Poetry Report 10/27/18

By Mike Sylvester

So they’ve taken the White House, the Congress, the Courts

So what the hell are we gonna do now?

There isn’t a magic bean stalk in sight

No golden goose, no milking cow.

 

There is no handy axe

That lets us climb down off this limb

You may have hoped for Pixar

But this suckers penned by the Brothers Grimm.

 

All the streets of justice have signs that say STOP

There be monsters, there be sharks.

But comrades, when I see a STOP sign

I instinctively add a question mark.

 

Who wants us to stop? What is their goal?

Why are they afraid of GO?

Why wouldn’t we march to the place we are dreaming

Just because someone said no?

 

They (that’s the “royal” they) thinks power

Be paved with the money spent

But I promise you that every cobblestone Is laid with our consent.

 

How do we consent? How do we empower the politicians

To lie and steal and cheat?

It starts when we trust in folks bought and sold

And hope that the buyers have lost the receipt.

 

When we make our calls to people whose number

The Corporations own

And then shake our heads when they let us down

Mutter “oh dear, if we’d only known.”

 

Well, we know now. The lines are drawn

The flags have been unfurled

There is no more time to equivocate

To wring our hands or clutch at pearls

 

There is no better time

No “if only they, or they, or they.”

We are the ones who must save,

Who must do, must make, the ones who must say.

 

It is hard. We may lose things

Things we like, things we love and worse

They will tighten the strings on the already tattered

Cloth of our money purse.

 

They may have us fired or voted out

We may hear hard words from the people we know.

We can’t guess the lengths they’ll travel

So that we nod yes and stop shouting our NO!

 

So we have to ask ourselves, what will we risk?

If not us who? If not now when?

If they are going to take it all anyway

What good will our comforts do us all then?

 

We are hanging on by a finger and it looks

Like leaping is all we can do.

Can we hold hands and jump off together, compadres

Because if you can, if we can, then me too.

Get revved up about revolution this October

Happy October, comrades! It’s the month of revolution. So, what better way to spend it than by reading about a historic revolution from Octobers past?

The Russian Revolution of 1917 was a major achievement in the socialist movement, a blow against capitalism and its hold over the world. It’s also still hotly debated and dissected today, 101 years later. To help you get through this time in history and the years that followed, the Southern Maine DSA Education Committee has compiled a recommended list of books on the Russian Revolution.

All of these books are available in the Southern Maine DSA library, and you can borrow any of them by filling out this request form, or by requesting one of the books from our chapter librarian, Marc Normandin, at one of our meetings or events.

And, if you would like to learn even more about the Russian Revolution, the Education Committee will be hosting a presentation and discussion of the historic event on October 22, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Community Room in the Reiche Community Center. Todd Chretien, editor of Eyewitnesses to the Russian Revolution, will lead this event.

To wrap up our month of focus on the Russian Revolution, this month’s book club entry is V.I. Lenin’s The State and Revolution. You can find this book in our library, at various booksellers, or for free online at Marxists.org. This book club meeting will be held at Quill Books & Beverage in Westbrook, ME, on November 1 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Solidarity!

Introducing the 2018 SMDSA Comrades!

The Comrades kicked off the 2018 Casco Bay League Softball season with a rainy 19-12 loss to What’s Up Buttercup on Sunday, May 6th in Portland. The Comrades started off strong with five runs in the first inning, but early pitching challenges allowed the Buttercups to surge ahead. Wet field conditions made things challenging, but the Comrades’ managed to contain the Buttercups’ lead and work on closing the run gap over the next several innings. Todd Chretien’s plate-spanking slide home was one for the record books (and also one for the first aid kit). The game was called in the 6th inning due to time. “I’ve managed a lot of teams, and this one has potential,” said Comrades manager Marc Normandin.

The Comrades face the Raging Thunder Bunts, on Sunday, May 13th at 3:30 pm at Kiely Field.

2018 Roster

 

 

 

Heavy Rotation: May Day! May Day!

By Kate Sykes

Every year on May 1st, International Workers Day is celebrated in Europe with massive demonstrations that honor an American labor uprising: the Haymarket strike of 1886, when hundreds of thousands of American workers set down the tools of their trade and took to the streets for better wages and working conditions.

In Episode 33 of Season of the Bitch, writer and labor organizer Jane McAlevey talks about how working conditions leading up to the original May Day strike were remarkably similar to those faced by Amazon warehouse workers today, and how the real aim of labor organizing is building the kind of working class solidarity that makes formerly mild-mannered secretaries plot to abduct their boss and take over the company themselves…. because there’s a better life, and you think about it, don’t you?

What’s in your heavy rotation? Email your favorite listens to us at: DSA.PortlandMaine@gmail.com

Press Release: Southern Maine DSA Endorses Betsy Sweet in June primary for Maine State Governor

PORTLAND – The Southern Maine Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) voted on Monday, March 12 to endorse Betsy Sweet for Governor in the June, 2018 primary. Sweet is running as a Democrat in Maine’s first statewide Ranked Choice Voting primary.

“I am very pleased to be receiving the endorsement of the Southern Maine Chapter of the DSA. The people-powered, special-interest-proof coalition we are building is growing by the day. With over 3,500 maine people giving $5, this campaign is about ensuring the Blaine House can’t be bought by the NRA, big Pharma or the banking industry,” Sweet said.

Sweet’s primary campaign focus is getting corporate and special interest money out of politics, something she says is foundational to making progress on other issues. She helped write Maine’s public campaign financing law, the first in the country, and is now running as a Maine Clean Elections candidate. She supports universal healthcare coverage and will work to socialize the cost of that through a more progressive tax structure, while eliminating cost inefficiencies endemic to the current for-profit system. “I believe there is a great opportunity to work in compact with the five New England states to develop a viable single-payer system,” Sweet says.

Sweet is a proponent of Ranked Choice Voting and says she hopes it will bring more civility to Maine politics. Maine is the first state to implement the system in a state-wide election. Under Ranked Choice Voting, voters may rank multiple candidates in order of preference. If no victor emerges from the first-choice round, an instant run-off commences. In the absence of a strong frontrunner, second and third-choice candidates can win a majority of votes, a factor that benefits candidates who campaign to a broad spectrum of voters rather than on divisive issues, or against one another.

“It’s time for a state government that works for the many, not just the few,” Meg Reilly, SMDSA Chair said. “Sweet’s focus on fair representation and diversity, racial and economic justice, living wages, and healthcare as a human right make her an ideal emissary for DSA’s values and goals in Augusta.”

The DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. Its membership includes 35 elected officials around country. Southern Maine DSA is not a political party. The DSA welcomes members and endorses candidates of any party affiliation who share its mission to decrease the influence of money in politics so that ordinary citizens can participate in the many decisions that affect their lives.

For more information about the Southern Maine DSA or its endorsement process, contact:

Meg Reilly, Chair  megcreilly@gmail.com

Mikayla Damon, Vice Chair mikayla.damon@gmail.com

Kate Sykes, Secretary kate_sykes_writer@yahoo.com

Press Release: Southern Maine DSA Endorses Jeremy Mele in June primary for Maine State Representative, District 19

Southern Maine DSA Endorses Jeremy Mele for Maine State Representative, District 19

PORTLAND, ME – The Southern Maine chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (SMDSA) voted unanimously on Monday, March 12 to endorse Jeremy Mele for Maine House of Representatives District 19. “We’re incredibly lucky to have a candidate like Jeremy running for office,” said Meg Reilly, Chair. “Jeremy’s compassion and drive shone when he was Vice Chair of our chapter, and we’re excited at the prospect of Representative Mele continuing the fight in Augusta.”

“I’m honored to receive the endorsement of the group,” Mele said, “I like to think it’s because I showed a commitment to the principles of Democratic Socialism and because I am campaigning on issues that are important for the wellbeing of society and the working class.”

Mele’s campaign focuses on a defense of direct democracy via citizen’s referendums, something that he notes representatives in Augusta have been reluctant to respect in recent years. According to his campaign blog, Maine state government “has moved away from respecting democracy and the will of the voters, and it has moved toward a paternalism that indicates a disregard for the wants and needs of Maine voters.”

Mele is an ardent supporter of social policies that empower the working class, including single-payer healthcare, increasing the minimum wage, and reducing the cost of post-secondary education. He supports the current referendum campaign to provide Mainers with universal homecare coverage.

Mele is a Maine clean elections candidate, and will not be accepting any campaign money from corporations, lobbyists or PACs.

The DSA is the largest socialist organization in the United States. Its membership includes 35 elected officials around country. Southern Maine DSA is not a political party. The DSA welcomes members and endorses candidates of any party affiliation who share its mission to decrease the influence of money in politics so that ordinary citizens can participate in the many decisions that affect their lives.

*This release has been update to reflect Jeremy’s status as a Maine clean elections campaign candidate.

The Roots of the Labor Movement Run Deep in Maine

By Mike Desjardins

Note: This post is reblogged from https://medium.com/@mdesjardins/what-democratic-socialism-means-to-me-f361ea98138b

In the late 1800’s, a young man named Adolphe was looking for work in his hometown of Lévis, across the river from Québec City. The economy in that area in that time wasn’t particularly favorable. To find work, he resorted to what many of his fellow French Canadians did, and followed the railroad tracks into New England to work in the burgeoning manufacturing industries.

                       Adolphe Desjardins 

Adolphe ended up working in several different factories and mills, and eventually ended up at a paper mill owned by 19th century industrialist, Hugh Chisolm. Chisolm had built a small army of paper mills in the northeastern United States, and would eventually go on to co-found International Paper Co.

In the summer of 1942, at 60 years old, Adolphe was scheduled to take his very first vacation. At that point, he was working as an assistant to the mill manager — in those days, this was called a “retirement job” because the back-breaking work of papermaking gets to be pretty difficult after forty years. He went down to the basement of the mill where trucks would unload materials for the mill. While he was there, Adolphe was accidentally hit by one of the trucks.

Things did not look good for Adolphe, so they called the local priest to administer last rights (it was, after all, a Catholic town). The priest couldn’t drive, so one of the priest’s young assistants drove him down to the mill for the somber ritual. When they arrived, to his horror, the assistant said “this man is my father.”

That assistant was my grandfather, Clement Desjardins. After serving our country stateside in World War II (his two older brothers were already overseas), he came home and married his sweetheart, Lucille. During those days in Jay, the Irish worked in the shoe shops, the Italians worked in the quarry, so my grandfather fulfilled his fate and did what all the French Canadians in Jay did; he went to work in the mill — the same mill that killed his father.

Clement worked at the paper mill until he retired in his sixties. He and Lucille had six children, and today Clement lives at a nursing home in Lewiston. His oldest son, Dennis, is my father. Dennis graduated from Jay High School, and went to CMVTI to get his master electricians’ license. He worked as an electrician for several years before International Paper built a newer, larger mill a few miles up the river from the old one. They were hiring. The great pay of those union jobs was alluring, and my father ended up working in the paper mill a few years after I was born — the same mill that killed his grandfather.

My dad, Dennis, with his father Clement Desjardins

While my dad worked shift-work and the occasional sixteen hour shift, my mother attended night school at the University of Maine at Farmington, and eventually became a public school teacher. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for them, especially given that I wasn’t the easiest kid to raise. Today I’d probably get treatment for ADHD, but back then I was just a pain in the ass.

In 1987, I was 12 years old. Ronald Reagan was President. The prevailing wisdom was that labor unions were an anachronistic weight on our economy, and President Reagan demonstrated how to deal with them when he summarily fired the all of the nation’s air traffic controllers five years prior. The union’s contract at International Paper’s Androscoggin Mill was up for renegotiation. After boasting literally record profits, the company demanded eye-popping concessions from the union. There was never any intention to negotiate, it was a bald-faced attempt to break the union.

The strike started in June. Every night our town was featured on the six o’clock news, interrupted by public relations commercials from International Paper, telling “their side of the story,” and how great the greedy union workers had things.

Often the news was an update on the farcical negotiations, but sometimes it got more interesting; one time a “scab” claimed his house was shot at (if I remember correctly, it was later determined that he shot at his own home). Another story was about a high school protest and walk-out by the union kids, upset that they couldn’t wear strike-related clothing while their scab-kid counterparts wore clothes with International Paper logos. One of the biggest stories was when Jesse Jackson came to town to give a presidential campaign speech in the municipal building — Mr. Jackson was the first presidential candidate I heard speak while the crowd chanted “scabs out, union in!”

(For those who are unfamiliar with strike parlance — a “scab” is someone who crosses the picket line and returns to work. A “super scab” is a former union member who goes back to work)

Let me tell you, you don’t grow up in your formative years in that environment, and come out of it a capitalist.

Picketers from UPIU Local 14 during the Androscoggin Mill strike

The strike technically ended, a little over a year later. The union had effectively lost. The United Paperworkers International Union’s support for the locals who were fighting International Paper became tepid. But after the strike, the town of Jay wasn’t quite the same. Union members were hired back by attrition, and it took many years for them to be called back — many reached retirement age before getting their call. International Paper sold the mill to a private equity firm about ten years ago, and the machines that have not been shuttered are run by non-union workers.

I went to an engineering college in Massachusetts, but settled back in Maine to raise a family. My job today is cushy. I work in at home, in my pajamas, writing software. I am paid well, probably more than I deserve. My job doesn’t make me sweat, or make my muscles sore in the morning, or require me to work weird shifts. I don’t worry about my safety. A lot of that is because my parents made damned sure I stayed the hell away from that paper mill.

I think there are two things that have drawn me to democratic socialism. The first is a steadfast refusal to accept economic injustice and inequality. This is a personal passion that was ignited I grew up during the strike. I had a front row seat to watching corporate greed hollow out the working class. I saw International Paper spend millions of dollars on phony security systems, television ads, and public relations firms, all money that could’ve gone to their dedicated employees instead. It was all to prove a point: Capital controls labor — Know your place. I saw that the wealthy’s appetite for more wealth knows no boundaries.

The second thing that draws me to democratic socialism is a strange, almost spiritual connection with the generations who came before me — at the risk of sounding corny, these meetings are my church and the “beer caucuses” afterward my communion.

In a sense, I’ve made it. I am of the bourgeoisie. But if I’m honest with myself, I’ve done relatively little to earn that. My parents helped save and prepare me for college so that I’d have a better life. My grandfather raised a family of six in the house that he built himself with his mill salary, and my great grandfather literally gave his life to the paper making industry. My maternal family line also contributed to my progressive worldview—in fact, my mother’s grandfather was also killed in a papermill.

I owe it to those generations before me to help the disadvantaged, and take direct action toward a world that is more equitable and just. There are lots of ways to taxonomize what “kind” of socialist you are, and there will always be some people who will pass judgement on who is or is not a “real” socialist. But in the end I feel like we, in this meeting, are all really seeking fairness . Regardless of whether you’re a “tankie”, Trotskyist, or a mere shell-shocked Social Democrat with nowhere else to go, it doesn’t matter how or why you want to seize the means of production. What matters is preventing the greediest among us from hoarding the means of production, and using it as a cudgel to dominate and control the rest of us.

I’m thrilled that since joining the DSA I’ve been able to march in a Pride parade, phone bank for Ranked Choice Voting, drop literature for a rent stabilization initiative, and gain a sense of solidarity with other like-minded people. Without the DSA, I probably wouldn’t have done any of those things. Without the DSA, my so-called “activism” probably would’ve been confined to reposting memes on social media. Democratic Socialism gives me a sense of purpose, and helps me identify ways to help on my “justice mission.” And for that, I’m thankful.

Every month, we ask a member to share their story of what Democratic Socialism means to them. If you’re interested in telling yours, please email the chair.

Ask a Socialist: “Are the wealthy moral? Do they care about the rest of us? Do they deserve their wealth?”

By Jeremy Mele

No. The wealthy and their representatives in Congress (hello, Senator Collins!) just voted to raise taxes on the working class, cut taxes for themselves, rob thousands of graduate students of the opportunity to pursue an education, and gut the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions of working class families without health coverage.

The wealthy hold the power in our society, and they abuse it. Their abuse of power will hurt young and old alike. Their abuse will kill–literally kill–working people who, as the years go by, will increasingly go without health care. Their abuse will crash our economy.

The wealthy get wealthy through the exploitation of the working class. They pay subsistence wages to their employees, far below our  worth, while they rake in millions and billions. They rob. They kill. They pollute the earth. Their greed, unsated with their ill-gotten gains, drives them to use their control over politicians to write the laws in their favor, everyone else be damned. Even the few billionaires that give to charity cannot be said to be pure: they wouldn’t have those billions in the first place if they hadn’t cheated the working class, cheated society, and wrote the tax codes in their favor.

The wealthy are immoral.

They do not care about the rest of us.

A better world is needed.

A better world is possible.

Join us.

Have a question for Ask a Socialist? Email it to: DSA.PortlandMaine@gmail.com

Heavy Rotation: Don’t let the turkeys get you down.

Heavy Rotation is back from Turkey Town with some new links, listens, and even a video game to play while you’re on the treadmill working off that extra piece of pie.

Side A: 

The outpouring of #MeToo stories shared on social media have been hard for many of us to bear, not just because  they reveal the prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual violence in the workplace, but also because it feels like we’ve been here before. In this October 27th Belaboured Podcast Episode, labor reporter Michelle Chen speaks with Ariane Hegewisch of the Institute for Women’s Policy and Research about how the labor movement can turn up the volume on the “whisper network” so we don’t end up here again. The rest of the program delivers more hopeful messages about a bill to decriminalize sex work (and create more labor protections for sex workers) in Washington, DC, a vote by graduate student workers at the University of Chicago to unionize, and a beefy first strike by McDonald’s fast food workers in the UK.

Side B:

McDonald’s Video Game may put you off capitalism (and burgers) for good. And, like all of Molledindustria’s radical games, it’s in the public domain. What’s not to like?

“Making money in a corporation like McDonald’s is not simple at all! Behind every sandwich there is a complex process you must learn to manage: from the creation of pastures to the slaughter, from the restaurant management to the branding. You’ll discover all the dirty secrets that made us one of the biggest [companies in] the world.”

What’s in your heavy rotation? Email your favorite listens to us at: DSA.PortlandMaine@gmail.com

Ask a Socialist: “Can I be a socialist and still enjoy shopping?”

By Jeremy Mele

So here’s something fun about me: I have more books than I think I will ever read, yet I still, regularly, visit Amazon or, preferably, a local bookstore to buy more. I could stop myself, but I choose not to; I like buying books! Maybe I’m hardwired that way, or maybe it’s a part of human nature (though I think the concept is very overrated). Whatever the case, shopping for and buying things like books (and comic books and video games) is something I enjoy doing.

Unfortunately, there’s no ethical consumption under capitalism. As a socialist, I recognize that at some, if not every, level of the production of the things that humans sell, buy, and consume there is going to be exploitation. The exploitation of workers—who are coerced into selling their labor for a fraction of the value they produce—the exploitation of animals, and the exploitation of the environment are all baked into capitalism’s DNA. As long as it exists, various systems of exploitation will be maintained and reinforced by capitalism and its relentless drive for profit: a drive that seeks to pay workers as little as possible, to keep animals in cruel, yet cost effective, spaces, and to strip the environment for all it is worth, destroying its beauty in the process. And this, of course, is done to create the products that capitalists can sell to us to turn a profit.

That’s why, as socialists, we must tirelessly fight for a better world; a world where capitalist exploitation of human, animal, and nature is a thing of the past. Will there ever be a utopia free of all violence and exploitation? I do not know. I hope so, but even if that is never the case, that does not mean we can stop striving. A better, fairer world is possible, even if not perfect. We need to fight for it to free the workers. We need to fight for it to save the planet. We need to fight for it to end exploitation.

…And we need to fight for it so that we can go shopping without feeling guilty.

Have a question for Ask a Socialist? Email it to: DSA.PortlandMaine@gmail.com