163-3 Democratic Socialism

Unions Join Co-ops in Cincinnati

At Grassroots Economic Organizing, Michelle Camou reports:

Unions met with worker cooperatives November 13th and 14th to consider how the two can work together to build an economy balancing profits with wider ownership, higher labor standards, environmental conservation, and community well-being. The Cincinnati Union Cooperative Initiative (CUCI) organized the symposium connecting varied unions with worker co-ops or planned co-ops across the country.

The vision promoted by symposium organizers is this: worker cooperatives can fuel economic growth for marginalized communities and opportunity for workers across the United States. In such a scenario, worker-owners would hold equity in the companies employing them and exercise voice at work through the principle of “one worker one vote.” Unions would maintain their purpose in such a system, even when workers have authority in the workplace, because interests as owners can come up against interests as workers. The union role would include negotiating collective bargaining agreements, handling grievance proceedings, and addressing other conflicts that might arise, just as they do in standard unionized workplaces.

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At the End of the Tunnel: Daylight or Headlight?

At The Guardian, Paul Mason writes:

The scene is Kentish Town, London, February 1858, sometime around 4am. Marx is a wanted man in Germany and is hard at work scribbling thought-experiments and notes-to-self. When they finally get to see what Marx is writing on this night, the left intellectuals of the 1960s will admit that it “challenges every serious interpretation of Marx yet conceived”. It is called “The Fragment on Machines”.

In the “Fragment” Marx imagines an economy in which the main role of machines is to produce, and the main role of people is to supervise them. He was clear that, in such an economy, the main productive force would be information. The productive power of such machines as the automated cotton-spinning machine, the telegraph and the steam locomotive did not depend on the amount of labour it took to produce them but on the state of social knowledge. Organisation and knowledge, in other words, made a bigger contribution to productive power than the work of making and running the machines.

Given what Marxism was to become — a theory of exploitation based on the theft of labour time — this is a revolutionary statement. It suggests that, once knowledge becomes a productive force in its own right, outweighing the actual labour spent creating a machine, the big question becomes not one of “wages versus profits” but who controls what Marx called the “power of knowledge”.

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Who Needs Anarchists? Or Marxists?

At Los Angeles Review of Books, Malcolm Harris reviews Unruly Equality by Andrew Cornell. Harris begins:

IN AN 1875 letter to German socialist politician August Bebel, Friedrich Engels complained — on behalf of himself and Karl Marx — about being teased by anarchists. Bebel’s Social Democratic Workers’ Party was merging with the General German Workers’ Association, the latter of which advocated a parliamentary road to socialism rather than a revolutionary one.

When the unified party forwarded their draft platform, Engels and Marx were embarrassed. They wanted to be clear about their theoretical position in this especially high-stakes situation. Germany was integral to international communist strategy, and if a unified front got off on the wrong foot it could have had catastrophic consequences for the movement. “Remember that abroad we [he and Marx] are held responsible for any and every statement and action of the German Social-Democratic Workers’ Party,” Engels writes to Bebel. “The people’s state has been flung in our teeth ad nauseam by the anarchists.”

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Zoning

Conservatives and libertarians tend to dismiss anything connected to the State as “socialism”, especially if they don’t approve of whatever is going on. On the left, the relation to the State is more ambivalent, but planning (“democratic”, of course) remains part of the program. So how does zoning, as an example of public planning in the context of a market economy, work in Chicago? Daniel Kay Hertz takes a look HERE.

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163-3 Ars Politica

We Shall Overcome

James Napoli, digital editor of Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, has put together an oral history about the origins and production of the famous (or notorious) folk music album featuring Bernie Sanders. The recording took place during Sanders’ time as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont, and the account offers a look at the changes taking place in Burlington at the time, audio and visual cuts from the recording, and more, HERE.

163-3 Politics

Trans-Pacific Partnership: More Thumbs Down

The negotiating process for trade agreements like the TPP includes a Labor Advisory Committee. In early December, that committee issued a report on the recently concluded TPP negotiations:

While the TPP may create some limited opportunities for increased exports, there is an even larger risk that it will increase our trade deficit, which has been a substantial drag on job growth for more than twenty years. Especially at risk are jobs and wages in the auto, aerospace, aluminum and steel, apparel and textile, call center, and electronic and electrical machinery industries. The failure to address currency misalignment, weak rules of origin and inadequate state-owned enterprise provisions, extraordinary rights provided to foreign investors and pharmaceutical companies, the undermining of Buy American, and the inclusion of a labor framework that has proved itself ineffective are key among the TPP’s mistakes that contribute to our conclusion that the certain risks outweigh the TPP’s speculative and limited benefits.

As part of our work to create this report, the LAC reviewed our NAFTA report from more than 20 years ago and the history of trade agreements implemented since that time. What is stunning is that despite the mounting evidence that neoliberal trade and globalization rules do not create shared prosperity and inclusive growth, and despite the fact that some of NAFTA’s biggest supporters, including former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now agree with us that corporate-driven trade doesn’t work for workers, we are essentially having the same debate as we had regarding NAFTA.

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Chicago Political Economy Group

The latest issue of CPEG Notes is online. In this issue, Prof. Joseph Persky examines the limping U.S. economy, Mel Rothenberg’s International Note examines the European refugee influx and economic crisis, Ron Baiman talks labor and the fight for $15, Bruce Parry talks trade and the TPP, and finally Bill Barclay dives into high frequency trading and a court case regarding “spoofing”. Download it HERE. (PDF)

Partial Victory at Kohler

The UAW and Kohler in Wisconsin reached an agreement that retains a two-tier wage structure, but radically closes the gap between the tiers. For details, there is a report at The Guardian.

Segregation

People, us lefties in particular, often claim that Chicago is the most segregated city in the county, and after a time, it comes to seem like a cliche. Is it really true? At least among major metropolitan areas, it most certainly is. And not simply by race but by income as well, according to the Brookings Institute report that you can view HERE.

Green Convention

The Illinois Green Party will be holding its state convention in Chicago on March 5. For more information, CLICK HERE.

163-3 DSA News

Talkin’ Socialism

Episode 59 — Reproductive Justice — Recorded December 12, 2015.  Chicago DSA’s Peg Strobel interviews three activists from the Chicago Abortion Fund (CAF): Brittany Mostiller-Keith, the Fund’s Executive Director, and CAF board members Lindsay Budzinski and Sekile Nzinga-Johnson. They discuss the history of the CAF, how it operates, and most especially the concept of Reproductive Justice, including ongoing efforts to repeal the notorious “Hyde Amendment” that prohibits any Federal funding of abortion. The proposed legislation, HR 2972 sponsored by Representative Barbara Lee of California, would insure abortion coverage under Medicaid and other insurance programs.

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In Solidarity with Worker Centers in China

A new statement by the DSA National Political Committee notes:

Local political authorities in the Guangdong Province of China have launched a wave of repression against worker centers, their staff and activists.   These small NGOs have played a significant role in assisting internal migrant workers to exercise their basic rights, to fight for wages and social benefits to which they are legally entitled.  For example, the Panyu Migrant Workers Service Center in an industrial district of the city of Guangzhou assisted workers at the Taiwanese-owned Lide shoe factory to receive the compensation and social insurance in arrears they were owed when their factory was relocated.  The Panyu Center also assisted forty local sanitation workers obtain legally required severance pay from their former cleaning contractor and to sign new contracts with the new contractor.

Now the director of the Panyu Center, Zeng Feiyang, and one of its key worker activists Zhu Xiaomei have been arrested and placed under criminal detention on charges of “disrupting public order.”  Zhu Xiaomei, who played a leading role in assisting the Lide Shoe and sanitation workers, has even been separated from the one-year-old daughter that she was breastfeeding.  Several other staff and activists from four worker centers remain in detention, held incommunicado and refused their right to see lawyers.

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DSA in the News

At Counterpunch, Ben Burgis used DSA as a resource for clearing up a right-wing misconception about socialism.

Stopped for a man-on-the-street interview by the Chicago Tribune’s Oak Leaves, Tom Broderick mentions DSA.


163-2 Democratic Socialism

Chanukah and Class Struggle
At Religious Socialism, Ilan Fuchs writes:

Chanukah is probably the best-known Jewish festival among non-Jews. In the spirit of a multicultural society it is mentioned along side other holidays celebrated in America. Unfortunately it is mostly presented as a Jewish opportunity for consumerism, one more reason to spend money many people do not have and give presents to people who do not really need or want more things.

It might be a surprise for many readers to learn that the celebration is commemorating a very different sentiment — that of freedom from oppression — both from external enemies but also from internal economic oppression….

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163-2 People

Lou Pardo
by Bob Roman
Lou Pardo has died at age 96, according to an obituary in the Chicago Sun-Times. He passed away on December 6. The obituary stressed his achievements as a voter registrar, his devotion to labor causes, and his past membership in the Communist Party. It does not mention his more recent membership in DSA or that he was a 1994 Debs — Thomas — Harrington Dinner awardee. (The UAW’s Carole Travis was the other awardee that Dinner. Barbara Ehrenreich was the featured speaker.) It also doesn’t mention his role in getting Herman Benson (Association for Union Democracy) involved in championing union democracy. (See Rebels, Reformers & Racketeers, by Herman Benson, page 4; I recall Carl Shier saying he called Benson after getting a call from Pardo.) When Lou Pardo accepted the award, Clinton may have been President, but we were very much in the depths of the conservative winter. “People change,” Lou insisted. Yes they do. Thank you, Lou.

163-2 Ars Politica

Losing the Narrative of Their Lives
At Working-Class Perspectives, Sherry Linkon argues:

If we want to understand the social and cultural patterns fully, I would argue, we must consider not only the material conditions or social structures that shape economic experience but also how people interpret those experiences and construct their identities in response to them. We would do well to attend not only to statistical evidence but also to stories, which provide insight into how people experience and make sense of economic and social changes. This is the kind of insight that literature can provide. By representing the social world through the stories of individuals, fiction, especially, can help us understand what large-scale change looks and feels like on a personal, subjective level.

The long-term effects of deindustrialization — what I refer to as its half-life — have generated not only measurable social patterns like rising death rates but also a growing body of literature. If you want to understand the “lost narrative” of contemporary working-class lives, you might well begin with these books.

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