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Starry Messenger

Profile Information

Name: Decline to State
Gender: Female
Hometown: Bay Area, CA
Home country: USA
Current location: Left Coast
Member since: Sat Apr 9, 2005, 08:01 PM
Number of posts: 31,469

About Me

Artist, high school teacher and "hard-liner" (yet to be defined).

Journal Archives

I'm not sure.

Mayor Lee hasn't been much of an ally, from what I recall. They'd still have to deal with accreditation though.
Posted by Starry Messenger | Thu Jul 4, 2013, 12:04 AM (1 replies)

Netroots Nation 13 stresses building lasting leadership

I got to go to this last weekend to cover it for PW. It was a blast. I took tons of notes and learned a lot. It's not a "socialist" conference, but there's a lot going on with labor and progressive grassroots in the anti-corporate activist realm that is interesting. (If you have time to browse, many of the events were livestreamed and archived here: http://www.netrootsnation.org/nn13/)



This year's event centered on the concept that leadership is created in the course of struggles along with building on small victories to reach larger gains.

In addition, the usefulness of the internet as a springboard toward face-to-face organizing, with media and petition tools was another topic highlighted throughout.

"Innovative Corporate Campaigns", which could have been more accurately titled Innovative "Anti-Corporate" Campaigns as it featured the strong voices of people who have taken on many large targets and won gains for workers and homeowners who have been the most squeezed by large companies and banks for the last few years, was a particularly engaging panel.

The panelists energetically crunched out a labor 101 primer that will serve everyone who attended for years to come. Cathy Youngblood, the woman who crafted the "Someone Like Me" campaign to put a Hyatt hotel housekeeper on the Hyatt Board of Directors, helped invigorate the panel, while Maurice Weeks, an organizer for the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) in California, drove home the sentiment saying, "Folks are sick of playing defense." Weeks also added that the job of an professional organizer is to organize themselves out of a job and allow the people most affected by the problem to be the ones to take leadership in the struggle.


Posted by Starry Messenger | Mon Jul 1, 2013, 04:24 PM (0 replies)

Big picture trade unionism



A defining feature of labor today is a commitment to coalition building. The uprisings in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana, were vast coalitions, led by labor, uniting union and non-union workers in defense of labor rights. The Chicago teachers' strike victory resulted from a powerful labor-community coalition that united parents, teachers and communities into a powerful force. The teachers struck not only for their work place demands, but also for the students, for the schools and for the communities.

Increasingly, in rebuilding the labor movement, the unions fight for the common good, for the whole of the working class, every bit as hard as they fight for their own interests. This is illustrated in the priorities set by the national AFL-CIO for this year's work. Two of their top legislative goals include immigration reform with a path to citizenship rights and protection and expansion of voting rights.

Further the AFL-CIO is making tremendous efforts to build broad united coalitions with all kinds of working class organizations. They are hosting numerous meetings and conferences with all kinds of allied working class organizations, like those fighting for immigrant rights, civil rights, economic and social justice and more. They are very serious about not just consulting but also giving allies, including non-union workers, a voice in developing the future of the labor movement. They fully expect to have more delegates to their coming national convention from allied organizations, than from AFL-CIO affiliates.

Class-consciousness is on the rise. Five years ago, how many union members were talking about the Koch brothers? How many knew about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and its role? Realizing that it is the banks, the big corporations, and big money that sponsor the right-wing attacks on labor is a giant step in class-consciousness for American workers.


I've seen Scott moderate discussions of his piece here and it is very compelling, on how we can work to shore up new shifts in labor, and also on the need to move to a new phase of unionism.

He makes the case that we are ripe for a jump to a more effective form of labor struggle, in the same way that labor moved from craft to trade unionism, and from trade unionism to industrial unionism. He calls the next iteration "big picture unionism" and lays out some points that show a way forward and is open to discussion.
Posted by Starry Messenger | Tue Jun 4, 2013, 07:26 AM (1 replies)

You could sell that

An I essay I wrote on art and creativity and the effects of capitalism.


"There is a chance here for you," Paul said, "to become extremely wealthy." He continued to gaze stoically ahead. "The idea strikes me as bizarre," Childan said. "Making good luck charms out of such art objects; I can't imagine it."---Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle

Part one

I make things.

Some of them come out very well. Some are fit for everyday use, and I use them. Others are meant to be decorative and have a place in the apartment.

I make shopping bags crocheted out of plastic bags; I crochet small cases to hold personal items. I make teapots, teacups, small books, and little ceramic things.

No matter where I am, using something like a shopping bag, people will remark on them, ask me how I make them, how long it takes, admire the handicraft and design. Then they will get a glow on their faces and set out to award me with the capstone: "You could sell that!"

This is considered the highest compliment you can be paid.

It always makes me wince inside. I backpedal and try to take this in the spirit it is offered in. I say that I make these things because I like them and like to use them and I would be unwilling to part with them for money. You can see the interest drain on the other person's face. You aren't willing to take it to the next level-the Olympics of the marketplace, where consumers can decide if you're really worthy of the gold medal.

One lady ended the conversation with: "Oh well, at least they make nice conversation pieces."

Part two

I crocheted 20 years ago as a weapon to combat heartbreak. I had learned how when I was ten, but picked it up again with a vengeance to keep away break-up thoughts. It distracted my brain and I began to pile up little yarn bags.

One day, an old friend of the family visited my mom and I. He and his wife had been the wealthiest people we had ever known. They owned a beautiful house, a Tudor-style mansion that I adored visiting as a kid, frankly envious of their son who had all of the rooms, the gardens and the Tudor gazebo to play in for hours. They were like royalty to me. Of course, they were not, and when they had run through all of the money in an effort to pretend that they were, things went south in a hurry.

Our friend visited us in the middle of this downward process. In the course of the visit, my mother told me to go get my yarn bags to show him. I had about 20 by then, in different colors and patterns.

He looked through them all one by one. He looked into my eyes. He pulled something out of his pocket. It was a plastic rectangle. Looking closer I saw that it had the US constitution on it in very small letters. He said, "Look at this. This man had an idea. If he had kept that idea to himself, he would be the only man with a copy of the Constitution in his pocket. But this man had vision. He put his idea up for sale, he got a patent. There are thousands and thousands of these, millions even, for sale. Any man can have one now. I have one here, I am showing it to you. This thing you are doing? It is very nice. But it will never mean anything. You have to take this idea, the part of it people will like, and sell it so everyone can buy it. You will make money. You will have a nice little life. Then if you want, you can make these little things if you want. You will have the time. But one by one like this? It is a waste of your time."

He beamed and sat back. He had delivered the message.

He left and I didn't crochet again for four years.

"The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural superiors", and has left remaining no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment". It has drowned the most heavenly ecstasies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom - Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation." Karl Marx & Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto

Part three

I'd been groped by the invisible hand of the marketplace.

The Invisible Hand is the god of bourgeois society. The Hand giveth and the Hand taketh away. If you are found worthy, the Hand bestows riches and fame. If the Hand finds you foul and unworthy, you are reduced to ashes and your name erased from the records of history. Most of us fall into the latter camp, to differing degrees. Our family friend was a priest of the Hand, a desperate acolyte.

In his fall from favor he was at his most anxious to believe. In his effort to be kind, he ended up doing a lot of damage. I never really looked at life the same way after that. It was in its small way a watershed event. He had ripped away the veil of sentiment and revealed his class interest: naked cash payment.

In all instances in our society, we are ruled by capitalism. A brief flirtation with the art world disabused me of the notion that there was anything different going on there. There is no world of special people who do not commodify labor and the products of labor. People have been involved in various reform efforts to break this relationship. Cool "alt-biz" movements are an attempt to break through the exploitation and hopefully train capitalism to be better, cooler, funner, more satisfying, hipper, greener, sustainable, etc. Eventually these efforts, if successful, also tend to monopoly and get formulaic.

Capitalism needs to seek ever-expanding markets to make a profit. A profit is not just having 5 bucks in your pocket from the sale of your cool thing; it is a bottom line that needs to expand every quarter to be considered successful. Every generation of artists and artisans has a sector that attempts to recapture some "authentic movement", to fight this system and reclaim a patch of ground. Others, the "realists", skip that step of emotional agonies over authenticity and jump straight into the commercial market. The first group takes a little longer to get in there, but eventually they do. They conceal their relationship to the market with the branding of their finer intentions, which makes them actually more deceptive than the second group, who are reviled as mere tradesmen by the "authenticity" fetishists.

"The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If by chance, they are revolutionary, they are only so in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat; they thus defend not their present, but their future interests, they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat." Karl Marx & Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto

Part four

At the end, buying and selling your talents is considered the pinnacle of success in capitalist society. The more you sell, the better you are than everyone else. If you fail to do it, you have lost. You are a loser. Though many people of the social realm of the arts like to think we are outside of all of that, we are proles. The faster we realize this, the more we will have to unite us with the revolutionary segment of society. The more we try to preserve some "alt-capitalism" for ourselves, the longer we perpetuate this state. There is only one kind of capitalism; there is no good kind and bad kind.

Individual responses are not going to change anything though.

The Buddhist view is "Make positive effort for the good" as if your individual actions and thoughts will emit waves through existence and slowly chip away at the rock face of "bad".

This will take too long. In fact, it will not work. It may even do the opposite.

Posted by Starry Messenger | Wed May 29, 2013, 10:46 PM (5 replies)

Do you believe the people organizing now were in the workforce 40 years ago?

The push now to organize seems to me a generational split. I don't believe in the concept too little too late though. Labor needs to expand.
Posted by Starry Messenger | Sat May 18, 2013, 02:14 AM (1 replies)

I'm burning to post this, so I'll reply to you with it:

Difference Engine #1's prototype was on display in the Museum at South Kensington around 1862. Marx, as we know, escaped to London in 1849 and lived and died there (1883). Considering he wrote most of Capital in the British Museum in London, I don't think it is a stretch to say he probably saw teh display, even though it would have meant a hike.


That the Engine wasn't a full working computer is hardly germane. It is absurd to think that a man like Marx wouldn't have seen the full implications of this automation of computation along with the other speed-up provided by mechanization.

Babbage is quoted in footnotes in a few chapters of Capital.

I can't see Marx coming to Silicon Valley to visit me today and altering one line of this text:


"John Stuart Mill says in his "Principles of Political Economy": "It is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day's toil of any human being." That is, however, by no means the aim of the capitalistic application of machinery. Like every other increase in the productiveness of labour, machinery is intended to cheapen commodities, and, by shortening that portion of the working-day, in which the labourer works for himself, to lengthen the other portion that he gives, without an equivalent, to the capitalist. In short, it is a means for producing surplus-value."

(And yes, I was dorky enough to take an hour to track all that down. I'm tired of this argument that Marxism is negated by digital age technology. I live here in the heart of it.)

Posted by Starry Messenger | Sat May 4, 2013, 07:02 PM (1 replies)

“I am San Francisco City College” - city rallies to save beloved institution


SAN FRANCISCO - On the eve of the March 15 accreditation deadline for City College of San Francisco, a rally at City Hall brought together students and allies of the college, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 2121 and several social justice organizations under the umbrella of Save CCSF.

This year has been marked by draconian sanctions placed on City College by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) - 14 conditions that were to have been met by March 15, or risk having the college's accreditation yanked.

Students, teachers and community speakers listed the cuts that have occurred in the wake of these conditions: deep staff cuts in student counseling, wage concessions, and threats to close campuses and consolidate or end programs for at-risk, minority working class students who depend on City College to bring them into higher learning. AFT 2121 is facing even more cuts and loss of a democratic voice in the college.


Hopes that passage of the city's Proposition A parcel tax and the state's Proposition 30 in November would bring revenue into CCSF have been frustrated by the lack of transparency of the CCSF Board of Trustees and interim Chancellor Thelma Scott-Skillman, who said they intended to use any surplus revenue to fund "accreditation purposes," rather than to replace programs and stave off cuts.


Disclaimer: I'm the author.
Posted by Starry Messenger | Mon Mar 18, 2013, 10:54 PM (16 replies)

Happy International Women's Day!

March 8th.

Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) - Founder of International Women's Day


CLARA ZETKIN (1857-1933) was a German communist, anti fascist and founder of International Women's Day. Here CP general secretary Robert Griffiths outlines her remarkable and exemplary life.

Clara Zetkin, who first proposed International Women's Day 100 years ago, was an outstanding figure in the socialist, Communist and women's movements. Her own commitment, vision and courage have left a legacy which deserves to be celebrated on March 8 every year.

Before the formation of Communist parties, she rose to prominence in the German Social-Democratic Party from a middle-class home in the local peasant community of Wiederau in Saxony, Germany. Her father Gottfried Eissner was a school teacher and Protestant, her mother Josephine the daughter of a bourgeois family in Leipzig. Inspired by the German Women's Association, Josephine was involved in educational activities.

The family moved to nearby Leipzig where Clara studied at a local teacher training institute founded by German feminist Auguste Schmidt. There she came into contact with socialist ideas and women's organisations. In 1878, at the age of 21, she met members of the German Socialist Workers Party (later renamed the Social-Democratic Party of Germany, SPD) and exiled Russian revolutionaries including Ossip Zetkin. A visit to Russia quickly followed.

When Chancellor Bismarck's new Anti-Socialist Law prompted Ossip to leave Germany, Clara also left soon afterwards. She went to Linz, Austria, where she became tutor to a group of factory workers. Then it was on to Zurich in 1882, writing clandestine propaganda for circulation in Germany, before travelling to Paris to be reunited with Ossip Zetkin. They had two sons but did not marry because Clara would lose her German citizenship. Instead, she took his surname.

Reconciled with her family, she delivered her first public speech in Leipzig calling for the liberation of women as an essential and integral part of the liberation of all workers through socialist revolution. For a period afterwards, she opposed separate measures for women, fearing that they would divide working class unity.

Ossip died of spinal tuberculosis in 1889. Clara Zetkin buried her grief in her work for the Socialist International, a new organisation of left-wing and workers' parties. At its founding congress in Paris in July, her arguments against special measures for women - for equal pay for equal work and the exclusion of women from hazardous occupations - were rejected, but she was given special responsibilities for SPD work in Berlin. From there she edited the party's paper for women Die Gleichheit (Equality), fulfilling that task for 25 years until 1917.

Her first editorial explained her standpoint that 'the final cause for the thousand-year-old inferior social position of the female sex is not to be sought in the statutory legislation "made by men", but rather in the property relations determined by economic conditions'. Accordingly, women's liberation could only be fully achieved once private ownership of economic property was abolished.


Posted by Starry Messenger | Sat Mar 9, 2013, 12:04 AM (3 replies)

Nude George W. Bush Self-Portrait

Posted by Starry Messenger | Fri Feb 8, 2013, 07:39 PM (66 replies)


I thought this highlighted some positive developments in working class solidarity. The ending is a little more pessimistic than I think is warranted, but I thought folks might be interested in this here. I wish I could post more than four paras, check it out when you have a moment.



The ROC is a labor group. But it’s not a union. It represents a new face of the U.S. labor movement—an often-ignored, little-understood array of groups organizing workers without the union label. As unions face declining membership these workers’ groups—like the mostly union-free job sectors they organize—are on the rise, particularly in New York. Because of their efforts, more restaurant workers in the city get paid sick days, domestic workers receive overtime pay, and taxi drivers will soon have health insurance.

Twenty years ago, when Rutgers labor professor Janice Fine first set out to count the nonunion groups that were organizing and mobilizing workers, she found just five in the entire country. Today, her tally stands at 214. These groups organize farmworkers and fashion models. They go by names like “workers’ centers” and “workers’ alliances.” Some are rooted in the immigrant-rights movement as much as the labor movement. Lacking the ability to engage in collective bargaining or enforce union contracts, these alternative labor groups rely on an overlapping set of other tactics to reform their industries. The ROC teaches workers their rights and also restaurant skills; advises and publicizes model employers; and helps organize protests like the ones at Capital Grille, making customers aware of what goes on behind the dining room. The ROC also lobbies state and local lawmakers for reforms and helps workers take legal action when all else fails.


There’s another reason for the rise of alt-labor: For an increasing number of U.S. workers, unions are not even an option. Labor law denies union rights to increasingly significant sectors of the workforce, including so-called independent contractors and domestic workers, whose numbers are expected to double as baby boomers enter elder care. In 1989, the United States had twice as many manufacturing jobs as service-sector jobs; now the numbers are nearly equal. But many corners of the service sector are virtually union-free—even where, as in restaurants, workers have the right to organize.

At first, traditional unions dismissed alt-labor efforts. Now many have come to recognize workers’ groups for what they are: part of the labor movement. The AFL-CIO and its local unions and labor councils have increasingly been funding, collaborating with, and rallying beside their alt-labor counterparts. The country’s other major labor federation, Change to Win, and its affiliates have also been supporting and partnering with alt-labor groups. Those efforts burst into the headlines with strikes by Wal-Mart employees and fast-food workers last fall. “Workers’ centers are movements in search of institutions,” says Ana Avendaño, who directs immigration and community policy for the AFL-CIO. “And our unions are often institutions in search of movements.”


Posted by Starry Messenger | Wed Feb 6, 2013, 08:13 PM (13 replies)
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