Everyone Is Joining the Resistance

by Bob Roman

Everyone is joining the resistance to the Trump agenda, whatever that may be, for we all fear the worst and anything less than that is still pretty bad. Everyone is joining, including what passes for the Democratic Party in Chicago’s 48th Ward, where U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky held her “Anger to Action” community forum on Saturday, January 7. All the local politicians were on the program: 48th Ward Alderman Harry Osterman, State Representative Kelly Cassidy, State Senator Heather Steans, and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. Appropriately, 48th Ward Committeewoman Carol Ronen served as the master of ceremonies.

The event was held at the old Broadway Armory on Broadway near Thorndale. It drew somewhere between 1,200 and 1,400 people (estimates vary). It was standing room only for a crowd that was largely older and white. The people of color in the audience were mostly not African-American.

Had this rally been held in a January prior to an election, it would not have been all that unusual and it would have had a fairly tight focus on mobilizing election volunteers to action and on getting money to flowing. But without an election, having Democratic politicians organize such an event is decidedly unusual. It was one of several rabble rousing events that Representative Schakowsky appeared at between the New Year and the Inauguration.

While the rally had some ordinary organizational aspects (list building, for example), the emphasis was very much on getting attendees active in non-electoral politics, of which the Women’s March on Washington was the headliner yet but one of several options presented. There was even an organization fair after the rally and a promise of follow-up emails with more activism opportunities. Senator Steans attempted to incite a Twitter bomb, though I’m inclined to think it fizzled, and there was a social media workshop after the rally as well.

The rally did not get much coverage in the media. Indeed, it did not seem to be designed as journalist bait. Among other things, the politicians actually gave speeches rather than providing the strings of sound bites that, in the worst cases, become one non sequitur after another. The speeches were largely what you would expect from a Democratic Party gathering: reproductive rights, LBGT rights, the Illinois budget impasse, education, Obamacare (most especially Obamacare), Social Security…. What is missing from this list? Labor. The labor movement was mentioned precisely three times. The first time was not by a politician but by an activist thanking SEIU for their assistance with the Women’s March on Chicago. The next two times were by Representative Jan Schakowsky who mentioned the need to defend labor rights and, later, the need for $15 / hour and a union.

The point is not to beat up on clueless liberal politicians (though if you wish to do so, dear reader, be my guest). The fact is, having a tin ear is not a survival trait for professional politicians, and this was not a largely union audience. Yet despite the audience, Schakowsky touted the labor movement. That labor was not an automatic inclusion for the others suggests that the labor movement is becoming, even in the minds of liberal Democratic politicians, what conservatives have always accused it of being: a special interest, supportive mentions optional. Friends like these do not have your back; labor has gone from having a seat at the table to being on the table.

Representative Schakowsky, at least, gets this. Even supportive mentions in passing are important. Liberal non-union audiences need to understand that the success of their agenda depends on the health of the labor movement, that there is a considerable overlap between the agendas, that the people who oppose labor’s agenda are largely the people who oppose theirs. All politicians who profess themselves to be friends of labor need to take part in this public education else they are not really friends.

The complete video of the forum is available via the Women’s March on Washington – Illinois Facebook page.

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The Arresting Harry Partch

by Tom Broderick

While hanging out at the home of Peg Strobel and Bill Barclay some months back, Peg said something about passing by a music room during her college days and hearing strange sounds. She stopped in and found out that someone named Harry Partch was working on his musical compositions on weird looking musical instruments.

“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” I exclaimed. “Never among my political comrades would I have expected to hear anyone mention the name Harry Partch.” Peg jumped up and produced an L.P. of Partch’s work. Partch was born in 1901 and died in 1974. During the 1930 Depression era, Partch was riding the rails along the west coast and picking fruit: An itinerant. A hobo. He was also occasionally employed by the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.).

In 1943 he was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship and that launched his career in musical composition and reluctantly on the creation of musical instruments. His early works were essentially spoken or intoned voices combined with the sounds generated by his musical instruments, which were generally percussive in nature. Partch gave his instruments names like Omicron Belly Drum, Harmonic Cannon III, New Kithara I and Cloud-Chamber Bowls. The Whitney Museum of Modern Art in New York City exhibited some of them in 1968.

I first ran across Partch’s music on a CD released by the Kronos Quartet called HOWL, U.S.A. This CD has four compositions, all with a political bent. The first is Sing Sing: J. Edgar Hoover, composed by Michael Daugherty with sampling of words by J. Edgar Hoover, including the line “We are as close to you as your telephone” menacingly repeated throughout the composition and accompanied by a ringing telephone. Next is Partch’s Barstow: Eight Hitchhikers’ Inscriptions from a Highway Railing at Barstow, California. This composition was arranged and voiced by Ben Johnston, who had worked with Partch. The inscriptions of eight hitchhikers are spoken and sung to the music provided by the Kronos String Quartet.

Cold War Suite from How It Happens (The Voice of I.F. Stone) was composed by Scott Johnson. This has the voice and sampled voice of I.F. Stone taken from radio commentary and a lecture given by him that was broadcast by National Public Radio. The fourth composer on the disk is Lee Hyla with a reading of the text of Howl, performed by Allen Ginsberg. The CD, which was recorded in 1995 is still available and well worth obtaining for its creative use of music and historical texts. The cover photo is by Robert Mapplethorpe. It’s called American Flag and is a frayed American flag with the sun setting (rising?) behind it.

So back to Harry Partch. After listening to the CD released by the Kronos Quartet, I wanted to find out more about Harry Partch. A collection of three compact disks were released by Composers Recordings, Inc. (CRI). Volume 2 has the Barstow track on it, but the instruments were the ones fashioned by Partch: Surrogate Kithara, Chromelodon I, Diamond Marimba and Boo. In addition there are three other compositions that involve singing or intoned speaking voices: U.S. Highball – A Musical Account of a Transcontinental Hobo Trip; San Francisco – A Setting of the Cries of Two Newsboys on a Foggy Night in the Twenties and The Letter. These last three are grouped together under the title The Wayward.

Although created and manipulated by Partch, what these works of art bring to my mind is Studs Terkel and his interviews. The voices from Partch’s compositions have the feel of real folk. There’s a legitimacy to the stories. U.S. Highball includes advice and reminisces about riding the rails. San Francisco has sounds of two newsboys hawking their papers. Newsboys? Hawking their papers? No longer in this country. The Letter is subtitled “A Depression Message from a Hobo Friend.” It features Partch speaking/intoning the text from a letter he received from Pablo about his recent experiences and the need to get back on the road posthaste. These works were all written in the early 1940s. U.S. Highball and San Francisco were recorded in 1958. The Letter was recorded in 1972 and Barstow was recorded in 1982.

Another wanderer appears in Partch’s Ulysses At The Edge, composed in 1955. It’s found on Volume I of the CRI disks and was recorded in 1958. This fairly short work includes voice, baritone saxophone, alto saxophone and three of Partch’s instruments: Bamboo Marimba, Cloud-Chamber Bowls and Diamond Marimba. It was revised later, substituting a trumpet for the alto sax. The very few spoken words that come near the end of the piece are “So you say that your name is Ulysses. That you’re wandering around the world. Tell me sir, have you ever been arrested before?”

DSA in the News

compiled by Bob Roman

Metro Atlanta DSA projected a series of fight back messages on to Atlanta buildings, again, and 11Alive (an NBC affiliate) couldn’t resist. DSA is a credential for an internal Democratic Party election at Pasadena Weekly. DSA is among the groups meeting to plan collaboration in opposition to Trump, according to Shanna Grove at KOMU. Solidarity in the face of Trump was also on the agenda according to a report by Katie England at Daily Herald (Provo, UT), including a quote from Utah DSA’s Charles Nuckolls.

DSA got mentioned at Mel Magazine in “5 People Committed to Making 2017 Suck Less” by Steven Blum. Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn mentioned DSA in surveying anti-inaugural activities in DC and the nation at Mother Jones. So did Gabriella Paiella, who put together a guide to NYC inauguration protests at New York Magazine. Gosh! We are so in fashion. Today. The article was really about Socialist Alternative, but Antonio Planas at Boston Herald did manage to mention DSA in connection with an anti-inaugural demonstration. (Is this a pattern? See Tanveer Ali’s article at DNAInfo.)

DSA was among the groups sponsoring a demonstration in favor of a $15/hr minimum wage in New Jersey, according to Joan Verdon at The Record. Sarah Fentem noted DSA was among the groups organizing a 1,000 strong protest in Indianapolis against repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at WVIK (radio); the story was picked up other stations, but also the Congressional Black Caucus. DSA didn’t make Jeremy Fox’s story on an ACA repeal protest but we did make the photo at The Boston Globe.

Danielle DeCourcey notes criticism of Senator Sanders by his left-wing supporters, including DSA, at attn:. Also at attn:, DeCourcey notes DSA’s rapid growth as a reaction to Trump’s election. The intersection of the personal and the political includes DSA, at least for Daniel Pope at Loam Magazine. Also including DSA, Julia Mead explain’s the end of socialism as a fear word for millennials at The Nation.

Katy Grimes and Megan Barth imagine themselves channeling Paul Revere: The Mexicans are coming, and so is DSA! at Reagan Baby (talk radio). Tim Higginbotham and Matthew Burgoon of DSA provide a reply to a slightly unhinged Alaska State Senator Pete Kelly on the subject of socialism at Alaska Commons. Kevin Mooney mentions DSA in a discussion of left-wing plans (financed by George Soros!) to disrupt the Trump inauguration at The Daily Signal. I’m not sure The Daily Signal deserves a mention as news, however.

Equally dubious as news: WND, where an unsigned article attacking Congressman John Lewis included a dossier of his past association with the left, including DSA, as did Matthew Vandum at the misnamed American Thinker, though at least he didn’t find a way of including George Soros. At the John Birch Society’s The New American, Steve Byas also included DSA in his attack on Lewis.

DSA was also mentioned, in passing, as part of the John Lewis v. Donald Trump discussion by Marisa Fox-Bevilacqua at Haaretz.

DSA News

DSA in DuPage County, Illinois
Founding meeting. Photo by Bill Barclay

• DSA in the western suburbs is reorganizing after an absence of nearly two decades. An initial meeting this January drew a dozen or so participants. The next meeting is scheduled for February 12. For more information, CLICK HERE.

• The City branch of Chicago DSA is dividing into a Northside Chicago branch and a Southside Chicago branch. As one of its last activities, the City branch cosponsored a New Years celebration with the Chicago chapter of Solidarity. Over one hundred people attended the party at the In These Times office, suggesting that socialism, if not DSA, is becoming hip; it was a predominantly young crowd.

Northside Chicago DSA
First meeting of the Northside Chicago CDSA branch drew quite the crowd.

You can find more information about the Northside branch HERE  and the Southside branch HERE.

• DSA will be tabling at the Logan Square Farmers market on Sunday, February 5, 10 AM to 3 PM. It’s an indoor location, near the CDSA office, at 2755 N. Milwaukee, so please stop by to say hello.

• Greater Oak Park DSA is joining with the Democratic Party of Oak Park, the West Suburban Action Project (PASO) and the Community of Congregations to urge Oak Park Village Board to make Oak Park a sanctuary village. The initial action is directed at the Village Board meeting on January 17. While proponents are optimistic and Oak Park is liberal (not necessarily left), they are also prepared to continue the campaign if need be. Somewhat more ambitiously, we’re beginning a petition campaign advocating making Illinois into a sanctuary state. Stay tuned.

• This is going to press before Trump’s inauguration, but expect to see photos of a Chicago DSA contingent in the anti-inauguration festivities and other protest activities. Check our Facebook Page.