164-1 Democratic Socialism

Democracy, Power, and Europe

At Transform!, Nick Buxton interviews former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, who says that the nation-state is dead and democracy in the EU has been replaced by a toxic algorithmic depoliticisation that, if it is not confronted, will lead to depression, disintegration and possibly war in Europe. He calls for a launch of a pan-European movement to democratise Europe, to save it before it is too late. CLICK HERE.

Post-Capitalism?

At The Guardian, Evgeny Morozov writes:

Silicon Valley might have the world’s biggest reserves of chutzpah and arrogance, but could it also be laying the foundations of the new economic order? This seems to be the growing consensus among both its critics and cheerleaders; the disagreement is over what kind of order this will prove to be.

Paul Mason’s new book about “post-capitalism” straddles both ends of this debate. It’s the latest contribution to the always-green genre pioneered by Daniel Bell and Peter Drucker decades ago. As everything becomes networked and digital, argues Mason, even our new corporate overlords will be having a hard time containing the radical potential – for new forms of dissent and social organisation – that lies within.

But what if Mason is only half-right? While it’s perfectly possible that, with Silicon Valley at the helm, we will be moving towards one of those “post-” eras, why assume that it would be capitalism and not, say, the idea of social democracy that would be left behind?

MORE.

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164-1 Ars Politica

The Price We Pay: Film Review

At Democratic Left, Michael Hirsch begins:

The figure of a gryphon, the legendary feral, clawed, winged creature that nests above the one-square mile City of London, Britain’s financial industry (akin to Wall Street, but with its own legal authority, too) is an apt symbol for an untrammeled center of global capital. A creature of prey, it is redolent as the guardian of ill-gotten, even murderous gain. What else is the financial center of the United Kingdom, which introduced the tax-free zone that modeled capital flight around the world? The City predates the Cayman Islands or Switzerland as tranches for tax avoidance and is a main locus for starving the welfare state.

MORE.


164-1 Politics

The New American Economy by Tom Suhrbur

From the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing drove the U.S. economy. Steel, railroad, textiles, automobiles and countless other enterprises made the U.S. the leading industrial power of the world in the 20th Century. Industry also gave rise to labor unions. Following WWII, a third of the workforce mostly in the private sector was unionized. Strong labor unions shifted income from capital to labor. The U.S. working class enjoyed the highest standard of living in the world in the 1960s.

Today, a growing portion of American business profits is derived from financial transactions instead of manufacturing. In 1947, the U.S. financial services industry comprised only 10% of total non-farm business profits. Today more than half of all profits are derived from investment, trading, rent, student loans, mortgages, brokerage, credit cards and other financial transactions.

MORE.

Citizen Action Endorsements

Chicago DSA is a member of Citizen Action/Illinois, and our representative, Ron Baiman, participated in their endorsement meeting on January 16. Endorsement requires a super-majority of 60%, and a move to endorse Bernie Sanders failed by two votes. Citizen Action/Illinois is making no endorsement for the Presidential nomination. You can find the rest of their endorsements HERE.

Citizen Action/Illinois has also released its Illinois legislative scorecard, available HERE.

Bernie Sanders

Rickey Hendon and Elaine Shaw have filed objections to the nominating petitions for Bernie Sanders. These objections are apparently directed at the petitions placing Sanders’ name on the ballot, not toward his delegates.

Early voting begins February 4.

Time to End the Illinois Hostage Stand-Off

At The Shriver Brief, John Bouman writes:

Like most hostage-takers, Governor Rauner knew that if his demands were not met, at some point the hostages would have to begin to die, literally or figuratively. And, sure enough, the dying is underway.

MORE.

#Black Workers Matter

Last September, the Institute for Policy Studies held a two-day convening on race and organizing at the historic Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, which has a decades-long tradition of progressive stands on social issues.  The Black Workers Matter: Organize the South convening focused on fresh, new strategies for supporting organizing as a means of lifting up black workers in this region, known for its high levels of poverty, low wages, and low unionization rates. Read the highlights and conclusions from the conference HERE. (PDF)

Save Jobs at the Chicago Nabisco Plant

From the Chicago Federation of Labor:

Mondelez, the maker of Nabisco brands products, intends to eliminate more than 600 good paying jobs on the Southside of Chicago and send these jobs to Salinas, Mexico. For more than 60 years, the South Kedzie Street Bakery made cookies and crackers enjoyed by families in our area and across the country.

By making the decision to send production to Salinas, Mexico, Nabisco is eliminating hundreds of middle class jobs in this heavily African-American and Hispanic community in southwestern Chicago.

Mondelez plans to send these jobs to Mexico and then to bring the products produced there back to the U.S. for sale in the very communities where the laid-off American workers reside.

To learn more and to join the fight, visit fightforamericanjobs.org.

To listen to their new radio ad:

164-1 DSA News

Beers for Bernie

What is democratic socialism? Who defines it? Since U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders decided to run for president of the United States on the Democratic Party ticket, questions about Bernie and socialism are ubiquitous. In addition to curiosity, there are attacks from the left, center and right as Bernie draws large and enthusiastic crowds. The Greater Oak Park chapter of Democratic Socialists of America invites you to join the conversation. We’re hosting a free event: Beers for Bernie. While the event is free, beer will be available for purchase. Beers for Bernie will be held at the Friendly Tap on Sunday, January 31 from 6 to 8 p.m. The Friendly Tap is located at 6733 W. Roosevelt Road in Berwyn. Questions? Email tbroderick@chicagodsa.org or go to the Facebook event page.

Chicago DSA Marches for Bernie by Alec Hudson

With the presidential primaries approaching and with Bernie Sanders gaining an edge over Hillary Clinton in the first primary and caucus states, the January 23rd March for Bernie was an embodiment of the enthusiasm for Sanders and his campaign. Over a thousand marchers arrived in front of the Daley Center and marched to the Chicago Board of Trade building, chanting slogans supporting Bernie and claiming “banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” In such an electric atmosphere people of all backgrounds spoke out against the inequality and lack of social services plaguing our nation, the state of Illinois, and the City of Chicago. The March was planned in coordination on social media with other marches supporting Sanders around the country.

MORE.

Talkin’ Socialism

Episode 60 The Great Stagnation
Recorded January 9, 2016. Ron Baiman and Bill Barclay, members of the Chicago Political Economy Group, review the political economy of 2015 and speculate on 2016.

Download to listen later [right click]:
MP3 (32.5 MB) or OGG VORBIS (43.9 MB) (33:53)

SUBSCRIBE,

or add to your playlist using STITCHER.

DSA in the News

In Ohio, party caucuses do not choose who will go to the national conventions but rather who will be the candidate’s slate of delegates to stand in the subsequent primary. In Ohio’s 7th Congressional District, public radio’s WKSU found a DSA member attending the Clinton caucus.

John Nichols mentioned DSA in passing in an article about MoveOn’s endorsement process at The Nation. He also mentioned DSA in passing in his follow-up regarding MoveOn’s decision.

Conor Lynch mentioned DSA in passing in this essay about Bernie Sanders at Salon. Terry Simons writes about meeting Michael Harrington, mentioning DSA of course, and nominates Bernie Sanders as his successor, posted (interestingly) at Counterpunch.

The Chicago Tribune didn’t consider the Saturday, January 23, March for Bernie worthy of an article, but the work of their photographer, John J. Kim, was colorful enough to merit a photo slideshow, a few of which show the Chicago DSA banner.

DSA was mentioned in passing in a David Brooks opinion piece in LaJornada.

Matea Gold included DSA in a discussion of the constellation of groups supporting Bernie Sanders in the Washington Post. It being the Washington Post, the article was picked up in other publications, including the Ames Tribune in Iowa.

John Perazzo used DSA as one of his props to demonstrate that Representative Luis Gutierrez is a horrible person at David Horowitz’ Front Page. Interesting on how all the links are to other right-wing conspiracy mongers.

Join us at Beers for Bernie in the Wednesday Journal.

Generation Left

The Young Democratic Socialists’ winter conference will be over President’s Day weekend, February 12 through 14, at the May Day Community Space in Brooklyn, New York. For more information and to register, CLICK HERE.

The New American Economy

by Tom Suhrbur

Deindustrialization! Globalization! Post-industrial economy! Service economy! These are just a few phases used to describe the radical transformation of the U.S. economy over the last 35 years.

From the earliest days of the Industrial Revolution, manufacturing drove the U.S. economy. Steel, railroad, textiles, automobiles and countless other enterprises made the U.S. the leading industrial power of the world in the 20th Century. Industry also gave rise to labor unions. Following WWII, a third of the workforce mostly in the private sector was unionized. Strong labor unions shifted income from capital to labor. The U.S. working class enjoyed the highest standard of living in the world in the 1960s.

Today, a growing portion of American business profits is derived from financial transactions instead of manufacturing. In 1947, the U.S. financial services industry comprised only 10% of total non-farm business profits. Today more than half of all profits are derived from investment, trading, rent, student loans, mortgages, brokerage, credit cards and other financial transactions.

In 1975, the total value of stock trading in the US was $171 billion – less than 5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); in 2014, it increased to almost $27 trillion (about 1.5 times or GDP). Besides stock market trading, there is a largely unregulated market in over the counter trading (OTC) in equity-based derivatives include forwards, futures, options, swaps, and variations of these such as synthetic collateralized debt obligations. In 2010, the value of the derivative market was estimated at $21 trillion. Speculation, in effect gambling, guides much of this trading activity. Day traders, hedge fund managers and high frequency traders have turn Wall Street into the biggest casino on earth. Managers of private equity firms and hedge funds become mega-millionaires and billionaires almost overnight. Lord Turner, UK’s senior financial regulator, dubbed this speculation as “socially useless.” So powerful is the financial services sector that, when the economy crashed in 2008 as a result of the reckless behavior, no one was prosecuted. Instead, the federal government bailed them out.*

This new economy has winner and losers. The biggest winners, by far, are those who earn much of their income from financial assets. The biggest losers are bottom 80% — the working class as well as many college-educated lower middle class who are deep in debt and stuck in low paying jobs. The bottom 80% relies almost exclusively on earnings from wages and salaries. They own just less than 9% of all stocks. Less than 1% of their income is derived from capital gains and dividends.

A large portion of the income for top earners, on the other hand, comes from investments. The top 10% wealthiest possess 80% of all financial assets. The top 1% own over 35% of all stock. Those in the top 0.1% receive most of their income from their financial assets. Given this situation, it is not surprising that those who own the most financial assets are reaping the greatest benefits in the growing financial services economy. According to a 2014 Organization for Economic Co-operation report, 80% of total income growth went to the top 10% from 1975 to 2007.

The shift in wealth and income to the top earners is intentional. It was guided by conservative economic policies. Tax cuts during the Reagan and Bush II administrations were designed enrich the rich. Sold as “supply side economics,” Reagan cut the top income tax bracket from 70% to 39%. Bush I, and Clinton cut capital gains. Bush II not only cut capital gains but also the income tax and the estate tax. According to a report by the Congressional Research Service, capital gains tax cuts were the single most important contributor to the growing income inequality since 1996.**

Free trade agreements have globalized the labor markets without any meaningful labor or environmental standards. As a result, millions of manufacturing jobs has been transferred overseas. American workers cannot compete with desperately poor and oppressed workers in South America and Asia. Clothing, electronics, appliances and many other consumer products are no longer made in the U.S. Small American flags handed out at 4th of July Parades are made in China.

While cheap foreign labor has enriched the investor class, it has devastated working class wages and unions. Millions of good paying manufacturing jobs have outsourced to low wage nations. Wages in the U.S. have stagnated. Many workers have been forced to work two or more jobs, typically in the service economy, to pay their bills. College education is no longer a guarantee of the good life. Many educated lower middle class students are strapped with huge college loans debts but end up working low paid jobs. The standard of living has fallen for many.

In the private sector, outsourcing jobs to low wage countries has given employers a powerful tool to fight union organizing and to force concessions in bargaining. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, labor unions represent just 6.6% of the workforce. Total union membership has dropped from 17.7 million in 1983 to 14.6 million in 2013. Most of the successful organizing has been in the public sector employment. Unions represent over 35.7% of public employees. Not surprising, the public sector unions are now the chief target of conservatives and the business community.

For the bottom 80%, the further down you go on the income ladder the worse off it gets. The income gap between rich and poor in the U.S. is greater than in any other developed country. According to U.S. Census, half of the U.S. population lives in poverty or are low-income with no real savings and barely able to pay their bills. According to a survey by the Associated Press, four out of five U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives. In 2013, child poverty reached record highs, with 16.7 million children living in food insecure households, about 35% more than 2007 levels.

The election of President Reagan in 1980 signaled the triumph of conservative, free market economics. The so-called Reagan Revolution did not end when he left office. Every presidential administration that followed enacted free market policies that created the new economy. Despite opposition from Labor Democrats, many so-called “New Democrats” joined Republicans in support of free (but not fair) trade agreements, banking deregulation and tax cutting. Conservative Republicans carried free market policies much further attacking labor union rights, environment regulations, the social safety net and other public policies that infringe upon their free market ideology and corporate prerogatives. The 2016 election could be a watershed in American politics. Will the Republican Party win the White House controlling all three branches of federal power? Will the slide into plutocracy accelerated with a conservative election victory? Will unionism survive? Will the Democratic Party coalesce around a working class agenda?

*See the movie “The Big Short.” It does a good job covering some of the issues raised in this article.

**Supply side is a cute way of saying trickle down economics. It claims that, by supplying them with money through large tax breaks, the rich will create jobs through investments and personal spending thereby creating prosperity for others. Of course, they may use the money to speculate in securities and land, purchase a yacht on the Mediterranean, or buy a chalet in the s Swiss Alps. They may invest the money overseas manufacturing. Nothing guarantees that they will create jobs for Americans. But the lost revenue will restrict governmental investments in research, education, infrastructure and other socially beneficial spending in the home economy.

Chicago DSA Marches for Bernie

by Alec Hudson

With the presidential primaries approaching and with Bernie Sanders gaining an edge over Hillary Clinton in the first primary and caucus states, the January 23rd March for Bernie was an embodiment of the enthusiasm for Sanders and his campaign. Over a thousand marchers arrived in front of the Daley Center and marched to the Chicago Board of Trade building, chanting slogans supporting Bernie and claiming “banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” In such an electric atmosphere people of all backgrounds spoke out against the inequality and lack of social services plaguing our nation, the state of Illinois, and the City of Chicago. The March was planned in coordination on social media with other marches supporting Sanders around the country.

The Chicago March was organized primarily by Movement4Bernie, a group created by Socialist Alternative to garner support for Bernie outside of the Democratic Party. Our participation was welcomed by Socialist Alternative, and perhaps will foster further cooperation with them in the future as their support for Bernie continues. Beyond Socialist Alternative members of organizations like the Chicago Teachers Union, National Nurses United, as well as delegates for Bernie to the Democratic Party National Convention were all in attendance as were elected officials like Alderwoman Susan Garza. Chicago DSA’s attendance was great, with about a dozen DSA members from our City and Oak Park branches marching along with members from DuPage county. There was a solid turnout for our city branch which has been steadily growing since our first meeting in December.

So far major media has chosen to ignore the March and the other marches around the country, but there is no doubt in the minds of progressive and left-wing voters that something is happening in this country when hundreds and thousands of people are marching for a social democratic candidate like Bernie. With the involvement of DSA in rallies like these as well as our own #WeNeedBernie campaign we are helping to build a movement that will go beyond this election and move our politics more into the realm of socialist thought and action.

Other News

compiled by Bob Roman

City Branch

Some time ago, Alec Hudson came to the Executive Committee with an idea of organizing a CDSA branch for the northside of Chicago. Due to Hudson’s impossible work schedule, it remained nothing more than a Facebook page for many months. With a new job and help from some new DSA members, the idea expanded to organizing a City branch. An initial meeting in December brought together 9 interested members, mostly new and mostly young, to brainstorm possibilities. A second meeting is planned for January 13 at the Harold Washington Library. For more information, go to www.facebook.com/City-of-Chicago-Democratic-Socialists-of-America-1552834828264784/. For those not on the web, give the office a call at 773.384.0327.

Incidentally, if you’d like to organize a CDSA branch, this is a good time to do it. Branches don’t need to be geographic in nature under our constitution. They can also be formed around a common interest or an institution. Established YDS chapters also have automatic recognition as a CDSA branch.

Talkin’ Socialism

Episode 59Reproductive Justice, recorded December 12, 2015. Chicago DSA’s Peg Strobel nterviews 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, sponsored by Representative Barbara Lee of California, would insure abortion coverage under Medicaid and other insurance programs.

Episode 58Norvelt: Hope Only in Hard Times? Recorded November 21, 2015. Chicago DSA’s Peg Strobel in conversation with Margaret Power, co-author with Timothy Kelly and Michael Cary of Hope in Hard Times: Norvelt and the Struggle for Community During the Great Depression, a discussion the New Deal planned community of Norvelt, Pennsylvania. Margaret Power explains how her personal history intersects with Norvelt and provides some insights as to how and why the politics of this region has changed since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Available at Talkin’ Socialism.

Cyber-Squatting

On December 19, someone registered the domain name chicagodsa.info. That’s no problem. There are any number of organizations that share the initials d.s.a., from the Deputy Sheriff Association to the Deaf Seniors of America. But the person who purchased chicagodsa.info has it pointed to our web site: http://www.chicagodsa.org. The “whois” record for chicagodsa.info has the identity of the owner privacy protected. The anonymous email address for contacting the owner, wx9yb59745t@networksolutionsprivateregistration.com, sends any emails to our office email address, chiildsa@chicagodsa.org. Furthermore, we have some reason to believe that the email address chiildsa@chicagodsa.info exists.

So far the registrar, Network Solutions, has been notably unhelpful in resolving this situation. For all the brave words in their terms of service, their only response to what is obviously a registration based on deceit has been a promise to pass along our concerns to the owner of chicagodsa.info. This may be difficult to do, depending on the information they were given, but it’s not likely we’ll hear of it, one way or another, in any case.

To be fair, it is possible that this is a misguided but benign action of an enterprising DSA member. If so, please raise your hand and ‘fess-up. We’ll be more relieved than cross.

But unfortunately, this is far more likely to be a prelude to mischief. There are any number of possibilities. One is a fake but inflammatory Chicago DSA web site. Another and more likely possibility is all the opportunities to be divisive and outrageous: emails, bulletin board postings, postings on email discussion lists, etc. It also could be useful for fake press releases.

If you should spot chicagodsa.info either as part of an email address or as part of a web link, please let us know. And keep in mind that, until notified otherwise, chicagodsa.info is not likely to be honest or a friend to the left, never mind DSA.