10/9 Haiti Earthquake Anniversary Benefit

Haiti Earthquake Anniversary Benefit
A Night in Solidarity and Celebration with the Haitian Community


SAVE THE DATE January 9th 4pm to 10pm -- Main Event: 6pm--7pm

Waid’s Haitian Cuisine and Lounge
1212 E. Jefferson St., Seattle, 98122

On the 12th of January 2010, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti. The catastrophe left nearly 300,000 dead and more than 1 million are still homeless today. The displaced citizens of Haiti are now dealing with a cholera outbreak that is running rampant through the tent cities of Port-au-Prince, compounding the initial tragedy of the earthquake.

Maha-Lilo (or Many Hands, Light Load) is a Seattle based non-profit organization under Haitian leadership that is working to bring water filters to the tent cities of Port-au-Prince to stop the spread of cholera. Please come and enjoy dinner with us at Waid’s Haitian Cuisine and Lounge and support this critical aid effort to Haiti.
Throughout the evening there will be appearances by local Seattle bands, a silent auction of Haitian art, and spoken word. Voices of earthquake survivors and members of the Haitian community will come together to deliver remembrances and celebrate the culture of Haiti.

There will be a suggested donation at the door of $12 for adults and $8 for students. All proceeds from this event will go towards helping the victims of the earthquake and cholera outbreak.

Please save this date and help make a difference in the lives of people in need.


Bus Ad Campaign to Protest Israel's Assault on Gaza

Local media campaign and vigil remember and protest Israel’s 2008 assault on Gaza

December 27 – On the second anniversary of Israel’s three-week assault on Gaza, Seattle-area activists are launching a Metro bus ad campaign to expose the use of U.S. taxpayer money to support Israel’s ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people.

Inspired by similar public advertising campaigns in Chicago, San Francisco, Albuquerque and other cities, the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign is launching the advertising campaign aimed at securing equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis, as well as an end to United States military aid to Israel, which continues at a time of economic crisis and severe budget cuts that have resulted in massive unemployment.  A companion website at www.stop30billion-Seattle.org suggests ways that people can get involved locally. 

The initial campaign begins on 12 Metro bus routes in the city of Seattle, with the slogan “ISRAELI WAR CRIMES: Your Tax Dollars At Work”.  The ads will run 4 weeks.

Seattle activists will also hold a vigil and protest in downtown Seattle on Monday, December 27, starting at 5:00 pm at 4th & Pine St.   The walking vigil will be in memory of those killed in Israel’s assault on Gaza and in protest of Israel’s ongoing crimes against human rights.  

December 27, 2008 was the first day of Israel’s three-week military offensive against the captive population of Gaza, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,400 Palestinians, most of them non-combatants, more than 300 of them children.

A formal inquiry by the United Nations found grounds for a criminal investigation into war crimes by Israel.   The UN report concluded that Israel’s assault was not in self-defense, but was “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population”.  Amnesty International found evidence that Israeli soldiers used Palestinian civilians as human shields, and Israeli soldiers have testified publicly to other human rights violations.  Yet the U.S. government has pledged $30 billion in military aid to Israel over the next 10 years, even though the U.S. Arms Export Control Act prohibits the use of U.S. weapons against civilians.

An increasing number of US citizens are becoming aware of this issue.  “I had never heard the whole story of the Israeli occupation.  I never anticipated US complicity in Israel’s crimes.  I had no idea,” says one volunteer with the Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign.  “When I began to learn the truth, it was like an avalanche.  I became angry.  Why all the lies?  Why the blackout of information?  Why the silence from our government?” 

Another volunteer was in the West Bank during Israel’s assault on Gaza. “I was in Ramallah during the entire Operation Cast Lead - watching TV with people from Gaza in the evening in the hotel reception area, talking with our staff in Gaza each morning to see if they had survived the night of bombings.”

The Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign 


12/15: Learning from the European Revolt Against Austerity & Organizing

This week we'll have a political discussion on Austerity & Resistance in Europe and implications for activists in the US and time for organizing. It's our last meeting before a 2 week break so be sure to join us for this great discussion -- we'll resume meeting Jan 5th!

1. Austerity & Resistance in Europe and Implications for activists in the US (50 min)

This was the topic of this month's National Branch Council call. There will be a short report back and then plenty of time for discussion. Below are a few good articles to check out (there's plenty more on SW):

 A World of Extremes
The cause of Ireland's crisis 
Squeezing the working class in Europe
Tories manipulate a crisis
The new wave of student revolt 
A blueprint for the cuts to come

2. Organizing: Fundraising & Reports

Fundraising discussion (40 min)
We're kicking off a fund drive campaign for the Center for Economic Research and Social Change which publishes Haymarket books and the International Socialist Review. Hopefully coming out of this discussion we will set a branch goal for the fund drive, turn in all our own pledges, and go home for the holidays with forms and letters to give to friends and family; and brainstorm other fundraising ideas, possible parties for next quarter, etc.

Report backs, folks will give reports on organizing they are doing:--Case for Socialism meeting idea (to kick off winter quarter)
-- UW Campus Committee report back
-- Seattle Solidarity Committee (SeaSol) training and organizing meeting
-- Human Rights Day March
-- Madison Market union update
-- Teacher's Union Social Equality Educators (SEE) Caucus report


Two Important Protests

Hi all, there are two important protests coming up in the next few days -- spread the word and see you there!

  • SAT 12-1:30  - International Human Rights Day March and Rally
  • MON 3:30 -  Protest Government Censorship of Wikileaks at Amazon Headquarters

Imagine HumanRights
International HumanRights Day
Saturday 12/11/2010

March 12pm-1pm
Hing Hay Park (King & Maynard) to Downtown Seattle

Rally 1pm-1:30pm
Victor Steinbrueck Park (north of Pike Place Market)

On Saturday, December 11, 2010, we peacefully gather for a march and rally in downtown Seattle to commemorate the 30 articles of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.  Vast accounts of human rights violations are committed everyday, with no respect or regard for human rights.  On this day, we demand those responsible for crimes against humanity to be held accountable.

Please join us in a peaceful demonstration, where we honor victims of human rights violations at home and abroad.  We march towards a new daywhen the ideas of justice, freedom and human rights are no longer confined to our imagination but realized throughout the world.

Gather at Hing Hay Park (King & Maynard) in the International District at 11:30am.  We will proceed with a march through downtown Seattle along 4th Ave to Victor Steinbrueck Park (north of Pike Place Market). 
 For more information & endorsers visit pusoseattle.wordpress.com 


Monday Dec. 133:30pm
Amazon's Headquarters 
410 Terry Ave N. (South Lake Union)

Under pressure from the US government, Amazon cut Wikileaks from their Internet servers, the first in what has become a string of companies who are restricting our rights to know what the government is doing.  This is an egregious attack on our freedom of information - a crucial foundational element of democracy.  This also represents an attack on opposition to the unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as many of the cables reveal a concerted effort on the part of the US government to deceive the US population in order to wage its wars.

Veterans For Peace has issued a national call for a boycott of Amazon, Paypal and and Ebay:


December 9, 2010
Yesterday, the Executive Committee of Veterans For Peace voted to break all commercial ties with the Amazon Corporation and call for our members to boycott eBay Corp. and PayPal Corp.  This includes, but is not limited to,
  • Removing the Amazon link from the VFP website.  Previously we had encouraged our members to use this link when making purchases from Amazon Corp., as a fundraising method for our organization.
  • Urging our members, supporters and the public to boycott Amazon, eBay and PayPal corporations.
  • Urging Julian Assange and the Wikileaks team to continue their fight in the most important area of free speech: government secrets.

The U.S. Justice Department is reportedly considering charging Assange under the Espionage Act.  This much-discredited and little-used law was last invoked against journalists, unsuccessfully, in the failed Pentagon Papers case in 1971.  However, prosecution and conviction under this act, passed in 1917 to stifle dissent during WWI, may have little to do with espionage and everything to do with government repression.

For example, the federal government used the Espionage Act to prosecute Gene Debs, the great union organizer and socialist presidential candidate, for a 1918 Canton Ohio speechagainst U.S. involvement in the “Great War.” 

Another citizen prosecuted in the same period under the same law, according to Kevin Zeese, director of Voters for Peace, was Rose Pastor Stokes, sentenced to ten years in prison for a letter to the Kansas City Star, saying “no government which is for the profiteers can also be for the people, and I am for the people while the government is for the profiteers.”

The government-war-private corporation axis is exposed fully in this case.  Credit card companies Mastercard and Visa, along with giant online retailer Ebay Corp., owner of PayPal Corp., have voluntarily joined Amazon Corp. in answering the government’s request to block WikiLeaks’ funding in an effort to keep additional information from a citizenry increasingly fed up with war, secrecy and corporate power. 

VFP gave imprisoned Army PFC, Bradley Manning, its Courage of Conscience award earlier this year for releasing documents detailing U.S. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. Resistance to the attack on WikiLeaks and Assange is also growing and VFP considers it important to do what we can to join that resistance.



12/8: From Jim Crow to Jaun Crow a Marxist Case for Fighting Racism

Wed 12/8 at 7pm
in Savery Hall Room 139

Handcuffed and pinned to the ground, Oscar Grant, an unarmed young Black man, was shot to death by an Oakland police officer Johannes Mehserle on New Year's Day of 2009. Even though the murder was recorded by an onlooker’s cellophane, at his November, 2010 sentencing Mehserle only received a two year jail sentence that will likely be reduced to just 72 days with time served.

The attack on immigrant communities continue to mount as raids and deportations have accelerated passed the levels even under George W. Bush. Anti-immigrant bashing has been most visible with Arizona’s “Juan Crow” laws—like the racial profiling HB 1070 and AZ's banning of ethnic studies programs from the public schools.

While the media hailed the election of Barak Obama as signaling a “post-racial” era in the U.S., people of color are facing jobless rates at twice the level of whites. Meanwhile, we have seen Obama distance himself from any explicit fight against racism while simultaneously witnessing Tea Party right-wingers launch racist attacks against Muslims, immigrants, and African Americans.

It’s time to organize a fight against racism.

Socialists have been at the front of some of the most important struggles against racism in US history—from the Communist Party in the 1930s to the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and 70s. With the economy in crisis, the relationship between race and class is increasing visible and new possibilities exist to rebuild a class struggle for racial justice.

Join the international Socialist Organization to discuss the history of racism in America and develop strategies for fighting against it today.


Comment: Why Initiative 1098 lost

In the midterm election, voters in Washington state defeated Initiative 1098, which would have instituted a state income tax on people making over $200,000 a year and couples making over $400,000 a year (1.2 percent of the state's population).
The initiative lost by a 2-to-1 margin. As was the case elsewhere across the U.S., voter turnout in Washington was lower than 2008, with 70 percent of registered voters taking part, compared to 84 percent in 2008.
Washington state has the most regressive tax structure in the U.S. The poorest 20 percent pay 17 percent of their income in state taxes while the richest 1 percent pay less than 3 percent. I-1098 would have provided $2 billion a year in funding for education and health care while lowering taxes on the vast majority of people. Here, Amy Smith, Chris Mobley and Steve Leigh, activists at the University of Washington in Seattle, explain why the initiative lost.
Members of SEIU show their support for I-1098 (Neil Parekh | SEIU)
DO PEOPLE oppose the idea of taxing the rich?
NO. WHEN 1098 was first made public in the spring, a large majority supported it. It collected nearly double the signatures needed to get on the ballot.
WHAT WAS the key reason people voted "No"?
THE NO on 1098 campaign hammered two themes relentlessly: 1098 will drive jobs out of the state, and if 1098 wins, the legislature will extend the income tax to everyone. The first claim had some influence, but the key argument was the second one.
WERE THESE arguments valid?
NO. THE campaign answered the first argument with lots of facts. Forty-three states already have an income tax. States with an income tax generally have higher economic growth than those without. Even had 1098 passed, Washington state would still have a relatively regressive tax structure, so there would be no incentive for the rich to flee the state.
Probably the most important argument from the pro-1098 side was that the rich in Washington state (and the U.S. generally) were sitting on tons of cash and not using it to hire people because of the recession.
Initiative 1098 would take some of that money and use it to hire people--teachers, nurses, social workers, etc. So, rather than being a job killer, 1098 would be a job creator.
The second argument was tougher to defeat. 1098 itself had a clause that the tax rates and the people they applied to could not be changed without a new popular vote. However, the Washington state constitution allows the legislature to change any initiative after two years.
People feared that the legislature would use that clause to impose an income tax on everyone. The 1098 campaign explained that the legislature already has the power to impose an income tax on everyone and has never done this--and that it would be political suicide for them to do so. Finally, the campaign argued that Washington state is prone to initiatives, so any major change in 1098 would provoke a new initiative campaign anyway. All of these counter-arguments were not enough to overcome the fear of an income tax on all.
WERE PEOPLE right to fear an income tax on everyone?
NO. THE arguments put forward by the 1098 campaign were correct, and we had good reason to hope they would carry the day. However, people were right to fear the legislature in general. It has not served the interests of ordinary people.
The Democrats usually control the legislature and the governor's office. This last term, they had a particularly strong majority. They responded to the budget crisis caused by the recession by cutting programs and imposing a new regressive tax on ordinary people--the tax on candy, soda and bottled water.
The legislature has allowed the raising of the very regressive sales tax by cities and counties. In Seattle, people pay nearly 10 percent in sales tax. The legislature has also given major tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy. The overall result is that ordinary Washington residents are extremely overtaxed, while the wealthy are very, very undertaxed.
This results in a perpetual crisis of funding for needed programs. For example, Washington state ranks in the bottom 10 states in education funding per student and has some of the highest class sizes in the U.S.
Especially with the recession making it hard for people to find jobs, keep their houses, get or keep health care, etc., the reaction of many people was "I can't risk a new tax. I can barely make it now." The vote against 1098 was part of the anti-incumbent mood that swept the country November 2. In this case, distrust of the legislature, distrust of the Democrats took down 1098.
WAS THE failure of 1098 part of a conservative tide in the electorate?
NO. THE results on other initiatives were often progressive. Voters rejected privatization of workers' compensation, which would have hurt workers and provided a boondoggle for insurance companies. They rejected privatization of liquor sales, which would have cost the state millions in revenue.
This shows that people were distrustful of corporations as well as of the politicians who defend corporate interests. They rejected the regressive tax on candy, soda and bottled water. They did, however, show their opposition to the politicians by tying their hands with a super-majority requirement to raise new taxes.
This was part of the anti-tax mood in the face of the recession. However, even the anti-tax mood was mixed. Some school levies passed, for example. In general, ordinary people were trying to defend their interests against the politicians and the rich, but were sometimes confused about how to do that.
WHOSE FAULT was the defeat?
THE MAJOR culprit for the failure of 1098 was the legislature, the governor and especially the Democratic Party. The record of the Democrats in consistently defending the interests of corporations set up the distrust that led to 1098's defeat.
Related to this is the political strategy of the labor movement in the state (and nationally). The labor leaders have tied their futures to the Democrats. They raised millions of dollars to elect the governor, Christine Gregoire, who then turned around and stabbed state employees and service recipients in the back by cutting the budget.
Because they have put so much time and energy into electing the "lesser-evil" pro-business party, they have neglected to promote workers organizing and fighting back directly.
In fact, it got worse than this--the strategy of union leaders is often to dampen down potential struggle so as to make deals with employers and politicians. Because there has been little collective fightback against the budget cuts, people have been encouraged to look to individual solutions to the recession. Part of the quest for individual solutions was "Keep my taxes low at all costs." There were also some failures of strategy and tactics in the 1098 campaign.
WHAT WERE some of the failures in the campaign?
THE CAMPAIGN stressed that 1098 was a "middle-class tax cut." This was correct in that working-class and middle-class class people would have seen their taxes drop slightly. However, most people rightly saw this as a very small tax cut, and feared a bigger tax increase later.
The campaign did not tap into the anger of people against Wall Street and the rich by stressing "tax the rich." This message resonated well when it was tried, but wasn't tried enough. It also did not lay out as starkly as necessary the draconian level of cuts that would come from its failure. 1098 TV ads at first refused to use the word "income tax," which came across as deceptive.
Finally, the campaign was well funded and well staffed as a traditional election campaign, but did not organize as a grassroots campaign. There were no public rallies. Volunteers were plugged into phone banking and door belling, but did not have democratic input into the strategy and tactics (except at the University of Washington and perhaps a few other places that stressed public tabling, speak-outs and democratic meetings to mobilize energy).
For all the faults, the main problem was not campaign strategy, but the overall political climate.
WHAT DOES the future hold for taxing the rich and solving the budget crisis in Washington?
THE BUDGET crisis at the state and local level continues throughout the U.S.--and the world. The financial crisis has morphed into a crisis of government funding. Austerity is sweeping the planet.
Last year, the state faced a $9 billion budget short fall. This year it is expected to face another $5 billion gap. In the face of this, and in the face of attacks by private employers, people will be pushed to fight back.
Part of that fightback will be other attempts to change the tax structure here in Washington as well as other places. People will see the results of the defeat of 1098 and begin to reassess their options. When the level of collective struggle rises, people will see the need for society-wide solutions, instead of just hunkering down and seeking individual ways out.
The role of socialists and other radicals and activists will be to do whatever we can to encourage the increase in collective struggle. We will continue to organize against layoffs and wage cuts to teachers and other state workers. But making these struggles more effective will require a broader understanding of what caused the crisis and what solutions are likely to work.
Socialists need to provide a deeper political analysis to help fill that need. If labor activists and other organizers continue to depend on the Democrats, they will continue to fight with one had tied behind their back while their "friends" attack them form behind.
There has never been a more important time for socialists to be active in organizing a fightback and in providing a political strategy and analysis that can help make the fightback more effective.