Lesser Evil Politics: Really, Noam? Hubert Humphrey?

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/08/lesser-evil-politics-really-noam-hubert-humphrey/

The link above is to my article published today on Counterpunch. It is a response to:

https://chomsky.info/an-eight-point-brief-for-lev-lesser-evil-voting/

I liked the title better without the Lesser Evil Politics subhead but I am often willing to let subtlety have its way when others prefer gigantic flashing arrows. Leaden is my least favorite flavor of sarcasm. Like photographs with the viewer, I see no reason why prose should not let the reader do a little of the work. Readily apprehended things can be boring while teasing stuff out is more rewarding. Presuming you have the inclination and the wattage.

 

 

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Ross Douthat: Gaping Asshole

douthat-circular-thumblarge

Here’s an amazing piece from Ross Douthat of the NY Times for Sunday’s paper. He argues: it is good that the Republican and Democratic Parties have all these patently undemocratic gotchas and are run by the rich in secret, because that’s all that stops Yahoos like you and me from hijacking the nomination (read: winning primaries) to put someone like Trump (or Bernie) into contention. This muzzling of the electorate’s wilder whims is not only necessary, it is indeed a positive good, because only the rich can save us from ourselves.

Another way to look about this: Douthat  is expressing his gratitude that there’s a poll tax. Only the poll tax is billions of dollars and if you don’t have billions of dollars your vote doesn’t count, literally. And you should be happy there’s a poll tax because that’s all that keeps you from electing people that are bad for you.

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I Become an Electrician Overnight

My withdrawal slip from the horrible forge factory

After the heady days of May 1970 things mellowed in the real world and the string of strikes fueling the Student-Worker Action Committee petered out slowly. But no matter. I was 23, recently fired from my day job at the Occidental Life Insurance Company of America (wish I could say they didn’t have a case) but rescued from penury and job-hunting by corporate greed. Occidental cheated me of a week’s severance and my intake worker — musta some kind of closet Commie — took affront and huffily denied Occidental’s challenge to my unemployment claim even though they had me dead to rights.

I got $60/wk for 26 weeks, karmically extended to 39 weeks when the economy tanked in the first of several cosmically aligned layoffs that would give me 39, 52 and even 65 weeks of state-sponsored free time to organize the revolution. You could sort of live on $60 a week in 1970, gas was about $.35 a gallon, my rent was $100 and dope was still 10 bucks a lid.

Of course SWAC as a genuine home-grown movement group of 20 some activists doing good stuff among the workers attracted all sorts of organized leftists on raiding expeditions. I have told the story of Steve Kindred and the International Socialists’ work in SWAC in my addendum to Dan LaBotz’ obituary of Kindred here. The days of free-wheeling meetings and discussions with ordinary rank-and-filers were soon to wane, 1970 being a high spot for strikes and all manner of other shenanigans, but not without a trace. $500 at 50, a pension reform group one of our Teamster wildcat buddies alerted us to hooked up with some midwestern Teamsters to form Teamster United Rank and File and that morphed over time into Teamsters for a Democratic Union which became a power in national Teamster politics and exists to this day. Once I joined an actual (self-described) revolutionary group my days were full of discussions, reading, meetings and other attempts to absorb the rich history of revolutionary thought and action, which I had hardly been aware of before. I was one of those people who always marched in antiwar demonstrations but never gave a thought to how they came about.

Some of us became convinced through our strike support work that there was nothing for it but to become workers ourselves. The IS thought this was cool, so with the recent Teamsters wildcat strike in mind and anticipating the publication of Farrell Dobb’s Teamster Rebellion (about the legendary 1934 Minneapolis General Strike), we resolved to become professional truck drivers.

The IS in those days was into penetrating the working class. What with the Teamsters wildcat strikes on a semi-national basis, a big auto strike in September, the emergence of Miners for Democracy in the UMW, a rank and file upsurge in the United Steelworkers that would find reflection in the Sadlowski campaign, it seemed like a good time to make the move.

We became Teamsters. Once we had commercial drivers’ licenses and medical cards in hand the drill was simple: show up at the Teamsters’ Hiring Hall in the City of Industry, a pretty woebegone affair, and hope for work to come our way. Different truck lines with more work than workers would call the hiring hall and ask for drivers for day work. The wage was $6.44/hr, a fortune to us college boys. After everyone with a union card went out the dispatcher would call us up, in the order we showed up that morning, and send us out.

This was an unfathomably different world. No one told you anything unless you asked and if you asked too much you would nail yourself as not even vaguely one of the guys. So you had to triage your information-gathering and hope you survived whatever driving experience came your way. On my first day delivering stuff to the downtown LA garment district I went the wrong way on a one-way street in a big-assed truck, had to carry a sewing machine up a bunch of flights of stairs because I couldn’t find the elevator and was very very late everywhere. Fortunately nobody much cared unless things went really wrong, like the day I got a truck I couldn’t get out of the high transmission range, or find anyone to show me, so I just drove it until I burned out the clutch and stranded a huge load of booze on an on-ramp to the Glendale Freeway. That resulted in a Do Not Send This Guy To Us Ever Again Letter to the Hiring Hall and a major ass-chewing from the dispatcher.

But like all worlds this became comprehensible a little at a time and in a couple of months there were a bunch of us driving around LA, getting into political conversations with other drivers at various locations — you might pick up or deliver to 20-30 businesses in a day —  and there were usually other trucks from other companies at the same dock and a tradition of bullshitting since there were no lurking bosses. We talked union politics and world politics and pretty soon we were selling our newspaper, The Torch, to all sorts of people. Five paper sales a day was a good day, not bad for a paper that called for revolution on pretty much every page.

The trajectory of our cohort that joined the revolution on May 4, 1970 (think Kent State) was from one small group to another different but smaller group, that being the character of those days, but as true believers we were betting on the come. At our narrowest, after numerous splits, we found ourselves to be 20+ people living in Detroit. We spent a year from 1976 to 1977 working our way into the Socialist Workers Party, a behemoth to us with over 2,000 members and seemingly The Big Time. Little did we know that life in the SWP would simply reproduce the small. It all worked. By the time we had fused with the SWP and dispersed to various of its branches to start finding union jobs the whole process of becoming this or that sort of worker has become pretty routine to people with our peculiar history, plus we were kids and thought we could do anything.

So when John Eisenhower of the West Side SWP branch in Chicago suggested to me that I might want to apply for a maintenance electrician job at the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, where he worked, it did not seem totally insane. A stretch, yes. So I consulted with Steven Wright, an actual electrician who worked on this railroad, but he had little patience after finding out how ignorant of electricity I was and just handed me his textbook, which I gamely attempted to ingest in one night. Not successfully.

I showed up for the written test to become an electrician for the C&NW, sleep-deprived from my excursion into the 500-page textbook, and found after scanning the 40 or so questions, that there was not a single one I could answer. I was embarrassed and didn’t just want to give up instantly and leave this room full of people scribbling away with my tail between my legs. So I fidgeted, and soon discovered that the actual test paper was mystifyingly thick and bulky. Mindful of my fellow test-takers surrounding me, I discreetly investigated. I discovered that the two-sided test paper was actually three sheets bound together: two ordinary pieces of paper and a sheet of carbon paper sandwiched between them. Why? Because the correct answers to the (multiple choice) questions were indicated by little boxes printed on the reverse of one of the sheets and the carbon paper transferred one’s “x’s” to that sheet, where they fell within the box if your answer was correct and elsewhere if not. Thus the test could be “graded” by an idiot. Once I made this discovery the only remaining task was to line up my “x’s” on the front of the sheets with the positions of the boxes on the back, without giving away to anyone sitting around me, or to the bosses conducting the test, what I was up to.  Challenging, but not as challenging as conquering electrical theory in 24 hours. I left one question marked incorrectly for verisimilitude, turned in my paper and was hired within a week. That put me as a journeyman in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the old-line electricians’ union with a sorry history of red-baiting and busting United Electrical Workers organized shops.

We performed routine maintenance on locomotives used in the commuter wing of the Chicago and Northwestern’s business. Most of the work was just changing parts and I had actually very little chance of killing myself electrically plus there was a cadre of old guys who knew what they were doing who would help you out if you approached them with humor and self-deprecation. I was just another guy fucking the bosses are far as they were concerned.

Well, one thing leads to another and there is nothing like having a job when you are trying to get a job, so a little electrician’s experience went a long way. I moved to Milwaukee and got a job as a maintenance electrician in a foundry, undoubtedly the foulest work situation I have ever experienced. It lasted a month because I was just too ignorant of everything to keep the job but meanwhile I got to watch the unearthly sight of gigantic molds shaped by rare and foul earths placed on vibrating beds that would “shake” off the dust from the molded metal pieces, dust that was partially drawn off by gigantic fans and carted off every day in multiple open-topped railroad cars to God knows where. It was some grim shit. My next electrician job was in a forge and there I began to learn how to actually attempt to troubleshoot electrical troubles by looking at blueprints. Finally in Seattle I landed jobs is two steel rolling mills and in the second one ran across a book, written by engineers for untutored apprentices, that explained the craft in enough detail that, after many months of study, I could actually do the job and figure stuff out.

My withdrawal slip from the horrible forge factory

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The Long Arm of the Peace Movement

History never turns out the way you expect or want. The world powers in 1914 knew there would be winners and losers in the wars they contemplated sending other peoples’ sons to die in, but they never imagined that one-sixth of the earth’s land would be removed from their collective dinner plates for almost a century. In 1939 the same world powers (with some minor changing of sides) rolled the dice again, still not capable of conceiving that they might lose the 700 million people of China for decades.

And who would have thought the antiwar movement of 2002-2003 against the US war on Iraq would play a role in the ongoing emergence of a homeland for the 24,000,000 Kurds spread across Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq? I will attempt to draw the causal link between these events below.

It takes a lot of work, both materially and propagandistically, to prepare the US population for a war that sends hundreds of thousands of ground troops into someone else’s country. Efforts on both these fronts are a part of this tale.

Even though the Democratic Party was solidly pro-war from the outset it had a few outspoken voices who opposed the war, and they had to be isolated, their arguments refuted, and a resounding pro-war majority had to emerge. The method hit upon did not deviate from the wisdom of Goering:

“Naturally the common people don’t want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, IT IS THE LEADERS of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is TELL THEM THEY ARE BEING ATTACKED, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. IT WORKS THE SAME IN ANY COUNTRY.”

The point of attack in 2002-3 was Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. I shall leave aside the multiple, layered, truly world-class ironies involved in a President of the United States fearing weapons of mass destruction in the hands of another. Likewise I shall pass over the question of what defines a weapon of mass destruction, simply noting that my definition is “any weapon more potent than a bolt-action rifle,” which I believe is eminently fair. WMDs, as they came to be short-handed, became the single most important argument for immediately invading Iraq, a reason to ignore the shilly-shallying United Nations and its talkathons, to get short with recalcitrant allies, to get the job done before the sky fell.

Like all good lies, it had an element of verisimilitude: Saddam Hussein had employed nerve gas against Iranians in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-88 and again on his own people in several well-documented occasions, and there had been facilities for producing various poisons. The existence of such weapons was solemnly affirmed by the then-most-trusted soldier in America, Colin Powell, in a televised speech watched by tens of millions that Powell’s chief of staff later admitted was a pack of lies.

There were counters to this blitz from the antiwar movement, which was not at all standing around waiting for the hammer to fall. A group in the Northeast called Traprock Peace compiled all the existing information about the Iraqi stockpiles and potential for producing WMDs, and analyzed the US’s case. It turns out that most of this information was public, just hard to get at. The reason any of it was public at all was that the Iraqi armed forces had decided that poison gases were a dead end, and had themselves initiated the riddance of the WMDs and then told the story. Their reason was straightforward: poison gases are no more and probably less effective than standard artillery at dealing death from a distance. Unlike artillery, gas can get blown around and poison your own troops, who must therefore wear (in the desert!) cumbersome  protective gear. And the propaganda hit was tremendous. So the Iraqi Army themselves began doing away with their stockpiles of WMDs and dismantling their production facilities because they were not idiots and could see trouble on the horizon.

So, then, where did the amazing figures produced by Colin Powell come from? Traprock Peace showed that what the US government did was to assume that every Iraqi WMD facility in existence produced WMDs 24/7/365 unless verified otherwise, and then computed the total. From this wholly imaginary total the US subtracted only those amounts of stockpiled WMDs which they could certify had been destroyed. Ditto for the facilities themselves. Traprock wrote a marvelous analysis of all this and hand-delivered it, along with all the data, to every member of Congress.

But still, this propaganda campaign was not enough. Mass demonstrations of surprising size began to happen everywhere. There were two in October 2002 in Seattle, where I live, that clearly drew far, far beyond the ordinary reach of the groups that organized them. Undoubtedly the same was true all over the US. Then a World Social Forum was held in Genoa that totally swamped the city and was viciously attacked by security forces. Rather than backing down, the World Social Forum forces (whoever they are) started the call for a world-wide series of demonstrations on February 15, 2003 to stop the war. Organizing on a disconnected but global scale began.

Meanwhile, as the US rulers carried out the every-day work of preparing an invasion, which involved moving an amazing amount of military shit to within pouncing distance of Iraq, a problem developed. The plan was to invade Iraq from two directions: from the south, through Kuwait, which was prepared to host the invasion host, and the northwest, through Turkey. A classic pincers attack, beloved by all invaders with enough troops to come from two directions, since it forces the defender to split his forces and his attention. But the people of Turkey demurred. When the US asked, politely, if it might send an armored division or two through Turkey, the Turkish Parliament refused to vote in support, more than once. Assuming this was just a normal ally-to-ally holdup/ransom, the US cajoled, undoubtedly offered more and then way more, but the Turkish parliament seemed unable to tell the Turkish people that their opinion didn’t matter. It seems that Turkish popular opinion, by an astounding margin of 95%, did not care to open their borders to an invading American force with a baggage train tens of miles long. Naturally the aforesaid divisions were already sailing around the Mediterranean, waiting for permission to cross Turkey. They ultimately had to turn around and steam either through the Suez Canal or around the Cape of Good Hope (I have no idea which) and then wait in line behind all the other behemoths carrying war materiel through the narrow border of Kuwait and Iraq. This presented a not small problem. Leaving aside the loss of the second front in the northwest (in what is becoming Kurdistan) it put a lot of stuff in line to go through a relatively narrow corridor.

Now is where I make an inference, for which I have no supporting facts, but only logic. You will have to decide if the inference is warranted. I believe that the US High Command balked at the loss of the second front and demanded more time to work on the Turks to find some way, any way, to allow a second front to be opened in northwest Iraq. Double the bribes. Develop some threats. Suborn some Turkish legislators. Whatever. These are not guys who like to take chances. Their concerns were overridden because the political leadership of the US was freaked out by the breadth and depth of antiwar sentiment.

Specifically, it was spooked by the largest coordinated mass action in history: demonstrations in over 600 cities on February 15, 2003, in scores of countries around the globe, estimated at 35-40,000,000 people in the streets at the same time with the same agenda: Stop the War.

Real movements spawn sub-movements, bring completely uninitiated forces into political actions, develop a cultural side and find ways to accommodate people who don’t get off on marching in the streets. Thus in Seattle the night before the Feb 15 march there were 5 or 6 separate stagings of Aristophanes’ great comedy Lysistrata, in which the women of Athens agree to withhold sex from their husbands until peace is made with Sparta. In the original, as the action progresses, various Athenian and Spartan men are depicted as having erections. In the hilarious version I watched on Capitol Hill, all the men throughout the play appeared with dildoes growing out of their heads. Undoubtedly such examples could be multiplied indefinitely from other cities and other countries.

Well, Colin Powell’s speech may have silenced the Congressional opposition, tame as it ever was, but it didn’t do a thing to stop the oldsters from tabling on 35th Avenue NE in Seattle. Every couple of blocks you could run into another table of whitehairs from the Sound Non-Violent Opponents of War in front of some business complex handing out leaflets, urging attendance at February 15th, selling buttons, and so forth.

There was no reason to think it wouldn’t get worse. Crowed estimates for Seattle for the February 15 demonstration ranged from 55,000 to 70,000, easily twice the size of any political gathering before or since. Millions marched in London. New York’s demonstration was severely attacked first by the weather and then by the police, who attempted to herd demonstrators like so many cows and somehow pulled the plug on WBAI’s efforts to simulcast the rally over the radio.

So — final inference — the US political leaders did the only thing they could to silence the protests: they started the war. Without a second front.

Sadly, it worked. Vast numbers of people succumbed to the “Save Our Boys” sentiment and although it is fair to doubt if they changed their opinions about the war, they certainly changed their willingness to protest it. The next demonstration in Seattle, in early April, about three weeks after the March 20 beginning of the war, drew about 5% of the number of participants of February 15th. The unity of antiwar forces that the impending war had forged disappeared overnight into the same old boring and contentious factions, leaving, as it were, not a rack behind.

Except in Kurdistan. There the absence of an actual invasion force coupled with the general disappearance of the Saddam Hussein state, emboldened the Kurds to step in and take over where they could. Naturally there has been a huge amount of back and forth in the last 11 years, but now, with the seeming death-blows of ISIS and the Sunni insurgency to the Iraqi state, the prospects of Kurdistan for the Kurds looms larger than ever before.

We had a part in this. What we do, matters.

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AS Interviews Historian Bruce Levine

After Slavery

In the latest in a series of interviews with prominent scholars of US slave emancipation, Brian Kelly of the After Slavery Project interviewed historian Bruce Levine about his most recent book, The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution that Transformed the South (Random House, 2013).  Levine is a prolific and wide-ranging scholar whose books include The Spirit of 1848: German Immigrants, Labor Conflict, and the Coming of the Civil War (1992), Half Slave and Half Free: The Roots of Civil War (1992), and Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War (2007), which was awarded the Peter Seaborg Prize for Civil War Scholarship and was a finalist for the Jefferson Davis Award.

Dixie Book

BK: I’m struck by two main trends in recent scholarship on the American Civil War. On the one hand if we look at writing on the…

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The 1970 Los Angeles-Cleveland Teamster Wildcat Strike

Dan LaBotz’ nice obituary for Steve Kindred here talked about Steve’s days in Los Angeles organizing strike support in 1970 and beyond. As a participant in those days and those organizations and struggles, I want to add a little to Dan’s recounting.

Kent_State_massacre

The key precipitating event in my part of this story was the killings of 4 students at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, on May 4, 1970, by National Guardsmen. Probably everyone knows something about this, but just as probably many don’t know that these killings caused a wholesale shut-down of American universities in the wake of spontaneous battles between students and cops all over the country in a completely unplanned and therefore even scarier insurrectionary impulse from America’s youth. And I do mean battles. My good friends Eric Flint and Richard Roach and hundreds if not thousands of others fought a running battle with LA and UC cops that ranged all over the campus and lasted for hours. They  were graduate students hanging out on campus and thus well placed to join the fight. This was exactly the kind of confrontational shit we had dreamed about and hoped for as the Vietnam War ground on but I had rejected graduate school when I came to understand the kind of writing English professors had to crank out (a decision that 11 months administering life insurance policies at Occidental Life had caused me to regret) so I languished at my insurance company desk waiting for 5 o’clock and then had to endure multiple recountings of the day’s adventures when we got together that night, as we did most nights. I finally understood Othello.

In California Ronald Reagan announced the closure of all the University of California campuses. But way back in the day of Mario Savio activists, students, teachers, community people and lots of others had established that the University of California belonged to the people and was an open public space. So while Reagan could administratively close down the campuses they remained open spaces available for whatever an energized youth might decide.

I hightailed it over to UCLA the following day looking for trouble. The meant skipping work, where I was already on thin ice for various attendance-related issues. There I found something even better than fighting cops, if that is possible.

The campus was astounding. The Student Union Building had been ransacked by enraged kids and the gigantic central dining room transformed, overnight, into an organizing center. By that I mean an entire floor of a very large building was ringed around its perimeter with tables staffed by people advocating and organizing a dizzying multitude of things. There were tables that did nothing but organize the feeding of people at other tables. There were myriads of just plain folks, many of them with no campus credentials or experience, there to address issues they found pressing. Housing. Racism. Sexism. The War. There were radical nuns. No sororities or fraternities. Whatever. These people had just sensed that things were seriously opened up and so they congregated and talked and organized.

I was hanging around one of these tables when a pudgy guy walked up. His name was Steve, and he was a clerk at a trucking firm and hence a member of Teamsters Local 208. He explained to us that his union had gone on strike, but because it was a wildcat strike, the companies had succeeded in getting an injunction against Local 208 members walking a picket line in front of the gates at the various truck barns. He wondered if we would be able to help them by walking the picket lines in their place.

A little back story here. In 1970 the IBT was about to achieve a long-standing goal, viz., a national contract that would expire everywhere at the same time. This would immesurably enhance their bargaining power because it would put the spectre of a national truck strike on the table. Clearly, a plus. On the other side, certain locals that had already gotten super-good contracts for their members in the past were asked to accept a less-than-stellar (from their point of view) contract and take the hit for the team. Local 208 in Los Angeles, which organized local delivery and pickup of common freight and had thousands of members, demurred, and was on the verge (some say had already crossed the verge and had voted) of voting down the contract offer but were gaveled out of order by the meeting’s chair. So the vote to strike was either taken and passed, or not taken and not passed and you could find people on both sides of this question. The “No” voters called a wildcat strike which was remarkably effective. Essentially the same thing, the details of which I do not know, happened in Cleveland in Local 408 (Wow! What synapse fired to make me remember the number of that local! Hope it’s right!).

But the companies went to the judge and got an injunction. So Steve the pudgy Teamster came, on his own, and made his pitch to us around the table at the supremely graffiti-defaced Student Union Dining Room. I am embarrassed that I cannot remember the last name of this guy, who was a genuine working class hero who just had a flat-out good idea and carried though with it.

We were electrified. We said, yeah, hell yeah, we can get some kids to come down and picket for you. Where do you want us and when? So a few of us started making phone calls. I roped in my friends immediately, and so did a lot of other people. In this free-for-all atmosphere it was pretty much duck soup to get a couple of hundred kids from UCLA to caravan down the the City of Industry each morning and go wherever the Teamsters sent us. A couple of days in, when it was clear we weren’t going to get tired of this, the cops started showing up with gigantic buses to arrest and haul us away but part of the fun was that there was actually a very large number of individual firms engaged in this business so the Teamsters could direct us to a different place to avoid the police at least for a little while. Or, as it happened, they might have us go picket in one locale while they went to another locale to commit some act  of minor terrorism like burning trucks, setting fire to the barns, or whatnot. So it was a real-world fight, a genuine class battle with real stakes and we were the spearpoint of the student-worker alliance while it lasted. I would go home after a day of whatever at UCLA (I had gotten fired from the insurance company job I but at this time barely noticed that) and make my twenty or so phone calls to mobilize the kids for tomorrow’s action. This was by far the most fun I had ever had in my life and the jolt kept me going for a couple of decades of progressively less fun activities.

Well, wildcat strikes are generally short-lived and so it was with this one. But the little group that had come together to organize these early morning ventures into the heart of the LA working class didn’t want to give it up. By this time we were organized as the Student-Workers Action Committee and had decided that in the wake of the Teamster strike we would just go out and find more strikes to support. Somewhere along about this time Steve Kindred showed up. As Dan LaBotz wrote, the IS had determined to make its way into industrial jobs and our little grouping was prime for plucking, since we were, after all, the kids doing the student-worker thing in LA just by reason of history, good luck and chutzpah.

There were after-effects of the wildcat. While it was happening, a couple of guys got arrested for going up into the San Bernardino mountains and taking potshots at what they considered scab trucks. Nobody was hurt but when firearms get involved suddenly you have a different level of seriousness attached to the proceedings.

At this point the Student-Worker Action Committee’s monthly paper, The Picket Line (the paper Dan LaBotz mentions in his Kindred obit) decided to follow the case of the union brothers accused of shooting up the scab trucks. This was probably under Kindred’s leadership but I honestly don’t remember. I do know that he was the editor of the paper and loved it beyond all loving. So we attended the trial and wrote it up for The Picket Line from the point of view of the wildcatters and our efforts were wildly appreciated by the militant rank and file of Local 208 who had, in all honestly, never seen anything like us before. We became “their” kids and they took a decidedly avuncular approach to us, which was not at all inappropriate, considering. The guys on trial were convicted and had to serve some minor sentences, months not years, and were rewarded with a gigantic party when they got out, to which we were invited as honored amanuenses.

SWAC moved on to support other strikes. There a lot going on in labor that year, a big-three auto contract, some fights in garment, and other stuff. We got used to getting up at 4 in the morning and driving out to Pico Rivera Ford plant or the Bethlehem Steel Foundry in the City of Industry to distribute our little paper to workers driving into the parking lots. It cost a dime.

SWAC was a genuine community organization with lots of different types of folks in it who liked the idea of helping strikers. We had Catholics, formers nuns, all manner of working class do-gooders, would-be radicals like me and my friends, Robert Brenner, and of course pretty quick we had every radical tendency in the book knocking at the door. We had a visitation from a supremely bug-eyed guy named Jeff from the Spartacist League and Les Evenchick from the Workers League selling the Bulletin every week to us, but we also had Kindred from the IS, who just jumped in, started doing the work, and was a continuously positive force who genuinely participated to the point that his membership in the IS was not the point of why he was there, but just something about him that became more and more intriguing as time went on.

As it turned out, the IS was the tendency that did the best in this little strike support group. It recruited a number of people, approaching ten, who went on to have long revolutionary careers.

This is the back story to what LaBotz recounts about Steve’s early Teamster days. Because of the help we had given the Teamsters in the Wildcat they let us in on things, and one day someone suggested we might want to check on a group called 500 at 50.

So we did. 500 at 50 encapsulated the idea that Teamsters deserved to have a pension of $500 at age 50 and proposed this as a demand to the international union. Someone told us about an organizing meeting they were having so Kindred and I went. Turns out it was in the garage of a guy named Ron in a far south-eat suburb of LA. Now, this is a meeting of people concerned about pensions, so you might wonder what they thought a couple of kids obviously in their mid-twenties, who had clearly never driven trucks, were doing there. But when we explained out strike-support credentials they welcomes us and thus we met
Grover E. “Curly” Best and got involved in national Teamster politics.

Whatever happened in Cleveland happened and resulted in a call for a national meeting of dissident Teamsters in Toledo, Ohio. We decided to intervene, so Steve and I occupied his ex-girlfriend’s pretty fast car and drove non-stop to Toledo with a hot Gestetner mimeo machine in the back seat, in case there were opportunities for mass agitation. The Toledo meeting founded Teamster United Rand and File. At this point I think Dan’s obit carries the story forward so I will will let it rest with a big wink to Steve, now hopefully at peace.

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The $15 minimum wage campaign in Seattle

 

 

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Here’s an article Tom Barnard and I published in Counterpunch.org about the stagr of the minimum wage fight in Seattle:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/12/05/the-road-forward-for-a-15-hour-minimum-wage/

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