The Labor Party of America – An Interview With Mark Dudzic


In 1996, thousands of trade unionists and activists decided to build an independent party. Why did the effort fail? Derek Seidman interviewed Mark Dudzic, who became the national organizer of the Labor Party after the death of Tony Mazzocchi in 2002.

I love this quote.

The fact remains that only the labor movement has the resources and organizing capacity to launch and maintain an independent class-based political movement. The launching of a labor party remains the great unfinished business of the US working class.

Read the Interview: What Happened to the Labor Party? | Jacobin

You can also follow this link to documents of the Labor Party, including their platform. It gives a glimpse into what American politics could (and should) be like.

Daddy, What’s Socialism?

My ten-year-old daughter asked me this question over breakfast one morning in Chicago. We were in the city for Independence Day weekend. I was attending the Socialism 2015 conference, and she and her mom came along to enjoy some sights, do a little shopping and see a show in town.

In our household, political subjects come up often in casual conversation. Our daughter has been no stranger to discussions about social justice, war and peace, union advocacy, and more. When she takes an interest, we try to answer her questions as directly and honestly as we can. Oddly, this simple question had never come up. Even more oddly, I found myself at something of a loss for a simple answer.

Being in a hotel filled with Socialists (along with no small number of Deadheads, in town for the last concerts at Soldier Field), we went looking for resources. We visited the Haymarket Books room, a decent sized hall that had been set up as a temporary radical book store for the weekend. Although there was an entire table of children’s books, none of them really addressed the question directly and succinctly. The folks staffing the room were kind and attentive, and seemed a bit puzzled themselves that “Socialism 101 For Kids” wasn’t among their offerings.

This series of articles is my attempt to answer our daughter’s question. I hope that it will spark some discussion, and perhaps lead us, and other parents, to additional resources that we may have overlooked.

We’ll eventually get to a discussion of the history of Socialist thought and struggle, the distinctions between terms like Socialism, Marxism, Anarchism and Communism, and also some of the most common criticisms of Socialism. For this article, though, I’ll stick to a fairly brief and straightforward answer to the main question, written from a Socialist point-of-view.

So, what is Socialism?


Socialism means that we all work together to take care of each other, so that everyone has what they need.

In a Socialist world, everyone would have a decent place to live, enough food to eat, clean water to drink, clean air to breathe, medical attention when they need it, warm clothes for the cold weather, a good education, and the ability to develop to their fullest potential. Under Socialism, everyone would be free and equal regardless of gender, race, nationality or religion. Everyone would be safe from oppression (being kept down or treated unfairly), exploitation (being taken advantage of) and war. This is the Socialist ideal.

Socialism is different from our current society mainly because of two basic ideas. First, Socialism is about cooperation instead of competition. We call our current economic system Capitalism. Under Capitalism, people compete for almost everything. Individuals compete for jobs, for the best education, for housing, even for the basic necessities of life. Companies compete for funding and material resources, for customers, for new ideas and products. Whether you’re a worker or a business owner, you’re always competing, because under Capitalism there are winners and losers, and one of the worst names you can call someone in our society is “loser.” Being a loser in our society can mean that your family won’t have enough to eat.

Under Socialism, instead of everyone fighting for a bigger and bigger share all the time, we would all be working together to see that everyone has at least enough.

That’s the second idea that makes Socialism different from our current society. Under Socialism, the basic human needs of all people would come first. Right now, the richest eighty people in the world own as much as the poorest 3.5 billion (half of the Earth’s population) combined. Our current economic and political system puts the property of the wealthy few, and the profits of their corporations, first. So some people have everything that money can buy, and so much money left over that they could never spend it all in an entire lifetime. Yet they are encouraged to accumulate even more wealth, while 300 million children in the world go to bed hungry every night.

Under Socialism, the needs of the hungry children for food would be more important than the profits and bank accounts of the wealthy.

You might wonder, if Socialism is so great, why we don’t already have it. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is that the wealthy and powerful people in the world don’t want things to change. They enjoy their lives just the way things are, and our governments and laws have been set up to protect their wealth and power. So to change things it takes a lot of people, working and struggling together for a long time. The history of the past few centuries has been the history of these struggles.

Socialism is a word that frightens a lot of people, especially people in America. We’ve been taught to think of Socialism as something foreign and treacherous, and to think of Socialists as people who want to do away with all of the good things about our country. Because of this fear, in the past, Socialists in America have been arrested, deported and even executed for their beliefs.

Socialists do want to change things in America, and around the world. We want an America that is more fair. We want an America where people are truly free – free from fear, free from hunger, free to speak their minds and free to believe and live their lives as they see fit. We want an America where we all have a say in the way our economy runs, in decisions about how we work and what we produce, and in how we treat the resources of the Earth. We want an America where all of us, not just a few of us, own and control the means of producing what we need to live, and where we all share in the wealth that is created by our work. We want an America and a world that is at peace. We want an America that lives up to the words of the Pledge of Allegiance (which, by the way, was written by a Socialist) “with liberty and justice for all.”

You’ve probably heard the word “democracy.” The idea is simple, but powerful. It’s the idea that the people – all the people – should have the power to decide how society is run. Under democracy, the important decisions that affect people’s lives are decided by the people themselves. Our government is considered to be a representative democracy, meaning that we vote to elect representatives who then make those decisions for us, and are supposed to represent our wishes when they do. In reality, though, many of the most basic and important decisions that affect our lives are completely beyond the control of most of us. We are powerless to do anything about some of the biggest problems we face – problems such as poverty, unemployment, violence, war, climate change. The list goes on and on.

What Socialists want is a true democracy, where we directly control the things that matter most in our local communities, and where we’re all active in making decisions about the larger society together.

How all of this will come about, and how all of it will work, are still open questions. Socialists and others have been thinking about this, writing about it and discussing it for nearly 200 years now. The truth is that nobody has a specific step-by-step plan for putting the Socialist ideal into practice. Experiments aimed at creating a Socialist society have given us some ideas on what might work, and also on what can go wrong. We can learn from the mistakes of the past, and be inspired by the successes, but the task of creating a Socialist world is something we’ll have to work out for ourselves as we go along.

Though it will be a difficult goal to achieve, many of us believe that Socialism is the only solution to the most significant and urgent problems that face us in the world today. We believe that making minor changes to the current system won’t be enough to save us as a species from the ravages of hunger, global environmental disaster and war. This is why Socialists organize and agitate and speak out and read and discuss and work and struggle together. We believe that it’s only through “all of us, working together to take care of each other” – through Socialism – that the human race will survive.


A Note From Brian: I welcome comments on this article, particularly from Socialists, educators, kids and parents. I tried to keep the language as simple as I could, but I suspect that the reading level may still be somewhat too advanced for the average 5th grader, which is the primary intended audience. Ideas or suggestions for improvement will be much appreciated, as will ideas for future articles in the series.

Pope Francis’ Historic Speech to America

Pope Francis made history today by becoming the first Pope ever to address a joint session of the United States Congress. He mentioned four great Americans from the past, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Thomas Merton, saying that each of them helped build a better future for the people of the U.S.

The full text of the Holy Father’s speech to Congress is available at the link below. There’s also an audio version available on the site.

Read and Listen: Pope Francis makes historic address to U.S. Congress | Vatican Radio

The Story of Labor Day


Jonah Walters writes.

American workers did contribute at least one lasting legacy to the international movement for working-class liberation — a workers’ holiday, celebrating the ideal of international solidarity, and eagerly anticipating the day when workers might rise together to take control of their own lives and provide for their own well-being.

That holiday is May Day, not Labor Day.

Read More: Labor Day is May 1st | Jacobin

Racial Taboo Townhall Meeting October 27th

The Kankakee County Branch NAACP will be co-sponsoring a townhall meeting on race, featuring the film Racial Taboo, at the Kankakee Public Library auditorium on Tuesday October 27th, 2015 from 6 to 8 PM. The meeting will be an opportunity to learn more about the relationships in our society between people of various races, to discuss the topic in small groups, and to perhaps begin to establish your own friendships across racial lines.

Source: Racial Taboo Townhall Meeting October 27th – Kankakee County Branch NAACP

Chicago Southland Jacobin Reading Group for September

The next meeting of the Jacobin Reading Group for the Chicago Southland will be held at 7 PM on September 15th at Feed Arts & Cultural Center, 259 S. Schuyler in Kankakee.

This time around, the subject is race. Here are the articles we’ll be discussing.

How Class and Race Immiserate – Matt Bruenig explains that class and race operate both separately and together to impoverish huge swaths of American society.

How Race Is Conjured – The Fields Sisters shed light on how the fiction of race hides the real source of racism and inequity in America today.

The Social Construction of Race – Race is a social fiction imposed by the powerful on those they wish to control. Brian Jones says “The whole thing is made up.”

More information is available on the group website and Facebook page.

Come join us!

Popular Unity Arises in Greece

Stathis Kouvelakis and Miri Davidson report that early this morning, 25 SYRIZA MPs left the parliamentary group of the party to create a new group under the name of “Popular Unity.” Most of these MPs are affiliated to the Left Platform, but some others also joined. They are now the third largest party in the Greek Parliament, ahead of Golden Dawn, the neonazi party. This means that in the next few days their leader, Panagiotis Lafazanis, will get a mandate to constitute a government.

Read More: Greece: “Popular Unity” is born! –

On Race and Class


Matt Breunig writes for Jacobin.

The American left continues to debate whether race or class is the motivating force of oppression and suffering in US society. But as many scholars have argued, the question rests on a faulty premise — race and class are inextricable in the historical development of capitalism in the US, and this remains true today.

He also presents a series of charts that put the matter in better perspective.

Read more: How Class and Race Immiserate | Jacobin Magazine Blog

The Four Maladies of Global Capitalism

Adam Blanden writes that If there is to be an effective anti-capitalist politics there must be a serious effort to understand not just the essentials of the system, but also how capitalism is presently developing in novel ways. Blanden sketches how the global economy is changing by drawing on a wide and heterogeneous literature, emphasizing the dynamic, historical nature of capitalism.  What are the key features and dynamics of global capitalism today?

Source: New Left Project | The Four Maladies of Global Capitalism

To Fight the Good Fight

Over the past four years, as I began to awaken politically, it’s become important to me not only to try to recognize and understand the causes of injustices in our society, but to actually make a contribution to the struggles against them. The challenge has been to identify opportunities to make a difference, living in a small (and fairly conservative) metropolitan area. Outside the realm of party politics, which I have mostly rejected as a dead end, there is a decided dearth of organized activism in my community. This was even more the case when we lived in a small rural community in the southern part of the state.

I more or less stumbled on to a set of pursuits that form the core of my activism. I didn’t set out consciously or methodically, but simply started working on things that I thought were of value, and only realized in hindsight that they essentially comprise a political program that turns out to be just what I would have wanted to undertake. Here’s a quick list of some of those things. I share it not to pat myself on the back, nor to seek the approval or praise of others, but to spark the imagination of folks who face a similar predicament. I’d also love to hear about your projects, and what has drawn you to your own personal activism, so please feel free to comment below.

I joined a union. In another day, even the billionaires recognized the value of labor unions to democracy. None other than J. Paul Getty once said “I do believe in unions and believe that free, honest labor unions are our greatest guarantees of continuing prosperity and our strongest bulwark against social or economic totalitarianism.” Tyrants recognize this, and have routinely suppressed organized labor on the path to total power.

Although I was raised in a union home, I had never held a union card in my life. I worked in jobs where we were not organized, and it never occurred to me that we could be. Once I became more conscious, and began researching options, I was delighted to learn that the Industrial Workers of the World organize the worker, not the job. I joined the Wobblies in November of 2011. My location and the type of work I do precludes me from being a participant in most direct face-to-face activities of the union branch, but the opportunity to lend support and solidarity to my union sisters and brothers (and to learn from them) remotely has been wonderful. I’m now also a dues paying member of the National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981. The mere act of identifying as a union member has brought a new perspective to daily life, and has opened up conversations and opportunities to further the cause that were not possible before.

I became active in the NAACP. Much like joining a union, it had not occurred to me that someone like me could be a part of an organization like the NAACP. If you click on the “About” section of this site, you’ll see from the picture that I am a grey headed white guy. I didn’t know that the NAACP was open to people of all races, and didn’t know whether I would be welcome in its ranks. But when I read about some pamphleting that had been done in our county by the KKK, I felt compelled to do something formal and substantive to stand against racism. I found welcoming arms and the fellowship of kindred souls in Kankakee Branch 3035. I created a new website for the branch, got involved in the city council campaigns of some of our members, and am currently working to organize a community town hall on race.

I marched for marriage equality. This was at my wife’s prompting. It was a small demonstration, organized by the LGBT community and their allies, friends and family members here. We walked from the farmers market gazebo to the county courthouse, where we heard speeches and learned about the bills that were being considered in the state legislature. Besides showing solidarity by taking a visible public stand for justice, my wife and I also became acquainted with some of the local organizers. We joined them when they met with our state representative, and advocated for their rights under the principle of religious liberty. I also subsequently helped organize their tabling at the county fair. These efforts seemed almost trivial to me at the time, but thousands of similar efforts across the nation brought the movement to victory.

I started a community singalong and a radical reading group. Pete Seeger had great confidence in the power of song to change the world. He said this.

“Finding the right songs and singing them over and over is a way to start. And when one person taps out a beat, while another leads into the melody, or when three people discover a harmony they never knew existed, or a crowd joins in on a chorus as though to raise the ceiling a few feet higher, then they also know there is hope for the world.”

So on May Day of 2014, we held our first gathering of the Key City Singalong. We sing a wide variety of songs, in fact, everyone who attends gets to decide what we’ll sing. So it’s not all specifically songs about social issues, but we do sing our share of old union hymns and other songs of relevance. We are also creating a small community of people who demonstrate, each month, that there are things of value in the world that are not commodities.

This month will also mark the first meeting of the Chicago Southland Jacobin Reading Group. It’s too early to tell whether we’ll be successful in creating and sustaining any scale of interest in monthly discussions of explicitly socialist ideas in the area where I live, but I have hopes.

Both of these events are held at Feed Arts and Cultural Center, where I’m a resident artist. The place also hosts lots of other wonderful activities to build community and nurture the arts. We’ve even had concerts from notable singers in the political folkie tradition, like Matthew Grimm and David Rovics.

I help out at a food pantry. Pope Francis says this is how prayer works: “You pray for the hungry, then you feed them.” Although our family contributes funds to organizations that feed and care for others, I wanted to get involved directly in some work that helps to alleviate the effects of poverty and meets the basic needs of people in our community. After speaking with Sister Denise Glazik, who is a Pastoral Associate at our church, I began volunteering at the Center of Hope. It’s about an hour of honest work on Thursday morning, unloading trucks, sweeping and mopping floors, stocking shelves and such. I find it to be one of the most satisfying and rewarding activities of the entire week.

I’m working to organize against the military recruitment of our children. While attending a talk in Chicago last month about the realities of the war on terror, one question was stirring in my heart. What can I do about this? Our nation’s unrestrained militarism around the globe seems like just too big an issue to approach. Fortunately, the presenters mentioned in their talk that under the No Child Left Behind legislation, schools were compelled to give the personal data of students to military recruiters unless a parent explicitly opts out, and that groups formed to educate parents on the issue were springing up around the country. I’ve begun to reach out to school board members and others about this issue, and plan to make it a project in the coming months.

Will any of this matter? Considering the massive and daunting problems we face, we may not know for a long time, perhaps not even in our lifetimes, whether any of our efforts will be enough. I do know that each of these activities are concrete, practical and have potential. Beyond that, they make sense in terms of the grand narrative of our era. The principal menace in our world today is an ideology centered on corporate power, militarism, racism, anti-intellectualism and attacks on freedom and democracy. So to fight the good fight we join unions. We work against the war machine. We build friendships and unity across racial lines. We support the arts and cultural literacy. We engage in intellectual pursuits and discussions. We feed the hungry.

When we do any of that, we rise up against the forces of greed and death. Whether it will be enough to turn the tide in that struggle, I know not. But I must believe that it matters. There’s just no sense in believing that there’s nothing we can do.


On Their Morals

The appeal to abstract norms is not a disinterested philosophical mistake but a necessary element in the mechanics of class deception.

– Leon Trotsky

The Crisis Continues

The Wall Street Journal reports on the latest data from the U.S. Commerce Department.

Yet further data revisions going back more than three years show the expansion—already the weakest since World War II—was even worse than previously thought, with GDP increasing at an average annual rate of 2% between 2012 and 2014, down 0.3 percentage point from prior estimates.While the first half’s growth rate of 1.5% was better than expected thanks to the first-quarter revision, economic growth so far this year has been even slower than during last year’s tepid first half and well below the pace of the overall recovery.

Source: U.S. Economy Picks Up, but Stays In Its Rut – WSJ

Solutions Ignored in Illinois Budget Battle

125 leaders and policy wonks from 63 non-profit, community organizing and labor organizations came together on June 29 to deliberate over a series of proposals for revenue solutions to Illinois’s budget shortfall. Simon Swartzman reports for In These Times that some of the most obvious solutions (with revenues totaling as much as $9 billion) are not even being considered in Springfield.

Those assembled heard several revenue proposals. The first focused on tax hikes aimed on wealthy individuals, including a proposed progressive income tax (estimated at raising up to $2.4 billion for the state), a commuter tax ($300 million) and a luxury sales tax (between $553 million and almost $2 billion, depending on services taxed). A second proposal focused on corporate accountability, including a proposed end to corporate tax loopholes ($334 million), raising corporate income taxes ($770 million), a fee for “bad businesses” that pay low wages ($2.2 billion), a moratorium on corporate handouts and subsidies ($564 million) and reforming Chicago’s tax increment financing program ($457 million in annual revenue in the city). Proposed banking and financial industry reforms included a financial transaction tax and an end to predatory deals with banks for public financing such as the interest rate swaps Bank of America has arranged with the Chicago Public Schools.

Source: “We Need to Stop Being Nice”: IL Labor, Community Activists Push Progressive Budget Crisis Solutions – Working In These Times