The Columbus Free Press

Newsletter of the Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio

Volume III, Issue 1, Dec 1997

In This Issue House Party! Meetings
  • Arguing with the Right: Left-1, Right-0
  • Religion a big issue: Breaking Bread
  • Center for Democratic Values Conference: Arguing with the Right
  • Where is the Labor Party?
  • Labor Party Program
  • 1997 DSA Convention: America needs a Left
  • Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner: Follow the money
  • Following the money in Columbus
  • November meeting and elections
  • Interested in activism?
DSCO will have its annual holiday house party Fri, Dec 12, 8pm at George Boas's house, 824 Kerr St, Columbus (Short North area). Bring yourself. Bring your friends. Bring food and/or beverage. Bring (new) personal hygiene products for donation to a local shelter. Call George at 297-0710 for more info. DSCO executive committee meeting, Sun, Dec 14, 6pm at 1515 Franklin Park S, Apt D-12, Columbus. You don't have to be an officer to participate. Call Reg Dyck 251- 0216.

Next general DSCO meeting is Wed, Jan 14, 1998, 7:30pm at Stonewall Union, 1160 N High St, Columbus. We will be meeting here every 2nd Wednesday during 1998.

Arguing with the Right: Left-1, Right-0

Does the American economy serve democratic values? "No way!" argued democratic socialists Cornel West and Barbara Ehrenreich. They squared off against free-market conservatives David Frum and Stuart Butler at a "Left vs. Right" debate Nov 6 at Capital University. Organized by DSA's Center for Democratic Values and DSCO's Reg Dyck, the event drew a crowd of 900. Ehrenreich argued that corporate money in politics, no freedom of speech in the workplace, and the concentration of power in America undermine democracy. West argued that the Right has always stood for order and hierarchy while the Left stands for justice. According to the results of a poll of the audience, the Left won.

Religion a big issue: Breaking Bread

Is religion a fault line on the Left? The topic was race, but religion quickly took center stage at "Breaking Bread," a Nov 7 community dialogue on race relations at Columbus State Community College organized by DSCO's Bob Fitrakis and Suzanne Patzer. The panelists were Ehrenreich, West, Luella Tapo of the Native American Indian Center, Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Kee of Building Relationships for Equality and Dignity (BREAD), Bill Moss of the Columbus School Board, and Baldemar Velasquez of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC). Religion came up because Kee, Moss and Velasquez testified to their faith as their motive to struggle against injustice. The panel had also been preceded by a gospel group. Ehrenreich said she was almost converted but that, as a 4th generation atheist, she remained wary of religion. And so it began, dividing panel and audience, dominating much of the discussion, and ending finally with West's plea for tolerance. Can atheists and believers work together? Everyone's got something to say about religion! It riled up our November DSCO meeting. Everyone wanted to see the video when it becomes available -- stay tuned.

Center for Democratic Values Conference:
Arguing with the Right

The Left needs to speak out for what it believes. Don't sit around complaining to your comrades about the corporations and the media. Get out there and argue! Write letters to the editor, write op-eds, call up the talk radio programs, produce your own radio and tv programs, make videos. And keep doing it. Persistance is the key. That's how the Right came to dominate the current debate. This was the message of the "Arguing with the Right" conference Nov 6-7 in Columbus. Sponsored by DSA's educational arm, the Center for Democratic Values, the conference brought together activists, scholars, students and interested persons.

The Right's key ideas are contradictory, argued speaker Jim Aune, author of The Rhetoric of the Market. The free market destroys family values; technological determinism (futurist Alvin Toffler's Third Wave) trumps individual choice; and the dissolution of the nation-state (free marketeers believe people should be able to choose where they will be taxed) subverts patriotism. We need to exploit these and other contradictions. Everyone talks about "political correctness." Nobody talks about the conservative "economic correctness" pervading universities and the media.

Author Holly Sklar argued that media is key. We need to fund media projects and make them a priority. Allen Hunter discussed the Progressive Media Project which solicits progressive op-eds and distributes them nationally. Talk radio host Ellen Ratner asked, "Where are the liberal callers?" Columbus Alive columnist Bob Fitrakis pointed to the success of Voters Against Stadium Taxes, which kept calling up the talk shows. He argued that the left needs to recover the populist zeal that allows us to depict issues in black and white.

The highlight of the conference was the "Left-Right" debate.

Where is the Labor Party?

by Phil Schick

The Labor Party, a political party by and for working people, was launched in 1996. The Ohio state Labor Party was founded last Sept. in Cleveland. The immediate task of the Party is to build membership. How do we do this?

  1. The centerpiece of our efforts will be focused on recruiting unions at all levels--locals, districts, regions, and state organizations. We are targeting the locals of those international unions already affiliated with the Labor Party.
  2. Young workers and students must be approached as a key constituency for building the Party. The LP has already recruited student members from Oberlin College. We will build on this at other Ohio colleges and universities. In addition, the LP will focus on recruiting working class youth.
  3. Community chapters. The key to all the above is strengthening existing Labor chapters in Cleveland and Toledo and establishing new ones throughout the state.
The big question everyone asks is "When will we field candidates?" Delegates at the founding convention voted not to engage in electoral politics until we are strong enough to take on an electoral system dominated by corporations and the wealthy.

This will be considered at the next national convention in 1998. "Can I join the Labor Party if I don't belong to a union?" Yes! Membership is open to anyone who agrees to abide by the constitution of the Labor Party. The LP was created to represent all working people--and those who want to work. "The bosses have two parties. Now we have our own."

For more info write: Phil Schick, OSLP Trustee, 200 Tibet Rd, Columbus OH 43202 or Labor Party, PO Box 53177, Washington DC 20009; Web page.

Labor Party Program:

1997 DSA Convention: America needs a Left

From across the nation, members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) converged on Columbus for its annual convention here, Nov 7-9. Like any convention, it featured keynote speakers, workshops, resolutions, elections -- and a protest at the Franklin County jail against Paul Voinovich's cost overruns and in favor of the DSA Youth Section's project of a moratorium on building prisons. America Needs a Left, if only to pull public debate and policy back to the center (instead of where it is, on the right).

But how to build a broad Left? Joseph Schwartz, from Philadelphia DSA and a member of the National Political Committee, has proposed that DSA lead in creating a new mass left organization. He argues that as Clinton and the "New" Democrats move to the right, the only people still on the Left are social democrats (15-20% of the electorate). But no organization represents us. Now is the time to unite. What we need is a "membership version of the Rainbow Coalition." Its ideology would be anti-corporate and social democratic, but not socialist (part of the rationale is that people don't like the "s" word). DSA would use this broad left movement as the audience for its socialist vision. The convention voted to explore this possibility with other groups. What do you think?

Meanwhile, DSA needs to work with the Progressive Challenge, a national coalition of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Americans for Democratic Action, NOW, and DSA. We need to implement our Campaign for Economic Justice.

One issue raised by Cornel West and Youth Section Organizer Kevin Pranis was the absence of hope among so many people, particularly youth. West argued that the older generations a hope and energy that the young do not have. Pranis asserted that there is a "crisis of politics." People hate politics because they don't think anything can be done about the world they live in. We need a new vision of politics, one that is not based on guilt, and that is centered around volunteers, not professionals. We need to create part-time activists, people who won't burn out juggling activism, job and family. We need a structure that will encourage students to continue their activism after college. We also need to make politics fun (see box). Meanwhile, we need to show people how to wrestle with defeat and yet keep on going. "The Left has the blues," West says, "but is still steady and unaccusing -- because what we believe is worth fighting for."

Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner: Follow the money

by George Boas

On November 9, Midwest DSA held it First Annual Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner. We honored Donald Day, Secretary-Treasurer of the Ohio AFL-CIO, and Baldemar Velasquez, President of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC), for their lifelong commitment to working for justice on behalf of workers. Day spoke of labor's successful campaign to defeat Issue-2.

Velasquez gave the keynote speech. He urged us to "follow the money" as the guiding principle in our activism. To illustrate his point, he told how farm workers successfully fought Campbell's Soup. Following the money, FLOC discovered that primary stockholders call the shots at Campbell's. They pressured the biggest stockholder, Philadelphia National Bank, to get Campbell's to recognize FLOC as the bargaining agent for farm workers. They persuaded depositors to withdraw their money, leafleted PNB branches, and got account holders to deposit 5 cents at a time to jam up the bank's service. The tactic worked and within a month PNB publicly urged Campbell's to negotiate with FLOC.

Following the money in Columbus

How do we "follow the money?" in our local activism? Earlier this year, DSCO helped VAST defeat a proposed sales tax increase that would have subsidized two stadiums for rich sports developers. Now, Nationwide and the Dispatch Printing Company want a tax abatement of $27 million for their NHL stadium.

We need to research who else is going to profit from the proposed arena. The Mayor's office and city Department of Development have already given the developers the Pen Site and approximately $25 million in road development. The tax abatement insults everyone who voted down the tax increase. Let's get Nationwide and the Dispatch off the public dole!

If we follow the money and act together, we can stop corporate welfare/greed.

November meeting

We elected officers at our last meeting and discussed plans for 1998. We want to expand the number of leaders taking responsibility for projects. We want to set up committees for media (including The Leftie), membership, study group, legislative, labor, etc. Next year, there will be a governor's, Senate and Congressional races; in 1999 there's the mayor's race; and in 2000 another presidential contest (and maybe by then another recession). How do we want to relate to these and other political events? Next general DSCO meeting: Wed, Jan 14, 1998, 7:30pm at Stonewall Union, 1160 N High St, Columbus. (We will be meeting here every 2nd Wednesday during 1998.)

Election results

Co-chairs: Simone Morgan, Reg Dyck
Secretary: George Boas
Treasurer: Rich Hite
At-large: Cheryl Turk Hill, Lisa Stephens


Interested in activism?

The Democratic Socialists of America is the largest socialist organization in the United States. DSA carries on the legacy of socialist activism and agitation that has always been a part of struggles for justice--from the anti-slavery and Civil Rights movements to the struggle for the eight-hour day and the abolition of child labor, from women's suffrage and 20th century feminist movements to the anti-war, free speech and immigrant rights movements.

Today DSA continues the struggle for economic justice through campaigns like the Single Payer Health Care movement, immigrant rights organizing, living wage and welfare rights initiatives, and efforts to end corporate "wealthfare." DSA activists work in communities on campaigns for social justice through building coalitions with other organizations, independent organizing, and working on electoral campaigns. At the national level DSA works with progressive organizations from the labor, women's, people of color and other movements and with the Progressive Caucus of the U.S. Congress.

For more info, call George Boas 297-0710.

Next general DSCO meeting is Wednesday, Jan 14, 1998, 7:30pm at Stonewall Union, 1160 N High St, Columbus. We will be meeting here every 2nd Wednesday during 1998. All are welcome.

The Leftie is published by the Democratic Socialists of Central Ohio. Send all correspondence to: The Leftie, PO Box 1073, Columbus OH 43016-1073. Junta for this issue: Jim Wiley, Lisa Stephens (design and layout), George Boas, Phil Schick, Rob Lectka.

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