Thursday, May 19, 2016

BASIC PRINCIPLES AND POLITICS: AN OLD-FASHIONED DISCOURSE



Harry Targ

Political activists bring frames of reference to political conversations. These frames are shaped by competing visions of the nature of politics and what proper individual and state behavior should be.

Neoliberals celebrate the long-term performance of the capitalist economic system and urge that state regulations of economic activity be very limited. Neoliberal ideology is supplemented by one of two outlooks on how the United States should behave in the world. Neoconservatives argue that as the world’s dominant power, mostly military, it should use that power to remake other countries in its own image. With power come opportunities and obligations they say. Humanitarian interventionists suggest that the United States role in the world, economically and militarily, should be measured and limited. As “the indispensable nation,” United States power should be used selectively when there are clear humanitarian reasons for doing so. Decisions about when to intervene, of course, are to be determined by the United States itself.

New Deal Liberals, in the tradition of British economist John Maynard Keynes and descendants of sectors of the Democratic Party, see government as a potential positive force to modulate and limit the negative consequences of unbridled capitalism. The historic model is the evolving policy agenda of the Roosevelt Administration which included increased regulation of finance capital, workplace conditions, and worker rights. The transfer of funds to stimulate economic activity was vital.

Economic nationalists are not opposed to a government role in the economy but view it as a tool for protecting domestic manufacturing and finance from the international economy. The promotion of domestic capital and protection from global penetration are hallmarks of this outlook. Economic nationalists are more comfortable with isolationism in foreign affairs and visions of racial supremacy at home (including “American exceptionalism”), although racism has been embedded in all of United States history.

Capitalist critics take the view that the problems of the concentration of capital, income and wealth inequality, racism, patriarchy, and environmental devastation are inevitable byproducts of the workings of the capitalist system. According to this view, in addition to the domestic problems that the vast majority of people face, capitalism is intimately connected to war and imperialism. 

Of course, in the world of real politics discourse involves synthetic and sometimes contradictory elements of these four perspectives. Ordinarily politicians articulate perspectives that fit more than one of these frames or “theories” of the policy process. Oftentimes they proclaim positions that are designed to appeal to particular audiences. 

But there is another way to think about the political process. This way, the bottom line for most progressive activists, emphasizes core values or basic principles. In fact, for most of these activists it is basic principles that inspire people to involve themselves in politics in the first place. These include opposition to:

Killing. Most activists find mass slaughter, over 100 million died in the two World Wars of the twentieth century, despicable. They are aware that millions of Asians were killed by two atomic bombs, wars in Korea and Vietnam and covert operations in Indonesia and the Philippines. Killing today--drones and bombings, coups and terrorist acts against other countries and peoples are paralleled by police shootings and gun violence at home. Culturally violence is celebrated in film, television, and the internet. 

The shift of wealth from its producers to the tiny ruling class. Much of human history since the rise of capitalism as a world system has involved the expropriation of wealth from the many to the few. Capital accumulation has led to monstrous consolidations of wealth and power to a mere several hundred corporations and banks while fifteen to twenty percent of humankind lives in abject poverty and another thirty percent barely earns enough to survive from day to day.

Starvation and inadequate housing, health care, education, and security in old age. On a worldwide basis one or more of these basic needs are not met by up to a third of the human race. And the lack of security against precariousness is characteristic of a large percentage of the United States population impacting particularly on women, people of color, and youth.

Destruction of the environment.  Every day people around the world experience toxicity in air and water, rising water levels, extreme weather patterns, and the transformation of natural landscapes into bricks and mortar, asphalt, holes in the ground, and leveled mountains. 

Lying. Governments lie. Corporate spokespersons lie. Politicians lie. Religious leaders lie. Educators lie. Journalists lie. The perpetuation of economic and political institutions has become the determining motivation for organizational behavior; the pursuit of profit basic. In such an environment populations get angry, cynical, or feel powerless. 

Dehumanization and objectification of human beings. To defuse growing opposition to the spread of human misery and systems of exploitation based on class, race, and gender elites have divided people into categories; pitting one against another. To do so, the complexity of human potentialities has been reduced to stick figures, stereotypes of kinds of people. Given the power of economic, social, and political institutions, the stereotypes of others and ourselves become broadly repeated in the media, cultural institutions, and educational systems. 

These objections to ongoing injustice become, for many, the basis for the development of a progressive political consciousness. People who oppose killing; shifting wealth and income from the many to the few; starvation, and inadequate health care, housing, education, and security in old age; destruction of the environment; lying; and dehumanization and objectification of human beings begin to rise up angry. 

But in addition to anger, progressives can look to the frames of reference, the narratives, the ideologies that pervade political discourse. They can ask which of these adequately address the objections raised. During election seasons, people can ask which, if any, of the candidates, adequately reflect what greater numbers of progressive people are opposing. 

When the basic principles are placed alongside the economic and political institutions that dominate our lives, the ideologies that are used to justify the status quo, and the candidates who are seeking support, what needs to be done, what kinds of organizations must be created to create a better world, and which individuals and groups are most likely to provide leadership and support for building a just society become clear.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

THE UNITED STATES SUPPORTS COUNTER-REVOLUTION IN LATIN AMERICA: SEEKS TO ROLL BACK THE BOLIVARIAN REVOLUTION


Harry Targ



But we cannot, and should not, ignore the very real differences that we have -- about how we organize our governments, our economies, and our societies.  Cuba has a one-party system; the United States is a multi-party democracy.  Cuba has a socialist economic model; the United States is an open market.  Cuba has emphasized the role and rights of the state; the United States is founded upon the rights of the individual….It's time to lift the embargo.  But even if we lifted the embargo tomorrow, Cubans would not realize their potential without continued change here in Cuba….It should be easier to open a business here in Cuba.  A worker should be able to get a job directly with companies who invest here in Cuba.  Two currencies shouldn’t separate the type of salaries (from President Barack Obama, “Remarks by President Obama to the People of Cuba,” The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, March 22, 2016.). 

Mr. Obama’s decision to come to Argentina now — straight after his visit to Cuba, where the Communist government is slowly opening to market forces — signals Washington’s backing for a shift to the center, foreign policy analysts say. He may also be seeking to firm up the United States’ position in the region, where China has been establishing a foothold (Jonathan Gilbert, “Obama Visit Affirms Argentina’s Shift Toward Center.” New York Times, March 23, 2016).

The Bolivarian Revolution, the formation of intergovernmental organizations in the Global South, buoyant economic growth among some of the poorer countries, and the spread of  anti-austerity grassroots social movements everywhere have sent shock waves across the international system. The world is experiencing a global transformation potentially as great as when the nation-state system was constructed out of feudalism in the seventeenth century or the multipolar world was transformed into a bipolar one after World War II. Similar dramatic changes resulted from the collapse of the bipolar Cold War world to a unipolar one after the collapse of the Socialist Bloc. This time countries of the Global South and mass movements of workers, youth, indigenous people, and people of color are taking center stage.

However, this twenty-first century tectonic shifts occurring in world affairs have not been occurring automatically. Keepers of the old order, the rich and powerful states of the Global North, continue to promote their hegemonic project particularly when resistance shows its internal weaknesses. The effort to maintain control amid faltering resistance is displayed in recent United States foreign policy toward Latin America.
  
The Bolivarian Revolution Spreads Across Latin America

The Bolivarian Revolution was the name given by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to the populist revolution he initiated in his country. Elected in 1998, he embarked on policies to empower the poor, spread literacy, expand access to health care, build worker cooperatives, and modestly redistribute wealth and power from the rich to the poor. His vision was to constitute an economic and political program designed to reverse the neoliberal policy agenda embraced by his predecessors. The oil-rich country, collaborating with revolutionary Cuba, initiated a campaign to make real the nineteenth century dream of Simon Bolivar to create a united and sovereign South America, free from imperial rule. Inspired by grassroots movements, populists governments came to power in Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Honduras, and Nicaragua. More cautious but left-of-center governments emerged in Argentina, Brazil, and Chile. 

Venezuela and Cuba established the eleven nation Bolivarian Alternatives for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) in 2004; Venezuela, Cuba and several other Caribbean countries created, in 2005, Petrocaribe, a trade organization, primarily dealing with oil. In the Hemisphere, twelve South American countries constructed the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in 2008 and the 33 nation Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) was established in 2011. All of these organizations were inspired by the vision of expanding regional economic and political sovereignty as opposed to the traditional United States hegemony in the region. Primarily they challenged the neoliberal model of economic development.

Setbacks

The successes of the spreading popular movements of the first decade of the twenty-first century were paralleled by buoyant economic growth throughout Latin America. Moises Naim, (“The Coming Turmoil in Latin America,” The Atlantic, October 9, 2015) pointed out that all of Latin America experienced economic growth from 2004 to 2013 due to expanding commodity trade with Asia and increased foreign investments in the region. The major economic player in the region was China. However, comparing 2003-2010 growth rates with 2010-2015, the author reported that rates of growth during the second period were only forty percent of what they were in the first. 

With slower growth, declining currency values, higher unemployment and declining social benefits, the narrowing of economic inequality in the region and rising benefits for the poor have been reversed. As The Economist put it in June 27, 2015, “Latin America’s economy is screeching to a halt; it managed growth of just 1.3% last year. This year’s figure will be only 0.9%, reckons the IMF, which would mark  the fifth successive year of deceleration….Many reckon it now faces a ‘new normal’ of growth of just-2-3% a year. That would jeopardize recent social gains; already the fall in poverty has halted.”  

In 2007, Naomi Klein published a fascinating book called The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. In it she develops the idea of the shock doctrine, paying homage to the source of the concept, Milton Friedman, the renowned free market economist. From one of his essays she quotes the following: “…only a crisis--actual or perceived--produces real change. When the crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.” The shock doctrine is illustrated by the fact that the declining growth rates in Latin America have been coupled with reactionary political forces in Latin America (and their US friends) becoming re-energized to stifle and dismantle the gains of the Bolivarian revolution and to reverse the gains made by the popular classes. 

On June 28, 2009 there was a military coup in Honduras, ousting democratically-elected Manuel Zelaya from office. Zelaya, who sympathized with the Bolivarian Revolution, was formally replaced in a November, 2009 election that was designed to give legitimacy to the coup. The Honduran coup, in retrospect, signaled a return to destabilization by the wealthy classes of the popular currents represented by the Bolivarian Revolution everywhere.

While Brazil’s Workers Party candidate Dilma Rousseff won reelection as president in October 2014, her victory margin was the narrowest (51.6 percent to 48.4 percent) of the four races in which the center/left Workers Party was victorious. The split between the left/center and right wing forces set the stage for the 2016 campaign by the wealthy to impeach Rousseff for corruption.

Further, in what was called by the New York Times a “transformative election,” the Argentinian people elected as president right-wing advocate of the disastrous neoliberal economic agenda, Mauricio Macri, the mayor of Buenos Aires. Despite the success of prior governments in resisting destructive IMF demands for debt restructuring, Macri promises to return to the policies of the 1990s that led to economic crisis. As the Macri-sympathetic Times editorial put it: “Reforming the stagnant economy will be painful in the short run, but could make Argentina more attractive to foreign investors” (November 26, 2015).

Nicolas Maduro won a narrow presidential victory over a rightwing candidate in Venezuela’s April 14, 2013 election to replace his deceased popular predecessor, Hugo Chavez. Over the next two years, opposition forces engaged in periodic street protests, many in wealthier parts of Venezuelan cities. Coupled with growing economic problems and domestic violence, leaders of the major opposition political party have sought to mobilize support to overthrow the Maduro government and the reforms put in place by Hugo Chavez. In a March 27, 2014 account of anti-government protests, the BBC reported that; “The government’s popularity remains high amid its working-class voters, who gave it a further boost in local elections in December.” However, in December, 2015, an anti-government coalition took two-thirds of the parliamentary seats in the most recent election. Almost immediately, opposition politicians began efforts to overturn the popular reforms of the Chavez era and to launch a campaign to impeach Maduro from the presidency.

The United States Role

Throughout the period since the political arrival of Hugo Chavez on the scene in Latin America, the United States has stood in opposition to the Bolivarian Revolution. The United States gave at least tacit support to the failed military coup in Venezuela in 2002. Neighboring Colombia received funds to continue the “war on drugs” while the United States built seven military installations around that country to “protect” Colombia from an “aggressive” Venezuela. In subsequent years, the U.S. Congress has imposed partial embargoes on the visitation rights of selected Venezuelan government officials. Also, the United States has provided funding, training, and educational opportunities to Venezuelans who have played prominent roles in opposition to the Chavez government. It continues to condemn Venezuela’s policies at home, projecting the image that it represents the same kind of threat to the hemisphere that the Cuban revolutionary government represented in the 1960s.

The U.S. government mildly condemned the Honduran coup (compared with statements from the Organization of American States and other nations in the hemisphere). Subsequently it endorsed the November, 2009 election in that country, as presidential candidate Hillary Clinton suggested, to give legitimacy to the coup. Since then, the United States has ignored the grotesque human rights violations and assassinations of opponents of the Honduran government.

And very recently a politician in the impeachment bloc in Brazil visited Washington, meeting foreign policy officials who deal with Latin America and members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Given the twenty-first century challenges the Bolivarian Revolution represent to the Washington Consensus and the neoliberal agenda in the Western Hemisphere, the recent visits by President Obama to Cuba and Argentina represent metaphorically imperialism’s response. The President on the one hand is dramatically reordering the US/Cuba relationship, but is doing so in a way to pressure the Cubans to adopt a US/style political system and a market-based open capitalist economic system. 

And his visit to Argentina, just after the Cuba visit, was designed to signal to Argentina and the entire Hemisphere that the United States is committed to a return to neoliberal economic policies. These policies, as always, benefit the rich at the expense of the popular classes. Concretely they include;

-reversing the Cuban revolutionary model

-reinforcing Argentina’s return to dependency on the international financial system

-encouraging impeachments of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela 

-weakening emerging regional organizations such as UNASUR and CELAC

-replacing China’s rising presence in the Latin America with a revitalized US economic hegemony in trade, finance, and investment 

As Eric Draitser (“Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America,” Telesur, April 29, 2016) suggests: “Since the rise of Hugo Chavez Latin America has gone its own way, democratizing and moving away from its former status as a ‘American Backyard.’ With Hillary Clinton and Wall Street working hand in hand with their right wing proxies in Latin America, Washington looks to reassert its control. And it is the people of the region who will pay the price.”

However, it may be the case that the popular classes, tasting some of the benefits of the transition to socialism in the twenty-first century, will resist the attempts in the region to reestablish US hegemony and the neoliberal agenda. The outcome is yet to be determined.
  

Monday, May 2, 2016

MAY DAY BRINGS THOUGHTS OF SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVES

(This essay first appeared on  May,1, 2009)
Harry Targ

Sketching Today’s Global Political Economy

During the latest phase of monopoly and finance capital (1945- to the present) enormous changes occurred in the global political economy. First, the United States emerged as a superpower and in an effort to crush the threat of socialism around the world committed itself to constructing a “permanent war economy.” This permanent war economy would create the military capacity to destroy alternatives to global capitalism, stimulate and maintain a high growth manufacturing economy, justify an anti-communist crusade to crush the left in the United States, and co-opt and/or repress working class demands for change. In addition, the permanent war economy would occasion the perpetuation of racism and patriarchy in public and private life.

As the years passed corporate rates of profit began to decline as a result of rising competition among capitalist states, over-production and under-consumption, an increasing fiscal crisis of the capitalist state, and rising prices of core natural resources (particularly oil). With a growing crisis, global corporate and finance capital shifted from investments in production of goods and services to financial speculation. Thus capitalist investment steadily shifted to financialization, or the investment in paper-stocks, bonds, private equity and hedge funds and other forms of speculative investment. Financial speculation was encouraged by state tax policies, “free trade” agreements, an expanded international system of indebtedness, and increased reliance on consumer debt.

Multinational corporations which continued to produce goods and services sought to overcome declining profit rates. This, they concluded, could only be achieved by reducing the costs of labor. To overcome the demand for higher real wages, health and other benefits, and worker rights, manufacturing facilities were moved from core capitalist states to poor countries where lower wages were paid. Thus, in wealthier countries millions of relatively high paying jobs were lost while production of goods increasingly moved to sweatshops in poor countries. Wealthy capitalist states experienced deindustrialization.

Finally, assisted by technological advances, from computers to new forms of shipping, financial speculation and deindustrialization fueled the full flowering of globalization, or the radically increased patterns of cross border interactions-economic, political, and cultural. Globalization began to transform the world into one integrated global political economy.

In short, we may speak of a four-fold set of parallel political and economic developments that have occurred since the end of World War II, in which the United States has played a leading role: creating a permanent war economy, financialization, deindustrialization, and globalization.

Should We Be Thinking About Socialism Today?

A rich and vital set of images of a socialist future comes down to us from the utopians, anarchists, and Marxists, the martyrs of the first May Day, and the variety of experiments with socialism attempted in Asia, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Africa, and the Caribbean. Extracting from the multiple reasons why individuals and movements chose socialism one reason stands out; that is, that capitalism historically is and has been a cruel and inhumane system, a system borne and fueled by slavery, genocide, super exploitation of workers, tactics of division based on race and gender, and an almost total disregard for the natural environment that sustains life. Building a permanent war economy, financialization, deindustrialization, and globalization are merely extensions of the cruel and heartless pursuit of profit which has been the fundamental driving force of the capitalist mode of production.

Drawing on the history and the images of a better future coupled with the brutality of the capitalist era, we might conceive of a 21st century socialist future that has four main dimensions.

First, we need to create institutions that are created and staffed by the working classes and serve the interests of the working classes. While scholars and activists may disagree about what “class” means in today’s complicated world, it is clear that the vast majority of humankind do not own or control the means of production, nor do they usually have an instrumental place in political institutions. Therefore, socialism involves, in the Marxist sense, the creation of a workers’ state and since most of us are workers (more than 90 percent of the US population for example), a state must be established that represents and serves the interests of the many, not the few.

Second, our vision of socialism is a society in which the working classes fully participate in the institutions that shape their lives and in the creation of the policies that these institutions develop to serve the needs of all the people.

Third, socialism also implies the creation of public policies that sustain life. Socialism in this sense is about good jobs, incomes that provide for human needs, access to health care for all, adequate housing and transportation, a livable environment, and an end to discrimination and war.

Fourth, socialism is also about the creation of institutions and policies that maximize human potential. A socialist society provides the intellectual tools to stimulate creativity, celebrate diversity, and facilitate writing poetry, singing and dancing, basking in nature’s glow, and living, working, and loving with others in humanly sustainable communities.

Today we remain terribly far from any of these dimensions of socialism. But paradoxically, humankind at this point in time has the technological tools to build a mass movement to create a socialist future. We can communicate instantaneously with peoples all over the world. We can access information about the world that challenges the narrow ruling class media frames about the human condition. We have in the face of brutal war, environmental devastation, enduring racism, super exploitation of workers everywhere mass movements of workers, women, people of color, indigenous people, and youth who are demanding changes. Increasingly public discourse is based upon the realization that our future will bring either extinction or survival. Socialism, although it is not labeled as such, represents human survival.

Where do we who believe that socialism offers the best hope for survival stand at this critical juncture? We are weak. Many of us are older. Some of us have remained mired in old formulas about change. Nevertheless we can make a contribution to building a socialist future. In fact we have a critical role to play.

We must articulate systematic understandings of the global political economy and where it came from: permanent war, financialization, deindustrialization, and globalization. We need to articulate what impacts these processes have had on class, race, gender, and the environment. In other words, we need to convince activists that almost all things wrong with the world are connected and are intimately tied to the development of capitalism as the dominant mode of production.

We need to take our place in political struggles that demand an expanded role for workers in political institutions. We need to insist that the working classes participate in all political decisions.

We need to work on campaigns that could sustain life: jobs, living wages, single payer health care, climate change etc. Our contribution can include making connections between the variety of single issues, insisting that participants in mass movements take cognizance of and work on the other single issues that constitute the mosaic of problems that require transformation. We must remember that in the end the basic policies that sustain life require building socialism. Most struggles, such as those to achieve living wages or a single payer health care system for example, plant the seeds for building a broader socialist society. We can incorporate our socialist vision in our debates about single issues: if we demand a living wage, why not talk about equality for example?

We need to rearticulate our belief that human beings have a vast potential for good, for creativity, and given a just society, we all could move away from classism, racism, and sexism. We could pursue our talents and interests in the context of a sharing and cooperative society.

By working for institutional incorporation (empowerment) and life-sustaining and enhancing policies we will be planting the seeds for a socialist society.

“In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world from the ashes of the old.
For the union makes us strong”

From “Solidarity Forever,” Ralph Chaplin lyrics, 1915.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

MARGINALIZED HOOSIER WORKERS FIGHT BACK



Harry Targ

Indiana’s Political Economy

Low wage largely non-union workers in Indianapolis have been organizing against an economy that marginalizes them. Fran Quigley, Indiana University Law Professor describes the victimization and workers’ rising resistance-- union organizing and social movement activism-- in If We Can Win Here: The New Front Lines of the Labor Movement, Cornell Press, 2015.

The book is a case study of Indiana, a state in which local economic trends mirror the national economy: growing accumulation of wealth on one side matched by increased poverty on the other. Reports over the last several years published by the Indiana Institute for Working Families and the Indiana Association of United Ways suggest that Indiana is one of the worst states in terms of providing for its people. Almost 16 percent of the state’s population lives in poverty, including over 22 percent of its children, 17 percent of women, 33 percent of African Americans, 29 percent of Latinos, and 25 percent of Native Americans.

One-third of Indiana residents are low-income and for a decade have experienced a decline in median household income. Even with a recent slight decline in the rate of poverty, the number of low-income Hoosiers (earning less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Guideline (FPG) has risen since 2011. (Indiana Institute for Working Families, Status of Working Families in Indiana, 2012, 3).

In Marion County, where the state’s largest city, Indianapolis, is located, four of the five largest and growing industries pay wages at or below family sustainability ($798 per week for a family of three). In addition, in these industries individual and household wages declined significantly between 2008 and 2012 (Derek Thomas, “Inequality in Indy--A Rising Problem With Ready Solutions,” August 13, 2014, (www.iiwf.blogspot.com).

Derek Thomas argued that Indianapolis (and Indiana) should take these data seriously because in Marion County “poverty is still rising, the minimum wage is less than half of what it takes for a single-mother with an infant to be economically self-sufficient; 47 percent of workers do not have access to a paid sick day from work, and a full 32 percent are at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines ($29,685 for a family of three).” 

In November, 2014, the Indiana Association of United Ways issued a 250 page report on the state called the “Study of Financial Hardship.” The study, parallel to similar studies in four other states, was prepared by a research team at Rutgers University, who developed an index to examine economic status called Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE). ALICE refers to households with incomes that are above the poverty rate but below “the basic cost of living.” The startling data revealed that a third of Hoosier households cannot afford adequate housing, food, health care, child care, and transportation. More precisely 14 percent of households are below the poverty line and 23 percent above poverty but below the threshold out of ALICE, or earning enough to provide for the basic cost of living.

 Workers’ Fight Back

Quigley, based on participant observation and interviews, presents a painful and lucid analysis of the concrete struggles of what might be called the “new working class” in Indianapolis. He suggests that the urban economy has been transformed from one based on well-paying manufacturing, largely unionized, jobs to one based upon tourism, health care, and food service. Workers in these growing sectors are marginalized and non-union. They experience low wages, changing work schedules, limited health and retirement benefits, and unsafe work places. They are multi-racial, men and women, and young and old. Despite their economic marginalization, the workers report that their most fundamental grievance is that they are treated with lack of respect by their employers virtually every day on the job. 

Much of the volume describes efforts of two unions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and UNITE/HERE to organize workers in hotels, universities, fast food, and home care positions. Workers and young energetic union organizers face complications because work forces are often not in the same spaces (as was the case of factory workers). There has been no long-standing tradition of union organizing in new service sectors. And traditional divisions by race, ethnicity, language, and gender exist. Finally, and most importantly, workers struggle to organize against opponents that are among the largest multi-national corporations in the world and who exercise significant political influence over city and state government.

Quigley’s study illustrates how union organizing parallels grassroots efforts of the largest labor organizing campaign of the twenty-first century, the SEIU, UNITE-HERE “Fight for $15.” This campaign has connected workers with parallel movements:  Black Lives Matter, the Occupy Movement, Moral Mondays, Hoosiers for a Commonsense Health Plan, and supporters of Planned Parenthood and community control of police. 

In theoretical terms, the economic marginalization of the twenty-first century (“the 99 percent”) in the United States is bringing together workers from the public sector, home care, health care, hotels, teachers, college adjuncts, taxi drivers and others.  The economic ruling class strives to weaken labor, increase barriers to organizing, shift wealth from the vast majority to the super-rich, and reduce the political impact of efforts to mobilize the progressive majority. But yet resistance grows.

Quigley’s book describes in detail efforts in one city to resist the economic hegemony of the ruling class. Youthful union staffers prioritize personal contacts. They work to build grassroots leadership from among workers themselves. And organizers encourage workers to engage in all forms of activism from elections, to demonstrations, to working in alliance with other social movements. Union staffers are committed, energetic, and take a  long view of organizing in the face of losses and victories.     

Fran Quigley has provided activists with a concrete, readable analysis of how the twenty-first century global political economy has shaped the destiny of workers in one urban center and how a “new working class” is organizing to resist their increasing economic and political marginalization.