Upcoming Event: The Fight for a Socialist Future


Are you curious about the “S” word? You’re not alone. A number of recent polls show that young people (18-30) are more positive about socialism than they are about capitalism. And, of course, voters under the age of 30 turned out in droves to back Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, a few months ago. But what exactly is socialism? How do we get from here to there? And what role can student activists play?

RSVP here. Don’t miss it!

She won’t go back into the shadows


by Orlando Sepúlveda (via SocialistWorker.org

THE U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is retaliating against an outspoken undocumented immigrant activist–and she is fighting back.

In May, Nadia Sol Ireri Unzueta Carrasco was denied renewal of her status under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program because, according to the USCIS ombudsman, she “was arrested on May 29, 2013, after her initial DACA grant…She was charged with civil disobedience, resisting arrest, obstruction of traffic and reckless conduct…Ms. Unzueta’s case raised public safety concerns.”

The irony of Ireri’s case is that without her “civil disobedience, resisting arrest, obstruction of traffic and reckless conduct”–along with those of countless immigrant youth in the years leading up to the Obama administration finally acting in June 2012–there would be no DACA program in the first place. Unzueta Carrasco is now suing. Continue reading

The Sharp Edge of American Racism

Police in riot gear watch protesters in Ferguson, Mo. on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. On Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, a white police officer fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Police in riot gear watch protesters in Ferguson, Mo. on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. On Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, a white police officer fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (via www.socialistworker.org)

WHY THE issue of police brutality?

Police violence against Black people is not new. In 1951, a multiracial contingent of activists in the Civil Rights Congress raised the slogan “We charge genocide” to characterize the depth and consequences of police murder and the silent complicity of the state. The preamble of their petition read, in part:

There was a time when racist violence had its center in the South…Once most of the violence against Negroes occurred in the countryside, but that was before the Negro emigrations of the twenties and thirties. Now there is not a great American city from New York to Cleveland or Detroit, from Washington, the nation’s capital, to Chicago, from Memphis to Atlanta or Birmingham, from New Orleans to Los Angeles, that is not disgraced by the wanton killing of innocent Negroes.

It is no longer a sectional phenomenon. Once the classic method of lynching was the rope. Now it is the policeman’s bullet. To many an American the police are the government, certainly its most visible representative. We submit that the evidence suggests that the killing of Negroes has become police policy in the United States and that police policy is the most practical expression of government policy.

Today, there is no shortage of issues that Black people in this country could mobilize around. But police brutality remains the catalyst for Black protest because it is the clearest example of the compromised citizenship of Black people. When the police can approach you, search you, arrest you and even kill you with impunity, it means you don’t have first-class citizenship–you have second-class citizenship.

This second-class citizenship, and its sharp conflict with what the United States says about itself, is what drives the radicalization of young Black people and others who know it to be true. In other words, we as a nation are always told that this is the greatest country on earth. We believe in “American exceptionalism” and the promises of unfettered opportunity for anyone willing to work for it. We believe in the American Dream.

Just a few weeks ago Obama traveled to Cuba, where he said, “I believe that every person should be equal under the law…Every child deserves the dignity that comes with education, and health care and food on the table and a roof over their heads…American democracy has given our people the opportunity to pursue their dreams and enjoy a high standard of living.”

Obama likes to tout his own story and rise as a product of America’s greatness, but what on earth do these words mean to the family of Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot and killed by police within 1.6 seconds arriving on the scene. What does it mean when the cops who killed him will not face charges? Continue reading

How we dumped Trump


by Mario Cardenas (via SocialistWorker.org)

A MULTIRACIAL crowd representing people from all over Chicago turned out to the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Pavilion on March 11 to tell Donald Trump his racist message isn’t welcome here–forcing him to cancel his rally and send his supporters home.

Socialist Worker was inside and outside the UIC pavilion to report on how racism and bigotry was successfully shut down in the Windy City.

Trump, currently the frontrunner for Republican presidential nomination, was scheduled to take the stage at 6 p.m. in front of a packed house on Friday night. But 30 minutes after it was supposed to start, a Trump representative walked to the podium and announced:

Mr. Trump just arrived in Chicago, and after meeting with law enforcement, has determined that for the safety of all of the tens of thousands of people that have gathered in and around the arena, tonight’s rally will be postponed to another date.

It was clear victory for protesters, as cheers went up throughout anti-Trump forces in the crowd, and a clear defeat for Trump supporters.

For almost five hours, the air was tense inside the pavilion as Trump supporters and activists that had gone inside the pavilion to protest waited for the event to start. Waves of violence, vulgarity and hate ebbed and flowed from Trump supporters to anti-Trump protesters.

This pro-wrestling-type spectacle seems to be the bread and butter of the Trump PR strategy, as he typically whips his crowd into frenzy against immigrants, Muslims and anti-Trump protesters themselves. According to people inside the venue, some Trump supporters ran around the arena wherever a protester was discovered to yell at them and flip them off. There were also supporters who turned out for the event in black party dresses, tailored suits, gold watches and designer shoes.

Others wore “Blue Lives Matter” buttons and whenever a row of police passed by, clapped and chanted “CPD! CPD!” (Chicago Police Department). The front rows were reserved for the wealthier supporters, and it was rumored that Bears quarterback Jay Cutler had reserved a seat. In the upper decks, there were people sporting “All Lives Matter” T-shirts, military haircuts, Confederate garb and KKK patches.

At his rallies, Trump is fueling people’s fears and anger and directing it at easy scapegoats, like immigrants and Muslims. One Trump supporter complained, “My family is struggling for my son to go to college and he has an illegal friend who is getting a free ride. This society is not recognizing people who are struggling.”

For some attendees, this is a place where they can find an outlet for their racism and xenophobia. Trump has encouraged his supporters to physically attack any anti-Trump protesters that turn out to his events, and some people are turning up to his protests eager to do just that.

Trump’s security approached people inside the venue that they thought were protesters, usually non-white people, to ask their names and look them up on their smart phones. Officers from three police departments were also part of the security detail for the event.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

FOR PROTESTERS outside, the day began earlier that afternoon at the UIC campus quad, where hundreds turned out for a student-led speak-out, organized largely via social media, before marching to the UIC Pavilion.

The protest was organized very quickly, as the announcement of Trump’s event came just a week before the event. A UIC student started a MoveOn.org petition to get UIC to disinvite Trump that gained some traction. A collection of student groups and activists at UIC started a “Stop Trump” Facebook group and event that within 24 hours had thousands of people signing up to attend.

An opening organizing meeting on March 7 drew about 100 students representing groups such as the Muslim Student Association, College Democrats, the Black Student Union, student immigrant rights groups and Black Lives Matter activists among others, including members of Service Employees International Union Local 73.

Protesters developed an inside and an outside strategy for the Trump event, and over the course of the week, the numbers of people who wanted to come out and stand up to Trump ballooned.

On March 11, as news helicopters hovered above and traffic lanes were paralyzed, on the ground the crowd swelled to some 3,000 mostly young, multiracial and very animated anti-Trump activists. It was like a festival of solidarity as a broad spectrum of left and progressive organizations and many individuals who had never been to a protest before marched as one through the UIC campus and headed to the arena.

As people marched closer to UIC Pavilion, barricades and hundreds of Chicago, Cook County, and UIC police on foot, car and horseback separated the protesters from the people waiting in line to get in.

Chants of “Dump Trump!” accompanied the thousands of posters, banners, horn sections and even a mariachi band as the crowd surrounded the arena.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WALKING THROUGH the crowd on Harrison Street was like seeing the different ethnicities of Chicago’s segregated neighborhoods come together, with protesters carrying signs in Spanish, Arabic and English. There were groups of queer activists, Black Lives Matter activists, Latino Sanders supporters, anarchists, socialists, artists, workers and professionals–all of them gathered to shut down Trump.

A young couple holding hands, Diego and Caroline, were among them. “This is the first time coming out [to a protest]. We were debating to come out or to go support Bernie,” Diego said, referring to the fact that Sanders had a campaign event the same day. “But we decided to come over…we want to stand together in solidarity against Trump, no matter what he says.”

An overwhelming number of people supported the Bernie Sanders campaign. Sandra Puebla, a student at Dominican University, proudly pasted a “Unidos con Bernie” (United with Bernie) sticker on her sweater and proclaimed, “[Sanders] is bringing up issues that aren’t usually brought up. He’s spoken about the importance of Black Lives Matter movement, xenophobia, and that’s not something Democrats usually talk about. Even if he doesn’t win he’s still impacting the election.”

Others didn’t affiliate with any presidential candidate, but stood firmly against Trump. “Trump needs to be stopped,” said 20-year-old Madeline Frankie, who goes to school in Pittsburgh and was home for spring break. Talking about the racism of the Trump campaign, she added, “It’s disgusting. We’re all humans, we’re all people.”

Contrary to Trump’s lies that his event was disrupted by “professional agitators,” Jacob, a 20-year-old holding a sign that read “#DumpTrump,” explained, “This is honestly my first protest. It was shared on Facebook. UIC students have been talking about it a lot on campus, and one of my friends in class shared it with me and I shared it with all my friends and now they’re all here with me.”

Next to him, 20-year-old Ashley from the Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen expressed her anger: “I’m Mexican and when Trump made his statements about how we’re all rapists and criminals, that really hit close to my heart because a lot of my family is undocumented. They are amazing hard workers. Trump is wrong–not all Mexicans are rapists, not all Muslims are terrorists.”

She added, “My first protests was in 2012 for Trayvon Martin, and since then I’ve been politically active.”

This new youth radicalization is thirsty for multiracial unity and while organizations still need to be built, the desire for solidarity is strong. Twenty-three-year-old Alex Wiggins from Chicago’s South Side encapsulated the anger:

Honestly I don’t fuck with Donald Trump, I don’t believe in his motivations. I have a lot of Mexican friends, and I’m African American. He’s trying to make America white again; I don’t think America is white. It’s a melting pot, isn’t it? I think it was made for all of us. My people died for this country, we may have been forced, but our blood is on this land. Mexican blood, Native American blood is on this land.

This is our country, and we’re not going to let money run it. We’re not going to let the top 1 Percent take everything. My father is almost 70–there was a time when he was young, when a man could work 40 hours a week and support his family, send his kids to college, spend time with his kids. Now people working 70 hours a week can’t raise their kids.

In turn, their kids are on the street and now we’re getting violence, we’re getting poverty. And people like Donald Trump have never been anywhere close to anything like that. They don’t understand what it’s like to walk into a store and be judged or even walk into a classroom and be judged. So that’s why I’m out here.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE ONLY way to stop the right is to directly shut them down with mass actions that unite people against their racism.

The vile celebrations of hate at Trump rallies have recently drawn protests at nearly every campaign stop, with activists going inside the events to hold up banners and disrupt the event. These incidents are so commonplace that Trump now begins his rallies by instructing the crowd to deal with disrupters by chanting “Trump!” to draw attention of security.

Trump has also condoned his supporters physically attacking protesters on multiple occasions, including at a recent North Carolina rally where a protester was punched by a Trump supporter. Trump sanctioned this action by offering to pay the assailant’s legal fees.

Chicago protesters expressed the sentiments of many anti-racists across the country and demonstrated that Trump and racists of his ilk can actually be shut down. At the rally, the workers and students of Chicago–Black, Latin@, Arab, Asian and white–did what few in the Democratic or Republican Party establishments or the media have done: tackle his bigotry head on. The right-wing demagogue who prides himself on never backing down was humbled not by a witty retort in a debate, a slick social media campaign, or even an elaborate set-piece direct action–but by the thousands of Chicagoans who turned out to oppose him.

Days before the rally, the Chicago Tribune ran the headline, “Trump to face protest by Latino Leaders,” claiming that “Latino elected officials and leaders said Monday they are organizing a protest to counter…Donald Trump’s appearance.” In a classic display of opportunism, Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez and Alderman Danny Solis held press conferences in an effort to gain political points for the Democrats.

However, it wasn’t the elected officials, but thousands of ordinary Chicagoans who gathered and marched on Trump, pushed police lines back and took the streets. Hundreds more protested inside the UIC pavilion and, through sheer force of numbers, forced Trump out of their city.

The strategy used by protesters inside the arena was effective through both the magnitude of participants and quality of organization. The activists inside didn’t act at random to avoid being picked off one by one but were disciplined so as not to be provoked and determined to act together.

As the radical historian Howard Zinn once wrote, if you’re going to disrupt a right-wing rally, “do it with 2,000 people.” While the protesters inside were decisive in canceling the event, the large, highly visible mass march outside was equally important in sending a message to the people of Chicago and beyond that racism and bigotry aren’t welcome in our city. While Democratic politicians stand up against racism or homophobia only when it’s politically convenient for them, it was the masses of Chicago who sent a message to Trump this time: You’re fired.

In the aftermath, the media described the protests as “violent clashes.” Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who was also in the Chicago area campaigning on the day of the protest, weighed in, decrying the “violence” of both sides and making a bizarre comparison to the racist mass shooting by a white supremacist in Charleston, South Carolina.

In reality, peaceful protesters were attacked by mobs of angry Trump supporters when they learned the event was canceled. This has been–unsurprisingly–underreported by the corporate media, as was the fact that a number of protesters were beaten by the police and arrested.

At the same time, Trump has whined about his “freedom of speech” being violated. The fact that Trump can run for president with his inherited millions and buy a pulpit where his every word is carried by new stations as though his views automatically have merit, however, is a violation of the freedom of speech of the thousands upon thousands of working people who he targets with this scapegoating.

The protesters in Chicago didn’t ask the state to interfere by the restricting his speech. Instead we drowned out his hate ourselves with the power of our collective voices. Protests like that of Chicago are what are required to build a movement against racist scapegoating, endless war, border walls and deportations, no matter which political party–Republican or Democrat–is at fault.

Continue reading

Is Rahm on his way out?


by Eric Kerl and Todd St. Hill 

Rats fleeing a sinking ship.

That’s how a lot of people in Chicago are describing the wave of pink slips, resignations, and unexpected “retirements” of high-ranking Chicago cops and politicians. These days, it isn’t just longtime opponents but former supporters who are demanding the resignations of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez for their roles in the cover-up of Laquan McDonald’s execution by Chicago cop Jason Van Dyke.

According to a recent opinion poll, Emanuel’s job approval rating has dropped to 18 percent, just slightly ahead of congressional Republicans, and more than half of those surveyed say he should resign.

The mayor appeared before the City Council he usually presides over like the dictator of a one-party state to issue a teary apology, but it did nothing to quiet the daily protests and widespread outrage. As one demonstrator’s sign summarized: “Crocodile tears won’t fix this. #ResignRahm.”

The mayor’s handpicked Police Chief Garry McCarthy was the first to go within days after the horrifying video of McDonald’s execution was finally released. But with more revelations of the Chicago Police Department’s racism and brutality continuing to emerge, more heads will undoubtedly roll–and as unlikely as it might have seemed just weeks ago, Emanuel’s might be among them. Continue reading

What Socialists Say About Rahm’s Tax Hike

Not a single tax increase on working people. (1)

Rahm is proposing the biggest property tax increase in modern Chicago history — in a city that already has the highest sales tax in the whole nation. Rahm says it’s “inevitable” if the city is going to stay in the black. The corporate press says the city’s finances are a mess and “tough choices” — more cutbacks, thousands of layoffs, big tax hikes on ordinary Chicagoans — must be made. What do socialists say about all of this?

First of all, we say that this is not a complicated issue. It’s actually quite simple. Chicago is not broke. We live in one of the most wealthy cities in the world. Some of the biggest corporations in the world and richest individuals in the US call our city home. Scarcity isn’t our problem — it’s backward political priorities that favor the wealthy few to the detriment of the majority.

We say: not a single cent increase in taxes or fees on ordinary working-class Chicagoans. None. Period.

Not a single cut to our schools, roads, transit, libraries, health clinics, and so forth. Not one.

Not a single layoff for teachers, bus drivers, librarians — for city workers of any kind.

The solution to Chicago’s budget woes are simple: tax the rich. And then tax them some more.

Tax big-ticket financial transactions on LaSalle Street just like they tax us when we buy socks. Tax luxury assets in excess of $1 million. Tax the big landlords in the loop with high-powered lawyers to get them out of paying property taxes.

And while we’re at it, we could stop wasting precious city funds on handouts to the rich — you know, stuff like: TIF’s, corporate subsidies, tax breaks for the likes of Boeing, and interest/service fees for the fat cat banks that hold Chicago city debt.


On Hunger Strike Till Victory is Won


City officials offered a deal to the hunger strikers at Dyett High School, but that only strengthened their resolve.

by Bob Simpson 

THE WORDS of James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing” echoed down Drexel Avenue on Chicago’s South Side on the mild summer evening of September 8. Down the street from the Chicago home of President Obama, the Dyett hunger strikers and their supporters, holding candles in the deepening darkness, shared this song that is often called the Black National Anthem:

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
let our rejoicing rise,
high as the listening skies, let it resound loud as the rolling sea
sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us,
sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

It was an opportunity for the hunger strikers and their supporters to reflect on the centuries-old African American struggle for freedom and their role in the struggle–Day 23 of the hunger strike to create the Walter Dyett High School for Global Leadership and Green Technology at the now-closed Dyett High School building in Chicago’s Washington Park. Continue reading

We’re Glad You’re Here!

Check it out!

The Chicago district of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) welcomes you to our newly renovated website. The site has a number of important new features that you should make sure to check out: an events page, pages dedicated to explaining our basic political perspective, as well as a series of pages with information on the current activist campaigns our membership is prioritizing at any given time.

In particular, however, we want to draw your attention to our all-new Chicago-centric blog which will feature frequent contributions from our members on events, activism and political developments in the city.

We are proud to have branches throughout the city full of members who are active in a variety of different kinds of activist work. The blog will feature short posts that reflect the depth and breadth of our members’ participation in political movements in Chicago. We’ll also periodically post cutting-edge political commentary on city politics, such as articles and editorials about Chicago published in our organizations newspaper SocialistWorker.org.