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! – VersoBooks.com

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

Clinton on the Minimum Wage


I think part of the reason that the Congress and very strong Democratic supporters of increasing the minimum wage are trying to debate and determine what’s the national floor is because there are different economic environments. And what you can do in L.A. or in New York may not work in other places.

Read More: Hillary Clinton Declines To Support A National $15 Minimum Wage – BuzzFeed News

Going Broke on Purpose

Eric Ruder breaks down how Chicago officials are using a budget “crisis” to help out their banker friends and advance their strategy of restructuring public education.

Now the underhanded logic of Rahm’s re-election campaign should be plain to see. When he said that he was the only one with the necessary experience to get Chicago out of its looming budget crisis, he meant that he had experienced friends in the banking sector who would benefit from revolving the city’s debt and continuing massive borrowing at high interest rates–and he had enemies in the public sector to punish by making cuts in school budgets and teachers’ compensation.

Read the Article: How Chicago schools went broke on purpose | SocialistWorker.org