Good Links from January 2022

Labor wars, memories of January 6, and tactical thinking define the common thread for our roundup of Good Links from January. Check out the corral below to catch-up to the quickly-evolving discourse.

The Local Front

Positive worker organizing developments in DC: “The workers of Politics and Prose have successfully unionized, becoming the first bookstore in D.C. to do so. … ‘We are proud to join the growing movement of booksellers and baristas across the country who have unionized their workplaces,’ wrote the Politics and Prose organizing committee in a statement. ‘Forming our union has not only served as an affirmation of our shared values within the Politics and Prose community, it will also strengthen our workplace and ensure the long-term success of our beloved community hub.’”

Seventh State examines the political insiders that are supporting MDC DSA-endorsed candidate Max Socol for Maryland State Senate, concluding that “[Socol’s] early strength indicates that [incumbent Sen. Jeff’ Waldstreicher hasn’t nailed down his base even after sixteen years in the General Assembly.” Plus, an excellent summary of another way Maryland District 18 Senator Jeff Waldstreicher failed to turn up for progressive voters in Montgomery County. 

The Winter 2021 issue of Democratic Left is out. The director’s report highlights the major win by Howard University’s YDSA chapter in its campaign to improve learning and living conditions on campus, adding, “As we head into 2022, DSA’s 40th anniversary year, let’s resolve to be strategic, long-distance runners for socialism.”

The Labor Front

From Organizing Upgrade — Dying to Serve? A Restaurant Worker’s Plea for Organizing” — a rundown on national DSA’s Restaurant Organizing Project, strongly relevant to MDC DSA’s campaign to get parity for tipped workers despite the DC Council’s illegal betrayal.

By Steven Greenhouse in The Guardian: Workers Across the US Are Rising Up. Can They Turn Their Anger into a Movement? “Will this surge of worker action and anger [in the US] be a mere flash in the pan or will it be part of a longer-lasting phenomenon? At least for now, America’s labor leaders seem to be doing very little to tap all this energy and hope and to build it into something bigger and longer lasting.” Via Portside.

From In These Times, “Death in the Air: An essential worker considers pandemic times.”

Teachers and teachers’ unions are being used as scapegoats and blamed by both republicans and democrats alike for refusing to teach in person and requesting better protection measures against COVID in their classrooms. But every pundits’ narrative, as Jacobin explains, has been flawed and places blame on the wrong groups. 

A review of A New American Labor Movement is tagged by our comrade Jules B; it is making the rounds of longtime labor commentators and raises questions about where unions can get their support. “… labor leaders have too often mistaken the survival of their own unions ‘with the survival of the union movement itself.’” But unions’ fundamental problem, the book’s author, William Scheuerman, argues, is that, given the corporate-government assault upon them, their “organizational structure no longer serves the mission of the labor movement.”

The union movement is still constrained by outmoded labor law and high, easily exploitable barriers to organizing, we hear from our comrades at the Economic Policy Institute: “One of the most important things that could be done to generate a more equitable economy is to dismantle the barriers to union organizing and collective bargaining … New data on unionization from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2022), coupled with evidence on the value of unions and on workers’ desire to be unionized, reinforce the importance of this goal and the urgent need for policy reforms.” 

More than 8,000 workers at around 80 King Soopers grocery stores (owned by Kroger) are on strike, protesting low pay and rising healthcare costs — despite Kroger’s 2020 profits reaching nearly $3 billion, with CEO Rodney McMullen receiving a $6.4 million raise — among other things. In The Nation, Kim Kelly writes: “Two-thirds of the 10,000 Kroger workers … surveyed said that they do not earn enough money to cover their basic expenses every month, with 44 percent of them reporting that they cannot pay rent and 39 percent saying they can’t afford groceries.” 

Workers at an REI store in Manhattan are seeking to form the first REI union; in a familiar pattern, the ostensibly progressive CEO wrote, “... we do not believe placing a union between the co-op and its employees is needed or beneficial.” More in NYT

Tactics and Strategy

The DMV isn’t rural Maine — but the outreach tasks are similar everywhere, as WaPo columnist (and publisher of The Nation) Katrina vanden Heuvel outlines in this account.

From The Call, a project of DSA’s Bread & Roses Caucus: “A Hierarchy of Socialist Political Objectives: How we as socialists should evaluate a demand, campaign, or objective. The key question: does it build working-class power?”

This oddly provoking thought from the National Review (!): “People on the left are a little more risk-averse when it comes to dealing with markets, and people on the right are a little more risk-averse when it comes to dealing with foreigners, but, very often, they will respond to the same anxiety (market interactions with foreigners) with roughly the same policy proposals, changing only the specific terms of denunciation: ‘greed’ for the left-wing anti-capitalist and ‘globalism’ for the right-wing anti-capitalist.”

The Global Front

From David Schwartzman, also a local comrade: an ecosocialist critique of degrowth in the context of a Green New Deal, plus a contribution to ongoing discussion of energy commodification and decommodification — specifically thermodynamics. “Illuminating how the science of thermodynamics was born and how energy manifests itself in the context of capitalist economy … should not make this science in itself a necessary ideological servant of this economy.”

Book Review: ‘We Will Remain Standing on This Land and Teach’ (from Organizing Upgrade via Portside): “Palestinians living under occupation and those of us in the diaspora do not lose our love for our land as the grip of apartheid gets tighter — our determination to go back home and to stay on our land only increases.”

As nuclear-armed nations square up and rattle their sabers on Ukraine’s border, intervention in the broader escalation spiral is still possible. See here the just-dropped analysis and recs from Veterans for Peace, who should know a futile conflict.

The Cultural Front

Poet’s Corner: a 1940 classic from Bertolt Brecht, “To Those Born Later”The man who laughs/ Has simply not yet heard/ The terrible news. Tipped our way on Facebook from a formerly PG comrade, Bob Buzzanco.

Earlier this week, Microsoft purchased game studio Activision Blizzard for over $70 billion, making it one of the largest corporate media consolidations in history — for context, Disney’s purchase of Fox media assets a few years back was valued at just over $71 billion. Kotaku explains why this consolidation was inevitable, and what it might mean for the media industry going forward. (Last December, Activision Blizzard employees took their first steps towards unionizing the media company following a deluge of scandals and mismanagement emanating from executive leadership … bold steps in an industry known for its exploitation and lack of organized labor). FTC chair Lina Khan suggests in this NYT interview that the acquisition/merger might get close scrutiny.

You don’t need to watch a 2.5 hr documentary to understand why NFTs and cryptocurrency are bad ideas (at best … they are exploitative scams at their worse) but a new documentary from popular video essayist Folding Ideas explains the market-based bent of these technologies. A very useful analysis with a very clear socialist, anti-capitalist bent. (A particularly important segment important to socialists and organizers comes in Chapter 12, which examines the way con artists appropriate the language of labor unions + economic cooperatives to trick would-be lefties and anti-capitalists into buying into these schemes).

Taking a page out of several racist policies from other states like Texas and Florida and delivering on a campaign promise, newly-elected Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin (R) signed an Executive Order (EO) that bans Critical Race Theory (CRT) in all schools. While CRT has never been taught in K-12 schools in Virginia, the EO is a clearly racist attempt to prohibit any education and public awareness around diversity, inclusion, equity and understanding of America’s racist history. What’s more, Youngkin opened a “tip line” (i.e., an email) inviting parents to report on teachers who are teaching “divisive” issues. To counter his attack on public education and his clear intent on white-washing public education, Virginians can contact their local legislative representatives in the House and Senate and tell them to fight the Governor on these. They can also contact their local school board representatives with the same message. And for now, flood the “tip email” ( with praise for Virginia teachers or bogus messages.

The Next Coup

January 6 reflections: A Canadian scholar wonders — if the US descends into civil conflict/war, what should Canada do? “What seems to have pushed the United States to the brink of losing its democracy today is a multiplication effect between its underlying flaws and recent shifts in the society’s ‘material’ characteristics.” The Canadian scholar touts this young colleague, who in The Guardian observes, “The [US’s] problem is not who is in power, but the structures of power. … At this supreme moment of crisis, the left has divided into warring factions completely incapable of confronting the seriousness of the moment,” which includes the near-takeover of police forces by the white-supremacist right. 

From our local comrade Dave R, via Portside, 3 Retired Generals: The Military Must Prepare Now for a 2024 Insurrection. More fun speculations about civil conflict in the US, from Vox. No mention of any roles the military might take, pro or con.

From our MoCo comrade Ingrid G: Where do we go from here? “On the one-year anniversary of the January 6th assault on the Congress, we in the US face the threat of an authoritarian movement seizing state power, dismantling our democratic institutions, and launching repressive attacks on progressive organizations.” In a January 1 statement, DSA’s North Star Caucus proposes explicit steps DSA can take in building multi-racial unity on the left — and enriching and diversifying DSA’s culture and strategy — to confront the rise of neo-fascism and to defend democracy.  

Grappling with what is, after all, the bottom line: Class Struggle and the Fight for Democracy: 8 Propositions — from The Platypus via Portside.

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