CAROLYN IN THE CITY!

By Susan Stevens

Click on the below link to a video from Spectrum News, a local Rochester, NY TV station, featuring one of our members, Carolyn Delvecchio Hoffman, who was elected to the Monroe County Legislature last year.

https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/rochester/public-safety/2022/04/20/advocates-rally-for-passage-of-elder-parole-reform-in-rochester?s=09#

We at SDUSA are thrilled to share a glimpse into the compassion-powered labor of our endorsee Carolyn Delvecchio Hoffman, elected in November of 2021 to serve District 25 on the Monroe County Legislature. In the linked video, Carolyn is standing with her fellow parole justice advocates, pushing for elder parole reform, so that inmates 55 and older who’ve been incarcerated for at least 15 years can have their cases reviewed by the parole board, and be considered for release.

Also a restorative justice advocate, Carolyn rightly points out that our criminal justice system does not center victims — does not ask victims (in her words), “What do you need for this to be made right?” We progressives are often maligned as “weak on crime” because of the mistaken assumption that fear of punishment is the basis for law-abiding behavior.

In contrast, as a new mother, I learned from attachment-parenting proponent Dr. William Sears that a person who grows up immersed in love has a built-in sense of total rightness within themselves, and between themselves and those around them. When something happens to knock that sense of rightness off-kilter, they know enough about how it feels to be in right relationship with the world, that their immediate instinct is to take the steps that bring things back into alignment. People who grow up in various situations of generational lack have a human right, at any age, to experience that center of love, joy and peace that connects all of humanity. They have a right to learn empathy by being the object of intense empathy flowing toward them.

They also have the right — as do those who were victims of their previous behaviors born out of their sense of wrongness or dirtiness, and who wish to be contacted — to a time of coming together for listening and restitution. Victims who wish to, have a right to tell those who’ve wronged them how they’ve been impacted, and what the perpetrators can do to alleviate their pain. Our justice system should be a help in restoring right relations between people, and not a hindrance.

Monroe County and all of us are blessed to have Carolyn working to make this a reality!

Susan Stevens is the Chair of the Kansas City, Kansas chapter of Social Democrats USA.

ENDORSEMENT: ALEXANDRA HUNT FOR CONGRESS

By Sheldon Ranz

In what could turn out to be a historic election for people emerging from marginalized communities, feminist public health researcher Alexandra Hunt declared her candidacy a few months ago for the Democratic Congressional seat in Pennsylvania’s third Congressional district (mostly Philadelphia) currently held by two-term incumbent Dwight Evans.

Raised in Rochester, NY by her two teacher parents, she attended college at the University of Virginia, where she made ends meet both as a server and as a stripper at a gentleman’s club. Her stance as an unapologetic former sex worker has garnered her national attention and the occasional lurid headline. Holding down both of those jobs gave her a unique perspective on the range of working-class life. After graduation, she found her calling in public health and moved to Philadelphia, where she now resides. She has been using her specialization in public health as a springboard from which to make connections with, and be active in, a host of other quality-of-life issues such as housing access and criminal justice reform.

A one-time supporter of incumbent Evans, she felt betrayed by his failure to keep his word to fight for universal health care; indeed, he voted against Medicare For All in Congress. Evans has been a supporter of the charter school movement that has further entrenched school segregation. With that in mind, and having formulated her own positive vision for the voters of her district, she threw her hat into the ring.

Hunt is an unabashed progressive with strong social democratic values. The expansion of democracy into every corner of our public life is a connecting thread that informs her take on virtually every issue of her platform. Her expertise on public health led her to come up with detailed proposals on managing the Covid crisis. She is a staunch proponent of a Green New Deal, Medicare For All, a wealth tax, demilitarizing the police, net neutrality and sex work decriminalization, among other concerns. During her Zoom chat with our National Executive Committee (NEC), she clarified that she supports BDS toward Israel as well as Congresswoman Betty McCollum’s bill to penalize Israel financially for violating the human rights of Palestinian children in the Occupied Territories. She shares Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s opposition to US military aid to Ukraine due to her belief that a sizable chunk of that aid is going to neo-Nazis.

The NEC voted unanimously to endorse her. Philadelphians will be well served by her heart and fierce dedication to the working class and the marginalized!

On the Issues: https://www.alexandramhunt.com/issues/

Donate to the campaign: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/alexandra-hunt-for-congress-website

Sheldon Ranz is Director of Special Projects for Social Democrats USA and the editor of Socialist Currents.

FOR Military Aid to Ukraine: A Dissent From SDUSA’s Ukraine Resolution

By Patty Friend, Jason Sibert and Rick D’Loss

Editor’s Note: SDUSA condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on March 16. However, the resolution was not unanimously approved.

While we agree with the text of our March 16th resolution per se, we oppose it as organizational policy because it failed to call on the United States to provide Ukraine with military aid – i.e., material and ammunition along with transport vehicles and armored ambulances, etc.  Therefore, we voted to oppose the resolution passed at our March National Executive Committee meeting. 

Russia’s war – a clear violation of the United Nations’ Charter – is the most vicious ever perpetrated on a sovereign state since World War II, as stated by Oona Hathaway in her article “International Law Goes to War in Ukraine” (Foreign Affairs, March 15). The longer the war goes on, the worse the crimes are, as we’ve seen the targeting of civilians. The counterweight to this lawbreaking is the crushing sanctions by the United States, European Union, the United Kingdom, and many other countries of the world. Of course, those sanctions are a method of supporting the violation of the UN Charter, although the UN is largely helpless because Russia has veto power on the Security Council. The sanctions are an example of soft power (non-military) being used to enforce the idea of international law.  International law extends beyond the sanctions, according to Hathaway: “contemporary international law demands that states respond to violations not with war but with what Scott Shapiro and I have termed “outcasting”—that is, sanctions that exclude a state that has broken the law from the benefits of global cooperation. In this case, outcasting involves not just economic sanctions but also barring Russian athletes from participating in international sporting events, banning Russian airplanes from European and U.S. airspace, and curtailing Russian media outlets’ access to European audiences.”

Airstrikes and shelling by Russia have devastated civilian infrastructure across large swaths of the country, including schools and hospitals. The World Health Organization said it had confirmed more than 64 attacks on health-care facilities, patients, and medical workers during the nearly two-month-old war, killing thousands of people and wounding countless others. “Health systems, facilities and health workers are not — and should never be — a target,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference.

The Russians have destroyed theaters, restaurants, food storage depots, and much, much more.  They have made it impossible for hundreds of thousands of civilians to escape, and for those who have tried to escape the cities such as Mariupol, many have been kidnapped by the Russians and forced to resettle in Russia, with many interned them in filtration camps, reminiscent of concentration camps. Others are bombed and gunned down outright. For those Ukrainians who have no other way to escape the dystopian nightmare in which they are barely living, there is no heat, no food and no water.

Putin’s soldiers have laid landmines all over cities and towns and villages and neighborhoods. They have raped women and girls and left them to die in the streets.  They refuse to allow civilians “humanity zones” so they could bury their dead; the dead fester and rot and carry diseases.  They have stolen Ukrainians’ food and medicine and have not allowed aid workers to get to the people who need them.  This sort of behavior shouldn’t surprise us: in Chechnya, for instance, Putin had Grozny bombed into oblivion, terrorizing the civilian population for almost nine years and establishing his puppet regime there. 

This war is not only unnecessary, unprovoked, and illegal but its justification is based in ethnicity. Putin’s propaganda promotes a set of ideas about the Ukrainians, concluding that they must be exterminated, that they do not deserve to exist unless they are part of Russia, or they are subsumed by Russia.  Putin’s propaganda is now attacking the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization as if we are evil incarnate. 

Putin analysts who are completely familiar with his writings and his speeches tell us that he wants to reestablish the Russian Empire, at least a Greater Russia with Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova as his first ring of satellites.  (As an additional motive, Putin covets the large oil deposit in southeast Ukraine, second in size in Europe only to Norway, according to world-wide energy experts.  Putin cannot tolerate Ukraine as an economic or political competitor.) Many who analyze him say that he will not stop at these countries and will need to go after Poland and/or the Baltics and/or the Balkans.  In other words, he will ultimately go after one of the NATO countries that used to be part of the Soviet bloc.  All of this will cause a cold war and arms race which will cost the West every penny that we would need to spend on climate change, peace initiatives, affordable housing, refugee resettlement, education and training, neighborhood revitalization, or fighting the next pandemic.  We have the chance to stop all that madness, and it won’t even cost one American boot on the ground.  We don’t have to do the fighting, but we must arm the Ukrainians so that they can do the job for themselves, and their freedom, and for us.

Congress passed a $13.6 billion defense spending package that includes $800 million in military aid for Ukraine. The U.S. must continue to stand behind Ukraine in its fight for freedom. It will strike a blow to Putin if he loses his fight to take the country into his sphere of influence. A loss could turn the tide of world politics. In addition to the need to halt Putin’s malicious ambitions, there are other reasons why Ukraine must get arms. First, it produces approximately 20 percent of the world’s wheat supply and other food stuffs.  If it cannot harvest its crops, people all over the globe will go hungry (even more than they already have) and more people will die. Second, from the standpoint of ‘power and principle’ (to borrow a term from Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski), the Ukrainians have been our allies, as the county fought with our country and NATO in Afghanistan.  The U.S. should not continue to abandon its allies, like it abandoned the Kurds in Syria. Allies are a method we use to confront our adversaries, a way of increasing our power.

Humanitarian aid is a wonderful thing, but we need a military presence to secure that aid. We’ve already seen how the Russians agree to allow humanitarian zones or corridors one minute, and then once the civilians start moving in their cars, the Russians start bombing them or shooting at them.  So much so that the people of Mariupol refuse to take the bait assuming that the Russians are simply lying to them and setting them up for annihilation, abduction, or forced relocation in Russia.

The non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations working in Ukraine  (such as Doctors Without Borders, Save the Children, UNICEF, the World Central Kitchen and many more)  need a great deal of help: thousands of armored ambulances and/or thousands upon thousands of tons of food stuffs, hundreds of thousands of blankets, pillows sheets, towels, millions of pounds of toilet paper, bars of soap and detergent, sanitary supplies, not to mention band aids, and garbage bags. Moving all these supplies takes convoys of trucks and railroad cars, and all must be protected from the Russians.

Some of our comrades are afraid that if we arm the Ukrainians as they need us to do, then we run the risk of arms falling into “the wrong hands” e.g., the Ukrainian neo-Nazis.  Are we afraid that the neo-Nazis will get fighter jets?  Are we afraid that the neo-Nazis will get Abram tanks?  What would they get from the West (and be able to use in some future war) that they could not buy off the black market? We have no clear count as to how many neo-Nazis are fighting in Ukraine, and no one has determined that anything they may have done (wear Nazi uniforms and SS insignias) are equal to the atrocious acts of the Russians.

Many feel that given all the horrendous mistakes that the US and NATO have made since World War II from Viet Nam to Iraq and Afghanistan, and smaller wars or military adventures such as Lebanon or Grenada, we should not and cannot provide arms and munitions to the Ukrainians.  But why should the Ukrainians lose their freedom (and all that that implies) and their country because the US has been such a bad actor on the world stage in the past?  While we heartily agree that the Dulles Brothers, George Shultz, the Bushes (father and son}, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Bremmer, Dick Cheney and others probably committed war crimes or at least profited off our wars, that can not absolve Putin from his war crimes and unspeakable acts, and it is no reason to assign the Ukrainian people to live in Putin’s totalitarian wasteland for as long as he might live.

If Ukraine survives, it will obviously have to be rebuilt from scratch. It will need a modern-day Marshall Plan and the US cannot and should not bear the total cost of that, rather Putin and his oligarchs should be made to pay along with the West. The motto of Social Democrats USA is pro-labor and pro-democracy. For this reason, our organization should support aid to Ukraine, both military and non-military. Perhaps a social-democratic movement will emerge in the country much like the mixed economies of Europe after 1945!

Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA.

Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis.

Rick D’Loss is an At-Large member of the National Executive Committee.

FROM THE SEWERS, EQUALITY

By Jason Sibert

Editor’s Note: Continuing our retrospective on the American “sewer socialism” movement

Jasper McLevy, mayor of Bridgeport, Conn. from 1933 to 1957, was a very important figure in the story of sewer socialism. As a source of information, I found James Blawie’s master’s thesis, “Jasper McLevy: The Man, The Mayor, and His City” to be very informative. Blawie stated that McLevy’s rise represented a response to the political corruption in Bridgeport at that time. He was elected mayor several times on at appeal for clean government. Some referred to the Socialist Party of Bridgeport as the “McLevy Party.” McLevy was born on March 27,1878, in an unpretentious house on West Liberty Street, Bridgeport, Connecticut, to poor and hard-working parents. His formal schooling ended with grammar school. He attended the Prospect Street School, Oak Street and Old South School. He was the oldest of nine children. McLevy worked for the Connecticut Web and Buckle Company, Wilmont Hobbs, and Burns and Silver, becoming involved in the roofing trades.

Learning the power of organization from an early age, he organized the Central Labor Union of Bridgeport and the Building Trades Council. He served several terms as International President of the Slate and File Roofers Union, American Federation of Labor, as President of the General Labor Union, and of the Building Trades Council of Bridgeport. He was first vice President of the Connecticut Federation of Labor, has been a member of the Socialist National Executive Committee for many years, and served on all the important committees of the Socialist Party.  Jasper McLevy ran for mayor of Bridgeport for the first time in 1911. A split in the Democratic Party and rising discontent in the country allowed the Socialists to run strong in the mayor’s race that year, although they didn’t win. However, McLevy’s increased stature allowed him the opportunity to push for the Workmen’s Compensation Act of 1913 through the General Assembly. Keep in mind, orphanages around the country were filled with children whose parents couldn’t make a living because of factory accidents.

Eugene Debs was accompanied by McLevy in New England during his 1908 presidential campaign. The Bridgeport socialist ran for mayor again unsuccessfully in 1931 in the early years of the Great Depression and was swept into office in 1933. His views were formed by the moderate Germanic socialism brought to the United States by immigrants. The political corruption of the Democrats and Republicans had drained the city’s coffers, and the Great Depression amounted to a double whammy. McLevy’s platform was a true reform one, hard-headed, and with no trace of dreamy idealism. He was very much in the tradition of sewer socialism and its pragmatic, scientific way of managing cities.  He called for a merit system, open contracts, “pay as you go”–a balanced budget, no bond issue except with public approval at the polls, open meetings, municipal ownership of public utilities and a return to city control of its own finances.  When he was elected, the socialists carried the day with Fred Schwarzkopf elected City Clerk, Richard Schultz Town Clerk, John Shenton City Treasurer, and John Bergen School Board.  The Republican party disappeared from the city.

Congratulations poured in from socialists around the nation – Socialist Party Leader Norman Thomas, International Ladies Garment Workers President David Dubinsky, lawyer Louis Waldman, and journalist Devere Allen.  Not all socialists were enthusiastic, as the socialist magazine “The World Tomorrow” issued a statement: “McLevy has been under fire from radicals in the party for his moderation. That he is a conservative Socialist goes without saying but, since his platform is the same as that of the national Socialist party, we venture to believe that Bridgeport will lead the way for Socialism in America.”

From the beginning, Mayor McLevy proved himself a steward of the taxpayers’ money. He sold the mayor’s car and used the money for police cars. The mayor’s chauffeurs, normally policemen, were ordered back to regular duty. The meetings of the Common Council and committees were opened to the public, hitting on the concept of transparency.  He opened Bridgeport’s insurance (like fire, boiler, and liability) to competitive bidding and saved the taxpayers money. This is consistent with socialist politics which should favor citizens in the lower-to-middle portion of the income spectrum. McLevy also purchased coal directly from the mines, a cost saver for the city. In addition, he passed an ordinance forbidding public officials from winning city contracts. His administration’s goals were helped by President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The Works Progress Administration provided between $250,000 and $300,00 from 1935 to 1937. The projects completed were a $80,000 city garage, seven miles of sewage facilities, and a $76,000 addition to Englewood Hospital.  

What did the socialist mayor do with the savings he promoted? His administration repaved streets and set up grassy areas around city hall. There were reforms in his administration that were much more aggressive than just being more fiscally prudent and fighting corruption. He eliminated the trash collection contract and created a municipal trash collecting service – a money saver for Bridgeport because the profits of the private contractor were eliminated in the municipalization of the former private function. In addition, the first city-owned garbage disposal plant was built by McLevy. Bridgeport’s printing costs were cut when the mayor allowed the city to purchase printing equipment to do the city’s printing; printing costs for the city went down. When McLevy took office, the city’s debt was $16 million and interest rates on its debt ran at $2,000 a day. This was eliminated, partially due to his municipalization of some services. Who says socialism (or at least certain forms of it) doesn’t make sense for the taxpayer?  During his tenure as mayor, both Democrats and Republicans accused him of being a revolutionary Marxist, an un-American Socialist, and even trying to build a dictatorship in the city! I guess today’s Democrats and Republicans are taking a cue from history. Look at the recent smear campaign against India Walton in the Buffalo, NY mayoral race!  

In his 1937 mayoral campaign, McLevy defeated both the Democrats and Republicans. Sixteen Socialist aldermen were elected to office, including the first female in Bridgeport history – Sadie Griffin. Not perfect, like any politician, McLevy demanded that civil servants work for wages that many considered low to deliver services to his constituents cheaply. Later that year, Democrat Stephen Boucher, a candidate for city clerk, called the Socialist mayor a “traitor to the working class” because of his stance on civil service wages, and McLevy did make a 20 percent across the board cut in civil service wages on all salaries above $1,000 at one point in his administration.

The political ideals of social democracy don’t rule out the contributions of private business. However, there’s little distinction in contemporary political dialog between private sector innovators, certain technological startups, computer hardware and software innovators – not to be confused with those who start cat video websites – on the one hand, and rentiers, or landlords who make more money raising the rent on residential dwellers or businesses, Wall Street types who make money cheapening the operations of companies, and fast-food and retail chains who make money off the welfare state because by not paying a living wage, on the other hand. A businessman’s magazine in Bridgeport, Ct., “Bridgeport Life” said this about McLevy’s administration: “His past record for conduct of office was all he needed for another sweeping victory. If we can find a national Jasper McLevy to do for our nation what he has done for Bridgeport, we may succeed in sending the political grafters to the junkpile. If the American people could be assured that what happened in Bridgeport on Thursday will happen for the nation in 1940, most of our fears would be eliminated.”  

Jasper McLevy’s organized labor record as mayor is complex. He interrupted his birthday party in 1937 to meet with striking garbage workers who returned to work when he promised a personal investigation into on-the-job injuries. The strike started over the dismissal of a garbage worker by foreman John Sullivan. The union demanded Sullivan’s dismissal. McLevy said he wouldn’t fire Sullivan but would reinstate the garbage worker if an investigation revealed an improper termination. The workers said the mayor had promised a conference with them before the termination of another worker, and they went out on strike again when it didn’t happen. McLevy fired them and chose their replacements.

Mayor McLevy opposed a city ordinance allowing city workers to organize in the 1940s, as he stated employees already had the right to organize. This was criticized by organized labor. At that time, city employees were at the bottom of the scale compared to other Connecticut municipalities. After World War II in 1946, Bridgeport’s Board of Apportionment and Taxation said it had no money to raise teachers’ salaries, and the schools opened with a staff of 25 substitute teachers and short of a full staff. Of Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns, Bridgeport was 159th in terms of money spent on education. Even the Chamber of Commerce and the Bridgeport Manufacturers Association backed a raise for city employees! McLevy promised to raise teacher’s salaries as much as the budget would permit. The Connecticut American Federation of Labor disowned the socialist as a friend of labor. The number of quality of people applying for city work declined during his tenure as mayor. The lack of funding extended beyond city employee salaries – the press regularly reported on Bridgeport’s public services (health, recreation) which were underfunded compared to other cities.

McLevy continued to serve as mayor until 1957. He was a part of the Social Democratic Federation which left the Socialist party in 1936. McLevy passed away in 1962. His legacy is mixed but provides a template for a modern-day sewer socialist.

Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis.

ENDORSEMENT: TAMIE WILSON FOR CONGRESS

SDUSA endorsee Democratic Congressional candidate Tamie Wilson

By Jason Sibert and Patty Friend

Social Democrats USA, an organization with a much richer history than the size of our membership rolls would suggest, stands strong for the values of the democratic republic and in opposition to the march of authoritarianism in our country and around the world. In this struggle, it is very important that our organization endorse candidates that stand for the values of liberal democracy. However, standing for the ideas of liberal democracy is just one step in the right direction; our organization stands behind candidates that support the movement of democracy into our economy – or social democracy. This should be no surprise considering our name and history.

Tamie Wilson is a Democratic candidate for office in the Fourth Congressional District in Ohio (including but not limited to Columbus and its environs). She worked for more than twenty years in the sales profession in one capacity or another, developing the necessary skills of argumentation, consensus building, and persuasion.  She has worked as a public relations director for different real estate companies, and is currently self- employed as a consultant in marketing and public relations.

 As a biracial woman who was abused in her younger years she has a special sense of empathy for marginalized people which led to work as a community activist.  She describes herself as a pragmatic problem solver and a progressive Democrat.  She is enthusiastic and charismatic. She is a self-described “strategic thinker” who is dedicated to working on the problems that plague her community, and she is well known for doing just that.

Wilson stands for women’s rights, as she endorses equal work for equal pay and takes a hard line against domestic violence. She also stands for increased funding for education (to invest in children). Wilson is of mixed-race ancestry; she wants the civil rights revolution to continue to make gains. In addition, she wants to expand affordable healthcare, supports family farmers, is an advocate of veterans, and wants our government to fight the opioid crisis. Wilson also wants to place our government on the side of the disabled, the elderly, and affordable college education. The candidate supports the right to bear arms but also supports safety measures on firearms, and she supports the fight against global warming, and advocates fair taxation. Her support for voting rights sets her apart from many of our political opponents that want to restrict the franchise.

She will be running against one of the far right’s leaders in the U.S   Congress, Jim Jordan, a leader in the January 6 insurrection.  Apparently, Republicans outnumber Democrats two-to-one in this district, and the Jordan machine is formidable.  But it’s about time that the Democrats forced him to have to fight for his seat, and it’s also high time that he must answer for his covering up the sexual abuse committed by a team doctor toward students of the Ohio State University wrestling team.

Ohio is poised to take off economically with the new manufacturing and research and development plants that the Intel Corporation is committed to building and growing.  Democrats have a real chance to take House seats as well as Rob Portman’s Senate seat. Let’s hope that the stars align for Tamie Wilson.  Any financial support you give is appreciated!

Website: Tamie Wilson for US Congress | Tamie Wilson | Ohio

Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis.

Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA.