the neoliberal, trickle-down economics Sanders attacks. Black family wealth, already only a fraction of their white counterparts, was halved after Wall Street melted down in 2008, and poor people of color were disproportionately victimized by the predatory loans which fed Wall Street’s speculative bond machine.

But African-American primary voters overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton. One leading Pennsylvania African-American faith leader explained to me that many black voters, especially older women, viewed their support for Hillary as upholding a “social contract” that was forged in 2008: after they abandoned Hillary for Obama that year, it was understood that eight years later she would have “her turn.” Younger activists of color, even some who support Sanders, say they didn’t “feel the Bern” because of his initial stumbling response to the challenges of Black Lives Matter protestors. And Michelle Alexander, who eviscerated the Clinton policy legacy in a Nation magazine article entitled “Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote,” attributed African-Americans’ 2016 allegiance to the Clintons to a widely held feeling that Bill Clinton was the first President “who actually treated black folks like they were real people, who could be viewed and treated as human beings…who actually would sit down to eat with them and sing in their church and acted like he enjoyed it, who recognized us as human beings.”[2]

Race remains at the core of the American tragedy, and the struggle for Black Lives will not be subsumed in a broader movement. The future potential of a continuing post-Sanders’ radical mobilization for economic justice, racial justice, and democracy will only be realized if it integrates the social critique and constituencies mobilized by BLM and movements for immigrant rights. The support Sanders received from leading black intellectuals, artists and elected officials, like Alexander, Ta-Nehesi Coates, Cornel West, Ben Jealous and Keith Ellison suggest that bridging the gap between the Sanders campaign and the emergent black mobilization is by no means out of the question. Here the labor movement, which despite all its flaws and limitations, remains by far the largest multi-racial institution of working people in our society, could play a crucial role in ensuring that whatever movement building effort that follows the Sanders campaign reflects the increasingly diverse face of American society.

Read the rest of the article here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

If you live in Salem, Oregon then you should join us on Sunday, June 26 at 5:00 PM at this event



Willamette Valley Oregon United for Florida

Sunday, June 26 at 5 PM

Southside Speakeasy
3529 Fairview Industrial Dr SE, Salem, Oregon 97302

This is a show to benefit those affected by the shooting that occurred in Florida on Sunday, June 12th. We are uniting as one to show our love and support to those on the East Coast.

This event is open to those 21+ only. The event includes a silent auction, drag show and raffle. Anyone interested in donating auction items please contact the link below directly.

More information to come, flyer to come as well.

Go here for needed info.