Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS)
Socialist Education Project (SEP) presents its 4th Monday Webinar
January 23, 2023, 9 pm Eastern Time, 8 pm Central, 7 pm Mountain, 6 pm Pacific

Vijay Prashad, “The Rise of ‘The Darker Nations’ in the 21st Century: Responses to Crises of War, Poverty, and Environmental Disaster

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor, and journalist. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including "The Darker Nations" and "The Poorer Nations." He recently published a revised version of his groundbreaking book, “The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World,” New Press, August, 2022 which he will discuss followed by questions and comments.

reprinted from the New York Times
Charlene Mitchell, 92, Dies;
First Black Woman To Run for President
Charlene was a founder of CCDS and a former CCDS co-chair

by Clay Risen
reprinted fromthe New York Times

Charlene Mitchell led a long and multi-faceted political career, including first Black woman to run for President, leader of the movement against racial and political repression, advocate for democracy, socialism and internationalism.
Charlene Mitchell, who as the Communist Party’s presidential nominee in 1968 became the first Black woman to run for the White House, died on Dec. 14 in Manhattan. She was 92.
Her death, in a nursing home, was confirmed by her son, Steven Mitchell.

Ms. Mitchell joined the Communist Party in 1946, when she was just 16, and over her long career worked at the intersection of issues that have come to define the left’s agenda for the last 50 years, including feminism, civil rights, police violence, economic inequality and anticolonialism.

Her rise in the party leadership came at a moment of crisis. The Communists had been decimated by the repressive tactics of the McCarthy era, then by the exodus of members disaffected by the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956. By the late 1950s it counted barely 10,000 members, down from its height of about 75,000 in 1947.

To find new recruits, the party drew on its roots in radical civil rights activism to appeal to a new generation of Black leaders. Ms. Mitchell joined the party’s national committee in 1958; she was its youngest member ever.

In the 1960s, she founded an all-Black chapter in Los Angeles called the Che-Lumumba Club, which quickly became one of the most active in the country. The club’s choice of namesakes, the Argentine Marxist Che Guevara and the Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba, pointed to Ms. Mitchell’s abiding insistence that the American left had to be rooted in an international matrix of freedom struggles.;
She traveled widely, meeting fellow leftists in Europe, South America and Africa, and she was among the first Americans to highlight the plight of Nelson Mandela and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa. By 1968 she was one of the best-known and most widely respected American Communist leaders.
“I don’t know of anything that Charlene was involved in where she was not the leader,” Mildred Williamson, who met Ms. Mitchell at a 1973 anti-apartheid conference in Chicago, said in a phone interview.

Ms. Mitchell became the Communist Party's presidential nominee when she was just 38. At its convention in Manhattan, she accepted the nomination below a banner that read “Black and White Unite to Fight Racism — Poverty — War!”

“We plan to put an open-occupancy sign on the White House lawn,” she declared and, taking a swipe at the pet project of the first lady, Lady Bird Johnson, added, “We propose to put a woman in that house to beautify not only our highways but to beautify ourselves.”

Her run for office came four years before the New York congresswoman Shirley Chisholm became the first Black woman to seek the nomination for president from a major party.
Though she and her running mate, Michael Zagarell, appeared on just four state ballots and received just over 1,000 votes, her candidacy put a new face on the Communist Party at a time when the student-led New Left was gaining ground in left-wing politics and some party members had grown disillusioned with its uncritical support of the Soviet Union.
In contrast to the student movement, which was largely male, middle-class and white, she offered a vision of the left that was rooted in the experience of working-class women of color. Among her acolytes was an assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, named Angela Davis.

After Dr. Davis was arrested in 1970 for providing weapons used in the killing of a Marin County judge, Ms. Mitchell led her defense committee.

Dr. Davis was acquitted in 1972, and Ms. Mitchell used the experience to create the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, a group that, in its focus on police brutality and the legal system, foreshadowed later racial justice movements.

“Black Lives Matter and modern Black feminism stand on the shoulders of Charlene Mitchell,” Erik S. McDuffie, a professor of African American studies at the University of Illinois, said in a phone interview.

Among Ms. Mitchell’s many successful campaigns was the acquittal of Joan Little, a North Carolina inmate accused of murdering a prison guard who had sexually assaulted her. She also lobbied on behalf of the Wilmington 10, a group of nine Black men and one woman, also in North Carolina, who were convicted of arson and conspiracy in 1971 and later exonerated.
“I don’t think I have ever known someone as consistent in her values, as collective in her outlook on life, as firm in her trajectory as a freedom fighter,” Dr. Davis said at a 2009 event honoring Ms. Mitchell.

Charlene Alexander was born on June 8, 1930, in Cincinnati. Her parents were part of the Great Migration of Black Southerners who moved north in the first part of the 20th century — her father, Charles, came from Georgia and her mother, Naomi (Taylor) Alexander, from Tennessee.

Her marriages to Bill Mitchell and Michael Welch both ended in divorce. Along with her son, she is survived by two brothers, Deacon Alexander and Mike Wolfson.

When she was 9, Charlene, her parents and her seven siblings moved to Chicago, where her father worked as a Pullman porter and a hod carrier. He was also active in the labor movement and served as a precinct captain for Representative William L. Dawson, one of the few Black members of Congress.

The family settled in Cabrini Homes, a mixed-race public-housing development on Chicago’s Near North Side, which was a center of left-wing politics. When she was 13, Charlene joined the local branch of American Youth for Democracy, the youth branch of the Communist Party.
By the early 1940s she was already an activist, helping to lead a protest against a nearby theater, the Windsor, that required Black patrons to sit in the balcony. Black and white students, attending a matinee, simply switched places one day, and the theater dropped its segregation policy soon after.

Ms. Mitchell studied briefly at Herzl Junior College in Chicago (now Malcolm X College). She moved to Los Angeles in the early 1950s and to New York City in 1968.
Although Ms. Mitchell remained a committed socialist, she drifted from the Communist Party in the 1980s, especially after the death of Henry Winston, its most prominent Black leader, in 1986. The party, she came to believe, was becoming too focused on class issues at the expense of fighting racial and other injustices.

“I am not suggesting that all of a sudden there was racism in the party, or that some people were mean, or anything like that,” she said in a 1993 interview. “You had a situation where attention to certain questions that African American comrades felt were important was downgraded.”

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ms. Mitchell joined more than 100 other party members in calling for the party to reject Leninism and take a more democratic socialist path. In retaliation, the party’s longtime general secretary, Gus Hall, froze them out of subsequent national committee meetings.

Ms. Mitchell later left the party to help found the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, which sought to rebuild the left along more pluralistic lines.
But she remained committed to the values of the far left, and of communism as she understood it.

“The country’s rulers want to keep Black and white working people apart,” she said in a 1968 campaign speech. “The Communist Party is dedicated to the idea that — whatever the difficulties — they must be brought together, or neither can advance.”

Clay Risen is an obituaries reporter for The Times. Previously, he was a senior editor on the Politics desk and a deputy op-ed editor on the Opinion desk. He is the author, most recently, of “Bourbon: The Story of Kentucky Whiskey.” 

Gary was co-chair of CCDS

It was with profound sadness that I heard of the passing of our friend and comrade Gary Hicks on December 2nd, 2022, in California’s Bay area, at the age of 76. He was a formidable fighter for the working classes and for suffering people in general, including the homeless whose condition remained of deep concern to him for most of the last half of his life.

I first met Gary Hicks in a class he taught at the now closed Center for Marxist Education in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The course was on Karl Marx's "Gundrisse," his youthful notes on the revolutionary process and socialist political economy. Gary had a keen and penetrating knowledge of Marx's philosophy; he would cite him casually, even in non-political social settings.

We would later become good friends. During the mid-years of the first George Bush administration to the first years of the Clinton administration, Gary and I collaborated in various public readings on politically engaged poetry, Black liberation, Haitian and African-American resistance. We both became contributors to the Stone Soup poetry venue in Cambridge, animated by the legendary Jack Powers. Gary was the more constant and continual presence in this well-venerated gathering of poets of all stripes, tastes, and lyrical inspirations.

It was always interesting to see the dynamic between this unabashed Communist poet and Jack Powers, who seemed to have a profound affection for Gary Hicks. Gary never missed an opportunity to blend a well-chosen poetic metaphor into political events of the day, and the public would applaud with more of a sense of congenial camaraderie than ideological devotion, but with always a kind of appreciation for his deep convictions.

In 1992, Gary Hicks and I co-authored the chapbook "The Dream of Being," out of concerns for the deterioration of political conditions not only in US, but also abroad, such as the trampling of Palestinian rights in the occupied territories, the Apartheid system in South Africa, the putschist military dictatorship in Haiti.

In 1994, as a result of the so-called Republican Revolution which brought the most anti-people, rejectionist Republicans to power in both houses of Congress, Gary Hicks was among many voices in the Boston area that called for resistance and for an alternative revolutionary path. It was at that time that he, Aldo Tambellini and I started to talk about the possibility of a poets' resistance front or collective to counter the reactionary public discourse. We were later joined by Askia Touré, Brenda Walcott, Jill Netchinsky, and Anna Wexler to form the nucleus of what became known as The Liberation Poetry Collective (later joined by Joselyn Almeida, Neil Calender, Tony Van Der Meer, Soul Brown, Patricia Frisella, Everet Hoagland, Tony Medina, Richard Cambridge, Ashley Rose Salomon, Marc Goldfinger, and many others).

Gary Hicks had a hard life ever since the original injustice committed against him by the powerful US security establishment. At the age of nineteen, in the 1960s, he refused the military draft in protest of the US war in Vietnam and, as a consequence, was given a three-year prison sentence. The deprivation of these three important years of Gary’s life for refusing, like Muhammad Ali, to be part of this war of domination would mark this young man for the rest of his life — although, a real African phoenix, he found new ways to sustain his soul, to reaffirm life's meaning in solidarity with others.

Hicks later justified his stand by saying: "I couldn't bear to fight for the imperialist war of the same racist Establishment that is oppressing my people." Since then, he has been a constant, available presence for the multiple struggles for justice and human rights in the U.S. He shared his engaged poetry in various cultural venues in and around Boston, New England, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. He was a devotee of the "poetry slams" in the Cambridge and Boston areas. He was a member of Team Boston at the National Poetry Slam Festival in Austin, Texas, in 1998.

I couldn't know that Gary's would be the next heroic star that would fall when I last called him in August 2021, on the night of the passing of our common friend, the great San Franciscan poet Jack Hirschman, both of us commiserating over this big loss to revolutionary poetry, this big loss to human and humanist connection. In fact, it was through Gary Hicks that I first met Jack Hirschman, one night in 1997, at the end of a poetry reading at the Lucy Parsons Bookstore in Cambridge. Gary invited me and the late, great multimedia artist Aldo Tambellini to join him and Jack Hirschman for drinks at a nearby bar. We spent the night talking about politics. It turned out that Hirschman was a close collaborator of my dear friend Paul Laraque through the collective Jacques Roumain Brigade.

Just like Jack Hirschman's, Gary's passing is a great loss to the connection of poets on both East and West coasts, a big loss to the coalition of conscience, to the ever vigilant stand against injustice and exploitation in our societies.

My family and I have shared and spent many memorable moments of endearment with Gary Hicks. When he visited us at home in the 1990's, he was usually more relaxed and jovial than he would be in public. On a couple of occasions he spent New Year with us, praising the traditional Haitian Soup Joumou (Pumpkin Soup) as a perfect remedy for hangover. He called himself the "political godfather" to our baby son Jonah, telling him stories laced with political overtones.
One particular moment that I had with Gary revealed a very sweet side of him. One night I saw him sitting on a public bench in Inman Square, Cambridge. I approached and asked what was going on. He said he was waiting to surprise his daughter Neva, whom he hadn't seen for a while and was told she was going to be at the Lily Pad performance venue, located two storefronts down the street. I stayed there with him, waiting for over an hour until I had to leave. I don't know if he ever saw her that night, but I thought that was a remarkable nice, fatherly gesture.

Gary eventually left Boston for Berkeley, then Oakland, California. Boston (and its harsh weather) hadn't been too good to him, and having a prison record most certainly affected his career prospects there, leading him to a life of economic hardship. Acceptance of suffering and self-sacrifice for the cause of social justice and for the respect of human rights and dignity accompanied Gary Hicks throughout his life. There must be, however, some kind of reparation that is due when a whole system of government victimizes a person for a cause — opposition to the Vietnam war — that now mostly everyone considers to be a just cause.
When Jill and I joined him, along with poets Richard Cambridge, Regie Gibson and Timothy Mason, for lunch one afternoon in June 2016 at the S&S Restaurant in Cambridge, we couldn't know that was the last time we would see him in person. He was in good mood that day, happy that his friends came to spend time with him, happy to see them again years following his permanent departure from Boston — although we continued to interact with him via video zoom in several poetry performances, always for a cause dear to his heart.

In conclusion to this eulogy, I'd like to quote the following lines excerpted from Gary Hicks's poem "the free fire zones of north america," from his book "A Pen Is Like A Piece, You Pick it Up, You Use It" (1977) :
the contractors on our
land who architected
the first hundred days
of this year of continued
misery, who abetted the
well-mannered thugs
of our radio waves, who
danced around the
consequences of the
class wars, who mouthed
a mean, evil-spiritedness
all these now scream
aghast, now feign utter
shock, now find a tone
of sincerity in their
teutonic gods clothed
in christian garb
as they find blood
already on their hands
now risen to their elbows.
lyrics, songs and poems
cannot begin to express
these days coming fifty
years after that incomplete
victory in berlin, for
now we know: the enemy
against whom the militia
trained for combat
is we the people, and
the war is right now
at this hour, coming to
claim us where we live
. .................
Here's what Jack Powers wrote on the back cover of the book:
"Gary Hicks is a thoroughly committed social activist who combines a withering critical intelligence with a unique poetic voice. The title of this volume tells you much about the intensity and character of this writer. This is serious business, and he will make us all realize that we are not just along for the ride. [This collection offers] tough, uncompromising medicine for a tough age, and with a lyric gift that gets the message down to stay. [It is] must reading for our national health."

We send our condolences to Gary Hicks's family, to his two daughters and friends. He was a genuinely free man, a tireless fighter for the advent of a humanist political system based on justice, equality and respect for all on this earth of us. He will be deeply missed.

Tontongi, December 24, 2022
[This eulogy also appears in the trilingual magazine tanbou.com]

The Medicare for All Update Group will hold its quarterly meeting on Wednesday, February 22 at 8pm Eastern, 5pm Pacific Times. A Zoom link will be sent later. If you want to attend please email:  m4aupdategroup@gmail.com

The proposed agenda will include:

State and local reports on health care justice movements, Medicare for All/single payer movements, and anti-privatization movements. The new members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. 

An update on the fight against the privatization of Medicare in the form of the new Biden Administration program of ACOREACH, which places seniors who have Traditional Medicare into a profit-making scheme that restricts care. 

If time permits, discussion of Medicare Advantage plans and the growing movement against them.


Weaponized Whiteness: The Constructions and
Deconstructions of White Identity Politics
January 26 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm CST

The East Side Freedom Library invites you to a conversation

Weaponized Whiteness by Fran Shor interrogates the meanings and implications of white supremacy and, more specifically, white identity politics from historical and sociological perspectives. By analyzing the constructions and deconstructions of white identity politics throughout U.S. history and up through the present, these collected essays provide insight into the deep roots and resonances of white identity politics and the challenges that have emerged, in particular, since the 1960s. Join us for a conversation between author Fran Shor and reader/discussants Lisa Albrecht, Kafui Attoh, Michael Goldfield, and Michael Honey.

Fran Shor is an Emeritus Professor of History at Wayne State University. He is the author of five non-fiction books, the most recent being SOUPY SALES AND THE DETROIT EXPERIENCE: MANUFACTURING A TELEVISION PERSONALITY (Cambridge Scholars 2021), WEAPONIZED WHITENESS (Haymarket 2020), and a novel set in Minneapolis’ Dinkytown, PASSAGES OF REBELLION (Outskirts 2020). Fran taught for many years at Wayne State University and has been a long-time peace and justice activist, serving on the Boards of Peace Action and Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, and the Congregation for Humanistic Judaism of Metropolitan Detroit.

Kafui Attoh is an Associate Professor of Labor ad Urban Studies at the City University of New York. He received his B.A. from Macalester College and his Ph.D in Geography from Syracuse University. His research has focused on the role of transit within the political economy of cities, the economic impact of limited access to transportation on disadvantaged communities, and 3) the role of urban social movements (including the labor movement) in shaping mass transit policy. He is the author of RIGHT IN TRANSIT: PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION AND THE RIGHT TO THE CITY IN CALIFORNIA’S EAST BAY (University of Georgia Press 2019).
Lisa Albrecht is Professor Emerita in the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota, where she taught for many years. Lisa holds a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Buffalo. She has long worked at the intersections of whiteness studies and gender studies. Her publications include BRIDGES OF POWER: WOMEN’S MULTICULTURAL ALLIANCES (with Rose Brewer, 1990), THE CRITICAL CLASSROOM: EDUCATION FOR LIBERATION AND MOVEMENT BUILDING (with Rose Brewer and Wendy Katz-Fishman, 2007).

Michael Goldfield is a long-time labor and civil rights activist and is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Wayne State University. He is the author of THE DECLINE OF ORGANIZED LABOR IN THE UNITED STATES (1987), THE COLOR OF POLITICS: RACE AND THE MAINSPRINGS OF AMERICAN POLITICS (1997), and THE SOUTHERN KEY: CLASS, RACE AND RADICALISM IN THE 1930S AND 1940S (2022). ESFL was happy to host a conversation about THE SOUTHERN KEY in May 2021 (see video: https://youtu.be/sYpgiFYLAo8)

Michael Honey is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Washington-Tacoma. Renowned for his work teaching the music of the civil rights, anti-apartheid, and labor movements, he is also the author of SOUTHERN LABOR AND BLACK CIVIL RIGHTS (1993), BLACK WORKERS REMEMBER: AN ORAL HISTORY OF SEGREGATION, UNIONISM, AND THE FREEDOM STRUGGLE (2002), GOING DOWN JERICHO ROAD: THE MEMPHIS STRIKE, MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.,’S LAST CAMPAIGN (2008), “ALL LABOR HAS DIGNITY”: MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. (2012), TO THE PROMISED LAN: MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., AND THE FIGHT FOR ECONOMIC JUSTICE (2019).

Join us for what will surely be a lively conversation, and plan to participate yourself.
info@eastsidefreedomlibrary.org and 651-207-4926
free and open to all
The 2023 “Reducing the Threat of Nuclear War” Conference will be held virtually on Saturday January 21, 1-6 pm (Eastern). This annual gathering is one of the major national conferences addressing this acute problem. Given the tragic events in Ukraine, tensions with China over Taiwan, and provocations from North Korea, we need to accelerate effort toward clear analysis, peaceful resolutions and nuclear disarmament. The subtheme this year will be “The Social and Economic Costs of the Nuclear Weapons Buildup”. Particular attention will be given to the destructive effect of excessive weapons spending on human needs. Attendees should sign up for one Breakout in the first set (3 pm) and one in the second set (4:30 pm).

For the cponference schedule go here
MOVE THE MONEY-NYC : Back on the Move!   
submitted by Tom Gogan

CCDS members in NYC have helped build a loosely-knit “Move the Money” coalition urging the NYC City Council to take a stand against the obscenely bloated military budget -- over $850 billion this year -- that Congress allocates to the Pentagon, its weapons makers and endless wars and interventions. We call for a “significant” reduction and redirection of those funds back to our cities and towns.  We won the support of just over half the City Council by the time its prior term ended in December 2021.  No resolution like that had ever been attempted in NYC. It took time for it to gain traction, but gain traction it did.

A largely new Council – 35 new members out of 51 – came into office in January 2022. For the first time, women , people of color and foreign-born immigrants made up the majority.   Thinking we could fast-track a streamlined resolution, in early 2022 we approached Council Member Rivera (Lower East Side) to be its lead sponsor. Her home political club, CODA, has a longtime progressive history with several CCDSers involved.  CCDS’s Ted Reich got Rivera readily to agree to submit our new resolution.

A key to this effort is that we call for “in-depth public hearings” to be held by the City Council regarding the misuse of so many of our tax dollars on the military, when our hardest-hit communities suffer greatly, and all communities need such basic services as good schools and good public transit and good public services in general.   We want leaders in a wide range of organizations, as well as government officials, to testify at those hearings; we hope the hearings will attract local and even national media and newsprint attention. Our campaign has begun to do just that, with some radio and print coverage, as well as social media.

Our idea is to change the narrative around what really constitutes “national security” when so many communities here at home are suffering massive inequality and even repression. We hope other towns will push for such hearings too, an idea put forward in 2017 by unanimous vote at the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Those public hearings should go a long way to expose and educate residents and politicians alike regarding the many billions that NYC contributes to the Federal military budget, while so many communities are short-changed here at home – and not just in New York!

New Council Speaker Adrienne Adams was a sponsor of our earlier resolution, a hopeful sign. But she controls the Council’s legislative process, and gave priority in 2022 to other issues. For most of the year, Council Member Rivera could not get a straight answer as to what was holding up our resolution. For months we were effectively stymied, but we used the time to keep building popular support, with hundreds signing our petition at street fairs and in other public venues.

Finally, towards the end of November, we got word that the resolution would be introduced in early December. Quickly mobilizing our core members, we gathered at City Hall for a lively news conference on December 7th. Rivera, several other Council Members and Move the Money representatives all spoke out (and the Granny Peace Brigade sang) prior to the formal introduction of Resolution 423 at the Council later that day. As of this writing, nine Council Members are now in support.

Next steps will involve reaching most of the other Council Members and persuading a solid majority to sign on. A Committee hearing on the resolution itself will need to be scheduled and might occur fairly soon. So we need to move fast!   This Council will complete its business by the end of this year and the next Council will be sworn in next January 2023.   We are optimistic that this time we will get this resolution heard, voted on and passed, leading to the type of public hearings that might even draw some national Council Member Carlina Rivera who introduced the Resolution to the Council on the day of the rally, Dec. 7, 2022. The third photo shows Carlina and a representative of the War Resisters League who also spoke in support of the Resolution.
attention. The Nation magazine has already taken notice. 
Council Member Carlina Rivera who introduced the Resolution to the Council on the day of the rally, Dec. 7, 2022. The third photo shows Carlina and a representative of the War Resisters League who also spoke in support of the Resolution. Photos by Ted Reich.
Tina Shannon Speaking Out
Tina is on the CCDS Nsational Coordinating Committee 

Some Comments on the New Congress of 2023

So here’s the thing. This is what the circus is designed to distract us from. The people who pay for the circus since Citizens United opened the floodgates of money, allowing the politically savvy rich to buy our government, are busy raiding Medicare while we’re distracted at the fights.
Now yes, I know it’s important to defeat fascists right within our admittedly corrupt institutions.

But remember this, FDR fought this too. Fascism was strong and rising when he was elected. And although from an autocratic family, he was soon convinced that policy was necessary to halt the slide. A variety of things happened. Various people and movements pushed him along. The right wing attempted a very serious coup against him.

He wound up being the most popular president we ever had. He couldn’t be defeated.
The lesson for me here, the lesson for us, is the essential importance of fighting for policy as a way to fight fascism. The current top of the Dem Party is unable to do this. They spend a great deal of their limited resources pushing progressives out of the Party.

If they could instead focus on these policies as their holy swords, as their purpose, they too could be undefeatable. It’s not about the individuals, it’s about the issues. That involves stepping in front of some powerful money streams and many many of our elected officials are actually part of the stream itself.

So, fun as this circus has been to watch, the fact of us watching it and being distracted by it is a problem. Nothing about what we have to do is fun. There’s gonna be nothing politically to laugh or even smile about for quite some time; nothing, that is, except for the beauty in our souls and in each other that makes it impossible for us to look away
Randy Shannon
(reissued-from January 16th)

Harry R Targ

Dr. King arrived in Memphis on March 18, 1968 to support the sanitation workers of that city who had been on strike for five weeks. These workers had many grievances that forced them to protest. Garbage workers had no access to bathroom or shower facilities. They were not issued any protective clothing for their job. There were no eating areas separate from garbage. Also sanitation workers had no pension or retirement program and no entitlement to workers compensation. Their wages were very low. Shortly before the strike began two workers died on the job and the families of the deceased received only $500 in compensation from the city. Finally, after Black workers were sent home for the day because of bad weather and received only two hours pay they walked off the job.

On March 28, 10 days after King arrived, violence disrupted a march led by him. He left the city but returned on April 4 to lead a second march. On that fateful April day, King told Jerry Wurf, president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees or AFSCME: "What is going on here in Memphis is important to every poor working man, black or white, in the South." That evening Martin Luther King was killed by a sniper's bullet.

It was logical for King to be in Memphis to support garbage workers. Despite a sometimes rocky relationship between the civil rights and labor movements, King knew that black and white workers' struggles for economic justice were indivisible; that civil rights could not be realized in a society where great differences in wealth and income existed, and where life expectancies, educational opportunities, and the quality of jobs varied by class, by race, and by gender. The more progressive and far-sighted leaders and rank-and-file union members in the AFL-CIO knew it too. At the time of King's death working people were coming together to struggle for positive social change around the banner of the Poor People's Campaign.

Dr. King's thinking on the need for an alliance between the civil rights and labor movements was expressed many times. As far back as 1957 at a convention of the United Packinghouse Workers of American (UPWA) he asserted that "organized labor can be one of the most powerful instruments in putting an end to discrimination and segregation."

During an organizing effort of the Hospital Workers Local 1199 in the fall of 1964, King was a featured speaker at a fundraising rally. He said of the 1199 struggle," Your great organizing crusade to win union and human rights for New Jersey hospital workers is part and parcel of the struggle we are conducting in the Deep South. I want to congratulate your union for charting a road for all labor to follow-dedication to the cause of the underpaid and exploited workers in our nation." Shortly after, Dr. King left a picket line of Newark hospital workers on strike to fly to Oslo, Norway to receive the Nobel Prize.

Upon his return from Norway, King returned to the picket line; this time in support of Black women workers of the Chemical Workers union at the Scripto Pen Plant in Atlanta. He said there: "Along with the struggle to desegregate, we must engage in the struggle for better jobs. The same system that exploits the Negro exploits the poor white..."

At the Negro American Labor Council convention of June, 1965 King called for a new movement to achieve "a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God's children." In February, 1966, King spoke to Chicago labor leaders during his crusade for the end to racism and poverty in that city. He called on the labor movement which had provided techniques and methods, and financial support crucial to civil rights victories to join in the war on poverty and slums in Chicago. Such an effort in Chicago, he said, would show that a Black and labor alliance could be of relevance to solving nationwide problems of unemployment, poverty, and automation.

One year before his death, King spoke at another meeting of Hospital Workers 1199. He said a closer alliance was needed between labor and civil rights activists to achieve the "more difficult" task of economic equality. The civil rights movement and its allies were moving into a new phase to achieve economic justice, he announced. This would be a more formidable struggle since it was in his words "much more difficult to eradicate a slum than it is to integrate a bus."

In early 1968, Dr. King incorporated his opposition to the Vietnam War with his commitment to economic justice. He called for an end to the War and the utilization of societal resources to eliminate poverty. To those ends the Poor People's Campaign was launched. It demanded jobs, a guaranteed annual income for those who could not find work, the construction of 6 million new homes, support for employment in rural areas, new schools to train jobless youth for skilled work, and other measures to end poverty.

While preparing the Poor People's Campaign, King got a call to go to Memphis. Before leaving he sent a message to be read at the seventh annual convention of the Negro American Labor Council. He wrote that the Council represented "the embodiment of two great traditions in our nation's history: the best tradition of the organized labor movement and the finest tradition of the Negro Freedom Movement." He urged a black-labor alliance to unite the Black masses and organized labor in a campaign to help solve the "deteriorating economic and social conditions of the Negro community... heavily burdened with both unemployment and underemployment, flagrant job discrimination, and the injustice of unequal education opportunity."

Forty years later the social and economic injustices of which Dr. King spoke continue. But so does his vision of a working class movement united in struggle to survive, a movement of Blacks, whites and Latinos, men and women, young and old, and organized and unorganized workers. The times have changed but the importance of Dr King's political vision remains.

Harry Targ teaches political science and is a member of the National Executive Committee of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.
Some Comments on the New Congress of 2023

by Randy Shannon
Randy is a member of CCDS National Coordinating Committee

Robert Caro's excellent biography of LBJ dedicates a lot of ink to the Rules of Congress and LBJ's sophisticated use of those Rules to move his agenda, including the Civil Rights Bill, and to control when and if a Member gets to say and to what to say.

The Billionaires that control the fascist clique in the new Congress have the resources to understand the Rules of Congress and their importance. And the 2022 election gave the fascists the leverage to force the Republican majority to change the rules as long as the Democratic minority stood aside and watched.

It was no surprise that the fascists used their leverage over the election of the Speaker of the House to extract concessions on the Rules - not on policies, not on issues, but on the Rules. There was only one way to defeat the fascist clique; and that was for enough Democrats to break rank and vote for the Republican leader. This would wipe away the fascists' leverage of the election of the Speaker and over the whole Congress.

Now the Democratic Party delegation in Congress was unwilling to address this issue. They treated it as a publicity stunt - entertainment. I'm not close enough to understand their thinking. But I'm aware that the neoliberal majority in the Democratic delegation controls their caucus. And that control is very powerful; they could expel, freeze out, shun, investigate or otherwise sanction any progressive Democratic MOC that broke ranks and voted for McCarthy.

As a long time democratic socialist, elected Sanders delegate, and activist in PDA I advocated here that Democrats vote for McCarthy to stop the fascist clique from changing the Rules.
The neoliberal Democratic leadership and the mass media that supports them played this fascist attempt to control the Rules as entertainment. Many people on Democratic forums jumped on the entertainment bandwagon. Very very few saw this as a matter of control of the functioning of the House.

Some self-styled leftists attacked me as being to the right of "all the Democrats." This reflects a lack of tactical thinking and a lack of flexibility in using the parliamentary democracy to the advantage of the working class and oppressed people.

It reflects a narrow view of politics as something for the elite to battle out. But we are facing several dire crises: war, global warming, economic collapse, hunger, homelessness, reduced access to medical care. Congress must address these and the people need to mobilize to pressure Congress. The Democrats just made it easier for the fascists to block solutions by pretending that stopping the fascists was only the responsibility of the Republican Members of Congress.

This is a unique collection of 15 essays by two Purdue University professors who use their institution as a case-in-point study of the changing nature of the American 'multiversity.' They take a book from an earlier time, Upton Sinclair's 'The Goose-Step A Study of American Education' from 1936, which exposed the capitalist corruption of the ivory tower back then and brought it up to date with more far-reaching changes today. the authors go into some detail on how the military industries are not only penetrating the universities but pushing out the liberal arts at the same time. They also include, as an appendix, a 1967 essay by SDS leader Carl Davidson, who broke some of the original ground on the subject.

The Man Who Changed Colors, the new mystery novel by esteemed labor journalist Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a sequel to his acclaimed debut The Man Who Fell From The Sky. It's the story of one reporter's search for the truth when a shipyard worker mysteriously falls to his death. Release date: April 10.

Also in development, an exhilarating non-fiction thriller about the group of San Francisco dock workers who refused to load arms to send to a fascist regime in El Salvador (title & release date TBD).

So Far From Home is a collection of fiction and creative nonfiction stories by immigrants working in Singapore, a long way from their own Viet Nam, China, Philippines or Malaysia.

From Little Heroes Press we will have the inspiring true story of a group of New York City kids who got the bill banning pesticides in school yards and public arks into law (Working title: Please Don't Poison Me!). Release date TBA.

We will also have A Piece of The Pie, a sequel to the adorable The Cabbage That Came Back. In this installment, Bunny Rabbit organizes the workers in mean Mr. Weasel's pie factory. Who better than a field rabbit to teach your kids the value of a grass-roots campaign?

So stay tuned, there are many great things to come from your favorite labor and social justice publishing house. And don't forget to check out our current catalogue, it's not too late to buy a book from our Hard Ball Press web site for the holidays

Solidarity forever, Timothy Sheard, editor Hard Ball & Little Heroes Press

The Ledger and the Chain: a book sketch by Jay D. Jurie 

Joshua D. Rothman, The Ledger and the Chain. NY: Basic Books, 2021.

Over the past several decades a more complete portrait of slavery in the United States has emerged. This work adds some important brush strokes to that portrait, filling in background on the way bondage interfaced with the economy.  However, this is no dry and dull economics text, it is well written and actually an engaging read.

What the book accomplishes is a sketch of three influential partners in the slave trade and how they shaped, exerted considerable control over, and immensely profited from trafficking human beings. Other works have focused on the trans-Atlantic trade, also known as "the Middle Passage." However, what is covered here is the domestic trade and how it operated.  An important part of the story is how much slave sales relied on credit, other financial arrangements, and banking.

These partners, and a small number of major operators like them, situated themselves at the polarities of the marketing arrangement they largely created. Based primarily in the upper South, specifically in Alexandria, Baltimore, and Washington, DC, they advertised payment cash in local newspapers for people, usually with specific characteristics. Most typically healthy young men but also women. When gathered together, these would be held in a slave pen until a fairly specific number had been assembled.

Then, chained together in a coffle, they'd be marched to the South for sale. In these particular instances, usually to Natchez or New Orleans. In later years, the trade was so profitable these traders bought several ships so as to move their human cargo more expeditiously to the ports of Mississippi and Louisiana.  

While sometimes the traders were regarded by the upper crust of white society as disreputable, their business was seen as so important and their affluence so extensive as to outweigh such perspectives. Indeed, they were seen on occasion as leading citizens who made significant charitable and contributions to their communities. By the time of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the fortunes of these slave traders took a definite downturn, but in some cases they were compensated for their losses. Unlike those whom they'd enslaved, they were not left destitute.
This is a unique collection of 15 essays by two Purdue University professors who use their institution as a case-in-point study of the changing nature of the American 'multiversity.' They take a book from an earlier time, Upton Sinclair's 'The Goose-Step A Study of American Education' from 1936, which exposed the capitalist corruption of the ivory tower back then and brought it up to date with more far-reaching changes today. the authors go into some detail on how the military industries are not only penetrating the universities but pushing out the liberal arts at the same time. They also include, as an appendix, a 1967 essay by SDS leader Carl Davidson, who broke some of the original ground on the subject.
Congress must listen to working families and overhaul healthcare, minimum wage and education

Americans are united on some of the most important issues facing our country and they want government to address them

Bernie Sanders
Mon 9 Jan 2023
reprinted rom The Guardian

I am proud to be assuming the chairmanship of the US Senate’s health, education, labor and pensions committee (HELP), a committee with wide jurisdiction over some of the most important issues facing the American people. As I move into that position I’m thinking about how we can best address some of the serious challenges facing my fellow Vermonters and working families all across the country.

Today, in terms of health, we have a dysfunctional healthcare system in which we spend the astronomical and unsustainable sum of nearly $13,000 for every man, woman and child, twice as much as most developed countries and almost 20% of our GDP. Yet, despite that huge expenditure, 85 million Americans are uninsured or underinsured and we have worse health outcomes and lower life expectancy than many other nations. While the insurance companies make huge profits, over 500,000 people declare bankruptcy each year from medically related debt, and over 68,000 die because they can’t afford the care they need. Our complicated and fragmented system is so broken that it cannot even produce the number of doctors, nurses, dentists and mental health personnel that we desperately need.

As a nation, we must focus on the reality that the function of a rational healthcare system is to provide quality care for all, not simply huge profits for the insurance industry.
Today, as we pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, the pharmaceutical industry is making record-breaking profits and more than a few executives in drug companies are becoming billionaires. Meanwhile, despite billions in government investment in prescription drug research and development, nearly one out of four Americans are unable to afford the medicine their doctors prescribe and too many seniors are splitting their lifesaving pills in half because they can’t afford them. And because Medicare doesn’t cover dental, hearing and vision, there are millions of seniors who are trying to survive without these basic healthcare needs.

But it’s not just our healthcare “system” which needs a major overhaul. In terms of education, we need to take a hard look at how we are educating our kids – from childcare to graduate school.

While psychologists tell us that the first four years of life are the most important in terms of human intellectual and emotional growth, it’s hard to deny that our childcare system is in disarray. The cost is unaffordable for many working parents, there are not enough slots available, the quality is spotty and the pay and benefits childcare workers receive is unconscionably low. This is not how we should be treating our children, the future of America.

The situation in K-12 education is not much better. For a variety of reasons – lack of respect, low pay, the stress of Covid and the politicization of school boards – thousands of gifted and dedicated teachers are quitting the profession, leaving students unprepared for the challenges they face as they enter the adult world. The future of this country depends upon the quality of education we provide our kids, and there is no reason why we cannot create the best public educational system in the world.

In terms of higher education, we face the absurd situation of hundreds of thousands of bright young people who have the desire and ability to get a college education but cannot do so because their families lack the money. How many great doctors, scientists, and teachers are we losing as a result? There are also millions of young people who need training in order to become skilled mechanics, carpenters, welders, and electricians who are not getting the post-high school training they need. Further, 45 million Americans are struggling with student debt – sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In terms of labor and our economy, we must recognize that we live in a period of more income and wealth inequality than at any time in the last hundred years. While the very rich become richer and three people now own more wealth than the bottom half of American society, 60% of American workers live paycheck to paycheck and millions are trying to exist on starvation wages. Meanwhile, we have a pathetic federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour which has not been raised since 2009.

As more and more workers try to improve their standard of living by forming unions, they are facing fierce and illegal union busting from such employers as Starbucks, Amazon, McDonalds and other major employers.

There is a lot of discussion in the media about how “divided” our nation is and, on many issues, that is absolutely true. But what we don’t appreciate is that on some of the most important issues facing our country the American people – Democrats, Republicans, independents – are quite united.

The American people know we are being ripped off by the drug companies and they want lower prescription drugs prices.

The American people know that our healthcare system is outrageously expensive and they want universal and lower cost health care.

The American people know that education is essential to our lives and the future of this country and they want high quality and affordable education from childcare to graduate school.

The American people know that no one can survive on a $7.25-an-hour minimum wage, and they want to raise the minimum wage to a living wage.

The American people know that workers have a constitutional right to form unions and that corporations that engage in illegal union busting activities must be held accountable.
And these are just a few of the issues within the jurisdiction of the HELP committee that a strong majority of the American people want us to address.
At a time when too many Americans are giving up on democracy, now is the time to attempt to restore faith in our government. Now is the time for Congress to have the courage to take on the lobbyists and powerful special interests and show the American people that our government can work for them, and not just the 1%. Let’s do it.


Harry Targ

(Originally posted on January 2, 2015)

Karl Marx in The German Ideology argued in the 1840s that the ideas of the ruling class are the ruling ideas. Almost one hundred years later theorists from the Frankfort School elaborated on Marx’s idea by developing the theory of the “cultural apparatus.” German sociologist Max Horkheimer wrote:
One function of the entire cultural apparatus at any given period has been to internalize in men [and women] of subordinate position the idea of a necessary domination of some men over others, as determined by the course of history down to the present time. As a result, and as a continually renewed condition of this cultural apparatus, the belief in authority is one of the driving forces, sometimes, productive, sometimes obstructive, of human history (quoted in John Bellamy Foster and Robert W. McChesney, “The Cultural Apparatus of Monopoly Capital,” Monthly Review, July/August, 2013).

Ideas do not spring from the air nor do they arrive untarnished by social reality from Gods and religion. No, as suggested by Marx, Horkheimer, Foster, McChesney, and other theorists, ideas are weapons in the continuous struggle for economic and political domination. Herbert Marcuse added that the “necessary domination” over people comes from pleasure and enticements in addition to threats of force. If the image of pleasure does not mollify the people, then threats of impending pain can be transmitted from parts of the “cultural apparatus” (education systems, mass media, the internet, patterns of child rearing, religious institutions), thus legitimizing the application of force.
As we prepare for a new year with hope for positive social change, it is worth reflecting on three central concepts communicated through and justified by the “cultural apparatus:” markets, police, and the war system.  Markets offer the image of growing pleasure. Economists and politicians reiterate over and over again that economic development and political stability require the free flow of markets-- buyers and sellers, investors and speculators, workers and bosses, and the commodification of everything. The idea of markets permeates political discussion and is presented to publics as intimately connected to democracy, freedom, and cultural advance. Markets may serve as one mechanism among many to distribute goods and services but are not, as the ideologues suggest, the fundamental way of organizing society. But we hear over and over the promise that markets will bring to all humanity. And market fundamentalists add that government programs, visions of the public good, and community constitute a threat to markets and ultimately human betterment. On television, the internet, in schools, and everywhere in the cultural apparatus people are encouraged to consume, enjoy, think primarily of themselves, and remain obedient to the ongoing order. 

According to the cultural apparatus not all people, because of their own shortcomings, will be beneficiaries of the pleasures of the market. Consequently, societies require the construction of police forces to maintain order. In societies where the threat of violence exists, police are necessary to protect the citizenry from the violent, the crazed, and the “hateful” who see race or exploitation behind their misery. The cultural apparatus communicates images of violence and mayhem in society such that people are convinced that police and prisons are the only institutions that save us from a brutal “state of nature,” based on killing, rape, and robbery. General sentiment, reinforced by the criminal justice system, suggests that for majorities of the US population police should be free to act as they choose. 
Finally, politicians, pundits, security analysts, and many scholars point out that human nature is flawed and as a result there will always be wars. During the brief periods when the United States is not actively engaged in war, policy makers ruminate on how the United States must be prepared for the “next” war. Visions of a peaceful world are beyond the scope of the economic and political system because there are aggressive, greedy, and crazed nations and terrorists in the larger world.

In sum, markets, the police, and the war system constitute key concepts embedded in the cultural apparatus and are central to the interests of the ruling class. The formulation of these key concepts is left purposefully vague here as is the description of the cultural apparatus because every aware participant in the political process can fill in detailed examples. Whether one “consumes” film, videos, computer games, music, television, print media, or education, examples of the messages about the legitimacy of markets, police, and the war system are readily available. The same self-reflection can be made about the level of centralized control of the cultural institutions that shape peoples’ consciousness.

Therefore, while global corporations, banks, police forces, and militaries constitute material sources of power and control, they are maintained also by core ideas about markets, police, and the war system. In short, ideas matter. 

Transforming society therefore is about changing ideas and who distributes them as well as the economic and military institutions themselves.  

Report on the results of the 20th Congress
of the Communist Party of China
October 31

Presentation by Duncan McFarland,
cochair of the CCDS Socialist Education Project

sponsored by Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
From the CCDS Socialist Education Project...
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.

Click here for the Table of Contents

Taking Down White Supremacy 

A Reader on Multiracial and Multinational Unity 

Edited by the CCDS
Socialist Education Project

166 pages, $12.50 (discounts available for quantity), order at :

This collection of 20 essays brings together a variety of articles-theoretical, historical, and experiential-that address multi-racial, multi-national unity. The book provides examples theoretically and historically, of efforts to build multi-racial unity in the twentieth century.

      Click here for the Table of contents
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