July 2023

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"Fire, Flood, Heat Waves, Massive Migrations: The Enviromental Crises Causes and Alternatives"

SEP 4th Monday, July 24, 2023,

9 pm Eastern Daylight Time

Over the last several weeks people around the US and the world have experienced heightened threats to human survival by a seemingly radical transformation of the natural habitat of the world. What are the causes of this threat to humanity? How should progressives respond to these threats? Are there any alternatives to the destruction of the world?

To discuss these environmental emergencies and imperatives for action, this webinar features two longtime environmental activists. Steve Willett has been a leader of CCDS and other organizational activism around the environment for years. David Schwartzman, a retired environmental scientist, has written extensively on eco-socialism. They will lead discussion on this insufficiently discussed subject from a progressive point of view.

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Two Americas on Contested Terrain

Constructing A White Supremacist Nation vs Reconstructing a Rainbow Democracy


August 28th, 9pm ET (4th Monday for August)

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Pat Fry: A Tribute in Memoriam

Geoffrey Jacques

July 6, 2023

reprinted from Portside

Pat Fry was a long-time activist, journalist, and leader in the working class, peace, solidarity, anti-imperialist, and left-wing and socialist movements in the United States, dies after long struggle with cancer.


Pat Fry was a long-time activist, journalist, and leader in the working class, peace, solidarity, anti-imperialist, and left-wing movements in the United States. As a trade unionist, she had been a rank-and-file member and local official of the United Auto Workers (UAW) and worked for many years as a staffer of the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR), a New York City-based health care union. She was a founding member, co-chair from 2009-2016, and National Coordinating Committee member of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS). At the announcement of her death, tributes from the United States and abroad came as testaments to the appreciation her work in the struggle for democracy and socialism at home and in the international anti-imperialist and solidarity movements generated.


Fry died at age 76 on June 28 in Traverse City, Michigan, after a long struggle with cancer.


My own friendship with Fry goes back to the early 1970s in Detroit, where we were active in the local Marxist study group movement of the period. She was my successor as Detroit reporter for the Daily World, the newspaper of the Communist Party, USA, and we maintained a close lifelong friendship. Pat possessed a wealth of good humor and graciousness, as well as an incisive mind that was always open to new ideas and experiences. She was an ardent and always interesting conversationalist. Her resistance to dogmatic thinking and routinized philosophizing was not just an endearing quality; it also spurred her ability to work and make friends with a broad range of people of widely differing backgrounds and perspectives.


Patricia Louise Fry (born June 14, 1947) was the first of five children born in Detroit Michigan, to Catholic, working-class parents John Henry Fry, a salesman who died in 1960 at the age of 36, and Anna Mae (Jones) Fry, a stay-at-home mom and a clerical worker who, at age 98, survives her oldest child. Pat “came to the left from a moral Catholic background,” remembers Jim Jacobs, an old friend. She attended Benedictine High School in Detroit, during the period of Vatican II, and the influence of Catholic social teaching of the time stayed with her. During her senior year, in 1965, the civil rights movement came home. A white woman from her neighborhood, Viola Liuzzo, had gone to Alabama to be part of the struggle and was shot to death in her car in Alabama by members of the Ku Klux Klan while returning from driving a group of activists to the Montgomery airport. “I was in awe of Liuzzo’s heroism,” Fry would later write. “Her racist murder shook me.” For the rest of her life, Pat would place herself as a participant in the struggle against racism, exploitation, and oppression and for democracy and freedom.[1]


 “The civil rights struggle became my struggle,” she wrote. While a student at Eastern Michigan University (EMU), she joined the battle for open admissions and helped form a campus-wide human rights committee that called on Michigan’s Human Rights Commission to investigate systemic racism on campus. She also fought Jim Crow in the North, picketing establishments that refused to serve Black customers, and collected data on landlords who broke the law by refusing to rent to Black people. She graduated EMU, “barely,” in 1970, with a bachelor’s degree in education, while the country was in the midst of the biggest campaign of mass demonstrations, as well as one of the biggest strike waves, in its history. She moved back to Detroit and soon got a job at Wayne County Community College as a clerical worker, a post she would hold for the next fifteen years, becoming active in her UAW local, including serving as an elected union officer. It was as a UAW rank-and-file member that she attended the first convention of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, held in Chicago in March 1974.[2]


Fry plunged into the anti-Vietnam War movement and related activities, including supporting the 1971 Winter Soldier investigation. That was a public inquiry organized the movement during which recent Vietnam veterans spoke out publicly for the first time about atrocities they’d committed during the U.S. war against that country. The following year found her in Cuba as part of the Venceremos Brigade, a group of mostly young people from the United States who went to Cuba to protest the trade blockade and work on the sugar cane harvest, as an act of solidarity with Cuba’s effort to construct a socialist society.


She began her study of Marxism in the early 1970s as part of a bourgeoning movement of activists in Detroit from the campuses and the auto plants that assembled in groups to study and debate the ideas and ideals of socialism. There were a dozen or more such study groups in the city, and while the new Marxist study group movement was a national phenomenon, the class character of the Detroit participants helped distinguish the movement in that city. Pat joined one such group, the Detroit Organizing Committee. Most of the members of these groups did more than just study. Fry was active in the fight against STRESS (Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets), the peculiarly named police unit that soon gained a reputation in Detroit’s neighborhoods as a terror squad whose victims were mostly Black, unarmed, law-abiding, citizens. During the spring and summer of 1973, the campaign against STRESS engulfed the city, as the unit’s body count rose to over 19 in the three years before it was disbanded. The campaign against STRESS was a major contributor to the 1973 election of Coleman A. Young, Detroit’s first Black mayor, who had himself been a leader of the left-wing of the working-class movement during the Cold War’s early days. When Young disbanded STRESS, it brought jubilation to the city.


The election of the left-leaning Young administration inaugurated one of those moments in social life when everything seemed possible. It was a period of lively debate on the entire range of social issues in the restaurants, bars, workplaces, classrooms, and living rooms of the city. Pat and I met at around this time, and while I can’t remember the circumstances of our meeting, we were already friends by the mid-1970s. Fry was in the thick of all of it, and activists that knew her then remember not only her activism, but also fondly recall the parties that she and her then-husband, Dave Riddle, a long-haul truck driver, rank-and-file Teamster, college teacher, and historian, would host in their Highland Park home. At those parties one could meet a cross section of the city’s left wing, debating and frolicking together. The ennobling qualities of Pat’s character were on full display at such gatherings.[3]


Among the qualities of Pat’s that enriched our friendship was her resistance to stifled ways of thinking. Her joyful sensibility allowed her to avoid taking self-appointed authority too seriously. This meant, among other things, however much she steeped herself in the arcane and sometimes puzzling minutia of Marxist and socialist theory, Fry was never dour or dogmatic about her beliefs. Her great humor and openness drew her to prefer a politics that worked in the interests of working people to the pure theory of the dollar pamphlet or the 300-page treatise. Some of this she learned in her childhood. “My parents were not of the left,” she wrote. “They were Democrats and proud of it. Republicans were for the rich folks, they always told me. This was my first grounding in class politics.” To be truly liberating, theory had to first be useful to the people it sought to emancipate. One of the less inviting characteristics of the youthful Marxist study group movement of the 1970s was that too much theoretical speculation could make some people inhospitable. Fry’s openness was a breath of fresh air in such an atmosphere.


The 1970s also saw the rise of the New Communist Movement (NCM), during which a host of Communist-style parties and groups, many of Maoist orientation, came on the scene. Most groups of this tendency folded within a decade or so, while some lasted longer. The Marxist study group movement in Detroit was influenced by the NCM, and while some study group members joined national NCM parties, most stayed aloof. These younger radicals also sought out older Detroit left-wing activists, who were a significant presence in the city. Saul Wellman, a Spanish Civil War veteran who had been a Communist leader and Smith Act defendant in Michigan in the 1950s, befriended Fry and other young radicals. His political independence and counsel were highly valued in Detroit study group circles. Fry always spoke in warm and appreciative terms of the friendship that she and Wellman shared.


Pat found herself part of a circle of young radicals around Harry Haywood, a legendary former leading Communist Party USA (CPUSA) member whose book, Negro Liberation (1948), was the classic expression of the Party’s early approach to Black Liberation, an approach that by the late 1940s had been a cornerstone of the CPUSA’s program for 20 years. In the early 1970s, Haywood, whose ties to the CP ended as a result of the late 1950s crisis in the Party, was living in Detroit and was one of several older independent radicals that the younger radicals sought out.[4] He was writing his autobiography, Black Bolshevik (1978) by then, and Pat became part of a group that worked on its production. She conducted interviews with Haywood, transcribed them, and typed the manuscript. The book has since become a classic of left wing and African American political literature. Black Bolshevik is a sourcebook for the history of the Communist Party, USA, and even as it served the Marxist study group movement in Detroit as a source of critique from the left of the CPUSA’s post-1950s policies, the study group movement itself was triggering frustration for Fry, as its sectarian tendencies led to growing factional fractiousness. As a result, by 1981 two of the major Marxist study group alliances, the Detroit Marxist-Leninist Organization (DMLO) and the Organizing Committee for an Ideological Center (OCIC), had both dissolved. Pat described herself as being “emotionally wrecked” by the experiences in these groups.  But despite the fractiousness and the emotional turmoil these activities produced, Pat never lost her resistance to dogmatism and her sense of the necessity for a broad, inclusive left movement, rather than one made up of sects. Hence, whatever political differences people may have had with each other in the study group movement (and, later, within the CPUSA or the broad left), it seemed that all saw in Pat a friend and confidant.


By 1983, Fry had joined the CPUSA, influenced by older radicals like Chris Alston, a Black community leader who had been part of the UAW organizing committee in the drive to unionize the massive Ford Rouge Plant in the early 1940s, a member of the Young Communist League in the 1930s, and of the Communist Party in the 1940s and 1950s, before leaving the Party sometime in the early 1960s, while remaining friendly to the Party and its policies; and Al Fishman, a Communist who was a major Detroit peace activist, and an early computer programmer, who had served for a time as deputy chief of the Detroit Police Department during the Young administration. Pat also credited me with being instrumental in her joining the CPUSA. I’d invited her to a 1983 meeting in Detroit where CPUSA activist and former Smith Act political prisoner Carl Winter gave a talk on the significance of the Young administration, then under attack from right wing forces in the city and region. After hearing Winter’s presentation, Fry wrote, “I filled out a membership card joining the Communist Party that day.”[5]


Within two years she joined the staff of the Daily World as Detroit correspondent. One of her earliest stories was based on interviews with worker-participants in the great Flint GM Sit Down strike of 1936-1937, in celebration of the UAW’s 50th anniversary. Over the next several years, she chronicled a city and class in crisis, as the capitalist offensive against the post-WW II social contract, often called the Treaty of Detroit, after a famous 1950 UAW-GM collective bargaining agreement, came, in Southeast Michigan, under particularly vicious assault. Plant closures, federal abandonment of aid to the cities, the onset of economic crisis and depression, and the increasing difficulty of union and urban officials, no matter whether their background was as radicals or as liberals, to mount an effective response no matter how earnestly they tried, were all part of Fry’s beat. These were also the waning days of the Cold War, although nobody thought of it in those terms then, and the ratcheting up of the peace movement, the fight against apartheid in South Africa, solidarity with the Palestinian people struggling for basic rights (and which had a particular resonance in Southeast Michigan, with its large Arab population), and the effort to keep the United States from intervening against revolutionary and democratic movements in Central America, were also part of Fry’s reporting.


The end of the Cold War, with its crisis of Communist-led socialism, also brought crisis to the CPUSA, which manifested in the resignation of about one-third of its membership at the Party’s 25th national convention in Cleveland at the end of 1991. The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, an organization formed in the wake of that convention by hundreds of former CPUSA members and by left wingers from other sectors and traditions, including several 1960s “New Left” veterans, as well as activists and leaders in newer movements, emerged at this time. Charlene Mitchell, the Communist Party leader who ran for president of the United States under the Party’s banner in 1968, the first African American woman nominated by any party for the presidency, led the organization until a stroke in 2007 sidelined her. Fry was also a founding member of CCDS. She and Mitchell were close friends and comrades, sharing with others the work of CCDS, on which Fry would devote her political energies.[6]


Pat moved to New York from Detroit to work full-time for CCDS, putting her considerable administrative experience to work with Mitchell in the organization’s national office. She also served on the organization’s leadership body as well as seven years as CCDS co-chair.  Fry continued to work for CCDS until joining the staff of the Committee of Interns and Residents (CIR), an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union, as Director of Special Projects, retiring in 2012 after 13 years of service. Fry would continue working with CCDS, writing for its publications, traveling and speaking on the organization’s behalf, advancing the cause of democracy and socialism. Such travels included, most recently, a 2019 trip to Venezuela, just as Donald Trump was applying pressure on the people of that country to force them to abandon the government they’d chosen. And she, along with countless others, would continue to fight for democracy and socialism. Not that she had any illusions about the difficulties of the struggle, or about its protracted nature.


As the presidential election was ramping up in 2016, Susan Webb, an old common friend from late 1970s-early 1980s Detroit and a former editor at the People’s World website, the successor publication to the Daily World, asked several writers, including Pat and myself, to share our reflections on the meaning of socialism in current times. This symposium took place during the Democratic primary season, during which Bernie Sanders placed the question of socialism and socialist politics at the center of public life in the U.S. for the first time in a century.[7]


“There is no blueprint for socialism,” Pat wrote for that People’s World symposium. “Socialism cannot emerge from sentiment, ideology, or wish fulfillment. Socialism emerges because the working class, as it struggles around the crisis of everyday living, comes to recognize that it is a necessity.”[8]


In addition to her mother, Anna Mae Fry, Pat is survived by her sister, Peggy Fry, two brothers, John Fry and Tom Fry, nieces Molly Thomas and Alicia Bennett, and nephews Michael Thomas and Andrew Fry. Her brother Kenneth Alan Fry died in 1974. Memorial contributions in Pat’s honor may be directed to https://bit.ly/PatFryHCJMemorialFund to help fight for universal health care, or to the National Council of Black Lawyers, at www.ncbl.org to help advance the fight against racism (white supremacy) and the inequities it produces.


[1] Quotations from Pat Fry, unless otherwise noted, are from a memoir-essay in manuscript, “My Story of the Communist Party USA in Detroit,” which will appear in Reds: Lives of U.S. Communists, 1950-2000, which is forthcoming from Punctum Press. (read more)


Order yours today

For CCDS Pre-Convention Discussion

By Pat Fry, CCDS Co-Chair

This paper is offered for pre-convention discussion. The first section is a review of the history of

CCDS and the “Progressive Majority” movement-building strategy. The second section reviews

Left Unity efforts and its relationship to building the Progressive Majority. The final section is

on the tasks of the left and CCDS as we approach our national convention in July 2016.

Section 1 “For a Democratic and Socialist Future”

“For a Democratic and Socialist Future” is the founding document of CCDS. It was the focus of

discussions for two years beginning with a national conference, “Perspectives for Democracy

and Socialism in the 1990s,” held in 1992 in Berkeley, CA. The conference brought together

over a thousand leftists from various political backgrounds. Many had recently resigned from the

Communist Party USA in a struggle over democracy within the organization. Others had been

members of various Socialist parties and many others were unaffiliated. Organizations sent

representatives such as Solidarity, the National Committee for Independent Political Action, and

the Crossroads magazine. There was an excitement about the possibility of launching a

revitalized Left guided by principles of democracy and socialism, one that would “brush aside

old barriers” and “develop constructive dialog on strategic issues and seek agreement on action.”

A committee elected at the Berkeley conference met to chart a course for what became the

Committees of Correspondence, founded in Chicago in July 1994. The “For a Democratic and

Socialist Future” document was the defining goals and principles of the new socialist

organization. It presented an analysis of class forces in the aftermath of the collapse of Soviet

socialism, and the importance of rebuilding a democratic and socialist left in the face of capitalist triumphalism over the defeat of much of the socialist world.

When the CoC was founded, Bill Clinton had been in the White House for two and a half years.

The founding document noted that while the Clinton administration was more responsive to

popular pressure and his election was a defeat for the extreme anti-people policies of Reagan and

Bush, the Clinton “New Democrats” represented a growing long-term influence of neo-

conservatism. Clinton’s refusal to raise the minimum wage, the ending of Aid to Dependent

Children, “workfare, not welfare,” and NAFTA were examples cited. The newly founded

Committees of Correspondence called for a new political realignment in the country:

“We believe that what is needed is a comprehensive approach linking progressive currents into a

broad, ongoing democratic force. We advocate a powerful, democratic political realignment,

based on a new progressive social contract which empowers the masses of American working


A vision of socialism was outlined:

“By socialism we do not mean a social system in which the state dominates everything, or in

which authoritarian measures are used to restrict human rights. Socialism without democracy is

not socialism at all.” Rather, socialism “is a political, cultural, economic and ethical project, a

struggle to transform power relations within a class divided society for the benefit of the

overwhelming majority of the people. Socialism is not a fixed entity, but the social product of the

dynamics of class struggle. Socialism must and will be constantly redefined by oppressed people

who are engaged in struggle, over a long period of time.”

The Committees envisioned itself as a bridge to a larger socialist organization:

“While we seek to facilitate strategic cooperation among existing left groups which share basic

principles, we believe there is a need for a much larger progressive and socialist organization,

one more reflective of the working class and oppressed communities and the radical democratic

movements than any existing organization.

The Progressive Majority, a strategy for movement building

Following the second stolen presidential election of the Bush administration in 2004, CCDS –

under the leadership of founder and national co-chair Charlene Mitchell – launched what became

a 4-year discussion of strategy for movement building. It aimed to involve the broader left in a

discussion on proving wrong the widely-held proposition that the U.S. people in their majority

were politically backward and reactionary. The facts on the ground and in polling data painted a

far different picture – the majority of the U.S. people were progressive minded and could be won

over to a working class, people’s agenda.

CCDS organized a series of symposia sponsored by the CoC Education Fund to discuss

movement strategy for uniting the key forces of the progressive movement, advancing an agenda

and winning power. The first symposium was held in 2005 in NYC at the SEIU Local 1199

union hall with an all-day discussion that included Charlene Mitchell, Manning Marable, Angela

Davis, Michael Honey, among a number of others. Two more forums followed in 2006 – one at

the Chicago convention of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (the

name of the organization was changed in 2000) and in Boston at the first U.S. Social Forum. The

fourth forum was held in San Francisco in July 2009 at the CCDS convention – six months after

the country elected the first African American president on the basis of a center-left, anti-war

agenda. The 4 year-long discussion culminated in the adoption at the 2009 convention of a

revised “For a Democratic and Socialist Future” – also known as the Goals and Principles of


The document argued that the 2008 election of Barack Obama and the social forces that

comprised his electoral coalition represented a realignment of political forces:

“The 2008 election was a blow against right-wing reaction that portends a left-center realignment

of the nation’s politics.” The election of Barack Obama “was the response of a rising progressive

majority that matured during eight years of neoconservative policies that represented the most

reactionary sectors of U.S. capital.”

In defining the social sectors of the Progressive Majority, the document stated:

“The multiracial working class in alliance with trade unions, women, African Americans,

Latinos and other people of color, youth, and progressive sectors of business now form the

promising components of the progressive majority. The profound challenge before the working

class and its allies is to organize this majority into a coherent force capable of responding to the

various issues it confronts.”

The 2009 document analyzed the “free market” economic collapse of 2007-8, critiqued the

“Crisis of Financialization” and “Capitalist Globalization,” the war economy, the national

security state, and the crisis of climate change.

The main task, the document argued, was to build unity against the right and establish popular

democracy. The Progressive Majority strategy was defined as:

“…the principal strategy to defeat reaction and place the country firmly on the road to progress.

It is a strategy for building unity of the many currents of struggle” with the understanding that

“the systemic basis of the interconnected crises of social life, the economy, climate and empire

makes the solution of any one crisis dependent upon progress in solving the others. The unity of

the many currents of struggle around these issues into a conscious progressive majority is a

prerequisite to attaining sufficient power to establish popular democratic control of our society.”

The complexity of the next 8 years under the Obama administration was anticipated in the


“The strength of a united progressive community is required to push back against the power of

the financial sector, the military-industrial complex, and the pharmaceutical industry…Without

counter pressure from the progressive majority, those regressive forces can be expected to

prevail within the Obama administration. We will support progressive reforms by the Obama

administration, including incremental reforms. Where the Obama administration continues past

policies we will work with progressive forces to advocate a progressive agenda.”

Lastly, the updated 2009 document made more concrete the vision of socialism and how it will

likely develop in the U.S. Embracing more clearly Marxism as the defining politics of CCDS, it

spells out Marx’s view of class struggle, the role of the working class, and

“the inseparable relationship between the struggles of all nationally oppressed people and the

struggles of the working class for a new society. We have an unambiguous commitment to the

leadership of people of color and of women, acknowledging both the essential historical and

current contributions of these groups to all major progressive achievements.”

The period since the adoption of the 2009 “For a Democratic and Socialist Future” document

have confirmed its propositions. The Progressive Majority began to take shape organizationally

at the national level with the “One Nation Working Together” mobilization in 2010 in

Washington DC. This coalition was the first to bring leading forces of organized labor, the civil

rights movement and the peace movement to the same table in protest of the rightwing Tea Party

which had formed in reaction to the Obama presidency. Although the coalition was not

sustained, an important outcome was the founding of the New Priorities Campaign, a peace and

labor movement initiative to “move the money” from military spending to productive job

creation and social programs.

The most important development to date of the Progressive Majority has been the Moral Monday

movement that began in February 2006 with an NAACP-led coalition march on the state capital

of North Carolina, called the HKoJ (Historic Thousands on Jones Street) March and Rally, in

support of a 14 point People’s Agenda. The multi-issue coalition has mushroomed into what

became the “Moral Monday” protest of the ALEC-organized right wing takeover of the N.C.

state government. The Moral Monday “fusion” strategy has joined together 150 coalition

partners of organized labor, civil rights, teachers and students, housing activists, LGBTQ rights,

voting rights activists, women’s organizations. In the last few years, the Moral Monday

movement has spread to several states in the South and Midwest bringing together civil rights

and labor as the main anchors of this important cross-sectoral movement.

The civil rights unionism strategy that successfully organized industries such as the tobacco

fields of North Carolina in the 1930s has once again become the blueprint for new industrial

organizing campaigns in the South and elsewhere. “Union rights are civil rights” is the slogan of

the UAW Nissan organizing campaign bringing together the African American community and

student organizations of HBCU campuses in support of organized labor in Mississippi.

The People’s Climate March of September 2014 in NYC broke new ground in uniting

progressive forces and joining the struggles of climate, environmental justice, Native American

rights, labor, peace and justice movements. Several months of organizing that consciously built

unity among the various progressive silos resulted in an estimated 400,000 in the streets under a

multitude of colors, banners and issues. This unity has become the hallmark of organizing in the

months since that historic march under the umbrella of the People’s Climate Movement.

On October 14, 2015, a National Day of Action on Climate Change saw protests in over 200

cities. In NYC several hundred protesters comprised mainly of immigrant worker organizations,

Native American groups, trade unions, environmental justice and housing rights activists took

over the street in front of Chase Bank in mid-town Manhattan. The issues of climate change,

environmental justice, home foreclosures, and labor rights were joined together. In Miami, the

labor-community coalition, Florida New Majority, organized the largest of the nation’s protests

with some 2,000 marching on October 14th.

Trade unions gave significant support to the 2011 Occupy movement throughout the two month

long occupation of Zuccotti Park protesting income inequality and Wall Street greed. Significant

sectors of organized labor joined with the Black Lives Matter protests of racist police murders

from Ferguson to New York and Chicago. In the aftermath of the police killing of Michael

Brown in 2014, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka delivered a stinging speech in St. Louis on

the history of the racism within organized labor and how it has divided the working class. The

August 2015 protest march in Chicago organized by the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and

Political Repression to demand legislation for civilian control of police was endorsed and

supported by several Chicago union locals.

The Fight for $15 strike actions of fast food workers that began in November 2012 in NYC have

grown beyond what was ever imagined. The campaign has changed the national conversation on

living wages and growing income inequality. Led mainly by Black and Latino young workers,

the mobilization is now in its third year. The next National Day of Action on November 10, 2015

will see strikes throughout the country and is expected to be larger than the huge turnout on April

15, 2015. Significantly, it is no longer a labor-only struggle. Linking the issues and movements,

organizers of the Black Lives Matter and Climate Change movements have been attending

organizing meetings. NARAL has just announced support of the strike action and is organizing a

contingent. It is expected that many other progressive movements will be joining the worker-led

protests on November 10.

There is a new consciousness of the importance of a strategy to link issues and movements into

an interlocking force, targeting a common enemy. This is only the beginning – CCDS and the

Left must help to build and nurture this interconnected movement-building strategy.

Discussion on Strategy at the 2013 CCDS Convention

At the 2013 CCDS convention, there was discussion on a section of the main convention

resolution that argued for “New Alignments, New Strategies.” The debate was confusing, ill-

prepared and inconclusive. Therefore, the convention voted to move the discussion to a

committee that would arrive at a consensus document to be voted upon by the incoming NCC.

However, the committee that was charged with this task was not successful; and, after four

meetings it became clear that it was not possible to reconcile the underlying differences without

a wider discussion in the organization.

The differences centered on replacing the Progressive Majority strategy with a “United Front”

strategy. I argued then and continue to argue that the United Front strategy places a narrow

emphasis on the working class and anti-capitalism. The Progressive Majority strategy sees

uniting a range of class forces that will include sectors of small and big capital against the most

reactionary sectors of capital in struggle for popular, democratic control of the country. It

identifies the leading sectors of the multi-class, progressive majority as the working class,

nationally oppressed, women and youth.

The July 2016 convention affords us the opportunity to further this debate. The Convention

Program Committee may want to organize a panel discussion on the Progressive Majority

strategy and opposing views.

Strategy for Socialism?

The Progressive Majority strategy is not disconnected from the strategy for socialism. It is, in

fact, a prerequisite for socialist transformation. The upsurge in the progressive movement must

continue to grow and build organizational structures that can advance democracy on multiple

fronts – the right to organize unions and collective bargaining, a new New Deal jobs program,

the right to democratic control of police departments, the end of policies of mass incarceration,

the right to women’s reproductive choice, a just immigration policy, the right to quality and free

public education, affordable and de-segregated housing, the right to protect the climate and

environment, a government run or single payer health care system, LGBTQ equality, the right of

all to vote, the right to peace on the planet.

As hopeful and important as the new developments in movement building are, they do not signal

a revolutionary situation. As many of us would like, a cadre party organization with a developed

political line is not possible at this time. Such a project can only be undertaken with a far larger

and more influential force, one that will guide practical work and develop the strategy for

advancement of democracy toward socialist transformation.

Over the years there have been differences on this question in CCDS. At the national convention

in 1999 in Raleigh, North Carolina, Charlene Mitchell, then National Co-Chair and National

Coordinator, said in her convention opening: “There are some who say we need a revolutionary

party…something beyond CofC. They are probably correct. The question is, how is such a party

brought into being? Previous experiences show that one cannot successfully declare a party by

fiat. The material conditions for the development of a revolutionary party must be in place. The

working class must be on the offensive. There must be a growing unity between the potentially

revolutionary forces of society.”

Over the years, there have been important differences over whether CCDS should even adopt a

national organizing priority. It was argued that a national focus would identify the organization

within the mass movement and offer a way to sum up practice. At the 1999 convention, this issue

was debated intensely and the majority defeated a proposal to help build living wage campaigns

as a primary, though not singular, focus for CCDS.

Section 2 Left Unity Efforts from 2009

The consolidation and growth of the Progressive Majority requires the unity of socialists who are

oriented towards the mass movements of labor, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans,

Asian Americans, women and youth, and others. Left unity is essential in providing political

muscle, organizational consistency, and a vision of a transforming future that are essential for the

viability of the Progressive Majority.

One example is the Bernie Sanders campaign which has the potential for advancing a post-

electoral Progressive Majority. There is an immediate need for the left to influence the Sanders

campaign on the centrality of the anti-racist struggle and for a peaceful foreign policy.

Discussions of left unity took on new urgency at the 2009 CCDS convention in a day-long

symposium on left unity and the progressive majority. Participating with CCDS were the

CPUSA, DSA, Solidarity, FRSO and POWER, the precursor to Left Roots. There was a

consensus reached that the focus of left unity should be to seek common work in the mass

movement to help build the progressive movement.

In March 2013, Mark Solomon, CCDS Co-Chair Emeritus, wrote an article published on

Portside, “Whither the Socialist Left? Thinking the ‘Unthinkable’”. He argued that “The time has

come to work for the convergence of socialist organizations committed to non-sectarian

democratic struggle, engagement with mass movements, and open debate in search of effective

responses to the present crises and to projecting a socialist future.”

The following June of 2013, a forum was held in NYC at SEIU Local 1199, hosted by the Left

Labor Project, with CCDS, the CPUSA, DSA, FRSO and the Jacobin Magazine. Speaking for

CCDS, Mark Solomon said:

“The quest for left-socialist unity is mandated by the maturing structural crisis of capitalism –

with the gap between wealth and the rest of society widening to unprecedented levels. A

resulting intensified class war, including an historic assault on labor unions, is driven in

significant measure by a vicious right wing that is tearing at the fabric of social payments built

up over 75 years.”

Solomon concluded with a proposal for “…resolute steps at all levels to form unity committees

as soon as possible, to forge united, concrete responses to austerity, to militarization and war, to

ecological crisis and to launch the challenging process of building a socialist vision and

consciousness. We cannot continue to drift with small, weak organizations resistant to

change….The present political and organizational status of the socialist left if unacceptable.”

For the most party, Solomon’s proposal was not embraced by other organizations represented on

the panel. In February 2015, an 8-point program for left unity signed by Carl Davidson, Bill

Fletcher and Pat Fry was circulated widely with some positive response from individuals but no

organizational traction.

The only concrete response since the 2013 forum has been the development initiated by CCDS in

Boston launching the Socialist Unity Project bringing together members of CCDS, CPUSA,

DSA, Solidarity, Jacobinstudy circles and independent progressives. Educational projects and a

plan for deciding a common practical initiative in the mass movement are under discussion.

Section 3 Role of the Left

The role of the left is to deepen, concretize and unite the progressive majority with a probing

analysis of the system. This will require sound education and mobilization around the continuing

threat from the right. There are three immediate tasks:

1) Explain and advance the centrality of the struggle against white supremacy and against the

increasingly oppressive and murderous role of police and military – explaining why at this

critical juncture in the development of global monopoly capital, systemic violence against people

of color is growing and must be defeated;

2) Join with other left forces to build the broadest multiracial electoral coalition along the lines of the Moral Monday movement to pressure the Democratic Party nominee for President whoever it will be. The movement to elect Bernie Sanders should continue to capitalize on the efforts

leading up to the Democratic Party convention through organizing at workplaces and

neighborhoods, whether or not he will be the nominee. There are opportunities in state and local

campaigns as well to promote a progressive agenda, utilizing the electoral arena as an important

organizing tool.

3) Play a role in breaking down the fragmentation of the mass movement, advancing and linking

together the Fight for $15, union organizing, immigrant rights, climate justice, anti-war,

women’s reproductive choice, Black Lives Matter, youth student debt, etc.

Frankly stated, the tasks outstrip our capacity within CCDS as we face a declining membership

in numbers and demographics, faltering finances, and weak local chapters. Given this, we should

discuss some reorganization to pare down the size of the NCC and NEC and National Co-Chairs.

A leaner organizational structure would enable us to better focus energies on left unity initiatives

and strengthen our educational work. The educational resources of our organization should be

maintained and strengthened: Dialogue & Initiative, CCDS Links, the Online University of the

Left, the Carl Bloice Institute for Socialist Education, the Socialist Education Project’s monthly

discussions, the CCDS web site, the Mobilizer and political statements of CCDS are valuable

educational and outreach tools. This is a period of both crisis and opportunity. The crises of

austerity, interventionism, deepening climate crisis, persistent attacks upon Black lives, women’s

reproductive rights, the right to education and health care, to name a few – are spawning growing

resistance of an increasingly coherent and determined progressive majority. We need to meet the

challenge inherent in that crisis and attendant opportunity to fight back with confidence in our

efforts to contribute to the building of the progressive majority and illuminating the road to a socialist future.

What is socialism? Let’s get specific

February 24, 2016 12:49 PM CST  BY PAT FRY

reprinted from Peoples World

People’s World Series on Socialism

Everyone seems to be talking about socialism these days, but what does it mean? That was the question asked by Susan Webb in one of our most popular and widely-shared recent articles. Millions of Americans are considering alternatives to a system run by and for the 1 percent. They are taking an interest in socialism, a word that has meant a great many things to activists, trade unionists, politicians, and clergy around the world over the last century and a half. The article below is one of a series on socialism, what it can mean for Americans in the 21st century, and how we might get there.

I appreciate the invitation to respond to Sue Webb’s essay addressing a deeper discussion on a definition of socialism. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president certainly has elevated this discussion to a national stage – masses of people in the U.S. are voting for a socialist for president, drawn by his unabashed progressive economic populist agenda. This, in and of itself, is an advance over decades of anti-communist, anti-socialist propaganda. Sanders has given expression to a powerful progressive majority, and moved politics to the left, including the likely Democratic Party nominee.

The moment challenges us to get a bit more specific on how socialists define socialism. To speak to this, I would like to draw from the thinking of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. In our Goals and Principles document, adopted in 2009, we say that the efforts to build socialism in the 20th century in uncharted territory were carried out under conditions of severe coercion from outside capitalist powers. In that context, the democratic soul of socialism was seriously undermined, the essential need for popular participation in building the system was largely unrealized, and economic advances were distorted by dogma.

For the 21st century, we agree, there is no blueprint for socialism. This we can all agree on – socialism cannot emerge from sentiment, ideology, or wish fulfillment. Socialism emerges because the working class, as it struggles around the crisis of everyday living, comes to recognize that it is a necessity.

Socialism is a democratic political system wherein the interests and organizations of the working class and its allies have attained and hold the preponderance of political power and play the leading role in society.

It is still a class society, but in a protracted transition to a future classless society. It will be a mixed economy, with both public and private capitalist ownership, for some time. There will still be a need for entrepreneurial startups, both as worker cooperatives and as private firms serving the common good. Capital markets and wage-labor markets will be sharply restricted and even abolished over time.

If needed, a stock market can exist for publicly-traded firms and investments abroad, but it will be strictly controlled. A stock transfer tax will be implemented. Gambling in derivatives will be prohibited. Fair trade agreements with other countries will be on a bilateral basis for mutual benefit. Socialism will feature planning to face the challenges of uneven development and harsh inequalities.

Socialism will guarantee democracy in the workplace and the right to unions; democracy in voting with representative government; a society in harmony with the natural environment; living-wage jobs, genuine full employment, and adequate security for those who cannot work; freedom to practice religion; full equality in all spheres between women and men, between Black, Latin, Asian, Native and white people, and for gay and lesbian, trans, and bi-sexual people.

The role of the armed forces under socialism will be transformed from occupying forces around the world in the interests of capital to defending the interests of people in time of natural disaster, for example. Local police under community control, a prison system based on the principle of restorative justice, non-violent conflict resolution and community-based rehabilitation will be established.

The starting point on the path to socialism today is the struggle to both safeguard and advance democratic openings. It will require new directions in our nation’s domestic and global policies, including: democratic control of the Federal Reserve that can channel stimulus funds to workers, not bankers; public ownership of banking and financial institutions that would place people’s resources in their own hands; and nationalization of energy to eliminate fossil fuels and move toward a clean energy economy. Democratic advances in housing, education, health care, affirmative action to address centuries of racial inequality, civil and human rights, voting rights and democratic electoral reforms, women’s reproductive rights, child care, environmental justice and reversing climate change – in sum, an all-sided progressive democratic agenda.

Whether Sanders or Clinton wins the Democratic Party nomination, the progressive movement has been strengthened in opposition to a virulently racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-communist/anti-socialist right wing centered in the Republican Party.

A key question for all of us is how do we translate the votes for Sanders into organization beyond the November elections? Needed is strength at the grass roots. Organizations like the Working Families Party, Progressive Democrats of America and other such forms that can mobilize around issues in communities and neighborhoods with electoral capacity at all levels of government are urgently needed.

The Sanders campaign signals that the time is ripe to step it up.

Pat Fry is co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, is retired from the staff of a health care union, and lives in New York City.


Our Planet

This planet we call Earth

by Seymour Joseph

turns its way from day to day in orbital certainty,

unconcerned with the plights and passions

of its human inhabitants, who grope and cope

with life’s uncertainties.

We were made to deal with those uncertainties.

Nature’s crowning achievement — the human brain —

has brought us from the confines of the cave

to the unlimited reaches of space.

Yet human ingenuity has also been used

to turn Nature against itself.

The horrendous floods, fires and storms of recent years

have a human hand. Men with power refuse to compromise

that power with the certainty of global catastrophe,

toward which we are approaching the precipice.

This planet is ours to serve and save,

as it serves and saves the species upon it.

We have the power; we need the will.

Move the Money campaign in NYC. Try this in your city!

Move the Money NYC Report

A Horserace Against Time and the Pentagon

The current NYC City Council’s term is a short two years, with members’ terms ending on December 30th Our Resolution 423-2022 is just one of hundreds jockeying for position. It is a horserace of sorts, and despite a first-year delay in getting our new resolution officially introduced in December, we’ve moved fast in lining up Council co-sponsors.

At this point, 25 Council Members support Res. 423, calling for “significantly reducing” Pentagon

spending and redirecting those tax dollars to our communities. We stand one co-sponsor away from gaining a Council majority. New York has the nation’s largest City Council by far, one that lately has been fighting across-the-board austerity cuts with limited success.

CCDSers in NYC are active in this fight to get the NYC City Council to stand up to Congress and the President, calling for reversing the Pentagon’s stratospheric annual military budget which will soon hit the trillion-dollar mark. Next year will hit or exceed $886 billion, which steals needed tax resources from every City and town in the country without providing anything remotely representing real security for poor/ working class people.

When passed, this resolution would lead to public hearings into the damage done to our communities by austerity budgets induced by massive Pentagon outlays. Every year the Pentagon alone chews up over half the “discretionary” budget Congress negotiates with the President.

Once we hit a majority of 26 Council Members as co-sponsors, we expect a hearing on the Resolution itself, hopefully in October. No such hearing on how the military budget impacts our communities has ever been held in New York City. That will be news!

For more information, please look at our website at www.mtmnyc.org

Fight for High Paying Jobs!

We had an excellent presentation and discussion on this vital topic, and got many requests for the links to the slide show file and the video recording. Here they are:

Carl Davidson's Zoom presentation on the topic, 45 min plus another 45 min Q&A. Enjoy.


The Slide Show as PDF:


Visit our Ecology & Energy Dept at https://ouleft.org/?page_id=3805

For more and wider nformation on the topic, click the logo below


From the CCDS Peace and Solidarity Committee

Stephen David.and Harry Targ submitted the following written proposal. That this committee establish a Task Force on “International Relations: The New Reality.” The task force would have several responsibilities, including organizing a 4th Monday webinar, maybe in September. Anyone interested in joining this commitee contact Harry Targ targ@purdue.edu

CCDS: A Proposal for a Way Forward

Stephen David/Harry Targ

CCDS conversations on Ukraine have not been very constructive. At best, we constrain our comments in the interests of not jeopardizing long established bonds. I doubt any level of discussion will get us over the impasse of rather entrenched positions. Whatever our positions may be, it is hardly possible that our views will bear a direct influence on the course and outcome of that struggle. So getting bogged down here is pointless.

On the other hand, the proposal that follows suggests the struggle in Ukraine is part of a larger global war that must concern us deeply. Moreover, it is in this area that we can find more meaningful commitment and political work; especially since it will radically affect us. There is no dispute over the fact that Ukraine operates as a proxy for a much larger imperialist struggle involving a Western hegemonic order led by the US.

We face a possible future in which the demise of the dollar as the chief currency of global trade and a multi-polar world architecture will have serious repercussions on a multitude of institutions that support the current Capitalist order. How this will affect our national and political economy and bleed into local social relations along class and racial lines is food for thought. On the other hand we would also have to consider how to take up the opportunities of living within a multi-polar world architecture.

It is in view of the latter that we think our immediate goals will be better served if we can strive to understand those possible social changes and insinuate that discussion as our present priority in our political engagement. A planned series of topics that comprehensively covers significant areas of our social relations can be a useful beginning.

Therefore, we recommend that the CCDS Peace and Solidarity Committee establish a Task Force on “International Relations: The New Reality.” This task force would involve some or all of the following:

 --periodic meetings of a core group

--organize a 4th Monday webinar on the new international reality (maybe in September)

--network with other international groups such as the Tricontinental, Progressive International, scholars and activists in China

--produce a modest electronic journal on news and views about the NIEO, the BRICS, ALBA etc.

--prepare a useful book list or teaching materials on Prashad, Rodney, Amin, Frank, Dos Santos, etc.


On Dedollarization: 4 minutes


For more information and to get involved contact: Harr Targ-targ@purdue.edu or stephen David-davidstephen348@gmail.com

Meta VanSickle CCDS NCC member who teaches at the University of Charleston

In response to the following article “Discovering Largest Known U.S. Slave Auction”

The Southeast portion of the U.S. has long held views and traditions that challenge equitable outcomes based on race, class and/or gender. It is often at the intersections of race/class/gender that the most perplexing of problems arise because they are not clear cut. One can always call out an example where the general case does not always happen. Worse, the use of language is obfuscated to cause confusion or to the let the violator “off the hook.” These problems lead to lack of or minimal prosecution of white-collar crime and self-righteous indignation about the civil rights and economic impacts on groups of people.

Having lived in SC for 30 years I have watched these factors ebb and flow in daily life and in my work life. I have taught science methods courses for teachers for all the years I have lived here. I watched in horror as the interactions of race/class/gender played out during the Covid-19 pandemic and recent political events. It often “feels” like I am living in the middle of a new crisis, but in fact, as this article points out is a long term and effective status quo. The fact that 600 enslaved people could be sold from one plantation is one long sale and yet remained virtually unknown until graduate student Lauren Davila uncovered the documents that showed the facts is how society works here. If it can be kept hushed or silent then it doesn’t exist.

Interestingly, Davila’s research uncovered a second inconvenient truth—that women bought and sold slaves, too. The Ball family is a much revered and maligned family since Edward Ball wrote a history of slavery about the families’ plantations which included treatment and economic realities about both the enslaved and the planter families. Ball did not research nor talk about the great sale of 600 enslaved peoples after the death of his ancestor and when asked about it noted that he had not seen documentation nor researched that aspect of life during colonial times.

Women were considered too fragile to be plantation owners and “properly handle” owning people and running plantation finances. Yet in the set of data presented by Davila, it is clear that Mrs. Ball did exactly both. She sold the enslaved, she sold the original properties and then bought new property and some of the people back to work for her. This leads to thinking that they plantation owners’ wives were kind and considerate to the enslaved to be a myth. Families were broken apart, moved away from each other and expected to go on as if such actions were not hurtful. Worse, it shows how economics for the two groups did not change—even when a woman was the owner.

Also note, the use of the word “gang” and the perceptions the word creates. It is very similar to the Reagan era “young bucks”. Both are designed to inspire negative thoughts that one should be fearful of these people, especially young Black men. Sadly, it’s hard to ascribe the intent as politicians continue to state that it wasn’t my intent to be pejorative. This kind of wording continues to proliferate and be used to stop any kind of deep thinking that might cause one to really “stop and think” about how it might really feel to walk in the others shoes.

Worse, this thinking is now pervading education policy in this state to the degree that book banning is not only about LGBTQ+ literature but has expanded into the social studies classroom. The State has banned T. Coates’ book, Between the World and Me, because a few white students expressed that it made the feel bad about themselves. This is a second myth that needs to be expelled, just as plantation owners’ wives were not too fragile to run the farm neither are adolescents to fragile to grapple with tough ideas and ask questions. To limit the information, and worse to ban some of it is to cripple thinking and reinforce compliance with policies that do not work toward civil and economic equity.

Lauren Davila, then a graduate student at the College of Charleston, found the largest known slave auction while searching archives of classified ads.

Discovering largest known U.S. slave auction

Originally published: ProPublica  on June 16, 2023 by Jennifer Berry Hawes (more by ProPublica) (Posted Jun 20, 2023)

Sitting at her bedroom desk, nursing a cup of coffee on a quiet Tuesday morning, Lauren Davila scoured digitized old newspapers for slave auction ads. A graduate history student at the College of Charleston, she logged them on a spreadsheet for an internship assignment. It was often tedious work.

She clicked on Feb. 24, 1835, another in a litany of days on which slave trading fueled her home city of Charleston, South Carolina. But on this day, buried in a sea of classified ads for sales of everything from fruit knives and candlesticks to enslaved human beings, Davila made a shocking discovery.

On page 3, fifth column over, 10th advertisement down, she read:

This day, the 24th instant, and the day following, at the North Side of the Custom-House, at 11 o’clock, will be sold, a very valuable GANG OF NEGROES, accustomed to the culture of rice; consisting of SIX HUNDRED.

She stared at the number: 600.

A sale of 600 people would mark a grim new record–by far.

Until Davila’s discovery, the largest known slave auction in the U.S. was one that was held over two days in 1859 just outside Savannah, Georgia, roughly 100 miles down the Atlantic coast from Davila’s home. At a racetrack just outside the city, an indebted plantation heir sold hundreds of enslaved people. The horrors of that auction have been chronicled in books and articles, including The New York Times’ 1619 Project and “The Weeping Time: Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American History.” Davila grabbed her copy of the latter to double-check the number of people auctioned then.

It was 436, far fewer than the 600 in the ad glowing on her computer screen.

She fired off an email to a mentor, Bernard Powers, the city’s premier Black history expert. Now professor emeritus of history at the College of Charleston, he is founding director of its Center for the Study of Slavery in Charleston and board member of the International African American Museum, which will open in Charleston on June 27.

If anyone would know about this sale, she figured, it was Powers.

Yet he too was shocked. He had never heard of it. He knew of no newspaper accounts, no letters written about it between the city’s white denizens.

“The silence of the archives is deafening on this,” he said.

What does that silence tell you? It reinforces how routine this was.

The auction site rests between a busy intersection in downtown Charleston and the harbor that ushered in about 40% of enslaved Africans hauled into the U.S. In that constrained space, Powers imagined the wails of families ripped apart, the smells, the bellow of an auctioneer.

Traffic drives along Broad Street toward the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon in Charleston, the site of slave auctions Davila researched. Public auctions were held outside on the building’s north side.

When Davila emailed him, she also copied Margaret Seidler, a white woman whose discovery of slave traders among her own ancestors led her to work with the college’s Center for the Study of Slavery to financially and otherwise support Davila’s research.

The next day, the three met on Zoom, stunned by her discovery.

“There were a lot of long pauses,” Davila recalled.

It was March 2022. She decided to announce the discovery in her upcoming master’s thesis.

A year later, in April, Davila defended that thesis. She got an A.

She had discovered what appears to be the largest known slave auction in the United States and, with it, a new story in the nation’s history of mass enslavement–about who benefited and who was harmed by such an enormous transaction.

But that story initially presented itself mostly as a great mystery.

The ad Davila found was brief. It yielded almost no details beyond the size of the sale and where it was being held–nothing about who sent the 600 people to auction, where they came from or whose lives were about to be uprooted.

But details survived, it turned out, tucked deep within Southern archives.

In May, Davila shared the ad with ProPublica, the first news outlet to reveal her discovery. A reporter then canvassed the Charleston newspapers leading up to the auction–and unearthed the identity of the rice dynasty responsible for the sale.

The Ball Dynasty

The ad Davila discovered ran in the Charleston Courier on the sale’s opening day. But ads for large auctions were often published for several days, even weeks, ahead of time to drum up interest.

The ad (see bottom left of screenshot) that Davila found was buried in the middle of a sea of classifieds in the Charleston Courier on Feb. 24, 1835. The handwritten marks on preserved copies of old newspapers were made by typesetters or printers at the time for their records. Credit: NewsBank/Readex

A ProPublica reporter found the original ad for the sale, which ran more than two weeks before the one Davila spotted. Published on Feb. 6, 1835, it revealed that the sale of 600 people was part of the estate auction for John Ball Jr., scion of a slave-owning planter regime. Ball had died the previous year, and now five of his plantations were listed for sale–along with the people enslaved on them.

The Ball family might not be a household name outside of South Carolina, but it is widely known within the state thanks to a descendant named Edward Ball who wrote a bestselling book in 1998 that bared the family’s skeletons–and, with them, those of other Southern slave owners.

Slaves in the Family” drew considerable acclaim outside of Charleston, including a National Book Award. Black readers, North and South, praised it. But as Ball explained, “It was in white society that the book was controversial.” Among some white Southerners, the horrors of slavery had long gone minimized by a Lost Cause narrative of northern aggression and benevolent slave owners.

Based on his family’s records, Edward Ball described his ancestors as wealthy “rice landlords” who operated a “slave dynasty.” He estimated they enslaved about 4,000 people on their properties over 167 years, placing them among the “oldest and longest” plantation operators in the American South.

John Ball Jr. was a Harvard-educated planter who lived in a three-story brick house in downtown Charleston while operating at least five plantations he owned in the vicinity. By the time malaria killed him at age 51, he enslaved nearly 600 people including valuable drivers, carpenters, coopers and boatmen. His plantations spanned nearly 7,000 acres near the Cooper River, which led to Charleston’s bustling wharves and the Atlantic Ocean beyond.

ProPublica reached out to Edward Ball, who lives in Connecticut, to see if he had come across details about the sale during his research.

He said that 25 years ago when he wrote “Slaves in the Family,” he knew an enormous auction followed Ball Jr.’s death, “and yet I don’t think I contemplated it enough in its specific horror.” He saw the sale in the context of many large slave auctions the Balls orchestrated. Only a generation earlier, the estate of Ball Jr.’s father had sold 367 people.

“It is a kind of summit in its cruelty,” Ball said of the auction of 600 humans.

Families were broken apart, and children were sold from their parents, wives sold from their husbands. It breaks my heart to envision it.

And it gets worse.

After ProPublica discovered the original ad for the 600-person sale, Seidler, the woman who supported Davila’s research, unearthed another puzzle piece. She found an ad to auction a large group of people enslaved by Keating Simons, the late father of Ball Jr.’s wife, Ann. Simons had died three months after Ball Jr., and the ad announced the sale of 170 people from his estate. They would be auctioned the same week, in the same place, as the 600.

That means over the course of four days–a Tuesday through Friday–Ann Ball’s family put up for sale 770 human beings.

In his book, Edward Ball described how Ann Ball “approached plantation management like a soldier, giving lie to the view that only men had the stomach for the violence of the business.” She once whipped an enslaved woman, whose name was given only as Betty, for not laundering towels to her liking, then sent the woman to the Work House, a city-owned jail where Black people were imprisoned and tortured.

A week before the first auction ad appeared for Ball Jr.’s estate, a friend and business adviser dashed off a letter urging Ann Ball to sell all of her late husband’s properties and be freed of the burden. “It is impossible that you could undertake the management of the whole Estate for another year without great anxiety of mind,” the man wrote in a letter preserved at the South Carolina Historical Society.

Ball did what she wanted.

On Feb. 17, the day her husband’s land properties went to auction, she bought back two plantations, Comingtee and Midway–3,517 acres in all–to run herself.

A week later, on the opening day of the sale of 600 people, she purchased 191 of them.

More Than Names

In mid-March 1835, the auction house ran a final ad regarding John Ball Jr.’s “gang of negroes.” It advertised “residue” from the sale of 600, a group of about 30 people as yet unsold.

Ann Ball bought them as well.

Given she bought most in family groups, her purchase of 215 people in total spared many traumatic separations, at least for the moment.

As she picked who to purchase, she appears to have prioritized long-standing ties. Several were elderly, based on the low purchase price and their listed names–Old Rachel, Old Lucy, Old Charles.

Many names included on her bills of sale also mirror those recorded on an inventory of John Ball Jr.’s plantations, including Comingtee, where he and Ann had sometimes lived. Among them: Humphrey, Hannah, Celia, Charles, Esther, Daniel, Dorcas, Dye, London, Friday, Jewel, Jacob, Daphne, Cuffee, Carolina, Peggy, Violet and many more.

Most of their names are today just that, names.

But Edward Ball was able to find details about at least one family Ann Ball purchased. A woman named Tenah and her older brother Plenty lived on a plantation a few miles downriver from Comingtee that Ball Jr.’s uncle owned.

Edward Ball figured they came from a family of “blacksmiths, carpenters, seamstresses and other trained workers” who lived apart from the field hands who toiled in stifling, muddy rice plots. Tenah lived with her husband, Adonis, and their two children, Scipio and August. Plenty, who was a carpenter, lived next door with his wife and their three children: Nancy, Cato and Little Plenty.

When the uncle died, he left Tenah, Plenty and their children to John Ball Jr. The two families packed up and moved to Comingtee, then home to more than 100 enslaved people.

Life went on. Tenah gave birth to another child, Binah. Adonis tended animals in the plantation’s barnyard.

Although the families were able to stay together, they nonetheless suffered under enslavement. At one point, an overseer wrote in his weekly report to Ball Jr. that he had Adonis and Tenah whipped because he suspected they had butchered a sheep to add to people’s rations, Edward Ball wrote in his book.

After her husband’s death, Ann Ball’s purchase appears to have kept the two families together, at least many of them. The names Tenah, Adonis, Nancy, Binah, Scipio and Plenty are listed on her receipt from the auction’s opening day.

Yet, hundreds more people who remained for sale from the Ball auction likely “ended up in the transnational traffic to Mississippi and Louisiana,” said Edward Ball, now at work on a book about the domestic slave trade.

He noted that buyers attending East Coast auctions were mostly interstate slave traders who transported Black people to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, then resold them to owners of cotton plantations. In the early 1800s, cotton had taken over from rice and tobacco as the South’s king crop, fueling demand at plantations across the lower South and creating a mass migration of enslaved people.

Birth of Generational Wealth

Although the sale of 600 people as part of one estate auction appears to be the largest in American history, the volume itself is hardly out of place on the vast scale of the nation’s chattel slavery system

Ethan Kytle, a history professor at California State University, Fresno, noted that the firm auctioning much of Ball’s estate–Jervey, Waring & White–alone advertised sales of 30, 50 or 70 people virtually every day.

“That adds up to 600 pretty quickly,” Kytle said. He and his wife, the historian Blain Roberts, co-wrote “Denmark Vesey’s Garden,” a book that examines what he called the former Confederacy’s “willful amnesia” about slavery, particularly in Charleston, and urges a more honest accounting of it.

Slavery was a form of mass commerce, he said. It made select white families so wealthy and powerful that their surnames still form a sort of social aristocracy in places like Charleston.

Although no evidence has surfaced yet about how much the auction of 600 people enriched the Ball family, the amount Ann Ball paid for about one-third of them is recorded in her bills of sale buried within the boxes and folders of family papers at the South Carolina Historical Society. They show that she doled out $79,855 to purchase 215 people–a sum worth almost $2.8 million today.

The top dollar she paid for a single human was $505. The lowest purchase price was $20, for a person known as Old Peg.

Enslaved people drew widely varied prices depending on age, gender and skills. But assuming other buyers paid something comparable to Ann Ball’s purchase price, an average of $371 per person, the entire auction could have netted in the range of $222,800–or about $7.7 million today–money then distributed among Ball Jr.’s heirs, including Ann.

They weren’t alone in profiting from this sale. Enslaved people could be bought on credit, so banks that mortgaged the sales made money, too. Firms also insured slaves, for a fee. Newspapers sold slave auction ads. The city of Charleston made money, too, by taxing public auctions. These kinds of profits helped build the foundation of the generational wealth gap that persists even today between Black and white Americans.

Jervey, Waring & White took a cut of the sale as well, enriching the partners’ bank accounts and their social standing.

Although the men orchestrated auctions to sell thousands of enslaved people, James Jervey is remembered as a prominent attorney and bank president who served on his church vestry, a “generous lover of virtue,” as the South Carolina Society described him in an 1845 resolution. A brick mansion in downtown Charleston bears his name.

Morton Waring married the daughter of a former governor. Waring’s family used enslaved laborers to build a three-and-a-half story house that still stands in the middle of downtown. In 2018, country music star Darius Rucker and entrepreneur John McGrath bought it from the local Catholic diocese for $6.25 million.

Alonzo J. White was among the most notorious slave traders in Charleston history. He also served as chairman of the Work House commissioners, a role that required him to report to the city fees garnered from housing and “correction” of enslaved people tortured in the jail.

“Yet, these men were upheld by high society,” Davila said. “They are remembered as these great Christian men of high value.” After John Ball Jr. died, the City Council passed a resolution to express “a high testimonial of respect and esteem for his private worth and public services.”

But for the 600 people sold and their descendants? Only a stark reminder of how America’s entrenched racial wealth gap was born, Davila said, with repercussions still felt today.

Jennifer Berry Hawes is a reporter with ProPublica’s South hub who focuses on criminal justice, religion, race and the welfare of women and children.

Monthly Review does not necessarily adhere to all of the v

Conversations about Daniel Elleberg: Ehrlich and Targ

Medicare for All Update

We're trying something new, and you are all invited.

Saturday Morning Coffee!

A Zoom conversation with Carl Davidson and comrades from the Online University of the Left...and other places as well.

It will be more of a hangout than a formal setting. We can review the news in the previous days' Leftlinks, or add new topic. We can invite guests, or just carry on with those who show up. We'll try to have a progressive stack keeper, should we need one. Most of all, we will try to be interesting and a good sounding board. If you have at point you would like to make or a guest to invite, send an email to Carl Davidson, carld717@gmail.com

Continuing weekly, 10:30 to Noon, EDT. The Zoom link will also be available on our Facebook Page.


Meeting ID: 868 9706 5843

Let's see what happens!

Watch a video of Saturday Morning Coffee

China: peoples congress, expanding economy, world stage

SEP's Fourth Monday in April

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

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

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

CHANGEMAKER PUBLICATIONS: Recent works on new paths to socialism and the solidarity economy

Remember Us for Gift Giving and Study Groups

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