Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Red-baiting never seems to go away, and today it has new forms

The Park Slope Collegiate 6-12th grade secondary school is located in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Jill Bloomberg is principal of the school. She and and two teachers at the school have been accused of belonging to the Progressive Labor Party, an old and useless sect. Bloomberg and the teachers are being investigated for being communists. Besides the matters of civil liberties and that we live in a time when the enemy is the right-wing, and not the left, it's worth remembering that this investigation---this attack---comes from the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Special Investigations, a part of a liberal city political administration. Bloomberg and the teachers are accused of possibly encouraging young people to join protest actions. Plasinly said, they stand accused of heolping young people exercise their rights.

We often encounter red-baiting and a related anti-communism and anti-leftism. It may be the local Democrats who refuse to work with socialists who are out front with their politics, its the anti-communist laws on the books in California which can't be purged, its union staff who want to bury talk of class struggle, its the people who buy into the alt-right lie that Portland killer Jeremy Joseph Christian is really a leftist, its the Clinton supporters who opportunistically attack the misogynist Bernie Bros as representatives of the left and its the Bernie Bros who announce that they're the resistance and are leading the revolution, its the Black Bloc people and the social democrats who increasingly support them, its whomever it was who mistakenly identified Kathy Griffin as a leftist, its the people who want to depoliticize social movements, or its the people who talk themselves out of being radicals and revolutionaries by carrying privilege theory to illogical ends which don't challenge capitalism from a class and intersectional position. These are not all the same objections to the left and leftism; we can't lump them all together. McCarthyism lives.

It's important to realize that we are not as far along the way to real change as we sometimes think we are. There can be no change without a left which has won the support of the working class and the people, so those who use red-baiting and anti-leftism are really objecting to struggle and real change. The upsides of this are that it should put a brake on a tendency on the left which poses as a vanguard, it tells us now what the balance of forces is, and it should obligate the left to work even harder to win people over to our positions. What our friends in the political center might miss is that their red-baiting and anti-leftism are often depriving them of needed allies and the solidarity needed to defeat Trump.

The following short essay was lifted from long-time radical and thinker Mark Naison. I couldn't connect with Mark to ask his permission to run this, and he may well not agree with what I have written above. His piece is a great recap of history which takes to our present situation.

The Sordid History of Red Scares in New York City Public Schools: Some Background to the Jill Bloomberg Story

As it becomes increasingly clear that the NYC Department of Education IS making Communist influence ( in this case the alleged influence of the Progressive Labor Party) a major subject of its investigation of Principal Jill Bloomberg of Park Slope Collegiate, it might be useful to recall the unhappy history of past efforts to uproot Communists from New York City Public schools

From the late 1930's to the early 1960's,such efforts focused on the activities of the New York City Teachers Union, a trade union which had some Communists in its leadership, which was competing for union recognition, from the early 1950's on, with the United Federation of Teachers. Although efforts to purge Communists from the NY City School system were coordinated by an alliance of conservatives and liberal anti-Communists on the NY City Council and in the NY State legislature, they were strongly supported by leaders of the UFT. Scores of teachers were removed from their jobs in the late 1940's and early 1950's if they were exposed as Communists by informers or took the fifth amendment when called before state or city investigating committees.

Unfortunately, the Communists removed from the school system, were without fail, the most committed and principled anti-racists in the New York City School system ( See Clarence Taylor's "Reds at the Blackboard: Communism, Civil Rights, and the New York City Teachers Union") people who challenged their racist colleagues, exposed segregation in the schools and fought for the incorporation of Black history into the curriculum. Not only did the purge of "Reds" remove many talented teachers who welcomed working with Black and Latino students, it significantly weakened the NYC Teachers Union and virtually assured that the UFT would be the organization to represent NYC public school teachers in collective bargaining Some of the consequences of the UFT's dominance would appear several years later when the UFT led a series of strikes against Community Control of Schools, leading to racial divisions in the NYC School system that would take decades to heal

Past history suggests that the DOE should have proceeded with extreme caution in allowing the "Red issue" to resurface in formal investigation of a principal as that kind of investigation has a long history of smothering anti-racist activism in the schools. And in a city that is as hyper segregated as New York City with a school system that mirrors that pattern, smothering anti-racism is the last thing the DOE needs to be doing

This is a shamefully misguided investigation.

Ayşe Deniz Karacagil (Destan Temmuz) fell as a martyr during a clash with ISIS on the morning of May 29.

Ayşe Deniz Karacagil was one of the heroes of the Gezi Park protests in Turkey in 2013. It seems so long ago that the Gezi Resistance gave us special hope that Turkey would emerge from darkness, that solidarity between peoples and between leading sections of the workers' movement and leading sections of peoples' movements would develop and avoid civil war, and that Rojava's advancing revolution and the Kurdish movement and the fighters in the Qandil Mountains and Abdullah Öcalan would all be able to participate in democratic elections. Not all of our hopes were sacrificed as the Gezi Resistance was defeated by state violence and Erdoğan ignited a civil war: the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) built optimism and struggle and did quite well in two elections, Rojava survives and the Kurdish movement continues. There is still a strike movement and radical working class leadership in place in Turkey: see herehere and here. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has no reason to feel safe.

Ayşe Deniz Karacagil (Destan Temmuz) was jailed in Turkey after her detention during the Gezi protests for wearing a red scarf. She was popularly known as "the girl with the red scarf" but was labelled a terrorist by the Turkish authorities and judiciary. The authorities asked that she receive a 103 years prison sentence. Ayşe was released on February 6, 2014 and took to the mountains soon afterwards. Her communications with her family after she fled which were publicly shared were quite moving. At some point she made a principled decision to join the fighters of the Marxist Leninist Communist Party (MLKP). The MLKP has given many fighters to the struggle.

Our comrade Ayşe Deniz Karacagil (Destan Temmuz) was fighting in the ranks of the International Freedom Battalion in the battle against ISIS gangs in Rojava when she fell as a martyr during a clash with ISIS on the morning of May 29.

With the repression in Turkey, and now especially in Ankara, and the arrests of our friends Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, many more Ayşes will grow and join a movement which will welcome them. We want their lives and their paths to be easier, and we want to see their victory without this civil war and loss of life. Ayşe Deniz Karacagil (Destan Temmuz) was among the best young women of her generation. We should renew our solidarity in her memory.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Teresa Alonso Leon has been chosen to be this year’s Fiesta Mexicana parade grand marshal at the Woodburn Fiesta Mexicana!

Former Woodburn City Councilor and current House District 22 Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon has been chosen to be this year’s Fiesta Mexicana parade grand marshal at the Woodburn Fiesta Mexicana. The Woodburn Fiesta Mexicana runs Aug. 4-6 at Legion Park. The parade will be Aug. 5 beginning at 11 a.m. at the Woodburn Aquatic Center.

Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon is the daughter of migrant farmworkers and an immigrant to the U.S. She comes from the Purepecha indigenous people in San Jeronimo, Michoacan. She grew up in the district and attended schools in Gervais and Woodburn. Rep. Alonso Leon became  a U.S. citizen in 2012, she is the first in her family to attend college, she  holds a master’s degree in public administration from PSU, and she's the first immigrant Latina lawmaker in the Legislature. She previously worked for the Higher Education Coordinating Commission as the high school equivalency and GED administrator. She was appointed to the Woodburn City Council in 2013.

Rep. Alonso Leon was recently quoted in The Statesman Journal as saying, "When I think about the folks in my community who wake up so early to go to work, and now they wake up in the morning to go to work and hope and pray that they don't get pulled over by ICE, to me that's just unacceptable,"

Best, or most important of all, when Rep. Alonso Leon speaks, she speaks as a real daughter of the people. Her campaign materials were in English, Spanish and Russian. When she speaks, we all see the better parts of ourselves in her story. She's honest, caring, focused, on top of things and she brings her story to the table. She's making history every day. She represents Woodburn and she represents Latino aspirations, but she also represents the heart and soul of what progressive politics should be.

For more information on the Fiesta Parade, click here.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Health Care for ALL Oregon (HCAO) will be holding their Spring Member Activists Meeting in Salem on June 10

Join Us in Salem on June 10
for the HCAO Spring Member Activists Meeting

Nearly 60 statewide organizational representatives and activists have already registered for the meeting next month.

Saturday, June 10
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Salem
5090 Center St NE, Salem, OR

Seize the moment and join with our honored speakers: Oregon Senator Michael Dembrow, Oregon Representative Rob Nosse, and Richard Masters (producer of Fix It: Healthcare at the Tipping Point and his new film, Big Pharma: Market Failure)

Great activist skills trainings are being organized by our Vice President Ben Gerritz and the planning committee. Legislative Committee Chair Charlie Swanson will be providing updates on legislative and strategic progress towards universal health care in Oregon and the U.S. And much more!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

CNI and EZLN support María de Jesús Patricio as presidential candidate for 2018.

From GrupoFormula:

María de Jesús Patricio Martínez fue nombrada hoy como vocera del Concejo Indígena de Gobierno (CIG), quien será su representante o candidata independiente a la Presidencia de la República en el 2018, y solicitará su registro oficial a finales de agosto.

En la Asamblea del Congreso Nacional Indígena (CNI), que se realizó en San Cristóbal de las Casas este fin de semana y en el cual participó el Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN), más de mil representantes de más de 58 pueblos indígenas del país acordaron brindar su apoyo a María de Jesús Patricio, quien es originaria de la comunidad nahua de Tuxpan, Jalisco, tiene 57 años y madre de tres hijos.

Asimismo, quedó constituido el Concejo Indígena de Gobierno para México que "en medio de una guerra cruel, con su entereza, valentía, decisión, inteligencia y amor, lleven la voz de los pueblos por el país tan dolido y agraviado".

Al rendir protesta, el CIG y Marichuy, como se le conoce a la vocera, se comprometieron a cuidar de los pueblos y comunidades, construir y acompañar las rebeldías, ser anticapitalistas abajo y a la izquierda, no caer en la tentación de buscar el voto y el poder frente a los de arriba".

Y recibieron la advertencia: "y si no lo cumplieran no sólo los pueblos se los demandará, sino que los vamos a sancionar y los vamos a quitar".

"Por acuerdo de nuestra asamblea constitutiva del CIG decidimos nombrar como vocera a nuestra compañera María de Jesús Patricio Martínez, del pueblo nahua, cuyo nombre buscaremos que aparezca en las boletas electorales para la presidencia de México en 2018.

"Ninguna delimitación de nuestros pueblos, ninguna determinación ni ejercicio de autonomía, ninguna esperanza hecha realidad ha respondido a los tiempos y formas electoreras que los poderosos llaman democracia, por lo que sólo pretendemos arrebatarles el destino que nos han quitado y desgraciado; pretendemos desmontar ese poder podrido que está matando a nuestros pueblos y la madre tierra", manifestó.

Señaló que "la clase política se ha empecinado en hacer del Estado una corporación que vende la tierra que es de los pueblos originarios, campesinos y urbanos, que vende a las personas como si fueran una mercancía que se mata y entierra como materia prima, de los cárteles de la droga para venderlas a las empresas capitalistas que nos explotan hasta que enferman o mueren, de venderlas en partes para el mercado integral de órganos".

Indicó que "las organizaciones criminales que actúan en descarada complicidad con todos los órganos del gobierno, partidos políticos e instituciones configura el poder de arriba y son causa de repugnancia para millones de mexicanos en el campo y la ciudad".

En medio de esa repugnancia, añadió, "nos siguen diciendo que votemos, que creamos en el poder de arriba que siguen dibujando e imponiendo nuestro destino", pero "en ese rumbo sólo vemos yerba que crece y en el horizonte está la muerte y destrucción de nuestras tierras, familias y vidas".

Luego de dos días de trabajo y tras una asamblea abierta, la Asamblea Constitutiva del CIG ofreció una conferencia de prensa y uno de sus integrantes, Mario Luna, del pueblo yaqui, aclaró que quien encabeza la campaña es el Concejo, pero por las formalidades institucionales se registrará a la vocera para que aparezca su nombre en las boletas electorales de las elecciones federales del próximo año.

En su oportunidad, Fortino Domínguez, concejal zoque indicó que lo que los distingue de los partidos políticos es que ellos parten de una concepción individualista y aclaró que "no vamos a hacer campaña, sino vamos a aprovechar esto para organizarnos para desmontar el poder. Es un camino colectivo. No se confundan: no es una vulgar lucha por el poder, sino una lucha civilizadora".

Please support our innocent comrades Nuriye and Semih. They have resisted for over 200 days, and have been on a long protest fast. They have been arrested by Turkish authorities on false charges.

Please go here to help. We have sent a petition. Your solidfarity is needed immediately.

Following the increasing solidarity, on May 22, in the small hours, Nuriye and Semih were taken into custody from their home by forced entry, with a charge of “Attempt to create a resistance such as Gezi and Tekel”

Today is May 27, it is the 200th day of the resistance which Nuriye Gülmen started and which was enhanced by Semih Özakça’s engagement afterward. Nuriye and Semih have been on hunger strike for 80 days and they were imprisoned 4 days ago.

After being purged by the government’s KHK (Decree Law Order), academic Nuriye Gülmen started her sit-in strike by saying “I want my job back” in front of the Human Rights Monument at the Yüksel Avenue.

Semih Özakça, elementary school teacher in Mardin, who was purged similar to Nuriye’s purge and he joined the struggle, thereby growing their resistance raided by police 30 times at Yüksel Avenue. Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça were taken into custody and released afterward, respectively 28 and 16 times.

Gülmen and Özakça who have been on hunger strike by saying “we want our jobs back” are now arrested for 4 days and their comrade Human Rights Monument blocked by police for 5 days.
Nuriye Gülmen started alone

After the coup d’état on 15th July described by Erdoğan as “a favor from Allah”, more than 100 thousand public workers were purged from their job. One of them, Nuriye Gülmen started her resistance alone on 9 November 2016. Gülmen was taken into custody when she wanted to do sit-in protest in front of the Human Rights Monument. Gülmen declared that she would continue her sit-in protest every day and since then she was taken into custody nearly every day.

In the following days, other purged public laborers joined Gülmen’s resistance. Sit in protests hence grew and continued with Veli Saçılık who lost one arm under the fallen walls during the government’s prison operation (also ironically called as “Return to Life” operation) which was carried out with bulldozer and who, after years, was purged from his work at public sector by KHK, and with purged teachers Acun Karadağ and Semih Özakça (from Mardin) as well as Esra Özakça who is also Semih’s partner.

They forced the police to retreat

Taken into custody nearly every day, Nuriye and Semih persisted in their sit-in protest and hence forced the police to retreat. On 28 November 2016, Gülmen announced they won their “protest right” via twitter by saying “We are sitting in for 2 hours, our persistence gave result. We are so happy. We’ll gain victory. We didn’t surrender, we won’t surrender”.

They started Hunger Strike during custody

Nuriye and Semih, who won their “protest right” and continued to resist for their work, they made a press statement on 9 March in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. When they were leaving the Parliament, they were taken into custody and they were detained for 5 days. In their press statement at the Parliament, they announced they’ll start their hunger strike at March 11 but practically they started at March 9.

After being released from custody, they continued their protest for 24 hours at the Human Rights Monument. On March 17, the police attacked again and they were detained once again along with seven others.

Resistance grew in front of Human Rights Monument

On May 8, at the 62nd day of their hunger strike, Nuriye Gülmen felt faint and went home to rest. Gülmen’s images in which she was seen deteriorating created a growing public interest. The next days, supporters of Nuriye and Semih started to come to Yüksel Avenue. Deputies from CHP and HDP also visited for support them. The Human Rights Monument have been filled with the supporters of Nuriye and Semih until the day it was blocked by police.

Midnight Attacks

After the growing public reaction, police attacked three times people who sit down at the Monument. Police waited the midnight or the early morning hours to raid; they detained those who were waiting at the monument and also removing away the flowers brought for Nuriye and Semih.

They were arrested under the pretext of “They will create a resistance such as Gezi and Tekel”

Following the increasing solidarity, on May 22, in the small hours, Nuriye and Semih were taken into custody from their home by forced entry, with a charge of “Attempt to create a resistance such as Gezi and Tekel”. At the same day, police surrounded the Human Rights Monument with barriers where the resistance grew up. Prosecutor blamed Semih Özakça for playing guitar and singing, he also asked Nuriye Gülmen questions such as “what kind of benefits are offered to you for hunger strike protest”.

On May 23, Nuriye and Semih were arrested and sent to Sincan Prison. In their first visit after being arrested, they informed their lawyers that their health and morale were good.

What AKP Says?

First statement from the Government came on May 11. Answering a question about Nuriye and Semih, the Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said “I didn’t know, are they in prison?”

Afterward, on May 19, Said Yüce, deputy from AKP, said “there is no place for hunger strike in religon”.

After KHK oppressions were announced to the world with this resistance, the Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu has allegedly “discovered” that the two educational laborers who were continuing their peaceful protests for months in the middle of the capital city, were “terrorist” and he said “We do not send our children to the school to get them educated as terrorist.” about Nuriye and Semih’ arrestation.

Kızılay is under blockade

All the roads leading to the Human Rights Monument, located on the busiest streets of Kızılay were blocked by police on the day Nuriye and Semih were taken into custody.

On May 25, Nuriye Gülmen sent a letter from Sincan Prison and made a call to her supporters: “Do not leave Yüksel Avenue unattended!”

The Human Rights Monument in Yüksel Avenue is still surrounded by police barriers. Acun Karadağ ve Veli Saçılık are doing sit-in protest in front of the police barricade with the same slogan, “we want our jobs back”. Deputies from CHP described the situation as “Turkey became a prison” and they vowed “As prisoners, we’ll pace back and forth in front of the barricade “.

How was Nuriye Gülmen purged?

Nuriye Gülmen is a member of the Eğitim-Sen (Education and Science Workers Union). Shortly after starting her job in Konya, Selçuk University on 2012, she was voluntarily transferred to Eskişehir Osmangazi University. The police and the university council opened investigation, gave suspension many times under the pretext that she attended protests for Berkin Elvan, Ali İsmail Korkmaz and Kobane and she joined her union’s press declarations and finally she was fired. She was accused for “being associated with leftist terrorist organizations” but she acquitted.

She was permitted to take her job back on April 2016 but she couldn’t start her job because of hassle of the YÖK (Council of Higher Education) and universities that she worked. Her place of duty was changed regularly between Eskişehir and Konya. After the attempted coup d’état on May 15, she was first suspended with an alleged “link to theconservative terrorist organization (FETO: Terrorist Organization of Fethullah’s Followers)”, then she was purged with KHK on the 60th day of her resistance.

Translated by Emre Zülfikar, Redacted by Evrim Şaşmaz

Sendika.Org News

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Progress since the AT&T Mobility Strike---"Mobilization needs to be ramped up to keep the pressure on, and we need to be prepared to bargain for as long as it takes."

AT&T Mobility Orange Contract 2017 Bargaining: Report 45
May 25, 2017

Since returning from the strike, and because of your courage, the company has been filling many of the open information requests. It took a strike and Unfair Labor Practice charges to get the information but we are getting it. However, the company continues its greedy demands and they continue to spread misinformation about bargaining. The Union will not back down and we urge you to contact your Local if you are hearing anything that does not sound correct. If there is any harassment or intimidation going on that needs to be reported as well.

Mobilization needs to be ramped up to keep the pressure on, and we need to be prepared to bargain for as long as it takes. Despite the company's lies, the strike closed hundreds of stores nationwide, left call centers unstaffed and critical network tickets not dispatched until Monday. Keep up the fight, One day longer, one day stronger. When We Fight We Win!!

Stay strong Brothers and Sisters!!

In Solidarity,

Mike Baxter, Local 1101
Frank Oliva, Local 1298
Deb Casey, Local 2204
Jeff Reamer, Local 13000
Julie Daloisio, Local 13500
Holly Sorey, Local 4202
Glen Skeen, Local 4320
Debbie Goulet, Local 7803
Hector Capote, Local 7250
Brandon Beck, Local 9511
Joe Sison, Local 9412
Pat Telesco, District 1, Chair
Tonya Moore, District 1

Yasmin Hernandez: Willie Colón & Oscar López: The pathology or revelation that colonialism inspires in the psyche

The artist Yasmin Hernandez does some deep and necessary work here and teaches and feeds us with the following on her great blog Repatriating Boriken:

Yo creo en muchas cosas que no he visto y ustedes también, lo sé
No se puede negar la existencia de algo palpado por más etereo que sea
no hace falta exhibir una prueba de decencia de aquello que es tan verdadero
el unico gesto es creer o no.
algunas veces hasta creer llorando
se trata de un tema incompleto porque le falta respuesta
Respuesta que alguno de ustedes, quizas le pueda dar

(I believe in many things I have not seen and I know you also have
The existence of something palpable cannot be negated for however ethereal it may be
It is unnecessary to provide proof of that which is so real
The only choice is to believe or not
Sometimes even believe crying
This is about an incomplete song [or topic] because it lacks an answer
An answer that perhaps one of you might provide )

“Oh que será” (What can it be?) has been, and has not ceased to be, my favorite song by Willie Colón. It is a song that contemplates the “magical realism” of our existence, of what is, even when others or we ourselves cannot see it. I have loved this song since I was a little girl. Perhaps my upbringing and continued beliefs in espiritismo drew me to Colón’s voice singing “son fatasmas, son los fatasmas.”

This is the song that came to mind as I contemplated the recent controversy with Colón denouncing the New York Puerto Rican Day Parade’s decision to name as one of its honorees, the recently released Puerto Rican Political Prisoner of 36 years, Oscar López Rivera. Actually it was a collection of Colón-shaming posts involving his family that brought this song to mind. This isn’t a simplistic testimony in defense of Colón. Nor am I here to judge him. The accounts of sexual pathology, drug addiction, negativity, inferiority complexes, throwing oneself and each other under the bus, actually read like stories of my own family and yours too probably. Remember, as a colonized people, our trauma and pathology run deep.

Ricky Best died defending two Muslim women from a white supremacist in Portland.

The second victim of the Portland terrorist attack is Ricky Best, a City of Portland employee and 23-year-Army veteran. He died a hero yesterday, defending two Muslim girls from a white supremacist. Let's make him famous.

"Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche and Ricky Best - I promise you that we will always remember you as two American heroes. You are of the best amongst us - willing to risk your life to stand up to racism and bigotry. You are the epitome and embodiment of true allyship and solidarity.

We love you. We pray for you. We will carry on your legacy and courage. Rest in POWER. We won't let the fascists and racists win." Linda Sarsour

The Oregon AFL-CIO Lobby Day and the need for unity, discipline and struggle

I took part in the Oregon AFL-CIO lobby day last week. The experience of lobbying at the State Capitol for a few measures which benefit workers and, by extension, most Oregonians was a good one and educational. It has helped me think through a few points which are quickly moving to the center of our political universe.

The lobby day came right after our strike at AT&T Mobility, and it was good to feel the subtle push that the strike gave labor. And while it was the rank-and-file of our Communications Workers of America union which moved the strike so successfully, it helped to have Senator Merkley and other politicians with us. If we got a hearing last Thursday, it was due in part to those great CWA picket lines.

 We were at the state Capitol to lobby for a transportation bill which will directly benefit Portland if the bill passes. The difficult parts of this are that the bill only indirectly helps other regions and requires that workers foot much of the cost. On this latter point the Oregon AFL-CIO has taken a strong position on workers not picking up the greater part of the tab. We were also there to lobby for the Fair Work Week bills (HB 2193A and SB 828A), for making corporations pay a greater share of taxes and contributing more to services, and for the Stable Homes (HB 2004) legislation, We were also there to lobby against cuts to the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). The Stable Homes legislation emerged as especially important during the day. The ghosts in the room are the recurring state budget shortfall, the attempts by some ranking Democrats and Republicans to cut deals which effectively disenfranchise working-class people and people of color, the resistance to these deals by some elected peoples' champions and the state of unity between labor, people of color and other progressive forces.

A few points provide needed context for me here:

* The Oregon AFL-CIO's political agenda is broader than it has been in the past, and more progressive, but it still does not speak fully to women and people of color. Because of this there were few women and people of color with us and leading us at the lobby day.

* The labor agenda did not include the Cover All Kids and ending racial profiling legislation which is needed. "Mainstream" labor continues to forget about getting farmworkers covered under the labor laws which cover everyuone else.

* Some of the state revenue proposals which seem to be getting traction negatively affect union and workers' rights and come from the far-right anti-government groups.

* Liberal and progressive decision-makers are not talking about taxing the rich, but are instead looking for making tax policy less regressive. Oregon has the lowest corporate taxes in the U.S. Meanwhile, people who are represented by SEIU Local 503 make perhaps 98% of market wages and benefits. Workers pay three times for the wealthy not doing the right thing: we pay by having to pay the bill for services, we lose when those services are cut, and we pay if we work for state or local governments in low wages and benefits which are always stable. All of us are still paying for the 2008 Wall Street crash. The social conversation which began in labor around the failed Measure 97 is still alive and still helpful. The Oregon AFL-CIO has done a great job in keeping this conversation alive. A negative (the loss on 97) can become a positive (progress on a tax-the-rich program).

* PERS is one part of a complicated puzzle; downward adjustments or cuts mean that other pieces in the puzzle have to move as well. PERS problems do not stand by themselves. Whatever the behind-the-scenes negotiations which are taking place, the Oregon AFL-CIO has held on to principles by keeping this on its agenda.

* The Fair Work Week legislation potentially covers tens of thousands of people working in retail, but it doesn't affect the local coffeeshop. Enforcement of our progressive sick leave law is lacking. When labor looks to winning private right of action on sick leave law violations---and possibly on fair work week violations in the future---we are surrendering the collective action which built our movement and we're handing our opposition a win.

* Four in 10 Oregon households are now renters, with vacancy rates in many urban districts at one or two percent. Something like 1.5 million people here are therefore vulnerable when it comes to housing. "Rent stabilization" is replacing rent control as a public demand, and no-cause evictions have center stage in the debate now. The opportunity to build pressure around linking tenant's rights to higher wages and healthcare certainly exists and is necessary, but it is not at the front of liberal and progressive agendas (including labor's).  

* The problems with Portland's Terminal 6 have not been part of the legislative discussions on transit---and they need to be. The focus is more on who pays for infrastructure and on Portland's problems. Our instinctive push is for extending mass transit so that Eugene, Corvallis, Salem and other towns can be connected to Portland once more. The decision-makers regard this as utopian if they think about it at all.

* Legislators Brian Clem, Brad Witt and Tim Knopp move further to the back of the room every day. Senate President Peter Courtney's famous drama and yelling and bipartisanship continues to substitute for principles, and it's clear that he is challenged and baffled by the few progressive women and people of color who now hold legislative positions.

We have said in the past that maximum unity is needed among the peoples' forces for real change, and especially so when the state budget is in such bad shape. Without unity behind a broad set of inclusive political demands and leadership which looks like Oregon's working-class we run the risk of fighting one another for crumbs as the legislature winds down. For my part, I want to spend the remaining weeks of the session focused on housing, Cover All Kids legislation and the June 6 rally at the Capitol against cuts to services. But what's missing is having one movement behind one agenda and radical leadership pushing for all peoples' demands. Hopping from rally to rally doesn't correct that loss.

That movement and leadership exists on the ground now, but if it is placated or ignored or misused in some way it will suffer. More to the point, an inside/outside strategy of combining strikes and demonstrations with political demands is needed, and this puts some stress on us to be disciplined at demos and push for unity. We have to pull or push the political center in our direction. If you're showing up at liberal or progressive events in a mask and bragging that you're the real left, you're not helping. If you're giving Clem, Witt and Courtney a pass, you're also not helping. If you're a politician hiding behind "bipartisanship," or if you see politics as being about trade-offs rather than struggle, you're in the way---and please step aside.

The Oregon AFL-CIO agenda continues to broaden and become more inclusive and more progressive. Every progressive tendency in the labor movement needs to be strengthened and supported. If you're a union member, you need to show up. If you're a woman in a union, you have the opportunity to participate in the Oregon Labor Candidate School. Every social movement shares the responsibility for building principled unity.

   Sandra Hernández-Lomelí of Latinos Unidos Siempre does the right thing by testifying at the legislature for farmworker labor rights. 


It's CRUNCH TIME for pro-tenant HB 2004. If it passes renters will score a historic victory, and If it fails we'll know that Senate Democrats voted for the landlords instead.

Leave a quick message with the following Democrats in the senate, to let them know renters are watching; tell them, "I insist you vote YES on HB 2004."

Ginny Burdick: (503) 986-1718
Rod Monroe: (503) 986-1724
Betsy Johnson: (503) 986-1716

Friday, May 26, 2017

The advancements in Latin American Marxism helps push all socialisms forward

The article Reading Gramsci in Latin America by Nicolas Allen and Hernán Ouviña makes a strong contribution to work even if we do not agree with the authors in every detail. Here are some paragraphs which I hope whet your appetite. Thanks to NACLA for doing the hard work!

How, and why, has Gramsci’s thinking remained so relevant in Latin America? History provides several clues—among them the fact that the first non-Italian edition of his Quaderni del Carcere (Prison Notebooks) was published in Spanish in Buenos Aires in 1950.

The Quaderni presented a reinvention of traditional Marxism, taking national history as its central point of reference. Before Gramsci, Latin American communist parties largely ignored the specificity of national and regional histories, deferring to the Communist International’s (Comintern) interpretation of history, which deemphasized the particularities of individual nation-states. Gramsci’s writings encouraged Marxists to engage directly with a set of regional realities that local communist parties had programmatically ignored, such as peasant-based and plebian societies, a feeble bourgeoisie with little vocation for national leadership, and entrenched authoritarian state structures. These factors became the basis for a Latin America-specific line of Marxist analysis.

Gramsci’s ties to Latin America go back nearly a century. As early as 1921, the Italian theorist’s work was introduced on the South American continent, thanks to the writings of José Carlos Mariátegui, a profoundly original Peruvian Marxist who in many respects was Gramsci’s intellectual contemporary. Since then, Gramsci has been enlisted into a larger intellectual project that has sought to adapt Marxist theory to the social reality of a region largely ignored by orthodox Marxism.

Nowhere was this adaptation more apparent than with Gramsci’s concept of the “organic intellectual.” Transposed to the Latin American scene, the organic intellectual was directly involved in political and social struggles against imperialism and capitalism, a figure that would provide intellectual guidance, but just as importantly, a moral example. In other words: a Che Guevara, a Camilo Torres, a Luis de la Puente, a Miguel Enríquez....

The consensus seems to be that a forthcoming analysis should center on the structural weaknesses and policies that have eroded the base of popular support for the region’s progressive governments. Here too the Gramscian concept of “passive revolution” is being re-engaged: debates are growing about whether any substantive transformation of productive sectors have taken place in the last decade and a half. The answer seems to be no; during the so-called pink tide, the prevailing model of accumulation not only emerged unscathed but even intensified in key areas, such as extractive industries.

Even in the midst of a historical downturn, the Latin American left could still show signs of rebound. While progressive governments adapt to shifting landscapes, the region’s social movements continue to fulfill the role of a “collective intellectual,” as proposed by Gramsci, waging local struggles that seek to create a new culture and worldview. Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), a prime example of a movement where Gramsci enjoys near-saint status, will hope to play a prominent role in the resistance to Brazil’s right turn. Social movements, be they indigenous, feminist, syndicalist, student, or peasant-based, will continue to resist on the terms that Gramsci had imagined, incorporating the cultural struggles and subjective conditions that he understood as forming an essential part of the revolutionary process towards socialism.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Northwest Labor Press Obituary For Sister Lois Stranahan

The Northwest Labor Press has done a great job in remembering Sister Lois Stranahan. Her passing is all the more notable because CWA Local 7901, which Lois helped found, hit the streets last week in the AT&T Mobility strike. Perhaps that was the greatest tribute for her.

Lois Stranahan, 1919-2017

Lois Redding Stranahan, a tireless fighter for trade unionism and economic justice, died May 17 at the age of 97.

Lois was well known in the local labor movement, together with her husband Jesse Stranahan. For many decades she was a presence at picket lines and union meetings, gathering signatures on ballot measures, and promoting the union gospel of solidarity.

She was born Lois Redding on Dec. 1, 1919, in Mena, Arkansas, and grew up there as one of six children in a farm household. She met Jesse Kneeland Stranahan while the two were attending a summer labor school at Commonwealth College in Mena. At the time, Jesse was a reporter for a CIO newspaper. They married on Sept. 13, 1940 in Pocatello, Idaho — en route from Arkansas to Portland, his home town. In Portland, he worked the docks as a member of International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 40. She worked as a waitress and helped organize for Waitresses Local 305.

When the United States entered World War Two, Jess initially stood as a conscientious objector, but later served the U.S. Army on an ambulance crew in Europe. Lois, meanwhile, went to work in a Swan Island shipyard building Liberty Ships as a welder and member of Steamfitters Local 235.

After the war, Jess went back to working on the Portland docks, and became a prominent local union officer. Lois went to work as a telephone operator, where she was one of the founding members of Communications Workers of America Local 7901, taking part in a 1948 strike against the Bell phone system.

She eventually left to become a full time wife and mother. In the 1960s, she joined the ILWU’s Ladies Auxiliary, and served as a photographer for The Dispatcher, the international union’s newspaper. She also became a committed volunteer on the grape boycott campaign led by Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers, and stayed with that cause for decades.

Lois was a dedicated volunteer signature gatherer for ballot measures she believed in going back as far as the 1940s, and in the late 1980s, she became active in campaigns to defend the right to gather signatures. On Oct. 11, 1989, she was gathering signatures outside a Fred Meyer shopping center at Southeast 82nd and Foster in Portland, and refused an order by a security officer to leave. Lois told the officer she had a constitutional right to be there, and showed a newspaper article about a recent court case backing that up. A court had ruled that even though a shopping center was private property, it couldn’t ban petitioners, because their public spaces were the modern-day equivalent of the town square. But Fred Meyer had her arrested anyway, and as she was entering the police car, she injured her back. Stranahan sued Fred Meyer for false arrest. A jury awarded $125,000 in compensatory damages, plus $2 million in punitive damages. The trial judge reduced the total award to $500,000, but the Oregon Court of Appeals reinstated the jury amount. By the time Stranahan v. Fred Meyer went before the Oregon Supreme Court in 1995, the damages were $3.8 million with interest. Stranahan had many plans to use the money to fund causes she believed in. But the Oregon Supreme Court decided against her, ruling that the store had the right to exclude petitioners from its property.

Undeterred, she continued her activism. On Dec. 1, 1999 — her 80th birthday — she and 350 other union activists boarded a chartered train to Seattle to take part in the largest labor demonstration in decades — a protest at the World Trade Organization summit.

In the late 2000s, her health worsened, but her spirit remained: Friends say that in the hospital, Lois would grill the nurses about their union membership, and she once was said to have gotten rid of a doctor who was insufficiently pro-union. Health difficulties prompted a move to New Jersey, where her daughter Judith Karen Stranahan — a union railroad conductor — could look after her. She spent the last decade of her life there, and died peacefully at her daughter’s home in Edison, New Jersey.

She was preceded in death by her siblings and her husband Jesse, who died in 1998. She’s survived by her daughter, and numerous nieces, nephews, and extended family. She’ll be buried at Willamette National Cemetery, 1180 Mt. Scott Blvd, Portland, next to her late husband Jess. A graveside service will be held there at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow, Friday, May 25.

Local climate justice activist Laurie Dougherty explains protest, civil disobedience and climate justice activism

Dear friends, my apologies for the length. I got carried away here.

On Friday May19 together with Deb McGee, Sandra Clark, Carolyn Partridge and Elizabeth Chandler from Eugene and Shirlee Evans from Redmond, Oregon, I was convicted of 2nd degree criminal trespass (a misdemeanor) in Skagit County Washington Superior Court. We, along with 46 other people, were arrested a year ago at a non-violent direct action blockading BNSF railroad tracks that led to two oil refineries in Anacortes, WA. This blockade was part of Break Free Pacific NW, a three-day event (May 13-15, 2016) that also included a colorful, creative family-friendly march alongside the refineries and a water blessing led by local Native American Tribes, a kayak flotilla, workshops in the town of Anacortes and at Deception Pass State Park,and a group sitting down at the refinery gates on Sunday afternoon. Break Free PNW was itself part of a global series of actions in several countries and other US locations - Break Free from Fossil Fuels.

A few arrestees pled guilty. The rest of us were divided into groups of five or six for trials. Our group of six defendants received the same sentence as others who were tried before us: 90 days in jail suspended for a year. After a year with no other conviction or when we complete the other terms of the sentence, whichever comes first, jail goes away. The other terms are a $250 fine (maximum would have been $1,000). Most of the fine can be worked off with community service at a rate of $x per hour (I need to confirm the exact dollar amount per hour), plus one day of mandatory community service. Since we are all from Oregon, the judge said we can perform the community service in Oregon as long as it complies with the requirements of the Skagit County Probation Office.

The Washington State Patrol Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) had stormed our peaceful encampment at 5:00 am Sunday morning, May 15, 2016, heavily armed in full riot squad gear. We testified as to how frightening and intimidating it was. The RDF testified that they repeatedly gave an order to disperse and what the charge would be if we did not. Many people who were there chose to leave. The police officers who arrested each of us (talking in court like Officer Friendly, just doing their jobs to protect us all), testified as to whether we seemed confused about what was going on (no), our demeanor (peaceful, calm, singing, chanting, talking with each other) and where we were at the time of arrest (that became a legal issue and is described below).. They had photos of each of us with the arresting officer.

We had sent statements to our lawyers and they used those as the basis for asking questions in court about some aspects of our lives, why we participated in Break Free and why we did not leave when ordered to do so. My story: I have a BA in English literature from the late 1960s, and in middle age I went to graduate school and got an MS in Public Policy with a focus on how work is changing. I took further graduate level classes in Environmental Management which included learning about climate change. I have been studying and thinking about climate change and been a climate activist for many years. The jobs I had after grad school included academic research and non-profit administration. Before grad school - and this was why I went back to school to learn more about the economy - I worked in a large factory where I was laid off several times. So I really get what it's like to need a job. I was working on refrigerators, which used the chemicals that harmed the ozone layer, at the time that the ozone layer was a prominent issue. That put a question in my mind that has shaped the direction of my life ever since: How can we have decent livelihoods without destroying the Earth we live on and depend on?

Other defendants had already talked about what climate change is and what it's impacts are so I talked about the culpabiilty of the fossil fuel industry and some of the local effects of fossil fuels, focussing on oil: oil spills poison land and water; oil trains have been involved in several fiery, explosive train wrecks including one that killed over 40 people in a small town in Quebec nearly four years ago; the smoke from the refineries is toxic; so are emissions from cars and trucks causing many health problems.

When asked why I didn't leave when ordered to disperse, I said I wanted to keep my commitment to others who were there and to hold the space as long as possible. We created a peaceful, joyful community with values that we shared. Once we were gone, the oil trains would run and the industry would have its way again. The prosecutor asked each of us where we slept. I said I was in the grass below the embankment because I promised my kids I would not sleep on the tracks. They were worried. Even the prosecutor laughed when I said that.

We had been camped on and alongside the RR tracks since Friday evening. Our lawyers made the point that we had not been notified to leave until Sunday morning. The RDF officer in charge and a BNSF officer testified that they were most worried about the refineries and the thousands of people expected to participate in the march alongside the refineries on the March's Point Peninsula on Saturday and at other sites for workshops in the town and at Deception Pass State Park.

That's where they deployed the law enforcement units which included local police and RDFsquads from around the state.. They claimed they didn't know about the railroad blockade, which was a few miles east of the refineries, until we got there and notified the RR. The BNSF officer said they had canceled all oil deliveries for the weekend in anticipation of the big march (which some of you were at). Once they were notified that we were on the tracks, they shut down the line completely (it was a spur with little traffic other than to the refineries). Soon after we arrived and started setting up the camp, patrol cars arrived to observe us from a nearby road. Sometimes there were several police cars, sometimes just one. Every once in a while one or two cops would walk along the tracks and look around accompanied by our stalwart legal observers in green caps - Linda and Gary among them.

There were a couple of interesting legal maneuvers. We had two lawyers, David LaCross who is licensed in Washington and who replaced a Washington lawyer who had serious health problems, and Cooper Brinson from the Civil Liberties Defense Center (CLDC) in Eugene who led the defense. The prosecutor, a very sharp young woman, subpoenaed Cooper as a prosecution witness because allegedly he had been at the site and involved in legal trainings for participants prior to the event. Our lawyers felt it was harrassment and an attempt to remove him as our attorney. They filed a motion to quash the subpoena. I lost track of all the legal back and forth on that, but the subpoena was thrown out. She persisted, though, and later tried to bring it up in a different way, but that didn't work either.

Another issue, raised by the defense, was that when they were arrested, four of the defendants in our group had been standing on the tracks but on the side of the road where pedestrians would walk across since there was no sidewalk. Our lawyers argued that therefore they were in a place where the First Amendment right to free speech was protected. Under questioning the officer from BNSF said they have easements that give the RR control in specific situations where tracks cross public roads but when the gates are up and no trains are in the area, the road is a public space. An officer from one of the police departments testified that they had closed the road in the vicinity of the RR crossing and the prosecutor argued it was closed because of the protest and no longer functioning as a public space protected by the First Amendment. She won that one. . That would not have applied to me since I was arrested with a group of people who were sitting on the tracks at some distance from the intersection.

We took shifts as security teams at the intersection where people entered the camp and our affinity group was due to be there at 5 am. That's why several of my co-defendants were at the intersection when the cops made their move.. I woke up when someone tapped me walking by; went to the toilet tent and realized (always running late) that I should be at the entrance by the intersection with the rest of our group. I started to go there, but at that moment someone started shouting, "Cops on site, everybody up," and the RDF swarmed through the camp. We froze and I stayed in the area where I was and then with several others sat on the tracks in two rows facing each other. Deb had gone to the front entrance but came back for something and was arrested there with us. I wanted to use a photo of a cop pointing a weapon at us sitting quietly on the tracks waiting to be arrested. (photo copied below). I'm in the denim jacket with my back to him. I didn't know about it until I saw rhe photo a few days later. I've been told it was a paintball or rubber bullet gun. The judge said the only purpose was to inflame the jury and did not allow the photo to be introduced,

At the sentencing the judge asked if we had anything else to say. I told him I could see the refineries frrom where we were waiting to be arrested with the town of Anacortes and the (San Juan) Islands beyond. The toxic smoke from the refineries was mixing with low clouds drifting though the islands and I was thinking: "Some day it will only be the fog and the mist and the low-hanging clouds." The prosecutor shook hnds with each of us. I told her we want her on our side. She said she has a degree in environmental studies. I said come on over. She said something about believing in the law. A friend of the Eugene folks who was there as an observer said he talked with her and she said her mother is mad at her for prosecuting us.

The judge said something like we were the nicest defendants he has encountered and he admires our principles, but when he has his robes on, he can't operate on his personal opinions.

We are the Thin Green Line!

This our crew in the photo in front of the Skagit County District Court yesterday holding up the Thin Green Line: left to right Deb, me, Caroline, Shirlee Elizabeth, Sandra. Shirlee is from Redmond and I think is in 350 Deschutes, the others are in 350 Eugene.

So yesterday, after a meeting with our lawyer, we spent 15 or 20 minutes in the courtroom waiting for the judge, watching people buzz around looking official. The judge came in. We were called to the front, each given a form with our name on it that said our case is continued to May 18 & 19 (which we already knew). Sign here. That was it.

Today we have time out and I took the ferry to Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands where I am now on a bench overlooking the Salish Sea - one of those magnificent places we are striving to protect from oil spills and toxic emissions and climate change. Tomorrow more trial prep and Thursday it's show time.

For those of you who aren't familiar with what brought me to Skagit County District Court: along with climate activists from all over the Pacific NW, I was part of a railroad blockade that took place during a three day protest directed at two oil refineries in Anacortes, WA.

The event also included a march on the road alongside the refineries, a water blessing conducted by local Native American tribes, teach-ins in the town and at Deception Pass State Perk and a kayak flotilla. This was one of several events globally called Break Free from Fossil Fuels. Nancy and Nan and some other folks from Salem were at the March. Linda and Gary trained as legal observers and did an incredible and valiant job. 52 people were arrested at the blockade and charged with 2nd degree criminal trespass. A few took a plea agreement. The rest of us were split into groups of about six to go to trial.

This is a recap of Break Free Pacific NW:

I also wrote a Blog Post for BF PNW (but didn't pick the title or do the great job of formatting) on "Roots and Shoots of Just Transition" which is here:

The Thin Green Line is all of us in the Pacific NW who stand in opppsition between the coal mines and oil and gas fields in the interior and West Coast ports and refineries.


Please support Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça

Or go here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Update on Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça. The situation grows more serious.

We have done several articles on the situation of Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca in Turkey. We have joined the appeals for solidarity and have tried to keep people informed about this. Really the situation is very serious. You probably saw the videos of erdogan's thugs attacking people in Washington last week as well.

We received the following message from a comrade in Turkey today:

Nuriye and Semih have been arrested today on charges of a "possible" death fast and they were asked in the court whether they wanted to start mass protests similar to Gezi Park.. This is her just before they were arrested, she quoted Bobby Sands: "They have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of someone who doesn't want to be broken." and she called for resistance. They will be on hunger strike in the prison as well. Thanks for solidarity.

Walden moves backward, Woodburn moves forward, contradictions deepen and the struggle continues.

We often say on this blog that we live in a moment characterized by certain contradictions and the speed at which these contradictions emerge and struggles begin to resolve them. Here are examples of what we're talking about.

We have Rep. Greg Walden flipping positions and joining some other Republicans on an amendment intended to protect the LGBTQIA+ community from discrimination. The amendment would have prohibited companies from receiving federal contracts if they discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people. It looked like it was headed for passage until some of the representatives who had initially voted for it changed their votes from “yes” to “no." Walden flipped.

On the other hand, Woodburn became an inclusive city last night after the City Council unanimously approved an inclusivity resolution. The resolution talks about providing municipal services free of discrimination, and being a respectful, legal and safe community for all. The resolution also expresses the desire of the city that all residents, regardless of their status or origin, feel safe when using local government services and engage with members of the police department in Woodburn. And let's put the Youth Pass (youth transit) victory in Portland in this column also: Portland City Council unanimously passed an amendment on YouthPass that requires the City funding to be distributed towards all 3 Portland school districts, including Portland Public Schools, Parkrose, and David Douglas.

On another hand, we have a serious and growing movement in Oregon to demand the removal of School Resource Officers from Portland Public Schools. All students have a right to feel safe and included at school so that they can thrive academically and socially, but the presence of armed police in schools, intimidates and criminalizes students, robbing many of their right to feel safe.

And, on another hand. progressive forces lost the recent School Board vote in Salem and two of our candidates were defeated. One of those candidates was a fully-qualified and progressive person of color who devotes real time to the School Board budgets and policies, and the other was a working-class woman with an especially compelling story who was probably over-qualified for the Board. I hoped that a serious critique of racism and sexism would be developed in light of this loss by progressive forces and that unity would grow between anti-racist and progressive forces, but the majority-white organizations aren't yet good with this. Movements and events have a way of becoming their opposites as contradictions and struggles emerge.

We clearly have a real problem here with racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia even when we're winning inclusivity resolutions in places like Woodburn, Salem and Monmouth. This problem extends from the progressive grassroots up to Walden, but it takes different forms along the way. These are contradictions: struggles for human rights only go so far and then hit a wall.

We also say that struggle resolves contradictions. What does this mean? It means that all of these controversies get resolved---and new ones emerge---as people take on the issues, organize, protest, fight and up our game by developing the ideas and actions needed to win.

We have some opportunities to do this. We just had the AT&T strike, there is the AFL-CIO lobby day tomorrow, and there will be the June 6 "Oregon Can't Wait!" rally fighting for people over profits, funding for education, healthcare, child welfare, homecare workers, independence for seniors and kids with disabilities. Buses will be coming from Corvallis, Eugene or Portland on June 6, and carpools are being set up. There is the immigrant rights forum at PCC on 82nd Avenue in Portland on June 7. There is also the fundraiser for Hermandad Mexicana de Oregon at Portland Mercado on June 8 and the important fundraiser for the Voz Workers' Rights Project in Portland on June 14. If you're in a union, you probably have an important meeting coming up. If you're in the local NAACP or Racial Justice Organizing Committee, there will be important upcoming meetings and, we hope, a joint NAACP-RJOC new member orientation. Juneteenth will be marked on June 17 in Salem.

Why can't we also have a militant LGBTQIA+ action in Salem in June?

We're trying to put together local forums and legal observer trainings.

The difference between revolutionaries or radicals and others can be striking here: we see this work as part of an all-encompassing struggle against capitalism, and our liberal friends look at these events as opportunities to support others or pick up information. 

Wherever you're at, forward motion is important and we all have to be asking ourselves which side we're on and what that means in practice.

Everyone: Support Voz Workes' Rights Education Project! Attend the “Trabajo sin muros / Work Without Walls” on June 14!

VOZ is a worker-led organization that empowers diverse day laborers and immigrants to improve their working condition and protect civil rights through leadership development, organizing, education and economic opportunity.

We are 501c3 Nonprofit that operates the Martin Luther King, Jr. Worker Center, which connects hundreds of workers a month with local employers and job. Go here to hire a worker.

Voz’s 17th Annual Dinner “Trabajo sin muros / Work Without Walls”
June 14th, 6:30 – 9 at Ascension Catholic Church
for more info, visit the event page:

If you are interested in volunteering your time with us, contact us directly or take a look at our volunteer and internship opportunities.

We also always welcome donations to help us expand services and education to our workers. Consider making either a one-time or sustaining donation to Voz here.


Thank you for being a part of Voz! Your support has been essential for the growth of our community of day laborers, volunteers and allies working together in pursuit of our mission.

Through your efforts, we have been able to advance economic opportunities for day laborers, organize them to improve their working conditions and defend their rights, and mobilize day laborers and allies to fight against anti-immigrant and anti-worker policies.

Voz believes that day laborers should lead the way in addressing the problems that confront them. We follow the popular education model, which recognizes that each person-- regardless of formal education-- has knowledge and experience that can be shared to build the knowledge of the group.

If you haven’t already, we invite you to connect with us on Facebook in order to keep up to date with our organization and our current campaigns!

Socialism And Human Nature

In almost any discussion of socialism with the people around us we hear the argument that socialism is impossible because of human nature. This was a standard refrain from our opposition for much of the last century, a cynical or pessimistic view of people deepening as capitalism pushed past religious boundaries and raised the levels of modern exploitation. The argument was answered in part by those who simply and radically denied the existence of human nature at all.

The argument that socialism is incompatible with human nature denied the reality of existing socialism or blamed its shortcomings on inevitable and negative human attributes instead of on specific political and economic programs. It has always been a lazy person's argument.  The argument that human nature does not exist raised strong points about the natures of good and evil and relativism and self-determination, but it left many other questions about social behavior and social solidarity unanswered, at least in the popular mind. Meanwhile, our comrades in socialist countries often spoke about "the soul of the people" and the positive human and national characteristics which were flowering in socialist societies. We did well to ask if human nature is compatible with capitalism.

Adaner Usmani recently reopened the discussion on human nature in an article in Jacobin. Usman's argument is written in a popular style and will be of interest to many people new to socialist politics if the article gets the needed circulation. Usmani says:

You have perhaps been tempted in the past to make the argument that there is no such thing as a human nature. That temptation is understandable — I’ve been there. But it’s wrong for three reasons: a moral reason, for an analytical reason, and for a political reason.

Socialists do believe — we must believe — that there is something called human nature. In fact, I believe that you believe it, whether or not you believe that you believe it. But we make two arguments that distinguish us from our bourgeois antagonists.

First, human nature comprises not just an interest in ourselves, but also compassion, empathy, capacity for reflection, capacity to be moral. And second, the way in which society is organized can amplify these drives and downplay others.

All this means that another world is definitely possible. Don’t let the fools get you down and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Usmani's article has been answered by Themistoklis Pantazakos writing in Links: International Journal of Socialist Renewal. This is a more scholarly piece, and it takes on Usmani's arguments in respectful ways. Pantazakos knows the subject well:

What does this have to do with humans and more specifically with the discussion at hand? For starters, thinkers in the modern leftist political thought who stand behind the idea that human nature is effectively non-existent (such as Michel Foucault) are precisely in the business of denying that there are any essential features to humans. Depending on the social antagonism referred to (class, race, gender et cetera), leftist post-structuralism is mainly about negating the claim that there are defining sine qua nonswhich universally pre-dispose social order across all its fields. Take for example the issue of class and of the distribution of wealth. An example of anti-essentialism in this area would be to deny that people are inherently, unavoidably greedy and vested in self- interest alone; to deny, that is, one of the chief assumptions of neoclassical (read: neoliberal) economics. Or take gender and sexuality: anti-essentialism there would deny that a person’s reproductive organs mean (or, more importantly, should mean) something definitive about the way they behave and their sexual preferences.

Now, you may start to see why anti-essentialism and rejecting human nature are appealing ideas. To further illustrate this point, try thinking the issue from the side of the bad guys. For most traditional forms of hate speech, there is something essential about the targeted Other (women, migrants et cetera), which makes them worthy of being on the receiving end of violence, or perhaps unworthy of even being called human. This something changes as hate speech assumes different forms and targets, but there is usually an irremovable characteristic that serves to degrade a given social group: the color of their skin, their Jewish cunningness, some corrupt desire that runs against the alleged course of nature.

Lots of us are going to get lost here. We're going down a path with the question of what it means to be human. People interested in the scientific-philosophical approach to this question can start working their way down this path by reading an article by Joseph Fracchia which recently appeared in Monthly Review. "Essentialism," as I understand it, looks at what a thing is by looking at its essential characteristics and processes; it says that essence precedes existence. One of the obvious problems with this is that it does not anticipate a contradictory relationship between essence and existence which pushes both forward in real time. Pantazakos pulls us back by writing:

To move to the analytical problem, which holds that one is left without any analytical compass of prediction and political suggestion should one abandon the concept of human nature, I will open with the following remark: that something is not eternal does not mean that it is not steady, or that you cannot count on it. If one believes in evolutionary theory, and I take it that most socialists do, one is sure to believe that the biological characteristics of humans will almost certainly change given enough time. That, however, does not change the fact that, regarding the past we have in view and the foreseeable future, humans are mostly born with two hands with certain capacities and sensitivities. Based on that and on the most common human needs of our time, one can therefore predict that gloves will keep being made, in such and such shapes, to fit human hands and protect them while performing tasks to satisfy these needs. Similarly, certain principles appear to be governing the social, political and economic world, and analytically spotting and employing them does not lose any power from realizing that they may not be eternal. To abandon essentialism is not to embrace chaos.

I think that we need to listen to Pantazakos carefully here. We have many on the left---and many more in our working class---who have indeed abandoned essentialism and who embrace chaos in the forms of nihilism and abstract violence. We also have to hear what is being said here about the "eternal." Pantazakos says, "But perhaps Usmani talks about a partial adoption of the others’ positions simply for the use of advancing more effective politics. To which I reply that, surely, this can occasionally be beneficial depending on what the desired ends of one’s politics is, but I simply do not see how this empathetic stratagem must amount to any kind of claim about the universal nature of humans. Must I believe that something is the same and eternal in humans to try and simulate how the human being next to me must feel and think? I think not."

But Pantazakos goes off the rails with the comment that

Take the moral problem, which is the problem of being unable to tell when a certain social group is being oppressed in the absence of a definition of human nature. In reply to this, I submit that it is not anything essential within humans that should make socialists argue that a certain practice is morally susceptible. For example, the socialist political line regarding domestic abuse should not be that there is something to exercising violence that makes the act inappropriate to all occasions universally and regardless of context. As has been widely argued, violence in the household in another, recreational and consensual context may be perfectly acceptable. It is a leftist commonplace, I should like to think, that two or more people engaging, for example, in enthusiastically consensual sadomasochistic practices should never be told that they are engaging in a morally susceptible practice.

There may not be something essential within human beings which makes us argue that certain practices are morally susceptible, but our view of morality and moral questions must arise instead from a grasp of social solidarity and its problems, the passing of the old and the emergence of the new, an understanding of where we are and the map we're using to move forward, and a realistic take on what the most advanced positions are in a society at a given moment and how those are actualized. Pantazakos uses a terrible example and one which is going to be used to shift subjects. Violence and its outcomes, in whatever forms, must be acknowledged, but it can't truly be defended. Our comrades who pick up the gun do not do so because they love violence or because it is in their nature.

In this regard, I had the experience yesterday of  being in an adult English class for community activists and exploring what "self-actualization" means. Many people in the class argued that it means making changes or having a plan. I argued that it means planning and changing from the standpoint of self-determination, and that that is what makes us more fully human, that this is how we "come into oursel;ves." I didn't convince anyone.

Pantazakos and Usmani end up agreeing with one another when it comes to the prospects for real socialist change, but they take different paths.

The conversation or debate suffers from not inckuding the voices needed from Asia, Africa and Latin America, the indigenious scholars, those compelled to cross the imposed borders, and women. We can put aside the anarchist prejudices and Kropotkin's wishful thinking, but the discussion cannot move forward without these other voices. For my part, I take the side of A. Spirkin:

The point of departure of the Marxist understanding of man is the human being as the product and subject of labour activity....

There is nothing more individualised in the world than the human being, the person, nothing in creation is more diverse than people. At the human level diversity achieves its highest peak, the world contains as many individuals as there are people. This is due entirely to the complexity of human organisation, whose dynamics would appear to have no limits. Human individuality is expressed in its having different opinions, in abilities, level of knowledge, experience, degree of competence, in temperament and character. Personality is individual to the extent that it has independence in its judgements, beliefs and views, that is to say, when the brain is not "stereotyped" and possesses unique "patterns". In every person, regardless of the general structure of his individuality, there are specific features of contemplation, observation, attention, various types of memory, of orientation, and so on. The level of individual thinking varies, for example, from the heights of genius to the worst cases of mental retardation.

The principle of individualisation has its limits, its proportion. Beyond this borderline we come to complete relativism, which maintains that if every person has his own soul, then every person must also have his own world, and hence there are as many worlds as there are people. But the actual dialectics of existence tells us that the uniqueness both of outward appearance and a person's spiritual world is relative. It is derived from the universal, to which it belongs and from which it has sprung. The personality has a general origin, position, culture, language, certain standards, a world-view, and so on, that it shares with others. The more fully it represents, individually, the universal human principle, the more significant the personality becomes. Every person is a unique individuality in the whole complex of his physical and spiritual peculiarities, but at the same time he embodies the essence of the race and also certain general features of his class and nation....

Thus, the human Ego, while substantially changing under the influence of social conditions and together with growing knowledge, cultivated emotions and training of the will, and also with changes in physical states, health, and so on, nonetheless preserves its intrinsic integrity and relative stability. Thanks to the existence of certain essential invariable characteristics of the structure of his mental world, a person "remains himself". We move from one stage in life to another, carrying with us all the baggage of our intellectual gains, and change as this wealth increases and our physical organisation develops.

To sum up, at the point when the Ego comes into being there is a self-identification of the personality; it knows itself. The Ego is a unity, an entity of spiritual and physical existence. It is given as the vehicle of infinite relationships both with the surrounding world and with ourselves. These connections, while infinitely diverse, are possible only thanks to this unity and wholeness of mind as the system of the highest organisation of everything we know.

Monday, May 22, 2017

40,000 AT&T Workers were on strike last weekend. CWA thanks our strike supporters!

75 days on hunger strike: Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça have been taken by the police in Ankara

The Guardian newspaper is reporting that our friends Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça have been taken by the police in Ankara on the 75th day of their hunger strike. We have run several artcles about this struggle. The Guardian reports that:

Two Turkish teachers who are on their 75th day of a hunger strike have been detained by police in Ankara.

Nuriye Gülmen, a professor of literature, and Semih Özakça, a primary school teacher, have been on strike for more than 10 weeks after losing their jobs following the failed coup against the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, last July.

Surviving on a liquid diet of lemon and saltwater and sugar solutions, the pair have lost significant amounts of weight and doctors said this month that their health was deteriorating. A source close to the strikers said their muscles had atrophied.

Police are concerned the strike will become a “death fast” rather than a hunger strike. The detention appears to have been motivated by fears that the strike could be taken up as a cause celebre and evolve into a larger movement like the Gezi park protests in 2013, when hundreds of thousands of people protested against plans to build a replica Ottoman barracks in central Istanbul.

OREGON CAN'T WAIT---A Rally in Salem on June 6---Buses leaving from Eugene and Portland

Hundreds of Oregonians are coming together in Salem to tell legislators: Oregon Can’t Wait for investments in education, health care and other essential services. Caregivers, nurses, teachers, parents, students, advocates, workers and more know that it’s time for corporations to finally pay their fair share so we can all have the Oregon we deserve. 

Oregon State Capitol, front steps
Tuesday, June 6, 12 PM - 1 PM (Registration opens at 11)

10 AM: Buses leave from 
Eugene: 2800 Gateway St, Springfield (by Ross and Cabela’s) 
Portland: Lents Park- 4808 SE 92nd Ave, Portland
11 AM: Check-in and lunch
12 PM: Rally for Revenue!

Free transportation, lunch, and t-shirt! But REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR THIS EVENT. Click Here to Register today!