chicago socialists

America needs a network of rebel cities

…radical municipalism has a proud history in the US. One hundred years ago, the “sewer socialists” took over the city government of Milwaukee, Wisconsin and ran it for almost 50 years. They built parks, cleaned up waterways and, in contrast to the tolerated level of corruption in neighboring Chicago, the sewer socialists instilled into the civic culture an enduring sense that government is supposed to work for all the people, not just the wealthy and well-connected.

More recently, too, cities have been proving their ability to lead the national agenda. In the last few years alone, over 200 cities have introduced protections against employment discrimination based on gender-identity and 38 cities and counties have introduced local minimum wages after local “Fight for 15” campaigns.

Now we need a dual municipalist strategy that includes both supporting and putting pressure on existing progressive city governments from the streets, and standing new candidates with new policy platforms in upcoming local elections so that we can change institutional politics from within.

As the level of government closest to the people, municipalities are uniquely able to generate new, citizen-led and participatory models of politics that return a sense of agency and belonging to people’s lives.

Cities are spaces in which we can talk about reclaiming popular sovereignty for a demos other than the nation, where we can reimagine identity and belonging based on participation in civic life rather than the passport we hold.

Today in history: March 7, 1942 - Lucy Gonzalez Parsons dies.

Parsons was born around 1853 in Texas, probably as a slave, to parents of Native American, African American and Mexican ancestry. In 1871 she married Albert Parsons, who became one of the Haymarket Martyrs executed during the fight for the 8-hour day. Lucy Parsons was a prominent leader, speaker, and writer in defense of the “Haymarket 8” and in the workers’ movement in general. She played a major role in many of the historic events of the late 19th and early 20th century including Haymarket, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the anti-lynching movement, the campaign to save Sacco and Vanzetti, the Knights of Labor, and more.

After decades as one of the most prominent anarchists in the country, from the mid-1920s on Parsons became closer to the Communist Party. She joined the International Labor Defense, a communist-led organization that defended labor activists and unjustly-accused African Americans such as the Scottsboro Nine and Angelo Herndon. And in the late 1930s she is believed to have become a member of the Communist Party.

Parsons died March 7, 1942, in a house fire in Chicago. After her death, police seized her library of over 1,500 books and all of her personal papers. She is buried at Waldheim Cemetery outside of Chicago, near the Haymarket Monument. Parsons had the honor of being described by the Chicago Police Department as “more dangerous than a thousand rioters.”

(image: Lucy Parsons, arrested during an unemployment protest in 1915 in Chicago)

Via Freedom Road Socialist Organization (Fight Back!)