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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Calls for Civilian Police Accountability Councils
By Pat Fry
In response to a national epidemic of police and vigilante killings, a two day “National Forum on Police Crimes” took place in Chicago, May 16-17. With some 250 people attending, the Forum called for legislation establishing a Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) in Chicago and elsewhere.
The Forum was organized by the Chicago branch of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression on the occasion of the organization’s 41st anniversary. Founded in May 1973, the NAARPR developed out of the national and international campaign to free Angela Davis from a racist and politically-motivated frame-up. Over the years, numerous celebrated cases were won through the organizing efforts of the NAARPR including on behalf of the Rev. Ben Chavis, Joan Little, the Wilmington 10, and the Charlotte 3.
Concluding the two day Forum, a public rally with Angela Davis was held at the Trinity United Church of Christ with 1200 attending. In her address, Davis said mass incarceration and police killings stem from “structural and systemic racism rooted in the failure to fully abolish slavery.” Global capital expansion and its pursuit of profit, she said, fuel the prison-industrial complex. While money is spent on building prisons for profit, public education and affordable housing deteriorates, she said. Davis called for the abolition of prisons, disarming of police and freedom for all political prisoners held in U.S. jails from Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier to Chelsea Manning and the Cuba Five.
Frank Chapman who headed the organizing committee for the weekend’s events introduced Davis and talked about his own freedom from prison won through the efforts of the NAARPR in 1973. Chapman who is Field Organizer and Education Director for the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression said that the NAARPR is needed now more than ever and urged rally participants to join. Chicago and Louisville are the two branches of the NAARPR active today.
The Forum, held at the University of Chicago, opened with a panel discussing the various aspects of police crimes and the initiatives underway to end them. Lennox Hinds, founding general counsel of the NAARPR, framed the discussion and said “Police are legally permitted to use deadly force. They have access to firearms 24 hours a day, on-duty and off-duty. They are free to kill anytime they suspect someone is guilty.” Black and Latino people are the most likely victims in cities with populations over 100,000, he said, making police abuse a fact of life in African American and Latino neighborhoods.
Rob Warden of the Center on Wrongful Convictions said Chicago is “the false confession capital of the world.” Recantations by people who have given false testimony are routinely rejected by the courts,” he said. Warden called for adoption of a public policy to encourage recantations.
Bernadine Dohrn, Professor of Law at Northwestern University and immediate past president of the Children and Family Justice Center, urged support for a lawsuit that would make public all complaints of police misconduct. Of the 19,000 complaints filed of police misconduct, said Dorhn, only 18 led to a police suspension of a week or more. For 85 percent of complaints, police were never interviewed, she said.
Warden, Dohrn and others talked about the police use of torture to solicit “confessions,” citing the case of Jon Burge, a Chicago detective who was convicted of torturing more than 200 suspects between1972 and l991. The exposure of Burge’s crimes led Illinois Gov. George Ryan to impose a moratorium on the death penalty in 2000.
Panelist Jeff Baker, candidate for Alderman representing Chicago’s Southside 21st Ward, called for enactment of a Civilian Police Accountability Council in Chicago. The CPAC model legislation would establish a democratically elected authority with power to directly present evidence of police crimes to a federal grand jury.
Among the participants at the Forum were victims of police crimes and family members. Danelene Powell-Watts talked about her son, Stephon, who as a 15 year old autistic youth was killed by police in February 2012 because he held a butter knife. Powell-Watts is an autoworker and member of UAW Local 551 in Chicago. Members of her union local’s Solidarity Committee organized protests of the police killing of her son.
Mike Elliott who chairs the UAW Local 551 Solidarity Committee is also Labor Secretary of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. Elliott was one of several Local 551 members who participated at the Forum, including at a Labor breakout where discussion centered on how to strengthen the labor movement’s role in building a national movement against police crimes.
Hatem Abudayyah, Executive Director of the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), highlighted rampant police profiling and harassment of Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities. A case in point is Rasmea Odeh, Associate Director of AAAN, who the Department of Homeland Security arrested in a politically motivated charge of giving false information on a naturalization application 20 years ago. Ms. Odeh faces a 10-year jail sentence with a trial set to begin June 10 in Detroit. Conference participants were urged to circulate a protest petition at (www.stopfbi.net).
Police violence against women was highlighted in remarks by Crista Noel who spoke about her friend, Rekia Boyd, who was murdered by police in March 2012 at the age of 22. Boyd was talking with friends when Chicago Police Det. Dante Servin approached the group and opened fire after allegedly mistaking a cell phone held by one of the youths as a gun. Noel launched a campaign for justice that led her to the United Nations where she filed a complaint before the UN Human Rights Commission. Responding to national and international pressure, charges were brought against the police officer, the first charged in a police murder in Chicago in decades. The case has yet to come to trial.
Nelson Linder, President of the NAACP branch in Austin, Texas, spoke about the increasing rate of racist police crimes in his city. In the four year period between 1999 and 2003, 10 of the 11 people who died at the hands of Austin police were African American or Latino in a city with an overwhelmingly white population. In 2004, said Linder, the Austin NAACP and the Texas Civil Rights Project invoked Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and filed a complaint detailing the systemic and widespread police misconduct of Black and Latino communities. The campaign led to demands that the U.S. Department of Justice cut off all federal money to the Austin Police Department.
Black Power Meets the Solidarity Economy
By Michael Siegel
A new political and economic model is emerging, and it is not appearing where we might suspect it would. In the heart of the South, in a city named after one of the most racist presidents in United States history, in a landscape that resembles parts of Detroit and other decaying industrial centers, an impressive intergenerational collection of community organizers and activists have launched a bold program to empower a black working-class community that 21st -century capitalism has left behind.
In the last two months, I have traveled twice to Jackson, Miss., first for the memorial of Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, and most recently, between May 2 and 4, for the Jackson Rising: New Economies Conference held at Jackson State University. On both occasions, I have been struck by the amazing individuals and families who have dedicated themselves to developing economic democracy in Jackson.
A Black Revolutionary Mayor in the Heart of the South
Jackson Rising is the brainchild of a coalition of local and national political forces, including the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), the Jackson People’s Assembly and Lumumba’s office. Part of the initial vision was for the conference to catalyze some of the mayor’s economic initiatives, including the goal of helping local workers win government contracts. Unfortunately Lumumba, who won election by an overwhelming majority in June, held office for only a brief period before dying Feb. 25 of unexplained causes.
That Lumumba won the election at all is a testament to his sustained radical human rights work and to the group of community organizers he worked with over many years. Even during his campaign for mayor, Lumumba made no apologies for his revolutionary background, including his commitment to the New Afrikan Peoples Organization (NAPO) and its claim to a homeland in the predominantly black regions of the South (described as the “Kush”), including broad swaths of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. Lumumba’s history also included decades of experience as a civil rights and criminal defense attorney, with past clients including freedom fighters and political prisoners such as Mutulu Shakur, Geronimo Pratt and Assata Shakur.
Despite his radical background, Lumumba was embraced by the people of Jackson, where he had long been an active community advocate and youth mentor. Lumumba and MXGM also utilized innovative organizing tactics to activate the local population. They went door to door to recruit participants for the Jackson People’s Assembly, an independent formation that began as a response to Hurricane Katrina. The Assembly now meets quarterly to discuss community concerns and debate issues including participation in the U.S. Census and the curriculum in the Jackson Public Schools. Hundreds of residents have participated in the Assembly, and locals who are unaffiliated with Lumumba or MXGM lead working committees on topics such as economic development, education and public safety.
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Historian Mark Solomon looks at the prospects for a new socialist left
By Mark Solomon
Published by Portside March 6, 2013
On February 4, 2010 The Gallop Poll released its latest data on the public’s political attitudes. The headline read: “Socialism Viewed Positively by 36% of Americans.” While the poll did not attempt the daunting task of exploring what a diverse public understood socialism to mean, it nevertheless revealed an unmistakably sympathetic image of a system that had been pilloried for generations by all of capitalism’s dominant instruments of learning and information as well as by its power to suppress and slander socialist ideas and organization.
In sheer numbers, that means a population at the teen- age level and above of tens of millions with a favorable view of socialism.
Why then is the organized socialist movement in the United States so small and so clearly wanting in light of the potential for building its numbers and influence?
That is a crucial question. At every major juncture in the history of the country, radical individuals and organizations in advance of the mainstream have played essential roles in influencing, guiding and consolidating broad currents for social change. In the revolution that birthed this country, radical activists articulated demands from the grass roots for an uncompromising and transforming revolution to crush colonial oppression. Black and white abolitionists fought to make the erasure of slavery the core objective of the Civil War while also linking that struggle to women’s suffrage and trade unionism. A mass Socialist Party in the early 20th century fought for state intervention to combat the ravages of an increasingly exploitative economic system while advancing the vision of a socialist commonwealth. In the Great Depression, the Communist Party and its allies fought the devastations of the crisis – helping to build popular movements to expand democracy, grow industrial unions and defend protections for labor embodied in the historic New Deal.
Small left and socialist organizations in the sixties supported a range of progressive struggles from peace to civil rights to women’s liberation to gay rights and beyond. The limited resources of those groups were effective in galvanizing massive peace demonstrations and in campaigns against racist and sexist oppression. But the Cold War and McCarthyism had eviscerated any hope for a major influential socialist current. Consequently, no large and impacting force existed to extend to the peace movement a coherent anti-imperial analysis that might have contributed to its continuity and readiness to confront the wars of the nineties and the new century. Nor was there a strong socialist organization to contribute to the civil rights struggle by advocating for reform joined to a commitment to deeper social transformation. Had such a current existed, it might have contributed to building a broad protective barrier against the devastating FBI and local police violence against sectors of the movement like the Black Panthers.
There should be little debate today on the left over the need for a strong socialist voice and movement in light of festering economic stagnation, war on the working class, looming environmental catastrophe, a widening chasm between the super-rich and the rest of us, massive joblessness and incarceration savaging African Americans and other oppressed nationalities, crises in health care, housing and education. Such a strong socialist presence could offer a searching analysis of the present situation, help stimulate a broad public debate on short term solutions and formulate a vision of a socialist future that could begin to reach the minds and hearts of the 36 percent who claim to be sympathetic to that vision. Read more of this article »
Nurses in Chicago NATO/G8 Protests Demanding ‘Robin Hood’ Tax
National Nurses United: Linking Global Struggle
With Successful Organizing in Difficult Places
By Sandy Eaton, RN
National Nurses United, the two-year-old national union of registered nurses, called on its members and all their allies to Come Together to Heal the World in Chicago on May 18th. This marks the latest phase in the union’s campaign for a Financial Transaction Tax, the “Robin Hood Tax,” which began outside the US Chamber of Commerce on Lafayette Park last June and quickly spread to Wall Street and beyond.
NNU’s annual Staff Nurse Assembly this year bypassed Capitol Hill, its usual venue, for Chicago, the original site of the G8-NATO summit. Having sent a strong delegation to Cannes last December to target the G20 while rallying in cities across the US at the same time, the nurses seized this opportunity to advance the fight for a 0.5% tax on stock trading and other transactions in order to garner up to $350 billion per year to create jobs and meet human needs. More than 100 organizations of community, environmental, labor and health groups from around the world endorsed the event.
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The Mass Movement in 2012
CCDS members are and should continue to be involved in the mass democratic activity to defeat the far right that will likely grow over the coming months. Elections and electoral campaigns will largely frame the national discourse at the national, state and local level in the following ways:
Labor-community-religious coalitions will be key forms for the electoral struggle at the working class base. United Wisconsin and other state based coalitions in defense of collective bargaining, PDA, WFP and similar organizations or parties will play significant roles in independent electoral and progressive activity.
Struggles for democracy and equality and against racism injected by the far right into the election campaign are at a new and virulent level. “Poor” is the new code word for Black and immigrant, even though most poor people are white. Coded in racism also are Republican attacks on food stamps and social benefits, their campaign for draconian laws against immigrants and glorification of executions and the death penalty.
Struggles against restrictive voting laws that disenfranchise the poor and people of color. Struggle for a new movement against the death penalty, the mass incarceration of Black, Latino and low income people, and the prison-industrial complex, which is the main instrument of the ruling class today in re-imposing Jim Crow racism and segregation on our society and splitting the working class.
Single issue organizations and coalitions of trade unions, peace, health care, civil rights, living wage coalitions, women’s rights, seniors, civil liberties, immigrant rights and others will organize to bring pressure on candidates and work in get-out-the-vote activity. The Rebuild the Dream, National People’s Action, the Occupy movement and many other local and state based efforts will rally to bring pressure to bear on issues and candidates.
Building new grass roots electoral forms and social movements based on a peace and economic justice agenda, opposing militarism and wars of intervention including in Afghanistan and sanctions against Iran, moving the money from military to programs for living wage jobs, a sustainable environment, Medicare for all health care, education without debt, affordable housing, and strengthening state budgets to preserve public services.
Role of CCDS
Work to unite sectors and movements through the above electoral and mass democratic forms. Consciously work to build unity of movements of African American, white, Latinos, Caribbean, Asians/Pacific Islander and Native Americans, youth and seniors, men and women, lesbian and gay, and immigrant peoples
Work to promote a peace and economic justice agenda as stated above
Issue a CCDS statement on importance of the Elections and the stake for working people and progressive, democratic forces
Work to promote ideological work and educational forms of CCDS to bring activists from the mass movement to CCDS through local study groups, discussion groups and forums utilizing the DVD “Fundamental Topics in Democracy and Socialism”, material from the “Long March for Democracy” material of the Democracy Charter committee, the On Line University of the Left, CCDS Links, Portside, etc.
In building left unity, CCDS should take concrete measures for common and coordinated efforts in the mass movement continuing efforts that began with the July 2009 symposium in San Francisco in conjunction with the CCDS 6th national convention. Local areas should reach out to socialist and communist parties/organizations that share a common perspective on the electoral struggle to discuss areas of common work in the mass movement for more effective organizing.
2010-2012: Deepening Contradictions of Capitalism,
New Challenges for the Progressive Majority
By Randy Shannon & Carl Davidson
Click here to download the pdf draft version with numbered lines
Resolution of the CCDS NCC Meeting, Sept 30, 2011
In discussing the urgency of the political moment and the economic crisis facing the working class and its allies, the NCC urges CCDS members to undertake all possible ways to help build broad coalition efforts in the fight for jobs, peace and against austerity and war. Particularly, we urge CCDS to:
1. Become fully engaged with the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ direct actions and mass mobilizations expanding through hundreds of cities across the country. In addition to working directly with the young people initiating these events, we should work to bring wider allies, such as trade unions and grassroots organizations from communities of color, to add their voices and their strength to this common front aimed at finance capital.
2. Build support for the American Jobs Act put forward by President Obama as a first step to breaking the GOP’s resistance to any progressive change, as well as continuing support for other jobs legislation under considerations, such as then Schakowsky bill, and fuller measures such as the Conyers bill;
3. Build support and participate in the Rebuild the Dream coalition and its ongoing efforts, which has potential for building the left-center coalition of the progressive majority. In particular, we need to emphasize cutting the military budget and move the money to the needs of the country, and taxing the rich along with opposing any efforts to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
4. Prepare for working in labor-community coalitions and other grass roots efforts in the 2012 electoral campaigns
The NCC discussed a number of issues of the progressive movement in motion, including abolition of the death penalty in the wake of the execution of Troy Davis, mass mobilizations against home foreclosures and targeting the banks, the organizing in defense of justice for immigrants and the DREAM Act, opposition to the trade agreements coming before Congress, the organizing in support of Peace Action and UFPJ efforts to end the wars and mobilize opposition next May at the NATO/G8 Summit in Chicago, trade union organizing campaigns, and efforts to oppose right wing efforts to eliminate Black majority congressional districts and other discriminatory measures to restrict the right to vote. We urge attention to these as well.
Speech by SACP General Secretary Cde Blade Nzimande at the Launch of the Red October Campaign, October 2 2011:
Together Let Us Build Working
Class Power in our Communities:
The 2011 Launch of the
SACP Red October Campaign
We are in that time of the year when the SACP launches its popular Red October Campaign. Our Red October Campaign is inspired and seeks to take forward the spirit and the victories of the Great October Socialist Revolution of 1917 in Russia – ushering in the first workers’ government in the 20th century.
The Red October campaign has been an important platform in building and strengthening the SACP over the last 11 years. Through our Red October Campaign we have built an SACP that is closer to the workers and the poor of our country. Through this campaign we say to the workers and the poor of our country, take up struggles to change your lives for the better and be the masters of your own destinies. It is only the workers and the poor themselves, in struggle and in solidarity with all other progressive forces that will consolidate and deepen our national democratic revolution, and advance the struggle for socialism in our country.
Through these campaigns we have also exposed the failures of the capitalist system to address the needs of the overwhelming majority of our people, and particularly also the failures of the neo-liberal macro-economic policies pursued since 1996. Our Red October Campaign has also been an important organising tool to recruit more and more members to the SACP. The Red October Campaign has also been an important platform for the ideological development of SACP members, and generally to conscientise and mobilise the workers and the poor to be the makers of their own history.
Since its launch twelve years ago, the Red October Campaign has been an important campaigning platform led by the SACP, and has notched some important victories, including:
a. the roll out of banking services to the poor via Umzansi account
b. the transformation of the financial sector as a whole
c. The passage of the Co-operatives and Co-operative Banks legislation
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This was unanimously voted on by all members of Occupy Wall Street last night, around 8pm, Sept 29. It is our first official document for release. We have three more underway, that will likely be released in the upcoming days: 1) A declaration of demands. 2) Principles of Solidarity 3) Documentation on how to form your own Direct Democracy Occupation Group. This is a living document. you can receive an official press copy of the latest version by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org .
Declaration of the Occupation of New York City
As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.
As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.
They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one?s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers? healthcare and pay.
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.
They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.
They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people?s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.
They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*
To the people of the world,
We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.
Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.
To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.
Join us and make your voices heard!
*These grievances are not all-inclusive.