Political Parties

Peace and Freedom: 50 Years of Struggle, June 3 in Berkeley

Peace & Freedom - Thu, 06/01/2017 - 04:00

Posted on June 1, 2017 by the Alameda County Central Committee

On Saturday, June 3 the Alameda County Peace and Freedom Party and Movement presents "Peace and Freedom: Fifty Years of Struggle", to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Peace and Freedom Party in 1967.

When: Saturday, June 3, 2017 from 2:00pm to 4:30pm
Where: Starry Plough Pub, 3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley(MAP)
What: speakers and discussion
Sponsor: Alameda County Peace and Freedom Party and Movement
Contact: call 510-332-3865 or email cuyleruyle - at - mac.com
Cost: Free, but please buy food and drink at the pub

This June marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Peace and Freedom Party. Born for the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 1960s, PFP has remained committed to peace, racial equality, and the working class struggle for socialism. We are inviting speakers to help us remember the past and build for the future.

This is part of our on-going Socialist Forum Series on the first Saturday of every month. Doors open at 2 pm and the program will start promptly at 2:30 pm. The forum will end by 4:30 pm, but folks can stay and talk as long as you like.

Click on the image below to download the flyer for printing and distribution.

Flyer for June 3, 2017 Suds, Snacks, and Socialism Forum

Categories: Political Parties

DCDSA walks in solidarity with striking CWA workers

DC DSA - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 20:17
The Washington Socialist <> June 2017
By John Grill
The weekend of May 19th-21st, tens of thousands of Communications Workers of America (CWA) workers at AT&T Mobility went on one of the largest retail worker strikes in U.S. history.
The planned 3-day action was called as CWA workers have been working for months without a contract and AT&T—one of America's largest companies, which takes billions in profits—had insisted on cuts to worker benefits and the continuation of both the offshoring of jobs and the use of increasing numbers of "licensed reseller" stores which employ lower-paid, non-union workers. 
The strike sent a strong message to AT&T.  CWA has said there was a clear economic impact on the company, with many stores closing (including at least two in DC) and many customers turning away once they were told there was an active strike.  This was true throughout the US; the strike, "closed hundreds of stores nationwide, left call centers unstaffed and critical network tickets not dispatched until Monday."  The union also reports that AT&T has begun complying with requests for information vital for reaching an agreement, something they had refused to do prior to the strike.
DSA solidarity with CWA strikers was strong and evident at picket lines both in DC and across the country.
Negotiations with AT&T remain ongoing and DSA stands ready to continue supporting workers as they fight for good jobs and a better future.  To help, be to be ready to hear from DC DSA about future informational pickets, as well as following Unity @ Mobility (Twitter, Facebook, Website) for updates from CWA.

Categories: Political Parties

Can campaign finance reform be the cornerstone of a progressive movement?

DC DSA - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 20:11
The Washington Socialist <> June 2017
By Dylan Shelton
If you’ve been to any progressive function in your community you’ve probably witnessed the following: a person (often male, often older and often white) [BM1] faces the crowd and argues, “All of the things we’re talking about are great, but unless we get money out of our elections, we’re stuck with the same representatives corrupted by corporate money.”
The notion that politicians are uniquely positioned to fall under corporate influence is nothing new in America (think Frank Capra’s Meet John Doe or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington). Americans interested in reforming campaign finance has grown since the disastrous Citizens United v FEC Supreme Court decision. The problem is, despite the growth in interest, almost no one thinks it’s the most pressing issue facing Americans. [2] And for the progressive left that advocates for a constitutional amendment implementing campaign finance reform, this could be a problem.
This isn’t to say getting corporate cash out of elections sidetracks the left; Howard County and other places that are fighting hard for public financing of elections should be congratulated and emulated. However, the left should critique the particular style of advocacy campaign finance reform activists engage in and seriously confront its structural and ideological blind spots. Doing so will help determine whether it deserves a prominent place in our organizing for a mass movement aimed at creating a radically progressive political environment.
Campaign finance reform activists claim that the progressive reforms we hope to achieve in the areas of environment, social, and economic justice are all stymied by entrenched politicians empowered by corporate cash. They argue that calling for a constitutional convention to create an amendment that limits the ability of corporations to shell out money for elections will mean new politicians with fresh visions of the future and more beholden to their voters.
It should be questioned whether this claim and strategy will pave the way for progressive reform or could serve to embolden a truly transformative left political movement. From the outset, one can see the strategy as problematic because it presumes all social and political change occurs through the political process.
A look at the historical record shows that some of the most substantial changes to American life have been radical actions, often illegal at the time, and perpetrated by a collective struggle engaging masses of people. The catalyst for change has not happened by petitions, bills or political processes but by sit-in strikes, illegally sitting at a lunch counter, or other organizing methods often ended by the swing of a police baton.
Viewed through this lens, the political process is frequently a reaction by the ruling class to placate the actions of a revolutionary underclass. Consider the labor movement and civil rights movement. The 1934 Wagner Act cemented the right to join a union and collectively bargain, but bureaucratized the process of workplace struggle and prioritized commerce (i.e. the ongoing functioning of capitalism) rather than the rights of the worker. A. Philip Randolph’s 1963 speech to the crowds at the March on Washington demanded serious leftist reforms to the nation for “jobs and freedom.” For instance, Randolph proclaimed:
     “And we know that we have no future in a society in which 6 million black and white     people are unemployed and millions more live in poverty. Nor is the goal of our civil rights revolution merely the passage of civil rights legislation. Yes, we want all public accommodations open to all citizens, but those accommodations will mean little to those who cannot afford to use them. Yes, we want a Fair Employment Practice Act, but what good will it do if profit-geared automation destroys the jobs of millions of workers black and white?”
None of the above sentiment was adequately represented in the civil rights legislation that later passed through the political process. Proceeding through political channels actually weakens, and acts against, the intentions of a more radical movement demanding equality and freedom.
Not only is the path taken by the common campaign finance activist a poor conduit for their goal, but also the goal itself is narrowly limited to the function of money in politics. If the end point is to remove the influence of corporations, or “The 1%,” from politics by political means, then it is worth remembering the words of feminist-anarchist Lucy Parsons:
“Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.”
Counting politicians as among the other resources hoarded by the wealthy, one can hardly expect them to sit idly by and watch as their wealth is democratically expropriated from them. Even if they did, their money is like water and will leak through barriers, finding the path of least resistance back into the political process through new or unexpected channels.
Most of the channels we already know. Politicians disproportionately come out of professions and backgrounds that make them independently wealthy. From the founding of the nation, politics has been a place for people of wealth and prestige to widen the scope of their power. In Maryland, we know particularly well the woes of independently wealthy businesspeople like David Trone, Kathleen Matthews and the current governor injecting their own money into their campaigns.
Besides the independently wealthy, the groups advocating for campaign finance reform don’t have much to say about the institutions set up to protect incumbents. The DNC and DCCC have grown to gargantuan sizes in recent years, flush with cash from corporate funders. The express goal of these institutions is to protect establishment Democrats. There are also independent corporations that exist for the sole purpose of aiding party institutions in campaigns by selling their consulting experience, or digital voter targeting information. Both are immensely powerful tools protecting deep-pocketed or entrenched politicians, and campaign finance reform does not touch them.
Finally, politicians overwhelmingly get their public policy proposals, advice, and studies from think tanks funded by the same interests we hope to target by campaign finance reform. These think tanks control the narrative of what policies are possible and which are not. They work, in some instances directly, for particular corporations, international capital, or private wealth and there is no sizeable leftist, anti-capitalist replacement for them currently in existence. This is a prime example of how getting money out of politics would not be a substantial step towards progressive policy, the same institutions would be writing, studying and proposing legislation funded by the very same interests seeking status quo.
Getting money out of politics doesn’t change the structures and institutions within which politicians operate. A conservative Democratic Party elite, corporations supplying campaign logistics, and the same think tanks promoting neoliberal solutions would still exist to bolster a status quo politician in elections and afterwards. The left would not necessarily be closer to implementing legislation bringing about social, environmental, and economic justice.
Refusing corporate money is a sign of deeply held progressive values, and the left should get behind those politicians who expose that belief. But we also need candidates who can continue our organizing for an end to oppression and future of radical equality in the political sphere.
We should recognize that real radical change occurs when a person understands both their place in society and the material realities impeding their access to a decent life -- and fights back collectively. Advocating for getting money out of politics using procedural methods can’t do this but collective action aimed at a transforming what people think is possible can; it’s the politicians who get behind such actions who are worth our attention.

Dylan Shelton is a Montgomery County activist and member of the Progressive Maryland Economic Security Team. This first appeared in the Progressive Maryland PM BlogSpace.

Categories: Political Parties

DCDSA straw poll backs observer status in Socialist International

DC DSA - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 19:35
The Washington Socialist <> June 2017
By Andy Feeney
It's too bad Enrique Calvo (see related article, this issue) didn't attend the May 24 DCDSA event where a mix of more than 30 old and new DSAers, both women and men, debated what our relationship to the Socialist International should be.  It was an interesting and informative discussion, and I think it changed the minds of many who attended.
After Margaret McLaughlin's introduction, Chip Gibbons spoke at length about the bad, "neo-liberal," pro-capitalist policies that many SI member parties have followed in recent years, and made a lengthy case that DSA is getting little or nothing from continued membership in the organization.
Jack Clark, who spoke in favor of DSA maintaining an observer status with the SI, agreed with Gibbons that many current SI members, although not all, are today far from being "socialist" in anything but their names.  He also agreed with many SI critics in DSA, both here in the Metro DC area and elsewhere, who have said that DSA can and should find ways to continue our relationships with the better parties who belong to the SI. 
But Clark concluded that DSA doesn't need to maintain paid membership status in the SI in order to do this, and he concluded that we should not remain full members, but only commit to an observer status.
There appeared to be surprisingly little disagreement with Clark's position, in this writer’s estimate.  Several of the more pro-SI people present, including Clark and Chris Riddiough, pointed out that the SI sometimes has taken progressive positions in recent years, and that DSA members have made some useful contacts with socialists in various other countries through the medium of the SI. 
But even the SI's defenders agreed that we needn't remain full SI members to enjoy these benefits, and there seemed to be agreement in the room -- except for the points that Calvo raised in his letter, which was read aloud in his absence -- that most new and existing DSA members are not particularly interested in the SI one way or another. 
In reply to questions about whether leaving the SI could split DSA, and whether most new members are attracted to DSA thanks to our being the SI's official member party in the US, even those pro-SI members present replied that our leaving the group would not be a major factor in how DSA operates going forward.  "If you asked the average person on the street whether DSA should stay in the SI, I think most people wouldn't know what you were talking about,"  Riddiough commented.
There was a bit of parliamentary argle-bargle toward the end of the meeting over the details of how we should organize the vote on this issue.  However, we ended with a plurality voting to retain membership status in the SI, while about a quarter of those present opted to leave entirely.  Roughly a quarter abstained.  No one present supported the option of DSA remaining a paid member within SI. A count later tweeted by Deputy National Director David Duhalde, who was in attendance, was "The results: 16 stay - 9 leave - 7 abstain."
If Washington Socialist readers will excuse a bit of personal editorializing, I would like to argue that in leaving SI -- if that's what DSA as a national organization decides to do -- we should pay our back dues to SI, which are currently in arrears.  These amount to just a few thousand dollars.
I think it does no credit to DSA as an organization if we seem to be leaving the SI partly in order to default on our debts.  I hold with Antonio Gramsci, a thinker greatly admired by Michael Harrington, who argued that to win the battle for socialism, leftists urgently need establish our own "counter-hegemony" against the powers that be.  I think this means we need to strive for a public reputation as more moral than the capitalists, as well as more truthful and more intelligent. 
If we seem to be dropping out of the SI for petty financial reasons, we hurt our own efforts to build a more hegemonic DSA.  Let's find some way to send SI the sums we owe, even if we don't want to continue supporting the organization.
The April 2017 report and fact sheet of the Internationalist Committee of National DSA is here.

Categories: Political Parties

Response to DSA Internationalism Committee April 2017 Report

DC DSA - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 19:15
The Washington Socialist <> June 2017

By Enrique Calvo

           The DSA Internationalism Committee released a report in April proposing that the Democratic Socialists of America either sever ties with or downgrade their status in the Socialist International. The rationale of the Committee can be boiled down to four arguments: (1) that internationalism costs money, (2) that the DSA should disassociate itself from the policies and programs of the International, (3) that the DSA should disassociate itself from the austerity and neoliberal policies of parties affiliated to the International in an effort to appease competing parties outside the International such as Podemos in Spain, Die Linke in Germany and SYRIZA in Greece and (4) that the International and the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) routinely ignore the DSA and YDS. These arguments are factually problematic or otherwise unconvincing.
            By the Committee’s own calculations, our international commitments will be around 1% of the DSA national budget in 2017 and 2018. By the Committee’s own admission, budgetary considerations are not a substantial argument. This is a question of political will, not resources.
            The Committee suggests that the policies and programs of the International should be rejected despite offering no example of any policy or program of the International that is objectionable. On the contrary, the XXV Congress of the International in March approved resolutions that call for the independence of Puerto Rico, call for recognition of the State of Palestine, call for ending the blockade of Gaza, call for ending discrimination against non-Jews in Israel, condemn Israeli violations of international humanitarian law, condemn undemocratic constitutional changes in Mauritania, amend the statutes of the International to have equality between men and women in all levels of the organization, call for Turkish recognition of the Armenian Genocide, condemn Trump’s border wall, call for convening an Ibero-American Summit in Mexico to coordinate against Trump, call for the release of thousands of political prisoners in Turkey and so on and so forth. The DSA should be able to comfortably support all these policies plus others that the XXV Congress approved in March. The XXV Congress even approved a lengthy, detailed resolution of self-criticism condemning how neoliberal globalization benefited few in the name of many and calling on socialist parties to reclaim economic equality as their goal.
            The picture that the Committee paints of the DSA becoming discredited by association with the austerity and neoliberal policies of some International-affiliated parties is factually lacking. Far from wanting nothing to do with the PSOE in Spain and the SPD in Germany, the main demand that Podemos and Die Linke have of the PSOE and SPD, respectively, are to be open to coalitions at the national level. The parties already form several coalition governments at the regional level, including some coalitions where Podemos or Die Linke head the governments. Moreover, Pedro Sánchez just won the primaries in the PSOE this May on a platform of working together with Podemos at the national level and the SPD is now also open to a national coalition government with Die Linke for the first time since German reunification. Meanwhile, we have seen SYRIZA continue austerity measures and neo-liberal policies in Greece after taking power and we have seen the left wings of the Labour Party in the U. K. and the PS in France win the most recent leadership election in their parties. These developments discredit the notion that parties affiliated with the International have abandoned socialism and call into question the dichotomy that the Committee sees between International-affiliated parties and other leftist parties.
            Finally, the Committee bemoans, perhaps rightly, a lack of interaction between the DSA/YDS and the International/IUSY. Lack of international coordination is not a reason to betray the core socialist principle of internationalism. Instead, we must make the investment to reengage with the International and celebrate internationalism at home. Let us not forget that our affiliation with the International is one of our best recruitment tools. We are not only the largest socialist organization in the United States, but we are the only socialist organization in the States affiliated with the International besides the Puerto Rican Independence Party. As a small organization, the DSA greatly benefits from the added legitimacy that affiliation with the International conveys.

These remarks were read to the May 24 DCDSA discussion about membership in the SI (see related article in this issue).

Categories: Political Parties

Group plans movement, rally to remove statue honoring racist NFL team founder

DC DSA - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 18:22
The Washington Socialist <> June 2017

By Bill Mosley
One of Washington’s least-known monuments sits just outside Robert F. Kennedy Stadium. The 10-foot tall red granite slab, on a walkway leading to the stadium — once DC’s mecca for football and baseball, now about to be abandoned by its last occupant, the DC United soccer team — bears the image of George Preston Marshall.

For those who are not historians of Washington professional sports, Marshall was once the owner of Washington’s professional football team, the one that now plays at FedEx Field in Landover and bears the nickname that many Native Americans regard as a racial slur against themselves. Indeed, it was Marshall who chose the moniker while the team played in Boston and retained it when he brought the squad to the District in 1937.

One could excuse Marshall for selecting a racially insensitive nickname in a less-enlightened age, when no one blinked at team names, logos, and mascots that stereotyped and demeaned Native Americans. Even today, the Atlanta Braves’ fans cling to the tomahawk chop and the Cleveland Indians to grinning Chief Wahoo, so one could conclude that giving a team a name in the 1930s that is considered offensive to Natives today does not necessarily peg Marshall as a racist.

However, there is more to Marshall’s racial resume than a team name. The NFL integrated in 1946, one year before major league baseball, but even after every other team in the league employed African American players, Marshall’s team remained lily-white until 1962, and he buckled only under pressure from the Kennedy administration, which threatened to revoke the team’s lease on its federally owned stadium (then called DC Stadium) unless it changed its policy of racial exclusion.

More than a half-century later, a full-throated campaign is underway to pressure the team to change its racist moniker. Since 2015, the grassroots organization Rebrand Washington Football (RWF) has been circulating petitions to demand a name change; by the end of this May the group had collected over 4,000 signatures and made two trips to team headquarters in Ashburn, Virginia, to deliver them to team officials. A petition-delivery trip last December included several Native American activists. However, Daniel Snyder, the current team owner, has declined to even discuss a name change. “We’ll never change the name,” he said in an interview. “It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

RWF, while continuing the petition campaign, has now also turned its attention to the Marshall monument. With DC United pulling out of RFK next year and moving to its new home at Buzzard Point, the old stadium is slated for demolition. The DC government has announced plans  for the site that include multipurpose athletic fields, a food market, and an indoor sports complex, along with a memorial to Robert F. Kennedy. The plan doesn’t preclude also building a new football stadium there, and Snyder is eyeing the site for a replacement for his own aging FedEx Field. But one thing is for certain: When RFK goes, a decision will have to be made about the fate of the Marshall monument. But what?

In a time when monuments across the country to a shameful racist past are being retired to the dustbin of history — the Confederate flags, the statues of Rebel leaders (such as took place in New Orleans last month) — RWF argues that the only appropriate fate of the Marshall monument is to be removed from our community. Events DC, the DC agency that controls RFK Stadium and the monument, has suggested the monument might be relocated, with DC taxpayers possibly picking up the tab. It would cost an estimated $30,000 to relocate the monument to Marshall’s hometown of Grafton, West Virginia, one of the possible sites, but the town told RWF representatives that it doesn’t want it. Several other potential recipients of the monument, including the Washington football team and the Pro Football Hall of Fame, declined to accept it. But if Events DC should find someone who wants the monument but doesn’t want pay for the shipping, DC taxpayers might be ponying up to preserve a monument to a racist past. Given the District’s need for more money for education, affordable housing, health care and other urgent priorities, do we really want to spend $30,000 to preserve a monument to a segregationist? If DC really has that sum to spare, it could provide permanent supportive housing to a chronically homeless person for more than a year, or provide iPads for 80 DC public school students.

"RFK Stadium bookends the story of integration in major US sports,” said Ian Washburn, a founder of RWF. “Marshall hindered such efforts for 15 years after the debut of Jackie Robinson. We know this site could host a better future without Marshall's presence. We look forward to Events DC making the correct decision to remove the monument."

Categories: Political Parties

Health care, Middle East issues are focus in visit to new MD Dist. 4 Rep. Anthony Brown

DC DSA - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 18:11
The Washington Socialist <> June 2017

By Kurt Stand

Rep.Anthony Brown was elected to Congress last November to fill the seat that had been occupied by Donna Edwards prior to her unsuccessful run for the Senate. Edwards had been one of the more progressive members of Congress, winning her seat in an insurgent campaign against a Democratic  incumbent who had voted for the war in Iraq. Thereafter she continued to be a critic of unbridled militarism and took a far more even-handed approach to Israel-Palestinian issues than most members of Congress. The combination of having challenged an incumbent Democrat and refusing to march in lockstep with those who reject all criticism of Israel meant that her relationship to the Democratic power structure was lukewarm at best --  during last year’s Democratic primary, that establishment almost universally supported the very mainstream Chris Van Hollen over her. The fact that most statewide political leaders who claimed that it was important to support a woman for president failed to support her, the fact that most black office holders refused to support the first African American woman to run as a major party candidate for Senate in the state, reflects the difficulty faced in efforts to make the Democratic Party a vehicle for change.
For those who live in Prince George’s County (the center of Brown’s district) support for Brown from the Democratic establishment raises the question of where he will stand on the issues. He made a promising start when he spoke at a town hall meeting sponsored by Progressive Cheverly on April 6. In response to questions posed from the floor, Brown spoke of the need to preserve and protect the gains in health coverage made during the Obama Administration, a pledge he has kept by joining other Democrats and some few Republicans in opposing the deeply reactionary legislation proposed and passed in the House and now up for consideration in the Senate. Brown has also distinguished himself by being a co-sponsor of Conyers' Medicare for All( HR676) bill, unlike most House Democrats (Rep. Steny Hoyer, the senior member of the Maryland Democrats in Congress, has refused to support universal health care). Serving on the Ethics Committee, he has also pledged to hold the Trump administration to account. A bill he has co-sponsored that defines (and thus limits) the grounds for presidential firing of an FBI director is a step in that direction. He also spoke knowledgeably about labor rights and in particular of the need to defend federal employees whose union and workplace rights are currently under threat by the Trump administration. Several people asked about climate change and environmental protection, and he spoke of the positive work done by the O’Malley administration in Maryland (Brown had served as lieutenant governor) and he said he would build on that legacy while in Congress.
Responding to a question about his loss in the Maryland gubernatorial race to Republican Larry Hogan in 2014, Brown acknowledged that a principal cause was the weakness of the Democratic Party at the grassroots, by implication, the same reason Trump is now in the White House. He said that the Democratic Party needed to be closer to communities and that communities need to put pressure on elected officials, himself included. Part of carrying out that commitment is keeping his office open and accessible to the public; he has also followed through on that. Only in one arena has he disappointed so far, albeit it an important one, and that is around the question of peace in the Middle East.
A group including representatives from Jewish Voice for Peace DC Metro, Maryland affiliates of Peace Action, Prince George's County Peace and Justice Coalition, and Progressive Cheverly and Metro DC Democratic Socialists met with Brown at his office in Largo, Maryland, on April 21 (three DSA members were part of the delegation). The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the importance of US policy taking into account Palestinian rights and needs. The question arose because Brown, along with Rep. Jamie Raskin and all the other Democratic members of Congress from Maryland, joined with Republicans last January in voting to criticize President Obama’s decision not to veto a UN resolution criticizing Israel’s policy of building settlements on the land that it seized and has illegally occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. The vote against Obama’s action was a vote for US unilateralism, for maintenance of a status quo that has given us endless wars, and for a continuation of the denial of Palestinian rights. Moreover, it was an action that moves against the renewal of the Democratic Party from the base up. Change will never happen without a determined peace policy.
Unfortunately, shortly after the meeting, Brown agreed to co-sponsor legislation undermining the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. Modeled on the successful campaign waged by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS movement is a form of nonviolent civic action by Palestinians, and the Israeli government and its supporters  oppose the movement with fervor. Attempting to penalize BDS supporters has a chilling effect on civil liberties even beyond the specifics of the campaign for Palestinian rights. Boycotts that inflict economic harm on businesses or governments have been an important tool of labor and social justice movements, from the bus boycott in Montgomery to the United Farm Workers grape boycott to the recent boycott against the state of North Carolina because of its anti-transgender bathroom law. Such connections show the danger to civil rights when militarism is unquestioned; by reason of making that connection an anti-BDS measure was defeated this past session in Maryland.
            During his talk in Cheverly, Brown cited an anecdote told him by Rep. James E. Clyburn in South Carolina about a lone freed slave holding a broom, confronting a troop of Confederate soldiers at the end of the Civil War. The officer asked if she thought the she could stop them alone with her broom; her reply was no, but you will know I took a stand. An inspiring story meant to remind us that it is important to continue to stand up for what we believe, even in the face of defeat. It is only through organizing that some Trump and Ryan initiatives have been defeated to date, despite Republican control of all branches of government. Thus, we should follow Brown’s advice and continue our activism at the local level by supporting him where he takes a progressive stance and challenging him in areas where we differ. Only in this way can we lay the groundwork for the political alternative we need.

Categories: Political Parties

Gentrification struggle and CWA strike support among DCDSA committee activities in May

DC DSA - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 18:05
The Washington Socialist <> June 2017
By Sam Knight and Lynne Williamson
Low-income renters, overwhelmingly people of color, are being priced out of their homes in Washington, DC at an increasing rate.
Almost two-thirds of the poorest Washingtonians spend more than half their income on rent, according to a DC Fiscal Policy Institute report released late last year[CT1] . The study found that this figure was up significantly in the last decade—to 62 percent from 50 percent.
The trend has led to the whitening of what was once more widely known as Chocolate City. In 2011, black people lost their majority status in Washington for the first time in more than five decades.
Members of the Racial Justice Committee are seeking to help stem this ongoing displacement by reaching out to those at risk of eviction. On Sunday, after a training session, about 19 committee members reached out to 60 households facing the loss of their homes.
Members had “over a dozen conversations,” according to one organizer, in a bid to extend committee advice and resources. Canvassing efforts reached households in Columbia Heights, Brightwood, Michigan Park, Anacostia, and Fort Stanton.
The outreach is being done “to fight or delay their eviction,” another committee member said. Economic Justice Committee members are also helping with the initiative.
Male supremacy reinforces a system of hierarchy that ensures order and control through a sexual division of labor that benefits capitalism.
This was one aspect of the status quo discussed at a recently formed reading group organized by the Socialist Feminist Committee. Members of the committee, a venue for education, recently talked about the matter in discussions on its first assigned readings.
The text [CT2] covered the committee's foundational principle: patriarchy and capitalism are inextricably interdependent.
At its next meeting, the group is planning on covering the historical roots and persistent oppressive effects for women. Discussions are slated to include scientific research on the myth of "biological determinism."
In another effort to cultivate discussion about socialism's natural affinity with feminism, the committee is planning a regular women-only “GRRL's Night Out.”
The gathering is set to be modeled after chapter happy hours, though planners are aiming to secure a venue that allows for members who are younger than 21 years old. Activities for the event may include games and maybe crafting.

* * *
Efforts to foster public education about local anti-abortion disinformation campaigns are continuing apace.
The Socialist Feminist Committee is researching specific approaches to raising awareness of anti-choice misrepresentations by Crisis Pregnancy Centers. Tactics being explored include the publication of informational fliers and potential canvassing for yard signs in neighborhoods adjoining the centers.
The committee has also helped increase some access to abortion for low income women by raising over $2,100 for those who can't afford reproductive healthcare. The haul surpassed organizers' expectations. They had been hoping to originally raise $500, and eventually upped that goal to $1,500.
The money was raised as part of an annual cross-country Bowl-a-thon, organized by the National Network of Abortion Funds. The DC Abortion Fund organized the initiative locally.

The righteous anger that has gripped the electoral political arena in recent months spilled over into the labor market last weekend, after throngs of AT&T and DIRECTV workers walked off the job.

Led by the Communications Workers of America, about 40,000 employees for the telecoms giants launched a three-day strike to protest meager benefits and job insecurity.
Retail operations were closed by the actions, which impacted outlets across 36 states and Washington DC, according to the CWA.
Members of the Economic Justice Committee picketed with workers in Washington at AT&T stores throughout the city—in Dupont Circle and Gallery Place, among other locations.
“The feelings of solidarity were incredible, with CWA members handing DSA members the bullhorn to lead chants,” one committee organizer said.
AT&T and DIRECTV workers are asking their managers to offer better benefits and wages. They're also protesting the precarity of their employment situation and company plans to outsource jobs.

The Economic Justice Committee also recently stood in solidarity with restaurant workers who were fired for organizing on the job.
Several members took part in a “tip-in” at the Matchbox in Chinatown to protest against management's decision to terminate five workers seeking to exercise their collective bargaining rights. The employees were fired after trying to organize against unsafe conditions in the back of the house.
“The 'tip-in' involved being seated, not ordering food, but leaving the server a tip, so that their wages would not be impacted by a picket,” one committee member explained.
After disrupting Matchbox's meal service, participants demonstrated outside the restaurant where they chanted and sang in English and Spanish. Humor was also injected into the demonstration when protesters repeatedly proclaimed: “No justice, no pizza!”
The action was organized by the Restaurant Opportunities Center.

Categories: Political Parties

A Progressive Caucus can reform -- or replace -- the Democratic Party

DC DSA - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 17:40
The Washington Socialist <> June 2017
By Larry Stafford
Progressives in the United States have long sought a resolution to the often disappointing status quo of our current two party system. The Democrats, while being able to claim the role of the mainstream, electorally viable party of the left, have often disappointed our movement. The top level leadership of the party has often surrendered in the face of demands from large corporate interests and the wealthy elite of our country. This history of capitulation has been devastating to our economy, our environment, and our democracy. In addition to this, the party has an inconsistent record in delivering for its most loyal constituencies including African Americans, Latinos, the LGBT community etc. While disappointed, we on the left and members of the party’s diverse base have often been willing to stomach many of the party’s failings because the alternative has been much worse.
While the Democratic Party has often disappointed, it has served as a useful vehicle for a great deal of progress. From increasing access to healthcare, to combating climate change, to advances in LGBT rights, the Democrats have not been all bad. As the mainstream party alternative, Republicans have managed to play an almost completely adversarial role in many of these fights and have openly stood in opposition to progressive reform efforts. The fear of electing Republican officials has managed to keep many within the ranks of the Democratic Party. However, neither of these parties has truly represented the values and aspirations of many Americans. Neither party has advocated for the kinds of robust systemic changes our country and the people of the world need, such as radical shifts away from fossil fuel production, reparations for slavery, and an economy controlled by working class people. Perhaps the fact that neither party can truly claim to represent the interests of much of the population can explain the growing number of registered independents, voter apathy, and increasing interest in third party alternatives.
Third parties such as the Green Party have been in much greater alignment ideologically with most progressives. The Greens have proposed bolder reforms than most Democrats have been willing to commit to and their vision has been able to capture the hearts and minds of many progressives throughout the country. However since 1890 both of the two mainstream parties have enacted laws that have made it all but impossible for a third party to make significant electoral gains. Both Republicans and Democrats have supported ballot signature requirements, unreasonable filing deadlines, and vote performance requirements which have made third parties devote far too many resources to simply maintaining their existence. These laws, created by and for the parties in power, have put progressive third parties at a dramatic disadvantage. Secondly, while support for our current two party system seems to be fading, it remains a significant part of our political culture and heritage as party affiliation is passed down within families like genes from parent to child. Many who should make up the base for a new progressive political party are culturally invested in the Democratic Party. In fact the numbers demonstrate this, as the number of registered Democrats far exceeds the total combined registration of any progressive third parties by far. Thus the path to progressive electoral victory and governing power in places where these conditions exist likely does not lie in creating new third parties. However this doesn’t mean that we should accept the status quo. Recent developments demonstrate the contrary, and the path to power for progressives lies less with party politics and more with building powerful progressive political formations outside of the context of any political party.
It’s time for us to look at parties differently in two principal ways. One, the two dominant political parties of our day have changed drastically over time. Republicans have transitioned from the party of Abraham Lincoln to the party of Theodore Roosevelt and later Ronald Reagan. The Democrats have evolved from the party of Andrew Jackson, to Franklin Roosevelt, and then Bill and Hillary Clinton. Over time parties have not only changed in terms of their elected leaders, but they have been shown to change ideologically as well. Parties in the United States contain multiple competing factions from Ron Paul Libertarianism in the Republican Party to Elizabeth Warren’s populist progressivism. The two dominant parties are not ideologically consistent political organizations, but instead vehicles for organized political factions. Parties are empty vessels that are filled by the dominant actors within them at any given time. Secondly, parties are simply a vehicle to obtain advantageous legal access to appear on a ballot. To run as a Democrat or a Republican does not necessarily dictate what ideas and principles you must represent. You can likely guess where someone stands on certain issues based on their party affiliation, but there is no law that guarantees that a candidate of a certain party will vote a particular way or believe in any set of values. Primaries are the process by which the voters in a particular party decide who is most closely aligned with their values. However, party membership in the United States does not require any litmus test on values or beliefs and therefore party voters often vote on factors outside of any coherent set of values in their primaries.
The existing two parties have consolidated their hold on the politics of today by protecting themselves with election law and practices that keeps their potential competition off balance. But that history has also left them hollowed out and without value as vehicles of positive political principles, for good or ill. How can progressives effectively mobilize power, including electoral power, in this political environment?

We need a new path forward to achieve political power as progressives. Parties have been the most commonly understood vehicles for organizing politics in the United States, but they are not our only option, and pursuing party politics alone, whether it’s taking over the Democratic Party or starting a third party, severely limits our pursuit of political power, as we have seen. [link to part I] Now is the time to build independent political organizations that exist outside of the realm of any political party, but use the party ballot lines that are most advantageous. In some ways this was the radical approach of Senator Bernie Sanders who, while not being a member of the Democratic Party, chose to use the Party’s ballot line to boost his Presidential campaign. Pieces of this new path forward were also a part of Donald Trump’s bigoted campaign for President as he denied basic tenets of his chosen party’s orthodoxy and has identified as both a Democrat and a Republican over a number of years. However, by pursuing this path with an independent political organization that is organized for the long term advancement of progressive values and candidates, determined activists wielding this strategy can achieve even more powerful results. 
Caucuses are a potential alternative to traditional party politics for independent political organizations. Caucuses have been a way for elected officials to organize themselves around common values and interests within legislative bodies outside of a party apparatus. Caucuses such as the Freedom Caucus have even been able to hijack the political process and the Republican Party to drive a far-right conservative world view. The New York Independent Democratic Caucus in New York has leveraged its independence in the New York Senate to cede control to conservative and Republican policy positions. In addition to this there are local and national Progressive Caucuses in legislative bodies such as the New York City Council, where its Progressive Caucus has been able to drive a progressive agenda for the city. In fact, within legislative bodies parties exist merely as caucuses themselves with the actual party being the outside political apparatus. Progressives can replicate this already existing strategy and expand it to create a viable third party option without the obstacles of creating an entirely new party with its own ballot line. This strategy does not need to be limited to legislative officials, but members of executive bodies can join and associate with caucus organizations. We can also expand this concept by using existing electoral campaign infrastructure to create an alternative to the Democratic Party as an electoral organization. Strengthening our caucus presence, in the meantime, allows those already in elected office to pursue more radical policies with less risk of martyrdom. And where there are existing progressive caucus formations we can strengthen them with candidate recruitment and street-level efforts while building in real ideological coherence where it is lacking.
In order to choose who will represent the interests of progressive voters we may also use a caucus voting system that can help our base of voters choose nominees to compete in primaries. This kind of process can be executed outside of the state’s electoral system and help to unite progressives around candidates that have the most support from the progressive base while avoiding the division of progressive votes between progressive candidates in party primary races. To achieve this, Progressive Caucus politicians must register new members to join the Caucus and participate in its caucus primary process. The process itself will be governed by rules that ensure that it is democratic, fair, accessible, and transparent.
 In order for this idea to succeed and not fall into the same traps as the existing party organizations it cannot be wholly owned and controlled merely by its politicians. The Caucus must provide a means by which the grassroots can engage and make decisions so that the caucus truly becomes a democratic organization driven and empowered by its base. Membership in both mainstream parties is mostly meaningless beyond Election Day. However, membership in the caucus must expand beyond voting for nominees and the participation of elected officials to an active membership role for unelected Progressive Caucus members who will help to create and drive the agenda of the Caucus. Elected officials from the caucus should be held accountable to their base of voters through consistent public and private meetings with grassroots members whom they represent, where they will be held accountable to the Caucuses long term plans and platform. This changes traditional politics from the realm of one driven by merely individual achievement and personality politics to a collective act by people who share a common point of view. Progressives have often fallen into the trap of waiting for the great progressive messiah when we need to look to ourselves to lead and create the world we want. The Caucus will demand that the grassroots act as more than bystanders to the process and our political system will be stronger as a result. And between elections the Caucus will provide support, nurture and an anchor for issue-oriented progressive organizations and campaigns, constantly refreshing its people-oriented base.
In order to break free from the limitations of two party politics, we must think differently. Perhaps it is time to break away from the concept of parties as the only feasible vehicle for obtaining political power entirely. Through the strategy proposed above, the left may galvanize its wide assortment of progressive organizations and unite around our own political apparatus. The goal is getting to majority status and real power – as a caucus. If we are successful in electing those who run on our own Caucus slate, in addition to creating a more equitable, sustainable, and just society, we can begin eliminating the legal barriers that prop up our existing two party system. We may execute this plan both locally and nationally with unique strategies and tactics that fit the context in which the plan is being executed. The key for us will be to set up processes that build independent political power for progressives outside of a party system as well as processes that empower the grassroots to lead the way. There are many details that can be settled through the process of taking action, but we must experiment boldly in order to win the power to change our economic and political system. The future of politics lies beyond the Democratic and Republican parties, and the ground is shifting in order to make that possible. It’s up to us to build the viable alternative.

Larry Stafford, a DSA member, is executive director of Progressive Maryland. This originally appeared on Progressive Maryland’s PM BlogSpace.

Categories: Political Parties

Hogan's paid sick leave veto in MD likely to backfire on his re-election plans

DC DSA - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 17:27
The Washington Socialist <> June 2017
By Woody Woodruff
Just two days before his deadline, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan delivered his long-threatened veto of HB1, the Healthy Working Families Act that would provide paid sick leave to 700,000 now-uncovered Marylanders.

The response from Working Matters, the coalition of progressive groups that has worked five-plus years to get the assembly to pass paid sick leave: “It’s on.”

“On” it is.

Progressive Maryland and other progressive organizations in Maryland have been members of that coalition from the get-go.

Hogan has put his veto in a clever, potentially crowd-pleasing package that, as veteran blogger Josh Kurtz observed, allowed him a Houdini-like escape hatch from the rawest human edges of the veto. The pushback from progressives will need to be equally flexible and imaginative — and fired up.

At this point Hogan is faced with veto-proof majorities in favor of the bill in both chambers of the assembly. His diversionary package, principally a “study commission” to develop an alternative bill that the assembly can adopt as emergency legislation next January, is designed to peel off some of the override vote count, especially among Democrats who may feel vulnerable to charges of being anti-business in the 2018 election.

Michael Dresser, writing in the Baltimore Sun, says the executive order sets up a commission “drawing on the views of a wide variety of groups, including advocates of the legislature's bill.” Alas, the order does no such thing, confining participants to Hogan’s willing agency flunkies (“Executive Council”). The Guv is seeking a do-over from his commission without reference to the Assembly’s final product, which was hammered out over five grueling years, including five excruciating passes through the business-dominated House Economic Matters Committee.

The Guv also brandished a pilot program of sorts, extending by executive order a minimal version of what he sees as all the hoi polloi deserve in sick leave benefits to about 8,000 temporary workers for the executive branch. His half-a-loaf move and hypocritical yelps for a bipartisan solution cut no ice with legislators like Sen. Mac Middleton of Charles County, who by the Sun’s account “said the administration repeatedly refused to meet with lawmakers to work out a compromise this year. Now Middleton has no interest in a task force.”

The interests that are being catered to here are not actually those of independent small businesses, many of which saw paid sick leave as a playing-field leveler allowing them to treat their employees the way they wanted without being uncompetitively swamped by rapacious corporate interests. It was instead the corporate lobbyists that had Hogan’s ear. The Governor has  . . . turned his back on Maryland businesses, who could have had eight months to implement this smart policy, which will reduce turnover and enhance the health of their workplace,” said the veto response from Liz Smith of Working Matters. “Instead, the Governor has caved to interests of the corporate lobby and turned his back on working Marylanders.”

Progressive Maryland’s Justin Vest argued that the larger politics-as-usual realm was implicated:

A lot of people are “disappointed” that Hogan vetoed paid sick leave. Well that's not good enough. This isn't just a political setback to be rectified with a veto override in the next legislative session. This has real world consequences for a lot of workers. . . . It should never have taken this long for paid sick leave to pass with a Democratic supermajority. But party leadership decided time and again that human lives are less important than businesses' convenience. It’s time to stop hoping out-of-touch politicians will do right by working families. Instead we need people who know the struggles of everyday people, and have their own, to be the ones fighting for us in the halls of power — progressives who ignore the “political realities” to forge into new ground and achieve a radical vision of a better world.

And the interests being totally left out are those of the poor and working-class families where the unavailability of sick leave hits hardest. It is no accident that corporate forces, for whom workers are replaceable units not colleagues, find that not having publicly mandated sick leave enables them to enforce “workplace discipline” (that is, employer terrorism), keeping wages and benefits down and strengthening their hand against union organizing.

Progressive Maryland’s call for action against Hogan makes the clear comparison: “Hogan has repeatedly tried to distance himself from Donald Trump and national Republicans, but his actions speak louder than words. By vetoing paid sick leave legislation, he shows he is just as calloused as Trump and the Republicans trying to take health care away from tens of millions of Americans.”

As the Progressive Maryland appeal also makes clear, the opponent here is not just Larry Hogan — who must be defeated in 2018 — but as well the generally pro-business character of elected officials around the state. Not only Hogan but those legislators who resist the clearly needed progressive changes in Maryland and the nation need to be replaced. And it takes a popular movement, not politics as usual, to do that.

Categories: Political Parties

Books: "Hegemony How-To," movement building explored

DC DSA - Wed, 05/31/2017 - 17:22
Hegemony How-To Review 
The Washington Socialist <> June 2017
By Michael Bindner
For a recent socialist book group meeting we read Hegemony How-To by Jonathan M. Smucker (AK Press 2017). It was not a strictly socialist book, but it did provide an interesting perspective on how to build a broad-based movement, which we must do.

Smucker begins by first describing how he became a radical and how insular radicalism can become. His experience was through religious based organizations, including the DC Catholic Worker House. After building his skill set, he ended up as part of Occupy Wall Street and was instrumental in getting the message out. His stories are quite interesting on how Occupy both failed and succeeded (in spreading the 99% vs. 1% meme in particular). He leaves out the later accomplishments of some of the Occupy work groups, especially the one that  generated a large volume of comments to the new Consumer Financial Regulatory Board. He shows why well-formulated demands are key, probably more key than any action, and what happens when you don’t have them.

One of his major concerns is how insularity of radical groups creates a need to witness, often to get arrested in civil disobedience, or to extend to property damage, and how that turns off a larger audience. He spends a lot of time on the organizational culture of movements. Indeed, this could be a case study of risk management in movement organizations using the Cultural Theory of Mary Douglas and Aaron Wildavsky. He captures egalitarianism as a way of life in the movement well, as well as the despotism and libertarianism that are counterpart ways of life of the right-wing. He also identifies the need for fashion in rebellion (meaning we need to sell more t-shirts).

His mention of elections as an organizing tool is spot on. Both the Bernie Sanders campaign and the resistance to Donald Trump show how this can be a unifying factor.
Smucker argues for more inclusion in radical movements and the making of alliances, even if allies don’t buy into 100% of the program. Whether one is insular or allied is the difference between wide success and self-justification/isolation.

The civil rights movement is an example of large scale federations. I have a few examples to share. Sometimes movements can be captured by public officials. Stand Up for Democracy in Washington DC was created to do a march in September 1998 to protest the federally-imposed Control Board taking over direct government from the Mayor. There were a few movements evolving on their own and the local congresswoman, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, created a united front. After the march, it kept going and she and her staff became upset when we started making demands of her. This led to the creation by Delegate Norton of DC Vote! and its cramped agenda for voting rights. Stand Up! still exists and has a list of demands, with Free DC’s Budget being the signature one. A few of them have been met and the new Mayor’s drive to statehood is a good sign.

An older civil rights victory was when the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party got two of its delegates seated at the 1968 convention in Chicago (which was overshadowed by the protests). They won the battle and lost the war, as the white segregationists in the party fled to the Republicans. Not sure that this is a long-term defeat, however; good riddance to the racists. Some coalitions die and deserve to, like the old Democratic/Dixiecrat one.

The next frontier in large scale organizing, according to Smucker, is to build a coalition around class issues using the tools of this book to build a political movement (Bernie would say a political revolution).

I say we need to look for an economic route to an economic problem. We must Occupy Capitalism. This coalition must go beyond political organizing to and form an economic coalition, like the capitalists do.

I wrote about some of these options in the January issue 

There are currently present limits to socialism that we must breach politically. We can unite the coalition of newly socialist organizations and movements to replace the Taft-Hartley Act, which constrains union formation. We should also push to amend the ERISA law that enables employee ownership so that it allows more concentrated ownership of the means of production by workers collectively. We can add sympathetic voices from inside the left and even some from outside the left. The hardest thing, of course, is to get people to notice that there is another way. Once they know, they will join us on the journey. Let’s invite them. Smucker shows us how.

Categories: Political Parties

May 30: Fighting for Reproductive Rights in the Age of Trump

Seattle ISO - Sun, 05/28/2017 - 18:37

Tuesday, May 30
7:00 p.m.
Common Good Cafe
(Downstairs at the University Temple United Methodist Church)
1415 NE 43rd St.
Seattle, WA 98105

RSVP on Facebook

Join us for a discussion about Sharon Smith’s article in the most recent issue of the International Socialist Review, “Fighting for reproductive rights in the age of Trump.” We’ll be discussing the state of the movement to defend abortion rights and the political debates that exist within the movement.

The second half of the meeting will be devoted to breakouts to plan various aspects of our local work.

Categories: Political Parties

This student was murdered by the alt-right

Northern California ISO - Fri, 05/26/2017 - 11:27
This student was murdered by the alt-right

A Black college student’s stabbing is connected to the racist atmosphere that has flourished since the election of Donald Trump, write Brady O’Shea and Leonard Klein.

May 24, 2017

THE UNIVERSITY of Maryland (UMD) College Park campus, the scene of increasing racist activity over the past year, has just witnessed a lynching.

Richard Collins III, a 23-year-old Black man and graduating senior from Bowie State University, was stabbed to death on the UMD campus on May 20 in an unprovoked attack by Sean Christopher Urbanski, a white UMD student.

Collins was standing at a campus shuttle bus stop waiting for an Uber with his friends around 3 a.m. when Urbanski approached them. Urbanski demanded that Collins “Step left, step left if you know what’s best for you.” Collins said “No,” and then Urbanski stabbed him. Collins was pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Collins would have graduated on May 23 from Bowie State University, a historically Black college, where he had just completed the Army ROTC program. But instead of watching him graduate, more than 300 of Collins’ friends and classmates mourned and remembered him at a vigil on Monday evening.

Phylecia Fabulas first met Collins just over two years ago, during the Baltimore uprising in April 2015 after the police murder of Freddie Gray. Fabulas said:

It was my freshman year, and me and two other friends decided to go into the city, just because we wanted to see and be in the heart of what the people in Baltimore were feeling.

[Collins] introduced himself to me. I told him that I was nervous about going into the city because people were saying, “Don’t go in.” My mom was texting me, saying, “Make sure you stay out of Baltimore.” Everyone was like: make sure you’re safe, stay at Bowie.

And he said: We’re going to get there and we’re going to get back. He said: I promise you that. And we went there and we got back. It was in that moment that I knew something was very special about him. It was that he was fearless. In every interaction I’ve had with him, I’ve never believed that he had any ounce of fear in his heart.

The racism that took Freddie Gray’s life in April 2015 took Richard Collins’ in May 2017.

While Gray died at the hands of racist cops protected by a racist injustice system, Collins was killed by the racist climate that has given confidence to white supremacist vigilantes, both as individuals and as part of groups.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

IN THE immediate aftermath of Collins’ murder, University of Maryland Police Department Chief David Mitchell claimed there was no indication that race played a role.

This quickly changed when students and the press went through Urbanski’s Facebook page and discovered that he belonged to a group called “Alt-Reich: Nation.” The page, which has since been taken down, was full of xenophobic, sexist and racist content and seems to indicate that this attack was racially motivated.

This murder is the culmination of a racist atmosphere on campus that began rising in response to Donald Trump’s racist presidential campaign and has only gotten worse since the election.

Beginning in spring 2016, the “Terps for Trump” student group chalked campus sidewalks calling for the deportation of undocumented immigrants, the construction of a border wall and various coded racist statements.

After the election, during finals week of the fall 2016 semester, flyers from a white supremacist group called American Vanguard were wheat-pasted on campus, calling for white people to “protect their heritage” and depicting the World Trade Center with the tagline “Imagine a Muslim-Free America.” Leaders of the American Vanguard later claimed that two of its student members at UMD had put up the posters.

Campus activists, including members of the UMD Socialists, responded with their own posters that read, in part, “American Vanguard is a white supremacist hate group. We don’t tolerate racism on our campus. We don’t tolerate hate speech on our campus. We don’t tolerate hate groups on our campus. Racists are not welcome here.”

In a statement, the UMD Socialists wrote, “We stand in solidarity with communities of color on this campus and want to make it crystal clear that we will not stand by and allow white supremacists to recruit and spread their bile on our campus.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

DURING THE early months of the Trump administration, hundreds of thousands of people attended rallies against hate and for immigrant rights, including at U.S. airports after Trump tried to impose his ban on Muslims.

However, the white supremacist right, emboldened by Trump’s words and actions, has become more visible, especially targeting U.S. campuses, where undocumented immigrant students have been fighting for the right to education over the past few years.

This spring, white supremacist flyers were found from American Vanguard and Identity Evropa not less than three times on UMD’s campus. Chalkings were found outside of the Stamp Student Union on the morning of “Social Justice Day” calling for the deportation of DREAMers–undocumented students at the university under the Maryland DREAM Act.

In a disgusting incident recalling America’s racist past, a noose was found in the kitchen of the Phi Kappa Tau fraternity house on April 27. Some members of the fraternity catering staff targeted by this hateful act are people of color.

The university’s response has been thoroughly inadequate. For example, details of the noose incident weren’t revealed to the campus community until days later. After the chalkings and racist flyers, the university called these incidents “free speech” and talked about how it “valued diversity,” while taking no meaningful action to prevent future occurrences.

As a result, racists now feel emboldened to be openly bigoted and hateful and to attack people because of their race without fear of meaningful consequences. The university’s Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct, which is responsible for investigating incidents of racial bias and sexual assault, has been consistently understaffed and underfunded.

Investigations into incidents of sexual assault and civil rights violations have taken more than six months to complete in many cases–despite the fact that Title IX recommends such investigations take 60 days.

Sexual assaults are vastly underreported, and in many cases, the office has been condescending and patronizing to victims.

UMD students are so desperate for some positive action to be taken that they voted to self-impose a mandatory student fee on top of the already high tuition to increase funding and staffing at the Office of Civil Rights and Sexual Misconduct. The university is currently under investigation for violations of Title IX.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

OTHER CAMPUSES in the D.C. area have also witnessed increased racist activity. African American students attending American University (AU) are being harassed by racist bigots. In September 2016, Black students reported that bananas were left outside or thrown through their dorm room doors.

As Ma’at Sargeant, an AU sophomore and president of the Black Student Alliance, told the Washington Post:

In the real world, this would be a hate crime and an assault. This kind of thing has been happening at AU for years. Last year, people wrote the n-word on Black students’ doors and put up Trump stickers on the doors of Hispanic students. This is not just a one-time thing.

The AU administration doesn’t seem to be dealing with campus racism any more effectively than UMD.

On May 1, Black AU students were confronted by bananas hung on poles with nooses. The words “AKA free” were written on some of the bananas. “AKA” are the initials of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, which is home to AU’s newly elected Student Government Association President Taylor Dumpson, the first Black woman to be elected to the position. Her term of office began May 1.

It’s clear that students at UMD, AU and other campuses can’t expect racial justice from university administrators. As Zakariya Uddin, a member of UMD Socialists, said,

I found out Richard’s murder was a hate crime before I knew that he was the victim. I didn’t know Richard well, I had only met him a few times, but he was best friends with a close friend of mine. This heinous event was infuriatingly tragic to begin with, but knowing Richard was the one murdered made it all the more real.

The administration’s abysmal response is to be expected, as evidenced by its continual acceptance of racial hatred in the past. Nonetheless, it was all too disheartening, especially as a person of color myself.

Students at UMD are organizing a response to Collins’ lynching and against the spread of racism on campus for the coming days, despite the fact that classes have just ended, and most students have returned home.

While plans aren’t yet firm, those who want to fight racism at UMD should contact the UMD Socialists. It’s time for more visible anti-racist presence at UMD if we are going to push the racists back into the shadows and prevent another lynching.

“The administration’s behavior shows that we can’t depend on them or other state institutions to take appropriate action,” Uddin said, “We as students are forced to take action to repress a culture of white supremacy.”

Categories: Political Parties