Trey

Standard

I wrote this about a year ago. After my friend and comrade Trey died of an overdose.

Last week I was taking to comrades who, like me, are around 30 about our radicalization.

9/11 jolted me into awareness of the fact that the world is a big place and that history is something that is always happening. I soon learned, in the imperialist adventures in the Middle East that America is not the good guy. And the decade was bookended by Occupy Wall Street, which cemented my passage into socialism.

I met Trey there. We talked briefly, once he questioned me and another comrade when we set up an ISO table at the encampment, but we didn’t get to know each there too well. He was dedicated, but, as happened a lot in occupy, once we were evicted we lost him.

Occupy taught me that it’s one thing to be a socialist, but you need theory and organization to be effective. Occupy lacked both of those things. Over the course of the next few years, alongside some new comrades, I started to learn what that was.

About halfway through 2012, when I had finally resigned myself to the movement’s demise, I began to talk with Trey again, first online and then in person. He was very interested in his own radicalization and full of regret over wasting any time as a liberal. He devoured book after book and always wanted to talk or debate. I had to work hard to keep up with him.

And, at the risk of glamorizing his life, he had a unique attachment to the struggle. On and off drugs and alcohol, always housing and job insecure, something he stupidly valorized, he had a material appreciation for the grind that those at the bottom of our society face. In his sober stretches, this all made him a formidable activist and a challenging comrade.

It was also in those days that he became most introspective, most plagued by the shame and guilt of the trouble that he sometimes caused others. I wasn’t there when he was at his worst, and I know that others have different memories of him because of what he put them through thanks to his addiction and illness. He confessed to me that it was these thoughts that inevitably pushed him back to drinking and using drugs.

Probably homeless or in and out of treatment for a quarter of the time I knew him, he often needed a place to crash, and he slept on my couch more times than I can count. In the mornings, as I would leave for work, he would leave too even though he knew he could stay, not wanting to be a burden if he could help it. So he would leave and give me a hug and a kiss on the cheek like he did and I wouldn’t hear from him for a few days.

As payment, he would cook, which he was pretty good at, and we would sit out on the fire escape at my place in Corryville and talk about stuff. Politics, music, Trayvon, addiction and treatment, what to learn from Occupy, Godard films, MLM. We would probably eat ice cream. He taught me my first chords on the guitar, taught me some basic scales and progressions that are still probably 90% of what I know. “I’ll teach you to play rock songs.”

Once I visited him in a halfway house on vine. He has just gotten back from a treatment center after ODing and was in good spirits. That was a time when I was going through some hard stuff in my life–a mixture of political burnout, having to abruptly move, several deaths of people around me in succession and job issues–and my friends will remember it as a time when they barely saw me in the course of a few months, the worst stretch of depression I have ever felt.

We spent an afternoon talking about what he was going through and he was interested in how I was too. The first person to directly ask about what I was going through. He told me not to fee shame over mental illness, something he was relearning with the 12 step program. I was so relieved just to tell someone what I faced and to get validation and a hug at the end of it helped immensely.

Trey is one of the few people I felt comfortable enough to talk to about those things. He was completely open and disarming and used his own vulnerability to relate to whatever it was you were going through. He helped pull me back from the edge in a real way, and I made some real changes in my life after that to become healthier.

And that winter it was Trey who helped pull me back into political work. The last major organizing we did together was around tenant work in OTR. We pulled together some very militant fliers and put up maybe 1000 of them, talked to a lot of people in the street and had a meeting where I ended up losing my shit on a landlord who came and said we were attacking him. I would not consider this successful but it was a bridge to BLM and later SA and without it, I may have never returned to active politics.

He moved away soon after and we since he was without a phone, we lost touch aside from occasionally catching up on Facebook.

Trey was furious at the conditions he saw around him and demanded that we all fight to fix it. He was a revolutionary, but he ended up being as much a victim of the system and the times as anybody else. Even so, he was beautiful and funny and kind. We became comrades together. I love him and will miss him every day.

He had the fire in him.

Understanding Joni Mitchell

Standard

The beginning of my “Understanding Joni” playlist.

This playlist is meant to provide an entry point to Joni Mitchell in addition to offering a more profound exploration of her work. It goes far beyond the singles and her early successes, which are brilliant in their own right, to get at the tracks that are easily missed, overlooked, or overshadowed.

For Part 1, here are 12 songs that span the breadth of her career, stylistic changes, and themes.

I’m starting with Little Green, possibly a familiar song, off of Blue (1971), because it holds the key to understanding much of the melancholy that marks Joni’s work. While obvious in hindsight, at the time of it’s release it wasn’t known, beyond a few individuals, that Joni had to give up her daughter, Kelly, about whom this song is written. We get rich imagery of nature, seasons, sadness and celebration, and an unaccountable man–all of which are central themes throughout Joni’s career.

Continue reading

Cincinnati pride Socialist speakout: build lgbtq/immigrant solidarity

Standard

Right now there are thousands of immigrant children and parents sitting in cages, separated violently by ICE. They might never see each other again. Though the separation policy was rescinded, its not retroactive. Raids on businesses and neighborhood sweeps will continue to rip families apart. Zero tolerance continues and new families arriving will be thrown in prison camps together.

What does this have to do with Pride? It wasn’t too long ago that LGBT families were torn apart by the state and reactionary vigilantes. It wasn’t too long ago that just being LGBT was criminalized.

Those victories are fresh and setbacks like the bathrooms bills and continued violence show they aren’t permanent. We should also acknowledge that the recent resurgence in violence against lgbt people came alongside the attacks on immigrants. And it’s shameful!

We have to fight back! We need mass movement that link up our struggles. We are here because we are saying make pride political!

This month, corporations plaster rainbows over their logos. But these measures are only surface level–take it from me, I work in marketing–providing cover for the fact that their material interest—the pursuit of profit—go against that of working people.

There is so much wealth in the world, but inequality is worse than ever. Jeff Bezos, CEO of amazon, is the richest man in the history of the world. This month his company is running pride stories on their homepage. Bezos personally spoke out against a measly tax that would build public housing for homeless people in Seattle. He sunk hundreds of thousands of dollars into a repeal effort that scared 7 democrats on the city council into a repeal.

All workers face historically high rates of homelessness or lack of affordable housing, of joblessness or underemployment, of lack of access to healthcare. And for LGBT people, the problems are compounded.

We are 40,000 units short of affordable housing in Cincinnati. And finding good housing or a good job is harder if you’re black or trans and have to face bigoted landlords and bosses. 50,000 families were evicted in the last few years here. 800 lgbt youth face homelessness in Cincinnati each year, a problem so bad that lighthouse youth services opened a shelter just for LGBT teens. Nationally, 40% of homeless youth are LGBT.

The rich will exploit you for your labor and pay you a measly salary. What’s worse, immigrants, undocumented or not, along women and lgbt people are sometimes forced to work criminalized jobs to make ends meet all while laws are passed to make our survival harder. Capitalism forces you to live your life a certain way. When you look or sound different, bigots will kill you or lock you in cages.

This much us true: if we let them get away with rounding up immigrants, of ethnically cleansing through criminalization and deportation, don’t expect them to stop there.

How do we fight back? Though we face the wrath of Donald Trump, the solution isn’t to allow ourselves to be used as props by opportunistic politicians and businesses try and get reelected or sell their products, nor is it for us to cast damage control votes and stop there.

A socialist transformation of society is the only way to challenge the underlying motives that use lgbt people and immigrants as bargaining chips in the petty battles of the ruling class.

Equality means nothing if we can’t make ends meet!

Solutions could start with taxing the rich and corporations and funding Medicare for all and housing for all. This benefit everybody in the 99%, but especially lgbt people, women, people of color and immigrants. We can fight against the laws that criminalize trans kids and dreamers, fight for protections for sex workers and undocumented workers.

LGBT people aren’t just allies–we have to be accomplices in the replacement the system we have today with something better and more just.

What does that look like? Let’s take an example. In the case of marriage equality, though it was the court that made the decision, WE won in the STREETS. We posed a threat to the ability for business as usual to continue.

Strategies that relies on court decisions aren’t viable in the long run. We’ve seen how the foothold that was left for pro-life forces in “Roe v Wade” has been torn open in an all out assault on privacy and reproductive justice that reaches far beyond pregnant people. Lobbying and professionalism aren’t substitutes for mass action.

Instead, a mass movement fighting for a socialist program is the only alternative that can turn the tide of the oppression that hurts all of us as long as it hurts one of us. Liberation for LGBT people is tied up with the liberation of immigrants.

Pride is political, it’s a celebration and a protest!

We will not stand silent as families are torn apart, as people sleep on the street, as people die from lack of health case, as abortion is criminalized. And we sure as hell won’t go back into the closet.

What is our next step? Come out on June 30 at 1pm at Washington park for a mass rally calling to reunite families and protect immigrants! Bring a sign and be ready for more actions in the future.

Visit Socialist Alternatives table for more information.

Thanks

When immigrants are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!

When trans people are under attack, what do we do?

When working people are under attack, what do we do?

 

We need to build a movement that demands

  • an end to the separation of families, for end to the mass incarceration and gestapo tactics by ICE.
  • For taxing the rich and corporations, including many represented here today,
    • And using this money to build quality affordable housing and medicare for all, including abortion and reproductive coverage.

The Transitional Program and its use today

Standard

This was prepared as a discussion lead-off for a day school of the Ohio chapters of Socialist Alternative. Page numbers refer to the American SWP’s edition of the program, which I highly recommend.

 

Intro

The Transitional Program is the founding document of the 4th International, also called the Trotskyist international, and though it was written and adopted 80 years ago this year, still serves as a beacon for our movement today. Though much has changed since that time, the basic premise of the problem that the program seeks to solve still exists, in a discussion before the first congress of the 4th international, the most prominent member Leon Trotsky said “The whole Transitional Program must fill the gaps between consciousness today and soviets tomorrow” (101).

We face the same dilemma of being in a decidedly pre-revolutionary period. The objective factors–the economic conditions–for socialist revolution are present: there is both a high level of development, but a failing return on new measures and innovations meant to solve the problems of the stagnating system. Thus, like in the 1930’s we find ourselves in a time of crisis that ought to be ripe for a revolutionary movement.

But we also know that the subjective factors for revolution are not there. The working class, the agent of revolution, knows neither the root cause of the problems they face, nor the way to solve those problems. Mass movements like Black Lives Matter, the Women’s March, the West Virginia teachers strike, and the Gun Control student march spring up in response to oppression symptomatic of capitalist exploitation. But the root cause is deliberately obscured and are rarely taken up in a serious manner by these movements, so they get suppressed, co-opted or ignored and die out.

The Transitional Program seeks to bridge the gap between the pre-revolutionary consciousness and revolutionary conditions through an escalating series of demands that begin at the level of mass consciousness as we encounter it and points toward revolutionary conclusions.

In this way, the program seeks to solve the second issue that is really the root of the gap: the historic crisis of revolutionary leadership. Betrayals by Stalinists, petty bourgeois opportunists, naive ultra leftists and retrograde fascists have lead to the brakes being pumped on various revolutionary movements. It is our job to be more effective leaders in those movements when they arise, and the Transitional Program offers a framework for intervention that continually pushes those movements forward, neither halting them nor moving them backwards.

I’ll cover three parts today:

  1. I’ll offer a brief historical background to contextualize the 4th international and the Transitional Program.
  2. I’ll talk about the program itself, the types of demands it raises and what we can learn from the document directly.
  3. I’ll talk about the usefulness of the program in our time and what parts we can keep and what parts we need to change for the 21st century.

I hope to clarify the program’s purpose and usefulness to underline the necessity for us to utilize the methods laid out in it as the starting point in our approach to revolutionary politics.

Continue reading