Each year, after the sun sets on the 14th day of Hebrew month of Nisan, Jews retell the story of the Exodus at an annual family feast. The transition from slavery to freedom, orchestrated by God’s hand, is a great story with universal appeal. I never grow tired of telling it. Last week I received in the mail a Passover appeal from the Jewish Labor Committee. The headline read, “Pharaoh refuses to negotiate; hundreds of thousands of Israelite workers walk of job site.” While catchy and humorous, it none-the-less reminds us of a simple fact about slavery— it’s all about getting free labor. After all, one group of people doesn’t enslave another because they are lonely and in need of company! No, they do so to acquire laborers. The exodus of the Jews from Egypt took place 3500 years ago, but the story is still relevant.
In yesterday’s elections, the French Socialists (PS) and the German Social Democrats (SDP) did very well. Both of these parties represent the center-left position. And both of these parties lost the presidential elections during the last cycle. The French President Nicolas Sarkozy heads the center-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel heads the center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). But the center-right parties took a beating yesterday, and this does not bode well for Sarkozy and Merkel.
In case you’re new to some of the terminology, the French Socialist Party is a democratic socialist party and therefore is occupying the same place on the political spectrum as the German Social Democratic Party. Here at SDUSA, we consider the terms “social democrat” and “democratic socialist” to be the same thing.
In France, the Parti Socialiste took 39% of the vote in regional elections. The UMP collected only half that many with 20% of the total. Actually, the big story yesterday was that the National Front (which would equate to our Tea Party) got 12% of the vote, stealing votes away from the UMP. The Socialists are now well set for next year’s upcoming presidential election.
In Germany, a coalition of the Social Democrats and the Greens unseated the Christian Democrats in Baden-Württemberg. This is particularly painful for the CDU because they have held this state for 59 years! And it’s a big day for the Greens, who gathered 24% of the vote and just barely edged out SPD who got 23%. It looks like this will be the first time that the Greens will get to head a state government in Germany. The coalition of Greens and Social Dems did well in other German states also.
Perhaps the Social Democrat-Green partnership is something we should consider here in the U.S.
In the wee hours of Saturday morning I readied myself for the long day trip to Washington. I talked Debbie into giving me a ride downtown because I wasn’t sure if there would be a bus at 5:15 AM on a Saturday. Fortunately, because it was Saturday, that drive downtown was only 10 minutes. Close to 180 union members and supporters gathered at the United Steel Workers headquarters building on the Boulevard of the Allies in the chilly, 48° darkness. Our group was mainly comprised of USW and UWUA members, but there were some college kids there who, I believe, were members of ISO.
After a late start and our bus driver getting mixed up in Washington, we finally arrived at RFK stadium and the largest sea of busses that I’ve ever seen. Take the picture at the right and multiply it x10 to get a feel for the number of busses in the RFK parking lots. From Pittsburgh I believe there were 3 USW busses, 3 SEIU busses, and 2 NAACP busses. Glenn Beck has criticized the One Nation rally, stating that for his rally individuals came at their own expense in their own cars, while for our rally most people came at union expense in union busses. I didn’t see anything to contradict what he was saying, but isn’t this really the difference between us and the Tea Party? They believe it’s every man for himself and we believe we’re all in this together. Continue reading
On September 1, 2010 Social Democrats USA held its biennial convention. Because of the travel distances involved, the convention was held by “web-conference”. The convention was stimulating to say the least. Guests Herb Engstrom of the Santa Clara County Democratic Committee and Roger Clayman, Executive Director of the Long Island Federation of Labor, provided great insight into the SD past, and presented good reason for an SD future. We also celebrated the start of a new relationship with the USW. Fred Redmond, USW VP of Human Affairs and Chairman of the A. Philip Randolph Institute states loudly that workers are severely threatened today and we need help from all quarters. Please see a summary of the convention in the attached report.
Last week, Harold Meyerson, writer for the Washington Post and DSA member, posted a link to Freedom House in his editorial about the importance of the Labor movement. At the Freedom House site you will find a survey of worker freedoms throughout the world. And in that report you will find that Cuba is rated “very repressive”. This will come as no surprise to anyone here at Social Democrats USA. But some members of DSA find attacks on Cuba’s human rights record as “not helpful”.