Last week, President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Dolores Huerta, an 82-year-old labor activist and co-founder of the United Farm Workers union.
Many questioned the President giving Ms. Huerta such an honor, given she is also an honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America (along with Cornel West, Gloria Steinem and Frances Fox Piven, among others). Huerta has also praised the likes of Hugo Chavez and Cuba for their approaches, speaking fondly of Chavez’s regime in front of high school students and talking about how Cuba is a “model for society”.
The Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis previously praised Dolores Huerta, whom she called “my teacher, my role model and mi hermana“. In speaking at the reception for the Freedom Medal for Ms. Huerta, Solis noted that Huerta was being honored not just for her work with United Farm Workers but that, “It’s about everything she’s done, all her traditions and her values”.
This, of course, makes sense when one looks back at the history of Hilda Solis and finds her as a keynote speaker at the 2005 Democratic Socialists of America conference whose theme was “21st century Socialism”.
On Friday evening, a panel consisting of ACORN chief organizer Wade Rathke, Kent Wong of the UCLA Labor Center and Roxana Tynan of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy looked at the level of struggles nationwide. Saturday evening delegates recognized the contributions of DSA vice chair and Washington Post columnist Harold Meyerson, Occidental College sociologist and longtime DSAer Peter Dreier and insurgent California Congress member Hilda Solis (D) who in turn provided in-depth perspectives of the political scene.
Also elsewhere noted in the account:
Mike would have been impressed by the new mayor of our 21st century city of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa. He was a union organizer. He was the head of the ACLU. He came out the barrio and grew up very poor. His father was an alcoholic, beat his mother—he overcame incredible obstacles. He dropped out of high school, and went back and then graduated from UCLA. He worked his way up through the labor movement and then was elected to the state legislature, becoming Speaker of the Assembly. When he was term-limited out of the legislature he ran for the LA City Council and was elected. When he ran for Mayor the first time in 2001 he lost, but he ran again and won in 2005. Now we have a progressive mayor, thanks in large part to this impressive network of grassroots organizations, labor unions and community and environmental organizations. Many of them have lifted up some of their leaders into positions of electoral power. It’s a network of activists that work closely with elected officials, like Congresswoman Hilda Solis, and it’s just remarkable what L.A. has become.
In a report submitted to the Communist Party in November 2000 Evelina Alarcon, Vice Chair CPUSA and Chair Southern California District, commented on helping Hilda Solis get elected to Congress:
- The monumental victories which are occurring in Los Angeles electorally and in the workplace are because of the coalition building that the labor movement is doing with the Latino and African American community. In Los Angeles, the Labor Federation not only targeted three congressional districts but it had organized 250 volunteers to help State Senator Hilda Solis win her Congressional seat by turning out the union household and Latino vote…
We in the Party can also be proud because our members were involved in all the targeted electoral efforts.
Solis went on to join the Congressional Progressive Congress(CPC) and later became Vice Chair, Liason to Women’s Caucus. The Congressional Progressive Caucus was founded in 1991- by Bernie Sanders-the openly socialist then Congressman from Vermont, by the DSA and by Washington DC based “think tank” Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).
DSA continues to work closely with the Congressional Progressive Caucus:
Since 1982, DSA has been working for progressive change. As a national organization, DSA joins with its allies in Congress’ Progressive Caucus and in many other progressive organizations, fighting for the interests of the average citizen both in legislative struggles and in other campaigns to educate the public on progressive issues and to secure progressive access to the media.
In June 2008, Solis sent a caseworker from her East Los Angeles office, Elana Henry, to represent her at a workers’ rights forum organized by Socialist International, which has close ties to the DSA. On a previous occasion twelve years earlier, Solis sent another representative to serve on her behalf at a major Communist Party USA event.
Throughout Solis’ tenure in Congress, labor unions–most notably the Teamsters Union, the SEIU, and the Laborers’ International Union of North America–were responsible for nearly 60 percent of her Political Action Committee (PAC) donations.
In 2008, Hilda Solis served on Barack Obama’s National Latino Advisory Council along with another DSA honorary chair and SEIU vice president Eliseo Medina.
Michelle Malkin wrote:
“While in Congress, [Solis] opposed strengthening the border fence, supported expansion of illegal alien benefits (including driver’s licenses and in-state tuition discounts), embraced sanctuary cities that refused to cooperate with federal homeland security officials to enforce immigration laws, and aggressively championed a mass amnesty. Solis was steeped in the pro-illegal alien worker organizing movement in Southern California and was buoyed by amnesty-supporting Big Labor groups led by the Service Employees International Union.”
When Solis was named to be Secretary of Labor, Communist Party USA’s People’s Weekly World actually states that she was suggested by Andrew Stern of the SEIU.
One labor source said Solis’ name was put forward by Service Employees President Andrew Stern, whose union — along with the Change to Win coalition — endorsed Obama’s presidential candidacy long before the AFL-CIO did. SEIU is the biggest union in CTW.
Indeed Stern put out an SEIU video lobbying for her confirmation.
Why does it matter that the Secretary of Labor might be a socialist?
One can examine a little of what that 2005 DSA ’21st century Socialism” conference said about socialism, according to Democratic Left magazine. This conference account is a fascinating window into the 2005 plan for the future-how ”this democratic socialist organization could grow in numbers and influence”. The conference description not only mentions Solis, but also ACORN, SEIU, Working Families Party, helping unions, using the anti war movement, expanding its faculty and campus contacts to “identitify and support potential campus activists”.
Hence, reforming capitalism is difficult and it often can’t be done at all without mass political mobilization and social unrest. This structural inequality erodes the promise of political democracy, perhaps nowhere more obviously so than in the United States. Voting under capitalism doesn’t include the right to decide on what corporations should do, whom they employ or who gets the profits.
Liberal freedoms can only be fully secured in a socialist society, where property rights no longer take precedence over political, civil, and social rights.
It shows that private corporate property has become a constraint on the development of technology
building alternative institutions takes a great deal of time. The fight against capitalism—and the fight to limit the likelihood of violence in defense of capitalism—will have to take place both inside and outside existing states.
Our job right now is work to for reforms of every kind—social, economic, and political—that will exist within capitalism but will work against capitalism and for the majority
of people. We can’t expect the tiny U.S. socialist movement to jump from minority to majority status any time soon, and we have to work with people more politically moderate than ourselves to achieve even partial goals. But as radicals we embrace not only electoral politics but also industrial struggles, strikes, civil disobedience, and direct action
Given that many workers, particularly in the U.S., don’t even think of themselves as “working class,” socialists insist on the ideal of class unity in order to distinguish the common interests of people who are otherwise divided into separate interest groups
In an article in DSA’s Democratic Left, Spring 2007, DSA National Political Committee member David Green wrote:
Our goal as socialists is to abolish private ownership of the means of production. Our immediate task is to limit the capitalist class’s prerogatives in the workplace.
In the short run we must at least minimize the degree of exploitation of workers by capitalists. We can accomplish this by promoting full employment policies, passing local living wage laws, but most of all by increasing the union movement’s power.
If the goal of the socialist is to get rid of capitalism and “private ownership of the means of production”, then what can we expect from officials that hold those views in the administration?
One might ask are there other Socialist appointments or alliances within this administration?
Trevor Loudon raised interesting questions here in 2009, examining the several critical positions within the administration including the then “Manufacturing Czar” and the former “Energy Czar”/Director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy.
June 4, 2012 | Categories: Politics | Tags: ACORN, Cuba, Democratic Socialists of America, Dolores Huerta, DSA, Hilda Solis, Hugo Chavez, Peter Dreier, Secretary of Labor, SEIU, socialist, Wade Rathke, Working Families Party | 1 Comment »