New Ground 98 Chicago Dsa

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New Ground 98 Chicago Dsa

  1. 1. New Ground 98 - Chicago DSA http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng98.html About Home New Ground Events Debs Dinner Links Join DSA Audio Email us CDSA Your contribution is appreciated but, because of our advocacy work, not tax deductible. New Ground 98 January - February, 2005 Contents Worshiping the Golden CAFTA by Bob Roman Back to Beginnings: Origins of the Constitution by Hugh Iglarsh Other News compiled by Bob Roman YDS National Conference Save the Date! The World Says No to War Letters Worshiping the Golden CAFTA by Bob Roman Winning the Battle! Fair trade issues were in the background during most of 2004, despite some significant developments. Apart from being crowded out by election news, another reason might be that it's also an issue on which far too many Democrats have failed the labor movement. As usual, there is good news and bad. Generally, fair trade advocates are winning a few battles but, I think, losing the war. 1 of 12 9/24/2009 9:55 PM
  2. 2. New Ground 98 - Chicago DSA http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng98.html The good news is that negotiations toward a Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) are comatose. Not dead because a framework for further negotiations exists and the Bush Administration's "fast track" negotiating authority extends until June, but the deadline for reaching an agreement was January 1. Brazil and Argentina are generally given credit for the impasse. It would be nice to report that labor rights and environmental concerns were the deal breaking issues. Given the secrecy of the negotiating process and the bias of the press, one can't exclude them as factors, but published accounts indicate a more traditional concern with sectors of the bourgeois economy. Of course, it didn't help that U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick suggested that if Brazil did not want to trade with the United States, maybe it should look southward instead. Antarctica, perhaps. This comment went over about as well as you might expect. Zoellick began being talked up as a candidate to head the World Trade Organization or perhaps Fannie Mae. Well, would being Condi Rice's new deputy do? Losing the War? In the meantime, negotiations on the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) were essentially finished in December of 2003. The pact was not submitted to Congress, mostly because the Bush Administration did not want this to be an election issue. (Kerry did call for CAFTA to be renegotiated.) Plus, after the fact, the Dominican Republic decided it wanted to be included as well. While the Dominican Republic could probably have been accommodated in a separate bilateral agreement, its inclusion is perceived as making CAFTA more agreeable to some members of the Black Caucus. The agreement now includes Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and the U.S. Beltway fair trade advocates are upbeat about the prospects of defeating CAFTA when it comes to a vote this year. And they have some reason to for this. Some significant business interests are opposed to the agreement. The American Sugar Alliance, representing sugar growers, is opposed because CAFTA phases out import quotas on sugar. Likewise, the textile industry views the agreement as another nail in their coffin, and cotton growers are not enthusiastic either. Given the growing budget deficit, the drop in revenue from import duties, while not huge, will still be of concern. It also doesn't help that the agreement does not adequately fulfill the instructions given by Congress to the U.S. Trade Representative that the agreement address labor concerns and make it a priority equal to other economic concerns. Regarding labor, the agreement really only says the countries must enforce their own labor laws, but provides no effective remedies, even suggesting that such concerns are essentially outside the scope of the agreement by referring disputes to "other international agreements". It doesn't improve matters that only the United States and Costa Rica have a pretense toward having adequate labor laws. The AFL-CIO maintains the labor provisions in CAFTA are worse than in previous free trade agreements. CAFTA also continues the infamous Chapter 11 of NAFTA that allows corporations to sue governments for loss of potential profits. This has not come up frequently, yet, under NAFTA, but it has and is being used in a number of cases. In fact, it doesn't need to happen frequently; the prospect of being sued is enough to keep local governments in line. Candy Coated Despite this optimism, it is likely that CAFTA will be approved. The Republican leadership in Congress has been effective at maintaining caucus 2 of 12 9/24/2009 9:55 PM
  3. 3. New Ground 98 - Chicago DSA http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng98.html discipline. While some conservatives have ideological issues with such agreements related to sovereignty, it's not likely to count for much in the face of Hastert, DeLay and the Chamber of Commerce. Any defections among Republicans will be more than balanced by defections among Democrats. This is particularly true of Democratic members of the Congressional Sugar Caucus. Prior to the November election, the Senate Sugar Caucus included 11 Senators, mostly from sugar beet and sugar cane states. The Caucus in the House, however, is largely concerned with the confectionery industry, which would benefit from lower sugar prices. Representatives Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Danny Davis (D-IL) co-chair the House caucus, which includes 14 other Representatives, including Judy Biggert (R), Raham Emmanuel (D), and Bobby Rush (D) from Illinois. Representative Davis' district has been hit hard by plant closings in the candy industry, particularly Brach Candy (see New Ground 36, "Brach Candy: the Battle Continues") and there is the illusion that a drop in sugar prices might have prevented this. For the much same reasons, expect some unions to make defeating CAFTA not a priority. Not surprisingly, the Democratic Leadership Council has been supportive of CAFTA. The Velvet Shillelagh While the United States International Trade Commission calculates the immediate economic effects of CAFTA in the U.S. as minimal, the U.S. business community has an interest in opening these modest economies to their participation using rules written to their benefit. Not even in effect or ratified except for El Salvador, CAFTA has been used to get the Dominican Republic to repeal a tax on beverages sweetened with corn syrup and Guatemala to repeal laws concerning intellectual property disadvantageous to the U.S. pharmaceutical industry. In the United States, CAFTA is the justification given by the highly profitably Florida Crystal Corporation when it declared its intent to outsource work to "independent contractors" and impose a reduction in overtime pay and other benefits for the remaining employees, thus provoking the Machinists Union to strike. This is in a plant that had not had a strike in decades. One farmer cooperative has already closed a sugar mill in Louisiana citing CAFTA as its reason. Threats to close or move and the bloody shirt of international competition are not unusual gambits in collective bargaining, especially when it is the first contract. And once again, the deterrence effect has an unmeasured consequence on bargaining and organizing, not to mention tax policies. CAFTAesque Defeating CAFTA is important and it's pretty to think it might mark a turning point. But one has to wonder. Aside from NAFTA, the U.S. has bilateral free trade agreements with Israel, Jordan, Singapore, Chile, Australia, Morocco. A free trade agreement with Bahrain has been completed and is expected to pass with no difficulty. Indeed, bilateral agreements are being advocated as an alternate strategy toward accomplishing the FTAA. The other CAFTA members also have their own bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements. There is the Central American Common Market that includes Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. This has individual agreements with Chile, Panama and the Dominican Republic. Costa Rica has agreements with the Caribbean Community and Canada. Mexico has a free trade agreement with El Salvador, 3 of 12 9/24/2009 9:55 PM
  4. 4. New Ground 98 - Chicago DSA http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng98.html Guatemala, and Honduras. Nicaragua has a free trade agreement with Mexico. The Dominican Republic has a free trade agreement with the Caribbean Community. Even allowing that some of these agreements are functioning at the level of wishful thinking, it's easy to see that neo-liberal property rights over human rights model of development is becoming dominant. These agreements act as tar-babies. The longer they function, the more difficult it is for a country to withdraw. Virtually no one in the United States or Canada, for example, is talking of withdrawing from NAFTA; the prospective economic disruption, real or imagined, would be too threatening to politicians' careers. In 2000 for example, a move to withdraw from the World Trade Organization was defeated in the U.S. House, 363 to 56. Renegotiating the agreements might seem a reasonable approach (and Mexico's President Fox is under pressure to reopen some aspects of NAFTA). But this has some severe practical problems for U.S. fair trade advocates. The obvious one is simply the balance of power within our own country. And our negotiating partners are not always to our left, not always even to the left of Bush. Even allowing for imbalances of power in favor of the U.S. this presents a problem. The practice of negotiations also would need to change. While CAFTA was being negotiated, the draft was treated as a state secret, not subject the Freedom of Information Act. Some NGO access to the negotiators was allowed, but it was extremely limited. What Is To Be Done Finally, advocates of fair trade will need to have something of a consensus as to the changes that are needed or desirable. We need summits not only on how to defeat measures like CAFTA (such as the recent Citizens Trade Campaign summit in Washington) but multinational meetings to discuss what today might seem utopian proposals for fair trade. I don't mean to suggest that nothing on this has been or is being done, but more is needed particularly here in the States. The need for this is urgent. NAFTA, CAFTA, et. al. are setting in concrete a system that favors only the wealthy, that regards property as the sole human right and the sole legitimate concern of the state, with inadequate means for remedy atop dynamic economies and societies and diverse cultures. Insurrectionary leftists and establishment conservatives alike take note: this is an excellent prescription for violence. Back to Beginnings: Origins of the Constitution by Hugh Iglarsh Let's start by recalling 1776 and the Declaration of Independence - a rhetorical masterpiece rooted in radical Romantic 18th-century thought. It's a narrative of dissolution, with notes on the nature of authority, the sovereignty of the people, the right of revolution. It's more than politics: It's about 4 of 12 9/24/2009 9:55 PM
  5. 5. New Ground 98 - Chicago DSA http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng98.html the return to Nature, as conceived by Rousseau rather than Hobbes. As life is the pursuit of happiness, we are duty-bound to reject authority if it makes us unhappy. Without arbitrary government, we are restored to our birthright of equality and joy. The Declaration is based on self-evident truths - obvious not just to lawyers but to all creatures of feeling and spirit. It's an inclusive vision of liberation, based on the idea that government is an expression of the community and that its role is to foster individual liberty and minimize artificial restraints, such as caste, monopoly and empire. Jefferson gives the Revolution its oomph - the Declaration isn't just anti-king but also pro-humanity. It portrays itself in world-historical terms as the march of freedom, as a moment when the world is turned upside down so that people can stand upright. It's a rebirth, a political version of a religious conversion. Tom Paine is the other great philosopher/propagandist of the Revolution, taking what we would now call an anarchist line. Here's what he said: "Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil, in its worst state an intolerable one; Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise." This Paine calls Common Sense. So the Revolution becomes a battle of Society - that is, the organic community that emerges as an expression of real social needs - against Government, seen as the laws and structures and privileges and punishments imposed on the individual and community from without. Society is Eden; George III is the serpent. It's a mythical structure, of course, but there's enough truth inside to persuade many and to focus resentment away from colonial elites and toward the crown. States are small enough and villages and towns close enough knit to provide some sense of self-government on the part of many. There's a strong tradition of participatory government in New England and significant social capital. During the Revolution, nobody is thinking in terms of nation building. British-style centralized rule is the enemy and continental soldiers are defending their states, which are seen as sovereign. The nearly universal view is that Society and Republican Government can only flourish on the state level, free of the entanglements, expense, demands and artifice of Empire. After the British surrender at Yorktown in 1782, a deliberately weak federal government is formed under the Articles of Confederation - less like a real nation than a United Nations without a Security Council. Each state, no matter its size, has one vote, and measures must be approved by all, as in a tribal council. Even a pipsqueak state like Delaware or Rhode Island has absolute veto power. As a result, the states become recalcitrant and uncooperative. They refuse to follow certain Treaty of Paris requirements, giving the British the pretext they want to hold onto frontier outposts. The new quasi-nation isn't really equipped to deal with other countries, and the states squabble among themselves about borders, currency, trade, taxes and other matters. 5 of 12 9/24/2009 9:55 PM
  6. 6. New Ground 98 - Chicago DSA http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng98.html But this isn't the major problem as seen by the suddenly nervous American elite. The populists are gaining power, and getting the state legislatures to pass favorable laws. Debts are being cancelled; paper money issued; farmers are getting a bit uppity toward sheriffs and tax collectors from the coast. The whole social hierarchy is feeling threatened. Society is beginning to stretch its muscles - the agrarian society of mainly subsistence farmers and artisans who want to live without being in a state of debt peonage to the landowning elite - the same governing elite who insist on prompt payment in deflated currency on mortgages, but refuse to honor their obligations to veterans of the Revolution. Farmers are organizing, even arming to prevent debt collection and dispossession. By 1786, Rhode Island has become a kind of people's republic - issuing reams of paper money and using state coercion to make creditors and merchants accept it as legal tender. From the creditors' point of view, it was time for Government to step in. But the Confederation - a sort of early Weimar Republic, progressive but feeble - isn't up to the job. The Continental Congress has just enacted its one significant piece of legislation: The Northwest Ordinance, governing the western territory. The ordinance bans slavery from the territories and includes a bill of rights as well as other guarantees of liberal governance. It's written in a very different spirit from the Constitution itself. The Constitution is an extreme disjunction from Confederation politics, a turn away from the Revolutionary ideology. How does it happen? The rump Annapolis Convention of 1786 calls for a meeting the next year among the states to discuss the need for a new federal constitution "adequate to the exigencies of the Union." The Continental Congress, however, limits the Convention's mandate to the "sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation." Exactly at this time Shay's Rebellion, a large-scale disturbance of disaffected debtors and farmers, breaks out in Western Massachusetts and the political winds begin to shift. One can learn the details of the Constitutional Convention from any history book. Two major models were presented: the Virginia and New Jersey plans, differing largely on the questions of unicameral vs. bicameral legislature and the issue of proportional representation in Congress. The other great issue looming over the Convention is slavery. The southern states will join a national government only if their interests are protected and risks minimized. But they see the advantages of a nationwide police power to return escaped slaves and prevent uprisings as long as they have a major share in the federal government. Northern moneyed interests look for a government capable of creating a nationwide market and enforcing protective tariffs against British imports. (Some city workers are also in favor of the Constitution for a similar reason: to protect jobs.) Who doesn't like the idea of a centralized nation state? Only the farmers and debtors - that is, the vast majority of the populace - who see only more taxation and less representation. What's interesting about the drafting of the Constitution is the extreme secrecy of the process: armed guards were posted at the doors and no notes could be removed from the room or even taken down in the first place without permission. There are no public records of the meetings. Benjamin Franklin, 81 and garrulous, is assigned a chaperone at all times to prevent him from blabbing. It's conspiratorial for a reason: the group is operating beyond its legal brief. Many delegates quit in disgust, including two of three from New York (so Alexander Hamilton, left alone, can't vote). In the end, the Constitution is thrashed out and written down by literally a handful of men. When they announce what they've done to the Continental Congress and the nation, there's an explosion of anger and accusation. Gore Vidal describes the "general tone" of the Constitution supporters as like that of " a meeting of the trust department of Sullivan & Cromwell." The Hamiltons, Madisons and John Jays were more corporate lawyers than philosophers; they were hard-headed operators who knew what they 6 of 12 9/24/2009 9:55 PM
  7. 7. New Ground 98 - Chicago DSA http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng98.html wanted and drew a straight line to get it. As Walter Dean Burnham puts it, they saw the state as "primarily in business to promote capital accumulation and to maintain social harmony and legitimacy." What's needed is a strong state that can collect taxes from the unwilling poor in order to pay interest on bonds to the insatiable rich - a state that overshadows and absorbs society, creating new identities and loyalties and definitions of patriotism. The founders were out to create a machinery of government that, in Madison's words, had the spirit and form of democracy without the substance - which is the reality of majority rule. Jefferson said that there should be a Constitutional Convention at least every generation as "the laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind." But that's not the intention of the Framers - they view the Constitution as almost an end of history, locking into place certain political rules and social relations. Religion isn't mentioned in the Constitution in part because most of the Framers are Deists and rationalists. But it is also true that the Constitution treats property essentially as sacred, and the state by necessity becomes godlike, an entity separate and above the people it supposedly serves. (See the Presidential Oath of Office.) To push the religion point a bit harder, the Declaration and the Constitution may be thought of as the Old and New Testaments. But the order is reversed. The Declaration dissolves old bonds and obligations, whereas the Constitution recreates a precise and legalistic world order that demands tithes (without expressed limitation, unlike the Bible), justifies war and compels submission. It quite deliberately recreates Empire with just enough Republican features to win just enough popular allegiance. As I reread the Constitution in its entirety for the first time since the 7th grade, what strikes me is its blandness. It has no ideational framework, no context, no emotional content, no art and no argument. This is not an accident: it's because the Framers are trying to slip it in edgewise. Because of its conspiratorial genesis, the writers wish to minimize its quite staggering audacity and innovation. There's a strangely ho-hum attitude toward the daunting project of creating a unified nation out of 13 fractious states. One might think that the Constitution would begin by arguing its necessity within the failures and weaknesses of the old Articles. But the Preamble has no history; it is a chain of platitudes ending in a solemn and magical fiat. It reads more like the Rotary Club bylaws than the Declaration of Independence. It lacks largeness. What it does have is mechanical complexity, especially in the Rube Goldberg presidential selection system. Think about it: The electorate (those people with the property qualifications to vote) chooses a state legislature composed, because of very high wealth qualifications for office holders, of the richest members of society. These legislators then choose a small number of electors using any method they think best, possibly including open bidding. The electors send their votes to the Capitol, and the President of the (not directly elected) Senate names the Number One person president and the Number Two vice president - even if the two are bitter rivals, as of course happened almost immediately. If there's no single majority winner, Congress can pick any of the top five finishers out of a hat. The president, already at least three degrees of separation away from the people, then turns around and nominates the Supreme Court justices for life terms - on good behavior. It has about as much popular input, as originally conceived, as the choice of the next Dalai Lama - and without the divine intervention. Circuitousness and circumlocution are in evidence throughout the Constitution. The Framers go to humorous lengths to avoid the word "slave," as Victorian writers would shun mention of legs and bosoms. The whole thing is very genteel and fragrant with euphemism. The document's intellectual background is revealed in the Federalist Papers, where we learn that fallen human nature dictates that government must be chopped into quarrelsome bits in order to prevent the despotism of the majority - another phrase for the power of the people, or simply civil society. The Framers crafted a formidable array of centralized powers suited to an aspiring imperial power, then placed as much distance as possible between those powers and the populace in the name of pre-empting tyranny. As Michael Parenti says, "the majoritarian principle was tightly locked into a system of minority vetoes, making sweeping popular actions nearly impossible." 7 of 12 9/24/2009 9:55 PM
  8. 8. New Ground 98 - Chicago DSA http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng98.html Unlike the ancient Athenians, who associated oligarchy with arbitrary rule and the diminution of the rights of free citizens, the founders saw full-scale participatory democracy as incompatible with the rights that mattered - property rights. In Federalist #10, Madison argued that a greatly enlarged republic is an insurance policy for the well heeled, as "a rage for paper money, for an abolition of debts, for an equal division of property, or for any other wicked or improper project, will be less apt to pervade the whole body of the Union than a particular member of it." In other words, the creation of a large nation and the great clanking marble-clad mechanism of government is necessary to divorce authority from popular will, and to prevent procedural democracy from transmuting into the contagious infection of social democracy. It's but a short step from Madison's statement to the situation today where protesting groups must seek permits from often unelected municipal officials in order to air their grievances in so-called "public" spaces. The people must humbly ask permission of the state for the right to assemble - that is, the right to exist as a mobilized, power-wielding public. If a demonstration does take place, it is often as not surrounded by police officers there to show that no matter what some people say or think, government is still boss. Anti-Federalists of the 1780s noted the irony of a people who had defeated a great empire turning around and ceding to its own construct the ultimate right of popular resistance. One other thing that hits me as I read the Constitution is the high level of abstraction with which it discusses great issues. Taxation and war making are presented as though in a values vacuum. The questions of who is taxing whom for what or what constitutes just war are touched lightly or not at all. Historians attribute this flatness to two causes: First, the founders - themselves members of an up-and-coming market-tied class - were not locked in a life or death struggle, as in Europe, with a traditional landed aristocracy so there was no need to present themselves as an enlightened, insurgent historical force out to save humanity from feudal bondage. There was no need to appeal to humanity at all, which would have been just a mite awkward for the slave-owners in the group. The founders could afford to be openly conservative, interested primarily in social stability and the prevention of individual or factional - as opposed to class - autocracy. Second, and more important, as Michael Parenti says, "there were no dirt farmers or poor artisans attending the convention to proffer an opposing viewpoint. The debate between haves and have-nots never occurred." The forces of society had no say (until the ratification debates), while the forces of market and money dominance wrote the rulebook. So the system is stable within itself - as compared with the British governing system, which combines many discordant elements, and can't even be written down. But the Constitution is not stable in relation to the revolutionary spirit of the Declaration of Independence, and the tension between the two creates the forward/backward dance of American history. The debates about ratification were the last gasp of revolutionary-era radicalism. The anti-Federalists, including Patrick Henry, Mercy Otis Warren and innumerable common people, fought hard, and their essays are well worth reading today. As Jackson Turner Main says, "Always the emphasis was on local rule and the retention of power by the people, which were democratic tenets in that age. The anti-Federalists, who lost their only major battle, are forgotten while the victors are remembered, but it is not so certain which is the more memorable." The anti-Feds were the party of urban radicals and back-country farmers; the Federalists drew their support from the elite everywhere, the coastal cities, major river-based trading centers and other areas where commerce ruled. The Federalists lacked numbers but had the money and the media. (Does this sound familiar?) In the end, the strong anti-Constitution intellectual and political resistance produced one signal victory: It forced the winning party to throw in a 8 of 12 9/24/2009 9:55 PM
  9. 9. New Ground 98 - Chicago DSA http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng98.html Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is a concession to the plebs, not an integral part of the Constitution, and it exists in a certain tension to the main document. It introduces the voice of the individual citizen to the discourse but as an atomized rights-possessor, not as part of a vital body politic. The Constitution itself is univocal: authority talking to itself. It was designed as an instrument of corporate management with a limited provision for upward communication. Within ten years of the ratification of the Constitution and seven years of the passage of the Bill of Rights, America had its first Red Scare, its first political witch hunt, its first immigrant-bashing binge, its first attack of war hysteria, its first betrayal of free speech guarantees - and not the last of any of these. Is there not a line between John Adams' repressive Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and John Ashcroft's Patriot Act and the ongoing attack on the human rights of Muslim and non-Muslim immigrants? Are these aberrations to the Constitutional order or an outgrowth of what was and was not settled in Philadelphia in 1787? Recently, government lawyers wrote that the detentions in Guantanamo - where 550 people have been held without charge for two years and more - are an "integral and inexorable part of the Commander in Chief's power to defend the nation and vanquish the enemy." Is this high royalist rhetoric an aberration from or a predictable extension of the executive powers granted by the Constitution? When George W. Bush sneered at the huge anti-war protests before the Iraq invasion as so many "focus groups," was he departing from or hewing to the Constitution's view of people power? When we learn that at least 90 percent of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's budget is spent not on hurricane relief but on secretive Ollie North-style projects involving preparation for martial law, is this a dereliction of Constitutional law or its recurring response to the specter of Daniel Shay? With all this, the Constitution is still in some ways a forward-looking document. The Constitution must be seen in terms of its epoch - a time before democracy was a respectable political philosophy, when the term sounded much like anarchy did in the 19th century - or today. The 18th century was still the age of the enlightened despot; the Constitution offers something new. It clearly reflects the pressures of the masses who won the Revolution to reap the benefits of victory over arbitrary rule. The great point in the Constitution's favor is simply that it exists as a published document, creating a new accountability and transparency. It paves the way for the rule of law, which again was something new under the sun. It bases legitimacy on something other than the age-old combination of God's will backed by brute force. The most democratic element in the new government, the House of Representatives, is also, in theory anyway, the strongest. The Constitution has endured longer than any other comparable document in any other country. But has it achieved this longevity by adapting to change or resisting it, broadening social and economic power or narrowing it? America differs from other industrialized nations in the imperious power given to corporations, its tolerance for extreme economic inequality, the vastness and lethality of its military machine, the commercialism of its culture, the narrow range of its mainstream politics and the strength of its private realm relative to the public one. At the same time, it also has an enduring tradition of nonconformity, dissidence, protest and civic action. The Bill of Rights continues to serve as a powerful weapon for the forces of change, admitting voices and issues into the public discourse that the Constitution itself would just as soon exclude. But it is a mistake to view the Constitution as primarily a legal bastion built to secure sacred individual rights. History shows that the centralization of power came first, and that the Bill of Rights was a secondary sop, its heroic protections subject from the beginning to lax and inconsistent enforcement. By creating a limited space for civil society, the Bill of Rights prevents popular discontent from boiling over into revolutionary anger, as happened in 1776. It too is in some measure a tool of overall stability for the state and the social order. The Bill of Right's existence ameliorates but does not neutralize the main accomplishment of the Constitution: the triumph of a centralized and diluted representative government over the radical Revolutionary ideal of localized, participatory, popular democracy, and the shift of citizen loyalty away from the living Society itself toward an abstract and insulated authority. 9 of 12 9/24/2009 9:55 PM
  10. 10. New Ground 98 - Chicago DSA http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng98.html Editor's Note: an earlier version of this article was presented at the October 8, 2004, session of the Open University of the Left. If you would like to be notified of upcoming Open University events, please email OULChicago@yahoo.com. Most Open University events are also posted on the Chicago DSA web site: http://www.chicagodsa.org/page9.html. Other News compiled by Bob Roman YDS National Conference Mark your calendars! YDS will be hosting its national conference in New York City from March 11-13. The weekend-long conference, entitled "When Bush Comes to Shove: Youth Organizing Against Right-Wing and Corporate Power" will bring together activists from across the country for workshops, trainings, great speakers, partying and more. This is a unique opportunity to meet YDS members and friends to discuss how best to challenge the Bush agenda and build a long-term movement for social justice. We're committed to ensuring that everyone who wants to come is able to attend. We'll be offering limited travel scholarships and housing assistance for those coming from out of town. More details will be available shortly. Go to http://www.ydsusa.org or call Lucas Shapiro at 212.727.8610. Save the Date! The 2005 Eugene V. Debs - Norman Thomas - Michael Harrington Dinner will be held on Friday evening, May 6 at the Holiday Inn Mart Plaza. We'll have more details about the event available soon. We've been posting information about past Dinners on the Chicago DSA web site. As of press time, we're back to 1987. But information about earlier Dinners, particularly those prior to about 1980, is pretty sketchy. If you have flyers, photos or other information from those times, please contact the Chicago DSA office, 773.384.0327 or chiildsa@chicagodsa.org. Or, if you'd like to see what we have posted already, go to http://www.chicagodsa.org/dthdin.html. World Says No to War March 19-20 being the two-year anniversary of the U.S. bombing and invasion of Iraq, United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) calls on supporters of peace and justice in every corner of the country, in communities large and small, to organize local protests against the war on Saturday, March 19. These can take many forms: vigils, rallies, marches, nonviolent civil disobedience. We especially encourage creative efforts to put the spotlight on the institutions of militarism at home by organizing actions outside military bases or military recruitment offices. List your activities on the UFPJ web site calendar at http://www.unitedforpeace.org/events (select "March 19" under Event Type). 10 of 12 9/24/2009 9:55 PM
  11. 11. New Ground 98 - Chicago DSA http://www.chicagodsa.org/ngarchive/ng98.html Letters.... The progressive forces in America have retreated into backing the Democratic Party. They thought that this was the best way to advance the social democratic reform agenda. But backing the Democrats also means all out support for American imperialism. Kerry and his fellow Democrats voted for the Iraq war. He even said that he would continue the occupation until the job was finished - meaning when the oil was flowing. Are we progressives prepared for that? History is clear. The Democrats have started even more imperialist wars than the Republicans. Truman brought us the Cold War, McCarthyism, and Korea. Kennedy and Johnson brought us the Cuban Bay of Pigs and Vietnam. Carter, Iran. Clinton, Yugoslavia and East Africa. When Dean's peace movement was rising high, the Democratic National Committee moved in with Kerry to cut off Dean and keep up support for the war. Really, is it worth supporting all this horror in the vague hope of getting a few small domestic reforms? American politics works like this. The Republicans own the upper middle class and the culturally backward. The Democrats have been carefully constructed by the ruling class to co-opt the disadvantaged: labor, ethnic minorities, and women. They are awfully good at that job, awfully rich and strong, and totally incapable of being changed. What, then, are we progressives supposed to do? We must start again on the laborious task of building an alternative political force, a new party. Not right away, but when objective conditions (depression or losing a war) send the people to the left. That will come, maybe sooner than we think. Meanwhile, let's keep away from the Donkey's hind feet - unless we like getting kicked. Our natural base continues to be workers, women, minorities, and environmentalists. Somehow blending them into a new movement is the only way to go. Forget about the Daley machines, the Zell Millers, the Liebermans, and the Kerrys. They are the enemy. All the above advice comes from the left. Now let me grasp the third rail of political "correctness" and take note of two things from the right. We, on the left, must of course offer the gays and lesbians all the benefits that heterosexual couples have in health, welfare, and inheritance. But call it civil union, or something, not marriage. Recent referendums in 22 states against gay marriage passed by margins of over 80%. Second, face up to the reality of what degradation in the ghettos is doing to race relations. Join with Jesse Jackson, Barack Obama, and Kwame Nfume in urging the black population to pull itself up in areas of crime, family stability, and education. I regret that a lot of the above is going to annoy my long time progressive friends. But let me ask you to calmly assess whether any of it is untrue. --Perry Cartwright Add yourself to the Chicago DSA mailing list (snail mail and email). Back to top. 11 of 12 9/24/2009 9:55 PM
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