The Real Reasons Bernie Sanders is Transforming the Election: Here’s Why He Galvanizes the Left

 

By Sophia Tesfaye

Salon

July 4, 2015 – CNN dubbed this “the summer of Sanders [3]” as media outlets finally picked up on the large crowds Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders has attracted during campaign stops. His rocketing poll numbers in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire led to countless stories heralding a Sanders surge — but the story is as much about the issues as it is about the man.

Even Republican candidates have taken notice of Sanders’ rise. Ahead of a recent stop in Madison, Wisconsin, likely 2016 contender and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker welcomed Sanders to the state with a series of tweets [4] attacking the democratic socialist once dismissed as too fringe. Walker may not have taken too fondly to Sanders attracting a record 10,000 people in his home state.

But Sanders’ campaign, surely more so than that of any of the Republican candidates, seems to be gaining traction more for the ideas he espouses than because of a cult of personality.

Granted, many supporters have pointed to Sanders’ straightforward manner and willingness to call out bad actors as refreshingly appealing, but unlike with Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Chris Christie, it isn’t just a brash style that’s being sold. Sanders makes a direct effort to address many of the issues that have arisen since the Hope & Change campaign of 2008 and it appears as though he is tapping into very real and long-simmering sentiments in the Democratic base.

More than a protest vote against Hillary Clinton, as some have suggested, Sanders’ support appears to be support for issues Clinton’s yet to fully address. Here are some of the ways that Sanders is gaining support by leading on issues or movements that other candidates ignore:

VA Scandal

Sanders was chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee when Democrats last controlled the chamber, and following the VA scandal, Sanders worked with Republicans in the House to pass legislation [5] that expands health care access for veterans and makes it easier to fire underperforming officials.

His record and work on veterans’ affairs issues has earned Sanders top awards from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and the Military Officers Association of America, and now it appears as though that recognition is translating to support for his campaign.

The Boston Globe writes [6] that Sanders’ “surge is partly fueled by veterans,” citing “entire Reddit threads [7] [that] are dedicated to how veterans can best pitch Sanders to other veterans” and “a Facebook page promoting Sanders to veterans.” As the Globe notes, in the early voting state of South Carolina veterans make up about 11 percent of the electorate.

Occupy Wall Street

The short-lived global protest movement suddenly shifted the national debate in the aftermath of the recession from talk of austerity to a focus on growing income inequality by introducing terms like the 1 Percent to national prominence in time for the 2012 campaign. But the Occupy Wall Street movement achieved no great legislative win, and after the encampments were broken down many of the grievances remained unacknowledged, let alone addressed.

Sanders’ 2016 campaign embodies much of the demands of the OWS movement. Speaking to the largest campaign crowd of this cycle [8] in Wisconsin this week, Sanders said, “The big money interests — Wall Street, corporate America, all of these guys — have so much power that no president can defeat them unless there is an organized grassroots movement making them an offer they can’t refuse.” For activists who organized, protested and camped out in Zuccotti Park and squares across America, this message of unfinished business is powerful. The acknowledgement of a continued struggle and willingness to put up a fight is what was galvanized the Draft Warren movement and it has now seemingly shifted to Sanders.

Student Debt Movement

Some Occupy Wall Street activists joined a movement against student debt, which has now surpassed $1 trillion in the U.S. The activists, some of whom had refused to make any more payments on their federal student loans [9], achieved a major victory this year when Corinthian colleges (you know them by their annoying commercials hawking their schools like Everest, Heald and WyoTech) shuttered the last of their remaining U.S. campuses, and the erasure of $13 million in debt. The movement has successfully overseen the closure of campuses in Canada the year before.

Sanders has proposed the College for All Act, [10] a plan to provide tuition-free education at public colleges funded by a small tax on Wall Street transactions. (Continued)

AFL-CIO Leader Tries to Quell pro-Sanders Revolt

The labor federation’s rules don’t allow its state and local leaders to endorse presidential candidates, Richard Trumka says as the Vermont senator surges.

By Brian Mahoney
POLITICO Magazine

July 3, 2010 – Richard Trumka has a message for state and local AFL-CIO leaders tempted to endorse Bernie Sanders: Don’t.

In a memo this week to state, central and area divisions of the labor federation, and obtained by POLITICO, the AFL-CIO chief reminded the groups that its bylaws don’t permit them to “endorse a presidential candidate” or “introduce, consider, debate, or pass resolutions or statements that indicate a preference for one candidate over another.” Even “‘personal’ statements” of candidate preference are verboten, Trumka said.

The memo comes amid signs of a growing split between national union leaders — mindful of the fact that Clinton remains the undisputed favorite for the nomination — and local officials and rank and file, who are increasingly drawn to the Democratic Party’s growing progressive wing, for whom Sanders is the latest standard-bearer.

The South Carolina and Vermont AFL-CIOs have passed resolutions supporting Sanders, and some local AFL-CIO leaders in Iowa want to introduce a resolution at their August convention backing the independent senator from Vermont. More than a thousand labor supporters, including several local AFL-CIO-affiliated leaders, have signed on to “Labor for Bernie,” a group calling on national union leaders to give Sanders a shot at an endorsement.

The AFL-CIO’s constituent unions — as distinct from divisions of the federation itself — remain free to make endorsements however they wish. But they can’t make those endorsements acting through local and regional divisions of the AFL-CIO, as Trumka reminded everyone in the memo.

His message wasn’t anything new for the federation’s state leaders: They know that endorsement decisions belong to the national leadership. Still, it was unusual for Trumka to call them out in a memo. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one before like this,” said Jeff Johnson, the president of the AFL-CIO’s Washington state labor council.

Johnson agreed that it was important for the AFL-CIO to speak with a single voice. But “there’s a lot of anxiety out there in the labor movement,” he said, “and we’re desperately searching for a candidate that actually speaks to working-class values. The Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders camp is very, very attractive to many of our members and to many of us as leaders, because they’re talking about the things that need to happen in this country.”

Similarly, Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman said he agreed that Trumka had to lay down the law. More tellingly, though, he added: “Bernie Sanders has spent his life actually fighting for working people. He’s made no secret of it, and he’s used it as his mantra. And that I respect very much.” When asked about Clinton’s candidacy, Tolman was less effusive: “Who? Who? Please. I mean with all respect, huh?”

Other state-level union leaders affiliated with the AFL-CIO didn’t bother to give Trumka and his memo lip service. “I was disappointed by it,” said UPTE-CWA Local 9119 organizing coordinator Lisa Kermish, of Berkeley, California. “I think that local unions and national unions, while it’s important to work together for strength, I think that this is in some ways truncating dialogue. And I find that very unfortunate.” (Continued)

‘The Face of Racism Today is not a Slaveowner': Eric Foner on the Past and Present of White Supremacy

South Carolina Is Hardly Alone in Refusing to Confront the Burdens of History, Celebrated Historian Tells Salon

By Elias Isquith
Salon.com

June 24, 2015 – During the past generation or two, the way educated Americans, and especially historians, have come to understand the Civil War and Reconstruction has dramatically changed. Whereas it was once in vogue to play contrarian and argue that the war over slavery — and the subsequent effort to establish true, multiracial pluralist democracies in the South — had little to do with African-American liberation and white supremacy, that is thankfully no longer the case.

While no one, two or three-dozen people can rightly be said to deserve all the credit for this decades-in-the-making shift, few would deny the pivotal role played by Columbia University’s Eric Foner — especially his classic book “Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877” as well as the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.” Among others, it was Foner whose top-notch scholarship and unusually engaging prose helped usher in a new understanding of this seminal era that continues to gain influence today.

Recently, Salon reached out to Foner to get his take on the historical roots of the savage attack on Charleston, South Carolina’s, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. We also discussed Gov. Nikki Haley’s call for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the state’s Capitol grounds, as well as what it means to say Americans must confront their own history. Our conversation is below and has been edited for clarity and length.

How significant would it be, symbolically, for the Confederate battle flag to be removed by South Carolina?

As you know, and as it has been reported many times, the Confederate flag was only put up on top of the Statehouse in South Carolina in 1962. It was put there as a rebuke to the civil rights movement. It was not a long-standing commemoration of Southern heritage. It was a purely political act to show black people in South Carolina who was in charge.

Symbolism has its limits. On the other hand, to see that flag flying … it’s a statement by South Carolina. Black people perfectly well understand what it stands for. A lot of white people do also. I think removing it is certainly a positive step.

Can you tell me a bit about South Carolina’s history in this regard, and why it’s often singled, out even among its fellow former Confederate states?

I have taught in South Carolina as a visiting professor. I have lectured many times in South Carolina at the University of South Carolina, at Clemson, at Beaufort, in Charleston. I have good friends there and I’m certainly not trying to suggest that everyone in South Carolina is a deep racist or has anything to do with a guy like Dylann Roof. On the other hand, one has to recognize that South Carolina has a very unique and deplorable history when it comes to slavery and race.

It goes way back to the American Revolution. South Carolina had delegates who insisted that Thomas Jefferson take out a clause that condemned slavery from the Declaration of Independence. It was South Carolina delegates who got the Three-Fifths Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Clause into the Constitution. It was South Carolina who was the leader in nullification, the leader in secession. The first shot of the Civil War was shot there. South Carolina was the only Southern state in which the majority of white families owned slaves.

And yet, not incidentally, it also had an unusually large African-American population, too, right?

It had about a 60 percent black population at the time of the Civil War. In other words, the majority of the people in South Carolina were slaves. To say that the Confederate flag represents the heritage of that state is not true; it actually did not represent the majority of South Carolinians even at the time the Confederacy existed. (Continued)

‘The American Century’ Has Plunged the World Into Crisis. What Happens Now?

2014-foreign-policy-cuba-ebola-climate-democracy

U.S. foreign policy is dangerous, undemocratic, and deeply out of sync with real global challenges. Is continuous war inevitable, or can we change course?

By Conn Hallinan and Leon Wofsy,

Foreign Policy in Focus

June 22, 2015 – There’s something fundamentally wrong with U.S. foreign policy.

Despite glimmers of hope — a tentative nuclear agreement with Iran, for one, and a long-overdue thaw with Cuba — we’re locked into seemingly irresolvable conflicts in most regions of the world. They range from tensions with nuclear-armed powers like Russia and China to actual combat operations in the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa.

Why? Has a state of perpetual warfare and conflict become inescapable? Or are we in a self-replicating cycle that reflects an inability — or unwillingness — to see the world as it actually is?

The United States is undergoing a historic transition in our relationship to the rest of the world, but this is neither acknowledged nor reflected in U.S. foreign policy. We still act as if our enormous military power, imperial alliances, and self-perceived moral superiority empower us to set the terms of “world order.”

While this illusion goes back to the end of World War II, it was the end of the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union that signaled the beginning of a self-proclaimed “American Century.” The idea that the United States had “won” the Cold War and now — as the world’s lone superpower — had the right or responsibility to order the world’s affairs led to a series of military adventures. It started with President Bill Clinton’s intervention in the Yugoslav civil war, continued on with George W. Bush’s disastrous invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and can still be seen in the Obama administration’s own misadventures in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and beyond.

In each case, Washington chose war as the answer to enormously complex issues, ignoring the profound consequences for both foreign and domestic policy. Yet the world is very different from the assumptions that drive this impulsive interventionism.

It’s this disconnect that defines the current crisis.

Acknowledging New Realities

So what is it about the world that requires a change in our outlook? A few observations come to mind.

First, our preoccupation with conflicts in the Middle East — and to a significant extent, our tensions with Russia in Eastern Europe and with China in East Asia — distract us from the most compelling crises that threaten the future of humanity. Climate change and environmental perils have to be dealt with now and demand an unprecedented level of international collective action. That also holds for the resurgent danger of nuclear war.

Second, superpower military interventionism and far-flung acts of war have only intensified conflict, terror, and human suffering. There’s no short-term solution — especially by force — to the deep-seated problems that cause chaos, violence, and misery through much of the world.

Third, while any hope of curbing violence and mitigating the most urgent problems depends on international cooperation, old and disastrous intrigues over spheres of influence dominate the behavior of the major powers. Our own relentless pursuit of military advantage on every continent, including through alliances and proxies like NATO, divides the world into “friend” and “foe” according to our perceived interests. That inevitably inflames aggressive imperial rivalries and overrides common interests in the 21st century.

Fourth, while the United States remains a great economic power, economic and political influence is shifting and giving rise to national and regional centers no longer controlled by U.S.-dominated global financial structures. Away from Washington, London, and Berlin, alternative centers of economic power are taking hold in Beijing, New Delhi, Cape Town, and Brasilia. Independent formations and alliances are springing up: organizations like the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa); the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (representing 2.8 billion people); the Union of South American Nations; the Latin American trade bloc, Mercosur; and others.

Beyond the problems our delusions of grandeur have caused in the wider world, there are enormous domestic consequences of prolonged war and interventionism. We shell out over $1 trillion a year in military-related expenses even as our social safety net frays and our infrastructure crumbles. Democracy itself has become virtually dysfunctional. (Continued)

Charleston Emanuel AME Wasn’t The First

 

Black church burned in Knoxville, TN

The South’s Sordid History of Attacks on Black Churches

By Chris Kromm
Facing South

June 20, 2015 – In the wake of the heinous murders of nine members of Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church this week, many have pointed to historic congregation’s central role in the city’s African-American community.

As Clementa Pinckney, the church’s pastor and state legislator who was killed in the shooting, told a group of visitors in 2013 [1], "It’s a very special place because this site, this area, has been tied to the history and life of African Americans since about the early 1800s."

The massacre called to mind the long history of racially-motivated attacks on black churches in the South, which have been targeted precisely because of their role as not just houses of worship but also sanctuaries from racism and a gathering space for community action.

Sarah Kaplan in The Washington Post [2] looked at Emanuel A.M.E.’s history as a target for racist violence:

It was founded by worshipers fleeing racism and burned to the ground for its connection with a thwarted slave revolt. For years its meetings were conducted in secret to evade laws that banned all-black services. It was jolted by an earthquake in 1886. Civil rights luminaries spoke from its pulpit and led marches from its steps. For nearly two hundred years it had been the site of struggle, resistance and change.

Attacks on black churches continued through the Jim Crow era, and intensified again in the wake of the 1950s civil rights movement. The Sept. 15, 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama by members of the Ku Klux Klan [3], which killed four girls and injured 20 others, marked a turning point in the escalation of the Southern civil rights struggle.

In the 1990s, black churches again emerged as targets in a wave of arsons and firebombings [4]. As the Institute for Southern Studies reported in its magazine Southern Exposure in 1996 [pdf] [5], fires damaged 230 churches in a 21-month span starting in August 1994, when young white men linked to the neo-Nazi group Aryan Faction threw a Molotov cocktail and shot bullets into a predominantly black church in Clarksville, Tennessee. The assailants left a note, saying, "AF wants you to leave our white community. You Coons! Coon hunting season is open."

As the Southern Exposure investigation found, more than half of the arsons that swept through the South in the mid-1990s involved black churches, even though African-American congregations comprised only a fifth of churches in the region. Eighty percent of those arrested for the fires were white. (Continued)

Study Shows How the US Could Achieve 100% Renewable Energy by 2050

A study points the way to a renewable energy reliant United States in just 35 years

By Chris Wood

Gizmag.com

June 9, 2015 – A team of researchers led by Stanford University’s professor Mark Z. Jacobson has produced an ambitious roadmap for converting the energy infrastructure of the US to run entirely on renewable energy in just 35 years. The study focuses on the wide-scale implementation of existing technologies such as wind, solar and geothermal solutions, claiming that the transition is both economically and technically possible within the given timeframe.

As a starting point, the researchers looked at current energy demands on a state-by-state basis, before calculating how those demands are likely to evolve over the next three and a half decades. Splitting the energy use into residential, commercial, industrial and transportation categories, the team then calculated fuel demands if current generation methods – oil, gas, coal, nuclear and renewables – were replaced with electricity.

That already sounds like a mammoth task, but its true complexity comes to light when you consider that for the purposes of the study, absolutely everything has to run on electricity. That means everything from homes and factories to every vehicle on the road.

As it turns out, while the calculations might be complex, the results are extremely promising.

"When we did this across all 50 states, we saw a 39 percent reduction in total end-use power demand by the year 2050," said Jacobson. "About 6 percentage points of that is gained through efficiency improvements to infrastructure, but the bulk is the result of replacing current sources and uses of combustion energy with electricity."

In order for each state to make the transition, it would focus on the use of the most easily available renewable sources. For example, some states get a lot more sunlight than others, some have a greater number of south-facing rooftops, while coastal states can make use of offshore wind farms, and for others geothermal energy is a good option. (Continued)

Mass Incarceration: The Most Important Political Issue of 2016 No One Wants to Talk About

 

By David J. Krajicek 

 AlterNet

June 14, 2015  -  Five years ago, while America clutched a tin cup during the recession, politicians shouted hallelujah about saving money by reducing the country’s grossly bloated prison population.

The national inmate count declined fractionally for a few years, reaping celebratory headlines. One expert quoted by the New York Times declared “the beginning of the end of mass incarceration.”

Then came the bipartisan miracle–the Koch brothers linking arms with libertarians and progressives to declare support for criminal justice reform, prompting dreamy talk about cutting prison rolls in half, to levels last seen before mandatory minimum madness began in the 1990s.

But as another legislative season toddles to a close, where are the broad reforms?

“Right now, the focus is still on reforming sentencing for nonviolent, first-time offenders,” says Nkechi Taifa [3], a senior policy analyst with the Open Society Foundations. “This the safe, low-hanging fruit of reform…And it’s like pulling hen’s teeth to even get that kind of legislation passed.”

How will the nation’s prison population decline significantly if there is no political will to reform hard-time sentences, including lifers?

“It won’t,” says Julie Stewart, president of Families Against Mandatory Minimums [4].

In fact, Pew now projects [5] that state prison populations will increase by 3 percent over the next four years, begging the question of whether the heralded end of mass incarceration was dead on arrival as a political issue.

Lifers Excluded from Reforms

America’s growing lifer population is a quandary that pols choose to ignore.

“This population is treated as out of sight, out of mind,” says Ryan King [6], an Urban Institute senior fellow who tracks sentencing trends. “It’s like we don’t want to deal with the problem—and life-without-parolers (LWOPs) are the most extreme example.”

A sentence of life without parole has become popular (and more palatable to some jurors) as capital punishment has ebbed in many states. Some Americans find solace in the adage that there is just one way for an LWOP to leave prison: in a hearse.

“It condemns you to die in prison,” Open Society’s Taifa told me. “It doesn’t matter how much you’ve changed, no matter that you’ve aged out of committing crime, no matter how much you’ve tried to better yourself. There is no hope for you.”

Two years ago, Ashley Nellis of The Sentencing Project reported [7] that state and federal prisons held 160,000 lifers, nearly 50,000 of whom were LWOPs, with had no hope for parole.

For context, the number of lifers incarcerated today nearly matches the entire U.S. prison population in 1968. The lifer population began to mushroom in the 1980s—34,000 in ’84, 70,000 in 1992, 128,000 in 2003. The boom in life-without-parolers started in the early ‘90s, just as the crime rate began its precipitous drop. The number of LWOPs nearly tripled between 1992 and 2003, from 12,500 to about 34,000. (continued)

Case in Point: Intersection of Race, Class and Gender

Georgia Woman Faces Murder Charges for Taking Pill that Allegedly Killed Fetus

[Editor’s Update: After three days in jail, the changes were dropped, but the outrage remains.]

By Lauren Gambino
The Guardian via Alternet

June 10, 2015 – A Georgia woman is facing a murder charge in the death of a five-and-a-half-month-old fetus she delivered after she allegedly took a pill that terminated her pregnancy.

Officials have charged Kenlissia Jones, 23, of Albany, Georgia, with malice murder and possession of a dangerous drug, according to local [3] news [4] reports. She was arrested on Saturday night after giving birth to the fetus in a car on the way to the hospital and taken to nearby Dougherty County jail, where she is being held without bond.

Pro-choice advocates said there was no abortion clinic nearby and that initial reports of the young woman’s arrest were “deeply disturbing” in the wake of so-called “feticide” – killing a fetus – laws sweeping the US.

According to a police report obtained by the Associated Press, a county social services worker called Albany police to the hospital, and told officers that Jones ingested four pills she purchased online to “induce labor”. The social services worker told the police Jones wished to end her pregnancy because she and her boyfriend had broken up.

Jones’s neighbor drove her to the hospital, but she gave birth to the fetus before they arrived. Officials said the fetus died at the hospital about half an hour after she gave birth, according to the report, which did not indicate how far along Jones was in her pregnancy.

WALB-TV reported earlier that authorities had said the woman was five and a half months pregnant.

The Dougherty County district attorney, Greg Edwards, reportedly said the case is likely to be presented to a grand jury, and that prosecutors needed time to explore their options under state and federal law.

Albany police refused to answer questions about the case, citing an open investigation and directing all calls to the Dougherty County district attorney’s office. The office did not return multiple requests for comment by the Guardian.

“If women do not have the means to access medical care, they will take matters into their own hands, with tragic consequences,” said Jaime Chandra, a spokeswoman for the Feminist Women’s Health [5] Center in Atlanta.

More than 50% of women in Georgia live in a county with no abortion clinic, and this is true of Dougherty County and nearly all of south-west Georgia, according to the Health Center.

Cytotec, a misoprostol drug, can be used in combination with another drug – mifepristone – to end a pregnancy non-surgically, a method known as medical abortion. It was not immediately clear to the Guardian whether Jones took the first pill, or only Cytotec, which by itself is not considered a so-called “abortion pill”.

There were 28 abortion providers in Georgia in 2011, down from 32 in 2008,according to the Guttmacher Institute [6]. A full 96% of counties in the state had no abortion clinic in 2011, which would require more than half of all Georgia women to travel outside their county to receive an abortion. Chandra said she is unaware of an abortion clinic in or around Albany.
Purvi Patel case: legal experts warn on reproductive rights in Indiana Read more

Elizabeth Nash, a state policy expert at the Guttmacher Institute, said reports on the Georgia case were “deeply disturbing” and that she was alarmed at what appears to be a spike in the number of cases in which women are charged with crimes for self-aborting their fetus. Criminalizing abortion discourages women from seeking the medical care they may need, she said.

“You could imagine a woman might not go to the hospital if she thinks she is going to be arrested,” Nash said.

Currently, at least 38 US states [7] – including Georgia – have fetal homicide laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The first person convicted in the US under such a law is Purvi Patel, an Indiana woman serving 20 years in prison [8] for ending her own pregnancy using abortion drugs in July 2013.

In Georgia, the penalty for “feticide” is life in prison.

“The woman wasn’t able to access healthcare when she needed it, she took action on her own and then when she sought out healthcare she was then arrested,” Nash said. “She was let down every step of the way.”

Links:
[1] http://www.alternet.org/authors/lauren-gambino
[2] http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/
[3] http://www.walb.com/story/29263746/official-5-month-old-fetus-lived-30-minutes-after-abortion-pill-delivery
[4] http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/abortion-pill-leads-murder-charge-fetus-dies-31630905
[5] http://www.theguardian.com/society/health
[6] https://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/sfaa/georgia.html
[7] http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/fetal-homicide-state-laws.aspx
[8] http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/apr/02/purvi-patel-case-alter-reproductive-rights-indiana
[9] mailto:corrections@alternet.org?Subject=Typo on Georgia Woman Faces Murder Charges for Taking Pill that Allegedly Killed Fetus
[10] http://www.alternet.org/
[11] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

No Education No Life: How the Algebra Project Is Educating for Insurgency

By Paul Lauter
AlterNet

June 6, 2015 – Much of the debate going on in educational circles today concerns differing ideas about how students can accomplish certain agreed-upon goals. Mainly these consist of the 3 R’s—reading, riting and rithmatic—with a touch perhaps of American history. Some wish to provide teachers with greater scope, better resources, and fewer students in the classroom. Others, the multimillion dollar “reformers,” promote a regime of ceaseless testing, managerial authority, privatization, and “teacher-proof” curricula.

But suppose you conclude, based on observing the thousands of segregated Ferguson’s and Baltimore’s throughout the USA, that the huge number of students in schools of poverty are ill-served by these very goals, that poor, often black and Latino, students, even if they pass every test and climb into community colleges, will never—a few tokens aside—get an even break in 21st-century America.  What then?

Can the goals of schooling themselves be transformed? Can schools become sites not of failure and exclusion, but of insurgency and transformation? Can the young people now marginalized, enraged, and trapped in disastrous institutions become agents of creativity and growth—and real learning?

Jay Gillen’s essential book, Educating for Insurgency: The Roles of Young People in Schools of Poverty shifts focus from the adults fighting about schooling to the students themselves as the key actors in their own education. The question Gillen addresses is how might we think about the ways students can, indeed must, organize themselves, those close to them, and the many others with whom they contend for a future.

At the center of Gillen’s treatise is his and his students’ experience with one of the three r’s, rithmatic, in the form of the Algebra Project. The Algebra Project was first devised by Bob Moses, a key figure in the efforts of the young organizers of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to challenge and eliminate racial segregation in its most intransigent bastion, Mississippi, in the 1950s and 1960s. The Baltimore version of the Project has been highly successful in providing what Gillen calls a “crawl space” in which students begin to learn how to mobilize the organizational resources necessary to confront the school boards, politicians, and courts that stand in the way of their educational development.

Because educational and political authorities see math as vital to 21st-century schooling, they are willing to provide some funds to those who succeed in teaching it, and they interfere less with the process. Gillen puts it: “Math hides the student insurgency as it learns how to walk.”  This approach differs from the admirable Mexican-American Studies program in Tucson, which was banned by Arizona lawmakers despite—or perhaps because of—its success in motivating and educating students to confront injustice.

A project seriously devoted to teaching math is insulated against the charge sometimes registered against radical education projects that they are indifferent to students of poverty learning the basics. Mathematical knowledge is, of course, a goal of the Algebra Project, just as the vote was the goal of SNCC organizing in Mississippi. The brilliant analogy between voter registration and learning algebra in school, which Gillen has derived from Bob Moses’ work, is apt, first, because young people are key to implementation.  (Continued)

Cleveland Uprising, Yet Another Battle Front For Justice

By Frank Chapman, Field Organizer
CAARPR (Chicago Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression)

First let us express our unconditional solidarity with the Cleveland protestors. Cleveland Officer Michael Brelo was a participant in a lynch style murder of two innocent Black people and the Judge, John P. O’Donnell let him go. So the Judge is just as guilty as the cop lynch mob.  And our government is making claims in the international community that there is no human rights crisis in the United States when they should be prosecuting all these criminals in Cleveland who sit in positions of authority.

Some of my comrades in struggle tell me that Cleveland is just another example of the fact that there is no justice for victims of police crimes. That is true; there is no justice and our communities exist in a constant state of harassment, racial profiling and murderous assaults by the police. But this observation by itself does not capture the essence of the momentous events we are witnessing in Cleveland and throughout the land. We are not witnessing in Ferguson, New York, Madison, Baltimore and now Cleveland just more incidents of racist injustice we are witnessing in conjunction with these incidents a continuous stream of protests and uprisings. If we confine our thinking to “this is just another example” of a decrepit, racist system doing what it was designed to do then our focus is not on the momentous fact that presently there is a significant mass uprising against this unjust system so it can’t continue to do what it was designed to do.

As organizers and fighters for justice and freedom it is our job, our responsibility, to focus on the mass uprisings but not like chroniclers, pundits or distant observers. The establishment newspapers, media and official society as a whole continue to describe the uprisings as “riots, and breakdowns in law and order that cannot be tolerated”. They don’t understand that so long as the police murder our people with impunity there can be no peace between the people of oppressed communities and the police. The cries of our people have been (for decades) “No Justice, No Peace!” Today these words are not just in the mouths of a few, it is in the mouths of millions. As participants in the struggle we see in the present uprisings a turning point in the struggle against police crimes, we see the beginnings of an organized resistance movement of national and international significance. Yes this is the struggle developing before our very eyes and those of us immersed in these struggles need to pause for a moment and sake the dust out of our eyes so that we can clearly see the point that has been reached.

The unrestricted power of the police is presently being challenged in Ferguson, St. Louis, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Chicago and even in places we haven’t heard of by a mass demand for community control of the police. These are all different battle fronts with uneven advances toward the goal of empowering oppressed communities to hold the police accountable and to determine how their communities are policed.

We must pay close attention to the dynamics of all the present struggles. We must acknowledge where we have made advances and where there have been set backs. We must always be summing up our experiences and preparing for the next battle. We must keep before the people concrete political objectives like an all elected Civilian Police Accountability Council and consistently engage our people in this political struggle. We must focus on the solution part of the problem of social misery and racist injustice. We must see ourselves not just as victims of police tyranny but as freedom fighters, as strategists and tacticians in the struggle for democracy and freedom for our people.

We have entered an era of uprisings of the people where contradictions that have been ripening for decades (with Black people for centuries) are coming to light. The Black masses who have long been ignored by official society, and frequently miss led by pretended political saviors, are now entering upon the stage of history to claim their rightful place. We are learning in the dirt and blood of battle, as the world watches and often joins in solidarity with us, how to take necessary steps in the struggle against police tyranny. We have known the pain and agony of a cowardly and trivial pass of racist and political repression, we have crossed rivers of blood to get to this time and place in our movement where we say

NO MORE! THIS STOPS TODAY!