December 14, 2006

Looking behind the curtain in Salem ....

"What do we see today? At every recent election, the country puts me in mind of a jar of water --- turn the jar and all the water comes out. One election, all the Democratic vote drops out and goes over to the Republicans; the next year all the Republican vote drops out and goes over to the Democrats. The workers are moving backward and forward; they are dissatisfied; they have lost confidence in the existing parties they know of, and they are seeking desparately for the party of their class. At such a season, it is the duty of us revolutionists to conduct ourselves in such manner as to cause our organization to be better and better known, its principles more and more clearly understood, its integrity and firmness more and more respected and trusted....."

Sound familiar? In spite of it sounding quite a bit like the present day, it may be the slightly formal writing style that is the clue it was not written recently. In fact, it is from "Reform or Revolution," an 1896 address by Daniel De Leon of the Socialist Labor Party.

De Leon goes on to explain that after observing the modern state and its current primary function (to work to hold down the working class), the anarchist shouts, "Away with all central directing authority!" De Leon states that what socialism says is: "Away with the economic system that alters the beneficient functions of the central direction authority from an aid to production into a means of oppression."

More from De Leon:

... the primary characteristic that "distinguishes the revolutionist from the reformer" is that the reformer "spurns organization."

... the program of revolution "demands the unconditional surrender of the capitalist system and its system of wage slavery." (....ahh!)

"... there must be unity of action." "You will never find the revolutionist putting himself above the organization...the cry of 'Bossism' is as absent from the revolutionist's lips as it is a feature on those of the reformer."

The theme of sticking to the point, of keeping organizationally intact, is a thread throughout the thoughts of De Leon in this article.

And a final piece from De Leon to ponder:
"Whenever a change leaves the internal mechanism untouched, we have reform. Whenever the internal mechanism is changed, we have revolution...Of course, no internal change is possible without external manifestations. Therein lies one of the pitfalls into which the reformers tumble. (Reformers) ... are satisfied with mere external changes without looking behind the curtain..."

Thanks to Cde. Rossi for researching and copying packets of information on socialism and working class history in which this article can be found.


December 10, 2006

Salem's Human Rights Day

Three of us from Willamette Reds attended the Salem Human Rights Day event at Salem's First United Methodist Church.

During the first part of the program we were paired with an individual we didn't know and asked to listen to and then speak about someone we admired. The woman I was paired with told me a moving story about her thirty-six-year-old single-mother daughter who has taken in a homeless man on her own initiative. That is indeed something to admire. When it was my turn I told her about Tito and ex-Yugoslavia. I tried to communicate what I believe really tore socialist Yugoslavia apart--the legacy of the struggle against the occupation of the country and the crushing foreign debt the country was forced to take on after the war.

Partners changed and I drew Salem's mayor. The exercise then given to us was to talk about and listen to our partners talk about what we're doing for human rights. The mayor told me that she is working hard on the police review board and also on hiring of Spanish-speaking people and people of color to fill vacant city jobs in an attempt to build a city administration and bureaucracy which looks more like the city. Its a worthy goal and I hope that we get there. I told our mayor about the Palestinian solidarity work I do; she seemed mildly interested and then a bit shaken and she made a polite exit.

One of the people in our group told her partner that one person she admired greatly is Leslie Frane, SEIU Local 503 Executive Director, and she tried to engage her partner in a discussion on unionism. It was probably the only time during the event that unions or workplace issues were mentioned.

The second half of the event was a kind of community speak-out moderated by a prison warden. It seemed bizarre to me that a prison warden would moderate a community speak-out on human rights. It seemed more bizarre that a leading activist in the Latino community embraced him and had great things to say about him at the event. This speaker used his speak-out time to urge participation in the political system and to compliment the mayor and other officials present; it was the kind of intentionally non-threatening speech which tells you that major issues and struggles are being avoided and that hands are being extended in order to curry and trade political favors.

Among the speakers were several people who focused their anger on the Department of Human Services (DHS). We can read this any one of several ways and our conclusions may be contradictory but not necessarily wrong.

It might be hard to find people who deal with DHS in crisis situations who appreciate the case workers and the agency's mission. These are, after all, crisis situations in which someone is usually in need of intervention and help. That intervention and help will never come quickly enough or efficiently enough for the victims. The caseworkers are burdened with paperwork, stressed almost to the breaking point, held to unrealistic work performance standards and are forced to maintain a level of professional distance for their own protection. Their job is to patch up and police a system which is in constant crisis--a "system" which extends from the courts and state and county agencies, through the private sector and charities, through the legislature and into families. That system has its origins in the Protestant morality of the nineteeth century; few people today will recognize themselves or find the solution to their problems there. The protests against DHS, however honest they may have been, point more to an unfolding social crisis in our region than they do to bad policies at DHS. The people who spoke against DHS did so as individuals and so are not accountable to anyone for presenting the full facts of their situations.

We were fortunate to hear a woman speak about inmates on Oregon's death row and a Native American-Latino fellow speak about borders, racism and war in a soulfully historic context. We also heard from representatives of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) and a fellow who spoke about winning anti-discrimination coverage for short, differently-sized and mentally ill people. Passing mention was made of neighborhood struggles in northeast Salem.

I'm not sure what the 50-75 people present got out of the event today. The crowd tended to be older, whiter and better off than most of Salem is. The prison warden moderator closed the event by saying that he hoped that any differences which had arisen during the meeting could be talked out and that the event was worthwhile if it moved anyone present to make the world or Salem a better place.

We can do better.

November 26, 2006

Struggles for justice in Salem Oregon - La lucha continua!

Maggie and I went to hear Sarah Harkness and Francisco Lopez talk about immigration issues at this evening's Salem-area Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) meeting. Sarah works with a United Methodist project dealing with immigration issues and Francisco is a Salem community activist.

Sarah detailed a recent trip she and Francisco made to the Mexico-US border with a compelling talk and slides. They had the opportunity to talk to migrants, Native Americans living along part of the border, border patrol agents, and people seeking to help and protect migrant workers moving northward. Francisco dealt with the structural roots of what we have seen become a full-blown immigrant labor and migration crisis. He also made clear the distinction between charity (which church people are good at) and addressing issues of justice which requires a deeper analysis.

Sarah's slides of the border area are especially interesting for someone who has never been there. Her account of the package travel deal a migrant worker might get in order to move from southern Mexico to the US without documents and the statistics dealing with migrant deaths, social dislocation and deportations shatter some of the widespread and long-standing myths about undocumented workers. Churches and unions need to hear this. Francisco made the numbers human by asking us to reflect on the experiences of a real two-year old child who was caught trying to cross the border with his family. Francisco's analysis went to the heart of the crisis by dealing with NAFTA and globalization and what it has meant for Mexican workers. He gave a strong power analysis of why we aren't doing a better job of dealing with this crisis in our churches and in our Salem-Keizer community generally.

FOR is a long-established religious-based pacifist organization which tends to appeal to the very best instincts among liberal and middle-class Christians. Sarah appealed to this tradition and these instincts by talking about the need for "compassionate listening" and building community and by emphasizing how complicated immigration issues are. She also talked about the compassion of the border patrol agents and offered as a way forward from the crisis an example of a fair-trade coffee co-op. See

The audience struggled with what we heard. People told stories of the mistreatment of migrant children in the Salem-Keizer schools and exploitation of the undocumented by unscrupulous businesses. There were questions about legal status and guest worker programs. At some point our frustration with the crisis began to take over and someone offered up as a solution rethinking how and what we consume. This seemed to give some people some hope; it makes sense to liberal church people that some social problems can be ameliorated or solved at the point of consumption--in the stores, by buying locally and by buying goods which are produced without horrific exploitation.

I tried (without much success) to point out that the problem is not fundamentally one of what we buy or where we buy, but fundamentally about how and why things are produced. I tried to say that almost any guest worker program will deprive workers of our rights, that a deal on amnesty for undocumented workers will also bring a guest worker program under current political conditions and that we need to emphasize union and class struggles in the farms, nursing homes and construction sites above all else. People migrate for work, we are exploited at work, our ability to win concessions from the bosses at work determines our quality of life and unions still remain the only legal avenue we have to unite people at work and win better wages, hours and working conditions. This isn't abstract: immigrant workers are leading a number of workplace struggles in Oregon right now and they need labor rights and our support in order to win. And the issue isn't so complicated; this is monopoly capital and imperialism at work. I don't think that I was heard or understood.

A number of community events are coming up we need to turn out for. The struggle continues!

St. Vincent DePaul Catholic Church will sponsor a forum on immigration on November 30 at 7:00 pm.

Willamette University's Witness for Peace group will do a forum on the impact of the drug war on Colombia and the US on the 30th at 7:30 pm.

Sarah Harkness and Francisco Lopez will talk about making a group journey from Oregon to El Salvador and Oaxaca on Saturday, December 2 at 10:00 am at Queen of Peace Catholic Church.

The Oregon Peace Works state board will meet at 2:00 pm on December 2 at the Salem Friends' meeting house.

December 10 is Human Rights Day. There will be a speak-out at Salem's First United Methodist Church starting at 2:00 pm.

November 15, 2006

Woodburn, Oregon---Radio Revolution

PCUN's low-power radio station, KPCN, will have their grand opening and programming inauguration on Monday, Nov. 20, from 6 to 9 PM at PCUN's Risberg Hall headquarters in Woodburn.

November 20 is the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. This year we get to mark a "radio revolution" in Woodburn also.

KPCN-LP marks a big step forward for the community. The needed remodel project took less than five months from beginning to end.

Turn out on November 20 if you can. We need to support KPCN and PCUN.

November 12, 2006

Tell Me Again--Who Won The Elections?

This is coming from someone who spent much of his time over the past several months phonebanking and canvassing for Democratic Party candidates in Oregon. I did so because I agree with the Communist Party brochure which stated "The stakes couldn't be higher for the future of our children, our country, the environment and the world. Together, this battle can be won." and "A vote to change control of Congress is a vote calling for tolerance, unity and equal opportunity. It is a vote to reject immigrant bashing and to embrace comprehensive legalization and full rights for all workers....(it) is a vote that says return the troops from Iraq, and reallocate the resources to our cities, towns and rural areas...Changing control of Congress is not an end, but just the beginning."

This is sound logic as seen and experienced from within the labor movement.

Less than one week has passed since the election. The newspapers and airwaves are still full of analysis, much of it half-cocked, and I am encountering a number of younger Democrats crowing over the Democratic victory at the polls and a number of older Republicans wringing their hands in defeat. A survey of some of what I have seen over the last seven weeks seems in order.

The September/October issue of Dollars & Sense is devoted to an overly-optimistic view of "the new militancy" in the unions. We have been hearing about a "new militancy" annually since 1905. Dollars & Sense locates this militancy currently among migrant workers, hotel workers, young people working in fast food and retail industries, in the Smithfield Foods struggle and among flight attendants. I hope they're right, but I'm suspicious of accounts which do not come from the rank-and-file and which do not deal with the complex situations faced by most trade union activists. We have a labor movement in which a suggestion to remove the word "union" from our organization's names can be floated and taken seriously (because it does not get good response in focus groups) and in which we find almost no official support for national health care. The recent Delphi strike and the issues which caused the strike to be called were not politicized to the point of being a factor in the elections. In fact, there is almost no mention of the elections, healthcare or Delphi in this issue of Dollars & Sense.

The November issue of Harper's did much better by carrying a number of informative articles on the elections. In The Kids Are Far Right, Wells Tower reports on the annual National Conservative Student Conference held in Washington, D.C. last July. The article acquaints us with the real barbarism of part of the right and draws the connections between this barbarism and groups such as the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute. The Cato and AEI editorials heard on National Public Radio provide cover for a political movement which is fundamentally nihilistic. The post-election reader comes away wondering if the Republicans lost the election in part because sections of their core constituencies have abandoned the Party and moved further to the right than the Party itself has, repelling or abandoning more traditional conservativism. A vicious libertarianism may be challenging the Party's neoconservative and religious wings. This raises the possibility that forces among both the Democrats and the Republicans may be playing to a non-existent or weak neoconservative "center."

An article by Gary Younge on Barack Obama in the November 13 issue of The Nation hints at what Ken Silverstein says plainly in Harper's. Obama's base has been with "social activists" but these activists will be disapppointed if they expect much more from him in the near future. For Younge, the constraints on Obama come from complex issues of race and misplaced liberal expectations. For Silverstein, the constraints come from Obama's packaging and repackaging himself in order to get and keep campaign funding. This is the fellow who once backed Lieberman and who stepped back from his own previously-held antiwar and anti-Bush remarks in a speech before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. It is interesting that labor and class are not at issue here. Are labor leaders standing on principle by not supporting someone who vacillates and who plays to the right wing of the Democratic Party, or have they abandoned people of color and "social activists," or do they have their eyes set on Hillary Clinton or John Kerry in 2008?

Writing in the the November 20 issue of The Nation, Alexander Cockburn gave us a pre-election reminder when he wrote "Pick a topic---the war, the economy, a 2 million-plus prison population, the environment, the condition of organized labor, the Constitution. Can you recall any Democrat this fall having said something on such a topic suggesting that in the event Democrats recapture the House or the Senate or both, anything of consequence might occur?"

Cockburn had a point. We tended to hear the Democrats make promises where there were none. We are so desperate for hope and change, I think, that we allowed ourselves to see the election as an end and the results as a victory. It's wise to remember the Communist point that "Changing control of Congress is not an end, but just the beginning."

The day after the election I listened to Tim Nesbitt on KBOO describe Ted Kulongoski as something like a "working families' Governor." This is quite a statement given initial union hesitancy to support Kulongoski, and Kulongoski's comments during a debate with Saxton that his views on immigration matched those of President Bush. It would seem that not everyone in labor shares the analysis of Dollars & Sense or, worse, that immigrant workers and the militancy they may represent may be thrown overboard in a search for compromises on other issues. Perhaps labor's official program is now so minimalist that it doesn't take much to get the "working families" tag.

Kulongoski's first real speech to labor came just a few weeks before the election. Speaking to a relatively small group of union members, the Governor sidestepped immigration issues, raising the minimum wage, and the war in Iraq entirely, and focused instead on public education, healthcare, and pensions. It was a good speech but he really said very little and promised nothing and he did not have to do a hard sell to the crowd.

By Saturday the Democrats were beginning to talk about Iraq again. A front page article in The New York Times on the Democrats and Iraq raised more questions than it answered. A page 13 article on labor and the new Congressional lineup highlighted the relationship between Blue Dog Democrats and labor and noted that labor is not pushing the Democrats to the left. The article also quoted Gary C. Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, as saying that President Bush may have to agree to a higher minimum wage and higher housing subsidies in exchange for labor not blocking some trade agreements. If this is indeed the case, it is quite a trade-off and speaks volumes about our lack of world and class consciousness within the labor movement.

According to Frank Rich, writing in today's New York Times, Arizona voters turned down immigrant-bashing politicians and the Republicans lost a major share of the Latino vote. The white evangelical vote remained consistently high and consistently conservative. I was disappointed, then, to receive an e-mail from the supposedly-liberal Sojourners saying, in effect, that the vote was what it needed to be and that evangelical voters were rightly rejecting the left and the right.

California Congressman George Miller spoke on National Public Radio this morning and framed the Democratic agenda as supporting increasing the minimum wage to $7.25 over two years, stabilizing or lowering the cost of prescription drug prices under Medicare through negotiation and bulk purchasing and doing something to contain increases in college tuition and associated costs. These are almost all market-driven solutions to systemic crises. If the market had worked in the first place, we would not be having these debates. Given Hufbauer's comments and the unreliability of Blue Dog Democrats, we might wonder what the line of compromise will be and what will get traded off. On the other hand, this could mark a significant defeat for Republicans and either lay a basis for further Democratic progress or, perhaps just as likely, serve to dispose of labor issues for the time being and lay the groundwork for a Blue Dog Democratic presidential nominee.

The media speaks of a Democratic agenda which does not quite match Miller's or, for that matter, labor's words. Iraq comes up but, as noted above, there is little of substance coming forward. Perhaps we can ditto that with immigration, although Kulongoski's position---a position apparently not far from Bush's---is probably generally shared across the upper echelons of the Party. The media adds stem cell research and healthcare. Stem cell research will be problematic for both the Democrats and Bush. (Stem cell research seems to eclipsed the struggle for reproductive rights nationally. The Democrats allowed struggles for gay rights and reproductive rights to be fought out at the state levels without much national press or solidarity and seem to have stayed away from gun control altogether.) The healthcare crisis may be solved piecemeal, if it is solved at all. Labor may officially be satisfied with almost anything which moves towards universal coverage---not national healthcare, mind you, but universal coverage.

In today's Salem Statesman-Journal, Peter Courtney does not bother mentioning labor's priorities, even in passing. In The Oregonian, Kulongoski reaches out to so-called "moderate" Republicans and says that his biggest problems have been with the Senate Democrats. And, again, there is no mention of labor's priorities or agenda.

Rumsfield is out and Gates is in. Listening to Gates' acceptance speech, I was struck by how non-committal on policy and goals he was. Rumsfeld was facing an almost open rebellion from senior military leaders. Some anti-war forces mistook this as liberal pressure on Rumsfeld and Bush, but a close examination of what was being said publicly shows that these were disagreements most generally from the right. The New York Times and National Public Radio both seem to be hinting that there is a serious and fundamental disagreement within the administration over how to move forward in Iraq. The Richard Pearl interview on NPR this morning showed that there are forces around Bush who still believe that the invasion was justified by the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and who have little or no concern with stability there. Others around the administration seem more concerned with stability. The dominant response in the media by the Democrats has been to float, once more, the possibility that Iraq can be turned into a federation of states or communities---a arrogant and imperialist undertaking---and to look at how the war and the occupation have been mismanaged. These are not antiwar positions.

While all of this is going on we have the Borat film in movie theatres. Are art and politics parodying one another in a crude and barbaric---and ultimately racist---dance that reflects America's unease with itself? Does this explain, at least in part, the willingness of Democrats to compromise with the right, Harold Ford's loss in Tennessee, the emergence of nihilistic libertarianism and the weak-kneed approach to labor's minimalist program here in Oregon and nationally?

Who really won on election day? The debate has moved so far to the right in the US that it sometimes seems difficult to say. If the Republicans have lost control of 23 state legislatures and Congress, they have also managed to pressure the Democratic Party into drifting in their direction. Labor, it seems, may drift along with it.

Our major task is to mobilize labor, African Americans, Latinos, youth and women in order to pressure the Democrats on withdrawal from Iraq, justice for immigrants, rebuilding New Orleans, judicial appointments, labor rights, education, clean energy and the environment, reproductive rights and workers' rights. Our success in mobilizing, and the results of those mobilizations, will tell us who really won on election day.

October 25, 2006

Ann Coulter And Her Drunken Horse

Last night as I was driving home I listened to an interview that Ann Coulter did with one of the conservative talk show preachers. I tuned in just in time to hear part of her gushing rant against evolution and its defenders. It struck me that she was camping up and quite intentionally mischaracterizing positions she cannot easily or logically argue against. Its the methods and the results she finds problematic, but its people who she attacks. Near the end of the interview the host asked Coulter what she thought of the National Education Association (NEA). Coulter answered shrilly and with much more volume than needed, of course. She said that teachers have told her that teaching and being part of the NEA is "like living in North Korea." She added that some teachers might be underpaid, but that many or most are either well-paid or overpaid. She added that "some of them should pay us for living here."

The host never contradicted Coulter or cautioned her about overstating her case. She was on his show to promote her new book. This is the cold and dark side of American conservative fundamentalism: at heart it is a mean-spirited and sales-oriented fist wrapped in thin velvet. Civil society is its worn-at-the-seams punching bag.

Driving into work this morning I heard Toby Keith's and Willie Nelson's version of "Whiskey For My Men, Beer For My Horses" playing on the radio.

Grandpappy told my pappy
Back in my day, son
A man had to answer
For the wicked things he done.
Take all the rope in Texas,
Find a tall oak tree,
Round up all of them bad boys
And hang 'em high in the street
For all the people to see.

We got too many gangsters
Doing dirty deeds,
Too much corruption
And crime in the streets.
It's time the long arm of the law
Put a few more in the ground.
Send them all to their Maker
And He'll set them on down.
You can bet He'll set 'em down.

You know justice is the one thing
You should always find.
You gotta saddle up your boys.
You gotta draw a hard line.
When the gunsmoke settles
We'll sing a victory tune
And we'll all meet back
At the local saloon.

We'll raise up our glasses
Against evil forces,
Singing, "Whiskey for my men, beer for my horses!"
Singing, "Whiskey for my men, beer for my horses!"

Willie Nelson should have more sense than to be connected with this. In some peoples eyes his recent troubles with the law should make him subject to the kind of vigilante justice he's advocating in this song. For that matter, America should have more sense than to be associated with its peculiar history of sexually-charged vigilante terrorism and should be about the business of purgining itself of its racist legacy and making reparations for the harm that has been done in this nation's name.

More to the point, Coulter is saying essentially what Toby Keith and Willie Nelson are saying. She's saying it in a book which will probably become a New York Times bestseller, and she's saying it as she poses as a intellectual, but the message is essentially the same: you may not be wanted here, we determine if you stay or if you go and we're losing patience with diversity and civil society. Keep pushing and you'll end up hanging in the street. This is the highest point attained by right wing intellectuals.

Coulter wears that velvet fist---okay, its a trademark and overused miniskirt used to incite the frat boys, but you know what I mean---but when argument and exaggerated agitation and all else fails they have enough rope and enough trees to handle any problem. When its all over the horses get beer and real men get whiskey.

There is desperation here. The voices would not be so loud and so shrill if the economy were working and the US was winning the wars. Is the reference to "gangsters" a reference to rappers and the subjects taken up by rap? Is the reference to Texas, the President's home, an accident or unconscious, or does it point to the sort of helplessness which takes over as a system stumbles, and maybe even collapses?

Desperate people do desperate things. We should not take these threats to civil liberties and our safety lightly; they are being voiced by alleged intellectuals and prominent cultural actors and so are apparently shared across the spectrum of the right wing. And they think that God blesses their terrorism.

If we read Coulter's remarks and the lyrics to the song after someone was lynched or assassinated we would say, "Of course! Why didn't we see it coming?!" We would connect the dots between the corporate sponsors, the actors, the violence and political intent.

Let's look at this now and connect the dots.

October 23, 2006

Arabic culture celebrated in Salem Oregon!

A local Palestinian solidarity group, along with Chemeketa Community College in Salem, are sponsoring an event that may prove to be the first of its kind in this small but growing town.

The event will be on Saturday October 28 at 5:00 pm. The hope is to build understanding about Arabic cultures. Another hope is that the African American community and the Hispanic community will attend as well as others. We hope that support for and solidarity within this immigrant community will grow.

What: Arab Cultural Awareness Celebration
When: Saturday, October 28, 2006 - 5:00 PM
Where: Chemeketa Community College, 4000 Lancaster Dr NE, Building 2 (Student Center), Salem, Oregon
Description: Join us to learn about and experience daily life and culture in the Middle East through food, songs, explanations of customs and religious traditions from guest speakers, and more.
Sponsored by: Salem Palestine Solidarity Group for Peace & Justice; Chemeketa Cultural Form; and Chemeketa Institutional Effectiveness

Guest speakers include: Imam - five pillars of Islam; Hala Gores - Culture of Christians in Arab Lands; Tom Nelson - American convert to Islam.

October 21, 2006

Race, Gender & Class Intersect In Salem, OR.

On Thursday some of us participated in a small protest at the Chevron station on Lancaster Drive. We weren't picketing the station; we were protesting on behalf of janitors who are set to strike in Houston who work for building cleaning contractors with contracts in Chevron-owned buildings. This was part of a nationwide action.

We closed our action by taking a photograph of our small group. The photos came out fuzzy and out of focus because we used a cheap plastic throwaway camera. An African-American friend who was in the group later said to me, "Before you take my picture next time you white people need to learn how to photograph Black people."

I instantly got defensive about the "you white people" remark because I don't know how to fit into the very peculiar definitions of race we use in the United States. I took only one of the photos and I wasn't thinking about race. Later, the remark and my defensive posture came back to me. I started thinking about how white people--whoever or whatever we are in this complex situation--really don't know how to look at Black bodies and Black people. We don't see the textures of color and skin, we don't see the sensuality and we don't know how to contrast ourselves with people of color. This (lack of an) aesthetic has a political corollary, of course. Maybe it helps explain why Lady Day's "Strange Fruit" stays with us after all of these years.

I made a point of apologizing to my friend and he told me that he was only kidding. I knew that I needed to be accountable to him for my feelings and, more importantly, for my reaction to what he said. I don't doubt that there was a joke there, but I began to learn something about myself and society also. Sometimes humor is a great teacher, regardless of the intent.

Today I went out to visit with workers about a political race that should be very important to us. One candidate--the Republican incumbent--clearly represents reactionary policies and a pushback against the progress unions and social movements have been making. The other candidate represents a left-liberal, democratic approach that is friendlier to workers and he has proven this through some community and labor activism. His roots are in the working class, although today he is a small businessman. If he wins, workers advance.

I visited with one worker who I interact with regularly. She has always seemed a bit odd to me, distant and even hostile to her union. I had a picture of her as a mean and selfish person and a fairly right-wing Republican.

This woman lives in a complex of crowded duplexes just off Lancaster Drive. The neighborhood smells like a cat litter box. There is no grass in sight and no real shade. Her son, an obviously angry teenager, answered the door and held back an ageing and growling dog as he called for his mom. The duplex was a mess.

The woman seemed pretty out of it while we were talking. She's probably on anti-depressants, the drug of choice for state workers. She stood in her doorway and tried to hold back the dog as she told me that she really isn't interested in politics and probably won't vote. If she does vote, she will vote for the Republican and against her class interests. Something in her eyes flickered vaguely. She gestured nervously. There was a pleading in her voice. When the light caught her at a certain angle she didn't look prematurely old and worn out.

After that visit I started thinking about how I had misjudged and misread her. Of course she's "a bit odd...distant and even hostile..." She's a single mom living in substandard housing and trying to raise a teenage son. They probably bought that dog as a way of smoothing over a bad divorce and the anger and alienation which goes with it. It was once a cute puppy. Her son was once a sweet baby. She was once a beautiful young woman looking forward to a brighter future. Somehow so much has been taken from her.

All of the other homes I visited today were pretty much the same. If someone seemed to be doing a bit better or a bit worse, it seemed to be because of the accidental ways in which race, class and gender intersect with opportunity in Salem, and in America generally. A drive down Center Street east of Lancaster Drive and through the adjoining neighborhoods is a drive through working class America.

Coming back into town you drive through the Oregon State Hospital. Could the lesson be more vivid? Lose your hopes and your connections, land in a neighborhood which smells like a cat litter box, have your meds run out or get too expensive or lose your job and you're likely to end up at OSH. Finally you will have some shade and a green yard. Our people drive through there and back every working day. What are they thinking about as they drive through the OSH complex?

Its not inevitable that people end up at OSH, of course. We do have choices and accountability. Some of us do resist.

But sometimes this country breaks your heart and makes you crazy, doesn't it? There is a Black man who cannot be photographed by whites and share on some fundamental level the full comradeship of his friends because of complex issues of race and racism. There are people living in substandard housing and seething with anger, or suppressing anger with meds, because they can't get a job and maintain connections which will provide a better life for them. There is a single mom struggling to raise her kid right and against all the odds. She's voting against her interests because she can't focus and because we aren't making our case well enough. There are people sitting in OSH and OSP because they couldn't take it anymore. Working class life is a series of narrow corridors leading nowhere for most people most of the time. Those corridors narrow even more--and the claustrophobia gets much worse--the darker your skin is.

So much of the entertainment and sports industries exist solely to convince us that these people and their experiences aren't real. So much of our religion exists to either downplay what these people go through or to soften the pain. So many of the politicians campaign as if these people and our experiences don't matter.

As I was driving from visit to visit I kept an oldies station playing in the car. As each house visit seemed to drive home in deeper ways the intersections of race, class and gender the stupidity and selfish anger in the songs became more apparent. None of the songs gave women their due and dignity, only one talked about race and none talked about class. Our daily experience is almost invisible. Take that to its (il)logical conclusion and you will start acting out to prove to yourself and to others that you are a visible and real human being, one with sense and sensuality. Its that acting out which lands some people at OSH and OSP or, far better, in social movements.

These people--we ourselves--are real.

Those corridors--the ones you and I live in--are real.

Anyone who tells you anything else or who tries to minimize the impact and damage done daily to workers and people of color is lying to you.

We are complicit in our own oppression to the extent that we buy in to believing that daily life for workers and people of color is not ultimately a desperate struggle to prove our own existence and make our own history.

October 15, 2006

Latin America to Oregon

Economic refugees from Mexico, Central, and South America have been left with no choice to survive but to leave their homes and go north. "Free trade" agreements have been a major cause of this exodus.

It is interesting to note, however, the exodus would not have been over a national border at one time, before the "US annexed almost half of Mexico's territory and instantly made 100,000 of its inhabitants citizens of the United States." (1)

Leaving ones' home is difficult - and having to endure extreme hardships and danger getting here, then sometimes poor working and living conditions, often low pay and a virulently growing right-wing racism and scapegoat-ism in the US --- how to understand these experiences and take effective action? We can educate ourselves by reading, by listening to Latin american workers who have become economic refugees.

We should ensure there is a place for immigrants' stories to be told.

Artists provide us these places - through images or sounds that enhance our understanding - through paths that build upon knowledge gained by the written or spoken word. The committment to the struggle for a fundamental justice can become stonger through art. We have current opportunities engage with this here in Salem.

Paulina Hermosillo, now living in Salem, was born in Mexico City. She is a photographer with a range of subjects from Zapatistas in Chiapas to playful pop culture portraits. A current photo documentary showing in Salem Oregon is at the Bush Barn Art Center until November 1. This exhibit is called "Snapshot of Exodus", documenting hispanic immigrants in Oregon. These photos emanate rich color. Many are are candid portraits: a line of 5 or 6 Mexican men relaxing in Independence, an older woman standing next to a rotting and mossy farmworkers' cabin, a woman holding a framed photograph of a loved one gone. And many more. When Ms. Hermosillo spoke after the showing of a film ("Portrait of Artists as Latino Immigrants") at the Bush Barn on October 12, she stated that it is increasingly difficult to document the lives of immigrants here because of concerns about their picture being taken. Here, in this state and region, where there is an active group of "Minutemen," and where many politicians running for office have jumped on the "immigrants are the enemy" bandwagon and other variations of that train of thought, it is understandable.

We are fortunate to have this chance to deepen our understanding of the experience of our immigrant neighbors by viewing this exhibit and learning more from this artist and other artists.

The first film of three to be shown was at the Bush Barn on October 12. Two more films focusing on immigration will be shown October 19 ("Home is Struggle", 1991) and October 26 ("Maid in America", 2004), same venue. See Statesman Journal article.

We also know of a group of local musicians/activists that has performed at various events - they may be going by "Bajo Salario"now - they are a multigenerational group that sings songs that demand justice, that inspire the struggle, that are about the beauty and sadness of life - songs that will move you if you are lucky to get a chance to hear them - even if you do not know Spanish.

(1) quote from an article by Dr. Erlinda Gonzales-Berry, Oregon State University

Salem Labor Leader To Travel to Colombia And Venezuela

Rosalie Pedroza is Statewide Secretary of the Department of Human Services Local Union of SEIU Local 503 in Orgon. She has been a member of the union since 1987. In November Rosalie will be part of a labor delegation going from Oregon to Colombia and Venezuela. The ten-person rank-and-file delegation will be made up of members of the ILWU, AFSCME, Laborers and Carpenters. The trip will last eleven days. Sponsors of the trip include Portland-area Latin American solidarity groups, Global Exchange and the US Labor Education in the Americas Project.

The trip is significant for many reasons. In the past it has been difficult for solidarity activists to put together labor delegations, and especially delegations of rank-and-file union activists. The AFL-CIO has in the past actively discouraged worker-to-worker contact across borders and cross-border labor activism. In this case, however, it was not difficult to recruit members of the delegation. Rosalie sees her participation as a logical follow-up to having attended the historic Seattle protests and then having gone on a solidarity delegation to Chiapas. SEIU Local 503 is paying most of her expenses.

I asked Rosalie why she is taking part in the delegation to Colombia and Venezuela. She answered, "The door opened. This is where my heart is. I'm going to be a sponge absorbing everything there. We don't get much news from there here in the US. I didn't know or understand the Zapatistas until I went to Chiapas. I'd like to find out in Venezuela what its like to have a government which supports working people." She also told me that she found the video "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" inspiring.

Rosalie and I talked about how the trip may or may not tie into her union work. Rosalie said that she hopes that sharing her experiences when she returns to the US will help her be more receptive to the issues union members bring to her. "When you're able to tell stories from there it should open peoples eyes. There is no other way to do it. Telling real stories from there puts Colombia and Venezuela on peoples radar screens," Rosalie said. "I want the Colombian government and the people in Colombia and Venezuela to know that the whole world is watching. I'm hoping that this trip makes me a more effective union leader."

Co-workers are excited about Rosalie's trip, although the "devil speech" by President Hugo Chavez brought mixed reactions at work. Rosalie used photographs she took in Chiapas to raise money for the state food drive last year. She is already planning a series of presentations when she returns from Colombia and Venezuela.

Rosalie spent last New Years Eve with the Zapatistas and watched a Zapatista-led community forum take place. I asked her if she saw or learned anything there which she has found useful or applicable to her work in Local 503. Rosalie told me that the Zapatistas train people to provide healthcare and also provide basic educational opportunities. These trained people must then take their knowledge to the villages. She connected this organizing method to the SEIU Local 503 campaign to organize homecare workers in Oregon. She believes that the union should also train volunteers to train and equip others with needed knowledge.

We spoke briefly about the connections between her trip to Chiapas, her coming trip to Columbia and Venezuela and the struggles of undocumented workers which have gained so much attention here in Oregon. Rosalie believes that government repression and the free trade agreements have created connections between these efforts. She is active in several anti-free trade labor efforts and worked for a union resolution supporting immigrant rights. The main points of that resoluion were adopted at her union's recent General Council.

Rosalie believes that the proposed Peru free trade agreement may be a significant battle about to erupt. She has been pressuring local Democrats to take a strong stand on labor and trade issues, healthcare and opposition to the war. She believes that workers "can get their hands around stopping trade agreements."

Rosalie first heard about NAFTA from the AFL-CIO. She then participated in the Seattle protests. After that she went to the Cancun protests in 2001 and to Chiapas last year. "This trip to Colombia andVenezuela is about opening minds," she said.

September 28, 2006

Salem, Oregon--All Out On Saturday, Sept. 30 Against Racism!

The NAACP, PCUN and other groups will be rallying and marching on Saturday, September 30 in Salem. The rally/march will start at noon at Riverfront Park and move to the State Capitol steps.

This event is being billed at a unity event between Black and Latino communities.

Everyone out on Saturday, September 30 against injustice in Oregon!

September 21, 2006

Salem, OR. and the Ku Klux Klan

The Ku Klux Klan has been littering the Candalaria neighborhood in Salem with its literature. This particular Klan group apparently rides around at night--no surprise there--and throws its literature onto driveways in bags weighted down with cat litter. According to the Statesman Journal, this group is advertising itself as a "dynamic Christian organization." The newspaper quotes a Klan leader and Baptist minister in Arkansas as saying that he doesn't know who is doing the night-riding.

The KKK has quite a history here in Oregon and there are many elderly white people in the Salem area who remember the Klan of the 1920s fondly. And, with or without the Klan and similar groups, there are very few brakes on racism here. We hear comments and witness behavior every day which feeds and reflects the culture which supports racism. A skilled organizer could work with this history and culture and shift it into high and violent gears. There is an established Klan group in LaPine and the Minutemen have been active on the streets and on the web lately. The Klan and the Minutemen amount to the same thing, regardless of how much the Minutemen deny being racists. These are the kind of people who crawl out from under the rocks when a guy like Saxton runs for Governor and when ballot measures like 41 and 48 get taken seriously.

It is no accident that the Klan is active now here. This is a response to the immigrant rights movement generally and to the growing presence in the Candalaria area of Sikhs and the relocation of the Jewish temple to near the Candalaria neighborhood. The Sikhs have had a hard time of it recently. The Catholic Church near the neighborhood has hosted some great community and disability rights organizing efforts recently also. The neighborhood also has more people renting homes as housing sales drop and as development grows. There seem to be more state workers settling there as the effects of the wage freeze wear off and uncertainty over what will happen with PERS remains. This is a neighborhood facing change.

We need to be able to respond with numbers to the racists in our community. Racism is unacceptable in any form. Every progressive person, every religious person and every union in this town needs to be on the same side in this coming fight.

September 19, 2006

In Hungary The "Socialists" Slide Backwards

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has admitted lying about the state of the Hungarian economy and has admitted that his government and many of the experts the government relies upon also lied and tricked people into giving his Socialist Party and the Free Democrats a win in the elections in April. The Hungarian economy is in far worse shape than the Socialists and Free Democrats admitted. The austerity or "retrenchment" measures introduced by the government and its allies have been discreditied or, at least, are seen in a different light as rumors circulate about the liefestyles of rich and famous bureaucrats and capital being exported for individual consumption and pleasure.

Every government lies. The Prime Minister might be forgiven for this. And most governments pursue policies which enrich a few at the expense of the people. Austerity measures are common to most governments and govering parties these days, and have been for thirty years or so. However, the Hungarian Prime Minister's remarks were captured on tape and were punctuated with certain obscenities. The tapes were released just prior to scheduled anti-government demonstrations. This amounts to pouring oil on a fire. At last count in the foreign press, about 150 people had been injured in rioting--most of them police--and a crowd which had taken over the state television offices in Budapest had been dislodged by the police. The memorial to Russian soldiers in Budapest has been attacked by a mob and cars have been set on fire in the city. Protests are taking place in most cities.

The opposition is charging that their ranks have been infiltrated by the government and that these infiltrators are the ones leading the violence. In the American press it is being said that the far-right is leading the demonstrations and calling for the resignation of the government. A friend from Hungary wrote this morning to tell me that if the government does not resign there will be more and escalating violence. Gyurcsany must believe this also as he calls for calm and confidence in the government, calls in additional police forces and refuses to accept the resignation of the head of the police.

The "Socialist" Party and government inherited parts of the political and economic machinery of
Communist Hungary but little or none of its ideology. For instance, there is really no Socialist rural policy in place now and no will at the top to create a policy for rural redevelopment. Gyurcsany himself is a product of different times and humble beginnings. His opportunism was apparent when he headed the youth wing of the Hungarian communist movement 25 years ago. Hungary has lacked political and economic stability since turning to capitalism: this is the first government since that turn to have two successive runs in office.

When I was in Hungary in April and May it was clear that the Prime Minister was barely hanging on to power and that there was widespread and explosive opposition to his party. Much of this opposition, it seemed to me, was opposition to austerity measures which socialists have little business pushing in the first place. It also seemed to me that the social base of Hungarian Socialist Party resides among the secure and young professionals who identify with western Europe and the USA. The political and economic machinery they can marshall to win elections cannot be trusted to administer a complex economy or a divided nation.

If the crowds in the streets are indeed being led by the far right--and we do not know if this is so--the "Socialists" are still much to blame for having allowed this crisis to mature and grow to this point and for not having mobilized the workers who support the Party and government, however critically, to understand the crisis and defend social institutions. The "Socialists" opened the door to the crisis by not serving the people, with their dishonesty and condescension and with their austerity programs.

How much damage will be done if the government is overthrown and the far-right seizes power? We don't know. Today such a development seems likely. A regime in Hungary which mirrors the regime in Poland and approaches the kind of extremism seen in Croatia, Slovakia, Romania and Italy a few years ago begins to feel like a bloc which could easily go over to fascism. We must ask ourselves soberly what holds such a development back.

September 13, 2006

Pimping the Working Class

Every two and four years in November, American working class people have a unique opportunity; the chance to elect their own pimps! Yeah, and I do mean pimps, because what American government offers workers is the wider opportunity to be screwed, with the conditions of the act left entirely with the folks doing the screwing; read here "Employers". Harsh as it sounds, here's three examples of working people being pimped by their government.
Some folks may remember that in July, the Chicago City Council passed a Living wage ordinance aimed at Wal-Mart and 42 other large retail operations. The Chicago ordinance would have required these 43 odd retailers, those with over $1 billion in operations and operating stores of 90,000 square feet or more, to pay a minimum hourly wage of $10 and to put another $3 per hour into benefits, all to be phased in by 2010. Great piece of legislation, but at this point it's all history with Chicago's City Council being three votes shy of overcoming Mayor Richard Daley's veto of the ordinance earlier today. Making the story slightly more pathetic, the Mayor's veto (by the way, the first mayoral veto of a City council action in 17 years) could have been overcome but for three crossover votes from City Council members who originally supported the legislation.

Shirley Coleman, who originally supported the July Living Wage Ordinance, changed her vote based on a "verbal promise" from Wal-Mart to build a second Wal-Mart store in her district. Evidently, Ms. Coleman believes that its better to have twice as many jobs you can't live on, than to have half the number of jobs you can live on. Danny Solis, another Chicago Alderman who also voted for the ordinance, stated that on this issue, "... he's (the Mayor) absolutely right." I wonder how Mr. Solis came to see the Mayor's great wisdom now, but so missed it in July. The third crossover, George Cardenas, doesn't appear to be saying much at all, which might be the most honest political statement coming out of any of the three.

Then there's the State of Maryland. Maryland's Supreme Court recently overturned State legislation requiring Wal-Mart and other large employers to provide decent health insurance to all their employees. The cynic in me says that half the Maryland legislaters who voted to require the big retailers to provode health insurance, knew the l;egislation was unconstitutional to start with, thus allowing a lot of grand-standing without really having to tweek the corporate powers that be al all. But then, like I said, I'm a self-confessed cynic when it comes to government.

My third example is a year-old case coming out of the Supreme Court, Kelo vs. New London, Connecticut. This particular case comes out of an eminent domain situation where the city of New London seized and forced neighborhood residents to sell their homes and properties to New London based on a corporate investment scheme flying under the rubric of "economic development". The June 2005 US Supreme court decision upheld the City of New London's seizure of a non-blighted working class neighborhood by a vote of 5 to 4. In lots of ways, the Kelo decision is precedent making in that for the first time, government has been allowed to seize the property of lots of residents for the specific purpose of making room for corporate investment deals.

All of the above examples are politics as usual. Unfortunately, politics as usual looks all too much like pimping, where the role of government seems to be one of selling out the commonwealth to the bidder with the biggest bucks. If there is a common denominator in all of the above examples, it's that all of them were done with justifications of making life better for working people. Evidently, for Mayor Daley, Shirley Coleman and others, the opportunity to be screwed for as little as possible is better than not being screwed at all. I don't really know how else one can justify the creation of jobs when the folks working them can't make a living.

Kelo vs New London was also justified on the basis of jobs. New London says it copped the deal with the corporate investors because it would create jobs. New London never attempted to get guarantees around the number of jobs, what kind of jobs, what they'd pay or who they'd employed. All the same, New London's actions were justified by the Supreme Court based on the overriding economic development interests of the community.... Never mind that the community interests aren't defined but that a lot of working people are now out of a home.

So, I call it pimping. I don't know any better metaphor than this when time and time again giant capitalist interests are given the run of a community, its neighborhoods and people, and all being justified by government as being in the public interest.

Next, I'd like to rant about tax abatements.... You know? Where corporations and large businesses go to the government and say, "give us a break on our taxes or we'll leave and kill your town". In Oregon alone, tax abatements are worth millions and millions. Some used to call this stratgy blackmail.... But that's a different story....

Everybody Look Up--But What Do We See?

Our Comrade Chuck recently posted an article here called "Everybody Looks Up." The posting has provoked much discussion and has gotten us some attention. In his article Chuck tried to describe "a modern form of social pathology" which anyone who does organizing bumps up against every day. Chuck located the pathology by saying "...people are so in awe and afraid of institutional power, and have such an ingrained sense of powerlessness that perception itself has been altered, even for those who should know better."

If you're not struggling with this and against this you probably aren't organizing.

I disagree with Comrade Chuck's assessment of union leadership generally. And as one of the union staff mentioned in the article, I need to say that I felt fully supported by the formal union leadership in our not-so-successful recent statewide actions. I locate the specific problems which made the actions less-than-successful in our structure and in the opportunism present at the union's base (other staff and union member-leaders). I also take a long view and force myself to be patient: we are at the beginning of a contract campaign which may last one year or a bit longer and there will be forward and backward steps. At our best we are a school in which we train ourselves and others to take part in and lead bigger struggles than this. We have inherited very little from our history which is of much use in the present moment and so we must reinvent and learn as we go along. And Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) reminded us many times that not all movement is progress.

But Comrade Chuck has stated a truth which is larger than my disagreements with him. Here are some observations on how this truth works itself out.

Last weekend I led a training on "values-based organizing" which I constructed out of my past organizing experience, socialist and Christian values and my understanding of class. The training says that we can organize on the basis of sharing and joining our separate stories as workers, self-consciously considering our pasts and looking into our stories for lessons on how we experience power and powerlessness as workers. The training recognizes the kinds of crises in civil society which Chuck pointed out and stresses reflection through keeping a journal, using healthy one-on-one conversations for organizing, creating and winning people to a common "future story," using unions and workers' organizations as "recovery programs" from the bad values enforced under capitalism and developing self-disciplined worker-intellectuals. Getting through the training requires that everyone participating be vulnerable, self-critical and willing to struggle. I took some of the ethics used in the training from Mao's early writing and used this to argue about how we know if a concept is correct or incorrect.

I expected to get push-back from the union members on the amount of work expected in this training and I got it. Most union trainings are structured as call-and-response trainings and the member-leaders taking part know the "correct" answers and repeat them to staff and to one another. Most of us probably believe what we're saying, but most of us don't live those answers out or translate them meaningfully into our daily work. In values-based organizing the paradigm shifts: the standard questions aren't asked and the standard answers aren't acceptable. People look inward as a step beyond their experiences.

Most of the workers did not want to journal or reflect and share their reflections with others. I also expected that this would be a problem. People faltered on the basic question of class. I first asked the workers to tell who ever encouraged them to think critically and we came up with a good list. Then I asked the group to say who has encouraged them to think critically as workers. For many of the people in the group this led logically into a discussion of their jobs because they could not separate the identity of "worker" from work and apply it politically and culturally--at work and in the union they are "workers" but everywhere else they live as part of a middle-class. For some of us, this discussion was a radical step away from looking up.

The "muscle" of critical thinking weakens and eventually atrophies if it isn't used. We talked about how different the union might be if we encouraged critical thinking and if we made forming egalitarian relationships between workers and leadership a central task for union activists. I gave the workers a few chapters from Teddy Atlas' great autobiography and a recent political history piece from The Nation as an encouragement and springboard for future critical thinking and journaling. Atlas' autobiography may be one of the best books on organizing written in recent years. I'm not optimistic that most of the workers will take up the challenge, but a few will and I believe that the program is basically sound.

I did not expect that the workers would so quickly understand the differences between critical thinking and being critics, but they got there quickly and enjoyed that part of the discussion. I did expect that they would get the study-act-study model of approaching their work, an instinctively dialectical process we should bring to organizing, but this didn't ring true to them. They picked up and ran with our discussion on coming into healthy relationships with other workers and the ethics and import of containing individualism. The Maoist ethics I incorporated into the training made sense to almost everyone.

The training I did was followed by a political discussion led by a staffperson working in the union's political department. The group quickly fell apart as he raised the issues of immigration and immigrant rights. The values we spent much of the day working on and clarifying took second place to unconscious racism and the tepid, defensively liberal responses progressive union activists often rush to in these heated arguments. Unchecked by progressive leadership and radical organizing at the base, racism and the defensive arguments our people use to combat it always undermine unionism. I came away from the discussion thinking about how we can transform a dialogue on class and class values into an anti-racist discussion, whether or not white people can work from working class values towards anti-racism at the present time and the challenges of doing anti-racist and radical organizing among whites which we have so far refused to face.

We certainly do look up, and our perceptions are altered by power relationships to the point of being almost hallucinogenic, but what each of us sees and fears as we strain to see what is above us differs. Our white union sisters and brothers see people who look just like them slamming a door in their faces and this confuses them. When they look sideways and down they see unfamiliar faces. A recent study of some young African-American men is said to have demonstrated that their school drop-out rates and the use of mysogonistic rap music is tied to wanting respect from white peers. If this is true, its also a tragic form of dependency and the very opposite of self-determination. A white woman who has been harassed by her (white) boss and coworkers asked me yesterday why they are getting away with this. When I answered that "its their system and their country and their rules" her head snapped back in shock; perhaps my blunt reply forced her to reconsider what she sees as she looks up, but she may also be incapable of doing that because white or American identification works against self-consciousness and class consciousness. And so it goes...

We are in a more dangerous moment than we realize. Our left and union traditions may not carry in themselves the answers or strength we need to face reality. If that is the case, we can't blame the union leaderships or the petty-bourgeois tendencies on the left for our situation. For that matter, we are caught having to love, trust and serve the workers and the people as revolutionaries while the tendency to "look up" isolates us. This is a time to challenge ourselves and other workers on the fundamentals, to pull and push one another into the streets and into organizing projects and to admit that we're doing this in order to break out of social encirclement and stress the contradictions between what is and what is necessary and possible. We can shake ourselves and others out of habitually looking up, but many people will only stop looking up when the ceiling caves in.

September 5, 2006

Portland Immigrant Rights March

On Sunday, September 3, a demonstration and march calling for immigrant rights was held in Portland. The Portland demonstration, in turn, was to be part of a national mobilization day around immigrant rights, with demonstrations and marches planned in most major US cities.

In all cases, it appears that the large numbers expected by mobilization organizers did not happen. The Portland march and demonstration was attended by somewhere between two and three thousand. Mobilizations in other US cities also appear not to have drawn the big crowds, with very little demonstration coverage coming from such cities as Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Miami or anyplace else in the US.

A major factor in the lower than expected numbers might be the result of the very succesful large demonstrations around immigrant rights in April and May. No matter how one looks at it, the April and May demonstrations exceeded organizers' wildest expectations here in Oregon and throughout the United States. foto by Lucie

A second factor in the lower than planned numbers might also stem from a lack of impending legislation hostile to immigrant workers. In April and May, undocumented workers were faced with the Sensenbrenner Bill in the House of Representatives. If it had passed, the Sensenbrenner Bill would have moved undocumented workers to the status of felons. As such, the Seinsenbrenner Bill was a declaration of war against all immigrants and their families, and thus, seemed to have galvanized the immigrant community.

In some respects, the September 3rd mobilization wight be the more representative event as the movement for immigrant rights moves forward. At this stage, it appears that the Sensenbrenner Bill is dead, as is the possibility of any immigration legislation passing out of the current Congress and Administration. This lack of legislation is the result of a lack of agreement within the Republican Party as to how to deal with undocumanted workers. While Bill Sensenbrenner and conservative northern Republicans would be more than happy to beat up undocumented workers, there is also another wing of the Repblican Party, from the South and the West, who understand that undocumented workers are the key ingrediant to the nation's labor-intensive agricultural operations such as vegatable, fruit, nursery, and diary farming, not to mention other non-agricultural low-wage industries.

For the Immgrant Rights movement, the lack of pending Republican "immigration reform" is a two-edged sword. On one hand, the threat from the Republican right rapidly mobilized immigrant workers in a climate of fear and hostility. On the other hand however, the climate of hostility evident in April and May made mobilization possible without really having to define the purpose and meaning of an Immigrant Rights movement.

Without the fear of immediate harm from above, the Immigrant Rights movement will have to define itself, its aims and its goals. Self definition of a movement sounds easy, but indeed, fashioning is quite a bit harder as understandings will need to be forged across large numbers of immigrant workers and their allies. Hopefully, a future consensus within and immigrant workers' movement will include the notion that second-class vulnerable workers is a status that does all workers harm. Either way however, minus a major threat from the right, it will be up to the Immigrant Rights movement to pull itself together; a hard row to hoe.

In spite of the lower than expected turnout, the Sunday march in Portland did have its successes. The mood of the demonstrators was upbeat. A second factor tending towards success is that the demonstration was almost equally divided between immigrant workers and their families and mostly white, native born supporters of immigrant rights. Key on the support end of things was that workers and union members made up a disproportionately large segment of native born supporters. Truly, there does seem to be a sense on the part of progressive native-born workers that an injury to one is an injury to all, and that workers do need to stick together regardless of national citizenship and widely divergent cultural backgrounds.

September 2, 2006

Book Review--Outlaws of America

Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity by Dan Berger. 432 pages. AK Press, $20.00.

In June of 1969 Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) met in convention in Chicago and experienced a split which has defined for many of us the paths and possibilities of what was then called the New Left. One of the groups coming out of SDS stuck with the still-existing Progressive Labor Party (PL). Another group called itself the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM). RYM split as well. One RYM faction experienced a series of splits which eventually created a number of groups which came to collectively form an important base of the New Communist Movement. Another faction became Weatherman which then became the Weather Underground Organization (WUO). This book is primarily about WUO.

WUO may only have had a couple of hundred active members and supporters at its highest points, but its militant actions and the manifestos the organization issued from underground brought reactions far beyond what the small numbers of WUO's members might have suggested. Weatherman went underground almost immediately after its founding in 1969. The organization quickly formed collectives, toughened its members up through street violence and confrontations, declared war on the system and carried out a number of bombings in support of anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist and anti-racist movements here and abroad. Central to the WUO was a committment to work against racism and to militantly support Black liberation and struggles for self-determination in the US and across the Third World. WUO members engaged in especially difficult personal and political struggles in order to give these concepts ever-deeper meaning. The last bombing the WUO did was, I believe, in 1977. That action was done as the group was coming apart. An attempted change in political direction, police infiltration and stresses related to larger political changes taking place killed WUO. From that point to 1985 armed actions carried out by other groups involved some Weatherpeople and led to multiple arrests. A number of people associated with WUO also surfaced in this period. Many of the people associated with WUO and similar or associated groups remain in prison today. In 1975 the WUO began a process of above-ground political organizing. The still-active Prairie Fire Organizing Committee (PFOC) developed out of that organizing effort.

Berger's book is one of several recent books examining the WUO and the period of time in which it was active. This book will serve as an excellent introduction to WUO and the contexts in which it operated. The author is apparently close enough politically to the WUO line that we can see the strong and weak points of that line and how that line of thought and action may have developed to the present time. The book cuts through certain myths which inhibit our understanding of armed movements for social change. We learn about the real motivations and the criticism and self-criticism WUO militants worked with. I hope that the book will help to provoke a series of constructive discussions.

There are a number of relatively minor mistakes in the text. I think that Berger gets parts of the history of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) wrong. He does not provide a nuanced view of the Black Panther Party. He writes off PL too easily and does not give readers an understanding of the broader left in the 1960s and 1970s. He underestimates the importance and possibilities of what took place in France in 1968. He refers to PFOC as a "mass organization" and says that "...the 1970s were...alive with action" and so mistakenly inflates the standing and work of a faction and overstates the atmosphere and context of a decade.

There are more important errors in judgement and ideology, however. Berger uncritically accepts a strained dichotomy of a "New" versus "Old" Left. In 1967 the Russian Revolution was only 50 years old, the People's Democracies and Socialist Yugoslavia had barely existed for two generations and China had not yet been free for 20 years. These were still young revolutions and were self-conscious and self-critical of their work. Leftists all over the world engaged with these revolutions, and did so with considerable critical thinking. Berger seems only to see an exaggerated distance between these revolutions and some young American revolutionaries. In Berger's hands the critical point of departure is located in some radicalized American youth. By page 270 he is mistakenly counterposing a sterotyped "bureaucratic and authoritarian state socialism of the Old Left variety" to other national liberation movements. The book lacks much-needed critical thinking in this area.

Early in the book Berger exaggerates the nature and meaning of antiwar protests taking place in 1967. He builds on this error and arrives at the point of saying that the protests and building occupations at Columbia University in 1968 were a test of anti-imperialist guerilla strategy worked out in Latin America by Che Guevara and Regis Debray. This is exaggeration and bravado.

Berger seems to uncritically accept the formulation that people of color in the USA are colonized in much the same way as colonized peoples are overseas. He provides a sort of checklist of conditions which he may believe proves this point. The list documents special oppression, discrimination, uneven development and a failure in class formation and development which may be unique to the USA but it does not document the existence of internal colonies or colonization. It seems to follow for Berger that people of color in the USA can liberate themselves and that the proper role for white radicals is to organize in their own communities and engage in forms of armed struggle which take the heat off of an anti-colonial struggle waged here by people of color. This was, roughly speaking, a guiding set of concepts for people around WUO.

If people of color make up twenty per cent of the population in the USA they certainly cannot liberate themselves only through their own efforts, even assuming mass agreement here on a shared political program and the leadership of left-led anti-colonial struggles taking place elsewhere in the world. Moreover, it seems impossible that society could withstand the shock of a revolution and build something good out of the ashes without tested revolutionary organizations in the workplace. It seems not to have occured to Berger--and perhaps not to the WUO until it was too late--that an American proletariat will be largely led and made up of people of color. It is not a given that these forces will share the same interests or means of struggle with others.

The idea that white radicals have a primary responsibility to organize in white communities is certainly valid. SNCC arrived at this point in part because white presence in civil rights struggles brought down levels of repression SNCC was unprepared for and because it can truthfully be said that civil rights legislation was largely written for white people. Moreover, white people rarely listen to and respect Black activists. Alliances between disparate but cooperating radical forces rooted in different communities may better serve radical ends than unitary organizations based solely on social struggles or single objectives. The question of whether or not armed struggle is a form of organizing remains unanswered. The principle that whites can and should organize in white communities for radical and anti-racist ends remains untested.

When we deal with workplace struggles we leave that familiar terrain. Workplace struggles most often occur when workers' consciousness has stabilized and formed around sets of shared demands which can only be won through unifying organizations. In some key situations people of color have had to form separate organizations, or have had a history of autonomous and independent struggle in a workplace or industry, which have eventually moved others towards class consciousness and enabled the creation of unitary demands and unifying struggles. Surrender of autonomy and independent struggle, especially under such conditions, has always been a tragic step backwards. We cannot fault Berger and the WUO for not dealing with these questions in detail. However, we must ask why the 1968-1971 strike wave in the US and the lessons which parts of the left drew from those strikes so escaped WUO and why Berger doesn't reflect upon this.

Where does this leave Berger and WUO? By page 91 of the book, or by 1969-1970, the author and WUO sound as if they are fundamentally opposed to organization and organizing. By page 150, or by late 1970, WUO's armed struggle begins to sound not so different than the solitary pacifist witness WUO so hated. "Anti-imperialism" in the hands of WUO and Berger are by then identified almost solely with armed struggle. WUO, it would seem, is failing by even its own standards at this point, although Berger doesn't say this and may not agree. The reader feels as if we are lurching from disaster to disaster. By page 227, or 1975, we are reading a criticism of the first PFOC conference for "...abandoning self-determination in favor of party-building," as if one is inherently opposed to the other. The thinking of other anti-imperialists like Eqbal Ahmed and CLR James is nowhere in evidence here.

The book refers in several places to "a classical white Marxism that downplayed race" but the author does not name the people or organizations he is accusing and does not provide concrete examples of what is being criticized.

A number of practical questions arise. In the 1975-1977 period, summarized for us in part on pages 230-243, we see WUO attempting to form an aboveground organization (PFOC) while struggling internally with political questions which soon caused WUO to split. There was an initial period of interest then in WUO and some bridge-building between WUO and aboveground organizations which had parted ways years before. Those partings had often been charged with hostility. The bridge-building was slow but worked until WUO was finally rebuffed by many of those organizations. I remember this period well. There were individuals in WUO protesting that their organization was not democratic. Can an underground organization be democratic? Berger says that at this point " seemed that (WUO) had lost its humanist grounding." Can an organization focused on armed struggle maintain a humanist grounding? Could it have reasonably been expected to grasp and correctly interpret the signifigance of feminism and gay liberation from underground? The dispersion of the left which Berger describes in the twelfth chapter of the book is real, but he does not call for the creation of a new political party and clearly disrespects anything associated with the historic left. What is his alternative? Berger says that WUO "...provides a model for white people's participation in anti-racist movements." This book details a series of failures and missteps and tells the story of a small organization which was generally isolated and constantly in crisis. What is it exactly in the WUO experience which provides a model? When Berger says that WUO's impact must be judged on the basis of being a "...moral, pedagogical, and militant form of guerilla theater with a bang" he is unintentionally diminishing WUO's contributions. We read that some "middle class" Weatherpeople who surfaced did little or no jail time while Black revolutionaries accused of similar activities fared far worse. Some of these Weatherpeople have since moved on to white collar jobs. What we do not hear about is what happened to the white working class people who were drawn to armed revolutionary actions in this period. How have they fared and what do they think now? Naomi Jaffe is quoted on page 282 asking critical questions about movement-building, leadership and solidarity. Her questions go unanswered. By the end of the book class struggle has been almost entirely discounted. By the time we get to Jaffe's important questions we are hearing Berger say, in effect, that class must be viewed through the lenses of political questions and issues such as colonialism and imperialism. Is this not exactly the opposite of what should and does occur? Should we not look at all political questions through the lenses of class struggle?

August 29, 2006

Three Important Things To Do

First, this Sunday, September 3, A March in Support of Immigration Reform will be held in Portland. Here are the specifics:

Sunday, September 3rd, 2:00pm at the South Park Blocks (corner of SW Salmon and Park)

The demonstration is being organized by: Portland Immigrant Rights Coalition, VOZ Workers' Rights Education Project, CAUSA, JwJ, PCASC, AFSC, SEIU Local 49, SEIU Local 503, AFSCME Council 75, Latino Network, Oregon Farm Workers' Ministry, Center for Intercultural Organizing, PCUN, Hermandad Mexicana, Social Activist Youth, Jefferson Center for Education and Research, Escuel Magdalena Mora.

Second: On August 28 (yesterday), 107 Australian construction workers went on trial for the crime of going on strike. The original incident involved a job action by the 107 in support of a union delegate who was fired for pressing safety issues on a railroad construction job. Each of the 107 is facing fines up to $28,000 (Australian Dollars).

Folks should be aware that Australia's Howard administration leads the industrialized world in anti-union and anti-worker legislation. Collective bargaining is just about dead in Australia, having been replaced by a system of individual contracts involving direct contracts between individual workers and the employer. The role of unions appears to have diminished to advising individual members as they attempt to work out a deal with the boss. As far as I know, individual strikes are still legal (meaning you can quit).

The 107 Australian workers need your help. Please send a message to the Australian government in support of the 107. This is an important message, however it will take no more than 30 seconds of your time. Please do ASAP!

Third: On Saturday, September 16, Portland Jobs with Justice will be holding a training on Immigrant Rights. The event, How to talk to Co-Workers and Fellow Union Members About Issues of Immigration, will be held at the SEIU Local 503 union hall at 6401 SE Foster in Portland (where SE Foster and SE Holgate cross). This event will begin at 10:00am and end at 3:30pm. Lunch will be provided. For further info contact Portland Jobs with Justice at 503-236-5573

August 28, 2006

Wal-Mart, Schmal-Mart

Quite deservedly, Wal-Mart has found itself to be the poster-child target of a number of pieces of local and State legislation. With pressure from Jobs with Justice, the Chicago Federation of Labor, and a number of African-American and Latin community organizations, The Chicago City Council recently passed living wage legislation aimed at Wal-Mart 's operations in Chicago. In particular, Wal-Mart will now be required to pay a living wage in the poor and working class neighborhoods where it is expanding its operations.

Earlier this year, the State of Maryland passed legislation requiring retail employers of a certain large size, read Wal-Mart, to provide health insurance benefits to all its employees. Similiar legislation is at least pending in other states. By the way too, Wal-Mart has taken some big hits in the courts with a number of discrimination, overtime and other hours of work violations.

Try as I might, I can't find it in my heart to cry the blues for Lee Scott CEO, and the Beast of Bensonville. You reap what you sow, eh?

Still, I'm a little concerned. While we've all been busy trimming the Beast's feathers, some other, and far more major stuff has slipped out of the gate with barely a murmur from our political leaders, the press, and the union hierarchies.

Folks might have heard that a Federal pension reform bill has recently passed and been signed by the #@$%^@$^ in the White House. Without exaggerating, this piece of legislation signals the end of retirement benefits as we know them. Currently defined benefit pension plans, the only kind of retirement plan that provides a guaranteed income until the retired worker dies, are underfunded to the tune of about $450 billion.

Some poor innocent souls might be concerned that $450 billion in the hole means that a whole lot of workers out there won't get the pensions they earned. This concern is not however our government's concern. The government's concern, as recently demonstrated with its pension reform bill, is to help eliminate the only type of retirement plan out there that provides real economic security for retirees. Why? Because defined benefit plans are a costly liability for the corporations and the government ain't interested in picking up the tab when the employer defaults.

So, what is the pension reform package? Simply (Very simply. Pensions are complicated, but I do stand by my conclusion) a whole new pile of options allowing corporations to bail out of their pension obligations. Want to know the score as our Congress voted on this important issue? House of Representatives, 279 to 131; Senate, 93 to 5. The unions, by the way, took no unified stance on this issue and either OKed the package, or opposed it , based on its projected effects in each union's industry.

Meanwhile, while corporations are getting bailed out of their pension obligations, the courts are helping corporation void their other costs through the wonders of the bankruptcy courts. Northwest flight attendants recently ate a 40% cut in wages and benefits, as mandated by the bankruptcy court. Not being too pleased, flight attendants were ready to go on strike last Friday at midnight... That is until the Bush administration issued an injunction barring the strike.

Bankruptcy law is about to go into effect against Delphi workers too. Delphi, GM's major parts supplier, is sticking its workers with a roughly 70% wage and benefit cut. The case is still pending, but there is little hope given that bankruptcy law is designed in the interests of corporations, by corporations. UAW Delphi workers are arming for war, but their allies are few... in government and in the wider labor movement.

So, I'm concerned.

For me, Wal-Mart isn't the problem. It's one of the symptoms of the problem, and I do grant that Wal-Mart has taken corporate greed to systematically new heights, but it is not the problem.

For me, the problem is capitalism and its organization of society in the interests of property and wealth. Thus, while going after Wal-Mart may be fun, the attention that it is paid only detracts from the wider analysis of a society that beats workers up across the board.

August 27, 2006

UK Airliner Bomb Plot: Trust No One!

"Trust No One!" This was the theme of the old 90s TV show, The X-Files. I always liked The X-Files. The ambiance portrayed; the secret government committees, paranoid conspiracies, bureaucratic spin and cover-up; all seemed to ring true to the current methods of governmental and institutional power.

It's an old saying, but if anything is true about the 21st century it is indeed that, reality is stranger than fiction.

A couple of weeks ago the British announced the uncovering of a major "plot" to blow up airliners over the Atlantic. On both sides of the Atlantic, the terrorometer jumped, and everything from bottled water to books hit the contraband list. Government spokespeople and the press reminded us once again that, "we are at war."

Something felt fishy about the whole thing. Maybe it was the lack of substance to the press reports as the suspects were rounded up. Maybe it was a native distrust of anything the UK or US government had to say, given their recent track records on the truth. All the same, I was skeptical.

Seems that there are more than a few odd ducks like me out there who feel something was a little fishy about the "plot."

Craig Murray, the author of the article below, is a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan. Being a lot closer to the machinery of government than most of us, Mr. Murray’s sense of fishiness around "the plot" has far more substance than my amorphous mistrust.

So, read on! And remember, "trust no one."

Spectrezine Webzine: August 21, 2006 17:53 by Craig Murray

I have been reading very carefully through all the Sunday newspapers to try and analyse the truth from all the scores of pages claiming to detail the so-called bomb plot. Unlike the great herd of so-called security experts doing the media analysis, I have the advantage of having had the very highest security clearances myself, having done a huge amount of professional intelligence analysis, and having been inside the spin machine.

So this, I believe, is the true story.

None of the alleged terrorists had made a bomb. None had bought a plane ticket. Many did not even have passports, which given the efficiency of the UK Passport Agency would mean they couldn't be a plane bomber for quite some time.

In the absence of bombs and airline tickets, and in many cases passports, it could be pretty difficult to convince a jury beyond reasonable doubt that individuals intended to go through with suicide bombings, whatever rash stuff they may have bragged in internet chat rooms.

What is more, many of those arrested had been under surveillance for over a year - like thousands of other British Muslims. And not just Muslims. Like me. Nothing from that surveillance had indicated the need for early arrests.

Then an interrogation in Pakistan revealed the details of this amazing plot to blow up multiple planes - which, rather extraordinarily, had not turned up in a year of surveillance. Of course, the interrogators of the Pakistani dictator have their ways of making people sing like canaries. As I witnessed in Uzbekistan, you can get the most extraordinary information this way. Trouble is it always tends to give the interrogators all they might want, and more, in a desperate effort to stop or avert torture. What it doesn't give is the truth.

The gentleman being "interrogated" had fled the UK after being wanted for questioning over the murder of his uncle some years ago. That might be felt to cast some doubt on his reliability. It might also be felt that factors other than political ones might be at play within these relationships. Much is also being made of large transfers of money outside the formal economy. Not in fact too unusual in the British Muslim community, but if this activity is criminal, there are many possibilities that have nothing to do with terrorism.

We then have the extraordinary question of Bush and Blair discussing the possible arrests over the weekend. Why? I think the answer to that is plain. Both in desperate domestic political trouble, they longed for "Another 9/11". The intelligence from Pakistan, however dodgy, gave them a new 9/11 they could sell to the media. The media has bought, wholesale, all the rubbish they have been shovelled.

We then have the appalling political propaganda of John Reid, Home Secretary, making a speech warning us all of the dreadful evil threatening us and complaining that "Some people don't get" the need to abandon all our traditional liberties. He then went on, according to his own propaganda machine, to stay up all night and minutely direct the arrests. There could be no clearer evidence that our Police are now just a political tool. Like all the best nasty regimes, the knock on the door came in the middle of the night, at 2.30 am. Those arrested included a mother with a six week old baby.

We will now never know if any of those arrested would have gone on to make a bomb or buy a plane ticket. Most of them do not fit the "Loner" profile you would expect - a tiny percentage of suicide bombers have happy marriages and young children. As they were all under surveillance, and certainly would have been on airport watch lists, there could have been little danger in letting them proceed closer to maturity - that is certainly what we would have done with the IRA.

In all of this, the one thing of which I am certain is that the timing is deeply political. This is more propaganda than plot. Of the over one thousand British Muslims arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, only twelve per cent are ever charged with anything. That is simply harrassment of Muslims on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% are acquitted. Most of the very few - just over two per cent of arrests - who are convicted, are not convicted of anything to do terrorism, but of some minor offence the Police happened upon while trawling through the wreck of the lives they had shattered.

Be sceptical. Be very, very sceptical.

Thanks to Craig Murray and Spectrezine for the above article.

August 20, 2006

Woodburn and Immigrant Rights: Serve The People

Yesterday two of us from our Salem-area socialist group drove up to Woodburn, Oregon to help put together the building which the regional farmworkers' union, PCUN, will use to house their new low-power radio station. Several more volunteers showed up to help from the union we work for.

I had a conflict in values over going to Woodburn late on Friday. We heard that the Oregon Minutemen were doing an action yesterday against immigrant day laborers in Cornelius, Oregon and I wanted to be there with others to resist them. I see from going through the blogs that that action came off and that they're claiming victory. I went to Woodburn because we had made a collective decision to do this and because we need to set a strong example for our co-workers and others in local solidarity.

A media conference was being held at the PCUN offices while a few of us worked on the building. I wasn't sure if we would, or should, participate in that conference. The crowd attending was predominately young, white and media savvy while we're older and used to physical work. I felt that it was more important to get the work done. We watched the young people and felt some cultural distance, but I'm glad that they did their work and made their connections. We got to meet a few of those good folks.

The station is KPCN. It will run at 100 watts at 96.3 FM in Woodburn. We hope that it will be a strong voice for the working class. PCUN claims about 5000 members and is a force in the community and in state politics. It maintains its position, I think, through its ability to mobilize and serve the community.

Last week we hosted a benefit for the VOZ day laborer project in Independence, Oregon. We raised about $700 and had a great time doing it. Our crowd was small but generous, and with a few new faces. Our base remains older union members.

Going to and coming back from the Woodburn work, we had the opportunity to speak with a local progressive labor leader. We talked about the internal life of unions--the issues no one discusses enough--and the broader picture and context we all live and work in. Whatever disagreements we may have over goals and a broader radical strategy, I have nothing but respect and love for this union leader. She's focused on doing the work her position demands and doing it well. It remains the task of good union leaders to get the most they can with and for the rank and file and to not lose principles while doing it. The temptation, created inherently by the system we live in, is to rely on people and forces who are, by nature, unreliable--the Democrats and liberal organizations and bureaucracies--and to cut corners when that seems necessary. When we can, we try to build lasting union power. Where we may disagree with our sister union leader is on the object or goal of that power, cutting corners and how independent our power needs to be.

We talked briefly about the extent to which we build, correctly or incorrectly, a relationship of reliance between workers and the union and the relative value of institutionalizing our work. We all agreed that we need to build unions, not egos. Believe it or not, this is a radical point of view for a union leader to take.

My Party comrade and I got to talk a little about the directions we want to see our local socialist organization take. I move between favoring working as a collective or building a local or regional non-electoral party based on social movements; we can't have both at the same time, but I wonder if we need the former to create the latter and how we can make this decision. I'm clear that it needs to be a conscious decision made by our group.

These events, the discussions with our sister and with my comrade and some of the reading I'm doing put in mind the slogan "Serve the people!" which came to us from Mao. I would add to that slogan "Love the people! Trust the people! Organize!" and I take what Tito did as an example of loving and trusting the people.

Check out to see more of what I'm thinking about here.