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If We Want Anything Decent Out
of Congress, Dump the Filibuster
Senator Manchin is making the same mistake Obama did: assuming Republicans are rational actors in politics. It also covers his deeper problem, corruption by Koch money. Some adversaries can be won over. Others, however, must be crushed
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BE SURE TO SHARE THIS NEWSLETTER with friends, everyone interested in the views of the left and wider circles of progressives. We see the immediate problem of defeating the GOP and Trump. This task is framed by the centrality of a path forward focused on taking down white supremacy, along with all other forms of oppression and exploitation. Naturally, this will include important battles within the Democratic party as well.

We are partisans of the working class and the oppressed--here and in all countries. We explore all the new challenges of shaping and fighting for a democracy and socialism for the 21st Century. We want to build organizations to win elections, strikes and other campaigns, and put our people in the seats of power as well. As such we seek unity on the left and an effort to shape and unite a progressive majority. Lend a hand by contributing articles and sharing us widely.
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'Might as Well Be Titled, 'Why I'll Vote to Preserve Jim Crow'': Manchin Panned Over Op-Ed Against For the People Act
'We didn't need an op-ed to know you're unwilling to protect our democracy,' said Rep. Mark Pocan.

By Jake Johnson
Common Dreams

June 6, 2021 - Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia penned an op-ed Sunday vowing to oppose the For the People Act when it hits the Senate floor later this month and reiterating his objections to eliminating the filibuster, effectively guaranteeing that the ambitious voting rights bill will fail to pass.

Published in West Virginia's Charleston Gazette-Mail, Manchin's op-ed comes as Republicans are pushing hundreds of voter suppression measures at the state level across the nation—attacks on the franchise that could be neutralized by passage of the For the People Act. According to the latest tally by the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 14 states this year have enacted 22 new laws that restrict access to the vote.

"Republicans in state legislatures aren't worried about getting bipartisan support to destroy our democracy." —Meagan Hatcher-Mays, Indivisible

Given the enormous implications of the ongoing voting rights battle, Manchin's article drew a furious response from fellow members of Congress and progressive activists.

"Manchin's op-ed might as well be titled, 'Why I'll vote to preserve Jim Crow,'" tweeted Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.).

"We didn't need an op-ed to know you're unwilling to protect our democracy," Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) added.

The only Democratic senator who has refused to co-sponsor the For the People Act, Manchin wrote Sunday that he will vote against the bill this month because it has advanced through Congress without Republican support. In March, the House passed the bill along party lines and not a single Republican has backed the legislation in the Senate.

"Whether it is state laws that seek to needlessly restrict voting or politicians who ignore the need to secure our elections, partisan policymaking won't instill confidence in our democracy—it will destroy it," Manchin claimed.

But critics were quick to slam the West Virginia Democrat's argument as incoherent, noting that his opposition to the For the People Act on the grounds that it's too partisan virtually ensures congressional inaction in the face of the GOP's sweeping partisan attacks on voting rights nationwide.

'So let me get this straight: Sen. Manchin claims to want to protect voting rights, but wants to empower Senate Republicans who are hellbent on restricting voting rights?' --Rober Reich

If enacted, the For the People Act would overhaul the U.S. election system by implementing national automatic voter registration and other ballot-access measures, limiting the ability of states to purge voter rolls, restoring voting rights to people who have completed felony sentences, reforming the undemocratic redistricting process, and establishing a publicly financed small-dollar donation matching system for candidates who reject high-dollar contributions.

Despite Manchin's characterization of the measure as "partisan," a recent survey by Data for Progress found that some of the major changes proposed under the For the People Act are popular with Republican voters.

With the full Senate expected to vote on the bill this month, voting rights organizations are planning to "ratchet up pressure on Democrats... in coming weeks to do whatever it takes to pass the federal voting legislation they view as key to counteracting the blitz of new voting restrictions in Republican-led states," CNN reported Sunday.

"Activists plan to text, call, email, and go door-to-door to reach voters in states such as West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Arizona to urge Senate action," CNN noted. "Next week, the heads of the NAACP and other civil rights groups plan to press their case with Sen. Joe Manchin... whose opposition to dismantling the legislative filibuster in the Senate is viewed as a key impediment to passing voting rights legislation."

With the legislative filibuster in place, Senate Democrats need the support of every member of their caucus plus at least 10 Republicans to pass the For the People Act.

Meagan Hatcher-Mays, director of democracy policy at Indivisible, told CNN that "Republicans in state legislatures aren't worried about getting bipartisan support to destroy our democracy."

"Democrats," she added, "can't be worried about getting bipartisan support to fix it again." ...Read More
Even Western PA's Conor Lamb Is Done With the Filibuster
Photo: Rep. Conor Lamb pays his respects to Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 3.

The moderate Democrat says the Capitol riot changed his mind. Who’s next?

By Mary Harris

JUNE 10, 2021 - Some people call Democratic Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb a conservative. He prefers to think of himself as a compromiser, a moderate in a polarized political world. Because he was first elected as a Democrat in a district that also elected Donald Trump, he’s often seen as a bellwether, an object lesson in reaching the voters Democrats have lost ground with over the last few years.

So it surprised me that Lamb recently got on Twitter to voice his support for blowing up the filibuster. After watching the bipartisan push for a Jan. 6 commission fail spectacularly, Lamb says he felt like he had no choice—“the filibuster has to go.” On Thursday’s episode of What Next, I spoke to Lamb about why he’s taking this stand now, and what compromise means when there are fewer and fewer people to compromise with. This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Mary Harris: Right now the project of democracy is being politicized. Reforms that will increase the democratic project are seen as progressive or left-wing. But you’re trying to separate that out from your stances on issues like the environment or the economy. Are your constituents separating them out too? When you talk to them about the democratic values that you clearly hold, do they see those as apolitical values?

Conor Lamb: I think it’s still a little early in this process. I’ve noticed Washington, D.C., always moves a lot faster in conversation than people back here in my district, and so I am now every day on high alert for what’s happening to our democracy and what’s happening in these different states, and I’m not sure that the average person in my district is yet, particularly because you’re in Pennsylvania. We more or less are at a stalemate because we have a Democratic governor who’s not going to allow the legislature to do all these crazy things they’re doing elsewhere.

Even though the legislature is Republican-controlled?

Yes. And they have tried. We just had a bunch of state legislators travel to Arizona to watch the phony recount. But I can say with a lot of confidence, having got to know my constituents over the last three years, that they would expect me to continue working for achievements and compromises on issues like infrastructure, even as we debate the fundamental issues of our democracy. And that actually makes sense to me.

In infrastructure, just to give you a quick example, there’s a lock on the Ohio River that makes it possible for barges to carry construction equipment and coal and all the things that they move on the river. It’s so old that it’s literally at a 50 percent chance of cracking in half and falling into the river in the next two years. And if that happened, not only the whole river would be shut down, but construction sites along the river would be shut down. People would lose their job. Traffic on the roads would increase. I mean, that’s a real scenario. If that happened, I don’t think anyone in my district is going to look at me and go, “Well, yeah, Conor, that’s not your fault because you were fighting with the Republicans about democracy.” I mean, there’s some basic stuff that we really have to try to get done for our people no matter what.

So you’re trying to make the case to your constituents that we need to be able to get these things passed because otherwise your stuff is going to break, and then it’s too late for us to fix it.

I would actually reverse it. I think that’s the case my constituents make to me on a pretty regular basis. And I agree with them. I think that we have to be able to do multiple things at once. But I’ll also say that my view on the filibuster, on the commitment to democracy that we have to have and the intensity with which we have to have that debate—that has evolved in three years. So I’m learning on the job and I’m trying to achieve this balance right now of working with the Republicans. And when I say the Republicans, really I’m mostly working with Republicans who did not vote to overturn the election. Many of the ones I’m working with voted to impeach Trump the second time.

Can you tell me about that evolution? You’ve said, “I practice bipartisanship because it’s supposed to get results.” But I think a lot of people would say it hasn’t been getting results for a while.

I always challenge people to make sure we know what we’re talking about when we say we’re not getting results, because we actually have, even in the depth of the Trump era, we’ve gotten bipartisan results on important topics. The same week that we did impeachment in the House the first time, we did the USMCA [United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement], probably the most important trade agreement in the United States in the last almost 30 years, by a massive bipartisan vote. And there have been other examples like that. So it still does happen, even though people correctly perceive that we’re in much more partisan times.

  • 'If we can’t agree to have a peaceful transition of power, the rest of it doesn’t really matter.'— Rep. Conor Lamb

But I think the last three years have taught me that the Republicans have really made this whole attack on the ease of voting, and more generally an attack on telling the truth and meaning what you say and basing your statements on facts and true observations about the world—they’ve really made it a core pillar of their party because they have tied themselves so tightly to Trump. I don’t think every Republican walking around thinks that way, but they have all made the decision basically that he’s the head of their party, and so now all that really matters is what he wants or what pleases him. And Jan. 6 really revealed just how dangerous and sinister of a development that that is.

There are many who saw all this coming. I think for me, once I saw it happen on Jan. 6, and particularly that night, when I saw so many of them still vote to overturn the election, I realized that we had kind of crossed the Rubicon with them and that there wasn’t going to be a negotiation on basic issues of truth and democracy and that we would have to fight for those things alone.

You gave a speech that night.

Once the attack happened and those people came back into the chamber, so determined to continue following the big lie and following Trump, I realized it just wasn’t about a point-by-point exposition of the evidence anymore. It was about something a lot deeper and more basic. And it was about putting the truth up front and center and not allowing things like respect and bipartisanship to actually become something that hides the truth from the people we’re supposed to represent. And that was a transition for me, to have to prioritize telling the truth in very raw and stark forms over the practices of bipartisanship that I had been working on for the last three years. …

It was not an easy thing to set aside the bipartisanship in that moment and talk about what was really happening. But it was really happening. And first things first, if we can’t agree to defend the Capitol, if we can’t agree to have a peaceful transition of power, the rest of it doesn’t really matter.

You just won a bruising election. Donald Trump had rallies supporting your challenger, Sean Parnell. You pulled it out by a narrow margin, 2 points, but then had to fight off Parnell in court—he was trying to get mail-in votes thrown out. The fact that you won your seat by a slim margin, some would say that’s an argument for a rule like the filibuster, like it’s a way to ensure legislators find some kind of common ground. I’m wondering if you can explain more why you disagree.

In theory you might think that was an attractive idea. But the evidence is pretty clear that in this polarized era, the filibuster has become nothing but a weapon to grind the Senate and therefore all of the lawmaking processes to a halt. And so I think if you look at that evidence and then you also look at the history of the filibuster itself—you know, it’s not in the Constitution. It has had many different rules over time. It’s been used differently for different purposes. But it definitely has this kind of anchor in the Jim Crow era. Nothing about it really suggests that it actually has been a tool for compromise.

And my own experience in Washington has been when you know that a bill is moving, people from both sides start to get on board because they want to attach something to it that’s long-held priorities of theirs and get it through. So I think if we took away the filibuster, we would probably see more bipartisanship in the short term, because all of a sudden people in the minority party in the Senate would say, “Well, this bill is going to move. I might as well get involved early to try to get what I want from it.”

There’s a reason to compromise.

I think there becomes a reason to act at that point. It’s just too easy for everyone not to act right now, if they know that the filibuster is going to block it. And then there’s the whole series of issues about the fact that the filibuster is basically done secretly now. It’s not a Mr. Smith Goes to Washington thing anymore, and I think that’s bad for the public as well. I think the public deserves to see more debates. ...Read More
From the CCDS Socialist Education Project
New from Changemaker Publications

A China Reader
Edited by Duncan McFarland

A project of the CCDS Socialist Education Project and Online University of the Left
244 pages, $20 (discounts available for quantity), order at :

The book is a selection of essays offering keen insight into the nature of China and its social system, its internal debates, and its history. It includes several articles on the US and China and the growing efforts of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.

China's rise in the 21st century is of great significance for the world, socialism and communism, and the US Left, as well as the Chinese people. Yet an understanding of China, even basic facts of Chinese history, is not good enough. The text provides historical background and political education by reprinting valuable articles and publishing new material. The book is based in the struggle for peaceful coexistence and opposes hegemonism and a new cold war on China. Contributors include activists, organic intellectuals, and academics. We regard it necessary to consider both Chinese perspectives and US and Western views for balanced understanding.

Topics: New cold war and China's foreign policy; China's economy, socialism, and capitalism; women founders of people-to-people friendship; towards a democratic and socialist way of life.

Authors and reviews include: Samir Amin, Gordon H. Chang, Carl Davidson, Cheng Enfu, Gary Hicks, Paul Krehbiel, Norman Markowitz, Duncan McFarland, VJ Prashad, Soong Qingling, Al Sargis, David Schweikart, Agnes Smedly, Helen Foster Snow, Anna Louise Strong, Harry Targ, Jude Woodward, Xi Jinping and others

AMLO’s MORENA Wins the Mexican Midterms
Facing an alliance of right-wing parties, business associations, and US-backed institutions like the National Endowment for Democracy, Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s MORENA Party managed to retain its majority in Congress. A victory worth celebrating
Photo: Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) speaks about the advance of the Mexican legislative elections on June 7, 2021, in Mexico City., Luis Barron / Eyepix Group / Barcroft Media // Jacobin

By Kurt Hackbarth

June 10, 2021 - In the end, none of it was enough.

A pile-on alliance of right-wing parties, the vociferous backing of business associations, the overt partiality of the National Electoral Institute, the NGO-funneled financing of USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, desperate scenes of vote buying and disruption of precincts, and a near-uniform wall of major media, including last-minute anti-AMLO screeds in every outlet from the Economist to the Nation: none of it was able to prevent the MORENA coalition from romping to victory in the Mexican midterm elections of June 6, retaining its majority in Congress and seizing two-thirds of the governors’ races in dispute.

Results from the preliminary electoral count indicate that MORENA will win between 190 and 203 seats in the lower house of Congress known as the Chamber of Deputies, equaling or bettering its result in the presidential election of 2018, when it captured 191. Add this to the range of 35 to 41 seats won by the Workers’ Party (PT) and the 40 to 48 captured by the Greens, and the coalition is set to win somewhere between 265 and 292 seats: a clear majority out of 500. The victory will allow MORENA’s legislative agenda to proceed in tandem with its majority in the Senate, which was not up for election.

In governors’ races, MORENA did even better, sweeping eleven of the fifteen statehouses in dispute, ten of which it flipped from one or other member of the right-wing alliance: from the once-feared Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) alone, it snatched seven. This will raise the total number of states governed by MORENA from a mere six before the midterms to seventeen out of thirty-two.

Of special note was the coalition’s ability to win in northern border states such as Baja California, Sonora, and Coahuila, where it had virtually no presence before 2018 and where its predecessor parties on the center-left failed to make inroads for decades. With its ability to win in any part of the country, from the industrial and US-facing north to the more rural and Indigenous south — and without Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the top of the ticket on this occasion — MORENA has taken a further step in articulating itself as a truly national party.

A Shot Across the Bow

Not all of the news, however, was as uniformly positive. With the full weight of irony, MORENA racked up victories across the varied topography of the nation only to stumble on its home turf of Mexico City. There, it lost eight of the sixteen alcaldías, or districts into which the one-time federal district and now state is divided, and came within a whisker of losing its majority in the legislature. The divide was stark between the working-class areas to the east and the more affluent zones to the west, leading to a cottage industry of memes about a city divided.

Looming above the socioeconomic split and the vicissitudes of long-term governance (the center-left has governed Mexico City without interruption since 1997), the vote appeared to be a clear and very targeted protest against the subway disaster of May 3, in which the collapse of a section of elevated subway line caused the deaths of 26. While the city government has repeatedly promised that there will be no impunity in its investigation, no one has yet lost their jobs as a result. And as the leading presidential hopefuls for MORENA are current and former mayors Claudia Sheinbaum and Marcelo Ebrard, losses in the city also cast a degree of doubt as to what will happen at the upper echelons of the party once AMLO — who is not allowed to seek reelection — leaves office in 2024.

Complications in the capital aside, the overall results give MORENA and its supporters a lot to celebrate. It showed resilience in its first outing as a party of government, demonstrating that it could win nationally without AMLO at the top of the ticket, in an off-season election that typically punishes the party in power, in the face of a united opposition, and in the context, moreover, of a pandemic whose repercussions have toppled presidents and prime ministers elsewhere in the world. Citizens on the streets also played a direct role, stepping in to foil repeated attempts at electoral crimes with the backing of the National Guard, which made arrests in situations that have historically gone unpunished. 

Armed with this endorsement from the Mexican public, the challenge for MORENA in the coming session will be to maintain its momentum, to resist the temptation to coast, and to avoid, above all, getting prematurely entangled in the politics of the presidential race to come. It has been returned to Congress to deliver and — as the shot across in the bow in Mexico City has shown — what has been given can just as quickly be taken away. Manos a la obra.

[Kurt Hackbarth is a writer, playwright, freelance journalist, and the co-founder of the independent media project “MexElects.” He is currently co-authoring a book on the 2018 Mexican election.] ...Read More
Photo: Members of UNITE HERE Philadelphia at a post-election rally, November 2020. Photo from UNITE HERE Philly.

‘The White Republic’:
A Response by Peter Olney & Rand Wilson

Organizing Upgrade, June 7, 2021 - In “The White Republic and The Struggle for Racial Justice,” Bob Wing contended that the U.S. state is racist to the core, and this has specific implications for our movements’ work going forward, especially the need to replace this racist state with an anti-racist state.

Organizing Upgrade is publishing a series of commentaries on this piece, and we invite readers to respond as well. In this response, Peter Olney and Rand Wilson look at the role that labor unions can play in building the cross-class front against what Wing calls “the re-entrenchment of the white republic.” From their long experience as union organizers, they draw the lesson “that unity and awareness of our shared enemy is built among trade unionists and allies in the trenches of common struggle.”

Labor Must ‘Block and Build’ to Defend Democracy

By Peter Olney & Rand Wilson

Bob Wing argues in “The White Republic” that American capitalism is firmly rooted in the appropriation of the lands and labor of native peoples and African slaves. Throughout U.S. history this system has been one of white supremacy and racial oppression, not only of Native peoples and Blacks, but also of other exploited peoples like Asian Pacific Islanders and Latinos.

The 2020 Presidential election, the battle for the Senate in Georgia, and the January 6 Capitol insurrection illustrated the white supremacist forces at play. Democracy and majority rule are in the cross-hairs. Republicans are moving in lockstep to suppress and oppress the votes of people of color to preserve minority rule. The recent spate of state legislative initiatives to restrict voting is the closest thing to the “Jim Crow” era since before the Civil Rights Act of 1965.

We accept the veracity of Wing’s analysis, and the need for a “united front” to defeat and destroy the white supremacist forces in the long term. Our challenge in trying to bring the labor movement into that front is to operationalize a perspective that builds antiracist practice, tackles white supremacy and fights capitalism – and to do that among a membership that is not rooted in a shared identity or philosophy.

It’s no easy matter. Demographics are not destiny – at least not fast enough. The country remains 62 percent non-Hispanic white. And as we saw in the last election, Trump’s racist, proto-fascist appeals garnered 73 million votes, and his vote totals increased in both Latinx and Black communities.

As lifelong trade unionists, we embrace the challenge of building the broad united front between labor and communities of color to defeat white supremacy. But how best is that elusive unity built? Imagine going to a union meeting and denouncing the “white republic” when many cars and trucks in the parking lot sport “Blue Lives Matter” bumper stickers. It’s a recipe for a very heated exchange, or worse, a brawl! What’s really needed are ways to open discussions with members that don’t condescend or polarize, and do involve deep listening and identifying common values.

Many union leaders have begun this process by centering racial justice in membership education programs, organizing campaigns and bargaining. “Labor organizations are taking up the fight for racial justice in many ways,” wrote Stephanie Luce in a profile of contemporary efforts by union leaders. “They’re developing in-depth member education on racial capitalism. They are using bargaining to address structural racism and developing new leaders.” Luce also cites SEIU 1199 in New England which has used Bargaining for the Common Good to build relationships and common demands with racial justice organizations. This is one approach.


Experience tells us that unity and awareness of our shared enemy is built among trade unionists and allies in the trenches of common struggle. We are inspired by the work of UNITE HERE and other unions in battleground states like Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania and later the Senate race in Georgia in 2020-21. The bold decision by a few union leaders to recruit and support their members to canvass on the doors during the pandemic built lasting relationships and respect with the organizations of Blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans already deeply engaged in those battleground situations.

The union banners, T-shirts, and buttons (we do bling well!) were welcomed in action, as was the experience and courage of these able trade unionists of all colors. Nothing bonds people better than working together in 95-degree heat, with a mask, a visor, and the determination to knock on every door. That joint work is worth a thousand educational sessions.

The great Italian Marxist philosopher and organizer Antonio Gramsci points to the limits of education and intellectual argument in this passage on “Philosophy, Common Sense, Language and Folklore” from his famous Prison Notebooks:

“Imagine the intellectual position of the man of the people: he has formed his own opinions, convictions, criteria of discrimination, standards of conduct. Anyone with a superior intellectual formation with a point of view opposed to his can put forward arguments better than he and really tear him to pieces logically and so on. But should the man of the people change his opinions just because of this? Just because he cannot impose himself in a bout of argument? In that case, he might find himself having to change every day, or every time he meets an ideological adversary who is his intellectual superior. On what elements, therefore, can his philosophy be founded? And in particular his philosophy in the form which has the greatest importance for his standards of conduct?”

The 2022 midterm elections offer an excellent opportunity for the “men [and women] of the people” to forge new convictions and standards of conduct.


Maintaining the momentum to win progressive legislation and beat back the far right and the “big lie” of election theft requires a broad commitment to win seats in the 2022 midterm elections on November 8 – and win big. It’s no easy task. The political system is rigged against Democrats who got five million more votes in their 2020 races for the U.S. House of Representatives yet lost 11 seats in Congress.

Can we defy history and increase Democratic margins in the House and Senate? Can we afford not to? The 1934 midterms during Roosevelt’s first term in the midst of the Great Depression are inspiring. Gains were made in both the House and Senate that enabled the passage of key legislation like the National Labor Relations Act, which encouraged millions of workers to fight for and form new unions.

The 2022 midterms are perhaps more monumental. The Trump forces will be determined to recapture both houses of Congress and stymie any positive Biden initiatives in the second two years of his presidency. They will have all the advantages of their voter suppression laws and gerrymandered districts. But the ground forces on the front lines in the last election will not be deterred. They will be out again, and with even more gusto.

LUCHA in Arizona will fight to keep Democrat Mark Kelly in the Senate. The New Georgia Project and Stacey Abrams will be rolling up their sleeves to defend the Senate seat of Rev. Raphael Warnock. All the battleground locations will see healthy mobilizations of activists from all over the country eager to defeat the right. These are the battles that labor must join, and these are the flashpoints where multi-racial unity will be forged in the common struggle to preserve the forward march of the pro-labor Biden agenda and stem the racist right.


Prior to the midterms, there will be important primary challenges by progressive Democrats running to win against corporate Democrats. Nina Turner’s primary campaign for the recently vacated seat in Ohio’s 11th congressional district is a great example. These pro-labor/pro-racial justice candidates need support, especially where Democrats have safe seats. But once the 2022 primaries are over, labor must focus on competitive races where congressional seats need to be defended or where seats can be gained. In addition to the seats held by Senators Kelly and Warnock, there are six more Senate seats where Republicans are resigning or are vulnerable, in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, and Missouri.

The labor movement can draw much inspiration from the experience and energy of 2020 combined with the surprisingly good performance of President Biden. The new administration’s taming of the pandemic and its robust stimulus and infrastructure bills should create the foundation to peel away many of the estimated forty percent of trade unionists who voted for Trump. Particularly in the more conservative building trades, funding for infrastructure is something to fight to preserve and extend. Biden’s shutdown of the Keystone XL pipeline, a big issue that many building trades leaders railed against under Obama, is being overshadowed by the massive infrastructure proposals.

After detailing the billions of dollars of infrastructure spending that Biden is proposing in an editorial to the membership, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) President Lonnie R. Stephenson wrote, “This is enough work to last from apprenticeship to retirement not just for you, but for tens of thousands of new union members in our brotherhood alone…This bill means hundreds of thousands of jobs for construction members, but also for our members in utility, telecom, railroad and broadcasting.”

Stephenson knows “A Lifetime of Work” is what will motivate IBEW members to support the plan regardless of how they voted. And that is what will motivate the IBEW and other unions to recruit and send members to preserve the possibility of anti-austerity measures like the infrastructure bills that have a direct benefit to working people. Few IBEW members will ever embrace the notion of a “white republic” or “racial capitalism,” but when those members are in the trenches (or on the doors) with Blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans with a common purpose, they will come much closer to supporting Wing’s call for “a powerful antiracist movement of people of color and whites” to “defeat the white supremacist right, transform or replace the racist institutions that dominate the country, and to reconstruct society based on peace, sustainability, and justice.”

We can think of our strategy going forward as “Blocking and Building,” as laid out by Tarso Ramos of Political Research Associates. “We need to block the Right Wing…and build relationships, strategies, and campaigns of deep solidarity and shared power across the communities that together will build real multi-racial democracy,” Ramos said. For us in the labor movement, this looks like blocking white supremacy, preserving a pro-labor agenda, and building our power. Funding and supporting union members for the ballot brigades in the key 2022 election races will be the most concrete way to dovetail labor and race in the trenches.

In the run-up to the November 2020 election, Labor Action to Defend Democracy (LADD) was formed to protect the election from being stolen. It was an exciting and relatively broad formation supported by many union leaders. Combined with the energy and resources of other progressive labor initiatives, LADD could be reassembled in some form to support activist union members in the key battleground states to work alongside local organizations battling the Trumpista white supremacists.

Bob Wing’s work is theoretically sound. The Block and Build labor brigades are one example of how to put that vision into concrete strategic practice. It is time to get cracking, as we are only 17 months out from our day of reckoning: November 8, 2022.

Peter Olney is on the Steering Committee of DSA’s Labor Commission and a lifelong union organizer. In 2020, he volunteered with Seed the Vote (STV) to work on the Biden campaign in Maricopa County Arizona. Rand Wilson, also a lifelong union organizer, has been a member of DSA since 1986 and a past recipient of Boston DSA’s Debs Thomas Bernstein award. Wilson registered as a Democrat for the first time in 2015, after Sanders declared his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. Wilson was elected a delegate to the 2016 DNC convention and a member of the Credentials Committee for the 2020 convention. He is now an elected member of the Somerville, MA Democratic Committee representing Ward 6.

Poor People’s Campaign Plans ‘Moral March on Manchin’
Photo: Sen. Joe Manchin, left, and the Rev. William Barber. (Left, AP Photo/Patrick Semansky. Right, RNS Photo/Jack Jenkins)

By Jack Jenkins

June 7, 2021 - WASHINGTON (RNS) — The faith-led Poor People’s Campaign is planning a march in the home state of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin to protest the moderate Democrat’s recent decision to oppose voting rights legislation and efforts to end the Senate filibuster.

Poor People’s Campaign co-chair the Rev. William Barber announced via Twitter on Monday (June 7) that his group will stage a “Moral March on Manchin” next week. The march is in addition to a separate protest against Manchin and Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C., later this month.

In an interview with Religion News Service, Barber said plans for the march came about at the request of activists in the state outraged by Manchin’s recent policy positions, which the pastor argued, “hurt poor and low-wealth people.”

“They said it’s time to march on his office,” Barber said. “It’s time for people of all differences to stand together against him — we call it ‘from the hollers in the mountains to the hood.’”

The march is in reaction to an editorial Manchin published over the weekend in The Charleston Gazette-Mail. Although Manchin expressed support for a bill known as the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, he stated in the editorial he would vote against the For the People Act, a sweeping voting rights bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in March and enjoys support from prominent Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York and Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock of Georgia.

Warnock is among those who have expressed openness to eliminating the Senate filibuster to pass the bill, which would allow it to make it through the Senate with a simple 51-vote majority instead of the current requirement for a 60-vote supermajority. Similarly, the Poor People’s Campaign has decried the filibuster, which is seen by some activists as hamstringing efforts to pass an array of liberal-leaning bills.

But Manchin shot down hopes he would back such efforts in his editorial, describing the For the People Act as “partisan” and declaring he “will not vote to weaken or eliminate the filibuster.”

Barber blasted the positions of Manchin, a Catholic, as incongruous with Christianity. 

“He claims to be a religious person, but the Scripture tells us in Matthew 23: ‘Woe unto those who tithe — who go through all the procedures — but leave undone weightier matters of the law, which is justice,'” he said.

Manchin’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Barber noted representatives from the Poor People’s Campaign met with Manchin earlier this year to discuss, among other things, support for a $15 federal minimum wage (Manchin instead floated a lower figure). The meeting — which was requested by Manchin’s office after Barber’s group threatened demonstrations — included residents of West Virginia, one of several states where the Poor People’s Campaign regularly stages protests.

“We explained to (Manchin) why his defense of the filibuster was historically inaccurate and politically dangerous, and how his position against living wages was hurting over half of the workforce of West Virginia,” Barber said. He noted they also discussed how Manchin’s refusal to support the For the People Act “was hurting not just Black people, but white people, brown people and particularly poor and low-wealth people.”

Barber added: “Even if (Manchin) doesn’t change, we have to bear witness to how his policies are hurting the democracy, are a form of political and legislative violence, and that he is standing more on the side of the corporate lobbyists rather than poor and low-wealth workers and people across this country.”

Details of next week’s protest, scheduled for June 14, are still in flux. Although announced as a march, Barber said organizers are discussing the use of “other non-violent direct action.”

“Thousands upon thousands of people (in West Virginia) don’t agree with his economic position, or his position on voting rights, or his position on the filibuster — and it’s time for them to speak up,” Barber said. ...Read More
In 2020, we took back our future. Now, as attacks on our freedom to vote are sweeping the country, we need to fight to keep it.

That’s why UNITE HERE members and allies are joining Black Voters Matter to build on the legacy of the original Freedom Ride, fight the systems of racism and voter suppression that impact us today, and demand that the Senate pass crucial legislation to protect our rights. 

Buses are leaving from Chicago, Baltimore, Phoenix, Detroit, Connecticut, New York City, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Miami, Orlando, and Atlantic City and will converge on Washington D.C. on June 26. 

Questions? Fill out the online form and we will get back to you within 24 hours. Please forward to anyone that may be interested – staff, students, supporters, allies, friends and family.

We are committed to providing a COVID safe environment for this trip. All riders must provide proof of vaccination. Please respond by Wednesday, June 16 to confirm your participation

California Activists Walking Hundreds
Of Miles For Climate Change

Jun 1, 2021 - On Friday, May 28, seven young climate activists set out from Paradise to complete a 266-mile march to San Francisco in an effort to bring attention to the worsening effects of climate change on Northern California. 

“I’m tired of inaction while watching my city burn. Living in California is terrifying, in the past 4 years alone I’ve had to pack more than ten evacuation bags,” Madeline Ruddell, a 16-year-old Sonoma County resident participating in the action, said.

The march was organized by the Sunrise Movement, a youth-led climate action organization with local chapters around the country. The marchers—impacted by the worsening impacts of climate change and the ever-declining economic prospects of America’s younger generations—are attempting to pressure Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Senator Dianne Feinstein to support the creation of the Civilian Climate Corps (CCC), a proposed government program to hire people to construct projects to recover-from and stave-off the impacts of climate change. 

The proposal would amount to a 21st Century version of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a short-lived government program that hired Americans to work on wildland conservation projects between 1933 and 1942, between the Great Depression and the start of World War II.
If created, the new CCC would be the first step towards passing the Green New Deal, a legislative proposal that Sunrise and other backers say would pair climate improvements with additional climate-friendly jobs—a two-for-one deal that seems especially appealing for young Californians considering living through years of worsened wildfires, droughts and sea level rise.

Backers estimate that the $10 billion program, which is included in President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan, could create 1.5 million jobs over the next five years.

The Covid-19 pandemic’s disastrous effects on increasingly fire-prone Wine Country offer an example of why such a jobs program could be effective. As workers were laid off in the early months of the pandemic, instead of repeatedly calling the state’s inadequate unemployment insurance phone line, some could have been paid by the government to prepare the region for the coming wildfire season.

“There are millions of us looking for good work, and so much that needs to be done. It will take all of us to build a renewable energy grid, restore our parks, and retrofit old buildings as well as carbon-intensive transit infrastructure,” a statement from Sunrise California announcing the march states. 

Organizers see the CCC as the first part of the Green New Deal, a green jobs proposal that has become a rallying cry for activists in recent years.

“I’m marching because when I’m a mom, I know I’ll have to tell my kids a story about how when I was their age, fires would devastate my community every year. But then I want to be able to finish that story by talking about my power: The power I had to walk 266 miles and demand a CCC from our leaders,” said Lola Guthrie, a 17-year-old Sonoma County participant in the march.

Whether or not the march is successful in its goals, the participants are not alone in grappling with the numerous monumental problems facing the world these days. The California march is paired with a similar journey from New Orleans to Houston. 

The California procession is expected to pass through the cities of Winters, St. Helena and Napa on June 7 and 8, before heading on to Santa Rosa on June 9 and 10. Supporters of the protest will hold a rally at Santa Rosa’s Julliard Park at 10am on Thursday, June 10. The march will conclude in San Francisco on Monday, June 14. ...Read More
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This Week's History Lesson:
When Radio Stations Stopped a Public
Figure From Spreading Dangerous Lies
Photo: Father Coughlin's bully pulpit. (Via Fotosearch / Getty Images)

When radio was king, many outlets chose to cease broadcasting Father Charles Coughlin’s anti-Semitic sermons

By William Kovarik, 

JANUARY 19, 2021 - In speeches filled with hatred and falsehoods, a public figure attacks his enemies and calls for marches on Washington. Then, after one particularly virulent address, private media companies close down his channels of communication, prompting consternation from his supporters and calls for a code of conduct to filter out violent rhetoric.

Sound familiar? Well, this was 1938, and the individual in question was Father Charles E. Coughlin, a Nazi-sympathizing Catholic priest with unfettered access to America’s vast radio audiences. The firms silencing him were the broadcasters of the day.

As a media historian, I find more than a little similarity between the stand those stations took back then and the way Twitter, YouTube and Facebook have silenced false claims of election fraud and incitements to violence in the aftermath of the siege on the U.S. Capitol – noticeably by silencing the claims of Donald Trump and his supporters.

A Radio Ministry

Coughlin’s Detroit ministry had grown up with radio, and, as his sermons grew more political, he began calling President Franklin D. Roosevelt a liar, a betrayer and a double-crosser. His fierce rhetoric fueled rallies and letter-writing campaigns for a dozen right-wing causes, from banking policy to opposing Russian communism. At the height of his popularity, an estimated 30 million Americans listened to his Sunday sermons.

Then, in 1938, one Sunday sermon crossed the line. On Nov. 20, he spoke to listeners on the subject of the recent anti-Semitic Nazi rampage in Germany known as Kristallnacht – during which mobs of Nazis burned down 267 synagogues, destroyed 7,000 Jewish-owned businesses and arrested 30,000 Jews. Worldwide condemnation quickly followed. An editorial in the St. Louis Globe, for example, stated: “We stand in horror at this outbreak of savagery.”

Coughlin saw things differently. He blamed Jews for their own persecution and claimed in the sermon that the Nazis had actually been lenient. Only a few synagogues were burned, he lied, adding: “German citizen Jews were not molested officially in the conduct of their business.” And communists, not Jews, were the real targets of the Nazi mobs, according to Coughlin.

In the wake of these obvious lies, a New York radio station decided to break with Coughlin. “Your broadcast last Sunday was calculated to incite religious and racial strife in America,” said a letter from WMCA radio. “When this was called to your attention in advance of your broadcast, you agreed to delete those misrepresentations which undeniably had this effect. You did not do so.”

Other radio stations in major cities like Chicago and Philadelphia also canceled Coughlin’s broadcasts. Neville Miller, the president of the National Association of Broadcasters backed them up, saying that radio could not tolerate the abuse of freedom of speech.

Coughlin claimed that he’d been misrepresented, and that his intention had only been to stir sympathy for Christians persecuted by Communists. The Nazi press crowed at what they saw as American hypocrisy, saying Americans were “not allowed to hear the truth.” Meanwhile, Coughlin’s followers began showing up and protesting at radio stations where his broadcasts had been cut off.

“To permit radio to become a medium for selfish propaganda of any character would be shamefully and wrongfully to abuse a great agent of public service,” he said the day before the Kristallnacht sermon. “Radio broadcasting should be maintained on an equality of freedom which has been, and is, the keynote of the American press.” But Roosevelt did not want to take action.

Dorothy Thompson, a newspaper columnist who had been expelled from Germany by the Nazis a few years before, asked her readers: “Have you been listening to the broadcasts of Father Coughlin?” He was clearly a threat to democracy, she said, and the FCC itself should take him off the air.

Sidelining Coughlin

Coughlin’s radio empire continued eroding that winter and into the spring. With his pickets still protesting at radio stations, the National Association of Broadcasters changed its code to promote “fair and impartial presentation of both sides of controversial issues.” The code was originally established in 1929 to address issues like fair advertising practices. The revisions in 1939 prevented radio stations from selling air time for presentations from single speakers like
Coughlin. Naturally, Coughlin claimed that his rights were being violated, even though he tried to justify his own violation of other people’s rights.

By the middle of the 20th century, this would become known as the paradox of tolerance. Philosophers like Karl Popper and John Rawls would insist that, at some point, a society’s tolerance should not be allowed to threaten its own survival.

For Americans who were unsure of how to deal with Coughlin, the paradox was solved by the advent of World War II. In January of 1940, the FBI caught 17 of his followers in a Nazi spy ring, and soon after, calls for more understanding of Nazis were flatly treasonous.

After the war, the idea that radio listeners should hear two sides of every controversy evolved from self-regulation by the broadcasting industry into the government’s “Fairness Doctrine” of 1949, which required broadcasters to allow responses to personal attacks and controversial opinions. It was enforced by the Federal Communications Commission and upheld in Red Lion Broadcasting v. FCC in 1969. ...Read More

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Bury Neoliberalism in the Ballot Box

John M. Ackerman is one of Mexico´s leading public intellectuals, writing bi-weekly columns at both La Jornada and Proceso magazine. He is a Professor at the Institute for Legal Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and has published numerous books and scholarly articles in English, Spanish and French on the Mexican political system. This article is translated from the original Spanish in LaJornada, May 31, 2021. Enterrar al neoliberalismo en las urnas

The renewed attack of the international financial press against Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government on the eve of the elections on Sunday June 6, is a reminder that the present government is one of the main opponents to the global political hegemony of the transnational companies and financial capital.

The ongoing legal warfare carried on by the majority of the electoral councilmen from the National Electoral Institute against the presidency of the republic and the Morena party, confirms that the continuation of the “4th Transformation” threatens the fake democracy and institutionalized hypocrisy of the supposed “democratic transition” carried out by the PRI and the PAN during the first years of the 21st century.

The constant lies and calumnies promoted by the united parties of the old regime, under the wing of the national oligarchy represented by Claudio X. Gonzales, show that the López Obrador government is firm in its commitment to end the privileges of the elites and to orient the national budget toward meeting the needs of the most marginalized.

Neoliberalism is not only the imposition of a package of “pro-market” economic policies invented by the University of Chicago, but is a scheme to subordinate the public interest to private interests. Neoliberalism implies the structural corruption of the state apparatus subordinated to the interests of the national oligarchy and the international financial capital. Neoliberalism means the loss of democratic processes and of national sovereignty, by leaving public policy in the hands of technocrats who serve private banking and corporate interests. Neoliberalism also implies the promotion of individualism, competition, consumerism, machismo, racism and treachery. The neoliberal cultural project seeds fear and social division in order to destroy communitarian bonds and democratic traditions, which are the medium for critical consciousness and popular resistance. ...Read More

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Book Review: Haunted by History, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall
Looks at Her Own Life in a New Memoir
BY Susan Larson
New Orleans Times-Picayune

June 4, 2021 - In a telling anecdote from her childhood, historian Gwendolyn Midlo Hall recalls her first fishing trip with her father, civil rights attorney Herman Midlo. What did she catch? “A hammerhead shark,” she recalls wryly. “Story of my life.”

As a metaphor, it’s pretty apt. Was the shark more than she wished for? A success — and a bigger catch — she hadn’t imagined or wasn’t prepared for?

In her new memoir, “Haunted by Slavery: A Southern White Woman in the Freedom Struggle,” we see the story of her life, writ large and wonderfully. Born in 1929, Gwendolyn Midlo Hall was determined to live a life that mattered — pursue an education, a life of political commitment, passionate love and meaningful work.

Writing a memoir is an act of claiming experience, owning memory. And in this book, Hall claims it all — a New Orleans childhood as the child of Polish immigrants, attending Tulane University, three marriages (most notably to Black revolutionary Harry Haywood for more than three decades), three children, time in Paris, a vagabond academic life teaching at various institutions before settling at Rutgers University, and now a life in Guanajuato, Mexico, where she lives with her son Haywood, an activist and physician, and his family.

In the background of a Zoom call — technology has ever been Hall’s friend — we hear the sound of birds, dogs barking and life all around her. It is easy to hear in her voice the feisty girl of the memoir, who found herself on the platform at the Southern Negro Youth Conference Convention when W.E.B. Dubois made his famous “Behold the Land” speech. “That was the first time I understood the power of history,” she said.

“My father taught me to be a revolutionary,” she said, “so I always had a sense of carrying on the family tradition.” Everywhere around her, she saw evidence of racism. The Robert E. Lee statue in Lee Circle showed her that “White racist thought was more open and crude and ridiculous here.” She never believed the sanitized version of history she was taught in schools.

As the years pass and she pursued her education, she crossed paths with history again and again. She was arrested at an interracial party in New Orleans in 1949 and was active in civil rights groups. As she grew older, she experienced the Black Power movement, the Red Scare, harassment by the FBI and the birth of feminism. As she writes, “I integrated myself into (the Black community), the Southern Negro Youth Congress, the Southern Conference for Human Welfare, the Civil Rights Congress, the Provisional Organizing Committee to Reestablish the Communist Party.”

Some of the most moving passages in the book are devoted to her personal life, as she describes the difficulty of an interracial marriage, raising one son who had mental illness and two biracial children her own mother refused to accept. Hall’s path to success was never easy; she faced employment discrimination all along the way. But she persisted, and she endured.

She set out to make a difference, and she did. She devoted herself to scholarship dealing with the AfroAtlantic slave trade, earning her Ph.D. at the University of Michigan, writing the landmark work "Africans in Colonial Louisiana: The Development of AfroCreole Culture in the Eighteenth Century" (1992). In one wonderful moment — it sounds like every writer’s dream — she writes, “I got on the streetcar and everyone was reading my book!”

That led her to the great work of digitizing the slave records of Pointe Coupée Parish.

No late adopter, Hall understood early on how computers could revolutionize the study of history as well as making it more accessible to ordinary people looking to understand their ancestry. Her work on slave records inspired a story on the front page of The New York Times in 2000. She has also been honored for that work with the Gwendolyn Midlo Hall Allée at Whitney Plantation, where information from those records, about those lives, is carved in stone.

How the 'heroines of home economics' turned out to be a force for feminism and social change
Haunted by Slavery” is illustrated with news clippings and photographs, giving it the sense of a scrapbook of a life filled with thought and action and achievement. Contemplating her 92nd birthday coming up later this month, she muses, “I’ve always been about 20 years ahead of my time, waiting for the times to catch up with me. This little bit of recognition that’s coming now is welcome.” She pauses and laughs. “I guess I’m lucky I lived so long.”

Susan Larson is the host of The Reading Life on WWNOFM. ...Read More
Film Review: 'Holler' Shows a Safety Net in Shreds
By Matt Zoller Seitz

June 11, 2021 - Nicole Riegel's debut feature "Holler" is a film to treasure—an intimate drama about family and work, steeped in details that can only have been captured by a storyteller who lived them.

It follows a tough, resourceful high school senior named Ruth (Jessica Barden) whose family struggles to survive in a dying industrial community, and who is torn between leaving town to take her chances at college or staying behind out of a sense of responsibility to her big brother Blaze (Gus Harper) and her mother Rhonda (Pamela Adlon), a drug addict who's drying out in county jail. The characters are vividly etched and have a understated, wire-tough realness that has become increasingly rare in American cinema. 

But if you stand back and look at everything that happens, "Holler" is more than a coming-of-age story. It's a wrenching portrait of the United States in the early 21st century, a country that has lost whatever sense of collective responsibility it used to have, and is not only shredding what's left of its safety net but is selling off the remnants of middle-class life much like the metal scrappers at the center of this movie, who scavenge the town for resalable material because it's so hard to earn a halfway decent living otherwise.

The story is simple and straightforward: here is a town, these are some of the people who live there, and these are a few of the things they do to get by. Most of "Holler" is conveyed not through expository dialogue (except for a few necessary but clunky bits in the beginning) but caught-on-camera observation: we watch people work, play, communicate with their loved ones and coworkers, and move from point A to point B. As captured by Riegel, cinematographer Dustin Lane, and editor Kate Hickey, the result has the eerie you-are-there feeling of a documentary made by an invisible film crew that lived with the characters in their homes and workplaces. 

The film begins with Ruth running down the street holding two bags of cans she stole from a local business as an employee chases her on foot. She gets into a pickup truck driven by her brother Blaze. They head to a local scrapyard owned and operated by Hark (Austin Amelio), who gives them what they think is an unfairly low price.

Hark—a magnetic, long-haired, chain-smoking hustler of a character, played with gusto by Amelio, a costar of "The Walking Dead" and "Fear the Walking Dead"—tells Ruth and Blaze that times are tough and that's the best price he can offer, but if they want to make real money, they can join him and his crew on more complex and risky scrapping runs. These turn out to involve breaking and entering businesses to collect discarded piping and other bits of scrap and—the Holy Grail for scrappers—copper wiring and other material, which yields the best prices. Some of their targets appear to be abandoned, but others are functioning. It's low-level thievery.

Much of the first part of the movie is set in three main places: the ramshackle home where Blaze acts as temporary legal caretaker to his younger sister (the water was turned off before the start of the story and we never see it being turned on); the county jail where the siblings visit Rhonda; and a local frozen meal factory where Rhonda used to work, and where her best friend Linda is still employed, although there are rumors that layoffs are coming. Linda, a hard, wise woman with a wry smile, is played by the great character actress Becky Ann Baker—it's so great to see her, Adlon, Amelio and other superb, lesser-known actors being given believable, real-world people to inhabit. Their more colorful work is anchored to the lead performances by Halper (of "Cold Pursuit" and TV's "Madam Secretary") and Barden (of Channel 4's "The End of the F*****g World"), which are more quiet, reactive and internal.

Once Ruth and Blaze join Hark's scrapper team, the emphasis shifts, and the movie becomes a bit of a crime picture. The activity starts revolving around Hark's home in the woods, which has the feel of a party house or a gang's headquarters: beer, weed, deafening music, chortling pirate laughter, unnamed girls sitting on guys' laps, boastful recounting of prior exploits, macho preening. At one point, Hark shows off his crossbow. There are guns on the walls. 

You can tell that Blaze and (to a lesser extent) Ruth, who've lived a more sheltered life, are liberated by the feeling of danger and macho camaraderie that they experience in Hark's orbit. Nobody robs an armored car or a bank. It's not that kind of movie. But this type of scrapping is quasi-legal or illegal. And from the plethora of buzz saws and crushing machines to the risk of getting shot by security guards, there's no shortage of ways a person could get maimed or killed. Ruth is very good at her new job—so good that Hark starts grooming her as a sidekick, and perhaps something else—but she's also smart enough to know that the path she's heading down is a dark one.

"Holler" is a drum-tight movie (90 minutes, including credits) that has enough plot for a longer film, but packs it in with such economy that the story seems to expand in your mind as you recall it. The setting is based on Jackson, Ohio, the filmmaker's hometown, and much of the story is told from Ruth's point-of-view. It's easy to see where the script's sense of lived experience and emotional truth comes from. Unlike a lot of people in the entertainment industry, Riegel isn't the third or fourth person in a century-old showbiz dynasty, nor did she come from a family that made a comfortable living in some other business and comfortably supported her while tried to break in. Riegel grew up poor and served in the Army before turning to filmmaking. You can tell by the look and the feel of "Holler" that it was made by a person who is used to seeing beauty in places that we're told aren't beautiful, and looking for inner peace while living a life that could grind even the strongest person down. 

One gets the feeling Riegel could tell you many more stories about this place and its people, because they're her place, and her people. She knows this territory the way Ruth knows her own hands, which become increasingly battered and scarred by scrap metal work as the tale unfolds. Every frame has the aliveness of remembered experience, from the shots of plump stray cats climbing fences and loping through junkyards to the images of icicles melting, smokestacks billowing, and streetlights strobe-flashing overhead as a truck drives a dark road at night. 

Shot with available light on real locations with a handheld 16mm film camera, "Holler" has the creamy-grainy look of mid-20th century documentaries—the kind exemplified by the Maysles' brothers' "Salesman" and Barbara Kopple's "Harlan County, USA," where a tiny film crew would just go somewhere and spend time talking to the people who lived there, returning with a snapshot of what it was like to live their lives. It's a modest classic—hopefully the first of many from a major new voice in American cinema.

Matt Zoller Seitz is the Editor at Large of, TV critic for New York Magazine and, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in criticism. ...Read More
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