October 31, 2011
some of the basic trends in corporate America: soaring
executive pay, plentiful profits, shrinking workforces and
minimal taxes paid.
Each has thousands of Wisconsin employees: Kimberly-
Clark, the paper-products giant; Brunswick, owner of
Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac; Snap-on, the Kenosha
auto-tool firm; and Rockwell Automation, descendant of
Allen-Bradley, a Milwaukee industrial icon.
We examined a decade of data for these firms and their
subsidiaries, from 2000 through 2009 (the most recent
year with tax data.) Some conclusions:
• Average compensation for the firms’ highest-paid
executive tripled in the decade, from $2.3 million to
• Profits rolled in; ten-for-ten profitable years for all but
Brunswick, which lost money only in 2008- 09. Total
pretax profits from all four for the decade: $29 billion.
• State income tax payments were almost universally
$0. Three of the firms paid nothing during 2000-2009.
The fourth (K-C) paid tax in only three of the ten years.
Its total tax payments: $2.9 million. [See table on page
2 for details on taxes compared with profits.]
• Global employment shrank dramatically, falling by
21%, 44% and 41% at three of the firms and rising a
modest 2% at the fourth (K-C). Wisconsin employment
data are not available.
Read more: http://host.madison.com/ct/business/biz_beat/article_3dc76d06-0013-11e1-990a-001cc4c002e0.html#ixzz1cPH4tac6
Tunisia's IUF-affiliated food and tourism union FGAT-UGTT has called a sector-wide general strike in hotels and travel agences November 1, and is requesting global support. Since the overthrow of Ben Ali 51 collective agreements have been negotiated in the private sector, leaving only the tourism workers – who played a prominent role in the uprising – still waiting for their bosses to agree to new terms and conditions for workers in this vital sector.
You can support their demands – click here to send a message to the responsible government officials and employer associations, supporting the union's demands and urging them to come to the table NOW!
October 30, 2011
A number of years ago the State of Oregon contracted out the administration (Eligibility and Case Management) of Disability and Senior Services to a county consortium (Linn, Benton, and Lincoln Counties) known as the COG. Because we were not State Employees we could not participate in the excellent PEBB Health Plans. Our Health Insurance was never as good and cost us more out of pocket than our co-workers who were not contracted out. But for years we bargained hard, organized our co-workers and one year almost went on strike. Management was sleazy but we usually caught them and let our co-workers know what they were up to and made them back down.
With this new contract there is a huge change. Can this even be called a Health "Benefit"? It is a Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield High Deductible Plan. This type of plan is called "Catastrophic" coverage for a reason. They were created to "market" to young people so they could have a lower premium (in this case only slightly lower) and the high deductible meant if they were in a car crash or something big, there would be some coverage once they paid the deductible. But the real motive is to have a huge disincentive to even use it. You have coverage, but don't use it. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Crime Family rakes in even more money and management pays less. Everyone wins except the worker. Now of course for this contract period management will pay each worker a subsidy towards that deductible. But if I know the COG (and I do) after this contract more and more of that deductible will be the responsibility of the worker. And they will be more and more reticent to even use it, unless there is a catastrophe.
That is not all. The immediate hurt is to the early (Under 65) retirees. Most Unions care about their retirees or at least let them know what changes may be coming. For those of us who have to pay full premium for the COG's plan we will now also have to pay the full high deductible (no subsidy for us). My PERS check is about average and for me the yearly deductible equals an entire month's check.
If there is anything that makes "Fight Back For A Fair Economy" sound hollow, this is it!!!
BOSTON, Mass. (A.W.)—Spread over 80 countries and 1,000 cities, the global Occupy movement is growing fast, with protesters camping out in financial districts and public areas, demanding an end to “corporate greed.” In the U.S., they come from various walks of life, sharing similar—and often interrelated—grievances, from exorbitantly high-priced educational opportunities, to a lack of health insurance, to the flood of home foreclosures, and anger over bank bailouts. Many Armenian Americans share the same frustrations as their fellow citizens and, like them, have taken to the streets, lending their voices to the occupying masses.
Action Through Poetry
Sevan “Apollo” Aydinian, also known as Apollo Poetry, is an Armenian American poet who is a spokesman for Occupy Phoenix. He hopes the Occupy movement will result in “a complete restructuring of the political and monetary system,” he told the Armenian Weekly. Once the public understands the relationship between the two systems, once “they see that they are being used as slaves,” they will join the “revolution,” he said.
Occupy Phoenix began on Oct. 15 when protesters gathered in the city’s Cesar Chavez Plaza at noon. Less than 48 hours later, many were already arrested, charged with trespassing or loitering, and then released. As in many other cities, however, the protesters kept coming back.
Aydinian has been careful in discussing the movement in on-air interviews with leading channels. The media often tries to misrepresent the protesters, he said. In a recent interview, he went to great lengths to explain the lack of vertical hierarchy in the movement to an interviewer bent on pinpointing “the leaders.” There are facilitators and organizers, maintained Aydinian, and anyone can assume either position. But Occupy Wall Street, or any of its side-shoots, has no leaders—not in the conventional sense, anyway.
The poet stressed the diversity of views present on the ground. You can’t box the protesters in a single category. “There are people from all parts of the political spectrum. That’s the main reason [Occupy Wall Street] grew to over 1,600 cities in a couple of weeks. It includes everybody. This is truly the people’s movement,” he said.
The “We are the 99 percent” slogan has caught on. It refers to the increasingly better-known and disturbing statistic that the top 1 percent of Americans controls between 40-50 percent of the country’s wealth. And that wealth, say Occupiers, has been used to undermine the democratic process and the wellbeing of the other 99 percent.
Read more here.
The 44 page draft program, issued in March 2010, was discussed at meetings of local and regional bodies, resulting in 1,300 amendments presented for Congress deliberations. The program was adopted nearly unanimously following 3 days of debate. It will provide the political platform for Die Linke candidates in the 2013 federal elections.
The Congress was held against the backdrop of momentous events in Europe. The Eurozone debt negotiations to save bank profits led by Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the general strike in Greece in opposition to the outcome of those negotiations dramatically framed the weekend’s deliberations. A representative of the Synaspismos Party (Coalition of the Left of Greece), Alexis Tsipras, delivered an impassioned greeting of solidarity bringing the Congress to its feet.
“The war in Greece is between capital and labor, not between Greece and Germany,” said Tsipras. “Greece is the guinea pig of the Eurozone. We are committed to defending democracy in Greece before it is too late for you,” he said.
Read more here.
*The primary message from the left in the labor movement now should be that unions should be accountable to the entire working class, and not just the union membership. When this is raised with labor leaders at the grassroots they get it easily enough. One contradiction we face is that there is not an organized left presence in Oregon's labor movement overall at a time when workers could, or should, be moving leftwards. Another contradiction forms around the most class-conscious labor leaders being hesitant or afraid to speak and lead from a position of class consciousness.
*The Occupy movement has changed the debate nationally and within the most progressive sectors of the Oregon labor movement as well. At the same time, however, labor is divided over its relationship to the Occupy movement. Two contradictions stand out here: there is an identification with "the 99% message" but not with a more specific class-conscious politics, and there is a suspicion of "leaderlessness" at a time when labor does not lead.
*The most progressive trade unionists in the state are actively supporting the Occupy movement, but an understanding of that movement within labor is uneven. Labor is not seeking to dominate or subvert the Occupy movement.
*Anti-racist and anti-homophobic work in Oregon's unions clearly needs to pick up and engage more workers, especially young workers.
*Progressive workers who are paying attention in Oregon see, in the main, no contradiction between mass action and political action. What happened in Wisconsin is seen perhaps as a necessary step towards a wider and larger Occupy movement: labor sees sees the struggle in Wisconsin as a logical progression of needed steps to defend itself and not as prioritizing (or selling out) one form of struggle for another.
*The labor movement in Oregon is having a difficult time uniting around a program or core demands for jobs. The contradiction between the labor and environmental movements remains real and potent. We also face a division between private sector and public sector unions and between the two main public sector unions in the state.
*Unions are moving to endorse Obama at different and contradictory speeds and with different processes at work. At the same time, unions are gearing up for local races and regional or statewide ballot measures. Some populist struggles seem to have fallen off of labor's table for the immediate future--issues like a state bank, for instance--while other populist issues (some kind of social insurance, retirement security for all, sick days for all) seem within reach.
*The Health Engagement Model (HEM) issue is the ghost who will not go away. We cannot say that there is an open struggle over HEM within labor, but we can say that those people in labor who seem most supportive of HEM generally see the management of people, rather than the empowerment of workers, as a strong part of labor's role or as a primary union mission. There is also a wholly justifiable concern that if HEM fails universal healthcare in Oregon, or at least healthcare for state workers, will be set back.
*There remains a primary contradiction in the labor movement between labor as an institution and labor as a movement, or as a force within social movements.
These contradictions are apparent because there is enough of a left-wing in the labor movement to make them so. That left-wing is not living up to its responsibilities by remaining unorganized and dispersed. For the time being perhaps these contradictions serve to motivate a creative tension within the labor movement. Their resolution will be worked out in the actions workers and unions take between now and the 2012 elections.
Do speakers urge us “get beyond” race? Are they defensive and dismissive of demands for racial justice?
If speakers urge developing “close working relationships with the police,” do they consider how police terrorize Black, Latino, Native, and undocumented communities? Do they consider how police have attacked occupation encampments?
If speakers urge us to hold banks accountable, do they encourage us to focus on redlining, predatory lending, and subprime mortgages, which have decimated Black and Latino neighborhoods?
If speakers urge the cancellation of debts, do they mean for things like electric and heating bills as well as home mortgages and college loans?
If speakers urge the halting of foreclosures, do they acknowledge that they take place primarily in segregated neighborhoods, and do they propose to start there?
If speakers urge the creation of more jobs, do they acknowledge that many communities of color have already been in chronic “recessions” for decades, and do they propose to start from there?
October 29, 2011
October 28, 2011
The Violent Silence of a New Beginning -- In These Times
But on October 15th, prompted by a single Facebook post, young students, workers and retirees proclaimed Occupy Taiwan and gathered at Taipei 101, the second largest building in the world. It houses the Taiwan Stock Exchange. Several hundred marchers entered the shopping mall on the first floor chanting, "No To Capitalism" and "We Are The 99%". The building security staff could not stop them. There were no arrests.
One high school student explained the protest to the Taiwan Times: "The economic growth figures may look good on paper. But we are not feeling it because all the money is going into the hands of the capitalists".
October 27, 2011
Noon – 2pm, SE 41st & Hawthorne.
"SOME THINGS ARE SO OBVIOUSLY WRONG."
-Brian Rohter New Seasons CoFounder
Join us in reminding New Seasons that Apartheid is wrong.
Oct 29nd and every following Saturday.
Noon – 2pm, SE 41st & Hawthorne.
New Seasons stopped carrying Rockstar energy drinks because Michael Savage, radio personality known for anti-gay slurs and other hate speech, helped fund and develop Rockstar.
“Some things are so obviously wrong,” said Brian
Rohter, New Seasons Co-Founder and CEO.
New Seasons stopped carrying farmed Alaskan salmon and switched exclusively to wild salmon when the company learned of the environmental dangers that farming techniques were causing.
“Some things are so obviously wrong,” said Brian
Rohter, New Seasons Co-Founder and CEO.
But when New Seasons was told the Israeli products they carry help support apartheid and occupation, all they said was, "We're not the food police."
Come join us in reminding New Seasons that Palestinians are at least worth as much consideration as caffeinated beverages and Alaskan seafood.
We as fellow occupiers of Oscar Grant Plaza propose that on Wednesday November 2, 2011, we liberate Oakland and shut down the 1%.
We propose a city wide general strike and we propose we invite all students to walk out of school. Instead of workers going to work and students going to school, the people will converge on downtown Oakland to shut down the city.
All banks and corporations should close down for the day or we will march on them.
While we are calling for a general strike, we are also calling for much more. People who organize out of their neighborhoods, schools, community organizations, affinity groups, workplaces and families are encouraged to self organize in a way that allows them to participate in shutting down the city in whatever manner they are comfortable with and capable of.
The whole world is watching Oakland. Let’s show them what is possible.
The Strike Coordinating Council will begin meeting everyday at 5pm in Oscar Grant Plaza before the daily General Assembly at 7pm. All strike participants are invited. Stay tuned for much more information and see you next Wednesday.
October 26, 2011
On October 14, the Occupy Wall Street movement with strong union support successfully defended New York City's attempt to drive demonstrators out of New York's financial district.
Meanwhile, under the direction of Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emmanuel, hundreds of Occupy demonstrators have been arrested and jailed as the Chicago police continue with their almost daily assaults on demonstrators.
Likewise, On Tuesday October 25, the Oakland, California police staged an early morning assault on the Occupy Oakland sites. When demonstrators attempted to re-occupy their site later that day, they were again attacked by the police with tear gas, bean-bag shots and concussion grenades.
Meanwhile again, in Albany, New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo and Albany Mayor, Gerald Jennings ordered the Albany Police Department and the New York State Police to open an assault and clear out Occupy Albany demonstrators. Fortunately, police authorities refused to carry out this order on the grounds that the Occupy Albany demonstrations are not a threat.
Finally, here in Salem, the Occupy Salem site was the subject of a bomb scare when an unidentified person exploded a bomb across the street from the Occupy Salem site.
Many of the Occupy Salem protesters were alarmed following yesterday's explosion and I suspect many relatively new protesters who have joined the Occupy movement across the country are dismayed and frightened with the escalating level of police attacks.
However, those of us with the long memories are not surprised. We remember the vicious attacks launched against civil rights activists and anti-war protesters during the 1960s. Birmingham, Alabama, Chicago 1968 and Kent State are events many of us old-timers remember all too well.
Of course, we have to accept the fact that the authorities will try to repress the kind of dissent that the Occupy movement represents. It is an unfortunate fact, but those who engage in dissent and work for a just society will inevitably face opposition from those who are more than willing to use repression and violence to silence the dissent and put a lid on the movement for change. Here, 1st Amendment rights should not be taken for granted; we must accept that we must re-affirm these rights through our actions time and time again.
I think in the end we will prevail however. I think we will prevail as long as we:
1. Maintain our courage, principles and passion for equality and justice.
2. Agree to stay the course and not give in to the threats, attacks and fear.
October 25, 2011
October 23, 2011
Recently AOCE, the law firm that represents corrections workers in Oregon, filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Employment Relations Board (ERB) seeking to block HEM. AFSCME, the union which competes with AOCE in corrections, apparently filed a similar complaint. They could have saved time and trouble: under ERB this is a prohibited subject for collective bargaining. Not permissive--prohibited.
The rumor mill started and has been working overtime. Word had it that these were lawsuits, not unfair labor practice charges, and that HEM was blocked, either temporarily or permanently. None of that was true.
What this has done is given us an object lesson in how workers are exploited and oppressed through a specific rule-making and legal process. We can't bargain HEM through our unions, although labor has severasl seats on the PEBB board, and we're blocked by the Big Pharma and medical and political establishments for the time being from winning national healthcare which would take care of our healthcare needs. Our jobs are structured in ways which work to make us unhealthy but PEBB expects--demands--that we get fully healthy. It can be said that we're hemmed in.
It would be interesting if a group of state workers on the Capitol Mall who object to HEM were to begin a conversation with the Occupy Salem folks about common issues and a united strategy. What if the occupy movement moved into state worksites or into PEBB?
This is unlikely to happen, of course. But we need an occupy movement which reaches deep into workplaces and more deeply into the working class. Occupy Salem would be wise to approach state workers and look for points of agreement and solidarity.
In all of the talk about HEM some important details have been lost. For instance, some labor leaders and activists--and we have covered this on this blog--have done well in speaking out against HEM and have won some positive changes and more PEBB meetings. This is all for the good. Also, HEM has to be seen in the context of larger changes coming to public employee and Oregon healthcare over the next decade. We will see a more integrated system evolving if the Republicans and the economic crisis don't completely gut healthcare first. In the long run HEM could evolve into something positive that creates more skilled jobs and grows the public sector in positive ways. Right now it pretty much sucks.
What do socialists have to say about HEM? Read our blog. We oppose anything which rests on compulsion by the bosses, be they public or private sector. We oppose anything which divides workers, or has the potential to, as HEM does. We support the eloquent voices which have risen to publicly oppose HEM from among the workers. We supported the passage of the Local 503 DAS contract because it was a step forward and because it was not linked to HEM. We support the most integrated of all healthcare systems--national healthcare. We hope that in two years public workers will lead a united strike and win back what has been lost.
October 21, 2011
Retiree Leader: Social Security COLA Announcement Clouded by Looming Threat on Capitol Hill
“Super Committee” Considering Drastic Cut to Future Benefits
For Immediate Release
October 19, 2011
The following statement was issued today by Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans:
“Seniors are pleased by today’s announcement of a 3.6 percent Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for Social Security beneficiaries. After two years of no increase, this will help retirees be better able to pay their bills and stay healthy.
“But today’s news is tempered by reports that the congressional “Super Committee” is considering changes to Social Security that will severely hinder retirees’ ability to keep pace with the rising cost of living. The panel may recommend a new statistical formula for future COLAs, one that would grossly understate the growing financial pressures on retirees.
“What the proponents of the change clinically call a ‘Chained-CPI,’ is what millions of seniors would call ‘food, shelter, clothing.’ A recent study showed that, if this change took effect, a worker retiring this year at age 65 would lose $6,000 in benefits by age 80.
“Social Security did not create our budget deficit – it is fully-funded by worker and employer payroll taxes. It is inexcusable for politicians who never met a tax break they didn’t like to try to balance the budget on the backs of current and future retirees.
“Today’s COLA is good news for retirees, but I worry that it could be the last one many seniors ever see. Workers and retirees must mobilize to protect the Social Security benefits millions of seniors count on to make ends meet.”
Contact: David Blank (202) 637-5275 or firstname.lastname@example.org
October 19, 2011
When we say revolution, we are talking about a profound change in the way humans relate to the earth, in how we produce and reproduce, in almost everything humans do and how we do it. What we're aiming for is not just a reorganization of capitalism, and not just changes in ownership, but for what Fred Magdoff, in an article in a recent issue of Monthly Review, calls "a truly ecological civilization -- one that exists in harmony with natural systems." Magdoff lists eight characteristics that such a civilization would have. It would:
•stop growing when basic human needs are satisfied;
•not entice people to consume more and more;
•protect natural life support systems and respect the limits to natural resources, taking into account needs of future generations;
•make decisions based on long-term societal/ecological needs, while not neglecting short-term needs of people;
•run as much as possible on current (including recent past) energy instead of fossil fuels;
•foster human characteristics and a culture of cooperation, sharing, reciprocity, and responsibility to neighbors and community;
•make possible the full development of human potential, and;
•promote truly democratic political and economic decision making for local, regional, and multiregional needs.
As Fred Magdoff says, a society with those characteristics would be "the opposite of capitalism in essentially all respects."
Read more here.
It’s enough! The hour of the rising has come!
The government has crossed all limits. It’s not enough that the workers, the unemployed, the young people, pensioners and professionals are plunged into misery—Finance Minister Venizelos went so far as to announce in Parliament—we should also be happy to be “under control”! The PASOK government and the interests of capital that it represents, in absolute harmony with the Troika, felt extremely positive shortly before announcing their slaughter package! The humiliation is almost perfect. At the same moment as their policy becomes bankrupt, and as working families are driven into bankruptcy, the holy alliance of government, the EU, and the IMF want to make us believe that there is no other way to save the country from bankruptcy. In reality they are the ones who lead us into bankruptcy under the control, and according to the terms of, the banks and multinational companies, the EU and the Greek industrialists (SEV).
There is another path, the path of the anti-capitalist break with the ruling order, in order to impose the interests of working people: by stopping the payments to the bankers and the cancellation of debt, by withdrawing from the euro zone and leaving the EU, by the nationalization of banks, state-owned enterprises and enterprises of strategic importance under workers’ control and without compensation, through a radical redistribution of wealth, by increasing wages, pensions and public spending in order to cover social needs and to create jobs by an adequate capital tax and the redistribution of profits through the cancellation of bank debts for those without vast fortunes, and for the unemployed.
We wont pay your poll taxes!
We shall bring about your downfall
The unified mass political movement will open the way, an uprising of all workers and of the entire population is needed here and now! With unlimited strikes and a nationwide general strike, with occupations as they have already begun in the ministries, with militant demonstrations, and with the democratic coordination of the branches that started fighting and of the rank and file basic trade union units, things can move beyond the bureaucratic leaderships of GSEE (private sector) and ADEDY (public service). Through the united struggle of student occupations and unlimited strikes we can win! It is time for a popular uprising that will lead to the overthrow of the government of shame, that will unshackle the rule of EU, IMF and capital and that will seal the defeat of the black bloc of PASOK, ND and LAOS. All the forces of the Left and the movement involved in the struggles must contribute through their joint action to an unprecedented revolutionary movement.
ANTARSYA fights for the abolition of capitalist barbarism as a whole and is involved with all its forces in the current conflict.
ANTARSYA, 21 Sep 2011
ANTARSYA is an alliance of the anti-capitalist revolutionary left in Greece.
October 18, 2011
We can offer ideas about democratic governance, and democratic control of the economy and workplaces--Wall Street must pay Main Street. We can speak up for the need for a single-payer universal health care system. We know that everyone everywhere has the human right to decent housing, adequate nutrition, free public education of high quality, and fulfilling work. We know that gender, ethnic, and racial equality are socially necessary, and that society has to be thoroughly pro-choice. We also know that all living things have the right to a sound natural environment. And that all of these are intertwined, and are needed now, at this moment, not in some distant future. We also know that all of these rights apply to all people everywhere. Socialism has to be international as well as democratic.
I'm sure there's more. But maybe this, with Ethnicguy's and other posts, will help make a start.
October 17, 2011
The movements I mentioned in my first article did not succeed for the most part. The reasons for this lack of success are complex: a lack of leadership and the absence of a true vanguard political party, internal divisions, the hangover of McCarthyism, police and government repression, the lack of a unified program at the end of the Vietnam war, the lack of a working class base, the racist attack by the right on the civil rights and independence movements (Puerto Rico, Azatlan, the Black Belt, etc.) and the recession which hit hard in 1975 are to my mind the main reasons why our movements did not go further than they did. Still, this gives those of us who were active then something to say to the occupation movement today. We also have much to learn from this new movement.
I want to repeat the themes I raised yesterday in a more concise and less narrative form for the new movement.
First, socialism is the only solution to the problems capitalism has created. The occupation movement has raised and exposed all of these problems in one way or another. We need to project the socialist alternative as the only practical alternative. The occupation movement, or a portion of it, will come to this view in its time.
A socialist movement in the US will not be a movement of the 99%. The working class, which is the only class capable of building socialism, is not 99% of the US population, and within that class even fewer people work and are exploited at the points of production and distribution. These people are the logical leaders of the socialist movement and the revolution needed to get us there. A revolution depends more on political will and the model and hope of an alternative culture than it does on majorities and minorities. The working class neeeds to lead the other oppressed social classes and groups to socialism.
The main part of my article, however, was concerned with some movement basics. No social movement can grow without theory and clear thinking, organizing, an alternate cultural model, opposition to racism and sexism, making going into the streets seem necessary and desireable, transformed individual and social relationships which show solidarity and love, class consciousness and class anger and networks of organizations which both take care of people and organize them for power simultaneously. And this is still not enough, because out of each struggle must come leaders who can unite and create and maintain a lasting political organization, a revolutionary political party, which speaks to the very best in the hopes of the exploited and oppressed people and gives them hope.
As I said in the first part of this article, our Old Left language sounds foreign to the occupation movement. This will probably bounce off of the activists who read this blog.
Let's approach it another way. These are the questions the occupation movement leaves me with. I'll address these questions directly and in solidarity to the movement.
*You say that you don't have leaders, but I see people leading every general assembly and others following. How do you account for that?
*You say that you are not political, but everything you do has a political edge and political content to it. How do you account for that?
*You say that you will not make demands because that admits that we cannot do something ourselves. How then can we free the political prisoners or improve the standard of living?
*What are your class, race and gender politics?
October 16, 2011
One question that has been nagging at me as I watch the young people arrive at the occupation sites on their skateboards or retirees find their way through the encampments is who is oppressed and how oppression is manifested. I have been helped in my thinking by an excellent article in the People's Voice about exploitation. Please read that article here.
From our standard Marxist understanding, the working class is oppressed as a class while exploitation as we understand it takes place in the workplace where people produce commodified goods and services under capitalist control. This is something basic or integral to capitalism. This is what socialism seeks to abolish. The young people and retirees are oppressed as a class. The state or federal worker who works across the street from the encampments is exploited as a worker and oppressed as a part of the working class. Those young people, the retirees and all of the workers also experience oppression as youth, as older people, as women, as gays, as national minorities, as the disabled and so on. This is never about who is "more oppressed," but is all about exposing all kinds of oppression and fighting it wherever and whatever it is. Capitalism and its attendant prejudices is the root of all oppression.
I am assuming that it is oppression and exploitation which drive most people to the occupation encampments. This causes me to reflect on my own experience with occupations, exploitation and oppression and this, in turn, highlights for me some differences between social movements in the late '60s and '70s and now. I'm going to bold what I think were significant motivations and steps in my own political development and contrast those, if I can, with the present day.
My first occupation took place in the early '70s at an arms manufacturing plant. I was part of a group of several hundred people who blocked a train that was going to pick up cluster bombs bound for Indochina. I have always been one to look at the downside of things: I knew that if the train ran us over we would be remembered, if we were arrested we would be supported, if we went to prison there would be a prisoner's rights movement and when we were released a movement would welcome us back. I could easily see that that occupation would be successful because so many people turned out. My Old Left elders welcomed me into a movement that took action. They invited me into a movement that schooled me, inspired me, loved me and demanded in turn that I school, inspire and love others. I could easily see that individual witness and "speaking truth to power" would move certain kinds of people, but that it was numbers--sheer numbers exercising the latent power of the people--who would shut down that plant. When someone patiently explained to me that workers could shut down the whole country and get a better deal if we used such tactics I instantly got the point and signed on.
But what got me there in the first place? I was a kid with strong and inexpressable class resentments. I could see a future which was either hopeful or hopeless, depending on the day. I had people in the Old Left who were willing to guide me. They taught me the rudiments of criticism and self-criticism, perhaps without meaning to, and they made it easy to trust others and be trusted. I learned that joining the movement would mean a life of comradeship and personal growth. This has proven to be true. Today I live that out with my comrades in Willamette Reds.
But there was something else. There were jobs and I had the reasonable expectation that I could get a union job and have some job security. I had the reasonable expectation that my union would fight for me. There was rent control and I knew that I could get a cheap apartment and live with others in some kind of collective or commune. My union job and my cheap collective apartment might allow me to enjoy music and art: the world was an exciting place for a young working class kid then. The heavy metal band The MC5 expressed all of my anger and angst, but that music--along with the blues and soul music--also promised me an alternative culture and a human future. When The MC5 sang, "I might be white but I can be bad too" I totally identified with the message. By in large that culture kept its promises. It invited me into the streets. And if all of that didn't work out, I knew that a social safety net would catch me as I fell and even there there were groups like the National Welfare Rights Organization and the Council of the Southern Mountains organizing poor people.
I knew that if I was forced into the military--and force was the only way I was going--a GI rights movement led by the Trotskyists would take care of me as best it could. The GI coffeehouse movement led by others on the left would support me. In so-called "middle America" then we didn't care that there was a near-fatal split in the antiwar movement taking place: good community organizers got people out to demonstrations regardless of who called the demonstration.
I knew that if I ended up in a factory or a coal mine--and I was certain that this would be my fate--I could expect militant union representation, as I've said above, but I also knew that wherever I landed there would be a strong worker-led rank-and- file movement. The Lordstown GM workers were constantly on wildcat. Detroit had the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement and other similar groups. The chant, "Be bad! Be bad! Be bad! Can't get nothin' if we ain't bad!" resonated with me as much as The MC5 did. Coal miners shut down the mines for weeks on end to block strip mining, win healthcare and better pensions, assert rights for Appalachia and stop bad contracts. Those miners took over their union and forced changes in the laws through direct action. Appalachia, America's internal colony, changed in front of us. I could see and feel these changes and I believed that we would all be okay if I lent a hand.
Written by FRSO/OSCL
Saturday, 08 October 2011 22:35
If you haven't been living under a rock for the past month you've probably heard about the wave of protests across the United States set off by Occupy Wall Street on September 17. By now you've probably seen them in your own city: Occupy Together lists events in more than one thousand cities in North America and elsewhere around the world. Some have spoken of a new movement like the anti-apartheid and anti-globalization movements of the '80s and '90s; others look back to 1968 or beyond for comparisons.
For socialists and leftists of all stripes these "occupations" have been both exciting and challenging, raising new questions every day. Can this movement grow and sustain itself until it can challenge the political status quo in the US? What are the politics of the occupations and their likely political trajectory? As socialists, as members and leaders in mass organizations, as community members and victims and resisters of the Wall Street parasites and their system -- how do we take part in the movement and in this rare historical moment?
Here are a few things that we've been reading to help sharpen our thinking around some of these questions.
•Theory, tactics and practice: In So Real It Hurts: Notes on Occupy Wall Street, Manissa Maharawal writes about her experiences at the Occupy Wall Street general assembly. McKenzie Wark writes about challenges and opportunities for OWS in How To Occupy An Abstraction and Earl McCabe writes about tactics and goals at the blog Permanent Crisis. A piece by "SKS" discusses the politico-military dimension of Occupy Wall Street's "leaderless resistance".
•Occupy/unoccupy: Many people have written about the contradictions of a movement calling for "occupations" on land which was stolen from its inhabitants -- and is still being occupied by the descendants and beneficiaries of that theft. Michelle Merrill writes about it in Occupied Lands, and "Tequila Sovereign" writes more about the history of Manhattan and the Lenape who were its original inhabitants in her post Manna-hatta. Another challenge to the perceived whiteness of Occupy Wall Street comes from Occupy The Hood, as Julianne Escobedo Shepherd reports at AlterNet.
•International solidarity: As Occupy Wall Street was inspired by the wave of revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa and movements against austerity in Europe, so in turn it has inspired solidarity actions across the globe. The Maoist website Utopia reports on a gathering in Zhengzhou, China, where protestors called for "Determined Support for the American People's Great 'Wall Street Revolution!'" (Summary in English here, original full report in Chinese here.) Participants in the movement of the indignados in Spain have linked their struggle to that in the US and called for a global day of action on October 15.
•Politics and prospects: Many arguments about this movement center on the "demandlessness" of the occupiers. Should they have a list of specific demands? What should they be? This leads to even bigger questions: where is the movement going? What should it strive for and what can it achieve? Vijay Prashad offers some analysis of the movement and its place in the politics and society of the US in Zombie Capitalism and the Post-Obama Left. Matt Sledge writes about occupiers resisting co-optation in a piece for the Huffington Post. At Fire on the Mountain, Jimmy Higgins admits he was wrong about Occupy Wall Street and looks to the bigger picture.
•Stray thoughts: Sarah Jaffe discusses the class implications of the call for protestors to 'know your history.' Time collects 50 of the best photos from Occupy Wall Street. Sady Doyle tells stories from her life that challenge the idea of the 99% versus the 1%. And at The Nation, Richard Kim says We Are All Human Microphones Now.
Today's headlines are full of news about similar, and much larger, events across the US, across Canada, in Europe and in Hong Kong. There is also news that a solidarity demonstration with Occupy Wall Street was held in China by communists there. The New York Times highlighted the fact that most demonstrations were peaceful while The Statesman Journal portrayed the protests as violent. The march on Times Square in New York apparently exceeded all expectations. It seems as if we are quickly coming to a point where masses of people are either in the streets or are supporting people who are.
In the past we have seen massive police repression used against such movements at critical points. Today's movements have forestalled such repression only by mobilizing public support and opinion quickly and by taking the authorities by surprise. New York City police apparently attempted to violently intervene in yesterday's demonstrations and there have been echoes of this in Boston, Atlanta and, yes, Portland and Salem.
Perhaps a few words need to be said about the contradictions we see around us as the movements grow.
The presence of Ron Paul supporters and people whose agenda is to dump the Fed in the occupation movement is, or will be, problematic. Paul is anti-union and anti-worker, racist and libertarian. This libertarianism apparently resounds with people who seem to get their wacko theories on the Fed and "big capitalism" from the John Birch Society and conspiracy theories. If they are given a platform in the antiwar and occupation movements they will use it to build a base for a far-right advance in the 2012 elections. Despite its rhetoric then, there are very real political questions before the occupation and antiwar movements.
I have appreciated the antiwar work of the Portland International Socialist Organization (ISO) for some time, and I realize that ISO fills a gap which should be filled by a socialist organization more deeply rooted in the labor and people's movements, but the ISO went over the top yesterday in having two speakers on the rally platform and warning the crowd against the Democrats. This works very much against building a united front of all progressive forces, rebuilding the antiwar movement and building solidarity with the occupation movements. It shows a real weakness and a poverty of philosophy and understanding on the left: the problem is not "the Democrats" but the lack of unity among progressive forces behind a commonly shared fight-the-right program. The Working Families Party erred by not being present at the rally and putting forward an alternative agenda.
The Socialist Equality Party was present with a leaflet telling us all how to move forward and taking credit for "spearheading the fight for the independent industrial and political mobilization of the working class in a struggle against the two-party capitalist system." Shades of the 1970s when the organized left nearly perished under the weight of factionalism! We have said that struggle and resistance resolves all contradictions, but apparently this only holds true for people actually willing to listen and learn from the workers and the people. Enough said.
A leaflet from Workers Action gave commonsense demands that should be taken up: good jobs now, no cuts to social services, save social security and Medicare, healthcare for all, save public education, end the wars and pay for these policies by taxing the rich. Missing from the leaflet was any mention of equal rights for all or the special oppression of women, gays and national minorities or an invitation to take concrete action.
The Freedom Socialists also issued a leaflet. To their credit, much of this leaflet was about supporting the militant longshore workers in Longview, Washington. The problem with the leaflet--and this is a problem shared across the left--is that it is self-serving and substitutionist. Would it not have been better to have a leader of that struggle speak in her/his own words at the rally?
The Student Loan Justice Portland group did exactly the right thing by putting out a short leaflet on a key issue and inviting others to their October 17 rally at noon outside the Bankruptcy Court (1001 SW 5th Avenue at SW Salmon St.). The leaflet asks people to call Senators Merkley and Wyden and Representatives Blumenauer and Schrader to demand full discharge of all student loans in bankruptcy court. This is a winnable struggle and goes to heart of so many people's lives.
Portland Jobs With Justice also did the right thing by inviting the crowd to participate in the upcoming march from Portland to Vancouver for jobs. This focus is exactly what is needed now.
October 14, 2011
There will be rallies in many countries on that day calling for global change.
There will be a sign-making party at 10 am Saturday.
A speech by Mark Lewis, an International Monetary Fund official, was interrupted by egg-throwing students at Uludağ University in the northwestern province of Bursa yesterday.
A Turkish student stood up while Lewis was delivering a speech as a keynote speaker at the 16th Economic Symposium and threw an egg at the IMF official before being joined in the act by another student.
“IMF get out, these are our universities,” one of the unidentified students chanted. Lewis managed to avoid all the eggs thrown at him by the students.
Security guards removed seven university students by force while other students unfurled anti-IMF banners.
Lewis continued his speech after the protesters were removed from the conference hall. Some students protested the lecturers of the university and the security guards shouting, “You are throwing us out of our universities by force, this is not fair.”
Some students also walked out of the conference hall to protest Lewis and the university administration.
The petitions are calling for investigations into actions by big banks instead of granting them immunity.
We need as many of the State Attorneys General to get on board as possible to make sure banks don't walk free -- and our Attorney General, John Kroger, has remained silent.
If you can't make it in person today, send an email here.
October 13, 2011
March from Portland to Vancouver
Saturday, Oct. 22 at 11 am
Meet at the field just off I-5 Exit 308 to Jantzen Beach* to march across the I-5 bridge for a
Noon Rally at Esther Short Park* in Vancouver
Many have participated in powerful Portland Rising events on April 16th and June 30th. This time it will be Portland Rising AND Vancouver rising as we connect struggles on the two sides of the river. In addition to supporting union campaigns, we will also be sending a message to Senator Patty Murray, co-chair of the Congressional "Super-Committee," which is poised to make cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, that these programs should not be cut one cent!
The times have been changing in the last weeks. The occupations of Wall St., Portland, and other places are highlighting the fact that there are plenty of resources in our society - it is just that the 1% is grabbing all this abundance for themselves. At the very least, we have enough resources for good jobs for all and an enhanced safety net! Join us! This is a great time to come out and help make the changes we need.
*Portland meeting place: We will meet at the field just off of Northbound I-5 Exit 308. The field is on the East side of I-5, between the highway and Taco Bell. Parking is available on N. Jantzen Street. and other side streets. The #6 Tri-Met bus stops at N. Jantzen St.
*Esther Short Park is at West 6th and Esther Streets in Downtown Vancouver.
Also: Wednesday, October 12th, 5pm. Rally in defense of education. Arne Duncan, the Secretary of the US Department of Education is coming to the Oregon Convention Center. Along with parents and educators, we want to protest the policies he has helped drive that hurt teachers and pave the way to privatization of public schools.
For more info call JwJ at 503-236-5573 www.jwjpdx.org