Tens of thousands take to the streets of Spanish capital in support of Podemos.
31 Jan 2015 al-Jazeera
Tens of thousands of people have marched in Madrid in support for anti-austerity party Podemos, whose surging popularity and policies have drawn comparisons with Greece’s new Syriza rulers.
On Saturday, protesters chanted "Yes we can!" as they made their way from Madrid city hall to the central Puerta del Sol square. Podemos and its anti-austerity message have been surging in polls ahead of local, regional and national elections this year.
Podemos ("We Can") was formed just a year ago, but produced a major shock by winning five seats in elections for the European Parliament in May.
"People are fed up with the political class," said Antonia Fernandez, a 69-year-old pensioner from Madrid who had come to the demonstration with her family.
One protester, Fernandez, who lives with her husband on a 700-euros-a-month combined pension cheque said she used to vote for the Socialist party but had lost faith in it because of its handling of the economic crisis and its austerity policies.
"If we want to have a future, we need jobs," she said.
Greek leftist leader Alexis Tsipras promised that five years of austerity, "humiliation and suffering" imposed by international creditors were over after his Syriza party swept to victory in a snap election on January 25.
Like Syriza, Podemos has found popular support by targeting corruption and rejecting austerity programmes aimed at lifting the countries out of a deep economic crisis.
Spain is emerging from a seven-year economic slump as one of the euro zone’s fastest growing countries, but the exit from recession has yet to ease the hardship for thousands of households, in a country where nearly one in four of the workforce is out of a job.
Most of the city’s labor movement is laying low or supporting the mayor in the upcoming election, despite his well-known anti-worker policies
By David Moberg
In These Times
Jan. 28, 2015 – When Rahm Emanuel strode into office as mayor of Chicago in 2011, one of his first targets was the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). He sought and obtained state legislation limiting the right of Chicago teachers to strike. But he lost doubly in the fall of 2012: The CTU successfully mobilized its members to go on strike, then won both a good contract and the battle for public support. Yet Emanuel still closed 49 public schools and expanded charter schools the following spring. Meanwhile, other public employee unions moved into the mayor’s crosshairs as he drastically cut and privatized city jobs and services, often with help from a Democratic governor and state legislature.
Emanuel stands for re-election February 24 in a non-partisan primary against four challengers (and if no one wins 50 percent of the vote plus one, there will be a run-off between the top two on April 7). Polls suggest Chicagoans are not satisfied with their mayor, but most observers give him the odds because of his financial advantage—as of early 2015, he had a $11 million war chest, 10 times that of any opponent.
In theory, labor could be an important part of these calculations. Chicago is a more unionized city than most, and union endorsements typically come with credibility, money and an army of campaign workers. But despite Emanuel’s anti-union record, unions are divided about how to deal with “Mayor 1%,” as Kari Lydersen’s biography of Emanuel is titled.
Emanuel earned that sobriquet not only for the millions he made working for an investment bank and his gift for convincing the rich to empty their pocketbooks for the Democratic Party, but also his disdain for unions. “Fuck the UAW,” he infamously said when serving as Obama’s chief of staff during the auto bailout. He also largely shares the worldview of the financial and corporate elite: Give the hard back of the free-market hand to Jane and Joe Sixpack, the soft palm of friendly government to needy businesses.
Emanuel’s leading—but still longshot— opponent is his opposite on most counts. Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a former alderman and state senator, has been a member of three different unions and strongly supports labor.
“My roots are with working-class people,” Garcia said in an interview with In These Times. “I understand what working-class families need. … Chicago would be better served by a mayor who has that background and would work with unions.” He says that Emanuel’s attempts “to break the CTU” were “heartless” and “spiteful.” Those are harsh words from a man who comes off as modest, self-effacing and “genuine”— as Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308 President Robert Kelly said while endorsing him. Garcia supports the Fight for 15, wants to strengthen neighborhoods and their infrastructure and wants to replace the mayoral appointment of school board members with a board elected by Chicagoans (a major demand of the CTU).
You might imagine that unions would rally behind a seemingly pro-labor challenger to an incumbent with an anti-union record. But as of early January, Chicago’s unions were divided between Garcia, Emanuel and neutrality for a variety of reasons—some peculiar to Chicago, others typical of the U.S. labor movement’s electoral strategy.
Broad shoulder unions
Chicago’s unions, riven with thuggish political squabbles in the late 19th century, grew more unified, progressive and powerful in the first part of the 20th. They often supported labor and socialist party candidates and welcomed organizers like William Z. Foster, a Communist Party leader who led ambitious unionization campaigns in the Chicago meat-packing and steel industries. (Continued)
How Bernie Sanders, In New Role, Could Make Wall Streeters Very, Very Unhappy
By Ari Rabin-Havt
Progressive America Rising via American Prospect
Jan 26, 2015 – Big banks now have to contend with an old enemy in a new position of power.
Bernie Sanders, the United States senator from Vermont, plans on using his new position as ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee to take on too-big-to-fail financial institutions by advocating for their dissolution. Though a registered independent, Sanders caucuses with the Democrats, allowing him to assume the ranking member role representing the minority party.
Sanders knows how to draw the media spotlight when advocating for a cause.
While normally the domain of the Senate Banking Committee, the oversight of Wall Street, Sanders and his staff believe, is a critical budgetary issue. Democrats need to directly challenge Wall Street’s power, they assert, by boldly reframing the argument against the consolidation of financial institutions in terms of its cost to the national coffers. Though the term “ranking member” might not ordinarily have the barons of finance quaking in their custom-made oxfords, Sanders knows how to draw the media spotlight when advocating for a cause.
“Being the ranking member of the budget committee gives Senator Sanders the opportunity to say, look, people on food stamps didn’t cause the economic crisis, people that lost their jobs weren’t responsible for the economic crisis that we faced,” explained Warren Gunnels, director of the committee’s minority staff, during an interview in his office. “Average ordinary Americans weren’t responsible for the financial crisis we had.”
While centrist Democrats have expressed displeasure with progressives’ forceful defense of regulations included in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Sanders plans on pushing the boundaries of the debate in the other direction. This potentially puts Sanders, who is seriously considering a run for the White House, in a head-on conflict with Hillary Clinton, Wall Street’s favorite presidential candidate.
As media types muse over Sanders’s prospective presidential campaign, the focus of the minority Budget Committee staff, hard at work in a corner suite on the sixth floor of the Dirksen Senate office building, is elsewhere. Such a run by the senator would no doubt shine a light on the mission he’s set before his committee staff, but the work in this office has no connection to that effort.
Packed boxes are stacked almost randomly as the staff focuses on more important matters—unpacking would be just a temporary process, anyway. Republicans, having won the Senate in the midterms, will take over the office in a few months after the rush of budget season subsides.
Warren Gunnels’s office has a sweeping view of the Capitol dome, but for most of the hour I spent speaking with him about Sanders’s plans for the upcoming Congress, the blinds remain closed.
Gunnels has worked for Sanders in a variety of capacities since 1999, journeying with the Vermonter from his House staff to his Senate staff, when Sanders won the office in 2006, and now to the Budget Committee. There Sanders has recruited a hard-charging group that is by far the most progressive of any committee on Capitol Hill. Instead of sulking in the Democrats’ new minority status, Sanders is preparing to use his staff to advocate aggressively on behalf of a progressive agenda.
Even late on a Friday afternoon, with the senator back in Vermont, there is a sense of hustle in the office, with several meetings taking place around desks.
Gunnels put the blame for our economic collapse squarely on Wall Street. “The people responsible for the financial crisis were the CEOs in charge of the largest financial institutions in this country,” he said. “That nearly drove the economy off a cliff. We are still paying for that today.” (Continued)
A Report and a Reflection on a Weekend of Anti-Racist Action: Boston, Martin Luther King Day Protest, January 2015
‘We Will Shake this System with the Truth of Our Message’
By Joe Ramsey
Jan 23, 2015 – This past Monday in Boston, at least 1,000 people braved the bitter downtown wind to gather, march and rally against a system that strangles Black lives. Invoking the activist legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.—but also other historic figures, from Malcolm X and Fred Hampton to Assata Shakur—protesters took the streets for a “Four Mile March” through downtown, culminating in a spirited rally and speak-out on the Boston Common steps, across from the Massachusetts Statehouse.
Twice along the way, at major intersections, marchers stopped and dropped to the ground for mass “die-ins,” collectively dramatizing the deaths of Black youth and young men shot and killed by police. While they lay on the ground, organizers read out the names of victims of police violence, including those killed in Boston—such a Burrell Ramsey-White— as well as in Ferguson, New York City, and across the United States.
Drawing a clear—if gentle—distinction between Monday’s mass action and the controversial blockade that shut down Interstate-93 three days earlier, leading organizer and union member, Brock Satter made very clear from the start: “We’re not here to disrupt anything today. We’re here for a peaceful march. We will shake this system with the truth of our message. And with the millions that we will mobilize to support us.”
Throughout the day, Satter emphasized the imperative of organizing “not just thousands or even tens of thousands, but millions,” in order to create mass movement that can fundamentally change this society. Several speakers agreed that today was “just the beginning” and that the “real work lay ahead of us.”
Satter further clarified the importance of insisting on the slogan “Black Lives Matter” not because all lives don’t matter,” he said, “but because, “Until Black lives matter, to say that ‘All Lives Matter’ is a lie.”
Fellow lead-organizer Brandi Artez, of Villa Victoria, kicked off the rally by targeting the resistance of “white moderates,” quoting Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” As King there wrote:
Over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”
“Who are these white moderates,” Artez asked of the crowd, “to tell me how to go about fighting for my freedom?”
If the protest’s MLK Day timing was symbolic, so was it’s starting place. Protestors converged by the Old Statehouse, filling sidewalks —and soon the streets— at the site of the 1770 Boston Massacre. As the leaflet for the demo reminded passerby: “It is here that Crispus Attucks, a black man, became the first casualty of the American Revolution.” As the hand-out further explained: (Continued)
The former activist and New York public advocate looks back at his first year as mayor.
Interview with Eric Alterman
The Nation via Alternet
Jan 14, 2015 – In October 2014, Nation columnist Eric Alterman sat down with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio in his City Hall office. Open and affable, de Blasio spent the hourlong interview reflecting on his whirlwind first year as mayor, his earliest political influences, the meaning of the word “progressive,” and why he sees no contradiction between movement politics and holding elected office. The interview, which has been edited and condensed for publication, was conducted as part of a study supported by the Center for American Progress, where Alterman is also a senior fellow. The study wlil be published as a forthcoming Nation eBook, Inequality and One City: Bill de Blasio and the New York Experiment, Year One, to be published in February.
Eric Alterman: Have you ever given any thought to why you are so focused on the issue of economic inequality? Obviously, it’s an enormous problem, but few, if any, politicians have made it as central a focus as you have.
Bill de Blasio: Like most things, I think it’s profoundly personal. My parents had me late—they were both 44—and they were quintessential children of the Depression, so that was part of the endless dialogue loop at family meals. And I think that notion of the people you’re closest to having experienced intense economic disruption left a lifelong imprint. There’s one piece, to begin.
I’ve come up in public schools throughout my life, and I think just the connection to every kind of person—including people who were grappling with poverty—gave me another perspective. A bit of it is academic: doing urban studies at New York University, doing Latin American studies at Columbia for my master’s that implicitly got into issues of disenfranchisement and poverty. Some of it is the work I did in Central America—being there, but also dealing with a lot of folks in the liberation-theology movement. It was a lot of different pieces. And then it kind of goes into overdrive through the Dinkins years, dealing with communities all over the city. So much of our foundation came from communities that were struggling.
Alterman: What was your exact job under Dinkins?
de Blasio: For most of the time, I was special assistant to Bill Lynch, who was the deputy mayor. So I just got incessant exposure to community leaders and activists. And then everything I’ve learned through twenty-three years with Chirlane [his wife]—everything she’s seen in her own life and what she’s experienced in her broader community. So I think it’s sort of one piece built upon the other. Even the eight years on the City Council—when you serve a distinct community or set of neighborhoods, a lot of that time is hearing people talk about their lives. Even pre–economic crisis, it was quite clear to me it was happening across a range of demographics different than might have been assumed. I had a huge Orthodox Jewish community; a lot of the folks within that community were really struggling economically, and that was a part of my constituency. I had a lot of folks who came to me, because you turn to your council member if you have some insurmountable personal financial problem or you can’t pay your mortgage. So all this was like a constant soundtrack. And then I was also the chairman of the General Welfare Committee, which was the social-services committee. So I had endless meetings with advocates and community leaders about the challenges they faced.
Alterman: So you would say it’s more experiential than wonkish?
de Blasio:Absolutely. I mean, some of it comes from study, both in terms of my brief academic life and as an adult—
Alterman: For the parts that were wonkish, what thinkers or sources would you say you relied on?
de Blasio:The Nation was one for quite a while—literally. That was a big influence, particularly early on. It’s not like I have a group of theorists I turn to regularly. I think I took an interest, and so when anything went by, I paid attention. But I really think it’s experiential; I really think it comes from personal stories, starting with my own life and then going out farther and farther into communities.
And, look, there’s a certain empathy that you should have in this work. I get very, very affected by the personal stories. I feel a bit like an oral historian: I’ve been out there just listening to thousands and thousands of people, and it really gives you a sum total. So, for example, the effects of the economic crisis—I had a real strong early imprint on how bad that was, and it was huge. I mean, I value public-opinion polling, I value focus groups—I don’t mean to sound hokey here. But I think it is amazing how much some of the trends that we later saw—for example, on the campaign last year—were evident through a lot of anecdotal information, just from human interaction. So I really lean on that.
Alterman: You often talk about yourself as part of a progressive movement. But a lot of people would say there is the potential for conflict between being a movement leader and being the mayor of New York City. So I’m wondering what you think is the role of the movement, and what is its role in your mayoralty?
de Blasio: So let me start by framing it—why do I say movement? My earliest political experiences were clearly in movements: the disarmament movement, the Central America movement, a lot of different things. That is the template that makes sense to me personally, and I think elected office is supposed to be an offshoot of that ideal. So, for me, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re a council member or you’re mayor. There’s a consistency to how you make change—in my view, progressive change—and how you connect it to the grassroots.
So I have never felt a contradiction. I have never felt there’s anything inconsistent about thinking in movement terms and having an executive office. I think there are elements of the executive office that demand a different skill or different priorities or create a much more nuanced reality than if you’re just in the movement and you’re just speaking to one issue, for example. But I don’t think there’s a fundamental contradiction. In fact, I would argue that, when done right, elective office—particularly executive elective office—allows movement ideas to really flower, to really take shape. And that’s exciting to me.
I certainly know my share of progressives who think the only way to push the spectrum is from the outside, or that the only way to make change is to organize it from the grassroots. I think it is a true statement that the most persistent and profound social change begins at the grassroots—there’s no question in my mind about that. But I don’t think government, elective office, is like a no-fly zone. I’ve always felt it’s a necessary part of making change, and the fact that we, as progressives, have not had as much experience in recent decades doesn’t negate the concept.
Look at history: La Guardia, whose desk is right there inspiring me every day, is one of the great examples locally. There’s a rich history—from the Progressive Era, 100 years ago, to the present—of progressive governors, progressive mayors, progressive legislators. So I’ve always felt that was normal and necessary.
Alterman: And you see evidence of a vibrant progressive movement in the city today?
de Blasio:I think there is a clear movement in this city today fighting inequality. Fast-food workers are one of the most obvious manifestations. The efforts of the more progressive unions to organize new sectors, the fight for paid sick leave—this is all pieces of a movement. Do they all meet in the same room? Not necessarily. Is there one coordinating council? No. But is there a coherence when you see a lot of progressive labor [unions] and a lot of advocates, nonprofits and media organizations fighting for bringing up wages and benefits? Absolutely.
I think it’s been incredibly effective. I think our job was to give a lot more shape in government to what that movement could achieve. But I’m quite convinced that a lot of people laid the foundation over the last decade so that this could happen now. So that has every element, to me, of what a classic and effective movement is. I think there was clearly a movement around policing issues—and, again, a very effective one, particularly around stop-and-frisk: very broad, lots of focal points of leadership, some better known than others, but it was quite a broad and deep movement. Lots of community leaders, clergy, elected officials, organizations—and it worked. It redefined the debate and forced action. (Continued)
By Flint Taylor
In These Times
Jan 14, 2015 – Outraged by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s statements concerning the killing of Eric Garner, Patrick Lynch, the longtime leader of the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), the NYPD’s officers union, recently made the outrageous assertion that the Mayor had “blood on his hands” for the murder of the two NYPD officers.
In Milwaukee this past fall, the Police Association called for, and obtained, a vote of no confidence in MPD Chief Ed Flynn after he fired the officer who shot and killed Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed African American; subsequently, the union’s leader, Mike Crivello, praised the District Attorney when he announced that he would not bring charges against the officer.
In Chicago, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), a longtime supporter of racist police torturer Jon Burge, is now seeking to circumvent court orders that preserve and make public the police misconduct files of repeater cops such as Burge, by seeking to enforce a police contract provision that calls for the destruction of the files after seven years. And in a show of solidarity with the killer of Michael Brown, Chicago’s FOP is soliciting contributions to the Darren Wilson defense fund on its website.
Such reactionary actions by police unions are not new, but are a fundamental component of their history, particularly since they came to prominence in the wake of the civil rights movement. These organizations have played a powerful role in defending the police, no matter how outrageous and racist their actions, and in resisting all manner of police reforms.
In June 1966, New York City Mayor John Lindsay, responding to widespread complaints of police brutality, called for a civilian review board. Five thousand off duty NYPD cops rallied at City Hall in opposition, and the head of the PBA, leading the campaign against civilian review, intoned that “I am sick and tired of giving in to minority groups, with their whims and their gripes and shouting. Any review board with civilians on it is detrimental to the operations of the police department.” Invoking the specter of increased crime, the PBA mounted a massive public relations campaign against the measure, and it was defeated in a referendum that year.
In 1975, in response to proposed budget cuts that included police layoffs, the PBA ordered a rampage through the city’s black and Puerto Rican communities, with thousands of off duty cops waving their guns, banging on trash cans, and blowing whistles for several nights until Mayor Abe Beame obtained a restraining order.
Ten years later, after Mayor Ed Koch revived the issue of civilian review in the wake of a white cop killing Eleanor Bumpurs, an elderly and mentally ill black woman, the PBA again condemned the idea, staged a work slowdown in response to the attempted prosecution of the officer, Stephen Sullivan, and pressured Koch into reinstating Sullivan even though he had been criminally charged with the killing.
In 1992, when David Dinkins, the first (and only) African-American Mayor of New York City sought to implement a civilian review agency to investigate allegations of police misconduct, the PBA organized another City Hall rally in protest. This time, the crowd of officers numbered 10,000, with PBA members hurtling barricades, jumping on cars, blocking the Brooklyn Bridge and kicking a reporter. Some of the rally’s participants carried signs showing Dinkins with a bushy Afro haircut and swollen lips, with racist slogans, including ones that ridiculed him as a “washroom attendant.”
In the mid-1990s, the independent Mollen Commission, appointed by Mayor Dinkins to investigate police corruption, documented widespread police perjury, brutality, drug dealing and theft in the NYPD, and found that “by advising its members against cooperating with law-enforcement authorities, the P.B.A. often acts as a shelter for and protector of the corrupt cop." These findings were seconded by senior NYPD officials and prosecutors who were quoted by the New York Times as saying that they would continue to “have trouble rooting out substantial numbers of corrupt officers as long as the P.B.A. resists them."
The Times further quoted these officials as complaining that the PBA, “fortified with millions of dollars in annual dues collections . . . is one of the most powerful unions in the city. As an active lobbyist in Albany and as a contributor to political campaigns, the P.B.A. has enormous influence over the department and is typically brought in for consultations before important management decisions are made."
In the Abner Louima case, the PBA’s role extended beyond reactionary advocacy and agitation to active participation in a conspiracy to cover-up the brutal crimes of its members. In 1997, an NYPD officer sexually assaulted Louima in a Precinct Station bathroom by violently shoving a broken broomstick into his rectum. His attacker and three of his police accomplices were charged with criminal civil rights offenses.
Evidence in the criminal proceedings revealed that a PBA official had chaired an early meeting with the implicated officers, one of whom was a PBA delegate, at which they fabricated a false story designed to exonerate one of the conspirators. Even after the officers were convicted, the PBA continued to defend the officers, both publicly and with financial support, and to advocate for them with their fabricated version of events—with none other than Patrick Lynch claiming that “people with a political agenda have fanned the flames of this incident,” leading to an “innocent man . . . being punished beyond belief.”
More recently, Lynch and the PBA, together with the NYPD sergeants and captains associations, after condemning Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin’s order that sharply limited the NYPD’s discriminatory stop and frisk policies, unsuccessfully sought to appeal her order after Mayor de Blasio made good on his campaign promise not to appeal.
And this past year, confronted with another indefensible case of NYPD violence, PBA President Lynch again went on the offensive. In August, after the medical examiner determined that Eric Garner’s death at the hands of officer Daniel Pantaleo was a homicide by means of a chokehold, Lynch declared that the examiner was “mistaken” in finding that the death was a homicide, and that he had “never seen a document that was more political than that press release by the [medical examiner].”
In a classic case of doubletalk, he further asserted that it was “not a chokehold. It was bringing a person to the ground the way we’re trained to do to place him under arrest." He chastised Mayor de Blasio for not “support[ing] New York City police officers unequivocally.”
In December, Lynch praised the Staten Island Grand Jury’s decision not to charge Panteleo, while accusing Garner of resisting arrest, brushing off two police misconduct lawsuits—one for sexual assault during a search— brought against Panteleo and idolizing him as “literally an Eagle Scout,” a “model” cop, and “mature, mature” officer.
And once again, the PBA unleashed a work slowdown in further protest of Mayor de Blasio that lasted several weeks.
In Chicago, the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents CPD patrol officers, has a similarly notorious history. (Continued)
Outgoing Governor Pat Quinn Commutes Sentence, Gives Additional Pardons
National Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression – Chicago
We, along with tens of thousands of other people, greet the decision by former Governor Patrick Quinn to commute[i] the sentence of Howard Morgan, who was almost killed by Chicago Police on Feb. 21, 2005, and was charged with attempted murder. Howard Morgan, himself a police officer for over 21 years, was charged and unlawfully convicted in a second trial after being acquitted of firing his weapon in the incident. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison.
We also greet the pardon based on innocence granted by Gov. Quinn to David Bates, and the commutation of the sentences of Anthony Dansbery, Tyrone Hood, Willie Johnson, and Carlos Villareal. All have suffered years in prison unjustly, often for crimes they did not commit.
These are victories of the peoples struggles for justice. We also must recognize the honesty and the courage of Gov. Quinn to act in the face of injustice, injustice that was organized and mobilized by state prosecutors and the police. Gov. Quinn, in his last act as governor, will join the ranks of John Peter Altgeld and George Ryan, Illinois governors who took giant steps in the face of tremendous opposition to “do the right thing.”
But let us have no illusions. The courage and honesty of one man, Gov. Quinn, alone could not have done it. Gov. Quinn’s great achievement is that he was able to see and to hear the upsurge of millions of people all across this nation, demanding an end to police crimes. Millions have participated, and continue to participate, in marches, protests, direct non-violent actions, demanding an end to police violence, starting in response to the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri. This movement, embracing all races and ethnic groups even while being sparked and led by African American youth, deserves the credit for forcing the issue of police crimes and the cases of Howard Morgan and the others to the forefront.
The slogan of the campaign for freedom for Howard Morgan has been “Now Justice has a Voice,” because unlike Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and thousands of African American, Latino, and some white people who have been killed by police violence, Howard Morgan survived. He is now free. His voice will be a powerful one for ending police crimes, for passage of laws establishing democratic civilian control of the police, such as that proposed by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression.
Howard Morgan, David Bates, Anthony Dansbery, Tyrone Hood, Willie Johnson, and Carlos Villareal are free, but scores of Black and Latino men who have been tortured and forced to falsely confess to crimes they did not commit remain in prison. In the words of the late Amilcar Cabral, “A luta continua!”
By Frank Chapman
Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression
How are strategy and tactics determined in waging political struggle? In the historic social movements of the racially oppressed and the working class the question of strategy and tactics is always urgent. To understand why this is important we must look at the basic characteristics that define social movements.
For the purpose of this discussion let us characterize social movements as either spontaneous or organized. Spontaneous social movements arise out of the objective social relations (i.e. social savagery) of capitalism. Driven by profit and greed, the vulture capitalism perpetrated by the 1% creates untold misery and suffering for the masses of workers and oppressed communities of color. Widespread unemployment, poverty and racist and political repression create social unrest and spontaneous rebellion.
These rebellions arise independently of the conscious will of the people expressed through their various organizations such as unions, community based organizations, and organized grass roots political struggles. They have no strategy or tactics. Spontaneous uprisings cannot be stopped or started by organizations. They can be scientifically studied and taken into account in other ways, but they cannot be regulated or determined by subjective evaluation. Unconscious unplanned rebellion takes many forms, even in an uprising as we witnessed in Ferguson. No matter what form it takes, spontaneous rebellion is characteristically blind precisely because it is not guided by an aim or a strategy for liberation.
Social movements, on the other hand, become conscious when the people awaken to the need for organized struggle and resistance in fighting their oppressors. That is how social movements transition into conscious organized struggles. Our struggle for an elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC) represents the conscious, subjective side of the movement in that it is organizing towards a definite goal, the enactment of a law that will empower the people to hold the police accountable for the crimes they commit. This is organized struggle demanding a systemic change that will empower the people to hold the police accountable for the crimes they commit. We fight for power at this stage by making people aware of the systemic nature of the problem and then engaging them in a political struggle to change the system. In this phase of our movement the need for strategy and tactics is urgently clear.
Strategy is determined by scientifically assessing objective social conditions, the moral and political climate and the relationship of forces. The moral and political climate has been dramatically changed by the Ferguson uprising. When we say the police are the cutting edge of mass incarceration and political repression in oppressed communities we are talking about the relationship of forces. You have to be arrested and prosecuted before being sent to prison. Racist police repression, under the cover of draconian drug laws, diminishes the organizing space for people to fight for social and economic justice. We must also look at police repression of the Occupy movement and of the Peace and Solidarity movements. The police will be increasingly used to repress the trade union movement as it grows more militant in organizing the unorganized. We must also acknowledge the repressive role of the FBI and National Security police under the guise of fighting terrorism and keeping our borders safe.
Our strategic goal is community control of the police as it is spelled out in our proposed CPAC legislation. The principal tactic for achieving our goal is organizing a mass support base of voters and residents in those areas hardest hit by police crimes and to organize a mass march of 10,000 to converge on the Federal Building and City Hall August 29, 2015. We already have over 10,000 supporters and some 200 volunteers. Through petitioning, canvassing and reaching out to other community based organizations and movement organizations we believe we can have a total of 100,000 supporters by August 29, 2015 coming mainly out of those communities hardest hit by police crimes.
We believe that this is the most effective way politically and socially to address the distrust and long standing antagonism between oppressed communities of color and the police. The fight for a democratically elected Civilian Police Accountability Council has strategic importance to the overall fight for democracy in our country. Move this spoke, and we move the wheel.
The Fight for 15 movement could free the children of low-income workers from the need to work after school to keep their families afloat.The Fight for 15 movement could free the children of low-income workers from the need to work after school to keep their families afloat. (Photo: peoplesworld)
…An intersection of race, class and gender
By Yana Kunichoff
In These Times
Jan 5, 2015 – Like many immigrant families, that of Iris Sebastian (a pseudonym) has long played a precarious financial balancing game.
Her parents, Luis and Josefa, both crossed the border from Mexico in the mid-1990s. They met in the U.S. and settled down in Houston, where they had Iris, the oldest of four girls, soon after. Thus began the balancing game. As Luis and Josefa worked low-wage jobs in service or day labor to support themselves and their children, the family was in constant discussion about how to save a little here, a little there. Maybe that meant secondhand clothes or going without new school supplies. Or it could mean a few extra nights of work for Luis or Josefa at their second jobs as cooks.
Working two jobs and trading child care responsibilities sustained them through the boom of the 1990s and even the initial dip of the 2008 recession. From 2005 to 2013, both had steady cook jobs at a Burger King in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston.
That all changed in the fall of 2013. Luis had long suffered from diabetes, and fluid retention in his legs made it increasingly difficult to work on his feet all day, as his service jobs demanded. Eventually he had to severely cut down his working hours. The balancing act became more precarious.
As the oldest daughter, Iris, an 18-year-old high school junior, felt it was her responsibility to keep the family afloat.
“I was telling [my parents] I needed to get a job,” she says . “I always see my mother and she is stressed, I see my dad and his legs are swollen.” She’d tell him, “I know we need money, but I need you to calm down and relax.”
Against the wishes of her family, she, too, took a job. Four or five days a week, Iris works at Smoothie King, a local chain, for the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.
It’s not uncommon for young people to work. Of the 16.7 million young people aged 16–19 in the United States in November 2014, 28.6 percent were employed and another 20 percent were looking for work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Similarly, a quarter of Latino youth like Iris are employed.
But what distinguishes Iris is the reason she entered the workforce—economic need. The children of poor families already start off further behind for a slew of reasons, including food insecurity, growing up in a neighborhood without adequate resources, and simply the stress of being poor. (Continued)
By Andrew O’Hehir
Progressive America Rising via Salon
Jan 5, 2015 – In 1935, with Hitler and Mussolini forging a historic alliance in Europe and the world sliding toward war, Sinclair Lewis published the satirical novel “It Can’t Happen Here,”which depicted the rise of an indigenous American fascist movement.
Lewis is a fine prose stylist, but this particular book has an overly melodramatic plot, and is highly specific to its era. It has not aged nearly as well as “Brave New World” or “1984,” and not many people read it today. (At the time, it was understood as an attack on Sen. Huey Longof Louisiana, the populist firebrand who was planning to run against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936, but was assassinated before he could do so.)
But certain aspects of Lewis’ fascist America still resonate strongly. His clearest insight came in seeing that the authoritarian impulse runs strong and deep in American society, but that because of our unique political history and our confused national mythology, it must always be called by other names and discussed in other terms.
Oh, yeah — Happy New Year, everybody! Now let’s get back to fascism. When the “Corpo” regime installed by tyrannical President Buzz Windrip in “It Can’t Happen Here” strips Congress of its powers, tries dissidents in secret military courts and arms a repressive paramilitary force called the Minute Men, most citizens go along with it. (Yeah, some of that sounds familiar — we’ll get to that.) These draconian measures are understood as necessary to Windrip’s platform of restoring American greatness and prosperity, and even those who feel uncomfortable with Corpo policies reassure themselves that America is a special place with a special destiny, and that the terrible things that have happened in Germany and Italy and Spain are not possible here. No doubt the irony of Lewis’ title seems embarrassingly obvious now, but it was not meant to be subtle in 1935 either. His point stands: We still comfort ourselves with mystical nostrums about American specialness, even in an age when the secret powers of the United States government, and its insulation from democratic oversight, go far beyond anything Lewis ever imagined.
I’m not the first person to observe that the New York police unions’ current mini-rebellion against Mayor Bill de Blasio carries anti-democratic undertones, and even a faint odor of right-wing coup. Indeed, it feels like an early chapter in a contemporary rewrite of “It Can’t Happen Here”: Police in the nation’s largest city openly disrespect and defy an elected reformist mayor, inspiring a nationwide wave of support from “true patriots” eager to take their country back from the dubious alien forces who have degraded and desecrated it. However you read the proximate issues between the cops and de Blasio (some of which are New York-specific), the police protest rests on the same philosophical foundation as the fascist movement in Lewis’ novel. Indeed, it’s a constant undercurrent in American political life, one that surfaced most recently in the Tea Party rebellion of 2010, and is closely related to the disorder famously anatomized by Richard Hofstadter in his 1964 essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” (Continued)