Sunday, September 25, 2011

‘Street Heat’ vs. Finance Capital and the Right

Solidarity Time: Young People Occupying

Wall Street Are Standing Up for All of Us

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

The actions of thousands of young people in New York City's financial district, simply calling themselves "Occupy Wall Street," is now entering a second week, with many camping out overnight in the area's parks. How long its will continue and whether its numbers will swell is anyone's guess, but the response of the NYPD in arresting and otherwise restricting them is already banging heads with our First Amendment rights to peacefully assemble.

"At Manhattan's Union Square, police tried to corral the demonstrators using orange plastic netting," reports the Sept 25, 2011 Washington Post. "Some of the arrests were filmed and activists posted the videos online. One video appears to show officers using pepper spray on women who already were cordoned off; another shows officers handcuffing a man after pulling him up off the ground, blood trickling down his face."

Most of the youth are students, but many are also unemployed and underemployed young workers. And a small but important grouping of staffers and activists with NYC's trade unions have also made their way downtown to spend a few hours helping out.

The students certainly have a just cause. While the denizens of Wall Street have bailed themselves out and paid themselves huge bonuses with trillions from the public treasury, these young people are saddled with a degree of crushing debt to pay for their educations that would have been unthinkable 40 years ago. If they manage to graduate, they face a financial burden large enough for a home mortgage-all before they start their first full-time jobs, assuming their lucky enough to find one that pays a living wage.

But these youth and students are fighting for more than their own immediate concerns. They have raised a whole range of demands-Medicare for All, defending social security, for passing the various jobs bills in congress, opposing racism and sexism, ending the wars, and abolition of the death penalty in the wake of the recent unjust execution of Troy Davis.

They are the cutting edge of a new popular front against finance capital.

Young rebels often manifest a moral clarity that awakens and prods the rest of us. Through their direct actions, they become a critical force, holding up a mirror for an entire society to take a look at itself, what it has come to, and what choices lay before it. The historic example is the four young African American students that sat at a lunch counter and ordered a cup of coffee in Greensboro, North Carolina back in 1960.

The Wall Street protests are thus a clarion call to the trade unions and everyone concerned with economic and social justice. While the youth are clearly a critical force here, when all is said and done, they are not the main force. That power resides in labor and in the wider communities. It's in the hands of everyone that's part of an emerging progressive majority for peace and prosperity, everyone that wants a U-Turn against the country's current path to more wars and deeper austerity.

It's time to exercise that power and lend a hand with active solidarity. More actions are in the works, including an occupation and encampment on Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC starting Oct. 6, following the 'Rebuild the Dream' DC conference focused on a renewed labor-community coalition for the 2012 election.

It's going to take more than votes to push back the right wing and its Wall Street allies. It's going to take some serious 'street heat' as well.


[Carl Davidson is a national co-chair of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, a national board member of the Solidarity Economy Network, and a member of Steelworker Associates residing in Beaver County, Western PA.

If you like this article, make use of the PayPal button at  His books are available at]

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Friday, September 16, 2011

New Book: ‘…The Lost Writings of SDS’

This is a fascinating new collection of 12 essays and documents from the New Left of the late 1960s, gathered and commented on by Carl Davidson, a national leader of SDS at the time.

‘Revolutionary Youth and the New Working Class’ contains key sources illuminating a critical transition period in the American left, as well as a number of ideas still relevant.

Most important is the ‘Port Authority Statement’, actually titled ‘Toward a Theory of Social Change, and written by Robert Gottlieb, Gerry Tenney and David Gilbert. Passed around in mimeographed form, only about a third of it was ever put into print in SDS’s newspaper, until factional struggles set it aside. Meant to replace the Port Huron Statement, it is remarkable for many insights still holding up today.

The collection includes other ‘Praxis Papers,’ including three by Davidson, the Revolutionary Youth Movement documents that replied to the Weatherman faction, and the original ‘White Blindspot’ documents. About half the content has been scattered across the internet, but much of it has been newly digitized and now available in both e-book and paperback form from Changemaker Publications. Go to the site for the full contents, and contact the editor at for bulk rates.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Far Right Exposing Its Own Class Hatreds

Shameless Opposition to the Jobs Bill Reveals

The GOP's Deep Hatred of the Working Class

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

If you want to have your class consciousness raised a few notches, all you have to do over the next few weeks is listen to the Republicans in Congress offer up their shameless commentary rejecting President's Obama's jobs bill.

This week's doozy came from Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, who was outraged that capitalists were being restricted from discriminating in hiring the unemployed, in favor of only hiring people who already had jobs elsewhere. I kid you not. Here's the quote:

"We're adding in this bill a new protected class called 'unemployed,'" Gohmert declared in the House Sept. 13, 2011. "I think this will help trial lawyers who are not having enough work. We heard from our friends across the aisle, 14 million people out of work -- that's 14 million new clients."

One hardly knows were to begin. 

First, the Jobs Bill does no such thing as creating a 'new protected class.' It only curbs a wrongly discriminatory practice.

Second, so what if it did? Americans who uphold the Constitution, the 14th Amendment' equal protection clause, and the expansion of democracy and the franchise generally, will see the creation of 'protected classes' as hard-won progressive steps forward from the times of the Divine Right of Kings.

Third, if Gohmert had any first-hand knowledge of the unemployed, he'd know they usually can't afford lawyers, especially when the courts are stacked against them.

Fourth, to create even more confusion, Gohmert raced to the House clerk to submit his own 'Jobs Bill' before Obama's, but with a similar name. Its content was a hastily scribbled two-page screed consisting of nothing but cuts in corporate taxes.

What's really going on here is becoming clearer every day. The GOP cares about one thing: destroying Obama's presidency regardless of the cost. They don't even care if its hurts capitalism's own interests briefly, not to mention damaging the well being of everyone else.  Luckily, Obama is finally calling them out in public-although far too politely for my taste.

The irony will likely emerge if and when they ever do take Obama down. I'd bet good money that a good number of the GOP bigwigs would then turn on a dime and support many of the same measures they're now opposing.

But most of them, especially the far right, would still likely press on with their real aim, a full-throated neoliberal reactionary thrust that repeals the Great Society's Medicaid and Medicare, the New Deal's Social Security and Wagner Act, and every progressive measure in between.  Their idea of making the U.S labor market 'competitive' and U.S. business 'confident' is to make the whole country more like Texas, with its record volume of minimum wage work and poverty, and then Texas more like Mexico-the race to the bottom. They're not happy with 12% unionization; they want zero percent, where all of us are defenseless and completely under the thumbs of our 'betters'.

In brief, prepare for more wars and greater austerity.

If you think I'm exaggerating, over the next months observe how the national GOP is trying to rig the 2012 elections in Pennsylvania, Michigan and a few other big states. Our Electoral College system is bad enough, but they are going to 'reform' it to make it worse by attaching electoral votes to congressional districts, rather than statewide popular majorities. This would mean Obama could win the popular vote statewide, but the majority of electoral votes would still go to the GOP. Add that to their new 'depress the vote' requirements involving picture IDs, which are aimed at the poor and the elderly, and you'll see their fear and hatred of the working class.

We've always had government with undue advantages for the rich. But just watch them in this round as they go all out to make it even more so. We have to call it out for what it really is, and put their schemes where the sun doesn't shine.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Jobs Programs: The Right and Wrong Turns

The Hot Potato Too Many Beltway Wonks Avoid:

The Need to Tie Job Creation to Industrial Policy

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

If you want to be a good policy advocate for jobs these days, two starting points will help you a lot. One is to take off your national blinders and see the economy globally. The second is to grasp how the need for revenues to finance the creation of new jobs can best be filled by increasing taxes on unproductive wealth.

A good example of the problem is Robert's Samuelson's 'Job Creation 101' op-ed column in the Sept 12 Washington Post. If we simply follow his lesson plan, we would end up creating new jobs in the third world--and doing so mainly at the expense of the wrong people at home.

Samuelson begins his argument wisely enough by stressing how increasing demand for goods and services creates jobs, and government has to have a hand in it. But then he goes astray:

"If government taxed, borrowed or regulated less, that money would stay with households and businesses, which would spend it on something else and, thereby, create other jobs. Politics determines how much private income we devote to public services.

"To this observation, there's one glaring exception. In a slump, government can create jobs by borrowing when the private economy isn't spending."

On the first point, tweaking taxes so both people and businesses have more cash to spend glosses over the matter of where and how the money is spent. Using extra income to pay down your Visa Card doesn't help job creation much. And if you spend it at Wal-Mart or other big box stores, you'll create some demand to hire more workers in China or Malaysia, but not much here.

On the second point, it's not always wise to create jobs simply by borrowing. It certainly adds to the revenues of the banks and bondholders.  But it's much smarter to go after unproductive pools of capital with progressive taxation. The proposal for a financial transaction tax on Wall Street speculators is an excellent example.

The rule-of-thumb is to tax activities you want to discourage, such as unproductive gambling in derivatives, while subsidizing efforts you want to encourage, such as new green manufacturing startups. It's called 'industrial policy,' and it's why some countries that have one, like China and Germany, are weathering the economic storms better than others.

If Obama's new jobs program is going to be thwarted by a hostile Congress anyway, those politicians who are serious about creating jobs would do well to fight for the best options-direct government programs that fund increasing local demand for local labor and raw materials.  If we had every county in the country funded to build a wind farm or solar array as a public power utility, it would be a good start. So would the building of the new and massive 'Smart Grid' power lines for clean and green energy.

When finance capital's opposition in Congress rears its head to crush something that makes perfect sense to everyone else, then we'll learn exactly who is part of the problem and who is part of the solution. If we get political clarity here in a massive way, we'll be in a much better position to assemble the popular power required to get what we really need.

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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

1000s at Labor Day Focus on Plight of Unemployed

Photo: Aliquippa's SOAR Contingent in Parade

By Kaitlynn Riely
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Labor Day was a day off work for many, but for Shawn Wygant, it was one more day he didn't have a job.

In May, Mr. Wygant, 37, of Forest Hills, was laid off from his job as a washing machine operator for Sodexo. Since then, he has been searching for work, without success.

He uses unemployment benefits to pay his bills and makes large pots of spaghetti to feed his wife, her sister, her brother and a niece and nephew.

Frustration sets in when he sees news reports that say the job situation may not improve for years.

"I can't wait that long," he said. "We need people to start standing up for us."

On Monday morning, he stood in the rain on Freedom Corner in the Hill District as he prepared to march in the Pittsburgh Labor Day Parade. He was one of about 70,000 who participated in the Downtown procession.

On the annual observance of the contributions of workers, Mr. Wygant's story was similar to those of millions across the country who have found themselves unemployed or underemployed in the economic downturn.

Nationally, the unemployment rate is 9.1 percent, and in Pennsylvania, it is 7.4 percent.

Jack Shea, president of the Allegheny County Labor Council, and Frank Snyder, the secretary-treasurer of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, called attention to the plight of the jobless at a news conference before the parade Monday.

For the unemployed and the underemployed, the dreary holiday weather was another chapter in a bleak period of their life.

"For the past two years, it's not been that happy of a Labor Day as they've not been able to find work," Mr. Snyder said.

At this year's Labor Day Parade, one of the largest in the country, Mr. Snyder said he and other leaders of Pittsburgh's labor community wanted to focus on putting people back to work.

That focus includes both union and non-union workers, he said.

"Unemployment does not discriminate," he said. "Union members as well as non-union members, Democrats, Republicans, no affiliation, find themselves unemployed on this Labor Day."

Dave Ninehouser, the Pittsburgh coordinator for PA Wants to Work, said his group was using Labor Day to ramp up its efforts to help the jobless gain access to resources and to spur the creation of jobs.

"This parade is a perfect example of what we need to do," he said. "Come together, stick together, stand together and fight back."

The parade began at 10 a.m. and lasted almost three hours. Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Bishop David Zubik joined union members ranging from postal employees to Teamsters as they marched from the Civic Arena to the Boulevard of the Allies.

A steady rain fell throughout the morning, but there was a fair turnout, particularly among parade participants.

It was, for many parade participants, a bittersweet Labor Day.

About 5,000 members of the Pennsylvania State Education Association have been laid off from their jobs due to education cuts in the state budget, said Michael J. Crossey, president of the association. As the school year starts, they are out of work instead of in the classrooms, he said.

"We need to start doing the positive things that will move the economy forward," Mr. Crossey said. "This cuts budget doesn't work."

More than 50 people came out in support of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said Mike Plaskon, the executive vice president for Branch 84.

Part of their aim in marching in the parade, Mr. Plaskon said, was to urge Congress to find legislative solutions for the U.S. Postal Service's funding crisis.

"Our job is, we are going to get the facts out there, let the public know that they don't need to close post offices," he said. "They don't need to eliminate Saturday delivery. They just need to fix the funding."

Therese Kisic of Morningside has never been in a union but has family members who have, and she watches the parade every year.

This year, she said, she wished the labor movement would take its jobs message to Congress.

"I want to move this parade to D.C.," she said.

Although the parade had a definite message -- of supporting organized labor, providing access to health care and promoting job creation -- it was still a parade, with bands and banners and a few people throwing candy and other prizes to the umbrella-wielding bystanders.

Sandy and Andrew Pszenny of Franklin Park sat in lawn chairs on the sidewalk outside the DoubleTree Hotel, Downtown, and watched for their daughter Amanda, a piccolo player in the North Allegheny marching band.

They sought cover under their umbrellas as rain fell. It was their daughter's first time marching in a downpour, they said.

"But she's a tough kid. She likes the weather," Mr. Pszenny said.

Kaitlynn Riely: o

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Sunday, September 04, 2011

No Shame When It Comes To ‘Fracking’

The Low Road to Ecological Perdition:
Greed Tries Turning Natural Gas 'Green'

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

It's hard to decide who has less shame, the Pennsylvania legislature's GOP-led majority or the natural gas industry.

The question is raised by a Sept. 2, 2011 report in the Pittsburgh Business Times headlined, "Gas as alternative energy? New PA bill says yes."

So we're now faced with yet another sweetheart deal concocted jointly by our two local big-time political hustlers. They want to declare natural gas as a 'tier two alternative energy' to get their hands on tax credits earmarked for real green startups. To add insult to injury, both are also blocking any extraction tax on the gas released from the Marcellus shale by the environmentally dangerous 'fracking' underground explosions.

That's like someone picking your pocket with one hand while attaching your paycheck with the other.

Let's get this straight. Taking any form of carbon from under the ground, burning it, and putting the resulting carbon dioxide in the air is not an 'alternative energy.' Claiming so puts you in the running for the George Orwell 1984 'War is Peace' award.

There's only one rational, strategic way to burn carbon for energy: set aside part of the profits from this decidedly un-green process to create the investment fund for true alternative energy systems. Over time, this will help phase out the burning of carbon as a primary energy source altogether.

Here's something most kids learn in their high school Earth Science classes, even if our paid-off politicians and short-sighted and carbon-addicted business leaders are in denial:

Alternative energies, for the most part, derive from the interplay of the Earth, Sun and Moon. That's solar cells and solar collectors, wind turbines, hydro power and wave generators taking advantage of tides and other ongoing movement of water. The few exceptions are geothermal sources, tapping into the heat below the Earth's crust. All these are practically inexhaustible and leave a relatively low ecological footprint. That's why they're called 'renewable' and 'green'.

When brought to scale and with the proper technology--almost all of which is already invented and in use in many parts of the world--renewable energies can provide almost all our needs, from running heavy industry and powering land-based transportation to turning on your porch lights. We'll still need a small amount of hydrocarbons to power aircraft, but even that can be reduced with electromotive high-speed rail.

What's more, making the transition to clean and green energy requires a massive but productive increase in modern high-tech, high-value-added manufacturing and the jobs that go with them. That's why Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers has been hammering away at their importance for years now.

That's also the high road to economic and energy development for creating new wealth here at home.  But our legislature or at least a majority of it, along with the speculators bound up with the Marcellus Shale, want to take us down the low road to less sustainable low-wage growth and disaster-threatening ecological perdition.

This bill is simply the latest case in point. It's time for the Blue-Green alliance and a job-building, progressive-minded majority to expose these shenanigans, get rid of the shale-related corruption and organize the independent political clout to put us on a proper clean and green course.

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