Pete Seeger in Greenwood, Mississippi, 1963
FROM PEGGY SEEGER: “As most of you will know by now, my beloved brother Pete died peacefully, surrounded by close family members, at the Presbyterian Hospital (Columbia), New York City, on January 27th at 9:17 pm. His daughter Tinya, who had been caring for him for some time, was lovingly holding his hand. I was still in mid-air making a frantic attempt to get there from New Zealand. I arrived four hours too late. I take solace from our last phone calls where much was said but unspoken. I know many of you will be saddened by Pete’s death but we must remember that he led a very full and productive life. He leaves a prodigious body of work for us to enjoy, a legacy the enormity of which will continue to grow. He touched so many people’s lives, from children to the golden oldies like myself. As for me, I have lost the last person who has known me from birth and who has always been there for me. I cannot express how heavy losing Pete lies with me. My thanks to all for your kind and thoughtful condolences.
FROM CARL DAVIDSON: CCDS leader Jay Schaffner composed this summary of Pete’s life for his 80th birthday, and Pete only added more in this tradition in his last years, Even as his voice weakened, his message and spirit were strong to the end. We all knew that at the age of 94, this day was coming. Still the news pierced all of our hearts with dismay. Let us stand at attention and raise a fist in salute. A great man has passed, one who touched all of our lives, and will continue to do so.
I Remember Pete Seeger – A Tribute on his 80th Birthday
Pete Seeger – People’s Troubadour, Folk Singer, Clarion for Civil Rights, Labor and Peace, Pioneering Environmentalist, Socialist
Remarks of Jay Schaffner at Evening to Honor Pete Seeger on his 80th Birthsay- Nov. 12, 1999
Brothers and Sisters
I am very happy to welcome you to tonight’s program on behalf of the New York Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. It is a real treat to be here to be able to learn from and celebrate with Pete Seeger on his 80th birthday. I guess I should let people in on a little secret – growing up as a child of the 1960s, as a product of the 1950s, of that breed now known as “Red Diaper” babies, I was weaned on the music of Pete Seeger and the Weavers.
Obviously many of you here tonight have also been weaned, sung to and joined in song with one of our country’s unique national treasurers. That’s how Pete Seeger was described a few years ago when he was awarded the Kennedy Center honors. Years after being denied the opportunity to perform on national television, years after the only concert venue that would book Pete were union halls like that of 1199, now the nation was awarding one of its highest cultural salutations to Pete.
But we are honoring Pete for another reason tonight. We are honoring Pete as an individual who fought the good fight, who walked the picket lines, who sang at the rallies, who went south to finish the second American revolution, who early on was one of those we could count on in the fight to end the war in Vietnam, to win the freedom of Angela Davis, or in support of Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers.
We are honoring Pete because he has continued to believe in that dirty word: that dangerous word, and I am not referring to the new national debate on are you now or have you ever been a liberal. Pete has hung in there; Pete is still, heaven forbid, a socialist. We in the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism are pleased to be able to count Pete and Toshi as our members, as activists who on the eve of the millennium still believe in the possibility of a better world. They still believe in a world free of exploitation, discrimination, racism, sexism, genocide, war and environmental destruction.
In honoring Pete, we are honoring a fine tradition. - A tradition of rebellion, radicalism and revolution. Over two hundred years ago, the revolutionaries of their day decided that things needed to change. These revolutionaries dumped the King’s tea in the Boston harbor, and the American Revolution was born. They built their own revolutionary organization, and they came up with a unique name, the Committees of Correspondence. Our country was built on such rebellion and radicalism.
Our revolution was unfinished. African Americans were held in bondage, women were denied the vote, and only men who owned property were initially franchised. But radicals struggled and persevered. In the first place was the valiant struggle of those enslaved, and their allies the abolitionists, who were initially called crazy, then radicals, then revolutionaries, and then it was a mass movement to end slavery. The bloodiest war in our nation’s history was required to end slavery, to finish the American revolution. We can thank Pete, and Paul Robeson, and Huddy Leadbetter and Malvina Reynolds for forever keeping that drive for equality in our country’s songs. Generation after generation has been brought up singing Go Down Moses and We Shall Overcome.
The Pete’s, and the Paul’s, the Woody’s and the Florence Reese’s took their side with their working brothers and sisters during the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and in Pete’s case, into the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. There wasn’t a picket line, that wasn’t loud, shouting and singing. They knew how to picket. There weren’t any Taft-Hartley or Landrum-Griffin laws that prevented solidarity labor picket lines and secondary boycotts.
Then it was my generation’s turn. We traveled south, answering the call of the southern civil rights movement, answering the call of the generations before, those pre-mature fighters against lynching and legal segregation, the communists, socialists, radicals and revolutionaries of their days. The old SNYC, the Southern Negro Youth Congress gave rise to the new SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. And they were joined by the troubadours of their day, including the ever- young Pete.
Years later, one of the earliest advocates for the freedom of Angela Davis was Pete Seeger. And today, Pete is in the front ranks of those calling for a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Almost thirty years ago, Angela Davis was on trial for her life. The people’s movement at that time said that if we could win an end to Angela’s solitary confinement, if we could win bail, if we could get Angela to actively participate in her own defense, if we could build such a mass movement, then we could win in the jury of public opinion, political presence, and the actual trial jury.
We in the CCDS are joining today with our members like Pete, like Angela, in fighting for a new trial for our brother Mumia Abu-Jamal. We are saying this brother must not die! We are demanding a new fair trial, a trial that is not filled with tainted evidence. We feel that in such a trial, that we can overcome, that we can win. We feel that such a momentum, such a victory can impact on hate crimes, can be a brake against police terror, and will be a real repudiation of the Klan. We ask you here to join with us in carrying the message of saving the life of our brother to all corners. They said in the past that it couldn’t be done, and we showed them, let’s do it again.
We in the CCDS, feel that there has to be a better way. Mumia is on death row, and the industrial polluters of our country run free. Thousands of children in our country don’t have enough to eat, don’t have decent health care, yet the insurance companies continue to rake in billions. In today’s world, one individual is richer than most nations in the world, and for those of us who do not use Macs, Bill Gates not only has run rough-shod over the competition, but has most of us who use computers, at his mercy, with unstable Windows.
With the end of the cold war, why is our nation’s military budget larger than ever? Why did our Senate refuse to sign onto the call for nuclear disarmament? Why has our country supported the dictatorships in Indonesia, the Philippines, apartheid South Africa, Pinochet’s Chile, Guatemala, Serbia, and Franco’s? Is there a real need for the rich to get continuously richer, and the poor, poorer. Why can’t we have an increase in the minimum wage to $6.15; why can’t future increases be tied to increases in the cost of living index, why can’t we have a living wage? The answer is blowing in the wind.
Yes, brothers and sisters, there has to be a better way. For some few capitalism is working, but not for the overwhelming majority of others. Call it what you want, but I know of no word that describes an alternative to capitalism other than socialism.
You may ask, what kind of socialism? What are your models? And I and members of the CCDS will honestly answer, we don’t know what forms it will take, but this clearly isn’t working. We will say, let’s work together, let’s talk together, let’s debate together, let’s struggle together, and as we do, we will find our way, the way to socialism in the new century.
Our models… we don’t have any, and many of us feel there never were any models, since every country and situation are different from others. We will chart our path as we struggle, the so-called models of the past were in fact distortions of socialism.
What we can say is: If you want to join this struggle with others, if we want to learn from past generations of radicals, revolutionaries, socialists and communists, then we should all want to work together. Join us, let’s work together, together we can struggle and win.
Our struggles, and our childrens’ and their childrens’ struggles will make our revolution. Thank you,
[Jay Schaffner has been an activist since the 60s in Chicago, when he was a member of the W.E.B. DuBois Clubs and Students for a Democratic Society, then helping to found the Young Workers Liberation League, and later becoming part of it's national leadership. He helped form and was part of the New York and national leadership of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism in the 90s. He became a staff organizer for the musicians union, Local 802, AFM, later being elected to its executive board, even though he was not a professional musician himself. He helped develop and found Portside in 2000, and now retired, he continues as one of the moderators of Portside.]
State of the Union: Obama Pulled His Best Punches
By Carl Davidson and Harry Targ
Progressive America Rising
In the lead-up to President Obama’s speech Chris Hayes, MSNBC host, presented a segment on the national mobilization of low wage workers in 2013. He described courageous work stoppages by fast food workers, campaigns by public employees, particularly health care and home care workers, and how seemingly isolated pockets of protest spread like wild fire across the nation.
This, Hayes suggested, stimulated progressive groups, selected Congresspersons, and visible pundits such as Robert Reich and Paul Krugman to reemphasize the economic crisis the American working class is facing, particularly youth, people of color, women, and older workers. Hayes suggested that we are on the verge of a new mass movement and that Obama would capture the spirit of this movement in his State of the Union address.
President Obama took the podium a little after 9 pm Eastern Standard Time and presented a State of the Union address that referred to income inequality, the need for immigration reform, creating jobs by renovating the transportation infrastructure, and reducing greenhouse case emissions to forestall climate change.
Specific resolutions and demands were articulated. He did announce that he would use his executive authority to require that the minimum wage of companies with government contracts be raised to $10.10 an hour. He urged Congress, states, and municipalities to follow and raise their minimum wages as well.
He recommended the creation of a new program that would allow workers who do not have pensions to invest in a government created pension fund, similar to 401Ks.
He praised growing government business partnerships and collaboration with colleges and universities to extend job training, make college more affordable, and create a 21st century work force that he claimed could fill the jobs that are not being filled now. Read more of this article »
Student and teachers from the Convention ‘School for Young People’
CCDS 7th Convention Debates Growth
of the Left and the Progressive Majority
in Combating Austerity, War and the Right
[This report was assembled by Carl Davidson, with considerable and valuable help from Cheryl Richards and Ellen Schwartz, our recorders. Others who added a lot were Janet Tucker, Harry Targ, Ted Reich, Pat Fry, Will Emmons, Randy Shannon, Anne Mitchell and Duncan McFarland. Photos by Ted Reich]
Nearly 100 delegates, observers and friends gathered in Pittsburgh, PA for the 7th Convention of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism over the July 18-21, 2013 weekend. The goals of the gathering were to take stock of the political battles since their last convention in 2009, to assess the organization’s strengths, weaknesses and ongoing challenges, and to chart a path of unity and struggle for the upcoming period.
The participants came from all sections of the country: from California to Florida, from Texas to Boston, and many points in between. Almost all were deeply embedded in mass struggles—trade unions and community organizations, women’s groups, civil rights organizations and peace and justice coalitions. Many had also taken part in a variety of independent electoral battles against the GOP and the right, and everyone had been in the streets during the battles against the wars, the Occupy upsurge and for justice in the Trayvon Martin case.
Kicking off the meeting was a “School for Young People.” That innovation started a day before the main sessions of the convention. The presence of 20 young activists—men and women, of several nationalities, fresh from many battles, especially in the South—added a dynamic quality to all the discussions for the entire weekend.
“We appreciated the steps CCDS has made to accept the need for youth leadership in the socialist left and progressive movements,” said Will Emmons of Kentucky. The students saw the school as a “good first start,” and looked forward to more and better efforts in overcoming the intergenerational divide in much of the socialist movement.
The convention itself was organized into five plenary sessions and 16 workshops, with a cultural event and dinner on Saturday evening. It opened for the youth school and other early arrivers Thursday evening with the showing of the new film, “Anne Braden: Southern Patriot,” an inspiring story of the battles of Anne Braden and her husband, Carl Braden of Kentucky, in decades of battles against white supremacy and other fronts in the class struggle across the South. Filmmaker Anne Lewis from Texas was on hand to lead a discussion that followed.
All the convention’s deliberations were organized around a “main resolution,” with the various plenaries and workshops dealing with its different sections. The five plenary topics were 1) assessing the concrete conditions, 2) the terrains of struggle against austerity, 3) the climate change crisis, 4) strategic formations and the progressive majority, and 5) the quest for left unity.
Time of Day: The Opening Plenary on Concrete Conditions
“What time is it?” asked Mildred Williamson, a CCDS national committee member from Chicago, in her remarks opening the first plenary session, which was chaired by Randy Shannon of Western PA. “It’s a time of economic, social, environmental, and racial injustice on steroids.” she continued, “a time of no respect for humanity.” She proceeded to spotlight the full range of current conditions with the lens showing the inter-connection of class, race and gender. “What time is it?” she repeated, “As long as Black and brown lives are thought of and treated as disposable, in a 21st century-three-fifths-of-a-person fashion, it will be impossible to achieve working class power in this country. Economic and social policies are literally destroying Black and brown lives, and simultaneously further weakening working class power…. we must fight with humility and purpose to strengthen and promote radicalized thought and action in the quest for social justice, human rights and working class power. This requires a fresh look at what it means to be ‘Left’ in this phase of capitalism.”
Williamson concluded by posing the most poignant questions to the delegates:
“What is the winning strategy to reduce the number of white working class people from voting against their own class interests, especially since fewer are unionized and fewer live in integrated communities? What will be the winning strategy to achieve left unity – and just what does that mean today? How can we build respect for youth in leadership of social justice movements while still showing simultaneous respect for elders? How do we fully move our thought and action from the multiracial unity ‘slogan’ to normalized, genuine demonstrations of respect for multiple cultures, gender expressions and sexual orientations? These questions–and more tough ones–need answers in order to chart the path forward in the quest for working class power. Let’s work on them at this convention and thereafter.”
Read more of this article »
The vast wealth amassed by US finance capital has been created over many decades by working people in this and many other countries. The unsustainable disparity in wealth under capitalism has resulted in a profound global social and economic crisis. Unbounded greed drives the moguls of Wall Street to push austerity on its victims to rescue themselves from the crisis.
The people’s fightback has taken many forms.The campaign to restore the federal financial transactions tax is one of these fights. It offers a chance to take back speculative gains and apply them to health care, education, housing, infrastructure and other job-generating programs that meet human needs.
A 0.5% tax on stock sales over $100, plus a lesser levy on other financial trading, will generate as much as $350 billion per year. Together with a long-delayed peace dividend and the establishment of a single-payer, Medicare-for-all healthcare system, we will see the end of the recession and a path forward.
Take it back! Make Wall Street fund a recovery for Main Street:
- Improved Medicare for all
- Decent affordable housing
- Safe & healthy environment
- Quality universal education
- Good jobs with dignity for all
- Bring them home: Rebuild our crumbling infrastructure
Both Representative John Conyers’ Humphrey-Hawkins 21st Century Full Employment and Training Act (HR.870) and the Sanders-McDermott American Health Security Act (S.915-HR.1200) employ such a financial transactions tax to fund their goals.
A financial transactions tax, known globally as the Robin Hood Tax, was in place in the US until 1966. Forty countries have it right now. Other countries are weighing its launch. The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism urges all to join the new coalition being formed to push this campaign forward. Go to http://www.RobinHoodTax.org
to get plugged in.
It’s not a tax on the people, but a tax for the people.
I Fell in Love with Cuba
Interview with Liu Yuqin,
Ambassador of China
By CLAUDIA FONSECA SOSA
A CubaNews translation. Edited by Walter Lippmann
"I’m sad and happy at the same time," said Liu Yuqin, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, upon receiving the Order of Solidarity recently granted to her by the Cuban Council of State. "Sad, because my stay in Cuba is ending, and happy because the relations between Cuba and China are getting deeper with each passing day," she commented during a visit to Granma a few days before returning to her country.
Cuba has been linked to a good part of your diplomatic career; what does this mean to you?
From 1996 to 2000 I was the Political Counselor at the Embassy of China in Havana. Ten years later I returned as the Ambassador, a posting I conclude this year 2012. I also worked at the Latin American Department of the Foreign Ministry in China and from there I was closely linked to subjects related to the island. I can affirm that I owe a lot to Cuba.
From my childhood I learned about the Cuban Revolution. I began admiring Fidel, Raúl and all the leaders of their historical generation. Of course, at that time I could not imagine that years later I would be so closely linked to this country, nor foresee that I would be representing my country here. This is a people I admire for its resistance to adversity and for its happiness. I have sincerely enjoyed my diplomatic mission in Cuba, and I believe in these years I fell in love with the country.
How do you assess the state of the bilateral relations?
The links between Cuba and China keep consolidating not only in the political and economic areas, but also in culture, health and education, among other aspects. We have established a very important and mutually beneficial strategic cooperation.
At present, China remains the second trading partner of Cuba. And, even as the world economic crisis has affected all of us, the trade between both nations is increasing.
We have made great progress in biotechnological cooperation. A number of products are already being jointly produced, such as monoclonal antibodies and interferon, and there are plans to produce other medicines.
The first group of Chinese students who were learning Spanish at Cuban Universities has already graduated. This is very important for us, because the relations between China and the Latin American countries are at a very good point and we have a shortage of Spanish’ speaking staff. There are also many young Chinese students who come to Cuba to study medicine.
There is a favorable climate and great political trust between both nations. For example, in July last year, the Cuban Government received the visit of Vice President Xi Jinping. This meeting was an important step for the present and future relations, evidence of which was the signing of 13 agreements for commercial and economic exchanges.
You had the opportunity to live and work on the island at different moments of the revolutionary process. Could you see any transformations between the Cuba you left 11 years ago and the one you are leaving now?
My first posting here was in the midst of the difficult years of the Special Period. It was clear that the Cuban economy had deteriorated; there were problems with public transport, very few products in the markets. I remember the blackouts.
Ten years later I returned and saw a prettier and more dynamic Havana. There are more cars circulating, particularly more public transport. There are more restaurants of different categories, a greater offer at the agro markets and there is a happier and more hopeful environment.
I really feel glad for all Cuba has achieved. I congratulate you for the successful coordination of the Congress of the Communist Party and hope the coming holding of the Conference is equally successful. Cuba is moving forward in the path of socialism.
What are the main internal challenges China is facing at present?
Improving the standard of living of the population has always been a main task for the Chinese government, and in this sense we have taken important steps particularly in the last 30 years. We will continue developing our economy so that our growth remains stable. We will continue the reforms and opening up. We will endeavor to fulfill the commitments outlined in the 12th Five-year Plan. My country promotes a policy of peaceful development and will continue working for its people through a socialist way with its own characteristics. The most important thing is that each country can decide its own destiny. Cuba and China agree on this.
Jobs Not War: Let’s Forge Ahead Together
The progressive movement is at a crossroads. As pressure from finance capital builds for President Obama to gut or restrict his recovery agenda, the progressive majority is trying to organize a fight back. Public expression of the anger and frustration of the people whose hopes for change seem to meet so many obstacles must be organized. Mass action and political action together can bring change.
We have just published a new booklet that analyzes the roots of the current crisis and offers a program of struggle for full employment as the progressive way out of our crisis. It title is “Its Time to Fight for Full Employment.” We need your help now to fund the printing and distribution of this important publication, sponsored by the CCDS Labor Committee. Click here to purchase it via PayPal
It’s especially timely as a tool to build for the town hall meetings for HR 5204, John Conyers full employment bill.
The weight of the economic crisis has been shifted from the bankers to the people through growing unemployment and slashed budgets for human needs and infrastructure. After looting the treasury the neo-liberal politicians cry “deficit” and refuse to fund continued unemployment compensation, COBRA healthcare support, extension of Medicare physicians compensation, and emergency funds to prevent massive layoffs of teachers and firemen by local governments.
Now the “deficit fetishists” are sharpening their knives to slash social security and Medicare while continuing their global war policy.
More than ever the progressive movement needs a socialist left that can help educate about the class basis of political developments and the interconnection of class, race and gender. With this understanding, CCDS participates in the struggles of the progressive majority, works to build unity of progressive forces, and promotes advanced demands like the struggle for full employment.
A full employment and industrial policy that promotes green jobs is essential to ending the economic crisis. A movement for full employment will change the political dynamic in our country from a defense against the far right to an offense against the financial-military-oil oligarchy.
Please chip in $5 or more to help us pay for an initial printing of 1,000 copies of our new booklet. We will send you a copy right away.
And please sign up to sustain CCDS now to help us grow our organization and build the movement for change.
If you want to sustain an independent movement, then CCDS needs your help. We need to raise at least $2,000 per month in sustainers in order to fund our fantastic team of organizers, writers, and others who drive CCDS forward.
Political independence is a direct function of financial independence. That’s why the institutions on the left that have continued to meaningfully pursue a progressive agenda are those that are financially independent.
Left organizations like CCDS need regular, predictable sources of revenue that allow them to plan and grow, freeing them from the impossible choice of either operating on free labor or being in constant fund raising mode. If we want left organizations, we have to consciously build and support them. We need your help.
Can you help reach our goal by contributing $5, or more to fund CCDS? Click here to donate and to sustain CCDS.
http://www.cc-ds.org/donation.htmlTo order the booklets in bulk, send queries to firstname.lastname@example.org
We thank you for all you do to support CCDS. None of this would be possible without your help. Thank you for stepping up again to sustain our movement.
Thank you, again.
After the Convention:
For a Plan of Action
By Carl Davidson
Following this Convention, CCDS needs to hit the ground running with a clear program of action. We want clear and concise answers to the question often posed, ‘What is CCDS Doing?’ While it’s never been the case than the vast majority of our members have been inactive, it’s also been the case that we haven’t always focused our diverse activities in a way that made the organization more effective, more visible and thus better able to grow.
We need to better organize our activities on two fronts at once, the mass democratic and the socialist. The two are necessarily linked, but not the same.
ON THE MASS DEMOCRATIC FRONT:
--Peace and solidarity. We need to press for ‘Out Now’ as a demand expressing the urgency of ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and any other similar conflicts that might arise. If Obama doesn’t reverse course and is suckered in by the ‘Long War’ advocates, it will destroy him, his presidency and anything decent he wants to accomplish. The fight for peace and the fight for economic justice are linked in a way that has never been more clear. Obama can chart a path to recovery or he keep us in the quagmire of unjust wars. But he can’t do both, and we need to be the clear, insistent and determined voice delivering exactly that message. Educational work within the working class around the Gaza crisis and the Agent Orange crimes also stands out as a priority in solidarity work. Read more of this article »
By David Schweickart
First, the context: ‘Economic Democracy: A Worthy Socialism that Would Really Work’ laid out a model that was to form the basis of my book, ‘Against Capitalism,’ published by Cambridge University Press in 1993.
The article, like the book itself, was a theoretical response to the triumphalism of the TINA crowd (There Is No Alternative) that followed the collapse of Soviet Union and the rejection of socialism by its satellite states in Eastern Europe. ‘A Worthy Socialism’ was intended to demonstrate rigorously that there is an alternative, at least in theory: an economically viable form of socialism that would be more democratic than capitalism and at least as efficient.
‘Against Capitalism’ made the same point, but extended the argument further. Economic Democracy would be not only as efficient as capitalism and more democratic, but also more rational in its growth, more stable, more egalitarian, less prone to high unemployment, more ecologically friendly.
Read more of this article »