CCDS/Socialist Education Project - Fourth Monday series
June 28, 9pm (eastern time) by Zoom
Book talk: "A China Reader" published April 2021 by the SEP, edited by Duncan McFarland. A power point presentation about the book will be presented by the editor, followed by Q&A and discussion.
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Meeting ID: 868 0223 3036
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New from Changemaker Publications
More on the China Reader
Edited by Duncan McFarland
A project of the CCDS Socialist Education Project and Online University of the Left
244 pages, $20 (discounts available for quantity), order at :
The book is a selection of essays offering keen insight into the nature of China and its social system, its internal debates, and its history. It includes several articles on the US and China and the growing efforts of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.
China's rise in the 21st century is of great significance for the world, socialism and communism, and the US Left, as well as the Chinese people. Yet understanding of China, even basic facts of Chinese history, is not good. The text provides historical background and political education by reprinting valuable articles and publishing new material. The book is based in the struggle and opposes imperialism and a new cold war on China. Contributors come from many backgrounds. We regard it necessary to consider both Chinese perspectives and US and Western views for balanced understanding.
Topics: New cold war and China's foreign policy; China's economy, socialism and capitalism; women founders of people-to-people friendship; towards a democratic and socialist way of life.
Authors and reviews include: Samir Amin, Gordon H. Chang, Carl Davidson, Cheng Enfu, Gary Hicks, Paul Krehbiel, Norman Markowitz, Duncan McFarland, VJ Prashad, Soong Qingling, Al Sargis, David Schweikart, Agnes Smedly, Helen Foster Snow, Anna Louise Strong, Harry Targ, Jude Woodward, Xi Jinping and others
Here is the link to our February 22nd discussion on Weaponized Whitness
April 4th Monday--April 26th Here is the link.
BUILDING COMMUNITY AND ORGANIZING PROGRESSIVE FORCES IN NORTHERN INDIANA: LESSONS FOR THE LEFT
CCDS Member for the Month
Mark Solomon Is founding member and previous co-chair of CCDS. He is Professor Emeritus of History at Simmons College and holds degrees in History from Wayne State University, University of Michigan and from Harvard University.
He has written scores of articles on African American history, race and racism, U.S. foreign policy, globalization, and war and peace issues which have appeared in both scholarly and popular journals. Solomon has lectured in Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean. He has also written and edited many books.
He has served as National Co-Chair of the United States Peace Council and is a past member of the Presidential Committee of the World Peace Council.
He is the author of The Cry Was Unity. The Communist Party was the only political movement on the left in the late 1920s and 1930s to place racial justice and equality at the top of its agenda and to seek, and ultimately win, sympathy among African Americans. This historic effort to fuse red and black offers a rich vein of experience and constitutes the theme of The Cry Was Unity.
Utilizing for the first time materials related to African Americans from the Moscow archives of the Communist Inter-national (Comintern), The Cry Was Unity traces the trajectory of the black-red relationship from the end of World War I to the tumultuous 1930s. From the just-recovered transcript of the pivotal debate on African Americans at the 6th Comintern Congress in 1928, the book assesses the impact of the Congress's declaration that blacks in the rural South constituted a nation within a nation, entitled to the right of self-determination. Despite the theory's serious flaws, it fused the black struggle for freedom and revolutionary content and demanded that white labor recognize blacks as indispensable allies.
As the Great Depression unfolded, the Communists launched intensive campaigns against lynching, evictions, and discrimination in jobs and relief and opened within their own ranks a searing assault on racism. While the Party was never able to win a majority of white workers to the struggle for Negro rights, or to achieve the unqualified support of the black majority, it helped to lay the foundations for the freedom struggle of the 1950s and 1960s.
The Cry Was Unity underscores the successes and failures of the Communist-led left and the ways in which it fought against racism and inequality. This struggle comprises an important missing page that needs to be returned to the nation's history.
Community activists revisit incident at Bristol County ICE facility year later with virtual reading
Reprimnted from Standard-Times (May 20, 2021)
Submitted by Rafael Pizarro
An expired inhaler given to an asthmatic. Aggressive officers. Guards with no masks or social distancing. A lack of toilet paper. Wanting to die if not for one's children.
The above were discussed and described in statements from people detained in Bristol County's immigrant detention center, according to Bristol County for Correctional Justice (BCCJ). The activist group created a short video with the statements and aired it during a virtual event on Wednesday.
Rafael Pizarro, a BCCJ member, said they could neither film nor give the names of the statement authors for protection. Instead, community activists read the sworn statements that were obtained through lawyers, he said.
Pizarro said the aim of the 16-minute video was to provide a platform and "big microphone" to people who do not usually have one.
"People have heard what the sheriff and attorney general have had to say," Pizarro said. "They've not heard directly from the people who were there and affected. Our main goal in this is to let those voices be heard."
"I'm afraid of getting infected, I have asthma," read David Gonsalves from a statement by someone who was or is detained in the Bristol County Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility amid the pandemic. "Where I am, people are right next to each other all day... I feel trapped. I feel like a dog caged in like I'm in a kennel. They play us like we're animals. We're not animals. We are human beings."
Other statements recounted the incident that unfolded on May 1, 2020 in the ICE facility which resulted in property damage and three ICE detainees being taken to the hospital.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office found months later that the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) had violated the civil rights of federal immigration detainees while responding to the disturbance.
Her office cited “various institutional failures and poor decisions by BCSO leadership,” during the incident that resulted in a use of force against the detainees that the office found to be “disproportionate to the security needs at that time.”
The office also found BCSO staff acted with “deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of serious harm to the health of the detainees.”
The attorney general's report states BCSO staff used flash bang grenades and canines, which is discussed in the statements read by the community activists.
"I saw three dogs. They set bombs off. I was on a bunk face down... I heard 'boom, boom, boom' over and over," read Rosa Aviles from a statement.
"Outside we were on our knees facing the wall. They said to us, 'You are garbage that went in and garbage that got taken out,'" read Jenny Bauer from a statement. "I am so demoralized. I have kids, otherwise I would want to die."
ACLU, BCCJ, local NAACP call for ICE facility closure
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, which funded BCCJ's video, has called for the closure of the Bristol County ICE facility. The organization is also suing BCSO to obtain records of what transpired last spring.
The attorney general's December 2020 report recommended the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) terminate its partnership with the BCSO or that the Massachusetts General Court enact legislation to prevent the sheriff from housing immigration detainees or participating in federal immigration enforcement.
The ACLU with the NAACP New Bedford branch and BCCJ this week sent a letter to the Massachusetts congressional delegation requesting its membertake action to promote the termination of all contracts between BCSO and DHS for the detention facility.
STATEMENT BY MOVE THE MONEY-NYC MAY 17, 2021
submitted by Tom Gogan
photo by Ted Reich
New York has been shortchanged for decades. Long before the ten-year Federal Sequester, social and capital funding have been cut to the bone. Our city’s communities – especially New York’s Black, Brown and working-class immigrant neighborhoods -- have suffered terrible consequences.
For decades now, Congress has pumped up the Pentagon, showering the military and its industrial contractors with hundreds of billions of dollars, year after year. In fiscal 2021 we reached $740 billion in direct military spending on weapons, war and offshore military bases. We outspend the next ten countries’ biggest militaries combined! The only “security” being protected are the profits of giant weapons makers – not the American people. If anything, we have grown less secure.
Now the pandemic has starkly revealed how this mis-use of our tax dollars greatly worsens inequality and insecurity. Under-resourced public schools from k-12 and our once-proud CUNY system; inadequate public healthcare and public transit; dilapidated public and private housing; parks and playgrounds going to pot; food insecurity. The list goes on and on. This is not sustainable! And while the Pentagon grabs the lion’s share each and every year, too many of our veterans are left in the lurch, homeless and tossed aside.
It is clearly time to move the money from war and militarism into our communities, here and across the country. Our endless post-World War II wars mainly harm civilians – at home and abroad. Millions in other lands have been displaced, injured or killed. Here at home, too many children still go hungry and homeless. Too many elderly people are left alone. Too many communities are hurting.
The US Mayors Conference has raised the alarm, urging U.S. cities to hold in-depth hearings, to create a public record documenting the need. Passage of Resolution 747-A would put New York on the record in opposition to the out-of-control military spending that grabs the fiscal resources we so desperately require. Even the mimimal 10% Pentagon cut proposed in Congress last summer – 93 House Members voted for it -- would be a step in the right direction. Deeply cutting the annual $30 billion nuclear weapons budget would help even more. We thank the nearly two dozen City Council members already on the record in favor of 747-A. We urge every NY City Council Member to stand up, speak out and call on our entire NY Congressional delegation to work to reduce military spending and to redirect our tax dollars homeward. We need to move the money from war to our communities!
US House Reps Tlaib and Levin expose working conditions at Amazon, promote unionization and the PRO Act
by Fran k Hammer, Co-chair
If all had gone according to plan April 28th webinar would have been attended by all four SE Michigan US Congressional representatives – Debbie Dingell, Brenda Lawrence, Andy Levin and Rashida Tlaib. However, Lawrence and Dingell excused themselves to attend, in person, President Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress.
Nevertheless, Tlaib and Levin and union organizer Adam Obernauer made for a lively webinar attended by over 60 people about Amazon in Motown: Fighting for Unions, Safety, and the Living Wage. The global labor movement commemorates April 28th as Workers’ Memorial Day, a day to honor workers suffering injuries or fatalities in the workplace. Local Fox 2 reported on the webinar, which you can view in its entirety here. Here are excerpts
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib
We’re not a city that backs down when it comes to supporting union organizing
“Last year I started working with Amazon workers at the Romulus distribution center who reached out to me and Debbie Dingell in regard to unacceptable working conditions during the onset of the pandemic. Things got worse – not only morale but public safety issues and how an “us vs them” approach was implemented by management.
"Employees did not have access to PPE’s or sanitizing supplies, were not properly screened on their way into work, had no time to wash their hands or use the bathroom, and were still held to the same stringent productivity quotas, driving people to conditions that were just immoral.
"Amazon denied the claims made by the workers, even though we had more than a dozen coming to us about the conditions. I’m committed to making sure that Amazon is going to be held accountable, no matter all the folks in power at the city level who try to defend them or try to protect them, which is what they do. We’re not a city that backs down when it comes to supporting union organizing.”
Congressman Andy Levin
We will take on Amazon with bullhorns and sneakers at the State Fair. Let’s get ready for the fight here
“The workers in Bessemer [Alabama] didn’t just do an incredibly brave thing by trying to form a union there – they launched a global movement of Amazon workers.
"When I went down there to talk to those workers, it was like some dystopian science fiction novel: workers having to touch a package every 8 seconds, being monitored by cameras and bracelets. If you have too many minutes ‘off tasks’ in a week you can be fired and there may not be a person involved in firing you. You get a text or an email.
"The labor laws have to be better for workers to have a shot at organizing. The [current laws] are too rigged. That’s why I am a lead sponsor of the PRO Act. it would totally transform the set up for union elections. It’s going to take a lot of feet on the street and organizing on the ground – we will take on Amazon with bullhorns and sneakers at the State Fair. Let’s get ready for the fight here.”
Organizer Adam Obernauer (RWDSU)
There were 1000+ workers who stood together for a union [in Bessemer, Alabama] despite constant intimidation and coercion.
“If you work at an Amazon warehouse, you’re tracked with everything that you do. If you walk off your station, the clock starts and that time “off task” starts counting against you. If you use the bathroom - not during a specifically scheduled break - it works against you.
"We talked to many pregnant women in the Bessemer facility. They get written up for going to the bathroom too often, not by a manager but by an Amazon App on their phone. Workers often collapse at work. You’re constantly pushed to work faster. They call it ‘rate’ - how many boxes you pack per hour - and you’re rated against your own productivity. They drive you until you can’t go any faster. You break your body over time, then you can’t physically do the work anymore, then they hire more people. That’s the Amazon model. It’s heartbreaking.
"There were 1000+ workers who stood together for a union despite constant [involuntary] management meetings, constant attacks on their employment, intimidation and coercion. We’re challenging the elections. We are committed to organizing the workers in Bessemer.”
In the Pro Act, employer interference and influence in union elections would be forbidden. Company-sponsored meetings — with mandatory attendance — are often used to lobby against a union organizing drive. Such meetings would be illegal. Additionally, employees would be able to cast a ballot in union organizing elections at a location away from company property.
It would establish monetary penalties for companies and executives that violate workers' rights. Corporate directors and other officers of the company could also be held liable.
So-called right-to-work laws in more than two dozen states allow workers in union-represented workplaces to opt out of the union, and not pay union dues. At the same time, such workers are still covered under the wage and benefits provisions of the union contract. The PRO Act would allow unions to override such laws and collect dues from those who opt out, in order to cover the cost of collective bargaining and administration of the contract.
We have the most outspokenly pro-union president in modern history. We are in a four-headed crisis of global warming-structural racism-income & wealth inequality-healthcare. We need big change now. And unions are more popular than they have been in decades, and 48% of nonunion workers would like to have one.
Want to support Amazon workers' union rights? Join us!
US House Reps Tlaib & Levin expose
working conditions at Amazon, promote unionization and PRO Act
Email -- call 313-444-2560 -- follow us on fa
New "Improved Medicare for All Update Group"
Do you want to get regular, easy to understand updates on the Medicare for All/Single Payer movement? Our quarterly meetings will present updates on developments on the Federal and State levels, plus every meeting will have an educational presentation about varied aspects of this important movement. If you want to be on our list, email the group at email@example.com
Staking a Bold Public Service Claim
A review of The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis
(NY: W.W. Norton, 2018)
By Jay D. Jurie
Submitted to the CCDS Mobilizer June 5, 2021
Over the past several decades the belief held by transnational corporations, plutocrats, right-wing think tanks, and top-echelon government officials that laissez-faire capitalism, expressed as Neoliberalism, is the best possible economic system has held sway. Government has been pilloried as essentially the fount of all evil. But in the past couple of years this belief system has been crumbling.
This collapse is due in part to the undeniable understanding of government as indispensable to the functioning of a sound economy, as well as a reawakened awareness that government is essential to society as a whole. Michael Lewis recently wrote a necessary, important, and timely corrective to the narrative that government is the source of all that’s wrong in today’s society.
Gaining traction since the “Reagan Revolution,” Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America,” and most infamously, Grover Norquist’s desire to “drown government in the bath tub,” far-right government-bashing has succeeded in generating far-flung popular appeal. Although the administration of President Joe Biden has taken some tremendous strides in a different direction, it remains to be seen what lasting influence the disastrous presidency of Donald Trump will have. Even if Trump does not return to office, millions of his followers and like-minded others will agitate for a return to Neoliberalism and the politics of austerity, so time will tell.
While The Fifth Risk is not specifically about Trump, the damage wreaked by Trump and “Trumpism” provides an ever-present backdrop as Lewis unravels the larger pattern of devastation and simultaneously describes the enormous contributions of government agencies and programs to the public health, safety, and well-being.
On the left, the modern state is largely understood as neither genuinely pluralistic nor democratic, but as an instrument of class domination and rule. While a largely accurate perception, an aroused public must redefine this role and insist government serve as a vehicle to meet, serve, and protect legitimate public needs and aspirations. Richard Edwards has described the workplace as the “contested terrain” between capital and labor; and in its own way, government is similarly an arena in which class conflict must be waged.
The modern state is nearly a Gordian Knot in its complexity. While the worst aspects of government, such as the promotion of uneven development, militarism, or the prison-industrial complex, must be resisted and opposed, the better aspects, such as the public school system, social safety net programs, and environmental sustainability, must be supported and aggressively expanded.
Yet, this is where we are, and is a key part of what confronts all struggling for a better world. Highlighting the positive aspects of government is largely the focus of Lewis’ book, and the major part of what it has to offer. The writing is based upon interviews with sources he’s deemed relevant. Lewis depicts most of these individuals as highly creative and mission-driven, for whom government employment is its own reward, a calling, rather than a path to fame or fortune. In virtually all cases, they can be characterized as dedicated and imaginative policy entrepreneurs, rather than as simply rank-and-file employees.
It is from one of these, John MacWilliams, that the book gets its title. A Stanford and Harvard Law graduate, MacWilliams first worked on Wall Street before deciding he wanted to write a novel. He subsequently became an energy investor, and along with his partners, eventually sold his firm to JPMorgan Chase for $500 million. Then he was persuaded by a nuclear physicist acquaintance to take a job as chief risk officer for the Department of Energy (DOE).
By the time he was interviewed by Lewis, MacWilliams had left his DOE post. When asked by Lewis what he had viewed as the top risks confronted by DOE, MacWilliams first named the possibility of a nuclear accident. Another major risk was the safety of the electrical grid. MacWilliams identified the fifth risk as “project management.”
This is something of a misnomer, as project management usually refers to something more specific or narrow, whereas the other concerns and risks identified by MacWilliams were broader and ongoing in nature. These would certainly include the electrical grid. As another example, MacWilliams and Lewis discussed the clean-up of the Hanford, Washington, plutonium manufacturing site.
Beyond a specific project, there are all sorts of considerations involved with this clean-up, many of which will last for decades, if not centuries. More properly, the ranges of activities are programmatic, if not systematic, they are operational in nature, encompassing multiple projects. Lewis is not alone in making the point that government is often the only entity capable of addressing massive problems.
Still, as seen through the other examples in the book, the overall concern is well-placed. Important records of accomplishments and vital standards must be maintained and built upon. Innovation and data are other themes woven alongside the “fifth risk.” Lewis contends that substantial innovation occurs in government for several reasons, first, there is a large pot of money, and second, highly creative individuals are attracted to relatively more open-ended research opportunities rather than simply financial reward. Third, many see themselves as dedicated public servants, strongly motivated by the public good.
Over decades of time, huge amounts of data have been generated and amassed by government agencies, which has proven useful in furthering innovation, and in establishing patterns, such as in enhanced weather and climate forecasts. These are reasonable inferences and conclusions, although most of what Lewis has reported is based on his interviews.
According to various bio-sketches, Lewis is a non-fiction author and journalist, not an investigative reporter or an academic. This is both a strength and weakness. His narrative is engaging and accessible to a public audience, but is primarily anecdotal. Much of the writing is driven by quotations from these subjects and because no citations or references are provided, it’s impossible to determine whether these are verbatim or have been paraphrased.
Regardless of these shortcomings, The Fifth Risk represents a long overdue counterattack against forces intent on decimating the public sector. Lewis does not present a strategic battle plan, but establishes a front line of departure from which others must carry forward. As Paul Krugman has written in describing Biden’s proposed $6 trillion budget proposal, “the extra spending would make a huge difference to some economic sectors, notably renewable energy, and vastly improve some American lives, especially those of lower-income families with children.” Continually reconfigured to serve public purposes, the public sector is critical to the long-term public interest. If we want to talk about “project management” writ-large, government is likewise an essential foundation of the democratic socialist project.
MONDAY, JUNE 7, 2021
OPEN BORDERS: A PROGRESSIVE RESPONSE
TO THE IMMIGRATION CRISIS (a repost)
People migrate from one place to another for a variety of reasons. A good part of that migration has to do with international relations, national economies, and the increasingly globalized economy. Literally millions of people have moved from one geographic space to another in the twenty-first century, in most cases for reasons of physical fear or economic need. Two prominent causes that “push” people to leave their communities and homeland relate to “hybrid wars” and neoliberal globalization.
Hybrid wars refer to the long-term policies of imperial powers to systematically undermine political regimes that pursue policies and goals that challenge their global hegemony. Over long periods of time imperial powers have used force, covert operations, supporting pliant local elites, and funneling money to disrupt local political processes. If targeted countries still reject outside interference the imperial power uses force to overthrow recalcitrant governments. In the 1980s all these tactics were used by the United States to crush revolutionary ferment in Central America. Of course, the US hybrid war strategy has been a staple of United States policy in the region ever since President Franklin Roosevelt declared the policy of “The Good Neighbor.”
Neoliberalism refers to the variety of policies that rich capitalist countries and international institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization have imposed on debt-ridden poor countries. These policies require poor countries to cut back on public services, deregulate their economies, reduce tariffs that protect their own industries and agriculture, and in other ways insist that poor countries open their economies to foreign investment and trade penetration. The impacts of neoliberalism have been to impose austerity on largely marginalized populations. Their agriculture and industries have been undermined by subsidized agribusinesses from the Global North and global investors. Since the initiation of neoliberal policies in the 1970s gaps between rich and poor nations and rich and poor people within nations have grown all across the world, with a few exceptions such as China.
In sum, peoples everywhere have experienced the creation of repressive regimes and economic policies that have shifted vast majorities from modest survival to deep poverty. (Susan Jonas once wrote that the Guatemalan people lived more secure lives before the arrival of Spanish colonizers in the fifteenth century than ever since). The globalization of the economy, increased violence and repression within countries (largely involving United States interference), increasing income and wealth inequality and poverty, and the rise of repressive regimes everywhere, has led to massive emigration. Some estimates indicate that 37 million people left their home countries (some 45 countries) between 2010 and 2015 for humanitarian reasons.
One of the ironies of world history is that capital in the form of investments, trade, the purchase of natural resources, the globalization of production, and military interventions have been common and necessary features of capitalism since its emergence in the sixteenth century. But, paradoxically, and except for the global slave trade and selected periods of history, the movement of people has been illegal. (Sometimes branding migrants as “illegal” has been a device to cheapen their labor). The idea of national sovereignty has been used to justify categorizing some human migrants as “illegal.” If capital is and has been legal, the movement of people should be legal as well. It makes no sense, nor is it humane, to brand any human beings as “illegal.”
The Concept of Open Borders
This sketchy analysis of the “root causes” of emigration suggest the need to oppose imperialism, both in the form of hybrid wars and promotion of neoliberal economic policies. This traditional task of peace and anti-imperialist campaigns is ongoing and needs to continue. And the analyses of the deleterious effects of hybrid wars and neoliberalism should be linked to movements fighting against cruel and inhumane immigration policies in recipient countries, such as the United States. In addition, drawing on history, law, ethics, and a humane and socialist vision of the universality of humankind, progressives should expand on a conversation raised by some about the concept of “open borders.”
The idea of open borders has not been sufficiently discussed as the immigration crisis in the United States and Europe has unfolded. The core concept, with much room for discussion of implementation, suggests that, as a recently endorsed Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) statement calls for, there should be an “uninhibited transnational free movement of people….and a pathway to citizenship for all non-citizen residents.” The idea of open borders implies that no human being by virtue of her/his presence in any geographic space can be defined as “illegal” and that the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights apply to everyone, everywhere.
In a 2017 article Aisha Dodwell, Global Justice Now, wrote in defense of open borders (Aisha Dodwell, “7 Reasons Why We should Have Open Borders,” New Internationalist, November 29, 2017, https://newint.org/blog/2017/11/29/why-open-borders) . Among her arguments are the following:
-Borders are tools to separate the rich and powerful from the poor.
-Borders do not stop efforts to emigrate but exacerbate violence against already victimized people.
-Immigrants are erroneously blamed for declining employment and jobs when, in fact, it is the demonization of immigrants that divides workers from each other.
-Open borders would allow for emigres to return home when the brutal repressive and economic conditions that led them to flee were reduced.
-Open borders would lead to greater employment, increased earnings, rising demand for goods and services, and through income repatriation, more money sent back to families in countries the emigres fled. In short, open borders would be a stimulus for economic growth in both the country of origin and the host country of emigres.
-Open borders would mean the equalization of the rights of people to emigrate; thus avoiding the current policies that allow for immigration of certain populations (such as skilled workers) and not others.
-Historically, open borders have always existed for corporations, banks, the super-rich, tourists and other select populations who are beneficiaries of the global capitalist system.
Earlier Roque Planes, Latino Voices, (“16 Reasons Why Opening Our Borders Makes More Sense Than Militarizing Them,” Huffpost, September 2,
2014, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/open-borders_n_5737722?guccounter ) adds to the list of reasons justifying open borders. Planes quotes an immigration expert who has argued that, with glaring exceptions such as Asians, open borders existed until the 1920s. “‘Legally’ meant something very different then than it does now. At the time, the United States accepted practically everyone who showed up with few restrictions other than the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and a brief health examination. The foreign-born share of the population, 12.9 percent, is lower today than it was during the entire period from 1860 to 1920, according to data published by the Brookings institution.”
Planes posited arguments pertaining to open borders:
-Today capital and goods flow across borders but not always labor.
-Rich people have the privilege of open borders.
-the US immigration system is broken.
-Open borders within the European Union, while increasingly volatile politically, did not lead to the collapse of European economies.
-‘Illegal’ immigration is a direct resultant of US policies. Planes sites overthrowing governments, financing militaries in poor countries, promoting policies that destroy domestic agriculture in poor countries, and, he could have added, the war on drugs.
-Open borders increase the possibility of immigrants returning to their homelands.
-Immigrants, in the main, are not the cause of stagnant wages in the United States. Using anti-immigrant and racist policies divert attention from the primary causes of economic exploitation.
-The broken immigration system has provided huge profits for the prison/industrial complex and large budgets for law enforcement agencies.
As to the last point, Todd Miller, Empire of Borders: The Expansion if the U.S. Border Around the World, Verso Books, 2019, argues that United States policy is “pushing out the border,” such that allies tighten their own borders to serve the needs of expanding imperial control. In addition, by pressuring other countries to tighten their own border security, the U.S. is expanding its border security apparatus, to include new special forces and expansion of State Department and other agency activities
A reviewer of Miller’s book, (Cora Currier, Pushing out the Border: How the U.S. is Waging a Global War on Migration,” Portside, August 4, 2019, https://portside.org/2019-08-04/pushing-out-border-now-us-waging-global-war-migration) quotes Miller who writes that U.S. Customs and Border Protection “has trained new patrol and homeland security units for Kenyan, Tanzanian and Ugandan borders.” The reviewer points out from Miller’s study that “…the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can be found assisting border projects in the Philippines, the Dominican Republic, India, Poland, Turkey, and Vietnam.” In addition the Border Patrol has offices in Mexico and Canada and a presence in Puerto Rico to oversee the Caribbean. Quoting Miller: “Hundreds of millions in U.S. funds have flowed to Central American borders to turn them into U.S.-style defensible zones.” And soldiers from around the world are flown to the U.S. southwest to gain experience in border control. Clearly, Miller is describing a growing military/corporate/immigration complex. The ideological glue justifying this massive enterprise are claims about national sovereignty and presumed racist threats that people fleeing repression and starvation represent.
What To Do?
Along with the panoply of proposals for immigration reform, campaigns to combat racism, and the movements to provide sanctuary to desperate migrant peoples, progressives need to look at the history/ theory/ and practice of anti-immigrant policies. A central conclusion that needs to be raised is to call and work for open borders as suggested by the DSA resolution on open borders.
In sum central elements of a truly radical and humane response to the immigration crisis in the United States and the world should include:
-Increased efforts to challenge imperialism everywhere in both its political/military dimensions and its intrusive neoliberal economic policies
-Rejection of the idea that people can be deemed “illegal.”
-Mobilizing around the concept of opening borders to people fleeing repression and economic deprivation, similar to the U.S immigration policies of the early part of the twentieth century.
-Using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a guide to law and practice all across the globe.
-Revitalizing programs of humanitarian assistance on a global basis including revisiting the possible value of instituting economic regulations of global capitalism that were once proposed in the United Nations, referred to as “The New International Economic Order.”
-Work to dismantle the military/corporate/immigration complex.
While these larger demands will be difficult to achieve, working for them and articulating a vision of the world where human beings are not deemed illegal will add clarity to the reasons behind more modest demands for reform.
Hard Ball and Little Heroes Press – books for activist children
Hard Ball Press
By Marcia Newfield
“If we can show children how a caterpillar transforms into a butterfly, can’t we show them how they can transform the world into a more just and a peaceful community?”–Ann Berlak
“Jake and his lawyer were afraid that the arbitration judge was going to rule in favor of the company, not for the union. At that moment, the union lawyer opened the door and waved to several children to come into the hearing room...they were from the shelter and wanted to speak for Jake. Another group of supporters was waiting in the lobby with signs.”
Is this story taken from a newspaper article? A community board newsletter? Neither...it is a pivotal moment in a bilingual picture book for children, Good Guy Jake/Buen Chico Jake, by Mark Torres, published by Tim Sheard, founder and editor of Hard Ball & Little Heroes Press. Jake, a kindhearted sanitation worker who picks up broken toys that he sees on his route and fixes for shelter children, is fired for collecting items from the trash, a violation of city code. His union is defending him.
Provocative questions are posed at the end of the book, such as: is it appropriate to break the law, even for a good cause? Do you think children in school should have a union? What problem would you take to your union representative? Colorful illustrations by Yanna Murashko and flowing translations by Madelin Arroyo make it seamlessly realistic. That was the intention of the author, who serves as general counsel to a NYC Teamster union local.
Like Torres, all the authors of the Hard Ball and Little Heroes list are working from their experience in the field. Their books are their distillations of the best of what is and what could be. Ann Berlak, a social justice teacher used her conversations with children about the hardships of our times as the inspiration for Joelito’s Big Decision/La Gran Decision de Joelito, whose third grade hero leads his family to give up their Friday night dinners at fast food MacMann’s to support his friend’s parents who work there and are demonstrating to raise the minimum wage. A similar situation occurs in Jimmy’s Carwash Adventure/La Aventura de Jaime en el Autolavado, where an even younger (and wealthier) child is motivated by the kindness of a carwash worker to sneak his little red pedal car out of his two-car garage to join his soccer friend and his carwash worker dad in their protest. Victor Narro, the author, is a labor educator and expert on immigrant rights and low wage workers. The illustrations by Yana Murashko depict a multiracial crowd of supporters.
Trends in books for children are as cyclical and various as those in fashion, with interpretations and theories to match. In the 50s it was debated whether children should be exposed to harsh realities, death, and war. The Brothers Grimm tales are ghastly enough, but rationalized as giving youngsters permission and practice in exorcising their fantasies. Dr. Seuss and Maurice Sendak explained the world with humor. The December 14th, 2020 New Yorker, features an article by Joan Acocella about a beloved Italian fantasist, Gianni Rodari, who won the Hans Christian Anderson Award and is renowned for inserting a surrealist twist to his tales.
It’s not unusual that children are intuitively empathic and aware of poverty, protests, and injustice. It’s just that most publishers don’t want to dwell on it.
THE WISDOM OF SHARING
Hard Ball founder and editor, Tim Sheard, went in the direction of nurturing the labor consciousness of children when he initiated the Little Hero series in 2014 with Manny and the Mango Tree/Many y el árbol de mango (Ali R. & Valerie Bustamante; illustrated by Monica Lunot-Kuker; translator Mauricio Niebla). Manny and his friend Maria organize the children in their apartment building to persuade the super to reverse his prohibition and let them eat mangoes from a tree they have nourished all year. In this case the parents are aware that the children’s campaign may cause trouble ,since some families in the building are undocumented.
In Hats Off For Gabbie/ ¡Aplausos para Gaby! (marivir montebon, author; Yana Podriez, illustrator; Mauricio Niebla, translator), the heroine defies the convention of banning girls from playing on a baseball team. The messages are admittedly didactic, starting with the book most suitable for the youngest children, The Cabbage that Came Back/El Repollo que Volvió (Stephen and Rafael Pearl; illustrator Rafael Pearl; translator Sara Pearl), that retells a Chinese folk tale that preaches the wisdom of sharing versus hoarding. Brilliant illustrations add to the allure and pleasure these books provide. Daniel Camacho brings a rich Mexican muralist style to Joelito’s Decision; In Margarito’s Forest/El Bosque de Don Margarito , illustrator Allison Havens worked with the children of the SaqJa village in central Guatemala to reproduce Mayan textiles and plants that enhance the true story that author Andy Carter relates of the reclamation of this mountain area by elders who followed traditional ways. This story of the Mayan cosmovision even has excerpts in the native K’iche language.
There are currently ten titles aimed at children four to twelve with three more planned for 2021. Each book is bilingual (Spanish/English). When we know that forty percent of public school students in New York City are from Spanish-speaking backgrounds, it makes pedagogic sense to break the monolinguistic tendencies in the U.S. If you want future generations to have a chance to internalize the values of grassroots power and justice, spread the word about Hard Ball and Little Heroes; they are available in paperback, hardback and ebooks.
Hard Ball Press hasn’t forgotten adults. In addition to Sheard’s own Lenny Moss Mysteries, nine novels based on his twenty years as a critical care nurse, that feature union hospital steward custodian Lenny Moss, Hard Ball publishes fiction and nonfiction of interest to workers. One of its 2020 titles is The Art of Organizing: The Boston Museum of Fine Arts Union Drive by Michael Raysson, a man who spent sixteen years as an organizer of guards at the Boston Fine Arts Museum; now retired, Raysson remembers and recounts every campaign, person, and struggle, including one where the union needed to break away from its national union’s betrayal. It is a memoir that can function as a guidebook for seasoned as well as new organizers.
Hard Ball Press is a treasure trove for labor activists; I consider Sheard a visionary. He is also co-chair of the National Writers Union NYC chapter, where he holds workshops and readings for writers. During the pandemic, in addition to publishing memoirs of front-line workers, he has taken up guitar and composed songs to honor and comfort workers. ─New York Labor History Association Work History News
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The Saving Lives Campaign and Global Health Partners are building a broad-based, urgent drive to supply these vital medical tools to Cuba. The country has a shortage of 20 million syringes vital to the goal of vaccinating the entire Cuban population against Covid. We are committed to raising $100,000 this month to start rushing syringes to Cuba.
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Over the past year alone, Cuba has sent 3,700 health workers, in 52 international medical brigades, to 39 countries overwhelmed by the pandemic. Cuba’s international medical brigades have treated patients and saved lives for the past 15 years in 53 countries confronting natural disasters and serious epidemics, such as the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
Cuba has developed five internationally recognized candidate COVID-19 vaccines, with two in Phase III clinical trials as of April 2021. Cuba has 11.3 million people, but plans to produce 100 million doses of vaccine, to meet its commitment to sharing its low-cost vaccines with poor countries in the developing world.
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James Street is alive with the sound of jazz!
In 1930‘s Pittsburgh, Dorothy wants to dance the Lindy Hop. She finds the perfect partner in a young boy named George. They are having the time of their life…until the police storm the dance hall and shut it down for interracial dancing...with their bully clubs.
Dorothy has faced racial prejudice all her life, and she’s not giving up on the dance, while George comes face to face with his own white privilege. He must choose between going home or joining Dorothy in the fight to keep the dance alive.
Celebrate with Author Nicole McCandless in our online party Saturday, April 10, 3 pm (EST), email firstname.lastname@example.org for the Zoom link!
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