Know Your History: Lessons in organizing from the leftists and labor organizers of yore.

Ever heard of the Mississippi Freedom Labor Union? You could be forgiven for answering in the negative.

Ever heard of J.P. Mooney and his organizing exploits in Avondale, Alabama? Nope?

Did you know that the largest political rally ever held in Alabama was put on by the Communist Party during the Depression? Nah?

The South has earned its reputation as the region most hostile to leftism and union organizing in the United States. After all, Gov. Nikki Haley, who is cruising towards re-election in South Carolina, declared that any auto companies that had unionized workforces should refrain from relocating in South Carolina. In Tennessee, state legislators made plain their opposition to the United Auto Workers gaining a foothold in Chattanooga by stating that they would revoke any tax incentives that Volkswagen received in the event of a yes vote. Aside from those anecdotal examples, the South is home to some of the lowest unionization rates in the country — North Carolina’s union density, at only three percent of workers organized, is the lowest in the country. Arkansas is not far behind at 3.5 percent, nor is Mississippi and South Carolina at 3.7 percent. One does not think “citadel of unionism” when they think of Alabama, but at 10.7 percent, they far outpace any other state in the region for union density.

But there was a time when radical politics and organizing found its home in the rural South.

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Fight Or Die: Malala Yousafzai, socialism, and being an inspiration to us all.

Malala Yousafzai was already an inspiring figure to me for many reasons: her desire for equal education, her bravery in standing up and identifying herself in that classroom on October 9, 2012, knowing that she was likely to be shot and killed, and her perseverance in surviving and continuing to advocate for equality. Her desire to return to Pakistan and organize for women’s equality especially hits home for me. I live in west Alabama, was raised in Virginia, and trace my origins back to rural North Carolina. If you are a person that cares about justice, equality, and a society that sees no lepers, but rather simply children of God? You have either long since left the South or are champing at the bit to get out as soon as possible. Not many people stay behind and do change work here, and the fact that Malala would risk death to go back and finish the work she started has a special resonance with me.

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As The Sky Hook Turns: A Response To Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

(Today, we have a guest post from Robert Reece at The South Lawn. Robert is a PhD student in sociology at Duke University where he takes an intersectional critical race approach to research on the American South, black popular culture, gender/sex/sexuality, and digital technology. He is from Leland, MS, a small town in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, and obtained BA and MA degrees in sociology from The University of Mississippi.)

Last week, the former professional basketball player (6-time NBA champion and 6-time NBA MVP), activist, and filmmaker, wrote an article for Time entitled “The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race,” where he argues, in true Marxist fashion, that race is not the real issue in Ferguson, or anywhere else for that matter. The real issue is class and how the poor are systematically disadvantaged by the wealthy elite, and race is just an ideological division perpetuated by the mainstream media to impede the organization of the 50 million impoverished Americans. He writes, “Ferguson is not just about systemic racism—it’s about class warfare and how America’s poor are held back…” Well, the truth is: it’s about both.

The tragic shooting of Mike Brown is certainly not limited to economically disadvantaged black communities, but the aftermath: the curfew, the police presence, the National Guard presence, almost certainly wouldn’t have manifested in a well-to-do community full of black decision makers. But it is equally, or less, likely to occur in a white community, even a poor white community. Only the confluence of poverty and racial otherness elicits such a violence police response to a violence police response. Eliminating either factor changes the game entirely. Neither can be subsumed by the other.
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Morning Links for August 22, 2014.

If you have not done so already, check out my debut at Jacobin Magazine: Love Me, Ferguson, I’m A Liberal.

The South.

  1. Fayetteville, Arkansas has approved a non-discrimination measure that encompasses LGBTQ people in the city, reports the Arkansas Times. The vote was 6-2. Interestingly enough, the vast majority of Fayetteville residents that spoke were in favor of the measure (49 of 73), while most of the people who were from out of town were against the measure. Too bad for Michelle Duggar that she can only vote in her home of Tontitown, relegating her bigotry in Fayetteville to weak robocalls only.
  2. Katherine Helms Cummings at Rural and Progressive issues a Call to Action urging readers to call the Georgia General Assembly, Gov. Nathan Deal, and the Department of Community Health and tell them to make insurance more affordable for the state’s schoolteachers. This is, honestly, extraordinarily sad to see: people who give our children knowledge and context to the world they live in being unable to afford quality medical care for themselves. What kind of country do we live in?
  3. NC Policy Watch reports on the rulemaking hearings for fracking in the state at their Progressive Pulse blog. New worries about the fracking fluid and waste water has environmental campaigners concerned that the regulations will not go far enough to protect the state’s water supply. If you want a great documentary on this topic, check out GasLand and GasLand 2.
  4. Lisa Starbuck reports at KnoxViews about the controversy underway with regards to charter schools in Nashville, and their ability to, under a new state law, go around the school board and appeal directly to the state in asking for funds in the event of a rejection of their application to operate. Republicans are so united in their zeal to destroy public education that they would violate a key principle of their party’s ideology (handing control over public policy and administration to local authorities) in order to fulfill the wishes of their donors. It would be hilarious if it was not so sad.


  1. Polls show a broadening racial divide in America. This report has been brought to by Duh Magazine The New York Times.

The World.

  1. The Venezuelan government is considering the implementation of a fingerprinting system for shoppers at the nation’s supermarkets, NPR reports. This is to prevent the smuggling of food out of the country into Colombia, where the smugglers sell the food at profit. It is sad that this is something that has to be done, but then it is also sad that capital would rather see people starve than to make a little less money. Up against that, it is worth it.
  2. Russian aid convoys have entered the Ukraine without official permission in order to deliver goods to people in the east of the country, reports The Christian Science Monitor. This crisis feels like the Space Mountain ride at Disneyland: nothing but darkness, and you keep rising higher and higher and higher, expecting a great drop, and it just never comes; rather it lets you down easy and gradually. Somehow I have a feeling that that is the projected ending.
  3. Over 1 million people have signed the petition supporting the Scottish government’s efforts to win independence from the United Kingdom in a vote this September, reports The Guardian. First Minister Alex Salmond, of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, predicted when the petition was unveiled in 2012 that if 1 million Scottish citizens signed it before the independence vote, it would prove that Scotland would vote yes in the referendum. I urge a Yes vote because I think that the Scottish will elect more progressive and leftist governments than the rest of the United Kingdom, but I do not know that this petition is some harbinger for the future. We can only hope at this point.

Morning Links for August 21, 2014.

The South.

  1. Left In Alabama points out the not-so-hilarious irony in anti-choice protesters in Huntsville claiming that the abortion clinic there should be closed because it is a “disruption” to the community. Hmm. Wonder why that is?
  2. Max Brantley at the Arkansas Times reports on teacher dissatisfaction with the possible merger of the state employees’ retirement fund and that state teachers’ retirement fund. The combined entity would be worth over $20 billion and merging the two would be a highly complex and delicate affair. My thought is that such a merger would result in the beneficiaries of the two plans having to pay more into the system in order to cover the cost, but this is something that will be monitored by The South Lawn for further updates.
  3. The Florida Squeeze endorses an August 26th ballot measure for guaranteed paid sick leave in Orange County, which includes Orlando and its suburbs. So do we; Vote YES!
  4. Alexa Ura writes for The Texas Tribune about the challenges that recent immigrants face in getting signed up for health insurance due to glitches in the Affordable Care Act. There is no way you can tell me that a universal, single-payer system would not be more efficient than this. No way.


  1. Joe Atkins writes for Facing South about the workers at Kellogg’s in Memphis, and how the company has treated them with contempt under the management of CEO John Bryant. This article demonstrates more than most why we need a strong National Labor Relations Board to mediate these kinds of conflict.
  2. Philip Sopher poses a question at The Atlantic: Is it time to go to a four-day workweek? I would say yes, but it worries me because, without resistance from the working class, capital will get its hours and profits out of working people. Would this mean longer work hours on the four-day workweek?


  1. Eric Holder visited Ferguson, Missouri yesterday, and NPR reports on his meetings with community leaders, law enforcement, and the mother of Michael Brown, the teenager whose murder by the Ferguson Police sparked the uprising that we have seen over the last week and a half. Holder has his flaws, but I have always respected his frankness on issues revolving around race. He ain’t exactly gonna be calling for revolution in the streets, but hopefully he had some stronger words of encouragement for the people of Ferguson than his boss did.
  2. U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has promised more shutdowns if he ascends to the Majority Leader position in the Senate, The Christian Science Monitor reports. This is the choice that most Americans face at the ballot box: insanity on one side (GOP) and empty suit centrism on the other side (Democrats). It is a real shame.

The World.

  1. The United Kingdom has seen a 31 percent jump in purchases of social housing by tenants in the last year, according to The Guardian. The right-to-buy scheme was brought in during the Thatcher years, and it has been heavily promoted during the current Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition government. While this might seem like a good thing, right-to-buy schemes are disastrous for the social welfare system because the housing that is scooped up from the market is not so easily replaced. This means that low-income Britons will have fewer places with which to seek a home, and the issues meant to be addressed by social housing will continue to go unanswered by any meaningful response.
  2. Albert Reynolds, who served as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland in the early 1990s, has died at 81. Reynolds’ Fianna Fail party won the 1992 Irish general election and then formed a coalition government with the Labour Party, making it the largest coalition government in the history of Irish Republic. Labour eventually left the coalition, but they were decimated in the 1997 elections, as people never forgot them going back on their word to never form a coalition with Fianna Fail. The Irish Times features a lengthy remembrance of Reynolds.

The Revolution Is For Everybody: Some words to live by.

“As a Fanonian, I agree that removing all elements of risk and danger reinforces a politics of reformism that just reproduces the existing social order. Militancy is undermined by the politics of safety. It becomes impossible to do anything that involves risk when people habitually block such actions on the grounds that it makes them feel unsafe. People of color who use privilege theory to argue that white people have the privilege to engage in risky actions while POC cannot because they are the most vulnerable (most likely to be targeted by the police, not have the resources to get out of jail, etc) make a correct assessment of power differentials between white and non-white political actors, but ultimately erase POC from the history of militant struggle by falsely associating militancy with whiteness and privilege. When an analysis of privilege is turned into a political program that asserts that the most vulnerable should not take risks, the only politically correct politics becomes a politics of reformism and retreat, a politics that necessarily capitulates to the status quo while erasing the legacy of Black Power groups like the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army. (emphasis mine. -Douglas) For Fanon, it is precisely the element of risk that makes militant action more urgent — liberation can only be won by risking one’s life. Militancy is not just tactically necessary — its dual objective is to transform people and “fundamentally alter” their being by emboldening them, removing their passivity and cleansing them of ‘the core of despair’ crystallized in their bodies.”

-Jackie Wang.

I found this quote on Rienfleche’s Tumblr, which I found through griff on Twitter.

A fellow comrade, m_anyfesto, had retweeted this on Twitter.

Remember these words in your movements through the struggle today. Remember that the revolution is for everybody, or it is for nobody.

Morning Links for August 19, 2014.

The South.

  1. Left in Alabama reports on the State Democratic Executive Committee meeting in Montgomery on Saturday, where state party chair Nancy Worley was re-elected. Listen, the ADP is dead under this leadership. Until we get folks running the ADP that will take a progressive policy program and use it to connect to communities across the state, there might as well not even be a Democratic Party in the Heart of Dixie.
  2. Kartik Krishnayer writes for The Florida Squeeze on the need for the Florida Democratic Party to remember that, yes, there are also legislative races on the ballot this November, and they need the state party’s support, too. It can be difficult to keep that at the fore when close statewide races grab all the headlines, but politics and policy is something that mostly works from the ground up. The races that are the least sexy are also the races that are the most important.
  3. Katherine Helms Cummings writes at Rural and Progressive about the “Guns Everywhere” law and the story of a Texas woman killed by a stray bullet outside of a bar in Helen, Georgia over the weekend. While my own views on gun control are shifting (I will have a piece up on that sometime this week), the fact remains that it is just plain stupid to allow drunk folks to be holstered. The fact that this has to be explained to legislators and the governor should frighten us all.
  4. Bethany Bannister writes at Smart, Sassy, and Liberal about the Texas gubernatorial race, and how Battleground Texas’ approach to native Texans has been a big turn-off. Battleground Texas is run by the same folks who are running Empower Alabama, who are, in turn, working for Ready For Hillary and their push to have Hillary Clinton be the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee. Yeah, y’all can keep that pyramid scheme as far as I am concerned.
  5. Michelle Duggar has gone from prolific mother and reality television star to vile, bigoted champion of discrimination, according to Lindsay Millar at the Arkansas Times. In opposing a measure before the city council that would ban discrimination based on housing, employment, and public services in Fayetteville, Arkansas (home to The University of Arkansas), Duggar recorded a robocall with all the familiar “sexual predators will pretend to be women so they can rape your daughters” tropes. What a vapid and disgusting individual.
  6. The blog at Kentuckians for the Commonwealth highlights a social club that is bringing together folks from across Eastern Kentucky, which is an area ravaged by poverty and health problems. These sorts of small social binds are what keeps the working class united in a time of unbelievable social strain and distress. May we all take a page from the people of Lynch, Kentucky on how to build community.
  7. I recommend Every Saturday Morning to everyone. It is a great blog that highlights the difficulties of doing abortion clinic escorting in the South.


  1. Ajowa Nzinga Ifateyo reports for In These Times on efforts to restart the worker cooperative movement in New York City. Ifateyo says it better than I can, honestly: “Social and economic justice activists also favor worker cooperatives as a way of enabling workers to participate democratically in their workplace. Co-ops are seen as a key component of what is called the ‘solidarity economy.’ That term encompasses democratic, environmentally conscious and socially responsible companies, along with alternative exchanges such as trade and bartering—any economic system that emphasizes concern for people and economic justice over pure profit.”
  2. Timothy Williams pens a heartbreaking article for The New York Times on the effects of the Workforce Investment Act, which is another one of those “welfare to work” policies that never seemed to work out quite like its proponents promised. Even more insidious is that the policy is actually promoting the incursion of debt without any real promise of benefits or cost defrayment to the unemployed. Sickening.


  1. As President Obama continues to say a whole lot of nothing, and as the Missouri National Guard fails to end the civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, Michael Wines and Erica Goode relate the Ferguson unrest to the civil disturbances of years past in today’s New York Times. I once discussed the 1992 Los Angeles Riots with my students before realizing that I was one of only three people in the classroom that was alive at the time of the riots, and likely the only one that remembers the event with any measure of clarity. Same is likely with the 2001 Cincinnati Riots, which I remember watching on the news every night.
  2. Thank you, Washington Post, for reminding me why I never read your worthless rag, and also why no one else should, either.
  3. Josh Eidelson at Bloomberg Businessweek highlights the areas with the highest levels of income inequality in America. The three metro areas with the fastest growth in inequality were: Albany, Georgia; Ithaca, New York; and Dalton, Georgia.


  1. Allison Sparling wrote at her blog Always Something about a local editorial in Halifax, Nova Scotia that, predictably, calls on everyone to adopt the same false equivalency as the op-ed writer. Sparling titles her post “Your Centrism Sucks”, which pretty much sums up the zeitgeist of The South Lawn on a daily basis. Definitely a recommended read.

The World.

  1. The Guardian reports that rail fares will be increasing upwards of hundreds of dollars per year for commuters. And yet, Labour steadfastly refuses to commit to renationalizing Britain’s rail lines. Unbelievable.
  2. The Irish Times reveals the harrowing story of a woman who was raped that the state forced to give birth to a child, even though she threatened to starve herself to death rather than give birth to a rapist’s child that she did not want. It is also accompanied by an editorial from Fintan O’Toole rightly calling out these abusive measures. Ireland’s laws on abortion are damn near dystopian in their conception and execution, but do not think for a second that America would not have those same laws if certain politicians got their way.