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Tidbits - May 21, 2015 - Victories in Philadelphia, Los Angeles; Third Party Builders; The Nakba; David Letterman Show and whiteness; Educators Make a Difference; more....

Reader Comments- Progressive Wins: Philadelphia / Los Angeles; Third Party Builders Meet; What U.S. Really Owes Black America; Thirty Years After MOVE Bombing; The Nakba: The Intentional, Deliberate Dispossession of Palestinians; Remembering Guy Carawan; David Letterman Show and whiteness; Educators and School Staff Make a Difference; Mike Brown Would Have Been 19; Announcements- Greece Solidarity 4 All U.S. Tour; Left Forum 2015 Today in History-Post-War Strike Wave

Tidbits - Reader Comments and Announcements - May 21, 2015,Portside

Re: Unprecedented Coalition Leads To Progressive Wins In Philadelphia  /  Los Angeles Lifts Its Minimum Wage to $15 Per Hour

These victories by progressives should give us hope here in Tennessee that grass roots efforts CAN mean that our public schools and teachers and the children in their care CAN win and parents will be able to grow and develop COMMUNITY schools and not be ripped off by charter schools or Voucher programs. YEA for this coalition, the Working Families Party!!!

Mary Leila Greene Wilson
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: Third Party Builders Meet in Chicago - Two Reports

In response  to some of the issues raised in  the two reports on the the meeting of the third party builders in Chicago. While Dan LaBotz's report was primarily a promotional piece,  Ethan Young's report was an interesting critique, most of which I agree with. Third party initiatives are counter-productive until there is a real, organized class basis for success.  Although there were lots of talented and sincere activists at the conference they do not represent a significant, mobilizable constituency at this point in time nor do any of them command significant resources (human and financial) or have a convincing strategy of building such a constituency and acquiring such resources. Most of them in fact count on the envisioned third party to build an organized mass base. (fetishizing electoral activity).  But this gets the process backwards.

A significant electoral party can only arise on the conscious behest of an already organized mass base with a coherent class outlook. A coherent class outlook involves an explicit understanding of whose class interests your are  promoting.   Without this coherent mass base you have the recent failed left efforts, The  Peace and Freedom Party, the Labor Party, the New Party , etc which has marked recent history. Further the Green Party, which claims to electorally articulate the vision of the environmental movement, remains marginal because the environmental movement, as real and potentially powerful as it is, has failed to embrace a class perspective

Electoral activity is sometimes useful and practical for the left, even in our present weak and disorganized state.  But this doesn't necessitate a national electoral party. In fact a dogmatic commitment to such a party can inhibit useful electoral activity. The quarrel over supporting Bernie Sanders is a case in point.  For the left to commit its meager resources to an all out national effort for Bernie seems foolish but in certain localities , under the right conditions and local forces available, campaigning for Sanders certainly would make sense in building sustainable left organization and advancing  broad socialist politics. This is then a tactical question, not the fundamental issue of principle that the dogmatic denouncers of Sanders claim. For example the great majority of the Chicago left was correct in the 1980's supporting the mayoral campaign of Harold Washington, even though he ran as life long Democrat and remained opposed to organizing a separate electoral party around his candidacy.  Cleaning the Klan out of the  police force, and from other city agency's, and breaking many of the remaining Jim Crow era practices of city government, was part of the fruit of Harold's victory, and a necessary step in the not yet realized goal of full democratic rights for Chicago's African-Americans. Defending De Blasio and NY politicians which support him in upcoming elections could be necessary to sustain the shift of the political center of gravity to the left in NY, which is useful to us, even though there is much to be criticized in De Blasio's program, and this defense will certainly not take the form of a new electoral party in the near future.

In brief I think that the recent conference in Chicago will be successful in so far as it strengthens local  efforts to use electoral campaigning as a tool to shift the center of gravity to the left, fighting on left issues and growing local left organization. However,  building a national left structure capable of contending with the Democrats or Republicans in national elections is not possible in this conjuncture of class organization and forces, and spending energy and resources on this will only lead to failure and demoralization.

Mel Rothenberg

Re: 40 Acres and a Mule Would Be at Least $6.4 Trillion Today-What the U.S. Really Owes Black America

My family told me it was really, "40 acres, a mule and a barrel of shot"

Sandra Bacote

Re: Thirty Years After MOVE Bombing: What Has Law Enforcement Learned

Lest we believe that the militarization of police forces in the US began with Ferguson, MO in 2015...the story of the MOVE bombing, 30 years later. We must learn our history.

Carol J. Kraemer
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

Re: The Nakba: The Intentional, Deliberate and Systematic Dispossession of the Palestinians

This is no secret to us elders but this is a story that must be shared with our young and fearless freedom fighters.

Curtis Muhammad
Posted on Portside's Facebook page


This is one sided propaganda and very bad history.  The 1947-48 war was a nasty one with numerous atrocities on both sides, but there would have been no war had the Arabs agreed to a peaceful partition as did the Jews.  It was the Arabs who rejected partition and began a war that they said would drive the Jews into the sea--with all the terrible consequences that followed, including numerous massacres of Jews by Arabs that Dr. Hatem pretends didn't exist as well as the massacres of Arabs by Jews that s/he highlights here. Pretending that the Palestinian Arabs were simply the innocent victims of the evil Jews may make the Palestinians feel good, but it is in fact a retrospective denial of an attempted genocide (as well as a justification for a prospective future genocide should Hamas and their ilk ever succeed) and it has nothing to do with either reality or leftist principles

Stan Nadel

Re: Remembering Guy Carawan

Heard the name but not the story! Beautiful!

Danny Garringer
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

David Letterman Show and whiteness

I along with millions of others watched David Letterman's last show. I will leave it for others to comment on the show. Over the years Letterman broke ground, and often pilloried the right. What bothered me about the final show were the end credits. I never realized how white the show production crew was, how unlike the multi-cultural and multi-national population of our country.

I worked with musicians in the CBS Orchestra from the time the show started on CBS until 2010 - they are the greatest! I worked with the music department, the talent and payroll departments of the show from my vantage point as a representative of musicians when I worked for Local 802 of the AFM.

I admired the talent, both actors and actresses, performers, and especially the musical talent that were booked onto the show.

Still when the end credits rolled and there were the photo images of the staff of the show and World Wide Pants (the show producer) I could not get over how white the staff was, and that the show producers had no problem showing off that whiteness.

I was thrilled to see lots of women in the control booth, as sound and lighting technicians, as well as in the makeup and costume departments. While there were photo images of younger women, alongside male members in their crafts, there were hardly any photos of African American, Latino, Asian or Native Americans working in the traditional stage crafts.

At a time when broadcast television is facing viewership decline and the emergence of new broadcast technologies, I also feel that for broadcast and all television to be relevant, the content has to reflect the diversity of the people of our country; but the behind the scenes workforce also has to reflect this diversity.

For unions to make headway in the broadcast and communications industry, they also have to fight for jobs for those who have been frozen out of the work force due to economic inequality and racism.

Jay Schaffner

Educators and School Staff Make a Difference in the Lives of Children - They Need to be Heard

These results are troubling, but not surprising

credit: Badass Teachers Association (BATs)

Every day, educators are making a difference in children's lives-and they do it despite staggering obstacles. Recently, the AFT collaborated with the Badass Teachers Association to survey educators on how their working conditions affect them, and the results show that the obstacles they face at work are taking more of a toll than ever.
Ninety-six percent of the educators who took our survey say they're physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the day, and 87 percent say the demands of their job interfere with family life. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
After seeing the results of this survey, I am convinced that we need a scientific study on how work is affecting teachers and school employees' health and well-being. Click here to ask the Department of Education to take on this important research.
Teaching and caring for our students is a tough job-it means being brilliant, inspirational, loving, tough and compliant, all day, every day. Anyone who goes into education welcomes this challenge, but with the advent of high-stakes testing, the spike in income inequality and the cuts to public education funding, the pressure on teachers has been immense.
In the United States, there's never been an in-depth and broad study of educators' working conditions and stressors, and the accompanying health effects. So, the AFT worked with classroom teachers and created a voluntary survey to begin to scratch the surface of understanding stress and its health effects for teachers and other school employees. In less than two weeks, we got nearly 32,000 responses-and they were heartbreaking. We need a real scientific study on the implications of workplace stress on educators. Will you join me in asking the Department of Education to collaborate with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health on a study as soon as possible?
Nearly half of respondents are no longer as enthusiastic about their profession as they were when they started. Educators who took the survey reported that some of their biggest stressors were mandated curriculum, standardized tests, and the adoption of new initiatives without proper training or professional development. After seeing these survey results, I'm not exaggerating when I say that high-stakes testing has made teaching 100 percent more stressful.
I imagine that most workers can relate to feeling stressed at work, but this survey also shows how far from the truth the stereotypes of educators are. Jobs in public education are not, like many Americans believe, low-stress jobs that end when the dismissal bell rings.
In spite of all of the increased pressure and stress, educators are not giving up. Just 14 percent say they are very likely to seek employment outside the field of education within the next year. But we need to better understand this problem and tackle it head-on before things get worse. A scientific study will help us better understand how our country's entire education infrastructure can support teachers and school staff in the challenging but crucial work of educating our children.
Yesterday, I sent a letter to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and NIOSH Director John Howard asking them to mount a scientific study on working conditions for educators. The AFT is also calling for congressional hearings on this important issue. Click here to join us as we demand action. 
In solidarity,

Randi Weingarten
P.S. If you are an educator or school staff and haven't taken the anonymous survey yet, it's not too late to add your voice. Take the survey now.

Yesterday, Mike Brown would have turned 19 years old.

His life still matters. #BlackLivesMatter

Greece "Solidarity 4 All" U.S. Tour

Coming to a city near you!
U.S. Tour with Christos Giovanopoulos, Founding Member Of Greece's Solidarity For All Movement

A founding member of Solidarity for All, Christos Giovanopoulos lives in Athens. He is responsible for the international solidarity movement. He holds an MA in Film and TV theory and a political economy degree and he has worked as a visiting lecturer teaching Media and Critical Theory in the University of Westminster, London between 2007-2011. He is a chief editor in the radical left publishing house A/synechia and co-editor of Democracy Under Construction: from the Streets to the Squares.
Solidarity for All  is an organization that identifies and supports the many social solidarity initiatives that have been established in Greece as a part of the resistance to the harsh austerity policies that have led to a humanitarian crisis. People have taken matters into their own hands through grassroots activism and local collective action. The many and varied social solidarity initiatives include social pharmacies, social medical clinics, social kitchens, social groceries, markets without middlemen,  a social collective of mental health professionals, social solidarity drop-in centers, time banks (sharing skills and time), olive oil producers sharing olive oil, the "potato movement," where farmers trade directly with consumers, cutting out the supermarkets. Read here about Solidarity4All

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(One summary e-mail a day, you can change anytime, and Portside is always free.)

For ongoing information about events in different cities, go to the tour's Facebook page.   And don't forget to promote the tour by "liking" the page!  The tour is especially timely at a moment when Greece is urgently  calling for  international solidarity  in the face of unrelenting demands for disastrous austerity.

Austerity Is Killing Us: What the U.S. Is Learning from Greece's Fight - New York - May 26

Frances Fox Piven in Conversation with Christos Giovanopoulos

SJC Student Ambassadors-Brooklyn Campus
245 Clinton Ave, Brooklyn, NY

Sponsored by The Nation, St. Joseph's and AKNY. Co-sponsored by Verso, Jacobin, Campaign for Peace and Democracy. This event is free and open to the public. Group drinks to follow, bar TBA.

Left Forum 2015 - Full Conference Schedule - 400 Panels & Events

See Full Conference Schedule Here
(Click Sessions and Events to see All 400 Panels, Workshops, and Events)


LEFT FORUM 2015  --  May 29th-31st:

John Jay College of Criminal Justice,
The City University of New York
524 W. 59th Street, NYC --


Today in History - Massive post-World War II Strike Wave

On this day in 1945, the US government took over the bituminous coal mines to try to break a six-week miners' strike. The miners held out, forcing the government to grant workers' demands which had been unacceptable to the operators. The government had to stay in control of the mines for many months.

Jeremy Brecher on the huge, often unofficial, strikes which swept the US during and after World War II, despite the existence of union-enforced no strike deals. (

"With the end of the war, the expected strike wave began. In September 1945, the first full month after the Japanese surrender, the number of work days lost to strikes doubled. It doubled again in October.39 Forty-three thousand oil workers struck in twenty states on September 16.40 Two hundred thousand coal miners struck on September 21 to support the supervisory employees' demand for collective bargaining. Forty-four thousand Northwest lumber workers, seventy thousand Midwest truck drivers, and forty thousand machinists in San Francisco and Oakland all struck. East Coast longshoremen struck for nineteen days, flat glass workers for 102 days, and New England textile workers for 133 days.41 These were but a prelude to the great strikes of 1945 and 1946."