10 January 2014


We're now at TheRagBlog.com
(And we're having a party!)

The Rag Blog has a new website!

We've moved to TheRagBlog.com and we're having a Launch Party this Friday in Austin! Please join us for The Underground Goes Overboard, with special guests Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, former leaders of SDS and the Weather Underground. Plus live music from the Melancholy Ramblers.

It's all happening at the 5604 Manor Community Center, 5604 Manor Drive in Austin, on Friday, January 17, 2014, from 7-10 p.m. There will be beer and snacks available. There's a $10 suggested donation that goes to support the New Journalism Project, the Texas 501(c)(3) nonprofit that publishes The Rag Blog.

If you aren't in Austin and can't join us, you can still help us produce The Rag Blog and Rag Radio by donating here.

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07 January 2014

Alan Wieder : Bill Ayers' 'Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident'

This page has moved.

In his ongoing journey, and with his new memoir, 'Public Enemy,' Bill Ayers continues to bring the radical 'spark' forward.
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Image from Uprising Radio.

By Alan Wieder | The Rag Blog | January 7, 2014
Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn will speak at "Underground Goes Overboard," a launch party for TheRagBlog.com, at 7 p.m., Friday, January 17, at the 5604 Manor Community Center in Austin. They will also be Thorne Dreyer's guests on Rag Radio earlier that same day, from 2-3 p.m. on KOOP 91.7-FM in Austin and streamed live. Go here for other stations and times, and for podcast information.
[Public Enemy: Confessions of an American Dissident by Bill Ayers (2013: Beacon Press); Hardcover; 240 pp; $24.95.]

“They just don’t get it.” Yes, the phrase is overused, yet, all too appropriate when addressing the continuing critiques, from both the left and the right, of Bill Ayers.

The recent publication of the second phase of his memoir, Public Enemy: Confessions of An American Dissident (Beacon, 2013), was followed on the “SDS and ‘60s Leftists” page of Facebook by an unthoughtful conversation on Ayers, his comrade and wife Bernardine Dohrn, and the Weather Underground (WO).

Facilitated by George Fish and responding to a negative book review by Jon Wiener, 43 comments followed Fish’s post. Mostly sour, bitter, and ahistorical in tone, the comments provide the antithesis of Ayers’ book and life, that of learning from the past and continuing, in a human and life-affirming way, the ongoing struggle that began for Ayers in the civil rights movement, antiwar movement, Students for a Democratic Society, and then the Weather Underground.

When confronted by a radio interviewer who referred to the subtitle as snide, Ayers softly replied that the entire title was chosen for its irony. Missing both the breadth and depth of Public Enemy, the interviewer, as well as Wiener and other critics, fail to acknowledge the thoughtfulness and energy that Ayers brings to struggle, both past and present.

In this particular book, we alternate between the author’s recollections of first, his experience in the 2008 attempt to demonize Barack Obama because he “palled around with terrorists,” and, second, the years after he surfaced from underground beginning in 1980 from where Ayers left off in his previous book, Fugitive Days.

There are both multiple and complex events, issues, and ideas presented in Public Enemy. A sampling will be discussed in this review.

Recently, South African anti-apartheid struggle leader and Constitutional Court Justice (comparable to the U.S. Supreme Court) Albie Sachs spoke at Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. Talking about his country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Sachs emphasized the importance of acknowledgement for both personal and political healing.

Acknowledgement causes me to return to the radio interviewer’s portrayal of Confessions of An American Dissident as snide. In fact, irony aside, Ayers responded by talking about acknowledging one particular flaw during his time in WO. He asserted that neither he nor his comrades ever doubted their positions and that by not being skeptical they were arrogant and without reflection.
Doubt is discussed in Public Enemy and Ayers also talks about apologetics within a conceptual framework of an American Truth Commission.
Doubt is discussed in Public Enemy and Ayers also talks about apologetics within a conceptual framework of an American Truth Commission. In both the book and current media interviews, Ayers has continually repeated that neither he nor the WO ever killed anyone in the bombings of buildings.
Not only did I never kill or injure anyone, but in the six years of its existence, the Weather Underground never killed or injured anyone either. We crossed lines of legality to be sure, of propriety, and perhaps even of common sense, but it was restrained, and those are the simple, straightforward facts.
The correct term for Weather Underground bombings, in correspondence to the armed struggle in South Africa, is “armed propaganda.” And like Umkhonto We Sizwe underground soldiers in South Africa, Ayers would welcome the opportunity to answer queries about his WO activities at an American TRC.

In Public Enemy Ayers writes:
America, it seemed to me, was in urgent need of some kind of truth and reconciliation process… We needed a process to understand the truth of the past in order to create the possibility of a more balanced future… Everyone together would have the opportunity to tell their stories of suffering, and the victimizers would be asked why and how they created that misery. Society would have the opportunity to witness all of it in order to understand the extent and depth of the disaster as a step toward putting it behind us and moving forward. In that setting and standing with Kissinger and McCain, McNamara and Kerry, Bush and Cheney, I’d be happy to say exactly what I did, take full responsibility, and bow deeply. But without any chain of culpability whatsoever, I’ll stand on the record, or just stand aside.
While five chapters in Public Enemy present the threats and blacklisting Bill Ayers experienced during and after the 2008 presidential campaign, I will address the topic with brevity as it has already been explored in other reviews. An in-depth description and analysis is portrayed in Maya Schwenwar’s Truthout review, “Bill Ayers Weighs in on Democracy, Selfhood, and His ‘Unrepentant Terrorist’ Alter-Ego.”

Besides endless email threats and having someone actually come to his office at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Ayers was banned from talking on college campuses throughout the country. At the time my colleague at the University of South Carolina, Craig Kridel, the Curator of the Museum of Education, posted a page titled “The Bill Ayers Problem” on the Museum webpage. The page title, like Public Enemy, is ironic and at the time I wrote:
The inequality, unfairness, violence, and global greed are what Bill Ayers has fought against for many years. The fight is every bit as important today as it was during the Civil Rights Movement and the Viet Nam War. And while some people might call me insensitive because I refuse to enter a debate on Bill Ayers as a terrorist, I choose not to speak back to the cries of O’Reilly, Hannity, and Colmes and their nameless comrades because the work Bill Ayers is doing does not need defenders but, rather, supporters and allies that fight for a more just world. Finally, as an academic who works with teachers who fought against apartheid in South Africa, I can’t help but think that the same people who define Bill Ayers as a terrorist would have given that label to Nelson Mandela and his less known comrades during the struggle against the apartheid regime. We know now what history says about that – we can only hope that Bill Ayers and many other people continue their work as progressive educators and activists.
But Bill Ayers does not rail against his detractors in his writing. Rather, while he is critical in a political/personal way of their harassment and silencing and analyzes their actions, his emphasis is a celebration of people who continue the struggle. While the story of the cancellation of his talk at the University of Wyoming is politically important, from Ayers we learn more about the woman who fought for his right to speak. More accurately, she fought for her own free speech.
"I’m going to sue the university in federal court," she told me during our first conversation. "And I’m claiming that it’s my free speech that’s been violated – I have the right to speak to anyone I want to, and right now I want to speak to you." She was young and unafraid, smart and sassy, her dreams being rapidly made and used – no fear, no regret. I liked her immediately. Meg’s approach struck me as quite brilliant – students (and not I) were indeed the injured party.
The University of Wyoming student won the case and Bill Ayers spoke on democracy and education with over 1,000 people at the University. In discussing the event, he also honors his sister’s father-in-law, a retired United Church of Christ minister who drove a couple of hours to Laramie for the talk and told Bill: “‘The Lord moves in mysterious ways,’ he said with a wink and a smile gesturing with his Bible. ‘If any of the crazy Christians get out of hand, he wants me to set them straight.’”

Ayers writes of other cancellations at places throughout the country. The University of Nebraska stands out but only because he was in Tapai at the time and was woken with the news from a dean at three in the morning.

In contrast to Nebraska, there are brave academics at Millersville University and Georgia Southern University where Ayers was welcomed. At Millersville administrators explained that it was their “duty and honor” to have him speak. “It’s not about you personally, it’s about the mission and the meaning of the university.”
Honoring people throughout Bill Ayers’ journey is the stuff of Public Enemy.
Honoring people throughout Bill Ayers’ journey is the stuff of Public Enemy. One of the funniest yet potent tales is the reaction of Ayers’ comrade and friend, Michael Klonsky, when he was invited to give an education conference keynote address. The organization told Klonsky that they had intended to invite Bill Ayers but that he was “too controversial and too radical.” Klonsky scolded the inviter saying: “How dare you ask me to scab on Bill Ayers?” When Ayers thanked him, he replied: “Defending you? I wasn’t defending you, I was defending myself – I was deeply and personally offended when they said that your were too radical, and by implication that I wasn’t too radical. I’m as radical as you are, motherfucker.”

Bill Ayers’ book is about issues, ideas, actions, and people – it is not solely about Bill Ayers. Epsie Reyes was a colleague at the University of Illinois-Chicago. She supported Hillary, not Barack, in the 2008 democratic primaries, and she was one of many people who consoled Bill Ayers after Hillary Clinton first demonized him in a primary presidential debate.

Reyes sent strong emails to both Clinton and the Democratic National Committee “detailing how much money she’d donated and how many weekends she’d devoted to organizing on her behalf, explaining who I really was in her ‘humble opinion,’ and encouraging, then demanding that the campaign apologize to me personally and denounce the smears – or else she would have to rethink her commitments.”

Close friends and colleagues, of course, also came through in both 2001 and 2008. Mona and Rashid Khalidi were both supportive and insightful as were dozens of others. In 2008 there was a surprise call from Edward Said: “Of course it’s painful for you personally, but cringing and going quiet is the worst thing you could do at this moment. Your kids are watching you and your students too and a lot of others. Don’t let them down.”

Said’s message corresponds to the entirety of Public Enemy. Ayers celebrates political struggle and the people who try to sustain the fight. Two quotes come to mind, the first from a speech by Paul Potter referred to in the book. “Don’t let your life make a mockery of your values.” Margaret Meade’s words correspond to Potter’s connecting the personal to the collective. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

In addition to the 2001, 2008, and more recent stories, Public Enemy includes portraits from the time Bernardine and Bill came up from underground in 1980. Ayers writes admiringly about his childrens’ pre-school teacher at the time, BJ, whom he refers to as “an inspired early childhood educator.” “She was one of a kind, and everyone knew it.” Ayers’ portrait of BJ brought a response in Ron Jacobs’ Dissident Voice article, “Get Bill Ayers”: “Indeed, the truest hero in the book is the family’s New York child care provider, BJ.”

On Bill’s journey we meet Bernardine’s lawyers Eleanora Kennedy and Michael Kennedy and various other people including Ellie and Robby Meeropol who were Bill’s friends at the University of Michigan. Robby was the son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and he was three years old when his parents were executed.

Bernardine and Bill had just adopted Chesa Boudin whose parents, Kathy Boudin and David Gilbert, had been sentenced for murder in the Brinks Robbery in Nyack, New York. Robby explained that there was no road map and that times would be rough for Chesa – honest responses are very much a part of the many vignettes that Ayers presents throughout Public Enemy.
The real heart of the book, however, within the context of continuing struggle, is the authentic portrayal of the Dohrn/Ayers family...
The real heart of the book, however, within the context of continuing struggle, is the authentic portrayal of the Dohrn/Ayers family – Bernardine Dohrn and their sons Chesa, Malik, and Zayd. The book depicts seriousness and humor and mostly respect and admiration. There is a story from the early above ground days that I must include in this review.
Leaving swim class one day, we were swept up into a raucous women-led march heading from Broadway and Fifty-ninth Street toward Times Square. "No more porn! No more porn! No more porn!" we chanted ecstatically, fists pumping and voices rising as we entered the pornography district. It was a feisty and colorful crowd, our attendance just a happy accident, but with Zayd cheerfully perched on my shoulders we were in high spirits and quite pleased to be in cahoots. Soon we spotted a pizza stand along the route, and Zayd was famished from swimming and ready for a slice, so we settled into a booth. Zayd reflected on the parade we’d just left: "That was fun," he said. "Why don’t we want more corn?"
Ayers tells the story of all three sons advising him during 2008 and the respect appears to go both ways. Pages 129 to 131 serve as an illustration as Malik, Zayd, and Chesa join Bernardine in coaxing Bill not to speak with the media – a disposition alien to his being. Malik warns him of ambush and it recalls Mailer’s self-admonitions of never talk to the press – they control the story.
The consensus from them, in line with Bernardine’s steady and consistent basic instinct, was that whatever happened on the web or in the press, we should simply turn away. No comment, no elaboration, no clarification, no response. "Be completely quiet," they said, "and stay calm." "It’s harder then it sounds," Zayd added, looking right at me, "especially for you." True, too true: I tend to have a lot on my mind – who doesn’t? – and I’m genetically wired to speak up and speak out, and not always with considered judgment. My default position, no matter what, is to say something… "You’ll get flattened," they now said in unison.
Bill Ayers remained silent through 2008, but of course, “palling around with terrorists” quietly lives on. There is an ethos throughout Public Enemy, consistently present in the ideas, issues, actions, and people portrayed in the book, amidst everything else – this book is homage to Bernardine Dohrn.

Her strength, thoughtfulness, commitment, and humanity is the spirit of Public Enemy: Confessions of An American Dissident. Whether it is gently chiding Bill with their children or being warmly welcomed back by the judge in Chicago when she surfaced from underground – her humanity is ever present. Political commitment is obvious in Dohrn’s first above ground statement: “This is no surrender. The fight against racism and war continues, and I will spend my energy organizing to defeat the American empire.”

Ayers writes of her actions and dispositions when she was imprisoned at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York for refusing to give Grand Jury testimony on the Brinks Robbery. The emotion of being away from her kids but at the same time focused political commitment. There is also a great story of her mother passing on contraband when she visited the prison – a chocolate chip cookie!

There is much more to Public Enemy than the samples that I present. Bill Ayers critiques the Weather Underground and provides much more breadth to the ideas, issues, actions, people, and events he portrays. He also pushes his story to the present and therein lies the further message. Ayers, Dohrn, and many of their WO (and beyond) comrades continue to work for the same issues they have pursued beginning in the sixties.

For Ayers it is education and more and the latter includes working with young activists who continue the fight for the end of racism, class disparity, and imperialism. First in the civil rights movement, then SDS and WO, Ayers was part of the “spark” for a just world. His book is a partial story of continuing to keep that “spark” alive today.

This article was first published at Dissident Voice and was cross-posted to The Rag Blog by the author.

[Alan Wieder is an oral historian who lives in Portland, Oregon. His latest book, Ruth First and Joe Slovo in the War Against Apartheid was published in the United States by Monthly Review Press and in South Africa by Jacana Media. Read more articles by Alan Wieder on The Rag Blog.]

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06 January 2014

Michael James : Like a Bruegel Painting, 1966

The JOIN Community Union was our effort in Uptown, Chicago, to build solidarity and create an organized force for change, especially among poor people of Southern origin.
james JOIN 5
SNCC’s Curtis Hayes (Muhammad) and SDS’s Susan Lum in Uptown, Chicago, 1966. Photos by Michael James from his forthcoming book, Michael Gaylord James' Pictures from the Long Haul.

By Michael James | The Rag Blog | January 6, 2014

[In this series, Michael James is sharing images from his rich past, accompanied by reflections about -- and inspired by -- those images. This photo will be included in his forthcoming book, Michael Gaylord James' Pictures from the Long Haul.]

UPTOWN, Chicago in 1966. I called it “Hillbilly Harlem.” Uptown was the regional capital of poor Southern white migrants moving to the North. The migration of Southern whites began when they came north in the 1940’s for war industry work, and accelerated after WWII when factories flourished in and around Chicago.People arrived from rural and urban areas throughout the South, with the majority coming from Appalachia.

I had lived in Uptown in the summer of 1964 when I worked as a participant observer for a Notre Dame study of Southern white migrants. Daytime had found me hanging out with older guys, often drinking, rolling cigarettes, and playing the guitar under the El tracks next to Graceland Cemetery. Now I was working with others in JOIN Community Union, a community organizing project initiated by SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and its Economic Research and Action Project (ERAP).

When it first started, as a project to organize the unemployed, JOIN stood for Jobs or Income Now. But when organizing the unemployed didn’t pan out, JOIN evolved into a “community union,” uniting folks to fight around issues that affected their lives, like housing, welfare, and police brutality.

Young radicals like myself went into cities around the country trying to organize “to build an interracial movement of the poor.” JOIN was our effort to build solidarity and create an organized force for change among poor people of Southern origin and others who lived in this community on Chicago’s North Side. We intended to help our nation live up to its stated vision of equal opportunity for all.

james JOIN 2
Virginia Bowers and Little Dovie.
In Uptown, we met a lot of folks while leafleting in front of the Unemployment Compensation Office on Lawrence Avenue. The backbone of JOIN was welfare women. The leadership included Dovie Coleman and Dovie Thurman, aka Big Dovie and Little Dovie -- confident and forceful black women.

Southern white women on welfare were aware of the goings-on in the civil rights movement and looked to these black women for leadership. One was Virginia Bowers from Arkansas, who became the JOIN office manager. Key organizers included Harriet Stulman, Alice Keller, and Vivien and Richie Rothstein.

Vivien and I had worked together what had been the West Oakland Community Union Project. In future years she became an organizer in Los Angeles of Vietnamese immigrants. Richie forged links to unions and set up a JOIN School to help community people learn about the power structure, welfare, police, and housing matters.

Post-JOIN he wrote about education for The New York Times and worked on education policy at the Economic Policy Institute at the University of California, Berkeley. In his Uptown work he was serious, smart, dedicated and, as I now realize, inspirational. He didn’t always appreciate my rebellious youthful behavior.

The government’s new War on Poverty was active in Uptown, headquartered on Montrose (now a gym in the increasingly gentrified neighborhood). We believed the War on Poverty didn’t encourage community people to take action or make decisions on the big issues of jobs, housing, education, and welfare. It too often focused on superficial, harmless programs like where to plant trees.

JOIN held weekly meetings that featured speakers, theatrical skits, and singing. The group-sing was enthusiastic, if sometimes off key, and included mountain tunes, spirituals, and traditional union songs. Sometimes we altered the lyrics to reflect current conditions.

We showed films we got from UE’s (United Electrical Workers') treasure-trove of labor documentary and training films. We rented films from a distribution house, including the previously banned Salt of the Earth about striking mine workers in Silver City, New Mexico — though The Hank Williams Story turned out a larger crowd.
Regular attendees were a unique, interesting, somewhat motley crew of Uptown residents.
Regular attendees were a unique, interesting, somewhat motley crew of Uptown residents. We had our share of wino attendees, including a Greek fellow named John. Once I carried a drunk John into Cook County Hospital, when his frostbitten feet prevented him from walking.

Each week there was an increasing number of young guys from the neighborhood, hanging in the back of the room. One Southern kid named James Osborne had a job with the War on Poverty and also hung around JOIN. At a meeting in Washington, D.C., he spoke up and asked Sargent Shriver, the War on Poverty’s head man, a question that was apparently too challenging. James lost his job -- and distanced himself from JOIN.

A short time later he married a nun who worked in the neighborhood and they opened the Book Box on Lawrence (now Shake Rattle and Read) by the Green Mill. Later, in 1968, we held training sessions in its basement for a short-lived outfit called the National Organizing Committee (NOC), which recruited college students to be community organizers.

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Goodfellows and girl in a car.
While I liked to joke that the meetings reminded me of a Bruegel painting, a mass of tortured and rough-edged peasants, there were of course plenty of sharp and effective people among the ranks, including Sarah, a Russian who had participated in the Russian Revolution and by 1966 was selling papers on Argyle.

Carl, a physically challenged welfare activist, came, as did Eugene Feldman, a retired teacher and former Communist. Feldman had organized sharecroppers in the South during the 1930s and shared pamphlets from those times. We knew we were part of an ongoing, long tradition of organizing and fighting for peoples’ rights.

A highlight of many meetings was a JOIN Theater agitprop skit that focused on the likes of Mayor Daley, urban renewal (poor people removal), landlords, and welfare and police brutality. My younger sister Melody James founded this project. Melody studied drama at Carnegie Institute and San Francisco State, so I asked her to come to Uptown to organize a peoples’ theater. After her JOIN work she returned to San Francisco and became a member of the legendary San Francisco Mime Troupe.

For JOIN Melody put together a lively mix of community people and student organizer types. JOIN Theater performed on various stages around town and in an empty lot on Clifton Street. Following the City’s massive urban removal of people in that part of the neighborhood, they performed before a large crowd, calling on the city to build a Hank Williams Memorial Playground in the space where Truman College stands today.

Over the spring and summer of ‘66 young guys began coming around JOIN. Near the old Wilson Avenue pool hall where Al Capone was said to have played, Reverend Maury ran a program for young guys. As we were less concerned with life after death than a better life in this lifetime, the Reverend’s hall became fertile ground for recruiting and we quickly made inroads.

We got to know these young guys, many of whom readily shared their accounts of police harassment and brutality. By the fall of 1966 Rev. Maury closed his operation. In its stead Bob Lawson, a JOIN organizer who had played football at Berkeley, gathered a group of young Southern guys that included Ralph Thurman, Hi Thurman, Bobby Joe McGinnis, and Jack (Junebug) Boykin.

They started a new group, which was friendly to but officially independent of JOIN. They called themselves The Uptown Goodfellows and opened a hangout-clubhouse space on Wilson at Kenmore.
When the police killed a young man named Ronnie Williams, who had moved to Uptown from Kentucky, it set off activity protesting police harassment and brutality.
When the police killed a young man named Ronnie Williams, who had moved to Uptown from Kentucky, it set off activity protesting police harassment and brutality. The Goodfellows and JOIN together organized a march on the infamous Summerdale 20th District Police Station. Over 300 people marched, mostly but not only, white Southerners.

Summerdale had been implicated earlier in a stolen-goods ring. The “Summerdale Scandal” led to the hiring (and brief tenure) of a forward-thinking criminology professor from Berkeley named O. W. Wilson as Police Superintendent. Our march called for an end to all police brutality but singled out a particularly hard-ass cop named Sam Joseph.

My own interaction with Joseph was limited to a short exchange of wise-ass remarks after he shined a flashlight into my car. I was parked down at Montrose Beach with Susan Ring, who was from a progressive home in the Swedish neighborhood of Andersonville. Her mom worked for the AFSC (American Friends Service Committee) and her dad was a butcher I jokingly referred to as the “Marxist butcher.”

Susan and I were making out when Joseph and his sidekick shined the light into the car and knocked on the window. Later Susan ended up marrying Junebug Boykin, who was my main street mentor.

The Summerdale march gave people a sense of unity, direction, and power. What followed from JOIN and the community was the founding of a program called Citizens’ Alert. This was an earlier version of the Oakland Black Panther Party’s practice of following the police and observing their activities. Citizens’ Alert is still active in Chicago, calling attention to police misbehavior. Activist Mary Powers has long been its leader.

The police response to the march was more hard-hitting on young guys in the neighborhood and an attack on JOIN. My college roommate Patrix Sturgis and my sister Melody were at the JOIN office when the 20th District Chicago Police burst in, ransacked the office and arrested them, claiming to have found a small amount of pot. Though it received less media coverage, they were later acquitted, after the police were found to have lied and planted the marijuana.

Housing was another major concern of folks in the hood. Buildings had mice, rats, and roaches, repairs weren’t made, and people were locked out when rent was late. We held rent strikes and demonstrations around housing issues. A group of lawyers who helped JOIN included Irv Birnbaum and Ted Stein. They worked with organizers and tenants, often going to housing court with them.

We tried to stop evictions. I made my way into a number of basements, turning on gas or electricity after landlords or their managers had turned the utilities off, and was once arrested when I informed an officer of the tenant’s rights and the law. Tenants at a large building on Broadway near Irving Park went up against a slumlord named Gutman. On a Sunday morning Rennie Davis and I went to his apartment building on the northwest side and hung a leaflet inside his vestibule: “Your Neighbor is a Slumlord!” We also put one on every car on the street.

In short order Gutman settled with the tenants, and that particular building became part of an improved housing initative by the Kate Maremont Foundation. A prolonged rent strike with marches at the “Sampson Building” on the 4100 N. Kenmore block led to an agreement and the formation of a tenant’s council.
JOIN did welfare advocacy, demonstrated at the welfare office, and called for fair treatment by the Illinois Department of Welfare.
JOIN did welfare advocacy, demonstrated at the welfare office, and called for fair treatment by the Illinois Department of Welfare. We worked closely with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) and the Latin American Defense Organization. These demonstrations and marches exemplified the potential for building an interracial movement of the poor. Actions involving primarily black, brown, and white organizations helped lay the early groundwork for rainbow coalitions to come.

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Mechanic and Steelworker Eric Gil.
 One spring afternoon the photographer Danny Lyon gave me a ride on his Triumph motorcycle to Molly Hagen’s apartment on Hyde Park Blvd. on the South Side. Molly’s crib became a regular destination. I would head there to hang out, smoke weed, and eat. I met Curtis Hayes (now Muhammad), who had worked with Molly in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and Eric Gill, from Belize, who worked on cars and had a job in the steel mill, and an assortment other characters, including a salesman for Duncan Yo Yo.

That summer I bought a 1963 Triumph 650 TR6 motorcycle from Clay Highland, who I knew from Lake Forest College. On the bike, sometimes with Molly on board, I explored Chicago and its far-flung neighborhoods, communities, and off-the-beaten-path treasures. I loved late night cruising up and down Lake Shore Drive, the green tunnel of Lower Wacker Drive, the smell of chocolate production on Kinzie, and the blast furnace at Finkl & Sons Steel on Armitage.

In addition to country music joints in Uptown, I went to hear Paul Butterfield, first in Old Town at Big John’s (where I had first seen Steve Miller), and then at the Blue Flame on Drexel Blvd at 39th Street, where he played with Howlin’ Wolf’s old band. At a meeting of activists from various projects around town I met a law student named Bernardine Dohrn.

Days later Bob Lawson and I took an exhilarating ride on my Triumph to the SDS Convention held in Clear Lake, Iowa, the place where Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper had gone down in an airplane. While there we got word that both the JOIN office and the new Movement for A Democratic Society office in Rogers Park had been busted. People were out of sorts.

Wearing a cowboy hat, I stood up and quoted Joe Hill: “Don’t mourn, organize.” This moment was my introduction to the assembled SDSers, and I left Clear Lake as part of SDS’s leadership, a member of the National Interim Committee. Before heading back to Chicago I reintroduced myself to Bernardine by sending her a post card: “Nice meeting you; how about we take a ride together on my motorcycle?”

[Michael James is a former SDS national officer, the founder of Rising Up Angry, co-founder of Chicago's Heartland Café (1976 and still going), and co-host of the Saturday morning (9-10 a.m. CDT) Live from the Heartland radio show, here and on YouTube. He is reachable by one and all at michael@heartlandcafe.com. Find more articles by Michael James on The Rag Blog.]

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Bob Feldman : A People's History of Egypt, Part 12, Section 2, 1947-1948

The movement to democratize Egypt: Except for their religious beliefs, Jews shared lifestyles with those of Muslim background.
Jewish home in Egypt. Image from BBC Watch.
By Bob Feldman | The Rag Blog | January 6, 2014

[With all the dramatic activity in Egypt, Bob Feldman's Rag Blog "people's history" series, "The Movement to Democratize Egypt," could not be more timely. Also see Feldman's "Hidden History of Texas" series on The Rag Blog.]

Prior to the Zionist movement’s establishment of the State of Israel on Palestinian land in 1948 and subsequent eviction of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs from Palestine during the late 1940s, between 65,000 and 80,000 Egyptians of Jewish religious background lived in Egypt. Around 64 percent of Egyptians of Jewish background lived in Cairo and around 32 percent lived in Alexandria, according to the Egyptian census of 1947.

Before the establishment of Israel, Egyptian Jews “attained an inordinately high number of respectable positions in finance, commerce, industry and the professions” in post-World War II Egyptian society, according to Selma Botman’s The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970. As the Encyclopedia Judaica recalled:
In 1947 most Egyptian Jews (59%) were merchants, and the rest were employed in industry (18%), administration, and public services (11%). The economic situation of Egyptian Jewry was relatively good; there were several multi-millionaires, a phenomenon unusual in other Jewish communities of the Middle East…There were no restrictions on accepting Jews in government or foreign schools.
And in addition to the relatively prosperous Egyptians of Jewish religious background who lived in Cairo prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in Palestine, there were also “many poor Jews living in the Haret al-Ya Hud section of Cairo who were completely indistinguishable from their Muslim counterparts” in Egypt.

And, “with the exception of their adherence to religious belief, they ate, spoke, dressed, and lived in virtually identical ways” as the Egyptians of Islamic religious background, according to The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970.
Zionism was considered an alien ideology to most Egyptian Jews.
So, not surprisingly, although only about 20 percent of the people of Jewish religious background who lived in Egypt were officially considered Egyptian citizens in 1947, “Zionism was generally an alien ideology to most Egyptian Jews,” prior to 1947, according to The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970; and the Jewish League to Combat Zionism (al-Rabita al-Tsrailiyya li Muk afahat al-Sahyuniyya), founded in the mid-1940s by an Egyptian named Marcel Israel, included Egyptian “leftists and communists alike,” according to the same book.

Egypt’s mid-1940s Jewish League to Combat Zionism had the following four objectives, according to The Rise of Egyptian Communism, 1939-1970: 1. “working against Zionism;” 2. “strengthening ties between Egyptian Jews and the Egyptian people in the struggle for independence;” 3. “lessen[ing] the gap between Jews and Arabs in Palestine;” and 4. “solving the problem of the Wandering Jew.”

But since the Egyptian monarchical regime’s prime minister in 1947, al-Nuqrashi, was being backed by some Egyptian Jews who were sympathetic to the Zionist movement (and who also wished to discourage Egyptians of Islamic and Jewish religious backgrounds from uniting in opposition to UK special influence in Egypt), al-Nuqrashi suppressed the Jewish League to Combat Zionism in 1947.

Yet when the United Nations voted to partition Palestine -- despite the objections of most people then living in Palestine and other Arab counties and many rank-and-file members of Egypt’s Democratic Movement for National Liberation [DMNL] -- the leftist DMNL group’s leadership -- like the Soviet Union -- endorsed the partition plan.

But in its al-Jamahir party newspaper, the DMNL also clarified its late 1947 unpopular political stance on the issue of Palestine’s partition in the following way:
We do not want to take Palestine away from the Arabs and give it to the Jews but we want to take it away from imperialism and give it to the Arabs and Jews…Then will begin the long struggle for rapprochement between Arab and Jewish states…
[Bob Feldman is an East Coast-based writer-activist and a former member of the Columbia SDS Steering Committee of the late 1960s. Read more articles by Bob Feldman on The Rag Blog.]

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04 January 2014

Kate Braun : Waxing Crescent Moon is Time to Set New Goals

Moon Musings: The Waxing Crescent Moon -- which falls on January 4–5, 2014, is a time to set goals for positive changes in your life.
waxing crescent moon purple
Waxing crescent moon. Image from Wikimedia Commons.
By Kate Braun | The Rag Blog | January 3, 2013

Waxing moons are times to set new goals, recognize new objectives, promote new growth, and set forces in motion to help you achieve these goals, objectives, and growth. The first weekend of 2014 is an auspicious time to start working, both long- and short-term, with the goal of manifesting positive changes in your life.

On Saturday, Lady Moon is in Aquarius, the sign that foreshadows coming trends and emphases; on Sunday, Lady Moon is in Pisces, the sign that incorporates energy from all the signs of the Zodiac; either of these days will generate nicely positive energy to facilitate your intentions.

It is best to start your activities at or near sunset. Invoke your favorite goddess-as-virgin deities. They will add helpful energy to your ritualing, which should increase the likelihood that you will be successful in your endeavors during 2014. As you organize your plans for the New Year, don’t shy away from the thought that plans may need modification as they progress. Be prepared to be flexible as circumstances may dictate, while not losing sight of your ultimate objectives.

This may also be a good time to plant above-ground crops such as lettuce and spinach. Lettuce can take a light freeze and will do well in the central Texas area if seed is sowed at this time.
On Saturday, January 4, Saturn rules. His emphasis is on self-discipline, which can be helpful as you set your goals and objectives for this year in general and this moon cycle in particular.
On Saturday, January 4, Saturn rules. His emphasis is on self-discipline, which can be helpful as you set your goals and objectives for this year in general and this moon cycle in particular. Use the color black, make sure you have contact with the element Earth in some way (not necessarily barefoot and outdoors; holding a small potted plant will do just as well), and repeat your chant 3 times.

On Sunday, January 5, the Sun rules, giving emphasis to money matters, health issues, and friendships. Use the color yellow, have a candle burning for the fire element, and repeat your chant 6 times.

A suggested chant:
New beginnings, fresh objectives; I’m prepared to do my part. Plans and actions now in sight; this is when and how I start: Sowing seeds in heart and mind, planning steps both long and short, Open to unfolding options of whatever sort.
May the New Year bring us all a calmness of spirit, a joyous heart, economic stability, and delight in all things. I urge you to find something each day that prompts smiles or laughter, for they are the most basic tools we humans have to dispel gloom and keep us moving forward!

[Kate Braun was a contributor to the original Rag. Her website is www.tarotbykatebraun.com. She can be reached at kate_braun2000@yahoo.com. Read more of Kate Braun's writing on The Rag Blog.]

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