Addiction is not a Crime

As Schumer and Sanders promote federal legislation legalizing marijuana, the newsletter from the Eugene V. Debs Foundation appeared in my mailbox. One item in the newsletter included Debs thoughts on addiction based on his observations when he himself was in prison. It reminds us that drug addiction is not new, nor is the debate about how to treat addicts. The amount of money we have wasted over the past 40 years on the War on Drugs is itself criminal. But the number of lives destroyed is the bigger issue. If that money had been directed toward treatment and eradicating the causes of addiction, just think of how much better off America would be today.  Debs wrote the following words 100 years ago, and yet we are stuck in the same paradigm.

“One of the most harrowing aspects of the prison hospital is the drug addict whom I learned to know there in a way to compel the most vivid and shocking remembrance of him to the last of my days. It is incredible that a human being mentally and physically afflicted should be consigned by a so-called court of justice in a civilized and Christian nation to a penitentiary as a felon, there to expiate his weakness; and yet, hundreds of these unfortunates were sent to Atlanta prison while I was there, and ofttimes I had to bear witness to the horror of their torture when they were summarily separated from the drug they craved.

“Blame them as one may, how is it possible in good conscience to punish them for their awful affliction with a prison sentence as if they were common felons. They are sick people who require special treatment, and not vicious ones to be sent to the torture chamber of a prison, and it is nothing less than a reproach to society and a disgrace to our civilization that this malady is branded as a crime instead of being ministered to as an affliction, which it most assuredly is.

“It would be quite as rational and humane to send men to the penitentiary
and make them slaves of the galleys because they happened to have cancer or consumption as it is to sentence and treat them as criminals for being addicted to the use of drugs.”

Stayin’ Alive

SDUSA’S Post-Election Buffalo Conference: “Keeping The Political Revolution Alive”

SDUSA conducted its 2016 Annual Educational Conference at the Manny Fried Playhouse at Subversive Theatre entitled “Keeping the Political Revolution Alive”. This 5 hour conference was held on Saturday November 19, 2016, in collaboration with the Subversive Theater Collective. The student run TV broadcasting facility at Buffalo State College created a 9 minute video about the conference and you’ll find a link at the end of this story.

At Subversive Theatre, in the evening, they were performing the play, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. Comrade Mottern and I felt that the set of a makeshift mental ward was an appropriate backdrop considering the psychotic nature of the 2016 presidential election. Our original plan was to have a video of the entire conference that would be posted on this blog, shortly after the conference took place in November. However due to the heavy academic schedule of the student TV crew which recorded the conference and the Christmas-New Year recess that followed, the abridged video was only completed in February and the school discarded the original files of the entire conference to save disk space. So, unfortunately we can’t link you to the full segments of the conference.

Nevertheless, even this very truncated video gives the viewer a good idea of the favor of the conference. And two month’s into the Trump Administration, the analysis at this early post-election forum is still fresh. However, since the video doesn’t identify the speakers or who is being interviewed, here is a resume of the full conference:

The Buffalo conference under the title, “Keeping The Political Revolution Alive” was planned before the last election expecting a Hillary Clinton victory. We wanted to pressure her to follow the progressive policies that were written in the Democratic Party platform and espoused by the Bernie Sanders campaign. Instead, we awoke on the morning after Election Day to face the nightmare of Donald Trump as the new president-elect. Thus, our conference would most likely be the first public forum on the Left reacting to this devastating development for our country and the world.

The event hosted some of the biggest players in progressive politics in and around the Buffalo region. The speakers at the conference were in order of their appearance:

• Phil Rumore, President of the Buffalo Teachers Federation. Mr. Rumore discussed fair contracts for teachers, the bargaining process, and the role the American Labor Movement will play in the modern day political revolution. Mr. Rumore is an active member of the Working Families Party in WNY.

• Brian Nowak, founding member of Liberty Union Progressives, Buffalo for Bernie and DSA, Buffalo NY. Brian discussed where Liberty Union Progressives is going, key endorsements for progressive candidates and membership information. His presentation was the main highlight of the video.

• Sheldon Ranz, writer for Jewish Currents magazine. Sheldon discussed foreign policies in the Middle Eastern region and how as a Labor Zionist, and son of a Holocaust survivor, he can still support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

• Kurt “Vile” Schneiderman, Founder, Director and Playwright of Subversive Theatre Collective, Adjunct Professor at Canisius College. Kurt has taken a strong role in organizing the adjunct professors in the Buffalo area to rally for livable wages and benefits. Mr. Schneiderman discussed how to organize effectively and his role within the subversive community..

• Jim Anderson, Vice President of the Board of Directors for Citizen Action of New York, host of Conversations with Jim Anderson on WUFO AM-1080, all around activist and member of the Communication Worker’s of America. Mr. Anderson discussed campaign finance reform and his experiences as a leader for economic, racial, environmental and social justice.

• I, David Hacker, was the final and Keynote Speaker, 2nd Vice-Chair Social Democrats USA and a former Librarian for the New York Post. I discussed the modern day political issues facing our revolution, issues concerning working class Americans, and a need for a real Social Democratic Movement to keep people out of poverty for good. I also emphasized that the revived SDUSA has a supportive and empathetic democratic internal life that we believe will enable the organization to attract new members who may have been alienated from their experiences in other political organizations.

The entire forum was organized and moderated by SDUSA’s 1st Vice -Chair and former Chair of the Young Social Democrats, Michael Mottern. Comrade Mottern has been a seasoned political activist in the Buffalo area since 1999. As a result of his political activities in the region, Mike is a very active member of the Working Families Party in WNY, where he met other activists, such as the speakers appearing at the conference and from a variety of groups within the Left-wing coalition.

About the Video: On the video, the first 16 seconds is from the presentation of Phil Rumore, President of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, where he states that the election of Donald Trump as President and a Republican Congress is not a revolution, but “a counter-revolution.” Then there is a brief interview with the new Chair of Young Social Democrats, Maxwell DiNatale.on what it means to be a Social Democrat. Next is a comment from a member of the audience, DB Absher, a founding member of the Buffalo Anti-Racism Coalition. Brian Nowak,a founding member of Liberty Union Progressives is speaking next in the video. And as noted above, his remarks are highlighted throughout the video. Interspersed with Novak’s presentation are brief interviews with panelists, Sheldon Ranz and Jim Anderson.and comments of Irene Market, a member of the audience. The video concludes with closing remarks from Comrade Mottern and DiNatale.

We encourage our members throughout the country to organize similar local SDUSA conferences. Contact National Chair, Patty Friend at 661-245-5252 for guidance and suggestions on how to organize a similar event in your community.

Click here to watch the Video

 

Letter to Members & Friends who Marched on Saturday

Letter from SDUSA National Chair Patty Friend:

Congratulations and solicitation to everyone who participated in the activities of Saturday January 21st!
No matter how or what you did. From West to East and North to South (and all points in between) it was amazing. 3.3 million of us turned out all over the country. And our members, families and friends were involved all over the country.

For those of us who were able to participate, the experience was great and heartening. Needless to say, we need to keep the enthusiasm and motivation building so that this new energy can result in votes for Democrats (especially progressives Democrats) in 2017, 2018 and 2020.

The President has convened a group of labor leaders(primarily the building trades) which was announced by Sean Spicer today. We must watch and see how they might influence him, and let’s see how we might influence them. For instance, the new Administration is planning immigration, tax, and regulatory policy as we speak. And they are presumably working on their plans for revitalizing the U.S. Infrastructure.

For those of you who participated in the January 21st events, who are as smart as your phones/other computers, we hope you will write us about your experiences and/or send us your photos, or post then to our Facebook pages. In Los Angeles, for instance, in spite of impossible weather (I was actually “snowed in” for most of the weekend.) and transportation/parking problems, close to 400,000 poured into Downtown LA, and spanned a distance of miles and they came all day and into the night. Nothing like that has ever happened before.

If you have any problems or concerns regarding our Facebook pages, feel free to contact Michael Mottern. Also, I just want to let you know that we have hard cover copies of “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda ” handbook on organizing to influence our U.S. Congress-members. If you want me to send you one, please contact me, Patty Friend, in California, and my phone number is 661-245-5252. Otherwise, look it up at IndivisibleAgainstTrump@gmail.com.

Let us know what you are thinking, doing and feeling.

Yours in Solidarity,

Patty Friend
National Chair
SDUSA

Social Democrats Ask Senate to Reject Anti-Labor Puzder

The National Committee of Social Democrats USA has issued the following statement:

Social Democrats USA joins working people throughout the United States in urging the Senate
to reject the nomination of fast-food executive Andrew Puzder to be Secretary of Labor. We urge members, supporters, and friends to sign the AFL-CIO petition against his confirmation.
The petition can be found at www.aflcionow.org.

The Secretary of Labor is charged with oversight of measures to improve wages and working conditions and with enforcing labor laws, but Puzder is, in the words of AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, “a man whose business record is defined by fighting against working people.” Puzder has been a strong opponent of increasing the Federal minimum wage, now set at a pitiful $7.25 per hour, barely over the Federal poverty standard for a single person. As for the possibility that he would be an effective enforcer of the labor laws, it is worth noting that Puzder’s fast-food chain has a history of cheating workers of their wages.

Toward the end of his term of office, President Obama sought to improve workers’ conditions by issuing Executive Orders. One required Federal contractors to grant up to seven days per year of paid sick leave. This order is not likely to survive under Puzder. Another increased the eligibility to receive overtime pay of workers earning up to $47,476, and this measure is now tied up in the Texas courts. Puzder can kill this order by simply not appealing the lower court decision.

Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor would be a disaster for American working families, and we urge the Senate to reject his nomination for that office.

The Class War

For the last several decades neoliberal Democrats and conservative Republicans have greeted proposals to help working families as “class legislation.” Throughout this time a very small part of the population has taken most of the productivity gains, unions have been all but destroyed, and working families have found it increasingly difficult to meet the costs of health care and education. This has been class war- a deliberate war against the working class.

We have come to an acute crisis in this war, when the conservatives have captured the three branches of the Federal government. Conservatives now have the power to destroy or drastically modify many of the social programs that began with the New Deal. We have to fight back, and a major weapon for us is to spread information about the costs to working families of the conservative attacks. In the months ahead Socialist Currents will publish a series of articles
about the right-wing attempts to destroy what is left of the safety net in America under the overall title “The Class War.”

No retreat, no compromise, no surrender!