Category Archives: Green Strategy

First Post at Hot Indie News!

Today marks my first post for the NYC-based, Hot Indie News megablog, curated by award-winning independent media producer and Green Party/Black Lives Matter activist James Lane.

It’s a recap of a Left Forum talk by Jane McAlevey, who everyone should know about!

Jane McAlevey puts the “movement” in “labor movement”. She worked for unions for a decade, including four years in a “right to work” state (aka “right to work for less”) helping hospital workers win victories for themselves and their patients in an era characterized by concessions to the bosses. McAlevey’s memoir/gonzo case study anthology Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell) (Verso) was reissued in paperback just over a year ago this past May, and she participated in a panel a couple of weeks ago at the annual Left Forum conference where she outlined a recent paper for the Socialist Register and announced the working title of her next book — No Shortcuts.

If you are not familiar with McAlevey’s work, over the last few years she has become one of the Left’s most incisive commentators on labor and grassroots struggles. By pursuing a PhD and publishing her memoir, McAlevey has translated her credibility and experiences as a field organizer into respect as a scholar and strategist from both academia and popular Left media outlets (Behind The News on Pacifica radio, GritTV with Laura Flanders, The Real News, In These Times, The Nation). Listening to or reading McAlevey is exciting because she talks about the Left “building power” and “winning” in ways that are ambitious but not at all sentimental or sounding like bravado. McAlevey talks fast, thinks sharp and is relentless in her mission to stop the Left from repeating the same mistakes of the last 35 years.

Read more at HotIndieNews.com…

As the teachers walked the picket lines, this profession dominated by women was demonized (and continues to be, with the anti-teachers-union movie Won’t Back Down in theaters as I write). Both major political parties supported wage cuts and “accountability” in the form of standardized testing and less job security. There was no public outcry as there was when, for example, Susan G. Komen for the Cure™ yanked its funding from Planned Parenthood. This, despite the fact that some 81 percent of elementary and middle-school teachers are women. Gloria Steinem did send a glowing endorsement of the strike, identifying herself as a co-founder of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, but prominent feminist blogs gave little or no space to the strike specifics.

On September 30, California governor Jerry Brown vetoed a historic bill, the second in the country after New York, that would have given domestic workers labor protections similar to those enjoyed by most other workers. Domestic work has long been a site of feminist analysis as well as organizing, yet even in 2012, the year of the “war on women” as Democratic politicians reminded us in fundraising emails, a Democratic governor felt safe vetoing protections for mostly-women workers. “What will be the economic and human impact on the disabled or elderly person and their family of requiring overtime, rest and meal periods for attendants who provide 24 hour care?” Brown’s statement asked, after he lauded their “noble endeavor.” “What would be the additional costs and what is the financial capacity of those taking care of loved ones in the last years of life?”

Domestic workers, Brown seemed to say, are less important than the people they care for. Feminists know that story all too well.

via Trickle-Down Feminism | Dissent Magazine. Tip from Doug Henwood’s Facebook feed.

Space Oddity

BAR: “Fletcherism and Fakery: Guarding Obama’s Left Flank”

The great fallacy, here, is that Democratic presidents in general, and Obama in particular, somehow create “space” for progressive activism. Movements create space for themselves, by acting. Only charlatans preach that progressive movements must install preferred personalities from the menus of the ruling circles before they can find space to move.

Games Democrats Play #423: Everything is Secondary to the Primary

When I introduce friends to my work in Green politics, they often wonder why it has been tough for Greens to make gains against the two parties when our platform is so close to what people desperately want to see in government. This week provides a great example.

The Fort Greene Association here in the People’s Republic of Brooklyn was going to co-sponsor a June 4th debate between congressional candidates Hakeem Jeffries and Charles Barron. Jeffries and Barron are seeking the Democratic Party nomination which, in the conventional wisdom of Brooklyn politics, will essentially decide the election.

The corporate-funded Jeffries is the front-runner, but he and Barron both are challenged by the internationally renowned eco-activist Colin “aka No Impact Man” Beavan, who has secured the Green Party ballot line and will appear on the general election ballot. Beavan’s campaign convinced the Fort Greene folks that it was in the interest of democracy that all of the candidates for Congressional District 8, including Beavan and the presumptive Republican nominee, participate in the debate.

The good people of Fort Greene agreed, but Jeffries immediately bailed on the debate, saying opening the doors to other parties might “confuse” his prospective voters since these candidates were not participating in the Democratic Party’s primary. Nice estimation of your constituents’ intelligence, Jeffries.

But there’s more! See, the co-sponsor of this “great debate” was none other than the New York Times’ own “The Local” blog, helmed by longtime BK hack Gersh Kuntzman. Kuntzman promised hard-hitting questions, but The Local has withdrawn sponsorship of the debate, warning that including more candidates somehow…threatened democracy?

And herein lies the lesson: In a one-party, machine town like Brooklyn, Democrats and their cronies in the media use the primary as an excuse to exclude alternative choices. When a Green (or anyone else, really) tries to participate, they’re told to wait out the primary .

But after the primary season is over, the Democrat can just stonewall until the election because the press assumes the Dem will win anyway. The press, neighborhood associations, civic groups…they just accept it as a foregone conclusion and move on to other things.

See the bait-and-switch? That’s why Beavan wanted in on this debate and that’s why FGA widened participation. Jeffries’ campaign says they will address other candidates after the primary, but…will they? And why should voters have to wait until after some magic date to hear what other candidates have to say? This isn’t like the presidential campaign, where the partisan primaries started last year.

It’s also noteworthy that Jeffries, himself, is technically a third party candidate since he has secured the Working Families Party endorsement.

Now keep in mind, Greens face these kinds of shenanigans every year in local campaigns across the country. This is what we go through just to get in the door, fighting against political bigotry that has nothing to do with what voters want, or who is the best candidate. No party should be able to coast to the finish line at the voters’ expense.

A Party Of The Left Is Essential

In the above Democracy Now! segment that attempts to provide some context for the Occupy Wall Street movement, Professor Dorian Warren extols the brilliance of Left Populism during the Great Depression and New Deal years, but coolly omits the role of socialist parties, communist parties, and anarchist organisations who –in conjunction with radical trade-unions (between which there was significant membership overlap)– provided the infrastructure, popular education, and grassroots media that provided a backbone for the “uprisings” Warren celebrates.

The way he tells it, farmers and factory workers plucked the idea of mass mobilisation from the air and went on to pressure for New Deal reforms. Wow…if only!

Warren also gives a pass to contemporary union leaders who have “been making some of the same critiques (as the Wall Street occupiers) for a long time but have not gotten the leverage politically or economically as the protesters have, in terms of capturing our imagination.”

First, despite the impressive grassroots fundraising efforts of the Occupation movement, the money at the disposal of unions has dwarfed anything else in what we call “the Left” for a very long time. So it’s unhelpful to talk about a relative lack of economic traction.

As for political traction, that comes down to union leaders choosing to squander their significant resources on backing corporate-friendly Democrat candidates who just were not that into workers.

Union leaders were willing to back Democrats just to keep “a seat at the table”, even if that table had nothing for them. The DNC has always known this and, since American unions have been largely phobic toward building real 3rd party alternatives, the Democrats continue to take workers for granted and cater to finance.

And let’s take a moment to point out that, during the boom years, many unions opposed initiatives popular among the #OWS movement, such as single payer health care/Medicare For All.

Why would a union leader oppose such a patently humane and effective program for working people? Because then the *union* would have one less benefit to offer members and, perhaps most importantly, the unions’ own health insurance companies were cash cows for cronies and retired leaders salivating for sinecures.

It comes down to this: radical, competitive parties of the Left are necessary to keep both Democrats *and* the leaders of labor institutions from giving the game away. As long as elected Democrats fear no challenge from the Left, they will continue to take the ecological and economic crises for granted.

When FDR said the country needed to “make him” pass reforms, he wasn’t talking about the power of a PAC with an email list. The New Deal passed because Washington DC faced real pressure from the Left in the streets, on the shop floor, *and at the ballot box* — from local elections on up.

And as long as unions have no parties to the Left of Democrats to back, the urge to stay in that abusive relationship will continue, and the DNC will use its influence to ensure the most corporate-friendly factions stay in leadership positions within labor.

A party that is unashamedly of the Left is only one piece of the puzzle, but it is a critical piece, and we have too long been in denial about its necessity.