February 29, 2008

Freightliner Five Representatives Come To Portland

Last night I went to an event in Portland to support the Freightliner Five, five workers who were fired last April at the Freightliner Cleveland, North Carolina plant after leading or supporting a strike against concessions. The workers were members of UAW Local 3520. The event was sponsored by the International Socialist Organization and is part of a nationwide solidarity tour organized to support these workers.

The Local’s origins and the strike reflect both the militancy and tensions present when workers organize—and especially when southern workers organize—and the tremendous need and interest we all share in southern union organizing. Breaking the back of the anti-union forces in the south will mean that a new stage has been reached in American unionism and new possibilities will open up for civil rights and democratic movements. The immediate questions we face concern whether or not unions and community organizations are prepared for these struggles and these developments and what political forces have to exist and align in order to guarantee victories and extend union campaigns.

The Local was founded in an anti-concessions fight in 2002 and, to hear the two Freightliner workers tell it, was deeply connected to the community in its early days. The Local came into formal existence through a card check under especially tough circumstances. This card check arrangement also brought with it limits on what the workers could achieve in terms of parity with other unionized Freightliner workers. The Local therefore came into existence with some deep-set divisions in its ranks.

These divisions showed up—and the workers were fired—during the second (2007) contract negotiations. During these negotiations there was a split in the Local and a serious breach between the International Union’s negotiating committee and the Local Union’s bargaining team. With 22 articles still open in their local contract, and with pressure coming from the company and the International Union to accept concessions, the Local’s strike committee called a short strike without the International Union’s sanction. That strike ended when the Local Union President called workers back to work. The International Union won an extension of the contract and eleven workers were fired. Six of these eleven were later returned to work. Five of the eleven were Local Union officers. The contract was approved in a re-vote organized by the International Union. Since that time, say the workers I heard last night, the Local Union has lost membership and concessions continue to be given by Local Union officers or International Union staff.

You can read about this struggle at http://justice4five.com/index.html. The fired workers still have some legal hoops to jump through and they need our help. A local branch of the NAACP is serving as the custodian for collected funds.

Every lost strike or struggle in the south hurts all of us because such losses strengthen the hand of the anti-union and reactionary forces and encourage corporations to move to low-wage areas and rip-off these communities. Every union concession won by corporations helps to redistribute wealth upwards and weakens unions--the first line of defense workers have.

What the speakers last night did not seem to fully grasp is the need for self-discipline in workplace struggles and a need for stronger and better union political action. In an environment where pattern bargaining has practically disappeared, local unions may need to bite the bullet on some wage and working conditions issues for a time in order to preserve even basic industrial unity. Local unions cannot remain aloof from political struggles—especially in the south—because this may be the only way we can make up any lost ground in the immediate future and because our only hope is in finding the successful mix of union organizing and aggressive and inclusive social change. To say as one speaker last night did that change only comes from union or workplace organizing is shortsighted. It is also shortsighted to hold the union and the company equally responsible for all the bad things which have occurred so far at the plant. It should be a primary task of local unions to build aggressive organizing and political programs, to win people to these programs and to hold international unions accountable for supporting and carrying out those programs.

February 28, 2008

Our Support For Cuba

Willamette Reds has sent the following message to the Cuban embassy and interest section:

February 28, 2008

Dear Comrades,

We of Willamette Reds, an association of American socialists and communists, would like to express our support for the continuing struggle of the Cuban people to create a just, socialist society in the face of half a century of harsh and cruel opposition from the US government. We recognize that the recent resignation of Comrade Fidel Castro will be seen as an opportunity by right wing forces in our country to subvert the will of the Cuban people and reestablish the dominion of landlords and US multinational corporations over Cuba. We thus wish the Cuban people to know that not all Americans support the acts of economic terror committed in our name; and furthermore that we, the members of Willamette Reds, stand with the Cuban people in defending against right wing American aggression.

In Solidarity,

February 26, 2008

Defend the Freightliner 5! Solidarity Tour Comes to Portland

The Freightliner Five -- Robert Whiteside, Allen Bradley, Franklin Torrence, Glenna Swinford, and David Crisco -- are members of the negotiating committee of United Auto Workers Local 3520 in Cleveland, North Carolina. They were fired by Freightliner in April 2007 after leading a walkout when management broke off negotiations without extending the union contract.

Since then, the workers have been appealing for support to keep up the fight as an arbitrator prepares to hear their case. Their speaking tour has included stops in Detroit, Chicago, and Seattle, and now they are coming to Portland (location of Freightliner's corporate headquarters). The importance of a victory in this struggle is magnified by the fact of the historic difficulties of the U.S. labor movement in organizing the South.

Time and Place:
Freightliner 5 Solidarity Tour, Portland Stop
Thursday, February 28, 7:00 pm

HFIAW Local 36 Labor Hall
11145 NE Sandy Blvd.
Portland, Oregon

Join the International Socialist Organization in the spirit of solidarity with these dedicated and heroic trade unionists as they seek justice. Help raise money for their defense campaign and find out how you can help them win their jobs back!

Learn more here: http://www.justice4five.com/

Or read the recent Socialist Worker article "Union Busting at Freightliner" here:

Hope to see you on Thursday!

February 25, 2008

SEIU Local 503 Endorses Obama

Oregon SEIU Local 503, OPEU member-leaders are receiving letters signed by union Executive Director Leslie Frane announcing SEIU's support for Obama and inviting members to the union's April 5 political conference.

Local 503 had previously endorsed John Edwards. When Edwards dropped out the race, Leslie Frane did the right thing by asking union members and staff if the Local should make a new endorsement or not. Obama got the edge in those discussions. The International Union decision came after much discussion at the Executive Board level.

The letter going out to union member-leaders highlights the excitement the Obama campaign has generated and many of the issues union members care most about--healthcare, wages, corporate lobbying, the war and union rights. The letter is realistic in its assessment of the current situation: taking a stand is a great first step, the letter says, but taking leadership ion this campaign and getting a win in November means hard work. The Edwards campaign helped change the terms of the debate taking place in the US.

Local 503 will again be in the spotlight on a major political fight.

Black Panthers In Portland

On January 23rd, 2007, eight former Black Panthers were arrested on charges related to the 1971 killing of a San Francisco police officer. The original charges were thrown out after it was revealed that police used torture to extract confessions. Now, over thirty-five years after the initial charges were made, and with no new evidence, they are being re-tried.

Hank Jones, one of the San Francisco 8, will be in Portland to discuss the case. He will be joined by Claude Marks and Maisha Quint of the Committee to Free the Eight, as well as Kent Ford, the former leader of the Portland chapter of the Black Panther Party.

This free event will take place at 1:00 pm on March 9th at Liberty Hall, 311 N. Ivy. For more information about the case go to http://www.freethesf8.org/.

February 22, 2008

Oregon State Worker Pay Freeze? Budget Crisis? Layoffs? Tuition Increases?

Oregon is having a confusing week.

The private sector in Oregon lost 104,666 jobs and gained 101,225 jobs in the second quarter of 2007. This story might not be significant in itself--quarterly reports have limited value--but it comes as other crises grow in import and breadth. The story either got buried in the press as one more piece of bad news or got reported as being the first or largest quarterly job loss in Oregon since the recession of 2003. In other words, we're measuring bad times against worse times.

Meanwhile, some state agencies tied to much-needed human services and the state police seem to be getting increased funding from the legislature. Projected state revenues took a major dip--see our posting of February 15--while the legislature moved forward with backing bonds to pay for the University of Oregon basketball arena. No one rationally expects this arena to do as well on its own as it will need to in order to stay in business, but we're being told that there will be no direct state support or subsidies used when it fails. Between now and then resources which should go towards education will likely go elsewhere and people in Eugene will be living in a traffic jam--and Phil and Penny Knight will play a slightly more sophisticated version of hostage takers as they continue to get their way whenever they offer to spend a dime in Oregon.

Buried somewhere in the budget bill is authorization to cover the closing costs on the State Data Center in Salem. This was another much-heralded project pushed quickly through the state and legislative bureaucracies (over workers' objections) with promises made and then largely forgotten about. Where are the savings and the job growth we were promised?

The question of whether or not the arena will need state subsidies, increases in tuition, shifts in the educational budget or increased ticket prices to stay afloat seems somewhat beside the point. What are we doing building a $200-million-plus arena when the Oregon Health Plan can't take on additional clients, when parents have to pay for full-time kindergarten and we're depending on rainy day and stabilization funds to postpone an almost-inevitable state budget crisis?

Chemeketa Community College draws from the working class and doesn't get money from the Knights or the kind of support that the data center did. Students at Chemeketa will soon see a tuition hike of $3.00 per credit hour. Even with the money projected to be raised from that hike, Chemeketa will still fall $800,000 short of what it needs. Then what?

Whatever temporary job gains the stadium brings to Oregon are likely to be wiped out by continuing job losses in businesses closing down or contracting out, state employment staying flat and institutions like Chemeketa being stuck on the ropes.

The drop-in-the bucket bill to provide free college tuition for orphans and widows of Oregon troops killed in the war in Iraq sets a good principle in place, despite its limitations. Why shouldn't education be free for anyone who contributes something to the public good and their families? Why not open free education at the community or county levels up to all of the laid-off and just-making-it working people, with healthcare provided to them on the Oregon Health Plan, as a way of getting out of this recession? And why not stick the Knights and those living large with them with a fair tax bill to pay for it all?

Rumors spread this week through state agencies that state workers will have their pay frozen or raises deferred.

Some Democrats got to talk tough on crime and shortcircuit Kevin Mannix at the same time with a pared-down anti-crime bill this week. They're saying, in effect, that Mannix is right but that his plan costs too much; that's the bad news. The good news is that the Democrat's ballot measure provides for addiction treatment for some offenders. The Republicans were able to get the publicity they wanted out of the Democrat's move, however, and they hope that in tough times they can tie up or cut the state budget if the ballot measure wins in the fall.

The Republican Party in Oregon is almost $265,000 in debt. This doesn't mean that they can't field candidates or run ballot measure campaigns or tie up state budgets. It does mean that the Republican leadership in the state will have a tougher time advocating for their policies and candidates this year. The deficit also forces them towards the sensational and the sleazy; witness the Republican attack-by-innuendo on Jeff Merkeley following his car wreck.

February 19, 2008

Fidel Castro's Resignation

Fidel resigned as President of Cuba today. Check out a youtube video on this and it's impact on Cuba from some youth members of the Communist Party and Young Communist League. Go to
http://cpusa.org/article/articleview/881/1/148/ .

February 18, 2008

Kosovo: One mistake follows another and another

Kosovo has declared its independence. One mistake has followed another.

In Socialist Yugoslavia, Kosovo and people of Albanian origin had full legal rights before the law. This included the rights of "the free development and free expression of national traits, language, culture, history and other symbols." (Article 4 of the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo's Constitution) The legal status of nationalities as "collectivities" and the equality of languages and alphabets was recognized in Yugoslavia's Constitution, which provided for equality at all levels of social, economic and political life. The Yugoslav system of self-management (workers' control) attempted to drive this equality forward and give it new dimensions by bringing people from all of Yugoslavia into contact with one another through political, economic, social and cultural institutions; each peoples' national cultural traits and experiences enriched the entire federated nation. By the mid-1970s Yugoslav Communists saw the need to build up all of their country's economic strength so that each constituent people could be helped in their separate regions. The Yugoslav Communists saw the main problems in Kosovo then as being economic underdevelopment and retardation, blind obedience to the state, dogmatic thinking and over-reliance on the state as the means to social change. The Communist push was towards cultural and scientific work which, it was hoped, would instill in the Albanian-Yugoslav people much-needed self-confidence in their abilities and in labor itself.

Successful socialist activity began in Kosovo as early as 1937. Kosovo contributed tens of thousands of fighters to the anti-fascist struggle. In 1957 the socialist government began to correct mistakes made in the region--it had gone practically ignored for some years--and incredible socialist development took place so that, by 1972, more than 70% of production in Kosovo was being done in the socialist sector of the Province's economy. In this period Kosovo received special credits and loans from the Federal government, testimony to the solidarity felt by the peoples who made up Socialist Yugoslavia. Kosovo then had the possibility of becoming an energy giant linked to the European markets. Literacy increased dramatically in Kosovo, and in 1971 the University of Pristina was opened. The development of education in Kosovo in these years was inhibited only by a lack of space and by a lack of well-trained educational workers.

In 1966 the Yugoslav Communists undertook strong efforts in Kosovo to combat bureaucratization and to make workers' control function more creatively and efficiently there. Kosovo's autonomy within a federal-socialist structure was strengthened. The first Constitution of the Socialist Autonomous Province of Kosovo went into effect in 1974. Communist leadership in Kosovo in those years came primarily from the youth and from the industrial working class. These forces prioritized expanding those industries and economic sectors which would make Kosovo and Yugoslavia as independent and as self-reliant as possible.

Albanian nationalists--some of whom were influenced by Maoist and "ultra-left" forces--began agitation in the 1970s as conditions were continuing to improve. We do not yet know if these nationalists developed organically within Kosovo and from the institutions made possible under Yugoslav socialism or if they came primarily from outside of the country, but by 1981 they were strong enough to act openly against the government and to cause Serbs and others living in Kosovo to leave the Province in large numbers. An artificial Albanian majority thereby came into existence in Kosovo. Its shadow government later won state power and it is this government that won independence. The ties between the forces which won power and international criminal enterprises has gotten only some mention in the western press. In fact, Kosovo's liberation movement and government have always looked more like a coalition of gangs than a movement or a state.

Tito's death in 1980, Milosevic's (often misquoted) 1989 speech, the limits placed on Kosovo's autonomy in 1989, the civil war which broke up Yugoslavia, the escalating violence of 1995 in Kosovo, Serbian atrocities tied to that violence, the NATO campaign of 1999---all 0f these events are often cited as justifying or making possible Kosovo's independence. The possibility that inter-communal violence will reignite in Macedonia now that Kosovo is independent, the attacks on Serbs and other minorities living in Kosovo, the wiping out of the region's complex history and the reality that Kosovo will become a "failed state" or dependent upon imperialism seems to be forgotten or to go unrealized in the west.

For my part, I think that we have to look back to the weaknesses in Yugoslav self-management, the dissolution of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia in 1952, the dissolution of the League of Communists in 1990 and the role of imperialism to fully understand why Yugoslavia collapsed and why independence for Kosovo is such a bad idea.

Yugoslav Communists over-estimated their strength and the depth of social transformation in Yugoslavia and surrendered their leading and necessary role in society. They did not adequately prepare a younger generation to grow, develop and govern as Communists. They could not adequately work out the contradictions between production for markets and socialism. As an non-aligned nation, Yugoslavia "played both sides of the street" and some of its false friends ignited the civil war and cut the deals which have impoverished the former Yugoslavia. It would have been better had Yugoslavia depended more upon the Third World for solidarity.

Slovenia has done relatively well as Middle Europe's backyard--it survives with a diminished standard of living and without dignity--and Croatia sells itself to American, Greek and Russian entreprenuers. Who wants to buy Kosovo? Will it now be redeveloped by the imperialists to provide energy for Europe or will human trafficking remain as Kosovo's basic industry? Is that what this costly and mistaken road to "independence" has been about all along?

February 15, 2008

Oregon as we are--a partial snapshot

Some loose numbers and statistics which draw a different picture of Oregon:

  • 487 Oregonians have been killed in combat in Iraq and 58 have died in combat in Afghanistan

  • State revenue dropped nearly $200,000,000 in the February revenue forecast. A crisis was postponed or avoided because the corporate kicker went into a rainy day fund, the Education Stabilization Fund exists and the legislature is holding on to some unbudgeted funds.

  • The Governor is asking state agencies for plans to cut up to 5% in costs.

  • The Oregon minimum wage is $7.95 an hour, the third highest in the US. That gets a full-time worker $16,536 annually at that hourly rate. It takes a full-time hourly wage of $8.46 to get a worker over the federal poverty level.

  • About 24,000 Oregonians are on the Oregon Health Plan. There are about 54,000 people on OHP waiting lists. Well over 100,000 people ought to be enrolled in OHP.

  • Unemployment in Oregon runs at about 5%.

  • About 4% of Oregonians regularly go hungry. About 11% of Oregonians experience food insecurity regularly.

  • Depending on who you talk to, there are either 12 or 13 super delegates from Oregon to the Democratic convention. I can name ten: Kulongoski, Blumenauer, Hooley, DeFazio, Bradbury, Meredith Wood Smith, Frank Dixon, Wayne Kinney, Jenny Greenleaf and Gail Rasmussen. Of this list, only one comes from labor and only one supports Obama publicly.
  • Our allegedly liberal Senator Wyden convinced some fellow senators to include an expansion of some privacy rights in the renewed Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Wyden voted against the bill on the basis of the amnesty given to the telecommunications industry (see post below reporting on Steve Novick's comments on this provision) and then voted for an amendment to strike telecommunications amnesty from the bill. He wasn't standing on principle here. Senator Gordon Smith voted against that amendment, once more making clear that he isn't the nice-guy-across-the-aisle he portrays himself as. We're stuck in a political landscape that puts Smith dangerously on the right and Wyden weakly on the left while growing numbers of Oregonians need principled and democratic leadership in the struggle for jobs, healthcare, housing, food and social services.

February 13, 2008

Donna Edwards and Steve Novick--What A Wonderful World It Could Be!

Donna Edwards just beat eight-term Congress member Albert Wynn in Maryland's primary. This is historic and great news for many reasons. Edwards is running as a progressive antiwar candidate. She is African-American, and if she wins she will be the first African-American congresswoman to represent Maryland. Since Maryland really is a part of the south, a progressive victory there helps to break the so-called "southern strategy" put in place by Nixon and used by Republicans ever since. Read or listen to the interview Edwards did with Amy Goodman here.

When a stand-up candidate says

Well, I mean, the congressman voted to authorize the war in Iraq, and I believe that that was, you know, a very poor decision and that the resulting both human cost and financial cost of the country has been huge, not to mention our position, the United States’s position, in the world. And I don’t think that his vote fairly represented our congressional district. And I believe that those voices needed to be heard in the Congress by somebody who’s a standup Democrat who represents this congressional district. I think the voters got that message. And, you know, voters have an awful lot of things going on in their minds...We have a troubled economy. We’re facing record foreclosures in our congressional district, just like around the country. And we want somebody who really speaks for real change and who will make a difference in the lives of working people. And those messages came through yesterday.

and means what she says, then we all move forward.

Steve Novick takes us a little further by raising the issue of civil liberties and Bush's attacks on our democratic rights. Responding to the Senate vote to provide retroactive legal immunity for telecommunications providers that assist the administration in the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, Novick said:

The votes today are another indication that although Democrats have gained the majority in Congress, we still have a long way to go in changing the direction of our country. I am running for the U.S. Senate to provide a strong voice that says we can fight terrorism without sacrificing the liberties that make this nation great. I am running to show that you can stand up to the Republicans' politics of fear. And I am running to help build a new progressive majority that can undo the damage of this Administration and take on the big challenges we face. Today's vote confirms just how important that battle is.

Getting Edwards into Congress and Novick into the Senate are important steps in moving forward. Antiwar, pro-worker politicians that are movement-builders at heart are the best answers in the elections to the Republicans and also to the Democrats whose first instinct is to cave to the right.

What a better place this would be with Edwards and Novick--and many, many others like them --in power!

Oregon State University/Corvallis--SEIU Local 49 Takes Aramark On

Custodians working for Oregon State University are employed by Aramark, a multinational corporation working in janitorial, uniform, service, laundry and hospitality sectors. Since Aramark is a contractor at OSU, union contract negotiations are always complex. Other companies also bid and compete for the contract with the University. It may happen that Sommers Building Maintenance gets the contract - they're marginally union but a really bad company for a union to have to negotiate with, even worse than Aramark. The union involved at OSU is SEIU Local 49.

Meanwhile, a spirited rally in New Haven, CT. on February 1st told the city's Mayor and Board of Education that it's time to fire Aramark there. According to a UNITE-HERE union report, the New Haven public schools contracted with Aramark to manage the schools' food service and maintenance operations. Despite Aramark's promise of savings to the district's taxpayers, the company's operations in the schools ran up a $1.1 million deficit last year. Busloads of striking Aramark workers from New York City joined the New Haven rally.

What follows are some excerpts from the latest Local 49 leaflet, slightly edited.

The OSU committe that will decide what company takes over the contract to clean OSU told the companies that are bidding that they must commit to upholding the union contract. They also included a staffing requirement that will protect workers from being given areas larger than the industry standard!

Kevin Day from Rodgers key station wrote an article about Aramark workers’ low pay and the human consequences of jobs that do not pay a living wage. The article was distributed to SEIU 503 members working on campus and to retired union members as well. Here’s one reaction from a 503 member: “Great letter!! It should be published in every newspaper in the country!! […] How about getting it on Air American AM 620? Let's get it published as far and as wide as possible.”

More than 10 Aramark workers stopped by to observe bargaining during our first two days of negotiations.

Juana Nation and Martin Reager went to Salem on Friday, February 8th and spoke with four elected officials who committed to call President Ray to ask him to make sure that Local 49 members get a good contract. “The politicians were shocked to hear that so many of us qualify for public benefits even though we work full-time on a University campus. They were very supportive of our struggle,” reports Martin, a newly elected shop steward on day shift.

FIRST AGREEMENTS REACHED: During our third negotiation session, we signed off on tentative agreements that will:
- give workers, not Aramark, the choice about who will be on the safety committee
- make it easier for workers to take union leave.


We will be bargaining again on February 26th, 27th and 28th, from 11:00 am to at least 5:00 pm. Come to the Sackett training room to show management that we are united in support of our demands for a living wage.

February 12, 2008

Oregon--It's About To Get Worse

The Oregon Center for Public Policy reports that "The economic stimulus package President Bush will sign this week threatens to slash over $100 million in Oregon tax revenue and sink the state into red ink, unless state lawmakers act to neutralize the impact of the federal legislation."

We just got a good state budget forecast, and we have been hearing politicians and state agency directors saying all is clear for at least the next two years, but the Bush "stimulus package" leaves the state with $29 million to spare at the end of the budget cycle. A few mass forest fires, even a small economic downturn, increasing numbers of home loss due to the mortgage crisis, expanding Mannix's prisons and lower tax revenues due to job loss and a bad economy and that amount shrinks radically.

The obvious bad move here is that Bush's package allows businesses to depreciate more quickly purchases of machinery and equipment. This comes from Congress, remember, so there are plenty of bad actors here and this could seriously affect the outcome of the elections. The domino effect will be to cut public services and public employees. The corporate minimum tax remains basically unchanged and Bill Sizemore & Co. get a walk around the monopoly board and land on Boardwalk with your money. This is what we were talking about in our February 6 posting about Sizemore. This is the system defending itself from progress.

All is not necessarily lost, says The Oregon Center for Public Policy. The state can decouple from the tax break and taxes or tax collections can increase. It's not clear if people who itemize in Oregon will pay more or not or if additional revenues from people who itemize can provide some cushion for the falling dominos.

We certainly support decoupling at this stage, but it doesn't solve the problem. This package comes with cuts to unemployment benefits and food stamps. It comes when the housing crisis is underway. It comes while Bush is trying to wage two wars. It is another redistribution of wealth from society to the rich. It will be used to force measures through on immigration, water rights and the liquified natural gas terminals which would not be moved forward in better times and with clearer heads.

We need to move past increasing taxes or tax collections to make up for what the rich aren't paying--what they are, in fact, refusing to pay. Why should we pay more taxes when they refuse to? This fight needs to go beyond decoupling and become a fight for taxing the rich and getting the entire right wing out of power in November.

February 11, 2008

Communist Videos

Watch the video of the brand New Communist Party USA national headquarters!

See Libero Della Piana give his Analysis on MLK and his legacy. Part 2 of our African American History month series.

For additional communist videos go to:http://www.cpusa.org/article/archive/148/

February 8, 2008

Drivers licenses in Oregon y los cobardes de la legislatura

Hundreds of people came to the State capitol on Thursday evening to hear a work session of the Oregon Legislature's Ways and Means Committee.

Most were Latinos and their children, obviously working class and at the end of a work day. They filled the hearing room and into overflow rooms with large screens showing the proceedings. In about an hour of time, legislators directed questions to the DMV administrator, Tom McClellan, about SB 1080, which would require the DMV to verify an person's legal presence before issuing them a driver license. Current language states: "Prior to issuing, renewing or replacing any driver license, driver permit or identification card, the Department of Transportation shall require a person to provide proof of both legal presence in the United States and a Social Security number or, if the person is not eligible for a Social Security number, proof of legal presence in the United States and proof that the person is not eligible for a Social Security number."

While some legislators focused their questions on details needed to implement this - budget, staff, etc - a few others raised criticisms about the values behind this legislation - the legacy being left, the negative affect on communities, the wrong direction this bill takes Oregon, the lack of action by the federal government to address immigration, the devastating affect that US "free trade" policies have had on the economies of Mexico and Central America, the fact that immigrants are economic refugees.

Watching this all play out on an enormous screen in a darkened side hearing room seemed surreal - it all seems so "reasonable" - discussions about staff, budget, numbers, implementation - but a scene that demonstrates the banality of evil.

Thanks to Senators Gordly, Bates, Carter and Representatives Shields, Nathanson and Nolan for voting no. Thanks especially to Bates, Shields, and Gordly for articulating for the record their reasoned opposition. Senator Peter Courtney (D) voted a cowardly yes - a great disappointment.

La lucha continues. Be present. Check with CAUSA http://causaoregon.org/ for ways to support the struggle.

February 6, 2008

Can Bill Sizemore Go Golfing At Salem's Battle Creek Golf Course?

We have seen some democratic (the small d is intentional) victories recently--victories which create and extend our democratic rights and give people hope and courage.

The domestic partnership ruling is an extension of democratic rights. Bill Sizemore & Company's recent defeat on the ballot measure front is another democratic victory. And yesterday the Salem Planning Commission voted to block the Battle Creek Golf Course--another victory for people and communities and a slap at the developers.

The push-back will come naturally and quickly, of course. Sizemore won't take his defeat lying down, although his website is way out of date and doesn't speak at all to his issues. The Portland Public Schools and SEIU 503 agreed to a compromise union contract which "red circles" custodians salaries, hires people in at lower salaries and gives food services workers raises. Immigrant workers are fighting against the proposed license requirements and having a tough time of it. Janet Taylor and City Council can't be relied upon to hold the line against the developers. We have to compromise to get 18,400 needy kids healthcare while the state police and prisons become a greater priority. The Governor apparently supports the liquefied natural gas terminals while Steve Novick, Jeff Merkley and Bill Bradbury do the right thing instead. These events all signal that struggles for and against our democratic rights are alive and well. The reaction against democratic rights is bad enough; what we need to know is where the leadership is coming from to take these forces on and what the plan is to build solidarity against the anti-democratic reaction.

No doubt 2008 will be a year of victory overall for progressive forces. What matters most is that progressives win and win in ways which allow us to move forward in real terms. But if the Democrats and progressive forces don't connect the dots, don't make one fight out of all of these separate struggles and don't follow the natural working class instinct for better wages and working conditions and real community control and democratic rights we will spend the next four years fighting defensive battles and mistaking sow's ears for silk purses.

February 2, 2008

Larry Czonka---Marxist Historian?

National Public Radio did a great interview with Larry Czonka the other day. You can listen to the interview here.

Czonka is best known for his time with the Dolphins in 1971 and 1972 and the Super Bowl VI, VII and VIII games. Czonka ran straight into the defense in those games. In the 1972 season, the Dolphins went undefeated. If you're a working class guy old enough to remember those years, you probably still fondly remember Czonka getting past Pat Fischer in Super Bowl VII.
Czonka says a few great things in the NPR interview. Without meaning to (I think) he explains some fundamentals of marxism. If you get what Czonka is saying, you get much of what we talk about here on this blog.

Czonka says in the interview, " It's not that you're competing with the past. You're competing with the competition now, and then you compete with history."

Fundamental points of marxism: time is the space or place in which human beings develop, the present is real, the class struggle occurs in real time and in history and something of the past and something of the future is always with us in the present.

Czonka says, "We probably didn't realize how unique it (playing undefeated) was for eight to ten years after we did it, and then it became something that we really valued even more then when we actually accomplished it."

Fundamental points of marxism: we interrupt our own class struggles with merciless self-examination and doubt, from the midst of our struggles we cannot see accurately what we have accomplished, in a world of limited choices we collectively create new options and only understand all that we have done later through analysis and new theoretical work.

Czonka say, "The game has changed so much it's probably time for someone else to step forward and that's what the Pats are doing."

Fundamental points of marxism: struggles create new conditions and new conditions bring forward new struggling forces, times change and with these changes all demands and possibilities also change, we make all of the history we can in our times and then new actors arise.

For a related and fascinating discussion of how class, time and sports intersect in Ghana you can read (and hear) parts of yesterdays "World Have Your Say" BBC broadcast here.