September 30, 2009

Baldemar Velasquez, New Struggles & New Possibilities For Labor

Farm Labor Organizing Committee President Baldemar Velasquez was elected to the national AFL-CIO Executive Council at the recent AFL-CIO convention. This is a history-making step and marks a step forward and a victory for farmworkers, progressive trade unions and the immigrant-rights movement. This step forward comes as farmworkers are winning struggles nationwide and as the debate over immigration and immigrant rights is being reopened. As these steps are made, we can compare the old AFL-CIO, and the old labor movement, to what we have now and see that big changes are taking place and that more is possible. The resolutions which passed the convention were generally of the kind that we can support. In this new situation we can contrast several parallel struggles and see how they move forward: the farmworkers' struggle and the immigrant rights movement now have some labor recognition and support that they did not have previously; farmworkers are advancing, but immigrant California garment workers have just had a terrible setback; the United Electrical Workers continues its aggressive union organizing, but workers in the Bronx are now fighting the proposed relocation of the Stella D'Oro factory after being on strike for more than one year. These battles will do much to determine the course of the labor movement in the coming months and years overall. These are the kinds of struggles which test and educate workers and force labor's enemies and friends to declare themselves.

Read more about Baldemar Velasquez here.

Jerry Tucker On The AFL-CIO Convention

The following report on the 2009 AFL-CIO Convention in Pittsburgh is posted by Jerry Tucker, special correspondent to the Monthly Review and MRZine. Tucker is a former International Executive Board Member of the UAW and a founder of the New Directions Movement within that union. He is also a co-founder of the Center for Labor Renewal and Director of the Solidarity Education Center and Healthcare Justice Education Fund.

If you're looking for the muscular flavor of working-class history, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the location for the 26th Constitutional Convention of the AFL-CIO, is a good choice. No longer present in the city, though, is the heavy air of round-the-clock steel mills that once produced the spine of American industry, where unionism won wages that lifted a generation out of poverty. The air is cleaner, the downtown skyline sports world-class architecture, and the region is now called the "Golden Triangle" by the flacks of the employing class. The once brawny city at the headwaters of the Ohio River is a logical fit to host the main contingent of a once brawny labor movement.

Read more here.

Demand Freedom To Travel To Cuba

From the Communist Party:

Dear Friends,

Today we join with millions of Americans and many organizations in calling for the end to the unconstitutional and ridiculous ban on travel to Socialist Cuba. The US people have the right to travel to Cuba and meet with the Cuban people. Let the people of the United States see the Cuban system for themselves. If you agree, support the CubaGo! campaign today.

Ending the travel ban is the first step in ending the inhumane and illegal economic and military blockade of Cuba that has continued since 1960.

Read more here.

Oregon Homecare Workers & City of Springfield Workers Reach Tentative Agreements

The SEIU Local 503 homecare workers' bargaining team hasreached a tenative agreement with the state. This comes as SEIU childcare workewrs are voting on their contract and after settlements in higher ed and state bargaining units covered by SEIU and AFSCME. SEIU homecare workers successfully fought back deep cuts to the homecare program, protected services for thousands of seniors and people with disabilities, protected worker benefits, and made needed non-economic improvements to the homecare program.

Some of the homecare workers' contract highlights include:

*Continuation of Fully Paid Health Care
*No Wage Cuts
*No Cuts to Paid Time Off
*Improved access to Paid Time Off for ALL homecare workers
*Stronger orientations and resources for 24 hour workers

Workers at the City of Springfield, also covered by SEIU Local 503, reached a tentative agreement this week. This has been a lengthy and frustrating bargaining process characterized by management's refusal to bargain with the union and another unit in Springfield settling for much less than SEIU members were willing to agree to. The process galvanized the SEIU membership and they are already preparing for the next round. In the end, they secured a one year contract with improvements in health insurance and holidays and status quo on wages - but no cost of living allowances, no furloughs and no step freeze this year.

Portland Antiwar Rally

Below is the news release just sent out about Friday's rally and march.

If you are interested in being at the Square tomorrow (Thursday) morning to help with bannering (arrive at 6:15 AM, stay till 7 or 7:30 AM...or later?) please get back to Dan Handelman asap!!

I am reminded that when Barack Obama was elected, this was part of his acceptance speech:

"I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices," Obama said. "I need your help and I will be your president, too."

What this means to us at PJW is that whether or not you voted for President Obama, he wants to hear your voice and your opinion, even if you disagree with him. This is a particularly important time to say "No!" to the occupation of Afghanistan, as he weighs General McChrystal's request for even more troops.

Please circulate this information and we will see you on Friday at 5 PM for the rally and march!
--dan handelman for Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group,

For Immediate Release--Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What: "The Invasion of Afghanistan, 8 Years Later": Expanded Friday Rally and March for Peace and Justice
When: Friday, October 2, 2009, 5:00 PM
Where: Pioneer Courthouse Square, SW Yamhill and Broadway
Who: Portland Peaceful Response Coalition (PPRC), Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group, the First Unitarian Church, and other groups.

Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group (503)

Peace Groups Gear Up to Call for End of War in Afghanistan
Expanded Friday Rally and March for Peace and Justice
Friday, October 2, 2009, 5:00 PM
Pioneer Courthouse Square, SW Yamhill and Broadway

As President Obama considers his top General's request for more U.S. soldiers to risk their lives, Portlanders will call for an end to the occupation of Afghanistan this Friday. At an expanded Friday Rally and March for Peace and Justice on October 2, 2009 at 5 PM at Pioneer Courthouse Square (SW Yamhill and Broadway), protestors will consider "The Invasion of Afghanistan, 8 Years Later."

Banners promoting the event have been parading about Portland on Burnside and near the Hawthorne and Morrison Bridges. Early morning "human billboard" bannering is also expected at 6:30 AM this Thursday, October 1, at Pioneer Courthouse Square to greet early morning commuters (weather permitting).

Speakers, including several who are in town for a conference on the economic and enviromental crises, will tie the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, the bombardment of Pakistan, the threats against Iran and other foreign policy issues together. Just some of these concerns are US dependency on oil, use of depleted uranium and other toxic weapons, and the skyrocketing costs of the occupations. The US has now spent over $1 trillion on these occupations, which would have been much better spent on human needs.

The US invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, ostensibly to capture Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda members suspected of planning the attacks of 9/11. The current government of Afghanistan has welcomed US and NATO's military presence while complaining bitterly of the hundreds of civilian casualties caused by airstrikes and ground troops. Since the US is now allied with the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan after having driven out those who were in power in each country in 2001 and 2003, these conflicts should not be labelled "wars."

"Traumatized by 9/11, the people of the United States were hounded and defrauded into war and occupation in Afghanistan eight years ago," said Will Seaman, a volunteer with Portland Peaceful Response Coalition. "We said no then, we say no today, and we will not rest until the United States rejects this nightmare of empire, until all the troops are home, and until we have paid reparations for the terrible crimes our country has committed against the people of Afghanistan."

The October 2 event is an expanded Portland Peaceful Response Coalition (PPRC) Friday rally in cooperation with Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group, and the First Unitarian Church. Supporters include Freedom Socialist Party, War Resisters League--Portland and others. Endorsers include Dorothy Day Catholic Worker House, Rural Organizing Project, PDX Peace, Center for Intercultural Organizing, and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom-Portland Chapter. Portland's Friday rallies for peace and justice have been an institution since late 2001.

A march will commence at about 5:30 PM, winding through downtown to engage rush hour commuters, ending at the First Unitarian Church. That evening at 7 PM, political analyst Noam Chomsky is speaking at the conference, known as EcoNvergence.

The rally is being coordinated in conjunction with the EcoNvergence, which runs from October 2-4: more information on the gathering is at The rally and march are also in solidarity with other actions happening nationwide to end the occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.

For more information, contact Peace and Justice Works at 503-236-3065 or PPRC at (503) 344-5078.

September 28, 2009


After 50 years it is time to end the Travel Ban and re-establish the right of all of us to travel to Cuba. Thursday is a National Call-In Day to demand Congress end the Travel Ban.

It is called CUBAGO and the action includes descending on Washington D.C. for meetings with Congressional Representatives and asking people around the country to place calls  to their Senators and Representatives.

The bills that are up for vote in the near future are specifically only about rescinding the Travel Ban: In the House: HR874 and in the Senate: S4286.

There are three Congressional Representatives that they specifically feel need to hear from us:
Senator Wyden - 202-224-5244 (Has been supportive in the past but may be weak)
Senator Merkeley - 202-224-3753 (Uncommitted)
Rep. Schrader - 202-225-5711 (Uncommitted)

Polls show that a majority of Americans, including Cuban-Americans support ending the Travel Ban.  This is an important first step to ending the Blockade.
Please call between 6:00am and 3:00pm (Pacific Time)

German Elections

The news out of Germany today is that Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats won this weekend's German national elections. On the surface, this is not good news for the Left... But wait!

Germany's new Left Party got 11.9% of the vote. This is up from the roughly 7.5% the Left Party received in the European Parliament elections of this past May. Indeed, the Left Party has eclipsed the German Green Party, which received 10.7% of the vote.

The real losers in this weekend's election seems to be Germany's main center-left opposition party, that old sclerotic Social Democratic Party. For the past four years the Social Democrats have joined in a coalition government with Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, where time and time again the Social Democrats worked in conjunction with their senior coalition partner in imposing social austerity cuts on Germany's poor and unemployed. Over the weekend the Social Democrats paid the price, receiving only 16% of the vote. The Social Democrats' performance is the worst since the end of the Third Reich.

Germany might well be in the process of developing a real Left alternative as the Left Party grows. This same trend, although more advanced seems to be occurring in France too, with the recently aligned Left Front (French Communist Party and the left socialists' new party, the Left Party) and the new Anti-Capitalist Party.

In France and Germany, the growth of these new left parties comes out of the compromises and failures of the traditional "left" opposition in both countries, these being the Social Democrats in Germany and the Socialist Party in France. Underlining this process is Germany's Left Party, which is made up out of the remnants of the old East German Socialist Unity Party, and West German dissident trade unionists who have since bolted the Social Democratic Party.

Developments in Europe seem to be well worth watching. If there is a trend right now, it might be that principled opposition to capitalism gets one farther than further compromising and tweeking the edges of an unquestioned capitalism. Time will tell...

September 23, 2009

"Raul Castro pushes Cubans to rethink socialism"

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cubans began taking a hard look this week at entrenched customs like food rationing, pilfering on the job, cradle-to-grave subsidies and black market trading in a national debate called by President Raul Castro.

Authorities have circulated a ten-point agenda for thousands of open-ended meetings over the next month at work places, universities and community organizations to rethink Cuban socialism, focused on the economic themes highlighted by Castro in a speech to the National Assembly in August.

The discussion guide, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, makes clear that questioning the communist-ruled island's one-party political system established
after Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution, or calling for a restoration of capitalism, are off limits.

But the guide said: "It is important that the meetings are characterized by absolute freedom of criteria, the sincerity of participants and respect for differing

To read more, go here.

Congressman Kurt Schrader Coming to Mt. Angel - Sept. 28

Engarde! Help! We need all you progressives in Silverton to show up to speak out for real health care reform here in Mt. Angel on the 28th. There is a small but vocal group of right wingers here who will most likely try to derail the Congressman..... Perhaps they don't read!

From my conversations with Congressman Schrader's aides, he is supporting a strong public option in health care reform;

Congressman Kurt Schraeder will come to Mt. Angel on:

Monday, Sept. 28
5:30 p.m.
Mt. Angel Public Library
townhall forum

Polk County Democrats & 4-H/Extension Programs

Polk County Democrats has moved to a permanent meeting place and date:

We will meet at:

The Polk County Courthouse in Dallas on the first Thursday of every month.

Come celebrate with us on Thursday, October 1st! Refreshments and babysitting available.

Polk County Democrats

6:30 Social Time

7:00-9:00 Meeting.

Dallas Courthouse.

1st Thursday of every month.

DIRECTIONS: To go to the Meeting room: Go the Jefferson Street side of the Courthouse (the back). You can park on the side street, Mill Street, if the parking lot is full. (see Google Maps; it's very clear) Turn right once inside, and go down the corridor. The meeting room is right there, on the ground floor. Wheelchair accessible.

This email is a one-time mailing to Dems in Polk County, so that each Democrat knows the official meeting place of the party organization. We will not use your email address again unless you have signed up to receive announcements and news. (Another announcement follows this though, as we needed more room.)

You are welcome to sign up at

If you can't come on the October 1st, drop by the Courthouse sometime on a first Thursday. Thanks to the County Commissioners for making this permanent meeting site possible.

Since we are sending this email.....

Can you imagine Polk County without 4-H?

County Extension needs help NOW from Polk County citizens.

Next year, the Polk County Extension Service, and thus 4-H may not be funded.

Be sure that everyone you know is aware of this issue....No one wants to lose 4-H and other Extension programs, but a lot of people don't know these are in danger.
You can help gather signatures to propose a service district on the ballot which will give Polk County citizens the opportunity to raise revenue to save these programs, for a very small cost.

About half the signatures needed have been collected, and we need a big push in the next month. For more information, see the rest of this email or contact the folks below.

Can you can help?

Send email to Debra Minar Driscoll (,
Send email to Roger Fletcher (
Send email to Gail Miles (, or
Send email to Karen Lippsmeyer (

Signature sheets may be picked up at County Extension, Monday - Wednesday, in the Academy Building in Dallas or at the Polk County Fairgrounds Office at the Fairgrounds in Rickreall, Monday - Friday. Group gathering efforts are below, there is also a list of approved gathering places where you can obtain signatures individually. Just ask one of the contacts. It's really not difficult. Most people are happy to sign.

From the Extension Service: Polk County OSU Extension Service supporters are behind schedule in their efforts to gather signatures to put a proposed service district on the May 2010 ballot. They are looking for volunteers to assist with the effort. The service district would collect taxes on properties in Polk County to keep its programs afloat in the area. If the district is not passed in the county, those programs, including 4-H Youth Development, Master Gardeners, Master Woodland Managers, Seed Certification, Latino Outreach, Food Safety and Preservation and Family Living programs would end.

Coming Events for Signature Gathering - Mark Your Calendar!

Signature Gathering in West Salem
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday Sept 21, 22 & 23, 4 PM to 8 PM
Gather at Salem Electric, at 633 7th St NW, West Salem.
Please come for any amount of time during those hours. We will provide forms, clipboards, directions and maps

Signature Gathering in Dallas
Thursday, Sept 24, 4 PM to 8 PM
Gather at north side of Roth's Parking Lot in Independence
Please come for any amount of time during those hours. We will provide forms, clipboards, directions and maps

Signature Gathering in Independence/ Monmouth
Saturdays, September 26, 9:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Gather at north side of Roth's Parking Lot in Independence
Please come for any amount of time during those hours. We will provide forms, clipboards, directions and maps

Independence Hop and Heritage Festival
Friday, Saturday, Sunday Sept 25-27
Public sidewalks only, downtown Independence
Book sale is 10 AM to 4 PM on Friday and Saturday at old library building, 2 blocks west of current library. Hometown barbecue at 6 PM Friday at Riverview Park. Be sure to stay on public sidewalks.
Many other events planned.

Hop & Heritage Festival Parade
Saturday, Sept 26, 8:30 -9:45 AM. Parade begins at approx. 9:45, and best gathering is while crowd is waiting.
Parade route:
Pioneer Park (corner of 7th and Monmouth) to Riverview Park, along Monmouth St. and Main St.
We need signature gatherers in each block of the parade route. Stop by the booth at north side of Roth's parking lot between 8:15 and 9:00 AM for block assignments, or go directly to parade.

Perrydale Corn Feed
Saturday, October 3. Perrydale School. Permission granted; details being worked out.

Polk County Flea Mark
Sunday, October 4 and Sunday November 1, 9 AM to 3 PM
We will have a canopy near the front entrance of main building

Holiday Fair
Friday and Saturday, November 6 and 7. Hours: Fri 9 AM-6 PM, Sat 9 AM-5 PM.
Polk County Fair Grounds.
Permission granted; details being worked out.

Upcoming Portland Worker Justice Events

Wednesday, Sept. 30, Noon - 1pm Rally for a REAL Recovery and to Support City of Portland Employees (City Hall - SW 4th and Jefferson.) The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Jobs with Justice, and other community supporters are rallying in front of City Hall. Jobs are being cut and City of Portland workers are feeling more and more squeezed by the City Council's unfilled promises and commitments. Let's stand up for public workers and the services they provide. For more info: or

Other Upcoming Actions

Tuesday, Sept 22, Noon to 1pm, Big Insurance Makes Us Sick!! Come protest the way the insurance industry is warping health care reform! At Pettygrove Park, SW 2nd and Market, right behind the Regence Blue Cross building. No to massive insurance rate increases, no to the Baucus bill! This is a joint rally with Move On and HCAN, but we will be bringing our message that we need a single payer health care system that gets insurance companies out from between patients and doctors.

Tuesday, Sept. 22, 6:30pm OneWebDayPdx! One Web for All-digital inclusion. Pioneer Square

Sunday, Oct. 25, details TBA: March for LGBTQ Rights and the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act

Saturday, Dec. 5, Mark your calendar for a huge march and rally on December 5th that will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the protests against the WTO in Seattle - and will be part of the current fight for global and economic justice. Learn more at On Saturday, December 5th, people from throughout Oregon will converge for a march and indoor rally to call for an end to any expansion of the "free trade" model and speak out for the prioritization of human need over corporate greed.

Salem United Methodist & Corvallis Discussions On Immigration

The Peace and Justice Program of the First United Methodist Church, Corvallis Coalition for Immigration Reform, Oregon Coalition For Immigration Reform and Just Peace would like to invite you to a series of Forums on Economic, Political and Social Perspectives of Immigration in a Globalized World.

September 27th

October 4th

October 11th

October 18th

November 1st


TIME: 6:00PM-7:30PM

*CORVALLIS PUBLIC LIBRARY (November 1st Q&A Session only)

TIME: 3:00PM-4:30PM

WHEN: SEPT. 27TH, OCT. 4TH, 11TH, 18TH, Nov 1st

For additional information, please contact Erlinda Gonzales-Berry at or Miguel Woods at

Why is Marxism a “Science”?

The claim that Marxism is a science is particularly pertinent in light of the same, but dubious claim made on behalf of modern economics. The economics taught in most universities, alongside physics, chemistry and biology, surely has only a loose claim on that honorific title after its abysmal performance explaining and taming our tenacious economic crisis. Despite all of the formalisms, quantifications, models, and theorems (the trappings of modern science) bloating the books and papers of academic economics, the discipline has a rather weak record in steering economic life towards rationality, efficiency, and, of course, justice. If physics were as mired in conventionality as economics, we would still be searching for phlogiston. Despite the wealth of new data, computational tools, and economic experience, it is not too much of an exaggeration to say that the conceptual toolbox collected by the Classical Economists –Adam Smith and David Ricardo – would have served us as well in understanding and addressing the current economic storm.

But the failing of economics, or sociology, or social psychology, in no way proves that an alternative approach – for example, Marxism - is superior or more scientific.

I was reminded of what makes good science by reading a recent opinion piece written by Richard Dawkins, the distinguished evolutionary biologist, and appearing in The Wall Street Journal (“Evolution leaves God with Nothing to Do”, 9-12/13-09). Though Dawkins ostensible target was the existence of God, I was drawn to his splendid defense of Darwinism and the scientific world-view. We would do well to reflect upon one particular passage:

To read more, go here.

Congratulations to union members at the City of Pendleton!

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

Congratulations to union members at the City of Pendleton, who just settled a three year agreement! Highlights of the agreement include:

July 1, 2009 $38/month across the board raise
January 1, 2010 $38/month across the board raise
July 1, 2010 a 2% COLA
July 1, 2011 a 2.5% COLA

Maintained health insurance for the first two years. Beginning July 1, 2011 employees will pays 50% of the increase of dependent premium.

Established a $.25 shift differential

Won posting of open positions
Hardship Donation process

Kudos go to all the members, but especially bargaining team members and local officers Mark Asheley, Adrian Sutor, Jutta Haliewicz and Kathy Ward, and to union organizer Bruce Nobles!

Insurance companies are legally allowed to deny coverage to a victim of domestic violence

From an SEIU retiree:


In eight states and Washington, D.C., insurance companies are legally allowed to deny coverage to a victim of domestic violence by claiming that it's a "pre-existing condition". Insurance companies can also deny coverage to women if they've been pregnant or had a c-section. It makes you wonder - where do these guys draw the line?

The insurance industry is spending millions of dollars to kill health insurance reform legislation before Congress. We've got to fight back. Write Congress and tell them to pass health insurance reform and ban, once and for all, the practice of denying coverage due to "pre-existing conditions."

Take action here:

Thank you!

From The National Union Of Healthcare Workers

Several days ago, representatives of the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) returned from the AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh with broad support and expanded financial backing from unions across the nation.

In a message to thousands of NUHW supporters in California, NUHW's Interim President Sal Rosselli reported:

"Three years ago -- when we began our effort to challenge SEIU leaders for taking power and standards away from healthcare workers -- we alone had the courage to speak out publicly. This week, the chorus of voices in Pittsburgh was loud and clear.

"I am proud to report that with the support of our sisters and brothers in other unions, we're confident that NUHW will have the financial resources to support the tens of thousands of healthcare workers who are organizing to take back their union."

The AFL-CIO convention offered more evidence of SEIU's growing isolation inside the labor movement. In June, leaders of the nation's largest labor unions publicly denounced SEIU's raid on UNITE HERE, calling SEIU "corporate raiders" and "the Darth Vader of the labor movement."

At this week's convention, delegates elected a new AFL-CIO President, Richard Trumka, who recently told the Las Vegas Sun that,

"The difference between me and [SEIU President Andy Stern] is that he believes you can look at that system and play within that box by accommodating employers. I believe that the system has to be changed because it's designed for employers to win and workers, every time, to lose."

On Thursday, UNITE HERE announced it is abandoning "Change to Win" and re-affiliating with the AFL-CIO. A majority of the "Change to Win" unions are expected to follow...

At the same time, one of Great Britain's largest unions organized a meeting at its labor federation's convention to warn others about SEIU's effort to buy control of unions internationally. Yesterday, a British publication reported that SEIU had sought a financial deal with a British union that was rejected because "the conditions would have given the SEIU the right effectively to take over the union." Union officials reportedly described SEIU as a "Roman Empire union." (Tribune)

For more information about the AFL-CIO convention (including video footage of speeches), go to the convention's website (click here).

The People's Economy Discussion In Silverton

For those of you who missed the People's Economy discussion in Silverton and would like to particpate, we are hosting the discussion at the Macleay Grange this coming Thursday.

We must build a People's Economy!
September 24, 2009 at Macleay Grange Hall
6:oo p.m. soup supper followed by
6:30-8:30 p.m. discussion with Amanda Aguilar Shank of ROP

Building a People's Economy is a Rural Organizing Project campaign to:

*Create a broad movement for economic justice in Oregon.
*Transform and Rebuild our Economy on the basis of mutual support and solidarity. *Build a People's Economy that meets the real needs of our local communities invests in and protects our real wealth.

How can we Bring our Money Home?

*Invest in community-centered, community-owned credit unions and community development banks, as opposed to private, profit driven financial institutions, demand living wages for working people, returning profits to the pockets of working families, not the wallets of corporate CEO's, Support democratic workplaces such as worker-owned co-ops and promote employees' right to organize. Support full funding for needed human services. Demand a fair tax system with shared responsibility so that corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share of the tax burden. Develop new wealth within our communities through community gardens, food and child-care co-ops, and local green energy production.

Be a part if this important discussion!

Dolores Huerta Coming To Salem

The Annual Salem Peace Lecture is pleased to celebrate its 20th year with organizer Dolores Huerta, co-founder and first Vice-President of the United Farm Workers of America, speaking on Immigration Reform & Farm Worker Justice. The Peace Lecture will be held on Wednesday, October 21 @ 7:30 PM at Hudson Hall in the Mary Stuart Rogers Music Center at Willamette University. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Reverend Gail McDougle, Pastor of Salem's First Congregational Church UCC, will be Honored with the 2009 Salem Peacemaker Award.

Wednesday, October 21st at 7:30 p.m.
The Annual Salem Peace Lecture Presents:
Dolores Huerta: Speaking on Immigration Reform and Farmworker Justice

Dolores Huerta was co-founder and first Vice-President of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW). In 1962 she and Cesar Chavez formed the National Farm Workers Association, the predecessor to the UFW. She directed the UFW's national grape boycott, resulting in the entire California table grape industry signing a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the UFW.

Ms. Huerta spoke out early and often against toxic pesticides, like DDT and parathion, that threaten farm workers, consumers and the environment. She lobbied in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., organized field strikes, directed UFW boycotts, and became one of the UFW's most visible spokespersons. Robert F. Kennedy acknowledged her help in winning the 1968 California Democratic Presidential Primary moments before he was shot in Los Angeles.

Ms. Huerta directed the east coast boycott of grapes, lettuce and Gallo wines. The boycott resulted in the enactment of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act, the first law of its kind in the United States, granting farm workers the right to collectively organize and bargain for better wages and working conditions. In 1975 she lobbied against federal guest worker programs and spearheaded legislation granting amnesty for farm workers that had lived, worked and paid taxes in the United States for many years. Her efforts were instrumental in passing the Immigration Act of 1985.

Dolores Huerta has received many awards, including three honorary doctorate degrees. In 1984 the California State Senate bestowed upon her the Outstanding Labor Leader Award. In 1993 she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame. That same year she received the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Roger Baldwin Medal of Liberty Award, the Eugene Debs Foundation's Outstanding American Award, and the Ellis Island Medal of Freedom Award. In 1998 she was named one of three Ms. Magazine's "Women of the Year" and was honored among the Ladies Home Journal's "100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century."

Ms. Huerta continues to work long hours on behalf of the rights of farm workers, immigrants and women, and she serves as president of the Dolores Huerta Foundation. She has been arrested 22 times for nonviolent, peaceful protests.

Each year the Peace Lecture Committee recognizes a local advocate for peace and justice. This year we are pleased to honor Gail McDougle, pastor of First Congregational Church UCC, with the 2009 Salem Peacemaker Award.

For more information, contact Bethany Loberg at 503-910-6832 or

Econvergence--October 2-4 in Portland

Some of the most progressive unions and social movement organizations will be gathering in the downtown Portland Unitarian Church on October 2-4 for a full weeekend of panels, workshops, and cultural events. Noam Chomsky heads the bill, but there's lots more on the program.

Go here for details. This looks like a defining event for our regional left.


The good news is about the struggle in Honduras.  The Democratically elected President Zelaya has returned to Honduras to face the coup that has taken over his country. He is currently residing in the Brazilian Embassy. The water and electricity have been cut off and his supporters demonstrating in front of the Embassy have been brutally attacked by the military.
The U.S. Embassy in Honduras has announced that any military or police action against the Brazilian Embassy will be considered an act of aggression against the United States.  There has been a lot of criticism that the U.S. still has its Embassy in Honduras and has not moved to freeze Honduran assets.  It is surely encouraging to the Honduran people to hear from the United States.  (Hopefully the water and electricity will not be cut off to our Embassy)
In addition, Brazil and the United States are calling for a special meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the Honduran situation.

On the other hand, the Black Congressional Caucus had invited Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban Assembly to participate in their 39th Legislative Conference in Washington D.C.  The State Department has issued a statement that they will not authorize his visa.

September 22, 2009

The persecution of Van Jones and the struggle for democracy--A Great Article by Jarvis Tyner

The circumstances that led to the resignation of Van Jones should be strongly protested. Mr. Jones was a victim of the current racist and red baiting attack aimed at bringing down the Obama administration.

Jones was targeted after calling attention to Beck’s labeling of the president as a racist who “hates white culture.”

It’s not good that the likes of Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh could succeed in forcing the removal of one of our country’s best experts on green jobs and environmental racism.

Van Jones’s departure is a set back for the Obama administration and a real loss for the country. Only those who believe environmental racism doesn’t exist or that government should play no role in creating green jobs could think otherwise.

Capitalism is a cult-like religion to such people. George Soros called them capitalist “fundamentalists.”

To them the concept of people before profits is “sacrilege”. Their survival-of-the-fittest corporate mentality makes them opposed to economic and social justice for all.

Sadly this brand of conservative extremism and market fundamentalism now has unchallenged control of the Republican Party. The GOP has become more like a cult than a political party - a cult in search of a personality to blindly worship.

That a cult now runs the Republican Party in no way diminishes the danger and should not be treated lightly. It remains extremely powerful and influential with wide corporate sponsorship and media influence.

It employs the Big Lie with unique skill: the bigger and more outrageous the tale, the louder and shriller the amplification, the more people they think will believe it. "Obama is Hitler," "socialism is fascism," government by definition is tantamount to dictatorship.

Make no mistake: at the heart of right-wing propaganda is deep-going anti-communism and racism; the evil twins of the most reactionary sections of big capital.

Read more here.

September 20, 2009

The specter of big government? Get real!---by Sam Webb

Years ago Grover Norquist, a Washington insider of right wing pedigree, quipped: "I don't want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub."

We hear similar sound bites now, as pundits and politicians of the right bewail the size and growth of government. Shrink government, they say, and everything will be fine!

The framing of the debate along these lines – big versus small government – is misleading. It cleverly conceals what’s at the core of the present controversy that has divided Congress and the country: the role and responsibilities of government.

For nearly a half century, the role and responsibilities of government included a measure of class compromise, societal obligations (Social Security, unemployment insurance, Medicare and Medicaid), union rights, formal equality, and expansive macroeconomic policies that favored broadly shared prosperity.

But all that changed with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. And for the next three decades right wing extremism in its various iterations dominated U.S. politics and its discourse.

Every institution of government – legislative bodies, agencies, courts, the military, and the executive branch – was turned into a super charged instrument of class warfare from above.

Markets were deregulated. Unions were busted. Industries were hollowed out. The social safety net was shredded. Entitlements and public goods like education, retirement security, health care, and so forth were attacked. The Constitution was shredded. Immigrants were turned into criminals. Racist and patriarchal ideology and practices multiplied. Working people’s income either fell or stagnated. And individualism, selfishness, and greed morphed from private vices into public virtues.

In other words, the state/government apparatus in the hands of right wing extremists was anything but a downsized, emaciated, and neutral social institution standing above society, as they claimed. It was, instead, a battering ram leaving in its path battered people and communities at home and abroad.

And to whose advantage?

Not ordinary people who bought into the notion that East Coast elites, Hollywood, liberals, unions, feminists, immigrants, gay people, and, above all, people of color and especially African American people were the cause of America’s political, economic and moral decline.

Not the teabaggers who gathered in Washington last weekend to excoriate the nation’s first Black President and worse.

Not people harboring deeply felt grievances and resentments over the downward trajectory of their lives. Not anyone who believed in fiscal rectitude because right wing extremists were not good caretakers of the nation’s finances, running up record budget deficits on their watch.

The main beneficiaries were the captains and owners of finance and industry and the luminaries of the extreme right in politics, the media, and the pulpit. Never before has income shifted so quickly and massively to the top one percent of the population.

But the jig could well be up.

The election of Barack Obama has turned the tables against the right wing extremists and their corporate supporters. They find themselves on the defensive.

The president and the coalition that elected him have the power within their hands to reconfigure the role and responsibilities of government in the interests of working people and their allies for the first time in decades.

And it is this possibility that is sending the spokespeople of right wing extremism into a rage. Invoking the “specter of big government” – not to mention the “specter of an African American in the White House, a Latina woman on the Supreme Court, gay people a part of the fabric of everyday life, and creeping socialism” – the demagogues of the right are whipping up their grassroots constituency into a frenzy of hate, racism, misogyny, homophobia, false patriotism, immigrant and union bashing, and violence.

The American people, however, have more common sense than to buy this bill of goods. Too much has happened and too many hearts broken over the past 30 years for them to climb on the right-wing, anti-government bandwagon.

The way forward may not be completely clear, but the road offered by the new president and the coalition that elected him is still one that millions are ready to fight for.

September 18, 2009

Minor Urban Chicken Update

This is just a quick note on last Monday's Salem City Council Meeting and the issue of Urban Chickens. On the whole I don't think much was accomplished. I know... what a surprise. However, a giant stick in the spokes was averted.

Mayor Taylor, in traditional fashion on such issues, decided that she couldn't decide what she thought. So, once again, her opinion on the subject changed. She has grown tired of listening to this issue being debated over and over; as if endless debate is the fault of the issue and not this tiresome City government. Mayor Taylor stated that many of the votes concerning chickens in the city are split down the middle, including the recent vote by the Planning Commission. And thus, she stated, maybe this city isn't ready for chickens.

It was at this point that I wanted to throw something. This has been debated since February and pushed along and pushed along without resolution. And the mayor is growing tired of it?

Well, as if on cue, the most anti-chicken-in-the-city councilor, Mr. Bennett, put forward a motion that the entire thing be dropped, basically, that nothing be changed in terms of definitions or ordinances, etc. Four councilors voted against this, and the mayor and two councilors voted for it. Councilor Cannon abstained, which was counted as a vote for, resulting in a four to four tie. Thankfully, my councilor, Dan Clem, was absent, because I am pretty sure he would have decided he was tired of this issue as well and the whole thing would've went up in smoke. For once I am happy with some taxation without representation.

So, the issue lives on, and final plans may hopefully be voted on at the next meeting. We'll see. I would like to thank Councilors Nanke, Sullivan, Tesler and Dickey for their hard work and continued diligence on this issue.

On a side note, I noticed that as soon as the mayor announced her desire to not seek reelection, on cue, here comes Councilor Bennett. What is it with you two? Well, who knows? Maybe she'll change her mind on that as well.

September 17, 2009

The AFL-CIO And Cuba

This resolution passed at the AFL-CIO convention:

Supporting the Repeal of U.S. Travel Restrictions to Cuba and of the U.S. Economic Embargo
Submitted by Metropolitan Washington Council (D.C.)
Referred to the International Labor Committee

WHEREAS, our unilateral economic embargo against Cuba is the harshest we maintain against any country in the world and is ineffective. The United Nations has voted 17 times passing resolutions for the removal of the trade embargo and condemning its negative impacts. The leaders of the Caribbean regional trade bloc, known as CARICOM, have called on U.S. President Barack Obama to lift the decades-old
trade embargo against Cuba; and

WHEREAS, our Cuba policy is an obstacle to striking a new relationship with the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean. Virtually all countries in the Americas have diplomatic ties with Cuba. Numerous Latin American presidents have visited Havana in the past months to publicly underscore how Washington’s policy is out of sync with the rest of the Western Hemisphere and Cuba was a key part of the agenda at the 5th Summit of the Americas in April 2009 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; and

WHEREAS, bipartisan legislators have long since called attention to the negative impacts of the economic embargo on Cuba. Recently, legislators in the U.S. House and Senate have introduced legislation (H.R. 874 and S. 428), “The Freedom to Travel to Cuba Act,” which proposes the repeal of all travel restrictions against the rights of all Americans to travel to Cuba. The legislation would prevent the president from stopping travel to Cuba by all Americans except in cases of war, imminent danger to public health or threats to the physical safety of U.S. travelers; and

WHEREAS, civil society leaders throughout the Caribbean and Latin America have condemned the detrimental impacts (including limited access to resources, technology, intellectual, cultural and social advances) of the embargo on the vast
majority of Cuban citizens; and

WHEREAS, several polls of Cuban-Americans taken in the past two years, by institutions such as Florida International University, demonstrate increased demand for some form of engagement with Cuba, and declining support for restrictions
on travel and remittances; and

WHEREAS, attempts by the U.S. to marginalize Cuba’s engagement with the global economic community have significantly limited Cuba’s growth. The Cuban government estimates the loss to Cuba at about $685 million annually and well-established research shows the negative impacts in Cuba have disproportionately hurt Afro-Cubans, women, children and the poor; and

WHEREAS, diverse U.S. stakeholders in business, politics and civil society see enormous potential for agricultural trade and U.S.-Cuba exchanges of biotech and medical equipment, as well as student exchanges. Since Congress approved an
exception to the embargo in 2000 for some U.S. businesses, Cuba has bought $2.6 billion in U.S. food; and

WHEREAS, U.S.-Cuba policy has failed—it denies U.S. citizens their fundamental and constitutional rights to travel, it cuts off Cubans from information and the opportunity to interact with American citizens and it prevents people in the
United States from being exposed to the cultural diversity and intellectual achievements of Cuban society;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO support the effort to increase the economic remittance that can be made to family members residing in Cuba; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO support the effort to end travel restrictions on Americans seeking to visit Cuba; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO calls upon Congress to initiate legislation that would repeal the economic embargo against the Republic of Cuba and broaden diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIOcall upon Cuba to release all political prisoners, including trade unionists, and enter a meaningful dialogue with regard to broadening human and workers’ rights.

September 15, 2009

Human Nature

Poor human nature. It gets blamed for everything bad. When people can't immediately explain or understand some aspect of human behavior who gets the blame? Human nature.

Human nature gets blamed for wars. It does not get credit for the self-sacrificing soldier or civilian who saves others, though, nor for the group-think that enables soldiers on the battlefield to protect one another.

Human nature gets blamed for greed. It does not get credit for creating and inventing the stuff that greed seizes, though.

Human nature gets blamed for lust and laziness, especially if Protestant-capitalists from the 18th and 19th centuries are hanging around. It does not get credit for good sex and creative relaxation, however.

Wars, greed, lust, laziness and more--all that naughty and bad stuff--gets blamed on human nature. With a shrug of our shoulders we say, "Well, it's human nature!" and we go on about our corrupted business of being human. The project of more enlightened human beings than us becomes suppressing human nature and all of the bad stuff that it is made up of. Human nature, you see, is what's put away in Pandora's Box and if you open it...well..there you go again with your degenerate socialist fantasies...Really, you should be ashamed of yourself!

You can't have socialism because of human nature. That's right: all that greed, conflict, lust and laziness which is at the very core of being human wars against working together for shared goals and sharing the wealth and decision-making. Socialism and human nature? Forget it--they're opposites and opposites don't attract for long! Sure, it's human nature to go through all of the trouble of tearing down a working system like capitalism, but it's not human nature to then replace it with something better. Mel Gibson or Ayn Rand or my third grade teacher told me so.

Eliza Gray wanted to correct the record a bit and got an op-ed piece in the September 11 The Wall Street Journal. Human nature may have driven a few fanatics to make 9/11 what we know it as today, but it did not stop Eliza Gray from praising capitalism and human nature in one long exhaled breath.

Gray champions the idea that human beings are essentially "desirous, ambitious and perpetually dissatisfied" with what we have--and she says that "socialists, environmentalists and other sundry moralists" lament this. This is "human nature" pulled from the past and dressed in the clothes of the stronger-than-the-rest-of-the-pack 21st century stockbroker---a wolf in sheep's Armanis.

I've never been called a "sundry moralist" before. I don't think she means it in a descriptive or complimentary sense.

I dunno. I don't lament desire, ambition and dissatisfaction. I'd be worried if that were all there is to human beings, but I know there's so much more. Gray thinks that only the market and capitalism satisfy these basic human striving. And she seems to hate "the desolation of feudal land, untouched by commercial exuberance" and "the utter hopelessness in a country" where money is unknown. She's riffing on Samuel Johnson and apparently channels his spirit.

I like a good "empty" landscape now and then and I think there are more, and more basic, desires than she admits and that capitalism and the market kill them all through competition and crisis.

She forgets about desires for love and solidarity, for family in whatever form we find fulfilling, knowledge, curiosity, the often-seen desire to problem-solve, the desire to act and pretend, the ability to mechanically or artistically trace some problem or event through sequences in order to better understand it, the constant interactions between quality and quantity in daily life which give it meaning, evolution. Or does she believe that we are the same as, or lesser than, Samuel Johnson in the 18th century?

The people who jump to the refrain of human nature rarely accord human nature with these qualities either. Gray goes another step towards the abyss and throws much of this talk of human nature away in favor of the calculated risk of the capitalist. "Human nature?" her capitalist cries in the marketplace. "How much for human nature?"

"Human nature" doesn't exist and here are the proofs: you can't find ten people who can agree on its definition or components; a constantly evolving thing cannot be defined forever by its occasional or temporary qualities; no definition of "human nature" can capture the history or majesty of human evolution and experience; "human nature" and psychology often describe the same phenomenon, and do so to the loss of psychology; and you might point to what you think the effects of "human nature" are but you cannot describe its parameters (after millions of years of physical existence) because a behavioral or moral phenomenon is being confused with a physical thing.

Communists may differ on this. People who take Kropotkin's "Mutual Aid" up will probably say that human nature exists and is for the good.

Sundry moralist that I am, I wonder why the qualities of human nature could not be put to work solving the quantifiable crisis of capitalism. Ambitious and dissatisfied workers could go to town (re)inventing a social system that meets human desires and fulfills even Gray's "insatiable desires."

Communists want a society in which each human being produces freely for other human beings, one in which each person produces and consumes as they wish so that all are satisfied and able to find and develop their full potentials, in a condition of freely associated labor and society. With an end to alienation, all human activity becomes its own end and finds its resolution in the fully human thoughts and actions of others. This, it seems to me, is the only guarantee that desire, ambition and dissatisfaction can be liberated from their fetters and be put to work.

September 14, 2009


The White House released a statement today that the President has extended the Cuban "embargo".  He has previously stated that he will not approve lifting the "embargo" which is in effect a blockade.  Known in Cuba as "El Bloqueo".  The President's position is that Cuba must undertake political and economic "reforms" that are acceptable to him.  This surely tells the Cuban people that he continues the spirit of the much hated Platt Amendment which stated the United States has a right to violate the sovereignty of any country in the southern hemisphere.
The extension of the blockade has been the practice of all U.S. Presidents since the 1970's under the section of the so-called "Trading With The Enemy Act". This is also the basis for the Travel Ban.  The last extension was signed by President George W. Bush and it expired on September 11, 2009.

The Helms-Burton Act requires Congress to take action to specifically end the "embargo".  This Presidential statement statement shows his support of the Travel Ban.  It is addressed to Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: "I hereby determine that the continuation for one year of the exercise of those authorities with respect to Cuba is in the national interest of the United States."  Really???

The legislation to repeal the Cuban Travel Ban is expected to be voted on next month.  

September 12, 2009

March on Salem 9/12--The Slow Crawl To Fascism

Had the crowd at the rightwing rally held in Salem today been larger, better organized, coherent, focused or representative of something larger than themselves we might be talking about "a determined stride" or "a lock stepped march" to fascism. Instead, we're talking about crawling and whining as they slouch off towards Armageddon.

The rally got great help from Shilo Inns, who graciously gave marchers discount rates on hotel rooms and got space on their website, and Cafe Today. It's good to remember who these sponsors are for the next time you take a trip or are in a state office building and want something to eat. And there were none of those annoying police barriers or riot-prepared cops handy who show up to decorate the scenery when the antiwar movement is in the streets. The 500 or so folks who showed up were overwhelmingly white and ran mainly from middle-aged to older. So--a good time was had by almost all. After a good night's sleep at a Shilo Inn and some carbs from Cafe Today the whackos drank their Kool Aid, listened to a pre-rally rendition of "Folsom Prison Blues" ("I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die."), prayed, said the Pledge of Allegiance, sang an off-key version of the National Anthem and then vented under the hot sun.

And vent they did.

This is Glenn Beck's organization, so truth and coherency are extravagances that the demonstrators could not afford. The first main speaker spun the effort as non-partisan and then put out the main calling cards of the right-wing: stopping the Obama administration, turning back cap and trade, electing reactionaries, cutting taxes, closing the borders and more. A preacher said that even if you're not a Christian, today "your god stands with our God." The Buddha is laughing, I'm sure.

These were the repeated themes.

A speaker begged people to run for office and to help reform the Marion County Republican organization.

To be fair and inclusive, there were Republican groups and FreedomWorks sponsors. A nearly-discreet gaggle of beefy white guys circulated through the crowd in order to keep an eye on anyone who looked like they didn't belong there. For some reason two of them focused on me. And I shouldn't forget the women on the edge of the crowd with that shared, possibly drug-induced, far-away look in their eyes and their petitions clutched tightly in their hands.

A guy with a sign reading "Proud American Capitalist" stood next to a guy with a sign reading "You are not entitled to what I have earned." I hope that they work out the main contradiction of capitalism.

The Oregon Patriot's booth featured a sign reading "Resisting President Obama's Socialistic Agenda." Other signs read "We are a republic not socialists," "Just say no to socialism," "No United Socialist States of America" and "Do you really want the people who run DMV and the Post Office to run our healthcare?".

Yes, since you're asking, I do.

The more offensive signs were racist caricatures of Obama and nazi symbols next to Pelosi's name. You won't see these in the media. The sadder ones had themes like "We will not be silenced" and "Answer our questions." An echoing cry for help was much in evidence at the rally. Numbers have been bigger at past rallies, so you have to wonder what's going on behind the scenes.

The rules of spelling and grammar were not well observed on the signage. Not that that matters, really, but I'm assuming that these are the same folks who want to defund public education and get their grandkids homeschooled.

I left after just more than one hour. Every circus gets boring after the lions threaten to eat the clowns but then go back to their cages.

September 11, 2009

Chickens in Salem, Monday Night!

Monday, September 14th
6:30 pm
Salem City Hall
Room 240
555 Liberty Street

Please come out and show your support. We need to let them know that we haven't forgotten this issue.

The discussion will center around the city's definition of livestock. Hopefully, a final vote will occur at the meeting on the 28th.

Even if you can't make it right at 6:30, it usually takes a while to get to the issue. So, get down there to City Hall.

September 10, 2009

The September 2009 PeaceWorker is Posted

The September PeaceWorker is out. Here are the contents listed and link is provided below to the on-line edition. Enjoy!

Front Page
NPP Tallies Cost of War Through September 2009 by National Priorities Project
Senate Rubber Stamps Army Increase on 93-1 Vote by Jason Ditz

Opinion and Analysis
Lust for Profit is Out of Control by Peter Bergel
The Incredible Shrinking Healthcare Reform by Norman Solomon
They've Got the Whole World in Their Hands by Ken McCormack
Seeing Obama as Norwegians See Him by George Lakey
Why Isn't May 1 Labor Day in the U.S.? by Jim Cook

Letters to the Editor

The Big Picture
Now We See You, Now We Don't: The Human Cost of Drone Attacks by Kathy Kelly
Beyond the Yellow Ribbon: Hope for Returning Veterans by Bill Scheurer
Honduran President Zelaya Preaches Nonviolence to OAS
U.S. Troops Hiding in Iraqi Homes by David Swanson

Beltway Bulletin by Phil Carver

Focus Topic: The Next Generation of PeaceWorkers
Peace Village Children Empowered to Change the World by Ken McCormack
"If You're Not Teaching Peace, What Are You Teaching?" by Darren Reiley
JROTC to Target Many More Schools by Sam Diener
Peace Academy Replaces ROTC by Mary Johnston-De Leon
Military Charter School Established in New Mexico by Christine Steele
Coming to a Mall Near You: High Tech Recruiting by the Student Peace Action Network
Maryland Fails to Protect Students' Privacy from Military by Pat Elder
Peace Teaching Tool Now Available by Michael Trokan


Text of U.S.-Russia Nuclear Understanding
What Has Prevented Nuclear War? by Lawrence S. Wittner
Global Civil Society Versus Planetary Annihilation: The Chronicle of Challenge by Tom H. Hastings

What's Happening in the Movement
Perennial Plowshares Activist Jailed on Hiroshima Day by Fr. Paul Kabat
Corvallis Peace Fair to Mark International Day of Peace by Charles Newlin

OPW News
OPW Develops Peace Visioning Project by Peter Bergel
Burrito Booth Generates Fun, Dollars by Peter Bergel
Walkers, Coastal Contacts Needed for Climate Crisis Walk


Go here to see this great issue.

Buy your tickets NOW for the Solidarity Salsa Party

Buy your tickets NOW for the Solidarity Salsa Party

Just a reminder to buy your tickets now! They are $15 in advance and $20 at the door!

For the past three years Portland Jobs with Justice and VOZ Workers' Rights Education Project have joined together to organize a solidarity salsa party to bring together individuals that are a part of and support both of our organizations for dancing, fun and fundraising. This year's Salsa Party will be fun for everyone, and will include dance lessons, food and a silent auction.

Saturday - September 26, 2009
8:00 - 9:00 PM Dance Lesson
9:00 - 12:00 PM Salsa Party

SEIU 503 Dance Hall
6401 S.E. Foster Road
Portland 97206

If you have questions please call us at 503-233-6787 or email us at

Thanks for your support!

September 9, 2009

Cascade View--Salem, Can You Feel The Sleaze?

Cascade View cut a deal with Sunwest Management when Sunwest went into bankruptcy. That deal gave Cascade View 40 acres of "investment property" on the southwest corner of Kuebler and I-5 for free. Sunwest was on the ropes and needed a break, but it's hard to see what kind of break it got in this deal.

Now Cascade View is clearing the land and isn't saying what they intend to do with it. The trees are getting turned into wood pulp, so Cascade View picked up some property for free and can now make some money on the timber.

Since these parcels are so close to what may become Salem's next shopping center, it's a good bet that this "mixed use" and "investment property" will get turned into retail and office space. It also seems likely that Cascade View will manipulate matters in order to get the property annexed into Salem after building on it. In the meantime, they pretty much get a free ride within the city's urban growth boundary and get to thumb their noses at the folks who previously opposed annexation of that land.

Does Salem need more retail, commercial and housing development?

Look at the mall out on Lancaster Drive, the main downtown area, Keizer and the area around Madrona and Commercial--lots of empty retail space and lots of poorly used space and way, way too much concrete. As you drive down Commercial towards Kuebler you see miles of housing with very little shade or trees or green space. The apartments along Liberty going south have empty apartments and you find plenty of foreclosed housing in south Salem (and elsewhere). Increased traffic on Kuebler is just one logistical problem if the development does occur. We have a bigger problem here of excess commercial, retail and rental capacity and not enough green space and a company scamming the system.

Maybe Cascade View intends to flip the property rather than develop it. If that''s the case, the company is even sleazier than I think. They got a property for free from a sleazy company in trouble, cut down the trees and are selling them for a profit and perhaps they intend to sell the property later at an inflated price--and they may be publicly keeping their options open in order to pressure the Salem City Council to bend their way on annexation and development.

Asking how and why this is possible is almost beside the point. In a capitalist society they get to do what they want with their property, within rather elastic limits and pretty much regardless of how it impacts everyone else. We can't yet make them leave the trees alone or turn the area into a park or put something socially useful or educational on the property--all things that Salem needs.

How come I can get a tattoo, get drunk or buy porn in almost any corner of Salem but I can't have chickens? Why are there so many avenues open to anti-social activity and so few family-friendly or educational opportunities in Salem available to people who have to work for a living and don't have so much money? Who decides what the growth industries here will be? What would you choose if you were asked?

What we can do is pressure the City Council not to give in to corporate manipulation and skirting of the law and we can make development in Salem so costly that the corporations either compromise or back off entirely. New corporate, retail, commercial and housing developments can be taxed and regulated in ways which benefit Salem and the county and give advantages to existing businesses. No corporation should be getting breaks on annexation, sewers, water, electricity, road improvements, police and fire protection, mail delivery or public transportation at this point. If this makes sense from a social point of view, it also makes double sense as a business practice.

Oregon University System Workers Win A Tentative Agreement

Union and Oregon University Sytstem (OUS) negotiators reached a tenative agreement on a new union contract covering OUS classified staff late last Friday evening. The union is claiming victory and can point with some pride to having fought back what the OUS negotiators sought to stick them with. Perhaps the greatest victory here is that OUS and the Department of Administrative Services, which bargains with the union for the main body of state workers, have not fully separated and some kinds of coordinated bargaining and benefits remin in force. Inclusauion of the new student recycler unit at Portland State University in the settlement also marks a real advance. If the unon can build on this, OUS will have to eventually change how they deal with students and workers.

The tenative agreement contains the following:

*Continued health insurance with fully-paid premiums (from DAS settlement)
*Preserved parity on steps: 1-year step freeze instead of 2 years which management wanted
*Parity/equivalence on furloughs: 8-12-14-16 (DAS had 10-12-14), and management had to drop from 21 max
*Unlimited furloughs gone
*Recyclers covered by the contract
*Library Techs and Education Program Techs won selective salary incrteases with one-year delayed implementation; Vet Techs will also see a special increase.

Will The Healthcare Fight Make Or Break Obama?--Sam Webb

It is said that “everything” turns on the outcome of the health care struggle. That’s a big claim. And the logic behind it goes something like this: If the president wins real reform then his administration lives up to its promise and the momentum for enacting a broader reform agenda turns into a nearly irresistible force.

If, on the other hand, the final bill falls short of expectations then the hopes of tens of millions are dashed, the future of meaningful reforms dims, and President Obama enters perilous waters.

Both scenarios are wrong.

The political process is more complicated than either suggests, and to make this point, I turn to another arena of social life – the basketball court.

I played basketball for many years – grade school, high school, and college – and one lesson I learned is that it is a game of spurts, shifting momentum, and adjustments.

Often, one team gains momentum with an early scoring run, while the other tries to correct its mistakes, pick up its intensity, and change its game plan to slow down the other side and go on its own scoring spurt.

And in a contested game, this happens not once, but several times. In other words, there are “games within the game.”

Great teams are distinguished not only by their ability to blow out other teams, but also by their ability to withstand momentum swings, adapt to changing conditions on the floor, go on scoring runs, and make plays down the stretch that decide the outcome.

As in basketball, so too in today’s politics, there are “games within the game.” At this moment, opposing sides in the health care struggle are vying to determine the content of health care legislation in hopes of leveraging the momentum of that victory into a position of dominance over the broader political agenda going forward.

But that is unlikely to happen. Why? Because no matter which side wins, neither one is yet powerful enough to parlay the advantage gained into a full court press that blows out the other side.

Even if the Obama-led coalition wins real health care reform and thereby gains momentum for other progressive measures, the road ahead will remain bumpy.

On the other hand, if a health care reform bill isn’t passed, no one on the progressive side should throw up his or her hands in defeat; it’s only “one game within game.”

Indeed, other “games within the game” (struggles around jobs, tax policy, energy, climate change, military budget and Afghanistan, equality, mid-term elections, and so on) will have to be fought out before either side is in a position to declare victory.

In short, arriving at a future that is consistent with our nation’s ideals is going to be a protracted, complex, and contradictory process; it won’t be one encounter, but a series of encounters that taken together will move our country decisively in the direction of democracy, equality, economic security, and peace.

The "Mystery" Of Unemployment

As the stock market rebounds and key statistics show some slowing of the pace of economic decline – even some growth – economists and forecasters are hailing the recovery. At the same time, they are wringing their hands and bemoaning the increasing unemployment, as though there are no connections between the two events.

To read the mainstream media, one gets the distinct impression that unemployment is a calumny that descends upon the economy like locusts. Where any other economic problem requires attention and repair, the unemployment problem – apart from issuing unemployment benefits – must run its course. Maybe, the pundits say, employment will begin to grow next year or perhaps it won’t improve until even later. Banks, of course, get immediate attention - as do other ailing corporations. But the unemployed must suffer quietly until the self-regulating market regulates itself and jobs miraculously reappear.

Lost in all of this nonsense is the fact that unemployment is the result of a conscious, deliberate act on the part of employers. Bosses terminate workers because they see some gain from doing so. Of course there is much regret –real or feigned – and “I feel your pain” parting of the ways, but in the end, the decision to fire, lay-off, or dissociate is made to somehow gain an advantage. It’s a simple truth, yet of great consequence.

Read more here.

September 6, 2009

Chickens on the Agenda Again, We Think.

A Possible Vote on the Chicken Ordinance
Monday, September 14 at 6:30 pm
Salem City Hall
555 Liberty, Room 240

We aren't quite sure, but it seems that the chicken issue will be discussed at the next city council meeting. The councilors can change the city's definition of livestock, despite recommendations from the Planning Commission to the contrary. Councilors Sullivan and Nanke will present a new ordinance calling for no minimum lot size, 20’ setback from adjacent dwellings, etc.

However, the agenda for the meeting on September 14 will not be posted on the city’s website until noon the Friday before. So check the website next weekend to see if chickens made the agenda. Get out and show your support! Let them know we haven't forgotten about this issue.

Chicken Documentary – Watch the trailer for the upcoming documentary about our efforts to join the urban chicken movement, here’s the link:

You can also watch it on CCTV cable channel 21 at the following times:
Saturday Sept. 5 at 3:54 and 8:33 pm
Sunday Sept. 6 at 7:30 and 8:48 pm
Saturday Sept. 12 at 3:54 and 8:33 pm
Tuesday Sept. 15 at 6:48 pm
Thursday Sept. 17 at 7:18 pm
Tuesday Sept. 22 at 5:48 pm
Saturday Sept. 26 at 4:48 pm

Urban Chickens on The NBC Today Show – Watch the video clip at:

Marxism, a dead concept?

Granted, the McGloughlin Group is usually four-fifths conservative thought, and on a good day an extra liberal is thrown in. I actually, strange enough, find John McGloughlin to have some moderating viewpoints compared to some of the drivel I hear on there. But part of this week's chat centered on Marxism and whether or not Marx's predictions on the fate of capitalism had come true, given this latest grand round of financial disasters.

Well, to no one's surprise the group shot that idea down in a hurry. Even Eleanor, the token liberal, was quick to debunk such an idea. Basically, it was stated that Marxism is fine for college campuses to toss around, but there's no room for it in the real world, and that history has proven that out.

I just finished reading John Perkins' Confessions of an Economic Hitman, and none of it was a surprise, though first-hand accounts of the details were enthralling. He was involved in many countries, but Latin America and Southeast Asia are most relevant here. It is in these areas especially that our government has pushed it's global imperialism in the name of fighting the influence of Communist China and Russia. The most powerful corporations in the world, backed by the CIA, and if necessary, our military, have exploited the people and resources of these small countries and buried them in debt under the guise of economic prosperity for all, free trade, etc. As I said, none of this is a surprise.

To me, what is surprising is that even after decades of the hard push to control the economics of this entire hemisphere, and eventually the world, Manifest Destiny on steroids, the left seems to have a strong foothold still in Latin America. There is much still to be done, for sure. But numerous assassinations, guerrilla wars, and environmental travesties aside, the people still fight, leaders still arise, and victories are won.

What I see is unregulated capitalism on the run. And after each disaster, socialist programs are developed to get us back on track, though nobody lately will admit that it's capitalism that was the problem, or that socialism is what saved us. Greed soon returns and we are on our way to another boom and bust failure.

But this can only happen so many times. McGloughlin and company have assumed that because capitalism is still the driving force in global economics that Marx must have been wrong. I don't think they've given it enough time. When constant growth is necessary for your system to work, you eventually run out of resources and eat yourself to death. It should be obvious that this planet cannot afford world-wide capitalism and consumerism. As John Popper sang, "We are chopping down the air we breath."

As we sit in our soft world, comparatively, in America, benefiting from the empire whether we know it or not, I think it's easy to say "yes, capitalism has it's troubles, but it's still the best thing going." But, there are exploited peoples and cultures around the world that know the truth about multi-national corporate policy, the wasteland it leaves behind, and they have been fighting it for decades, not to be like us, not to gain advantage over others, not to profit, but to be treated with fairness culturally, economically, and environmentally.

The courage and hope that is displayed in countries and regions of the world that should stand little chance of winning against the empire gives me hope, and I think would've proven Marx correct. Capitalism will eat itself eventually. The people will only be exploited for so long, especially by a foreign power. It is more difficult for Americans to see these realities, given the view from our place in the global pyramid. But as more of us feel like the system is not working for us, the scales may be cleared away a bit, and more will find agreement with Marxist thought. Whether or not they know it's Marxist will be another thing completely.

I'm interested to hear what others may think.

September 3, 2009

Recovery: A Question Of Class (Part 3)--By Zoltan Zigedy

In truth, the bail-outs and stimuli do present a serious problem. In the past, much of government debt has been readily passed on to others in the form of the issuance of Treasury notes. For the past decade, trading partners have purchased US debt as part of an unspoken deal to sustain the US as the principal global consumer. China, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan hold over $1.65 trillion in US Treasury notes; their determination to save fueled the US propensity to spend. But matters have changed drastically with the collapse of world trade. At its peak in 2006, foreign investors purchased a net monthly $96 billion in US securities. Since then, these purchases slipped, turning negative on two occasions in 2007 and at the end of 2008. In May of 2009, foreign purchases of US securities were only $7.9 billion, 1/12th of their 2006 average. This is a startling, though little noticed, collapse.

Pollyanna policy-makers are betting (and praying!) that this appetite for US debt will return with the capitalist recovery. But there is every reason to believe that global trading partners may not cooperate. The People’s Republic of China has enjoyed unique success in resisting the global downturn, with the economy well on target to achieve the 8% growth rate projected for 2009. While exports are down, the US’s Wal-Mart economy remains a strong cornerstone of PRC-US trade. But more importantly, the PRC has enacted a huge and effective stimulus program that has quickly channeled capital into public employment and social programs, expanding the domestic economy and shielding citizens from the worse effects of economic dislocations. The success of this balanced approach to growth suggests that the PRC may well rely less on the export-engine for future development. Consequently, it is a good bet that policy-makers will encourage spending at the expense of the purchase of US securities. Suffice it to say, the road taken by the PRC was available to the US – public ownership of banks, massive direct public employment on infrastructure, public health, social security – but weakly advocated and vetoed by the state-monopoly rulers.

The question of inflation arises frequently, especially with the denizens of talk radio, the right-wing megaphones of ignorance. Without grounding the massive funds committed to bailing out capitalism in real assets (tax collections, government securities, etc.), the circulation of bail-out funds threatens to drive prices skyward, cheapening the value of money generated by the productive economy. The simple and obvious solution – extracting greater revenue from the beneficiaries of the bailout – is precluded by the dominance of monopoly capital and its compliant political servants. Moreover, monopoly capital would likely welcome a period of substantial inflation to cheapen the debt obligations incurred in the federal bail-out, obligations that were already offered with shamefully favorable terms. Thus, the right-wing fears are justified, though calculatedly misdirected at “big government”, as if government actions were independent of the interests and wishes of the corporate elite. They re-channel these fears into a general attack upon social spending that might advance the interests of working people. They find an only too receptive audience with many in the Democratic Party leadership.

In the era of State-Monopoly Capitalism it should come as no surprise that:

●Policy efforts have been directed towards a recovery for capitalism, fundamentally, capitalist profitability.

●Little attention has been given to a people’s recovery. All the vital signs of the condition of the working class continue to deteriorate: rising unemployment, sinking incomes, benefit cuts, rising numbers of uninsured, growing mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures – up 73% in the first quarter, increasing credit card defaults, expanding welfare applications, etc.

●Monopoly enterprises are strengthening with support and encouragement of the government, absorbing the weaker firms. As The Wall Street Journal headline recently attested: Goldman Grows on Rivals Pain, an anointed corporation, like Goldman Sachs, parlays its most-favored status and insider connections into record profits and dominance. Likewise, the merging of Bank of America with Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley with Smith Barney, and others – a new wave of even longer-named financial corporations – signals a greater concentration in the financial sector.

●The costs of restoring profitability are expected to be borne by the working class. One looks in vain for the IOU from corporate interests or the wealthy for the unemployment and immiseration visited on the vast majority for the cause of accumulation.

All of these truths confirm the continuing, advancing fusion of monopoly capital and the state. Behind the fa├žade of democracy are actors and institutions devoted first and foremost to preserving and expanding the dominance of monopoly capitalism over every aspect of our life. Those political actors who do not already identify with the goals of monopoly capital are corrupted or, frequently, politically marginalized.

Clarity on the nature and path of State-Monopoly Capitalism is a necessary first step to combating the forces arrayed against the interests of the majority. It is important to remember that they are relatively few and we are many. The jobless recovery from the last downturn at the beginning of the decade saw virtually no improvement in household income, more people without health care, and increasing poverty. An ingenious study by researchers at The Wall Street Journal reveals just how poorly the bottom 94% of US employees fared over the period preceding the current downturn. Using Social Security Administration data, the study revealed that the highest paid 6% - “executives and other highly compensated employees” – received more than one-third of the $6.4 trillion in overall US wages, up from 28% five years earlier. The researchers warn that this vastly understates the real incomes of this group since SSA data does not include additional compensation such as stock options. The WSJ article (Top Earners’ Pay Is Seen Eroding Social Security) also points out that removing the earnings cap on Social Security would easily make the system viable for at least 75 years.

This “recovery” promises an even more devastating fate for working people. Through March of this year, pay raises were down about a third from the prior 12 months according to the Labor Department. Analysts cited by The Wall Street Journal note that these increases are “the smallest in decades”.

People are beginning to and will increasingly question both a people-grinding economic system and an “undemocratic” democracy. While questions are not challenges, there is a sobriety in the air that will not accept mere promises, “faith”, or “hope” as answers to the rising misery. Witness the organized militancy for Employee Free Choice and Single Payer health care. While both movements frequently meet deception, falsification, and betrayal, they count as great teaching moments for thousands of activists who now have some clarity on the nature of the two-party system, the economics of profit, and the necessity of organization and militancy.

Unmistakably, the forces arrayed against a truly people’s agenda are powerful and single-minded. They are hell bent on returning to the rapacious Cowboy Capitalism of the last two decades – an approach that can only generate new crises - and they can count on the state to continue to abet this goal. But there are “sprouts” of conscious struggle that must and will be nurtured in the coming years.

September 2, 2009

Recovery: A Question Of Class (Part Two)---By Zoltan Zigedy

Let’s be clear on this point:

Capitalist recovery is the recovery of profitability. As I’ve argued elsewhere, Marxist crisis analysis is fundamentally based upon a fall in the rate of profit. Economic contraction, in the end, unfolds from the capitalist class experiencing declining profitability. Conversely, recovery, for the capitalists, springs from an improvement or restoration of profits. From the perspective of the ownership class, the renewed march of accumulation is the sole goal and measure of rekindling a sluggish, stagnant, or shrinking economy.

With the recognition of economic distress, policy-makers and corporate leaders have directed every effort, engaged every resource towards this objective. The recent report by the special inspector general, Neil Borofsky, vividly demonstrates this point; he testified before a House committee that potential public exposure from the measures taken to revive the financial sector could reach $23.7 trillion. Compare that to the government’s commitment to the people’s welfare! He objected strenuously to the “lack of transparency” in the bail-outs – a polite way of pointing to its disregard for democracy.

Capitalism does not only pillage the public to rescue its criminally irresponsible financial sector; it intensifies the exploitation of workers to bring profits back to life. In the face of excess productive capacity and with few labor-saving technologies emerging, the obvious antidote to profit shrinkage is to squeeze more and more production from fewer and fewer workers at a lower wage and benefit rate – a forced increase in labor productivity. The massive lay-offs, the bankruptcy filings, the restructuring, the violation of labor contracts, and the speedups of the last year are all elements of the furious efforts to restore profitability. Unemployment and impoverishment are not unintended consequences of this economic decline, but the prescription for healing the “pain” of capitalist profit shrinkage.

In the past and in some countries facing the current economic decline, labor militancy, political initiative, and legal restraints have retarded the capitalist class from swiftly and mercilessly imposing this brutal remedy on working people. In France and Germany, for example, government financial support for struggling corporations was conditioned upon maintaining employment. But the class struggle in the US is decidedly more one-sided. Years of erosion of regulation, declining labor unity and militancy, and political servility have opened the door wide to naked aggression against working people.

Many economists expressed surprise at the Labor Department’s data on first quarter nonfarm business productivity which registered a 1.6% annualized increase, a report doubling initial estimates. Despite defying historical trends, this increase would be readily expected given the shock therapy inflicted on the working class by corporate leaders and urged by policy-makers. Many seem to overlook the fact that lay-offs, speedups, and the avoidance of contractual obligations are the conscious actions of the powerful to advance their interests.

One can see this clearly from the Labor Department figures that show a deep decline in output in the first quarter, but an even steeper decline in hours of employment – an indisputable increase in the rate of exploitation. Fewer workers are producing more for less in spite of the slowdown in production. Clearly, the burden of recovery is squarely and fully on the backs of working people.

While the goal of restoring profitability is largely unspoken, many on both the right and left have raised the alarm about the huge resources – in the form of government debt – devoted to propping up the corporate world, especially the financial sector. Barely imaginable quantities of funds – essentially deferred, yet to be realized dollars – have been poured into failed capitalist enterprises that have been designated as “too big to fail”. This designation constitutes a conscious restructuring of the State-Monopoly structure that will leave the smaller, less dominating enterprises competitively weaker. In the coming period, they will either disappear or be absorbed by the giant firms ordained by the state-corporate dictatorship. It takes little imagination to recognize this restructuring – the encouragement of further monopolization – as a further step towards the restoration of profitability.

The alarm over rising government debt is real, though confused and misdirected in the popular press. Certainly debt – a promissory note against future created value – raises the question of where that value will be produced and how it will be transferred to the government. The right wing offensive – the tax revolts – sells the notion that “we” will be on the hook for enormous taxes in the future to pay back the enormous government debt. They conveniently and demagogically obscure the fact that much of the debt springs from “defense” spending, the imperialist wars and wealth-favored tax policies which they enthusiastically supported. They simply ignore the fact that current policies that have increased the money supply by 16% over the last two years is exactly the policy prescription advocated by their revered economic guru, Milton Friedman, to address a sharp contraction. Insofar as they want to reduce the debt by destroying social programs and blocking progressive initiatives like national health care, enhanced social security, public employment, and fair taxes, they objectively carry the water for the profit-centered ruling class.

Liberals, on the other hand, are largely constrained by the corrupted and discredited logic of “a rising tide lifts all boats” and the fallacy that wealth “trickles down” from the top. Dogma, lack of historic perspective, and self-interest confine the official opposition confronting the right-wing offensive to an unseemly defense of the corporate bail-outs and profit-friendly stimulus.

September 1, 2009

Marty Lupoli

The right-wing hate radio deejay said something like, "Now try not to laugh as I read this item. Try not to laugh now." He kept a chuckle in his voice as he then announced that Marty Lupoli, 47, had been found with with extensive burns at the Sumco site in northeast Salem. The hate radio deejay then went on a rant about meth addicts stealing copper and suggested that pictures of meth addicts burned while stealing copper should be shown to school kids. This was Monday.

The Statesman Journal says that Lupoli was "allegedly stealing copper wire from an electric box" at Sumco and that he is in Portland's Legacy Emanuel, very badly injured. The paper left out the possibility that Lupoli might be a meth addict.

This case raises many questions.

First, how did the hate radio deejay know that Lupoli was there to steal anything and that he is a meth addict? It's quite an assumption to make and then to announce on the radio, especially with an introduction like that and that chuckle in the announcer's voice. What could possibly be funny about a man burned and near death?

Can you imagine what the right-wing would be saying if we were laughing about some imperialist getting electrocuted as he tried to steal, say, the rights to Bolivia's or Chile's copper or while breaking a mine strike in, say, a copper mine in Butte? And which is the bigger and more outrageous crime--theft of some copper from an abandoned factory or theft of a nation's mineral wealth and ripping off workers? When you get the answer, send it to Kennecott.

Second, why is the Sumco site abandoned and why is the electrical box there live and not tagged out? Sumco manufactured silicon wafers and the company should either have been forced to remain open or the site should have been occupied by another employer or a community service organization at Sumco's expense before the company left. It's possible to imagine many reasons why people--the homeless, kids, a wayward sheriff having an affair with a real estate agent, a hate radio deejay or a thief--might have been in the site besides to steal copper in order to feed a meth habit. Why leave the power on? How many other abandoned buildings still have the power on?

Third, why this belief in scaring children? Why the anger at (alleged) addicts for doing what addicts do? Why this rush to judgement and punishment? Would it not be better to shut off the drug supplies, chill the US out and get this country off of its drug habits, fund serious rehab for the addicts and involve the kids in community policing and helping people clean up? There is a non-violent, community-centered and responsible answer or possibility for almost any problem. Why can' the right wing see it?

Recovery: A Question Of Class (Part One)--By Zoltan Zigedy

From Marxism-Leninism Today:

Part One

Most of us have never known an economic crisis of the scope and depth of the current capitalist contraction. Writing in April of 2007 regarding my prediction of an impending depression-like downturn, I jokingly noted that “Left sects sport this prediction more frequently than Elvis sightings or the announcement of impending Armageddon”. I sought to dissociate what I believed to be a careful Marxist assessment from the childish Marxism that sees capitalist doom in every hiccup or imbalance in economic life. Such predictions have embarrassed the Marxist tradition since its beginnings. With that in mind, my projection, though guarded, was not given lightly.

Had I been supremely confident – which I wasn’t – that capitalism would experience a crisis of the dimensions we are now suffering, I might also have warned readers not to take this crisis, or any crisis, as the death throes of capitalism. While one can argue persuasively that private accumulation in a market economy will inevitably lead to crisis, it does not follow that crisis leads inevitably to the collapse of a capitalist system. Indeed, collapse is extremely unlikely. Many academic Marxists of a mechanical stripe have fostered this apocalyptic view, but capitalism is not a mechanical system. It is, rather, a complex system of social relations that requires human agency to secure fundamental, revolutionary change. The notion of a “breakdown” – in the fashion of a worn out watch – is both wrong-headed and misleading.

With that in mind, we need to understand the direction of economic life at this moment. Some see “sprouts” of growth, others are skeptical, expecting a turn-around later, while still others see stabilization coming without a sustained recovery. Despite all the Nobel prizes awarded for economic theory, it is amazingly hard to find any professional economist willing to offer a projection based on much more than a metaphor or an intuition: so much for mathematical economics, rational choice theory, and computer modeling. Like weather forecasters, economists are uncanny when conditions are stable, but pretty useless in times of turbulence.

So mid-year, what do I see?

First, any discussion of “recovery” must turn on what measure signals a healthy socio-economic rebound. Does a stock market turn-around constitute a recovery? Do we count a positive GDP as the mark of recovery? Does recovery come with an improvement in the employment picture? An increase in industrial production?

Clearly, everything turns on how one looks at the economy. Those heavily invested in the stock market will undoubtedly declare a recovery when the market advances smartly – regardless of the fate of any other indicator. Similarly, those dependent on the sale of consumer goods are anxious for an increase – a recovery – of consumer spending. We could go on and on discussing the varied interests that celebrate a recovery when their economic status thrives. But such an exercise can be cut short with the pregnant question: Recovery for whom?

For the Marxist viewing economic life through a class prism, the answer is quite simple: Economic recovery comes when the living standards – employment, wages, benefits, security, and general well-being – of the vast majority, of the working class improve. For the Marxist, the only meaningful recovery can be measured by the advancement of their material conditions – the conditions most conducive to a better life. Insofar as Marxists are partisans for the interests of the majority, they are profoundly democratic. Pledges of “bi-partisanship” and “consensus” melt away as clever evasions when confronted with this measure of success. Is there anything profoundly democratic in a recovery program that rescues the rich and powerful while imposing even greater pain and sacrifice on those who work for a living?

But talk, evasion, and promises are all that those government officials charged with fixing a broken economy have delivered to most of us. Where “sprouts” are detected, they have little or nothing to do with restoring or advancing the lives of the vast majority of our citizens. The key business indices that bring hope to the pundits from time to time are based almost entirely upon squeezing more effort and imposing greater hardships on the working class.