August 28, 2020
Fulfilling our Obligations, and
Passing the Torch
"When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.
Rabbi Jacob Prinz, Speech at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963
"I appeal to all of you to get into this great revolution that is sweeping this nation. Get in and stay in the streets of every city, every village and hamlet of this nation until true freedom comes, until the revolution of 1776 is complete. We must get in this revolution and complete the revolution...."
John Lewis, Speech at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963
We in the Black Freedom Movement of the 1950s and 1960s held countless mass meetings in churches and community halls in Black communities throughout the Jim Crow South. On August 28, 1963, for the first and only time, we gathered before the Lincoln Memorial for a mass meeting on a national scale, joined and witnessed by the entire country. We called this mass meeting "The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom".
No one who was there can ever forget it.
We were there.
With approximately 250,000 in attendance, and tens of millions watching on network TV, the March on Washington was the largest gathering for racial justice, economic equality and human rights ever assembled to date. Martin Luther King, Jr. called it "the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation."
We are surviving members of Dr. King's inner circle, student activist leaders from the Nashville sit-in movement and Mississippi voting rights campaign and singers who performed from the stage at that historic gathering in Washington. Some of us 2 worked primarily with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); others were among the leadership of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Dr. Clarence B. Jones, as lawyer for Dr. King, and Courtland Cox, representing SNCC, served on the planning committee for the March with lead organizers Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph.
The March on Washington took place fifty-seven years ago today.
We remember it like yesterday. We remember Dr. King's iconic speech, as we remember each of those who addressed the crowd: fourteen of the nation's most important religious and moral leaders including eminent Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish clergy; presidents of national civil rights, labor and student organizations.
With the death of our dear friend John Lewis, none of March on Washington speakers are still alive.
We mourn Congressman Lewis and Rev. C.T. Vivian, who died just six weeks ago; we mourn dear friends and mentors who died in the last few years, including Julian Bond, Amelia Boynton, Dorothy Cotton, Vincent Harding, Joseph Lowery, Jack O'Dell and Harris Wofford; we mourn our beloved Martin King, taken from us at the age of 39; and we mourn Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, James Orange, Rosa Parks, Bayard Rustin, A. Philip Randolph, Fred Shuttlesworth, Hosea Williams and so many others beloved sisters and brothers in the movement we lost over the intervening decades.
Our numbers are diminishing. Those of us who remain feel a heavy burden of moral responsibility. We remember the old African saying: if the surviving lions don't tell their story, the hunters will be remembered as "heroes".
We feel obligated to accurately recall the true story of our nonviolent movement to transform our country. We affirm the direct lineage from the Black Freedom Movement of the 20th century, in which we were immersed, and the Black Lives Matter Movement and renewed Poor People's Campaign of the 21st century which we profoundly admire, and wholeheartedly endorse and support.
For decades America portrayed the 1963 March on Washington as a symbolic apotheosis of peaceful social change, racial harmony and reconciliation. Yes, the 3 March was a uniquely powerful demonstration of the struggle for racial justice. But this struggle continues, as systemic racial injustice persists.
We feel a heavy burden of responsibility as together we face this moment of moral reckoning throughout America.
On May 25, we witnessed George Floyd's 8 minute, 46 second suffocation under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Just a few days ago, we witnessed police in Kenosha, Wisconsin fire seven shots at close range into the back of Jacob Blake.
At this inflection point in U.S. history, we are duty-bound to honestly recognize our failures as well as our achievements as a nation since Dr. King shared his dream.
"Power concedes nothing without a demand," Frederick Douglass insisted. "It never has, and it never will."
In August 1963, we came to Washington in the spirit of what Dr. King called "the marvelous new militancy" of the young Black activists in sit-ins, freedom rides, boycotts and marches throughout the South.
In the spirit of Frederick Douglass, we came in force to make demands.
Economic justice and a living wage
On August 28, 1963, we marched to demand an end to legally sanctioned segregation. We achieved this demand the following summer with the enactment of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. Tragically, however, Dr. King's dream of a racially integrated society has been abandoned. Today in 2020 de facto segregation in housing and education persists, and there has been no progress in reducing the corruption of white supremacy on the allocation of resources to schools, or the distribution of income and wealth in our society.
Nearly sixty years after the March on Washington, the net worth of a median white family in America remains ten times greater than that of a median Black family in our country. A wealth gap of this magnitude violates the fundamental principle that 4 everyone is created equal; it can and will be eliminated when an electoral majority deems it morally unacceptable.
We cannot forget that the March on Washington was for jobs as well as freedom.
Fifty-seven years ago, we marched to demand a national program of public works, including job training, for the unemployed. Today, when our society suffers from the most severe economic insecurity and mass unemployment since the Great Depression, we renew our demand.
On August 28, 1963, we marched to demand a $2-per-hour minimum wage across the country, a wage equivalent to $17-per-hour today.
Today, in 2020, the federal minimum wage is a woefully inadequate $7.25 per hour. This is unacceptable, a return to the "starvation wages" John Lewis rightfully deplored in his speech to the March.
In a time of pandemic, our essential service workers are front-line soldiers, risking their health and lives for the health and lives of others. We call them "heroes," but this is hypocrisy, because we do not treat them as such. At minimum wage, they are forced to take multiple jobs, to push their family well-being to the brink. This is unacceptably dangerous for workers, and their children, and it is unacceptably dangerous for our society as a whole. We must learn from our failure to contain Covid-19 and from the unnecessary deaths of so many people.
We must treat our essential workers with respect and care. The least we can do is make sure that we pay them a decent wage that will bring them out of poverty.
We renew our demand for a national program of public works, and a living wage for all American workers.
Securing and exercising the right to vote
On March 28, 1963, we marched to secure the vote for all Americans. We achieved this demand two years later, with the enactment of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Tragically, however, we have experienced a terrible, relentless backlash.
Seven years ago, the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Shelby County v. Holder eviscerated the most important federal protection Congress had established to protect voting rights in states with a deep history of voter suppression. Immediately, many of states enacted legislation to curtail access to voting and suppress the vote, especially among Black citizens.
We urgently appeal to Congress to restore the full protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. We demand that access to the ballot for all citizens be guaranteed and expanded for all citizens in every state.
On August 28, 1963, we marched to demand enforcement of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by reducing congressional representation from States that disenfranchise citizens. We renew the demand that our Constitution be enforced in the face of widespread voter suppression today.
In his electrifying speech fifty-seven years ago, John Lewis deplored racist systems that deprived Black people of their Constitutionally guaranteed right to vote.
"'One man, one vote' is the African cry," he said. "It is ours too. It must be ours!"
He urged all citizens able to exercise their right to vote to remove from office all morally corrupt politicians who "ally themselves with open forms of political, economic, and social exploitation."
Before Dr. King shared his dream of the future, John Lewis demanded that we wake up to the national nightmare of the present. "We must say: 'Wake up America! Wake up!'"
Every American has a sacred obligation to honor the memory of countless martyrs who died to protect our voting rights. Citizenship means nothing if we abandon our collective power of the ballot. Voting is our moral and political responsibility as citizens, and it represents the collective power we must exercise to save our country.
In this moment of national emergency, when our democracy is threatened as never before since the end of Reconstruction and the entrenchment of Jim Crow terror throughout the 6 South, we call on all qualified Americans to exercise your power as citizens to register and vote.
We applaud and support the urgent work of next generation voting rights defenders and organizers including the M4BL Electoral Justice Project, the Black Voters Matter Fund, and the student activists of the Andrew Goodman Foundation. Together these young leaders are fighting to secure our Constitutional rights and mobilize the vote in Black and other communities of color throughout the United States. We honor them, support them, and follow them.
"The marvelous new militancy"
We as a nation remember Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream, as we should. But we must not forget Dr. King's urgent call to action on that day.
"In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence (Yeah), they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men (My Lord), would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. (My Lord) Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds."
In his speech to the March, Dr. King asked us to imagine redemption in the most concrete terms.
He emphasized that redemption can only come from organized nonviolent protest attentive to "the fierce urgency of now." Indeed, he warned us that "[I]t would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment." He meant it literally. "There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights," he said. "The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges."
Dr. King made it clear that our movement depended on the "marvelous new militancy" of the nonviolent student activists in the Black community: tens of thousands of young people engaged in lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, Nashville and cities throughout the South; the young people risking their lives on the Freedom Rides in South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi; the young people who came together to form the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the youth of Birmingham who filled Bull Connor's jails and desegregated the most racist city in the Jim Crow south.
Above all, Dr. King praised the young activists for their steadfast courage and unwavering commitment to disciplined nonviolence on the front lines of the struggle against racist violence directed against them, and he lauded the increasingly multiracial nature of their nonviolent direct-action campaigns.
"We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. (My Lord) Again and again (No, no), we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. (My Lord) The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people (Hmm), for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny [sustained applause], and they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
And fifty-seven years ago, Dr. King called us to protest racist violence perpetrated by officers of the state, and to keep protesting until Black people no longer experience extrajudicial beatings and killings by the police.
There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, 'When will you be satisfied?' We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality..."
Black Lives Matter
Today, in 2020, the killings of Tanisha Anderson, Ahmaud Arbery, Philando Castile, Dominique Clayton, George Floyd, Eric Garner, Botham Jean, Atatiana Jefferson, Eric Reason, Breonna Taylor and countless others demonstrate the tragic reality that Black Americans remain the victim of unspeakable horrors of police brutality.
When will it stop?
Today, Jacob Blake lies in a hospital room in Kenosha, Wisconsin, paralyzed from a severed spinal cord.
Why does such wanton police brutality continue to happen, over and over, against Black people?
What kind of country are we?
We remember Rabbi Jacob Prinz's haunting words, by the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. "A great people which had created a great civilization had become a nation of silent onlookers. They remained silent in the face of hate, in the face of brutality and in the face of mass murder." And Rabbi Prinz issued a moral plea: "America must not become a nation of onlookers. America must not remain silent. Not merely black America, but all of America."
Enough is enough.
No, we cannot be satisfied today. And we must turn to our young activists for leadership to steer us to the Beloved Community Dr. King envisioned.
Even at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, young BLM leaders achieved results far beyond what Dr. King and the civil rights movement of the 1960s were able to accomplish: bringing somewhere between 15 million to 26 million Americans of all races and generations into the streets for the largest nonviolent protest movement in the history of the United States.
Systemic racism is brutal violence. We cannot be satisfied until all forms of systemic racism are finally eliminated in our country. We turn to the young activists of the Black Lives Matter movement to lead us there, through the greatest power the world has ever seen: the power of organized, transformative nonviolence.
March for our Lives - to end the national epidemic of gun violence
We must nonviolently put an end to the institutionalization of killing. This requires us to purge our society from our unholy and deadly addiction to guns.
The greatest public health emergency in our nation is the catastrophic rate of homicide caused by the proliferation, accessibility and routine use of firearms.
With four percent of the world's population, Americans own approximately 46% of the entire global stock of 857 million civilian firearms. There are more than 393 million civilian-owned firearms in the United States -- enough for every man, woman and child to own one and still have 67 million guns left over.
These numbers are obscene.
We stand with the American College of Surgeons, the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma, and more than forty other medical and injury prevention organizations that have urged our government to adopt a comprehensive public health and medical approach to address the gun violence epidemic in our country.
Like the Covid-19 pandemic, the gun violence epidemic has disproportionately ravaged low-income Black and other communities of color.
We cannot be satisfied until the grave public health crisis of gun violence ceases to decimate families, neighborhoods and communities throughout the United States.
Again, we honor the marvelous new militancy of nonviolent activism, young people who have been courageously fighting the gun lobby to secure a world where they no longer must live in fear of being killed by guns. Survivors of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida launched the extraordinary March for Our Lives movement, which continues to mobilize millions of students throughout the United States. Thousands of engaged churches, community and health organizations, and gun control advocacy groups hold prayer vigils and peaceful protest marches to awaken the moral conscience of America, neighborhood by neighborhood, until we take comprehensive action to stop gun proliferation at the national level. We praise and defer to their leadership as we move forward together to build a future without the scourge of gun violence.
Nonviolent direct action to stop climate and environmental catastrophe
In 1967, when Dr. King wrote his final book (Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?), no one understood how unchecked global warming would generate 10 climate chaos and threaten the survival of our species. We had no idea how the devastating consequences of greenhouse gas accumulation, and the toxic harms of chemical poisoning and industrial pollution, would disproportionately harm Black and other communities of color in the United States and the global South.
We cannot be satisfied until we have transformed our society from an economic system dependent upon the relentless extraction and burning of fossil fuels to a post-carbon system based upon the generation of clean energy, available to everyone, and the restoration of societies that have been ravaged by global warming and toxic harm.
Once again, we turn for leadership to the marvelous new militancy of nonviolent activism.
Young activists including Greta Thunberg speak truth to power all over the world. In the United States, youth have been at the front lines of peaceful mass protests involving millions of Americans of all ages and races across the economic spectrum of our society.
We strongly support the Sunrise Movement, Global Climate Strike, 350.org, the Climate Action Network, the Climate Reality Project, Interfaith Power and Light, and all of the organized efforts to mobilize nonviolent direct action to prevent climate catastrophe and restore the health of our communities and our planet.
We praise and defer to their leadership as we move forward to build a future in which human civilization can survive and all dimensions of our humanity sustained.
Our obligation on this day
To honor the memory of our beloved Martin King, we can never be satisfied until we have overcome racism, poverty and racism. We can never be satisfied until we achieve the Beloved Community in our country and throughout the world. We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Honoring Dr. King, we are humbled on this day.
With admiration and gratitude, we pass his torch to the activist youth in the Black Lives Matter, March for our Lives, and climate justice movements.
We know that their marvelous new nonviolent militancy will lead us to the Promised Land.
Our obligation on this day is to follow their leadership.
We urge all Americans to join our courageous nonviolent young activists in the hard work of building a just and free society in which we shall overcome.
Wake up, America! Wake up!
Joan Baez, activist and singer
Ms. Baez performed at the March, including leading the crowd in "We Shall Overcome." In the following years, she joined Dr. King in protests against racial injustice and the War in Vietnam.
Harry Belafonte, activist and singer
Mr. Belafonte organized the celebrity delegation to attract the largest possible national TV audience to the March. He worked closely with Dr. King and Dr. Clarence Jones in support of the Black Freedom Movement throughout the 1960s.
Xernona Clayton, Founder, President and CEO of the Trumpet Awards Foundation
Civil rights leader and close friend and confidant to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ms. Clayton received the SCLC's inaugural Coretta Scott King Award.
Courtland Cox, Director, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Legacy Project
With John Lewis, Mr. Cox represented SNCC on the March planning committee. He later joined Stokely Carmichael registering Black voters in Lowndes County, Alabama, and he became SNCC Program Director.
Dr. Clarence B. Jones, Director, USF Institute for Nonviolence and Social Justice
As legal counsel and strategic advisor to Martin Luther King, Jr., Dr. Jones represented Martin Luther King, Jr. on the March planning committee. Dr. Jones frequently assisted Dr. King as draft speechwriter, and he wrote the first seven paragraphs of Dr. King's iconic "I Have a Dream" speech at the March.
Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr., Founding Director, URI Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies From his early days as a Freedom Rider and sit-in leader in Nashville, Dr. Lafayette was a leading student activist with SNCC and organizer with Dr. King's SCLC.
Reverend Dr. James M. Lawson, Jr., Founder, The James Lawson Institute
More than any other individual, Rev. Lawson brought the theory and practice of Gandhian nonviolence to the Black Freedom Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. He was the Movement's leading teacher and trainer of disciplined, transformational nonviolence for Dr. King's SCLC as well as for hundreds of student activists, including SNCC leaders.
Janet Moses, M.D.
As SNCC field secretary in Alabama and Mississippi, Dr. Moses was a leading activist in voter registration drives in some of the most racist and violent counties in Alabama and Mississippi.
Robert (Bob) Moses, President, The Algebra Project
Immediately before the March, Mr. Moses led young SNCC demonstrators in protest against the Justice Department's tacit alliance with Dixiecrat segregationists. Following the March, he led the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project; with Fannie Lou Hamer, he helped to create the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
Ambassador Andrew Young
Early in the Movement, with Dorothy Cotton, Amb. Young directed the SCLC's Citizenship Education Program. As a close confidant to Dr. King, Amb.Young helped lead the SCLC campaigns in Birmingham (1963), St. Augustine (1964), Selma (1965), Chicago and Atlanta (1966), and he served as SCLC Executive Director.
Donald Trump and his allies at the RNC repeatedly make the argument that the Democrats and Biden support Open Borders. This is false. The following essay reposted from last year describes many of the conflicting positions on immigration- NONE argue for Open Borders. ( although a poorly informed resolution at DSA’s 2019 convention does endorse open borders.)
Steps Toward a Labor Informed Position on Immigration
Duane E. Campbell
( a prior version of this paper appeared on Portside with the title: The Left Case Against Open Borders-by Angela Nagel: a Review)
Tens of thousands of Hondurans, El Salvadorans and Guatemalans are fleeing hunger and death. Usually they do not flee in caravans but alone or with their immediate families. Caravans are formed for protection from crimes, assault, rape and extortion. As the Exodus Caravan from Honduras has reached our borders, there is a heightened sense of fear in the nation promoted by Donald Trump and his administration.
To begin with, the caravan of poor people at our border should not be stopped. Instead, those eligible for refugee status should be admitted required by the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1946) and current U.S. law. DSA’s Immigrants’ Rights Committee is actively involved with several local chapters in support of the migrants in the caravan in Tijuana, Mexico.
When writers propose an immigration policy and a critique of a movement, it is important to get the story right. People’s lives depend upon it.
It Is Not About Open Borders
In the article, “The Left Case against Open Borders”, writer Angela Nagel gets some of the economic conditions correct, but like Trump, she argues without evidence that the problem is that unions, the Left and immigrants’ rights activists support “open borders”. Her writing follows from the position in Melting Pot or Civil War? A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders – (2018) by Reihan Salam
Developing a policy on migration for labor and the left is far more complex than presented by these writers.
First we must deal with some of the false accusations about the role of unions in the immigration policy debates.
Writer Nagel is wrong in asserting that the left and labor favor open borders. This is accepting the false narrative of Trump and the anti- immigrant forces.
There has been a long and well developed movement for immigration reform, along with connected policy proposals – few of which argue for open borders. Progressive policies and practices have emerged from within U.S. communities and the labor movement. The writer seems to not be aware of this history. Instead she describes critics of the current attacks on immigrants as “Useful Idiots.”
She notes the Reagan Administration policy known by Republicans as amnesty without noting that the Simpson- Mazolli Act was the consequence of a multi- year struggle for immigration reform by both corporate forces and community groups.
This Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 bill permitted the legalization of some 2 million farmworkers and over 4 million others already living in the U.S. This program was a hard fought product of years of struggle by immigrants’ rights activists and their allies.
In addition to providing a path to legalization for many already here, the act required employers to attest to their employees immigration status and made it illegal for hire or recruit undocumented workers. These provisions were known as employer sanctions. The act also contained the program known as H2A which provides a system of temporary, controlled farm labor “guest workers” with very limited ability to organize, to have a union, and to demand improved wages or working conditions. The law further includes H1B temporary workers in high skilled technical fields. By 2017, some 40,000 agricultural “guest workers” were employed in the fields and some 419,000 mostly high tech H2B workers were employed in the U.S.
Immigrant rights groups opposed employer sanctions arguing that they would provide the employer with yet another way to exploit and intimidate immigrant workers. Now, the Nagel article argues for E verify system, which is the current digital process of employer sanctions, without noting that employer sanctions were opposed by the AFL-CIO in their landmark 1999 resolution on organizing immigrant workers.
In 1994, a Republican led Congress, with the support of 102 Democrats, passed the North American Free Trade Act, the economic construction that provides for free trade of goods and services but did not change immigration law. The promise made by NAFTA supporters was that the new trade regime would significantly reduce immigration. Instead, NAFTA impoverished millions of small farmers in Mexico and drove many of these workers to migrate to the U.S.
In 1996 the Republicans passed and Bill Clinton signed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, a repressive bill that provided for the construction of fencing along the border and criminalized many factors of immigrant life. Over the decade there were numerous appropriation bills to provide increased funding for the Border Patrol, militarization and fencing of the border.
It Is Not About Mass Migration
In 2005 when Republicans pushed the Sensenbrenner bill , the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 , unions with significant immigrant membership worked with immigrants rights groups to muster over 1 million into the streets in protest around the country on May 1, 2006, to kill the bill. They did demand a new amnesty for workers already here, this is what the Republican nationalists call a demand for open borders and mass migration.
Nagel argues: “There is no getting around the fact that the power of unions relies by definition on their ability to restrict and withdraw the supply of labor, which becomes impossible if an entire workforce can be easily and cheaply replaced. Open borders and mass immigration are a victory for the bosses.”
While this is partially true, neither unions nor the left have been arguing for open borders nor mass immigration. They have been arguing for revised policies that protect the rights of migrant workers including their right to form unions.
Nagel argues that support for restriction of immigration can be found in labor history. Yes, organized labor has long had two traditions on immigration; one urged restriction of immigration, the second urged recognizing that immigrants were here and sought to organize them into unions. Certainly there are instances of organized labor being anti immigrant, such as in the Chinese Exclusion Act. However she uses her history very selectively for example ignoring the unionization of the Industrial Workers of the World , the CIO and Packinghouse Workers among many. BTW. the socialists in labor were almost always on the side of supporting unionizing immigrant workers- not of building walls.
Seeking to support her claim, Nagel cites as evidence references to the UFW strike in 1969 ( I think she means 1973). In the strike mass Immigration was not the issue confronted by the UFW, it was strike breaking. The author, an Irish writer, may not know that the UFW has organized undocumented labor, has helped tens of thousands to achieve their legalization papers and has proposed more immigration and the protection of farm worker rights. The actual history of the UFW contradicts her thesis and the photo of Cesar Chavez used to promote the essay is -at best- a deception.
It would help for the writer to be better informed on the immigrants’ rights movement and the labor movement. If you are going to describe union’s approaches to immigration, you should deal with union sources, not the Koch Foundation funded think tanks she currently relies upon.
It Is About Workers’ Rights
In 1999 and 2000 The AFL-CIO changed its policy and no longer supported efforts prior efforts that blamed workers for migration. Since the 2000 change of federation policy several unions have changed their stance and work to organize immigrant workers rather than trying to keep them out of the country, but these unions have not argued for open borders.
See, Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants, Bacon (2008)
Nagel describes the neoliberal corporate opinion campaign in support of more immigration. These are corporate campaigns, not union campaigns.
The left and unions are not promoting open borders, they are defending workers- some of who are undocumented. Workers without legal status are a product of the biases in current immigration law including per country caps on granting visas.
Angela Nagel is the author of a prior book Kill All Normies. Her criticism of immigration politics seems , like her book, to be informed by a class of pundits and hash tag politics rather than a working knowledge of U.S. labor unions and their history in dealing with immigration.
In her essay Nagel describes well several aspects of global finance and NAFTA. Yes, there are real problems with NAFTA. But, NAFTA was and is a neoliberal project, not a left project nor a union project. Rather than accepting the neoliberal argument that the U.S. has benefitted from migration, it would be more accurate to argue that certain corporations and industries and their owners have benefitted in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The lobbyists from these industries dominate finance and the foreign policy establishment and they promote the reconsideration of NAFTA. Other corporations and most workers are harmed by the current exploitation of illegal migration- such as in farm labor and construction. The winning corporations externalize their own costs to the entire society and take little responsibility for their actions including the destructions of entire communities. Under CAFTA, (Central America Free Trade Agreement) for example, the U.S. military is active in Honduras and other parts of Central America paid for by us all for the benefit of specific corporations not to the benefit of the people of the U.S.
Addressing Root Causes of Migration- The Economy
Angela Nagel makes her most useful point when she argues in her conclusion, “The proper response, therefore, is not abstract moralism about welcoming all migrants as an imagined act of charity, but rather addressing the root causes of migration in the relationship between large and powerful economies and the smaller or developing economies from which people migrate. “
Most labor and left advocates of immigration reform would agree with her assessment of the need to address the root causes of migration. See for example, Bacon, The Right to Stay Home: How U.S. Policy Drives Mexican Migration (2013)
There were 27.4 million foreign born persons working in the U.S. labor force in 2017- 17.1 percent of the total labor force. Latinos accounted for 47.9 percent of the total and Asians 25.2 percent, As of 2016, roughly 10.6 million of all the 16.3 million workers covered by a union contract were women and/or people of color. More than a third (35.8 percent) are black, Latino or Asian.
These are the workers discussing the future of immigration and how it will affect their work lives, their unions, and their families.
The growth of neoliberal corporate capitalism and the global markets produce a few winners and millions of losers including millions of migrants.
The actual alternative to the current existing immigration policy is not “ open borders”- it is enforcement of existing employment laws as a first step, followed by the development of new employment and immigration laws, leading to a fair, pro worker system of immigration.
The U.S. does need to develop a new immigration policy. Note- asylum policy is different than immigration policy.
In the last 50 years immigration policy was shaped by what could be passed through Congress, not what ought to be policy. A policy that the left might favor such as the control of capital is not likely to pass the Congress.
We should try something different. We should try consulting working people. An enlightened policy on immigration is more likely to emerge from including leaders and activists from the multi-racial (and significantly immigrant) working class in conversations and cooperation with labor and left forces in other countries.
One example, in July 2018 Mexico elected a new left president, Manuel Lopez Obrador. After the vote, and prior to his inauguration on Dec.1, progressive independent labor unions have emerged after decades of repression. These unions will represent Mexican workers.
Trump, in his arrogance, has told Mexico to enforce U.S. immigration and asylum policy at the border in Tijuana and on November 24, he claimed that he had an agreement with the new Obrador government. He did not. Readers should understand that current U.S. immigration policy and drug policy is significantly dependent upon the continuing cooperation of the Mexican Army. The Obrador government responded to Trump’s demand by offering to cooperate if the U.S. provided $20 billion in development aid to Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. We have not heard of a response.
We on the left should engage with the newly insurgent labor movement and the new government of Mexico and the peoples of Central America in designing an immigration policy that serves working people on both sides of the border.
David Bacon describes the issues well,
Without changing U.S. trade policy and ending structural adjustment programs and neoliberal economic reforms, millions of displaced people will continue to migrate, no matter how many walls are built on the border.
Changing corporate trade policy and stopping neoliberal reforms is as central to immigration reform as gaining legal status for undocumented immigrants. There is a fundamental contradiction in the bipartisan policies in Congress that promote more free trade agreements, and then criminalize the migration of the people they displace. Instead, Congress could end the use of the free trade system as a mechanism for producing displaced workers. That would mean delinking immigration status and employment. If employers are allowed to recruit contract labor abroad, and those workers can only stay if they are continuously employed (the two essential characteristics of guest worker programs), then they will never have enforceable rights.
THE RIGHT TO MIGRATE, THE RIGHT TO STAY HOME
By David Bacon NACLA Report on the Americas
Volume 50, 2018 - Issue 3: NACLA at 50:
The DSA Immigrants’ Rights Committee has worked toward defining a socialist approach to immigration that respects working people. Working with the national office we are actively engaged in supporting efforts by several DSA chapters and individuals to provide support for the migrants in Tijuana, Mexico.
We oppose the efforts of both Trump nationalists and neoliberal advocates to avoid discussion of the neoliberal economic system we currently have that produces migration.
Duane Campbell has over thirty years of experience working with unions and immigrants’ rights organizations. He is currently a co-chair of DSA’s Immigrants” Rights Committee. The committee can be contacted at (new e mail)
By Bill Barclay and Peg Strobel
DSA Ventura County
Recently there have been discussions of the way in which DSA staff members should or should not express political opinions, either in personal contact with other DSA members, on DSA media, print and digital and to a larger public.
By way of introduction we should acknowledge our previous experience with these questions. Both of us were in one of the two predecessor organizations to DSA, the New American Movement (NAM). Bill served in the national office of NAM as one of the three elected leaders of the organization. NAM was, of course, much smaller than DSA is today. There were only three (very under-) paid staff and these were all elected at NAM’s national conventions. These elected leaders were expected, and did, both run the organization and also articulate political positions and perspectives between and at the national conventions. While we think this worked reasonably well for NAM, it is not a model that we think should be adapted by DSA. A second relevant background experience is that Peg served on DSA’s NPC for six years and acquired a close-up knowledge of how the national office functioned. The organization was much smaller then, although beginning to grow during her third term on the NPC.
DSA Staff and Expression of Political Positions
In thinking about the issue of staff and the expression of political positions, we have conceptually divided the DSA staff between political and technical functions. We recognize that there are times when this distinction may be a little fuzzy around the edges but we believe this distinction is useful in terms of thinking about the question of staff roles and political expression.
We believe that the staff we are labeling “political” include the National Director, the Assistant to the National Director, the Field Organizers and the Organizing Director, who oversees the work of the Field Organizers. As reported on the website today, these total eight individuals.
What should be the guidelines for the work of these people in terms of political expression?
First, we think that none of these individuals should be a member of any caucus within the organization. All of them are, to a greater of lesser extent, representing DSA as a whole. They are the full-time national leaders of the organization (NPC members are neither paid nor full-time). They should represent the whole organization in their internal organizational work and in their public appearances, etc. In an organization such as DSA, where the decision has been to allow caucuses but also seeking to be a pluralistic organization, the national leadership should not be seen as or act as the representatives of one or another faction of the organization.
Second, these individuals should be required to have or acquire the ability to describe the different positions and significant internal lines of difference in DSA in a manner that is clear, concise and fair to all positions. We think this requires developing an agreed-upon description of caucuses and what these major differences are.
Third, we think that it is impossible for people in these political positions to be neutral or without passions and beliefs that impact how they prioritize work and how they interact with other members of DSA and the public. To expect this is to seek the mythical value neutrality that some academic disciplines claim but which experience has taught us is not possible for living and breathing human beings. Thus, these political staff should be free to express their own positions on the major issues being discussed within the organization as well as the larger political environment in which they live and work. This includes the possibility of presenting these positions in DSA but not to external media, where their advocacy may easily be construed as presenting DSA’s position. Most importantly, these individuals should not advocate specific positions in their organizational work with chapters or potential chapters.
Finally, as is true for all DSA members, political staff must always make clear when a position they are advocating differs from the position adopted by the organization as whole.
There are members of what we are labeling technical staff in DSA. On the website, as of today these include: Operations Director, Financial Manager, Internal Communications and Digital Organizing Coordinator, Development Director, Conventions and Conferences Coordinator, Finance Coordinator, Database Coordinator, Data and Technology Manager, Full Stack Developer, Program Associate, Compliance Manager, Membership Services Coordinator, Office Coordinator, and National Grievance and Harassment Officer.
From our experience, some technical staff are relatively uninterested in the differing politics within the organization while others are more closely attuned to these differences and may identify with one or another caucus.
We think technical staff should be free to state their political position, in person or via media.
We do not think these staff members should be prohibited from caucus membership so long as, like the political staff, they do not advocate for or advance the agenda of a caucus in the course of their DSA work.
Because technical staff are not part of the political function of DSA, we do not think that they must also be able to articulate the difference positions in the same manner as political staff. It would, of course, be good if these staff members are aware of the differences.
Partly as a result of thinking about the issue of staff and the expression of political positions, we want to raise some organizational questions about how DSA functions.
For many years of its existence, DSA struggled to find any member willing and able to take on the role of National Director (ND). Times are different now (full disclosure, the two of us worked hard to recruit the current ND into that position). We believe it is time to consider some questions of tenure and selection.
First, we believe there should be an initial term of office for a ND. Our suggestion is five years, with the first year a probationary period in case the person and the position are a bad fit. We also believe -- and this is one of the reasons we suggest five years for the initial terms of office -- the term of office for the ND should not, in general, align with the national conventions.
We also suggest that the ND can be offered a second term of office, perhaps shorter, during which a search would be conducted for a new ND.
Annually a personnel committee should review the work of the |ND with an eye to improving performance and identifying potential problem areas.
We think it may also be advisable to have ND and Assistant ND terms of office that do not coincide. Obviously the ND reviews the work of the Assistant to the Director.
Currently Field Organizers are chosen at the level of the national office. There has been some interest in having the regions select their Field Organizers. We are not sure which is the best process. But we do think that the accountability of these positions would be enhanced by the following:
We don’t know the process by which editorial boards – DL and Socialist Forum – are selected. Thus we don’t have specific recommendations to make with regard to these bodies. We do believe that, like our proposed strictures on Field Organizers, members of the editorial boards should not use their position to advocate or organize for a specific caucus.
DSA Member and co-editor of this blog Max B. Sawicky on the beleaguered U.S. Postal Service.
North Star caucus member Paul J. Baicich has a new article in Jacobin on reviving one of the most important and successful parts of the New Deal.
We, the undersigned democratic socialists, want to make clear that the priority for the left in 2020 should be the electoral defeat of Donald Trump and the Trumpist Republican Party in November. At present, the only way to accomplish that will be to vote for his Democratic opponent.
The racist, xenophobic, misogynist authoritarianism of Trumpism poses an immediate existential danger to people of color, to immigrants, to reproductive rights, to trade unions, to LGBTQIA people, to Muslims, to Jews, to members of other religions, and to democracy itself. A Trump victory would fortify our authoritarian State, expand imperial aggression, and collapse the political space for democratic and left forces at home. Reversing the creeping neo-fascism at play in our country is a strategic imperative, the most urgent political task before us.
Trump’s regime is literally imposing massive casualties on people of color, immigrants, and women, by means of its work-or-starve campaign to restart the economy in the face of a raging pandemic, through indulgence of random, murderous assaults epitomized by the cases of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, by the shutdown of abortion clinics, and by virtual death sentences imposed on incarcerated persons, including those detained by the vicious Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. The mob attacks on Democratic state governments encouraged by the president call to mind the reversal of Reconstruction by terrorist partisans of the old Confederacy, after the Civil War.
Thousands are dying of the coronavirus each week, disproportionately POC, particularly elderly nursing home residents, the incarcerated, and detained immigrants. How many more must be sacrificed?
As democratic socialists, we believe that the best way to defeat Trumpism as well as Trump himself is with a platform that breaks decisively with neo-liberal policies, especially austerity, privatization, deregulation, and anti-worker trade deals. But in the near term, as a practical matter, alliances are also necessary with other anti-Trump forces, for the sake of a Democratic victory in November.
We should continue to promote the interests of working people above the 1%, to take on institutional racism and sexism in law enforcement, employment, and social services, to address catastrophic climate change, and to promote public health. But our core mission need not preclude us from urging a vote against Trump. Nor should it discourage us from enthusiastically backing progressive elected officials and candidates for office, such as “the squad” in the House of Representatives.
Particularly important is vigorous support for avowed democratic socialists, such as Senator Bernie Sanders and Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tliab. They must be defended from efforts to pillory and defeat them, not least so that the ranks of progressives in office can grow.
Our electoral work will have the greatest impact when done cooperatively among all progressive constituencies, including trade unions, civil rights organizations, and community groups, as well as progressive political organizations. This collaborative approach powered the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders and helped to elect Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib, among others.
Trump’s commitment to the destruction of basic democratic institutions – the right to vote, an independent judiciary, a free press, Congress as a co-equal branch of government, the sovereign character of state governments – would make further pursuit of a progressive agenda impossible. Nothing is more important than ensuring his removal from the White House in 2021.
Bill Fletcher, Jr.
Frances Fox Piven
Barbara E. Hopkins
Jose La Luz
PLEASE ADD YOUR NAME
Read the statement at The Nation
What happened in Georgia, Bernie?
By Alexander Hernandez
The primary vehicle on the ground in Georgia was not the Bernie for President campaign proper, but the Metro Atlanta DSA for Bernie IE. Over the course of the campaign this effort hosted debate watch parties, pub crawls for Bernie, canvasses knocking over 10,000 doors, and reaching more voters via phone/text bank, but as we know politics begins with the millions - or at the very least the hundreds of thousands; and this effort alone was clearly not enough.
In a state fending off the worst kind of racist voter suppression, the amount of organizational work required to build a viable statewide operation needs time; and the Sanders campaign either ignored this reality or was unaware, either way, this failure was of the campaign’s own doing. Stacy Abrams’ efforts in both voter registration through The New Georgia Project and more recently taking on voter suppression explicitly with Fair Fight, show us what building a viable grassroots operation to contest power in Georgia looks like - it requires investing time and money, both of which the Bernie campaign never committed to the state.
During Bernie’s first campaign stop in Atlanta in May 2019, in a room of 100 organizers and activists, the Senator was doing his best to speak to voter disenfranchisement and local efforts, but was laughed at when he talked down racism in the South towards the end of his comments. This missed the reality of systematic racist disenfranchsment and Bernie’s own inability to connect to the issue, leaving some folks less excited than when they had arrived.
The narrative, “Bernie’s out of touch on race,” reinforced by years of media repetition, bad faith attacks, and self inflicted wounds, itself may have been insurmountable. A giant tell of how difficult this narrative was going to be to counter occurred during an initial canvass in September 2019. On a turf training 2 Black women, we arrived at a 2016 Bernie supporting household turned Warren 2020. The white couple could not get past “how he treated Hillary” and “not drawing in POC.” We did not have an effective counter to the false baked in narrative, even as 2 Black women and a Latino stood at their door, our very presence their debunking the claims.
Another significant miss of the campaign’s own doing came during the primary debate hosted in Atlanta. One of the preeminent Atlanta events was hosted by Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight organization. In the days before and after the debate, candidates dropped by Fair Fight events that included phone banking and voter outreach. Notably absent from making an appearance was Bernie. The man himself has said he is “not very good at bull shit,” but passing up an opportunity to drop in and phone bank was a self inflicted wound that did not help the narrative.
The pandemic caused all in person outreach efforts to cease, the primary was delayed 11 weeks, and Bernie suspending his campaign was the final nail in the coffin - it’s hard to motivate anyone to make calls for a suspended campaign. Leading up to the June 9th primary, in an effort to garner more delegates, the only visible GOTV effort came from Nina Turner’s Once Again PAC, hosting a web panel days before the election. Without a commitment of investing time and money, it will be difficult for any insurgent candidate to overcome the obstacles to winning in Georgia and the South.