By Jack Rothman
I see that unions, led by the Service Employees International Union, are out in full force championing the $15 an hour minimum wage. Business leaders scoff at this. But about nine million workers carry full-time jobs, working 40 hours a week, and still live below the poverty line. Now, that's something to really scoff at! But even if these employees were able to achieve the $15 wage, the inequities in income between the top one percent and ordinary working families would still be a Herculean stretch. Workers are like cliff scalers in Yosemite, peering up El Capitan, but without cleats, climbing ropes and tax shelters. The Washington Post reports that the average CEO earns just over 350 times as much as the work force below. Those executives need to come down from the stratosphere and breathe real air.
Editor's note: In light of today's announcement of the Supreme Court's decision affirming the constitutional right of same-sex couples to marry, we thought our readers would find Christine Riddiough's article on the struggle for LGBT rights of interest.
By Christine Riddiough
As this issue of Democratic Left goes to press, the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to rule on whether state laws preventing same-sex marriage are constitutional. Whatever the ruling, events in Indiana, Arkansas, and other states reveal that the fight for LGBT rights is not over. There is still no federal legislation forbidding discrimination against people because of sexual orientation. Such legislation, at this point, needs to be won on a state-by-state basis.
By Duane Campbell
Left activists need to understand the crisis of austerity being imposed by European bankers on Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal, among others. A catastrophe on the scale of the Great Depression has been forced upon Greece for over five years under the deceptive description of a “bailout.”
Lets start with a few basics usually not considered in the corporate media descriptions of the crisis.
What happened ?
1. In 2010 and 2011, mainly German and French banks in pursuit of high profits made massive loans to Greek firms. When the banks recognized that this was a high risk, they were bailed out (not Greece) by transferring the debt from the banks to the public institutions like the European Central Bank and the IMF. Now the ECB and the IMF are trying to force the Greek government to cut pensions, education, salaries, and health care to pay for the bail out of the banks.
By Joseph M. Schwartz
Michael Harrington often quipped that the problem with American socialism is that it would be American socialism. By this he meant that socialists in the United States cannot simplistically import lessons learned from Europe, Latin America, or Africa. We live in a continental nation of 50 different states, and, thus, 50 distinct political systems. We also operate within a republican constitutional structure that our “founders” consciously devised to make radical democratic change difficult. If we are to be effective, we have to understand and grapple with the structural biases built into our system. These involve our famous system of checks and balances and separation of powers, plus states’ rights and electoral procedures that are biased in favor of a two-party system.
Statement of the National Political Committee of Democratic Socialists of America
Democratic Socialists of America grieves the loss of the lives of nine innocent human beings who were all leading activists and mentors within the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and the larger Charleston community. We express our solidarity with the members of the Charleston AME church and the larger black community of Charleston. The lives and names of the victims must not be forgotten: Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lance, Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Reverend and State Senator Clementa Pickney, Tywanza Sanders, Reverend Daniel Simmons, Sr., Reverend Sharonda Singleton and Myran Thompson.
By Dustin Guastella
Recently, when I was coming home from work, I overheard a conversation on the bus. Usually these two guys talk sports – the Phillies did this, the Eagles that – but today they got into politics. They were talking about how a local Democratic representative, the Honorable Chaka Fattah, while in the midst of a huge corruption scandal, managed to get re-elected.
Both were frustrated, “but that’s what they do, that’s the name of the game,” one sighed. Anti-politician rhetoric is normal but the conversation took an interesting turn:
“You know, I learned a new word recently.”
“Plutocracy, government by the rich. You see, we don’t live in a democracy anymore, we live in a plutocracy.”
“You know … you’re right. I think you’re right.”
One of my favorite DSA T-shirts reads, “We organize with class.” It sums up what makes us different from other progressive activists. We understand that the capitalist class has an inherent interest in exploiting the working class and has structured society and all of our institutions accordingly. Yet, we also recognize that the ruling class shapes institutions and social relations not just to regulate and control people based on their position in the economy but also on their gender, race, age, sexual orientation, and other categories. In other words, based on other aspects of their identity.
“Which music influenced your development of a radical political orientation?” Democratic Left decided to ask some DSA activists to answer that question by giving us their top choices for certain decades. The answers follow.—Eds.
Artist: Paul Robeson (written by Abel Meeropol, writing as Lewis Allen)
Song: “The House I Live In” (1945)
Years ago, I felt after first hearing Robeson's version of "The House I Live In" that it should be our national anthem. The song reminds us of our need to fulfill democracy, remember our founding fathers, appreciate our diversity, and believe in our collective. It's more secular than "God Bless America" and acknowledges war without glorifying it like "The Star-Spangled Banner." Still, what moves me the most is Robeson's deep bass voice ringing "but especially the people…that's America to me."