By Left Strategy Collective Members
May 30, 2015 – There is something bubbling beneath the surface in the US. Everyone can feel it. Everywhere there are mass actions – on issues ranging from fast food workers’ rights, to deportations, from the latest police killing, to community displacement, from defending collective bargaining, to getting clean water, from getting the water turned back on, to ending the occupation of Gaza.
There is something bubbling, but the question remains whether it will evaporate into steam or explode like a volcano. Capitalism confronts people all over the world, including the US, and its crises implicate the very survival of humankind. Yes, there are sprinkled victories, hopeful uprisings, and electoral surprises, but we know in our hearts it is not enough.
We go to sleep with the question, "When and how?" When and how will the tables turn? When and how will we become a force in US politics and win power? When and how are we going to be able to change the nature of the field we are forced to play on? In order to address these questions, we need a strategy for the left. We will refer to "the left" here as those forces that oppose the capitalist, white supremacist, hetero-patriarchal system and seek to build an alternative society.
In this paper, we will make the case for the importance of strategy, we will lay out our definition of strategy and the components we believe are necessary for the building a game- changing strategy for the left. We would like to see the development and implementation of a strategy for power –where the oppressed are able to determine their own livelihood and how society functions. This strategy would necessarily be aimed at an emancipatory transition from capitalism.
This paper will not be the strategy. It is a contribution to the many left voices that are calling for the need for strategy, and to begin to build a shared language of what strategy is. We are a small core of leftists from different sectors of the movement. We do not believe that we alone can build this strategy. However we have some thoughts about what is to be done and we have a commitment to building the space to develop this strategy with like-minded leftists. Our hope is that the process of engaging in this level of strategy development will promote a new movement culture of more intentional, collective, and focused movement development that will bring us to game-changing victories and power that will transform this country.
WHAT IS STRATEGY?
The act of developing strategy should result in more than a political line, a political program, or a new organization. It will not be enough to have a clever slogan. It will not be enough to focus on a single task, tactic, or campaign. The type of strategy that is necessary to build among leftists would: 1) imagine and formulate a vision of an alternative to capitalism; 2) analyze the current conditions both on our side (the working class, organized forces, and the left overall) as well as the opposition (the ruling class and the capitalist state); and 3) work toward that vision through devising a continually evolving program that would strengthen the forces for liberation and weaken the capitalist forces on an economic, political, and ideological scale to the point of "putting it out of business" all together.
Tactics are different from strategy. Tactics are the specific types of actions we take to execute our strategy. The series of actions may make up a particular program, but they are not the entirety of our strategy. The strategy will determine plans, to be put into action, evaluated and summed-up. It will not be based on what worked in one city and then applied to a different city with completely different conditions. It will not be based on our personal moods, whims, or the flavor of the month. It will not be a mere goal with no way to achieve it. Goals are the aims that our strategy is built around. It will be a comprehensive approach that includes our analysis of conditions, our hypothesis of how we will build power and win. This strategy becomes a living course of action that is implemented, tested, summed-up, evaluated, and reworked. (Continued)
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From left: Janet Tucker, Anne Mitchell, Pat Fry
By Pat Fry
Photos by Ted Reich
A CCDS panel May 30th at the Left Forum, “Transforming Community and Labor Organizing into Electoral Victory,” was attended by a filled-to-capacity classroom of 40 people at John Jay College in NYC. This was no small feat – as 56 other panel workshops were held at the same time. The Left Forum is an annual 3-day conference attracting more than 4,000 activists and academics, youth, students, socialists, communists and progressives of many stripes. Hundreds of organizations sell books and distribute literature, CCDS among them.
The CCDS panel opened with remarks by Pat Fry, CCDS national co-chair, speaking of the importance of building grass roots campaigns to elect progressives to local, state and national government. Citing the example of Sen. Bernie Sanders and the Vermont Progressive Party, Fry said that Sanders’ many campaigns over four decades were successful because they were firmly rooted in community and labor struggles. Vermont through its Progressive Party leads the nation in the number of 3rd party state
legislators, said Fry.
From left: Andrea Miller, Paul Krehbiel, Ethan Young, Rosie Mendez
The Working Families Party successes in New York City and State are another example of organizing independent of the Democratic Party through local coalitions on issues. The WFP recently won a NY State Assembly seat solely on the WFP line in a campaign in Brooklyn, NY that targeted big money developers. Working Families has been successful in organizing election campaigns for the Ferguson, MO City Council and Philadelphia’s mayoral campaign for Jim Kenney with a union-led multi-sector coalition.
There are many lessons to learn from the Chokwe Lumumba mayoral campaign in Jackson, MS running as a Democrat as well as Ras Baraka’s campaign for Mayor of Newark, said Fry. Also important are the Richmond Progressive Alliance’s experience winning races for mayor and a majority of city council seats in CA, and Kshama Sawant’s election victory in a non-partisan election in Seattle, she said. (Continued)
These are examples of how coalition building of labor and community in the electoral arena can win against the rightwing and Wall Street interests, said Fry. “With this panel, we hope to share experiences and lessons of on-the-ground organizing to elect progressives on the inside to be the voice of movements on the outside – in our neighborhoods, precincts, workplaces, unions, peace and justice organizations,” said Fry.
New York City Councilmember Rosie Mendez described how she was elected through the efforts of the Coalition for a District Alternative (CODA), the community based activist organization that has elected progressives to the City Council for the last two decades. Members of CCDS have been activists of CODA since its founding in the early 1990s. Mendez is co-chair of the City Council’s Black, Latino, Asian caucus and one of 6 members of the LGBT caucus. CODA asked Mendez to run for the Council seat 10 years ago when she was a tenant organizer and involved in the many housing struggles that CODA helped to build. On City Council, Mendez has been a staunch supporter of public and affordable housing as well as fighting against the police “stop and frisk” policies, racial profiling and an advocate for an independent Inspector General within the NYPD to review police practices.
“I have been in office for 9 ½ years,” said Mendez, “and we have worked to build coalitions to save public housing, to rezone for new affordable housing. It all started with a group of people who decided to embrace democratic politics and push it as far left as we can. To be successful, we need organizations that are politically independent like CODA and that can work to keep elected officials true to the cause,” said Mendez.
Mendez was not able to stay for the entire panel due to the mobilization in the streets calling for the release of Puerto Rican independence fighter and political prisoner, Oscar López Rivera, which unfortunately conflicted with the panel discussion. Mendez talked about the importance of the mobilization to win his freedom after 34 years in U.S. prisons. (The march and rally drew 5,000. See
Ethan Young, Portside moderator, journalist and member of the Left Labor Project, talked about lessons of the Jesus “Chuy” Garcia campaign for mayor of Chicago in April, a campaign that stunned the political establishment with a near-win against theneo-liberal Democrat Rahm Emanuel. The Chicago Teachers Union and a coalition of labor, community, African Americans and Latinos were the base of the campaign that began late and with meager finances.
Though Garcia did not win, said Young, he garnered a significant 45% of the vote. Important also were the election of 7 new City Council members supported by labor and community forces which has strengthened the Progressive Reform Caucus in opposition to Emanuel’s Democratic Party machine. “They won in working class neighborhoods running against the strongest mayor that the city has ever seen,” said Young. He also acknowledged weaknesses in the Garcia campaign. “He was not as hard on neo-liberal policies and the police as he could have been and this played a role in his inability to shore up a big enough base to win,” said Young. Nevertheless, Chicago politics have been significantly impacted with an unprecedented challenge to the power of the neo-liberal Democratic Party machine in Chicago, he said.
Paul Krehbiel, a CCDS member in Los Angeles, has spent most of his political life on the outside of electoral politics through his union, organizing to put pressure on elected officials. The rise in right wing candidates throughout the Bush years, the Iraq war and the voter response that put Barack Obama in office showed the importance of working in the electoral arena to defeat the right, said Krehbiel. He drew attention to the Republican Gerrymandering project that moved the political landscape to the right in 2012 electorally even though voters in their majority moved to the left. As an example, he cited Michigan’s votes in 2012 where Democrats won 240,000 more votes than Republicans but elected only 6 Democrats of Michigan’s 15 Congressional seats. He urged reading the 2012 Red Map Summary Report that details how the Republican Party did it – even boasting about it, said Krehbiel.
As an antidote to the Republican Redmap strategy, Krehbiel drew from the lessons of the mid 1990s in Orange County, outside of Los Angeles. Krehbiel was part of a labor-community coalition to register Latino voters, a campaign led by the Southwest Voter Registration Project and Hermandad Mexicana that included student groups, unions, and the Catholic Church. In 1996 these efforts led to the election of the first Latin American from Orange County to Congress, Loretta Sánchez, who defeated a 6-term incumbent an extreme rightwinger Rep. Bob Dornan. Sánchez’ win galvanized a number of other successful campaigns electing Latinos to office.
Andrea Miller, who is the Executive Director of People Demanding Action, the civic arm of the Progressive Democrats of America and the former PDA Co-Executive Director, talked about how she was urged to run as the Democratic Party nominee in Virginia’s 4th CD in 2008. She ran on a program of jobs, Medicare for All and clean energy. An African American woman from Chicago, Miller won 40% of the vote in a predominantly white and rural “Bible Belt” district. Prior to her bid for Congress, Miller was MoveOn.org’s regional coordinator and then statewide coordinator of the Dennis Kucinich presidential campaign.
Miller spoke about the importance of the left running for political office. Though she did not win in 2008, a Democratic candidate now runs in every race in the 4th CD which had been ceded to the Republicans without a challenge. Addressing the question of why she agreed to run in the Democratic Party even though she identifies herself as a democratic socialist, Miller said “one big reason is that African Americans who were 33% of the voter population will not vote for anyone that is not running as a Democrat – no matter who or what.”
Miller came to know PDA because of the organization’s support for her 2008 campaign. She concluded her remarks talking about the importance of the Bernie Sanders for President campaign. She credited PDA as instrumental in convincing Sanders to run in the Democratic Party rather than as an independent. Miller urged the left to get involved in electoral politics and one good place to start is to run progressives for district leadership seats of the Democratic Party at the local level. Earlier in the panel, Councilmember Mendez described the same strategy used by CODA in NYC’s Lower East Side.
In discussion, a question was raised about why work in the Democratic Party instead of the Green Party and supporting Howie Hawkins for President. “Don’t the Democrats seize back power at the end of the day?” asked an audience participant.
Miller responded with “Political parties require structure and money. If you can raise the money to purchase voter files and build a campaign that can win very good. But if you can’t, take over someone else’s voter file,” she said.
For a video of the workshop GO HERE
By Jim Skillman
Among the various socialist organizations and unaffiliated independent socialists, there are two distinct camps regarding Bernie Sanders’ candidacy: those who will try to support it, and those who won’t. As a socialist who sees the value of his campaign on many different levels, I intend to play an active role in raising money, turning out support and urging people to vote for him. At the same time, I realize there is nothing I could write or say that would change anyone’s mind in the other camp, so I will avoid the pointless arguments and discussions around this topic, and leave it to others who wish to pursue those engagements.
That said, I believe there is a right way and a wrong way for socialists to take on this work, and I’d like to warn against us falling into either of these traps. As I see it, there are two dangers we should avoid.
First danger: campaigning in a way that does not build an independent group or grassroots network that will survive the primaries or the election. We saw this happen here around the Obama campaign even as early as 2008. Many of us did canvassing, raised and contributed money along with all the other activities. After the election was over, no real organization survived, and even the local official Democratic Party organizations were left in a weakened state. Even the Obama for America groups, which were controlled from the top down, petered out after a few weeks, and we were left with nothing. Let’s not miss this opportunity in 2016!
This mistake can be avoided if we make creating a grassroots network and/or organization, one that is completely independent of the Democratic Party hierarchy, the driver of the “Sanders for President” work we undertake here. This is why in many places CCDS people will be supporting the Sanders campaign though our work in Progressive Democrats of America, a federal PAC that is not controlled by the Democratic Party establishment. We could do the same here, but even if we don’t work through PDA, we should endeavor to set up an independent group that will survive into the future.
Second danger: campaigning in a narrow way, one that equates Sanders’ platform with democratic socialism. Although Sanders has previously described himself as a democratic socialist, we must keep in mind that he is not running as a socialist in this campaign, and his platform, as great as it is, isn’t socialist, democratic or otherwise. Sanders is NOT running a socialist campaign, and to conflate his platform with socialism is wrong on two counts: 1) it distorts what socialism actually is, and 2) it will alienate many who otherwise would find much to support in his platform but have negative ideas about socialism. Nowhere on his website or in any of his material will you even find the word “socialism”.
Of course, as the campaign gathers steam, there will be plenty of opportunities to educate and recruit people to our various socialist organizations (DSA, CPUSA, CCDS). But this can’t be the only or even the main focus. If we truly leverage our resources to carry out this work and avoid the traps mentioned, we will end up with both a stronger united front and a growing socialist movement.
By Carl Davidson, Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Pat Fry
Download as PDF HERE
Introduction: The following eight-point proposal is designed to initiate both a discussion and a process. The points can be further refined, and subtracted from or added to. Given the scope of the challenges ahead of us, there is a certain degree of urgency, but it is also wise to take to time to start off on a sound footing, uniting all who can be united. The main things it wants to bring into being at all levels—local, regional, national or in sectors—are common projects. Some of these already exist, such as the Left Labor Project in New York City, a good example of what we are advocating here. It brought together organizers from CCDS, CPUSA, DSA, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, and other independent left trade unionists and activists. Over a few years work, it was able to build a far wider alliance bringing together the city’s labor organizations and allied social movements to bring out tens of thousands on May Day.
We know that many of us are already involved in a wide variety of projects. But is there any compelling reason we have to do this separately, behaving like a wheelbarrow full of frogs trying to win a common goal? A good case in point is Chuy Garcia’s mayoral campaign in Chicago. Wouldn’t this campaign be better served if we worked together in a planned way to draw in and skillfully deploy even more forces? Or take the labor-community alliance projects building solidarity for labor strikes or the campaign for an increase in the minimum wage? We can all make a long list here, but the core idea should be apparent, at least for starters, and we invite your responses and queries.
1. We need something new
. The left is not likely to find critical mass through mergers of existing groups, although any such events would be positive. But a new formation to which all would be equally cooperative in a larger project—call it a Left Front or Left Alliance—would have a greater impact. Groups participating in it could retain whatever degree of autonomy they desire, such as keeping their own newspapers, national committees, local clubs meeting separately, and so on. Every group involved can exercise its own independence and initiative, to the degree it finds necessary. But all would be striving in common to help the overall project succeed. While the US situation is not strictly comparable, the Front de Gauche in France, Die Linke in Germany, PODEMOS in Spain and Syriza in Greece serve as examples.
2. We need a ‘project based’ common front.
At the grassroots level, it would be comprised of joint projects—electoral, union organizing, campaigns against the far right, for a living wage or reducing student debt, for opposing war, racism, sexism and police violence, and many others. The existing left groups in a factory, a neighborhood, a city or a campus, would be encouraged to advance the joint projects.
3. We need a ‘critical mass’ at the core that is both young, working class and diverse.
While people from all demographics are welcome, the initial core has to be largely drawn from the Millennials, those born after 1980 or so. And the core also has to be a rainbow of nationalities with gender equity, and well-connected to union and working class insurgencies. If the initial core at the beginning is too ‘white’ or too ‘1968ers’, it will not be a pole with the best attractive power for a growing new generation of socialist and radical minded activists.
4. We need a common aspiration for socialism.
That’s what makes us a ‘Left Front or Left Alliance’ rather than a broader popular front or people’s coalition. We are strongly supportive of these wider coalitions and building the left is not done in isolation from them. But we also see the wisdom in the concept: the stronger the core, the broader the front. Moreover we do not require a unified definition on what socialism is; only that a larger socialist pole makes for an even wider, deeper and more sustainable common front of struggle.
5. We do not need full agreement on strategy.
A few key concepts—the centrality of fighting white supremacy, the intersection of race, class and gender, the alliance and merger of the overall workers movement and the movements of the communities of the oppressed—will do. We can also agree on cross-class alliances focused on critical targets: new wars, the far right and the austerity schemes imposed by finance capital. Additional elements, perspectives, nuances and ‘shades of difference’ can be debated, discussed and adjusted in the context of ongoing struggle
6. We need a flexible but limited approach to elections.
We can affirm that supporting our own or other candidates is a matter of tactics to be debated case-by-case, and not a matter of ‘principle’ that would exclude ever voting for any particular Democrat, Green or Socialist. We see the importance for social movements to have an electoral arm that presses and fights for their agenda within government bodies.
7. We need to be well embedded in grassroots organizations.
Especially important are the organizations of the working class and in the communities of the oppressed—unions and worker centers, civil rights and women’s rights, youth and students, peace and justice, churches and communities of faith, cooperatives and other groups tied to the solidarity economy, and other community-based NGOs and nonprofits.
8. We need to be internationalists.
But we do not have to require support for any particular countries or bloc of countries and national liberation movements, past or present. But we do oppose the wars of aggression, occupations and other illicit interventions of ‘our own’ ruling class, along with the hegemonism, ‘superpower mentality’ and Great Power chauvinism it promotes. That is the best way we can promote world peace and practice solidarity and assistance to forces beyond our borders.
[Carl Davidson and Pat Fry are national co-chairs of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. Bill Fletcher Jr. is a member of several socialist organizations and author of ‘They’re Bankrupting Us! And 20 Other Myths about Unions’ Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org ]
The following two articles are an example of class debate in the left over how to relate to working class voters and the Democratic Party. One is by Jeremy Wells, and the other is by CCDSer Paul Krehbiel. They both appear in a Los Angles community newspaper
The AFL-CIO must now break all ties with the Democratic Party!
By Jeremy Wells
The historic low voter turnout in November dramatically confirmed what the low popularity poll numbers for Obama and Congressional politicians of both parties, have indicated. Neither corporate corrupted Democratic nor reactionary Republican parties, Democratic and Republican millionaire politicians, never represent or fight for the economic interests of the working class majority of voters.
The AFL-CIO supported Democratic Party candidate for the Governor of Michigan, Mark Schauer, was defeated in his attempt to unseat incumbent Republican Governor Rick Snyder. Schauer’s campaign slogans ignored the working class. Schauer said not a word about hundreds of destitute families living in Detroit, unable to pay their utility bills, were having their water shutoff.
Instead, Mark Shauer’s slogans advocated, among other things, “cutting middle-class taxes” and that Rick Synder “doesn’t understand middle-class values”. This “Middle Class” rhetoric, never mentioning the dire needs of the working class majority, is often used by AFL-CIO President Trumka as well as President Obama.
The AFL-CIO today must realize that trade union labor contracts, by themselves, have failed to secure and maintain the economic justice of their members. Collective bargaining agreements only deal with wages and benefits with one employer. Labor contracts do not cover other essential economic needs required by working people. These economic needs are secured and maintained by laws passed by pro-labor law-makers, not by trade union contracts.
New laws are now desperately needed to maintain public (not privatized) tuition-free education, establish universal “single-payer” (not “Obama-care”) health care, maintain (not cut) Social Security, create millions of “living wage” public sector jobs (which the private sector cannot provide), to promote worker owned co-operative enterprises, etc.
A new Solidarity political party, to break with the corporate-corrupted Democratic Party, to powerfully unite all trade union and unorganized workers, which refuses all corporate money and agendas, will elect pro-labor law-makers as soon as possible in every local, state, and Federal election. The long-term goal of The Solidarity Party would be to build a new economy that provides a universal minimum “standard of living” for all working people. Pro-worker mass media economic education for the public and all working people. The AFL-CIO must help sponsor, produce, and broadcast on a nightly PBS television, a news and commentary program promoting the economic betterment of working people.
Worker funded, not corporate corrupted! Millions of new Solidarity Party voters, paying a minimal monthly dues, would easily fund the organizational needs. Fund-drives would provide on-going financial support of a pro-labor PBS program from viewers.
The Solidarity Party will not be simply a “trade union party”, but fight for economic justice for all workers..
A new 21st Century understanding is needed by the labor movement, the AFL-CIO, to develop new organizational and political strategies to fight back Capitalist Globalization which has permanently lost millions of U.S. jobs and impoverished U.S. workers.
New ways of economic production and job creation, that break with the failed 19th century system of wage-slavery capitalist exploitation, are not only possible but now necessary for economic justice in the 21st century. For more information : Dr. Richard D. Wolff, Marxist economics educator, www.rdwolff.com Link to Democracy at Work, Capitalism Hits the Fan, Economic Update, books, video and audio presentations. World Socialist Web Site www.wsws.org published 6 days a week. Critical Marxist analysis of current events unavailable in corporate or “progressive” media. *Jeremy Wells, retired worker, socialist, humanist at: www.infowells.com Email: email@example.com
Stop the Right with a Democratic-Labor-Left Alliance
By Paul Krehbiel
The November 2014 election put Republicans in the majority in the US Senate, and a larger majority in the US House. They will promote an agenda of more cuts to social services including education, health care, and Social Security, tax cuts for the very wealthy and corporations, attacks on the rights of working people and unions, people of color, women, youth, seniors, immigrants, the LGBT community, voting rights, and the environment. They will diminish democratic rights, give more power to the wealthy, increase domestic police repression, and threaten more wars, and move our country further to the right. Their goal is to elect a right-wing Republican president in 2016 so they control all three branches of government. Watch out if that happens. (Continued)
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Voters lining up in Long Beach, NY
By Joseph M. Schwartz
Democratic Socialists of America
Throughout modern history, the property-less, women, people of color, and undocumented immigrants have fought and died for the right to vote. People understand that those who hold state power shape everyone’s lives through legislation and the administration of the law.
Democratic social movements, however, have never solely relied upon their electoral numbers to bring about social reform; they have also protested against and disrupted the dominant rules of the game in order to redistribute power and resources. Social change has come most rapidly when people believed the state may be responsive to their needs; the militancy of the 1930s and 1960s arose when, first, trade unionists and, later, civil rights militants protested because the nominally liberal governments they helped elect were not fully responsive.
A 40-year corporate offensive against the gains of the 1960s has rolled back some of these gains, particularly in regards to reproductive justice – such as abortion access — and income support for single mothers with infants. But even this offensive needed democratic numbers; the corporate-funded, think-tank propaganda of Tea Party politicians worked to deflect the anger of white middle and working-class voters away from the oligarchs and towards people of color, feminists, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and the poor.
On the other hand, the gains in human rights experienced by the LGBTQ community illustrates how social mobilization can lead to democratic change even in a conservative era. Thus, the complex interaction between social movements and electoral politics is a permanent fixture of capitalist democracies.
Why State and Local Electoral Politics Matters
The provision of public goods (from roads to schools to Medicaid, to welfare–now called TANF–and unemployment benefits) are differentially determined by 50 separate state governments and thousands of county and municipal governments. The outcome of the 2014 state and congressional elections will, in part, determine who gets or does not get food stamps, housing assistance, Medicaid, or increased funding for public education. Thus, non-presidential “off year” elections impact the lives of working and poor people as profoundly as do more visible presidential races. If progressives could turn out their base in off-year elections as well as they do in presidential years, local and state legislatures and Congress would be far more progressive.
The failure of the Obama administration to challenge Republican control of Congress over the past two years means it has few progressive themes to deploy to mobilize its black, Latino, and trade union base, although unyielding Republican attacks on reproductive rights may energize the Democrats’ strong base among single women. On the other hand, Democrats may have particular problems mobilizing the Latino community, as the administration recently postponed executive action to expand the rights of “Dreamers” (undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as minors) out of fear of alienating swing white voters.
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The National Coordinating Committee met at its quarterly meeting September 28th and took stock of the current worldwide crises brought on by U.S. imperialism and the growing repression and protests at home. Opening with a presentation on the “Political Time of Day – At Home and Abroad,” Carl Davidson discussed the new round of U.S. “crusader” wars on Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Referring to Tom Hayden’s writings on what he calls “The Long War,” Davidson said it is part of a wider framework – “a war that will go on for decades and involve more than the Middle East but also Yemen and other areas of Africa.”
Davidson noted that the “Occupy Central” uprisings in Hong Kong were, in part, aimed at breaking it away from China. “While many protestors have legitimate concerns, we should be very wary about being sucked into any attempts to break up China,” said Davidson.
On the home front austerity continues, said Davidson. Finance capital has recovered from the 2008 recession but another bubble of debt is building. The “racist bloc” in Congress blocks everything President Obama tries to do, and racism is behind the attacks on Attorney General Eric Holder, he said. “While Holder left a lot to be desired, the attacks on him have been based on racism like the attacks on Obama,” said Davidson.
The ongoing protests in Ferguson, said Davidson, are drawing important attention to the epidemic rise of racist police killings of Black youth in Missouri and many cities around the country.
On the 2014 elections, Davidson said that if the Senate remains in hands of the Democrats, it will be by one or two seats and is too close to call at this point. “We have to go all out to get out the vote, organize around the local issues that will bring people to the polls, utilize social networking,” he said. “We need to weaken the Republican bloc in any way we can,” said Davidson.
In discussion, several NCC members commented on the issue of the racist police crimes in Ferguson, New York City and elsewhere. Carl Redwood (PA) spoke about the protests organized in Ferguson, MO for Oct. 10-13. Police attacks on Blacks are continuing and not reported by the media, he said. “A number of activities are being linked – from the Ferguson protests to the new trial in December of Marissa Alexander in Florida,” said Redwood. CCDS members in Pittsburgh and Lexington are organizing with local coalitions to bring car loads of people to participate in the Ferguson protests.
Ted Reich (NY) noted that the police “stop and frisk” is still a reality for Black and Latino New Yorkers. “This year arrests of minorities are at the same percentage – 86% – as last year under the previous mayor.
Pat Fry (NY) urged everyone to read the speech by AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka at the Missouri labor federation on the issue of racism and why it is in labor’s interest to speak out on the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. Fry said that the entire speech should be read because stories about it have omitted some of the most important passages; for example, Trumka’s recounting of the 1917 labor-led racist attack on Black workers as an example of how racism divides and hurts all workers.
Zach Robinson (NC) drew attention to the Ebola crisis used to extend the U.S. global war in Africa. He also noted a poll showing that satisfaction with U.S. governance has reached the same low level as during the Watergate crisis.
Randy Shannon (PA) said that much of the continuing financial crisis that began in 2008 is being ignored. Long-term unemployment continues and the global crisis of capital is intensifying, reminiscent of the situation before WW I and II, said Shannon. The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries are developing an alternative economic structure not based on U.S. dollars which is bad for U.S. finance and in the past has led to wars, he said.
Local Area Developments
Brief highlights of developments locally were presented by Tina Shannon (PA), Harry Targ (IN), and Kathy Sykes (MS). Shannon spoke about working in Western PA on issues of Climate Change and the fight against fracking with the Marcellus Shale Coalition. Members are using the recently issued CCDS pamphlet, “System Change, Not Climate Change” in local coalition work.
Targ reported on the newly launched Indiana Moral Mondays and the success of a mass meeting in Indianapolis with Rev. William Barber, President of the NC NAACP and leader of the North Carolina Moral Monday movement. Targ represented CCDS in the coalition that organized the events.
Sykes reported on the “Moral Movement Mississippi” that held a rally and march in downtown Jackson shortly after she returned from the People’s Climate March in NYC. On October 9th, Sykes reported that the Mississippi Alliance for Fairness at Nissan, a community labor coalition of which she is a member will host a visit by union leaders from seven countries organized by IndustriaALL Global Union in support of the UAW organizing campaign at Nissan. Sykes spoke of efforts to build a CCDS chapter in Jackson and said there is interest in joining among activists she works with.
Paul Krehbiel (So. CA) said “there are organizations that we work with that are open to CCDS and open to socialism as they define it. We have an important opportunity to talk about what we mean by socialism.” Krehbiel proposed that CCDS produce a pamphlet on the topic.
Other areas have launched CCDS organizing initiatives. In Greenville, NC, Zach Robinson reported on the “Socialist Social Hour” dinner and discussion gatherings which bring together some 20-25 people regularly. Not all identify as socialists, said Robinson, but they are people active in organizations with socialists. Ira Grupper (KY) reported that there is a CCDS study group started up in Louisville. Janet Tucker (KY) said that the local CCDS chapter in Lexington continues to hold monthly “Socialist Brunches” with good discussion on issues of the day.
People’s Climate March
Anne Mitchell (NY) and Ted Reich (NY) reported on the successful People’s Climate March on September 21st in NYC. They noted the important aspects of the march including the participation of the labor movement, indigenous communities, large numbers of young people and those impacted by “Superstorm Sandy” that devastated NY and NJ coastal areas. The CCDS contingent had participation from members in NY, Boston, and Pittsburgh. The CCDS pamphlet was distributed in good numbers both at the “Convergence” workshops the day preceding the march as well as at the march itself. CCDS member David Schwartzman of Washington D.C. presented at one of the workshops and promoted the CCDS pamphlet.
Marian Gordon reported that CCDS was active with others in a Los Angeles left unity group to build a march of some 2,000 people in conjunction with the People’s Climate March in NYC the same day. Steve Willett (N. CA) reported that CCDS and others on the left played an important role in organizing a People’s Climate March in the Bay Area with eventual participation by 350.org and the Sierra Club. He said the initial push and organizing were undertaken by the Bay Area Eco-Socialist Project.
Cole Harrison (MA) attended the NYC march as part of the Peace contingent which held a pre-march rally. The peace movement did its part with a strong turnout and participation, said Harrison.
Finance and Membership
Treasurer Steve Willett presented the following report on membership and finances: As of September 27, CCDS had $30,533.40 in cash assets. Reserves declined somewhat over the year. The cash flow shows that we have spent about $4,000 more than we have taken in this year to date. This is mainly attributable to increased spending in two areas – conference expenses this year, primarily travel, and the printing of D&I and the Climate Change pamphlet, even though we raised almost $2,000 to support the pamphlet. Our membership continues its long-term decline, although there are fluctuations during the year. The net affect each year has been the loss of a few dozen members, and currently our national membership stands at around 450.”
Carl Davidson and Steve Willett reported that the CCDS web site was hacked and had to be taken down and rebuilt. Courtney Childs (OR) volunteered to help with the project. Long time CCDS webmaster Senora Amos retired from the position after building the organization’s first web site and working on it for several years. The Administrative Committee thanked Senora for all her dedicated work in a letter of appreciation together with a small severance.
The Future of CCDS: Paths to a New Organization
Carl Davidson reported on discussions within the Organizing Committee on the future of CCDS in the context of efforts at building left unity. Davidson talked about new organizing initiatives of socialist youth including LeftRoots, Jacobin study circles, Young Democratic Socialists, Young Communist League, Philly Socialists, and the Kentucky Workers League. The Organizing Committee will offer more concretes and a guide for NCC discussion in the coming weeks on how CCDS can help build these initiatives and work toward left unity. Carl urged NCC members or local CCDS chapters to consider becoming a financial sustainer to LeftRoots, called “compas” (short for the “compañeras”). Some CCDS members already participate in Jacobin study circles and YDS youth conferences in various areas of the country.
Davidson noted the resources that CCDS has built up over the years that should be utilized in promoting joint activity, i.e., Portside, CCDS Links, Online University of the Left, D&I, and our local area chapters.
A report on CCDS participation at the 2014 School of the Americas protest November 21-23 at Ft. Benning in Georgia was presented by Carl Davidson and Jim Skillman. A committee will plan content for CCDS workshops during the weekend activities, coordinate members who can participate, reserve a literature table and hotel rooms and other logistics. Davidson reported that the committee has invited the YCL, LeftRoots, YDS and Jacobin Magazine to share a “left unity” literature table.
Anne Mitchell reported on the newly established “Carl Bloice Institute for Socialist Education” youth school sponsored by the Committees of Correspondence Education Fund that will be held October 23-25, 2014 in New York City. Twenty young people from around the country are expected to participate, some of whom attended the school held during the 2014 CCDS convention in Pittsburgh. A reception will be held Thursday evening and sessions will take place the following Friday and Saturday. The classes will include Labor; Religion and Capitalism; Immigration Reform; Transnational Solidarity: US, Cuba, South Africa; Theory & Practice in The Struggle for Democracy & Socialism; Left Unity; Hereditary Poverty to Poverty Alleviation: Challenges for a New Generation of Organizers; and Healthcare As A Human Rights Issue, or What’s Capitalism Got To Do With It.
The next meeting of the NCC will be held January 11, 2015.
Part of the CCDS team at the conference: Kathy Sykes, Janet Tucker, Harry Targ, Paul Krehbiel
By Paul Krehbiel
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
"The capitalist class is in a serious crisis without solution," said David Schweikart at the Moving Beyond Capitalism conference held in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico from July 30-August 5, 2014. "But there is a solution," he said, "economic democracy, democratic socialism." Over 200 people from 15 countries discussed how to make this happen, organized by the Center for Global Justice.
Chronic high unemployment, depression of wages and benefits, cuts in social services, and growing inequality and repression, and social and political resistance are endemic to nearly all capitalist countries, said Schweikart, a Philosophy professor at Loyola University in Chicago, and author of After Capitalism.
Schweikart’s model of democratic socialism calls for a regulated competitive market economy, socialized means of production and democratic workplaces (he advocates worker-run cooperatives as an example), non-profit public banks to finance projects, full employment, and a guarantee that human needs will be meet for everyone.
Cliff DuRand, a conference organizer, said people are creating alternatives to capitalism today all over the world. "If we’ve built these alternative institutions, the next time the capitalist system collapses…we will be able to survive without it."
Gustavo Esteva, a former Mexican government official, founder of the University of the Land in Oxaca, and an advisor to the Zapatistas in Chiapas in southern Mexico, gave a good account of how the indigenous people of this region are creating a new democratic and socialist-oriented society that they control, within the borders of a capitalist Mexico. The Zapatistas launched an armed uprising in the mid-1990’s to stop NAFTA and the Mexican government from allowing multi-national corporations to come into Chiapas to extract minerals to enrich the corporations and destroy their lives and their local economy.
Ana Maldonado of the Venezuelan Ministry of Communal Economy could not attend, so University of Utah Professor Al Campbell filled in for her. Campbell has worked in Venezuelan with the Community Councils, a new form of grassroots democracy and socialism. Created in 2006 by the late socialist president Hugo Chavez, there are 20,000 Community Councils today, each holding meetings in neighborhoods where all residents can attend, discuss, and vote on decisions for their community.
Private, for-profit banks came under sharp attack for causing the 2008 Great Recession, and for ripping off billions of dollars from people world-wide, primarily through charging high interest rates. Ellen Brown, founder of the Public Banking Institute based in California, declared, "Without interest payments, there would be no national debt," which now stands at over $15 trillion. Politicians use the debt as an excuse to cut funds for education, health care and other social programs. An example of local bank rip-offs is a bank loan for the purchase of a house, where the homeowner pays the bank 2-3 times or more than the cost of the house due to interest payments.
Brown said the solution is to set up not-for-profit public or state banks — like the Bank of North Dakota. She describes how to do it in her book Democratizing Money: The Public Bank Solution. Since the 2008 economic crash, 20 other states including California have introduced bills to study or establish publicly-owned state banks.
"The US controls third world countries," Brown explained, "by putting them in debt and then forcing repayment with high interest rates," which they can’t afford to pay. Brown said the book, Confessions of an Economic Hitman, by John Perkins, explains how devastating this is.
Coops in Cuba
Camila Pineiro Harnecker, a leader of the cooperative movement in socialist Cuba, explained that her country is giving much more attention to the development of worker-run cooperatives as a way to help workers create jobs for themselves, and learn how to become masters of their work and work lives. The state socialist sector dominates the economy, but coops now comprise 12% of the workforce and are expected to increase in number.
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All CCDS Members and Friends
The most important march to save our planet will take place in New York City September 21st. We urge your fullest participation. The march will be held on the occasion of the UN Summit on Climate Change two days following the march. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon will be joining the march along with tens of thousands. Trains, buses and planes will be coming in from all over the country.
CCDS is among more than 1,000 endorsing organizations. Below are March details. For more information and flyers, go to www.peoplesclimate.org.
This will be an important opportunity to distribute our new CCDS brochure “Change the System, not the Climate.” (click here)
Look for the CCDS banner and march with our contingent. Check back at this site for details of location to be announced soon.
Call or write Ted Reich of Metro NY CCDS for more information on the CCDS participation:
The March – 11:30 am, Sunday, September 21st
Assembly location: the area north of Columbus Circle.
- The march will begin at 11:30 am.
- leave Columbus Circle and go east on 59th Street
- turn onto 6th Ave. and go south to 42nd Street
- turn right onto 42nd Street and go west to 11th Ave
- turn left on 11th Ave. and go south to 34th Street
End Location: 11th Ave. in the streets between 34th Street and 38th Street
Statement of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
August 19, 2014
In a ten day non-stop protest, the people of Ferguson, MO – youth and seniors, Black and white – are standing up for justice, equality and democracy in protest of the police murder of young Michael Brown, a black teenage resident of the majority African American suburb of St. Louis. The people of Ferguson are joined by people around the country who have participated in vigils and street protests of the police cover up and the brutal police repression against peaceful protesters that have followed.
The daily peaceful protests are not only justified, but likely to continue and spread unless radical changes are made. Calling for ‘calm’ and peace’ when injustice is prevailing and rampant doesn’t help much and at worse, is divisive. Broad unity is needed, one that includes angry young people as well as their elders.
Michael Brown is only the latest person of color, mainly African American, to be murdered by police in cities around the country and with impunity. Ten days after Brown’s murder, no charges have been brought against the police officer whose identify was kept secret for over a week.
As Michael Brown lay dead in Ferguson, MO, organizing for a march in NYC had been underway since the police murder of Eric Gardner last month. His so-called "crime" was selling cigarettes on a street corner. Like Brown’s death, Gardner’s killing by police has catapulted community, civil rights organizations, youth groups and unions to join together for a march across the Verazzano Bridge on August 23rd demanding the police involved be held to account.
The rampant police murders and other crimes against Black and Brown people represents a state of national emergency.
CCDS urges all to sign the online petition sponsored by Color of Change and Democracy for America that calls on President Obama to send federal marshals to Ferguson, not the National Guard, "to protect Ferguson residents from an out of control and extremely violent police force."
Beyond this, a political agenda to stop police murder and other crimes should include:
1. Establishing Civilian Police Accountability Councils (CPAC), a campaign spearheaded by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Only civilian control of police departments can reign in police and hold them accountable for their crimes.
2. Demilitarization of police departments. CCDS joins with the CPUSA and others who call for repeal of the National Defense Authorization Act which has provided local police departments from the largest to the smallest with Pentagon weaponry and paramilitary training. Missouri law enforcement agencies have received $69 million in military weapons. Nationally, more than $4.3 billion in military equipment has gone to police agencies since 1997.
3.The immediate arrest and indictment against the officer responsible for Michael Brown’s death. As St. Louis writer and activist Jamala Rogers wrote, Black people must have equal protection under the law and those who use the badge to abuse their authority must be held accountable. "Above all, they want transparency," said Rogers.
4. An end to police "racial profiling," the practice of racist targeting of Black and Latino people, and an end to "stop and frisk" policies which are nothing more than targeted harassment of mainly Black and Latino youth.
5. Affirmative action for police departments. Programs must be implemented immediately to insure that police forces are representative of the people they serve.
6. An urban agenda for the nation. In the midst of the Ferguson protests, the Rev. Jesse Jackson of Rainbow/PUSH has drawn attention to the pressing need for a new urban agenda for our nation’s cities. We agree. Like other industrial states and central cities deserted by capital’s low-wage, anti-union drive, Missouri has a 22% unemployment rate. Joblessness for Black and Latino youth is twice the rate of white youth whose futures are also in jeopardy. Needed is a political agenda for rebuilding our cities – a just transition to a new economy, one that is good for the environment, good for the country, good for a peaceful foreign policy, and good for young people who are desperate for a future with living wage, full time skilled jobs and training.
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism