Democratic Left

MLK Was a Radical, Not a Saint

Today Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is viewed as something of an American saint. His birthday is a national holiday. His name adorns schools and street signs. Americans from across the political spectrum invoke King's name to justify their beliefs and actions, as President Barack Obama will no doubt do in his second Inaugural speech and as gun fanatic Larry Ward recently did in outrageously claiming that King would have opposed proposals to restrict access to guns.

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Martin Luther King, Economic Justice, Workers' Rights and Multiracial Democracy

MLK.pngIn 1968, a united black community in Memphis stepped forward to support 1,300 municipal sanitation workers as they demanded higher wages, union recognition, and respect for black personhood embodied in the slogan “I Am a Man!” Memphis’s black women organized tenant and welfare unions, discovering pervasive hunger among the city’s poor and black children. They demanded rights to food and medical care from a city and medical establishment blind to their existence.

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We Won - Now Keep Pushing

As recently as this summer, it looked as if the 2012 national elections had the potential to be nothing short of disastrous. Mitt Romney remained within striking distance of President Obama’s narrow lead, while the GOP seemed poised to increase its far-right majority in the House and threaten the Democratic majority in the Senate.

What a difference a few months makes.

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The Voters Defeated the Right; Time to Build the Left

President Obama owes his re-election to the black, Latino, trade union, feminist, and LGBT communities. It is they who rebuffed a Romney candidacy that relied heavily on the thinnest of veiled white nationalist appeals. A whopping 92 percent of Romney voters were white; and the only age group that Romney won handily was seniors. Obama in turn drew 55 percent of his vote total from whites and 45 percent from people of color. He won 55 percent of the women’s vote, 65 percent of union members, and 80 percent of voters of color (including 71 percent of the Latino vote and 73 percent of the Asian-American vote).

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After the Election: Keep Fighting

The Right, backed by a toxic flow of big money into politics and shameless efforts at voter suppression, tried to turn the 2012 election into a mandate for a regressive political agenda. The Republicans intended to overturn the modest gains of the president’s first term and roll back progressive reforms dating back to the New Deal. Political circumstances – a weak economic recovery, a gerrymandered redistricting of the House of Representatives in many states, U.S. Senate contests for twice as many Democratic than Republican seats and a disillusioned progressive voting base – favored the Right.

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The Chicago Teachers Strike, with Deborah Meier

Why do business people want to privatize schools? “Because that’s where the money is,” says Deborah Meier, citing Willie Sutton’s famous response to a reporter who asked him why he robbed banks.

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Chinese Students and Workers Confront Global Capitalism

We can grasp the dynamics of contemporary global capitalism through the prism of Foxconn. Nearly a million young Chinese workers assemble over 50 percent of all the electronics products consumed on the globe at 30 of its factories in China. In those massive production complexes armies of young men and women perform monotonous repetitive assembly tasks under quasi-military discipline 60 hours a week for minimal pay.

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Inequality, Poverty, and Politics: Book Review

The Great Divergence: America’s Growing Inequality Crisis and What We Can Do About It. Timothy Noah. Bloomsbury Press. 264 pp. $25.

The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. Tavis Smiley and Cornel West. Smiley Books. 222 pp. $12.

Timothy Noah’s The Great Divergence and Tavis Smiley’s and Cornel West’s The Rich and the Rest of Us frame inequality quite differently. Both are intellectual, political and social histories that span a century but focus most on changes to our politics, policies, and economy over the last few decades. With all the footnotes any scholar would demand, they still remain completely accessible to the non-academic reader. While they cover some of the same ground and promote similar policies, you will be much less informed by reading only one of them.

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