Thursday, December 1, 2016

Frank Rosen---A Life Well Lived

It seems to me sometimes that young people are lost or shut out as they try to find a place on the left and can't locate themselves in a particular tradition or an area of commitment and work. It doesn't help that there are so many people creating false dichotomies in polemics, like "identity politics" versus "class" or "revolution" versus "reform,' and making the left look like a mean, ugly and crisis-driven place hidden away in a very small tent. The older generations I knew as a young person are long gone, and many of them left us with a sectarian spirit or with understandable fears created under McCarthyism. Those of us growing old now, and especially those of us in and around the labor movement, should not repeat the past.

Frank Rosen---union organizer, activist and freedom fighter---died on November 28. An account of his life's work is an owner's manual on how to navigate life as a radical. The following is from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee website:

Frank Rosen, longtime labor leader, political activist, and member of the Defending Dissent Foundation board, died November 28, 2016 in Chicago where he spent most of his life. He was 91. Rosen took part in many of the seminal moments in Chicago history, from studying nuclear physics under Enrico Fermi, to fighting to defend civil liberties in the McCarthy era, to the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, to electing Harold Washington as mayor, to organizing against the unregulated power of utility companies, all while helping thousands of members of his union struggle on a daily basis for decent wages and benefits and dignity on the job.

Following 15 years as a rank-and-file member of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) and ten years on the union’s national staff, Rosen served as the elected president of UE District 11 from 1976 until his retirement in 1990. Throughout that time Rosen worked closely on many social justice issues with other leaders of the left wing of Chicago’s labor movement, led by the likes of Charlie Hayes of the Packinghouse Workers, who later became a U.S. Congressman.

Read more here

A tentative good step toward galvanizing action and strengthening the spirit of resistance in the mid-Willamette Valley

From a great local activist and organizer:

On Tuesday night, community members interested in forming a “Salem-Coalition” of “progressive” or social-justice oriented community groups and individuals gathered in the SEIU 503 meeting hall. The meeting, conceived by Keith Quick and another community member, was intended to act as a converging point for existing organizations to meet one another and find other Salem area residents compelled to organize after the recent national elections.

Several community organizations were represented by one or several members – including the Racial Justice Organizing Committee, Mano a Mano, Latinos Unidos Siempre, Progressive Salem PAC, Climate 350, and Salem Social Justice Collective. There were several teachers present – from Roberts and other high schools – and staff members of the state of Oregon, Willamette University, and union members, all, of course, acting as individuals and not representatives of their organizations. Over all, there were about forty people in attendance. Ages ranged from a junior in high school, frustrated about her inability to vote in the recent election, to several retired people.

The meeting, facilitated by Quick and local organizer Mimi Khalili, began with a long, but potentially necessary period of introductions. Attendees introduced themselves with a wide range of identities, backgrounds, experiences in organizing and activism, and interests. Many were new to Salem, and just as many expressed that they had lived here for a very long time, and felt rather isolated in what they perceived as a conservative town. After the first series of introductions, Khalili asked the group if anyone would like to share their personal experiences with hate crimes or targeting, encouraging sharing because everyone could learn something by hearing one another’s experiences. She started by talking about how she had personally experienced racism and targeting since she was a child. Several others spoke up – mostly women – and told stories of harassment, violence, and abuse of force from citizens and law enforcement, some from farther in the past, and some having occurred in the most recent weeks. One woman told a particularly disturbing story of police officers tackling and handcuffing her father outside of his own apartment building in the middle of the night.

After sharing these experiences, the group moved on to begin to discuss the potential for action and organization. The majority of attendees seemed to not be currently attached to an organizing group, and were looking to find like-minded people to work with. This may have contributed to a lack of direction once the group began discussing how to proceed tactically. There also was a shift in space and speaking, as the balance in the conversation shifted to mainly older white men sharing their ideas and designs. One woman spoke up and suggested that everyone acknowledge and consider their positionality and be cognizant of the space they take up in the room. Everyone in the group seemed to appreciate this sentiment, although it can sometimes be a struggle, especially in large groups, to moderate the presence of voices. There were a few times when people suggested that the role of this organizing group should be focused on the current administration, but there was definite pushback to the idea that racism, violence, and systemic inequality were somehow new, or unique to our present political situation. Several folks also addressed their concerns with broadly organized networks and coalitions in the past, and emphasized the need to develop some time of internal structure.

The discussion became rather side-tracked for a while on discussing what the name of the group should be. Eventually, this decision was tabled for the next meeting. One woman spoke up bravely and pushed back against the word “progressive,” because, as she movingly stated, she associated that word with people and movements that seem to be leftist, but repeatedly and continually abandon and ostracize undocumented people from their struggle. After a bit of encouragement from two other individuals to acknowledge the significance of those statements, everyone was moved to assert that the presence, support for, and defense of undocumented people would be an intrinsic part of any Salem coalition. There will need to be a lot of action to stand behind those words, however, to make up for how “progressive” movements have failed marginalized people in the past.

In terms of tangible, productive steps, one attendee volunteered to create and send everyone in the room a survey regarding their goals and thoughts for the name, organization, role, and focus of the group. Kai Blevins volunteered to create a google doc and group that everyone could share and contribute to. This group would include a shared calendar that could be used to keep track of actions, meetings, rallies, fundraisers, etc. all over the Salem area. Several attendees also suggested planning efforts begin in Salem to organize a protest for inauguration day.

As is par for the course for an initial meeting, it wasn’t the most efficient or focused gathering, but there seemed to be a healthy amount of energy, commitment, and ideas – as well as enough folks ready to resist succumbing to watered-down, neo-liberalism type ideas. As the meeting came to a close, we set a date for the next meeting – December 14th – assigned two new facilitators (myself and Peter Bergel volunteered), agreed to send out google invites and surveys, and accepted the offer of one attendee to translate the next meeting into Spanish in order to start following through on making the group accessible and welcoming. For the next meeting, I believe it will be useful to initially address some concerns about dominance and power in group settings, and establish a self-imposed rule for how many times you should contribute to a conversation in order to not shut others out. I think it will also be imperative to address, before names or other logistical details, the nature of the group as a whole: will this be a “coalition” that simple acts as a network communicator and resource builder, connecting people to already existing organizations, helping facilitate volunteers, numbers, capital, etc? Will this be a group of individuals? What will the goals be? How precisely do these goals need to be defined? Is this group focused on community support and defense, or policy change?

Overall, this meeting seemed like a tentative good step toward galvanizing action and strengthening the spirit of resistance in the mid-valley.

Water Protectors Lock Down Wells Fargo Offices in Solidarity with Standing Rock--Could we do this in Oregon?

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Salem, Oregon Continues To Organize---Hold January 14 For A Day Of Protest!

Calls for on-going nationwide protests are continuing as we get closer to Trump's inauguration. A meeting held in Salem last night and another meeting held today have confirmed that activists are coming together and looking for ways to unite and join in the national movement and make this real at the local level.

Please hold Saturday, January 14 if you live in the Salem area, and please turn out that day to join in the protest waves. People with gather at the State Capitol at 11:30 AM under the leadership of CAUSA and other local groups to make the peoples' voices heard.

No central slogan or demand has been formulated yet, but this needs to be a disciplined, large and loud event led by CAUSA and affiliated groups and in line with a forward-looking national agenda which brings the peoples' and working-class forces together.  

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Kurdish response to climate change

From an article "A Kurdish response to climate change" found here:

Historically, two key opposing trends have run through environmental movements. The first is reformist and favours environmental engineering. This approach still views nature in terms of how it can serve human needs through “environmentally-friendly” reforms and technologies. For the Kurdish movement, this avoids the question of who has profited from environmental damage and delays an effective solution to the problem. The second is a deep ecology approach, which tends to be anti-technological and anti-human. This is also limited because like it or not, it is humans who have, over time, developed most capability to shape nature. This power can be used to renew and protect nature, or to destroy it. So when a deep ecologist says “humans are responsible for everything” they imply that the chiefs of the fossil fuel industries are no more guilty than our Kurdish grandmothers who live in their villages tending the land.

To move beyond these two approaches, we need to understand the positive role human technologies have played – and could play again – in the reciprocal relationship between biological nature and human society. Do we really need to have a bird inside a cage in our house to show our love to it, when it is its nature to fly outside?

We also need to understand the roots of today’s climate crisis. How did the idea of controlling nature arise in the first place? Can humans control ‘external’ nature if they don’t first create structures of domination among themselves? Our views on this are based on studying our 5000-year history. Imprisoned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ă–calan has written about how hierarchy began to be institutionalised for the first time in the temple complexes of ancient Mesopotamia, beginning with the rise of the male priest and the institutionalisation of patriarchy. From here followed the state, slavery, the standing army, private property; features of many societies we know even today.