Avenging Angel: The Origins of the Chattanooga Communist Party

"The Trade Union Unity League is an avenging angel sent to strike down the bosses and heal the wounds of the working man."

Those words were spoken by Amy "Fellow Worker" Schechter in February 1930 at the first meeting of the Chattanooga Communist Party.

Amy Schechter was the lead organizer of the Trade Union Unity League (TUUL) and she came here with a purpose - to defend and advance the interests of workers who were being ruthlessly exploited by the capitalist class. Schechter was preaching revolutionary politics and militant unionism and she had no patience for the reformist "aristocratic trade unions" that sought to be the handmaidens of Capital, rather than its adversary. In her first speech to the workers of Chattanooga, Schechter "declared war on the American Federation of Labor" and called William Green, the president of the American Federation of Labor, a "tool of the bosses and the business man's friend, who lolls in Florida with his executive council while 3,000,000 workers are unemployed."

And Schechter practiced what she preached. She was one of the lead organizers, alongside Vera Buch and Albert Weisbord (author of the famous ballad "Solidarity Forever"), of the 1929 Gastonia Labor Strike at the Loray Mill. The largest textile mill in the South and the third largest in the nation, Loray Mill had been purchased as part of an intentional plan by Northern industrialists to relocate their business to the South where they could more easily exploit workers. It went on to become the site of one of the most infamous and bitter labor strikes of the early 20th Century.

Soon after purchasing the Loray Mill, the mill owners fired a third of the workers, cut the pay of the remaining workers and upped the amount of production. The mill workers, who were predominately women, responded by calling for a strike and demanding a "minimum $20 weekly wage, a forty-hour work week, union recognition" and an end to highly exploitative practices that result in higher levels of productivity, and thus profits, for the capitalists. What resulted was nothing short of class war. The company hired thugs to accompany Gastonia police to hunt down and imprison union organizers, arrest folks on site for picketing, throw families sympathetic to the union out of the company homes, and raid the food supplies and tent city that was home to the striking workers. On the night of June 7, 1929 the Gastonia Police Chief Orville Aderholt and several officers raided the union's tent colony and headquarters, which had just been rebuilt after being smashed to pieces by company thugs in the months prior. The raid turned into a shoot-out in which the Police Chief died and more than 70 organizers and strikers were arrested - including Amy Schechter. In September of 1929, protests erupted across the United States against "Gastonia-style justice" and the charges against Schechter were dropped.

You can actually read the diary of Vera Buch and her first-hand accounts of organizing alongside Amy Schechter in Gastonia by clicking HERE.

Soon after the trial, Amy Schechter came to Chattanooga, joined by organizers Fred Totheroe, a former textile mill worker of Gastonia, "Red" Hendrix, who would be eventually be convicted in a North Carolina court for his involvement in the Loray Mill Strike, and a Black organizer who remained unnamed in every article published by the bourgeois press that I have reviewed from the period.

Picture taken from "Local Reds Aided by Moscow" the Chattanooga Times 2.5.1930

Having a fiery and committed woman as the lead organizer in a hostile Southern city was not an anomaly. The Trade Union Unity League (TUUL) advanced a radical organizing philosophy connecting "shop floor militancy with community-based organizing". The Communist Party of the time was actively connecting community and workplace battles in the hopes of recruiting a broad base of directly affected persons to struggle alongside one another in the pursuit of "a more egalitarian society in the broader community."

The TUUL actively organized some of the most marginalized segments of society, reaching out to the homeless and hungry through the creation of unemployed councils, fighting for women's rights and economic interests and hiring women, like Amy Schechter, and Black folks as organizers and appointing them to positions of leadership over white men, all while openly agitating for full racial integration of society in the segregated American South. What makes this so incredible is that it was taking place in the late 1920s and early 1930s - and it was happening right here in Chattanooga.

Shechter claimed that she was part of a proletariat revolution, which "would wipe out the aristocratic labor unions" which were "closed to negroes and poor white laborers." For the small price of fifty cents, Chattanooga workers could join the revolution and get a copy of The Daily Worker.

"The Trade Union Unity League came not singing hymns of harmony, but as a militant organization prepared to fight for the working man's rights." - Fred Totheroe, a former textile mill worker of Gastonia and organizer of the Chattanooga Communist Party

The Chattanooga Communist Party's headquarters were set up at 2207 South Broad Street:

The building was destroyed during the construction of Interstate 27, but the building directly next to it stands to this day:

Reactionary Responses

Four days after the TUUL publicly announced its campaign to being organizing workers, including people of color and women, into a revolutionary union and political party, the Chattanooga Times announced that the Commissioner of Chattanooga City Schools, H.D. Huffaker, was at once launching an intentional propaganda campaign to brainwash students into being unquestioning jingos. This is Huffaker's statement as quoted in the paper:
"I've been asked if there are any communists in Chattanooga schools and I am very happy to say there is none, and will not be under this administration. Judging from the attempts being made here during the last few days to establish the order, they are dealing almost entirely with the ignorant classes. We consider that they only excuse for our educational systems is the work that is accomplished in making better citizens out of boys and girls who are to be the men and women of tomorrow. This is but another reason why our public schools must be strengthened at every point to the end that our citizenry will be able to know the false and true theory of popular government. The public schools have been strong and steady in the question of loyalty and patriotism to our government, but we have gone a step further and this is our plan: The department will publish a textbook on citizenship soon and a copy will be placed in the hands of every teacher ... If communism predominates, the American civilization is gone. The American government and communism are antagonistic forces." - H.D. Huffaker, Commissioner of Chattanooga City Schools, quoted from "Wave Red Flag as Negro Hope Against White" in Chattanooga Times 2.6.1930

The schools were not the only institutions that began publicly speaking out against efforts to organize workers together to fight for progressive causes, they were quickly accompanied by the local Black churches.

"It would be unrighteous and ungodly for a poor man to rise up against a rich man in an evil manner or do harm in any way, because he became rich while you took an intellectual nap," said Reverend P.B. Hill of the Union Baptist Church. Reverend Hill was one of the leading Black ministers in Chattanooga, who was joined by fourteen others on the Sunday following the launch of the local Communist in preaching sermons against them. Chattanooga Times articles from the period attribute the simultaneous sermons to D.C. Harper, whom the paper describes as "head janitor at the courthouse and a leader of his race". Harper is quoted in several articles as announcing that the ministers would direct their congregations to not join the Communists, but instead "work for harmony with the white people." Harper proclaimed that "the leaders of the negroes realize that nothing good can come from the organization of the white and the blacks."

You can read all the news articles quoted in this blog by clicking HERE.

This post is one in a series entitled "The People's History of Chattanooga". My hope is to begin providing a more complex and true history of the actual events and people who lived, worked, and struggled in Chattanooga. This is not the Chamber of Commerce's version of local history. I am trying to provide narratives that speak to the grassroots about the grassroots in a way that includes all of our failings, contradictions, victories and moments of inspiration.

UPDATE 4.29.2012 9:01 PM minor spelling corrections were made.
UPDATE 4.30.2012 10:26 AM date corrections were made, previously said that The Party was starting to organize in the "late 1930s and early 1940s", this has been corrected to "late 1920s and early 1930s".

Lezing over Existentialisme

Filosofiecafé Wageningen Een filosofiecafé is de uitgelezen plaats om een lezing over existentialisme te houden. Over waarom Jean-Paul Sartre een filosoof voor nu is en hoe zijn denken met de deugd-ethiek van Aristoteles in verband gebracht kan worden....
"In onze tijd waarin we geobsedeerd zijn door identiteit, authenticiteit en waarin we ethiek overhaast invullen met 'normen en waarden', is het existentialisme als levensfilosofie een uitdaging. In de lezing zal Ruud Welten, docent filosofie aan de Universiteit Tilburg en Lector ethiek aan de hogeschool Saxion, ingaan op de geschiedenis, maar vooral ook actualiteit van de filosofie van Jean-Paul Sartre. Hij zal laten zien hoe het existentialisme een verdieping kan, of misschien wel moet, zijn, van de deugdethiek van Aristoteles."
Humanistisch verbond Plaats: Café Loburg, Molenstraat 6, 6701 DM Wageningen Tijd: 3 juni 2012, 13.30-16.00 uur Toegang Gratis

Book Review: Socially Responsible Investing: by Amy Domini

Socially Responsible Investing: 
Making a Difference and Making Money
by Amy Domini
 copyright: 2001, Dearborn Trade

 Amy in action...

In "my book", Amy Domini is one of the modern founders of Socially Responsible Investing ("SRI").  I bought her book thinking it was a must-read to increase my knowledge of the subject.  However, what fascinated me more was the author herself.  People that change the world have a special "recipe" to their genetic makeup.  Their spirit entwines itself, becoming the very subject they're specializing in.  Domini is just that - sprinkle in a bit of healthy disrespect for conventional wisdom with an intellectual curiosity of Einstein and moral authority of Reverend Martin Luther King.

Amy Domini is a preacher in her own right with a powerful message of corporate responsibility and human dignity.  In 1989, Domini founded KLD Research, along with her ex-husband Peter Kinder and Steve Lydenberg.  Domini helped create what was originally called the Domini 400 Social Index. She later founded the money-management firm Domini Social Investments.  The firm's Social Equity Fund was the first to publicly post its Shareholder proxy-voting record (in April 1999).

Best For:
  • Corporate Stakeholders (e.g., suppliers, shareholders, employees).
  • Investors looking to become more familiar with SRI.
  • Equity/Credit Analysts.
  • Corporations wondering how the "other side" views them.

 What I liked:
  • The Case Study (comparing American Home Products with Johnson & Johnson) was interesting and insightful as it compared what at first appeared to be two similar companies.
  • Ms. Domini gives several examples of companies that are socially responsible.
  • The book is filled with reference material and Appendices.
  • The reader gets a feel of Domini's personality, spirit & spunk.

And not so much...
  • The case is made for the outperformance of investments in socially responsible companies.  However, I believe the verdict is still out on this.  (Though note that the KLD (Domini) 400 has outperformed the S&P500 since its 1990 inception.)
  • A small number of recommended foreign companies' shares could not be purchased in the U.S.
  • The book should be updated, especially in light of the new corporate charter (called Benefit corporation: see B Labs). Also, the profile of cited companies likely has changed.
Note: recent data not available.  Source: KLD Research & Analytics.

    Biggest Surprises:
    • Despite Domini's big following, the book had only one review on Amazon.com.
    • SRI's main weakness is cited (you must read the book to discover it !)
    • Social Investing actually stimulates Investors to become more actively involved in SRI via their purchasing behavior, voting, etc.
    • The book has much more depth than I expected from its cover.

         In her book's first page, Domini tells a resonating story about a little girl on the beach trying to save all these Starfish by throwing them back in the water.  Her mother said, "Don't bother, dear,.. it won't make a difference."  The girl thought for a moment, looking at the Starfish in her hand and said, "It will make a difference to this one."

      That little story's a great thought-provoking start to a book which covers:
          • Why SRI investing matters
          • A short history of SRI
          • Screening methods
          • Shareholder Activism
          • Community Investing
          • How Global Finance affects economies
      What's special about that story wasn't just that everyone's action (and vote) counts, but that this little girl (Amy?) was already thinking independently and questioning her world.  Perhaps we can all do the same by thinking things through.

      According to Ms. Domini, global commerce has destroyed the ability of governments to either protect its citizens from harmful business practices such as sweatshops (see below) or to benefit from taxing, since a company can move elsewhere in the world.

      In 1996, CBS News' 48 Hours ran a piece detailing the abuse of Nike's workers in Vietnam.  Nike became an overnight symbol of what's commonly known as "sweatshops." The company's come a long way since, but stakeholders must remain vigilant on Nike (see our Posting).  A more recent expose is Here.

      In my opinion, we all have blood on our hands.  If we don't ask the hard questions, someone will pay the price. Unfortunately, that someone will likely be an innocent bystander in an Emerging Economy...or You...

      Greater Boston Legal Services Low Income Taxpayer Assistance Project

           Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS) is seeking law students and attorneys to assist with its Low Income Taxpayer Assistance Project (LITAP). LITAP is an innovative way to help low-wage workers increase their income.The project assists the low-wage community in accessing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and thereby taps into the federal government’s largest anti-poverty program. LITAP combines the resources of a legal services program, students, pro bono attorneys, pro bono tax preparers and community agencies to provide critical legal assistance and tax help to low-wage taxpayers, many of whom speak little or no English. A significant number of low-wage workers need legal and tax expertise regarding taxes. This help is needed to increase their knowledge and understanding about their rights to important tax credits – including the EITC and the Child Tax Credit as well as their responsibilities to file and pay taxes. They also often need assistance to resolve controversies with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and related Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) controversies.
           The project anticipates assisting approximately 200 clients in 2011-2012. The project interviews clients to determine what type of services they need (assistance in resolving tax controversies, limited tax advice, or tax return preparation), and prioritizes cases for representation and/or referral. Depending on their need, clients are referred either to students, pro bono attorneys who are trained in tax law for tax controversy representation, or to pro bono accountants to assist GBLS in its representation, or to tax preparation sites. Tax controversies may include such issues as ITIN applications, liens, levies, audits, counseling regarding the tax consequences of settlement awards or divorce, filing and/or amending past returns, and entering into payment plans, including requesting non-collectible status and offers in compromise.
           With assistance from the private bar, GBLS conducts substantive, formal CLE seminar on tax law to help assist students, pro bono attorneys and accountants. GBLS provides support to the attorneys who handle the referred cases, particularly on the special issues they may encounter when assisting the project’s immigrant clients. Trainings are provided on topics affecting low income taxpayers, such as Greater Boston Legal Services – LITAP Pro Bono how to handle EITC audits, collections, innocent spouse relief, ITINS, and misclassifications. The project also works with the City of Boston and Chelsea EITC Campaigns to train volunteer tax preparers.

      To learn how you can get involved visit the CSO Symplicity Site Job ID 7317

      New England Environmental Justice Summit: June 9th!

      Where: Clark University
      Higgins University Center
      950 Main Street
      Worcester, MA 01610

      The EJ Summit is a unique, daylong event designed to connect community advocates, citizens, lawyers, and policymakers who are interested in the environment and its impacts on low-income people and people of color.

      This event is geared to people in New England concerned with:
      reducing toxins in food, consumer goods, homes and buildings
       improving environmental health for urban residents
      ensuring justice for laborers and low-income users of public transit
      building the strength of grassroots environmental groups
      securing laws to safeguard health for low-income people and people of color

      Summit workshops will cover toxics and women’s health, energy justice, urban and rural environmental issues, food justice, and more. Lawyers interested in providing assistance to environmental grassroots groups may attend a workshop on Title VI. Other special features of the Summit will include a listening session with policymakers from each New England state discussing environmental justice issues.

      Breakfast/Lunch/Child Care will be provided at no charge.

      To register for this free event and learn more information, please visit http://newenglandejsummit.eventbrite.com  or call Steve Fischbach, 401-274-2652 x-182. You can also visit the Facebook Page for information on the tentative agenda for the Summit at: https://www.facebook.com/events/359391727441610/

      FREE-MONEY: - UN launches interest-free loan scheme to expand CDM carbon trading mechanism


      The UNFCCC has launched a pioneering interest-free loan scheme to support Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects in some of the world's least developed countries.

      Under the new scheme, launched at the African Carbon Forum last week in Ethiopia, underdeveloped countries and those with fewer than 10 projects registered under the CDM will be eligible for interest-free loans supported by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Risoe Centre, and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS).
      Christiana Figueres, UNFCCC executive secretary, said that the loans would help expand the carbon trading mechanism, adding that the new financing would be offered at an opportune time given that from next year the EU is expected to limit the number of CERs it buys from industrial gas projects in China.
      "The CDM Loan Scheme is a chance to improve the access to and spread of the CDM, particularly in Africa," Figueres said at the African Carbon Forum, last week.
      The loans will support the design, validation and registration of projects under the UN-approved CDM carbon offset scheme. After the project is validated and registered as a CDM project, it can then generate certified emission reduction credits that can be traded in carbon markets.
      To access loans, projects will have to meet a number of criteria, including a high probability of registration and a reasonable expectation of generating at least 7,500 certified emission reduction (CER) credits per year for projects in least developed countries (LDCs) and 15,000 CERs per year for projects in non-LDCs.
      Applications are now being accepted for the first round of reviews, which will end in June.
      The UN's CDM allows countries to meet their emissions reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol via third party investment in independently approved emissions reduction projects with the return of carbon credits for sale on the carbon market. Over 4,000 projects in around 70 countries are approved under the scheme, which aims to funnel green investment into developing economies.

      UN Plan For Running The World: Global Carbon Taxes, Global Safety Nets And A One World Green Economy


      Did you know that the UN has a plan for running the world and it is right out in the open?  It is called "sustainable development", but it is far more comprehensive than it sounds.  The truth is that the UN plan for running the world would dramatically alter nearly all forms of human activity.  A 204 page report on "sustainable development" entitled "Working Towards a Balanced and Inclusive Green Economy, A United Nations System-Wide Perspective" has been published in advance of the upcoming Rio + 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro.

      Detentions display UN's impotence in Ethiopia


      Ethiopia's government has held one United Nations employee in jail without charges for well over a year, while another is facing prosecution under a notorious anti-terrorism law.

      By William Davison, Correspondent / April 25, 2012

      Ethiopia's government, a favored and oft-praised Western partner, has held one United Nationsemployee in jail without charges for well over a year, while another is facing prosecution under a notorious anti-terrorism law...

      None of Your Business Chattanooga!

      The Ron Littlefield Administration is known for routinely failing to comply with Open Records Requests filed by citizen activists, but the obstruction to information does not end at the grassroots. It turns out that Chattanooga City Council representatives are being routinely denied the information they need to make informed decisions when casting votes that will have a direct affect on the lives of tens-of-thousands of people.

      All of this came out today when the normally soft spoken, but always razor sharp, District One Representative Deborah Scott unleashed nothing short of an inspired cry for open government during today's Chattanooga City Council Agenda Committee. Turns out she had been requesting information from the Mayor's office for over three years about our city's sewer system and multi-million dollar contracts with waste management companies. Her requests have been forwarded by city administrators up the chain to Ron Littlefield, ostensibly under direct order by him to do so, where they were met with silence and in at least one instance, by the Mayor hanging up the phone on her.

      "If I can't get answers to questions by phone, in public meetings, or by email then somthing is wrong". - Deborah Scott

      Apparently Mayor Ron Littlefield has had enough of Council Rep. Scott's questions. This morning he blasted out a condescending email demanding that all future questions and information requests related to the budget be sent to his office directly for approval. The email was sent to the entire City Council and what appears to be most of the upper echelons of his appointed administration: his Chief of Staff Dan Johnson, the Mayor's mouthpiece Richard Beeland, his Secretary Marie Chinery, Anita Ebersol, another Richard Beeland email (how many accounts is Beeland using?) and Lea Matt. 

      Scott promised that she would file a Freedom of Information Act request for every question she had if necessary.

      Legal & Legislative Chair & District 9 Representative Murphy agreed to host the question of how to "properly" obtain information that is not forthcoming from the Littlefield Administration in the Legal & Legislative Committee, but no specific date was mentioned.

      I caught up with Rep. Scott after the City Council meeting and interviewed her about the email and the questions she was asking leading up to it, this video is WELL worth taking the time to watch:

      9:30 PM 4.24.2012 This blog post was significantly revised from its original version published at 6:00 PM on 4.24.2012

      9:00 AM 4.24.2012 UPDATE:
      The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported on the story this morning, saying:
      The mayor was unavailable for comment Tuesday. Richard Beeland, his spokesman, said the only thing different would be the process. He said some council members request information directly from the department heads, and it puts them in uncomfortable situations because they report to the mayor. 
      It seems pretty obvious to me that city administrators are not being "made uncomfortable" because they are being asked questions by City Council Representatives who are intent on doing their job and getting the information they need to make an informed vote, but because the information they have is being bottle-necked by the administration who has everyone under their thumb.

      Lessons from Occupy

      Democracy is rooted in freedom, in solidarity, and in the ability of everyone to meaningfully participate in the social order. A real democracy would provide everyday grassroots leaders the ability to directly challenge, dismantle and even build an alternative to the society and economy they live within. Corporations and our government have no interest in the development of a genuine democracy, because the society we have now is working fabulously on behalf of those with power and privilege. So, it is no surprise that the dominant institutions in our society place no priority on teaching everyday people how to work together effectively to advance their own interests, because their interests would represent a critical challenge to the capitalist order of things. It is also no surprise that grassroots folks are immediately met with huge obstacles, challenges and frustration when they come together (many for the first time in their lives as was the case with the global Occupy movement) to attempt to work for social change while simultaneously creating a new kind of space structured on values like egalitarianism, compassion and justice.

      Reflecting back on my experiences over the last year, I think I have recognized a key lesson that strikes at the heart of why so many grassroots organizations are struggling to not only exist, but exist in a form that grows their capacity for affecting change:

      The only way any free-association of individuals can succeed at making deep reaching and fundamental changes to the way power flows in our society is if everyone who chooses to participate in those spaces is openly committed to making it grow and providing space for everyone else to participate meaningfully. 

      This lesson might seem rather obvious to some, but from my own experience it has been a lesson hard learned from the many challenges and difficulties that have arisen over the course of attempting to create inclusive, non-hierarchical spaces in which folks from different backgrounds, experiences, cultures and social positions can meaningfully participate. To that end, I would like to offer reflections on my experiences and what I have learned from them after looking back on my involvement in several different groups and organizations over the last couple of years and most recently from Occupy Chattanooga:

      We Must Cultivate Communities of Care
      The dominant society is highly abusive and degrading. Everyday we are hit with a barrage of messages, actions and experiences that attack our own inherent value and dignity. It is absolutely critical that folks committed to the work of justice create open and inclusive spaces that are free from the abuse of the dominant culture. We must begin creating the future society within shell of the present, that means changing how we relate to one another, identify with ourselves, and how we work together to structure the spaces we are creating on the basis of values and principles that we as a group collectively chose to uphold. When others break these commitments, when they step out of line and act in ways that do not reflect the values of the community we are trying to build, then we must correct with kindness and patience. Accountability is essential, but so is forgiveness.

      If you consistently leave meetings feeling disturbed, upset, anxious, frustrated and hurt, then something is terribly wrong. Any meeting with others who are committed to the work of justice should replenish us, fill us up and leave us feeling more deeply committed to the work ahead (maybe not every time, but most of the time). If we don't take care of ourselves and each other in the spaces we create then we should ask ourselves what it is we are really doing.

      Don't Make Assumptions - Commit to a Process & Principles
      Many groups and community organizations form on the basis of everyone sharing some basic commitments. Folks come together to protest a politician or corporation. They work to create a community garden or participate in a workshop. Many came together due to the excitement surrounding the global Occupy movement. Whatever the initial impetus, when a group starts working consistently on shared goals, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that everyone agrees on most things, especially on basic bedrock principles. Slowly, over time, serious disagreements, challenges and concerns begin to crop up. If the space is not structured in a way where everyone can voice their concerns and feelings (and have them actually heard), then often times individuals who do not agree with the direction of the group simply leave. If the group is pretty active or engaged in long-term campaigns, then it can also easily fall into the trap of believing that taking the time to come to consensus on the shared principles of the group, the explicit mission of the organization, or even something as simple as an explicit explanation of the process by which decisions are made, are all somehow detrimental to the work they are already doing because it takes focus away from "actual action". A consequence of this is that the personalities and relationships that currently dominate the space will continue to exert a greater influence over the group and the capacity of the organization will continue to diminish or remain stagnant as others are effectively blocked from participating meaningfully and taking a greater degree of responsibility for the organization.

      I know it can be really difficult to see the trade off between slowing down and being publicly and intentionally committed to a process, but it is incredibly important that we make time to take time, for the sake of everyone involved and everyone who could be involved. It is absolutely essential to the health and viability of grassroots organizations that they don't fall into a "do-ocracy" mindset - that those with the most time & commitment get to make the most decisions - because this creates a whole series of barriers for others to participate and fosters a cliquish mentality that breeds resentment & mistrust, and actually lowers the groups capacity to do real work because fewer people can be empowered to take ownership over the process and take responsibility for the organization and its actions.

      Make It Explicit
      If everyone is open, honest and explicit with how the decision making process works and about the principles of unity that we hold in common, then it builds trust and shows everyone how they can be included and creates an expectation of how they are to treat others and in turn be treated. Making our shared principles and process open and public is a sign of respect we show one another by intentionally creating space for each of us to make meaningful contributions. By explaining the process openly we commit ourselves to it and create the basis for holding one another personally accountable to it.

      Create Space for Struggle
      Many groups fall into the trap of conflating principled and respectful struggle and disagreement with "divisiveness". Folks who share their concerns and thoughts are then attacked for "creating problems" or for trying to break apart group cohesion. This attitude, in my experience, typically arises from white males who interpret criticisms of the group process as a challenge and direct threat to the de facto position of leadership they have been capable of acquiring and feel entitled to.

      One of the most dangerous traps an organization can fall into is to openly claim that critical self-reflection and open and honest struggle around issues of concern should be abandoned for the sake of focusing exclusively on issues that everyone agrees to (sometimes this is called focusing on "alignment" rather than "agreement"). What this means in consequence is that the concerns of the dominating personalities will dominate. This is especially dangerous when the criticisms being raised come from people of color and other folks from other marginalized communities, because when they are told that they need to subordinate their criticisms for the sake of group cohesion we are again structuring the space and organizing our decision making process in ways that reflect the white supremacist culture that prioritizes the interests and concerns and even emotional sensitivity of white folks over folks of color, men over women, and heterosexuals over queer folks.

      It is absolutely critical to our personal growth as activists and organizers and to the health of the groups we work with that we take the time to critically reflect on our experiences and to discuss with one another these reflections, concerns and critiques.

      Don't Replicate the Culture of Corporations and the State
      A society is democratic to the extent that everyday, grassroots folk have meaningful opportunities to participate in the decisions that affect us. There is a direct relationship between democracy and our ability to determine the conditions of our own communities, rather than having decisions and choices made for us. In our attempts to create spaces based on the values of a radical democracy we must not replicate the abusive and exclusionary organizational structures of the society around us. If folks are committed to the organization then every decision made in that organization directly affects them. That means that everyone deserves to have a meaningful stake through an explicit process that is adopted by the consent of everyone involved or to the greatest extent possible. Getting to this point can be very difficult, and for good reason. Our dominant society has made no attempt to provide us with skills, knowledge and experience to foster a committed community of individuals working for justice. Every attempt to create these spaces is going to be messy, difficult, and challenging. If we are to be successful, we must learn from them. This requires that we intentionally engage others in the act of reflecting critically on our shared experiences. None of us were born with this knowledge and we will only gain it through trial and error, which brings me to another important lesson I have learned:

      We Make the Road by Walking: Learn as we Lead, Teach as we Fight, Educate as we Organize

      UNDP Ethics Scandal: Elia Armstrong hired at UN-DESA without a competitive process at a D1 post

      UN-DESA calls it a "temporary job"the one awarded to Elia Yi Armstrong, the current Ethics Director of UNDP. No selection was necessary, and sources at UN-DESA say that the process was already pre-arranged since last September 2011.

      Elia Yi Armstrong, who came to UNDP from UN-DESA, held her old job at DESA a P5 post for almost 3 years. She was supposed to return to her post as P5, as per UN rules. But being a Korean (South) and an accomplished pianist (her BA is in Piano Pedagogy/Music) she deserves a D1, barely 4 years into her P5 (including the years at UNDP as Ethics Director).

      Critical Self-Reflection: Abandoning the Language of Rights

      To see what is in front of one's nose is a constant struggle. - George Orwell
      Being an effective organizer (which I aspire to be) requires consistent and dedicated critical self-reflection. I am always struggling to spend the time and energy necessary (by myself and with others) engaged in intentional critique of how the work we are doing meets our intended goals, how our experiences confirm or invalidate what we hold to be true and what we should change and how and why we must change it in order to accomplish whatever we set out to do.

      Reflecting back on the build up to the "March to Support the Right to Housing" I am met with the jarring realization that in every intentional public conversation - whether on the radio, on Facebook, or in person - I had about housing in general and the struggle of the Westside in particular, I was fighting an uphill battle because I was fighting arguments whose assumptions were not my own and whose context and prejudices were hostile to my goals.

      Almost every conversation focused with laser-like precision on this word "right". The concepts, history, reasoning, and habits of belief associated with the "right to housing" fell predictably within a few patterns:

      1. Discussions around the Constitution of the United States and the "original intentions" of the framers of the Constitution in using the word "rights" and what should be considered a legitimate extension of the word from the context it was written within in 1776 to the present.
      2. Metaphysical considerations about what constitutes a "right" and what kinds of persons and things "rights" are to be extended to.
      3. "Rights" were associated with concepts and words like "entitlements" and "handouts". The words "right to housing" very quickly provoked reactionary right wingers into vindictively spewing thinly-veiled racist and classist attacks against poor and working families for demanding more from the table of privilege than these hard-liners thought them deserving of.
      4. The word "rights" is passive and was consistently interpreted as an argument for expanding and entrenching "big government" (as in demanding that some third-party bureaucrat take from some and give to others) rather than an argument for pro-actively shaping human choices and consciousness around certain problems and issues in ways that aspire to the values of fairness, equality and self-determination that the majority of us hold.
      Looking back, I am left with the feeling that the language of "rights" is dead - not because I do not like the concept, but because it does not do the "work" I need it to do. By using "rights language" for public housing, food access, police brutality, participation in decisions that directly affect us, or whatever the case might be, we are inevitably placing ourselves in a defensive position and are forced to both defend and advance our arguments and the principles that underlie these arguments against assumptions that stack the deck against us.

      From the Particular to the Universal, From Solidarity to Demands

      When we were arguing that the "right to housing" needs to be "recognized" by our city government we were beginning with an abstract idea (with a ton of loaded baggage that served only as a distraction) and then using it to make a particular demand, e.g. demanding that the city government create a zoning ordinance requiring all new housing developments of a certain type to have a certain percentage of units set aside for low-income folks. I now feel that it would have been a better choice, tactically, to use the concept of "solidarity" in place of "rights". Organizing is a process that begins with forming intentional relationships, over the course of developing and deepening these relationships we uncover the overlapping interests and needs that provide the motivational force and the shared context within which we chose to act together to remake the world. Solidarity is the act of recognizing our own needs within the needs of others. Solidarity is therefore a concept that describes the act of organizing. Building relationships with folks in low-income communities of color and working with them to show how their needs and their community and their struggles overlap with those of others is precisely what the work of organizing in the Westside has been. In this way, the story of COA and the stories of the individuals who have been working together to form an intentional community in the Westside is a story about solidarity. This story of solidarity is a natural and organic expression of ourselves.

      The use of the word "rights" does nothing to express this story. It also does nothing to express the other side of our struggle - the intentional exclusion of the Westside in particular and poor and working-class communities in general from decisions made by our local government that have a direct affect on them.

      For example, the decision by the Mayor's office to cancel the Bessie Smith Strut with no notice and to invite Purpose Built Communities to come and present a proposal for gentrifying a low-income community of color to the benefit of well-connected land developers are actions that prove how our government has intentionally excluded the broad public of poor and working people from having a proportionate say in decisions that will have a direct consequence on their lives. Through purposeful exclusion and active marginalization of poor and working people and people of color, our government has fostered a hierarchy of involvement in public decisions that directly benefits the private interests of the well-connected. The revolving door of access between our the government and corporations has created an incestuous social network of folks who have virtually identical interests and goals. Here are some examples of this grand conspiracy of interests:

      • Volkswagon gets over half a billion dollars in handouts in return for jobs, but the bus line does not run out to their plant, so the ostensible benefit resulting from the cost we pay is only distributed to the privileged as opposed to those with the greatest need. 
      • The Chamber of Commerce receives almost a million dollars of tax payer money every year from the combined city and county budgets, this money is then used to advance the interests (and drive up the profits) of area businesses. No money is allotted to advance the interests of excluded workers or area unions. 
      • Purpose Built Communities, of Atlanta, is hosted at the Chattanooga City Council's Housing Committee, but organized residents who live in public and subsidized housing are denied any opportunity to have their concerns and vision for their community heard. Time and again we our local government provides clear concrete examples of why there is a direct need for solidarity between poor and working people in our city - and why folks who have a mortgage or are renting should support the efforts of folks who live in public and subsidized housing. At the heart of it all, what the residents in the Westside were essentially demanding was that our society and economy start working for the benefit of poor and working people rather than for the interests of corporate and political elites.

      Even though I recognize that the claim to the "right to housing" is just short-hand for the demand that our communities be directly involved in the process of allocating our shared resources and deciding to what purposes those resources are put, I think that the hang ups are too great and the assumptions that guide the use of the term are too distracting to justify its continued use. Using the language of "rights" to make claims takes me away from having a conversation about the concrete realities of injustice in Chattanooga and instead puts me on the defensive, having to trade a conversation on tax abatements handed out to businesses for the "original intentions" of the framers of the Constitution or a conversation on the necessity of community control of community resources for the sleepy and passive demand that others simply "recognize" an inert "right".

      I would recommend that, after reflection, the language of "rights" be instead replaced with the language of "solidarity". I am also left with the overwhelming suspicion that the world we are trying to build will not be possible through the use of conceptual tools like "rights" - and that if another world is made possible it will only be made so through the organic adoption of entirely new patterns of reasoning, habits of belief and modes of description. 

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      La gouvernance

      L’objectif principal des interventions du PNUD dans le domaine de la gouvernance est la mise en place à terme d’un système de gouvernance stable et légitime favorisant le développement humain durable.

      En tenant compte des Objectifs du Millénaire pour le Développement (OMD) et des défis prioritaires déterminés par le Document Stratégique de Réduction de la Pauvreté (DSRP), le programme « gouvernance » vise à assister le gouvernement dans l’atteinte des objectifs globaux de développement suivants :

      A. Améliorer les performances de l’administration et les institutions publiques
      B. Améliorer l’accessibilité et la qualité des services publics
      C. Assurer la transparence et la reddition des comptes dans la gestion de la chose publique
      D. Renforcer la participation citoyenne

      Pour la période 2006-2007, les interventions du PNUD/Kinshasa s’articuleront autour de quatre axes stratégiques appelés aussi sous-programmes. Chaque sous-programme est développé dans le but de contribuer principalement à un des quatre objectifs globaux de développement défini plus haut.

      Liste des projets par ligne de service

      Appui au Renforcement des Capacités Institutionnelles des Partis Politiques
      • Appui au Renforcement des Capacités Institutionnelles des Partis Politiques en RDCEtat : en cours
        Le projet cherche à contribuer à jeter des bases favorables à l’émergence d?un système politique représentatif, où les partis politiques remplissent leurs fonctions démocratiques en constituant des relais par lesquels les intérêts de la population s’exprimeraient dans la sphère publique.
        Lieu:Ensemble du territoire national
        Période:Mai 2006 - Juillet 2008
        Chargé de Programme:clara.alemann@undp.org
        Budget Total:600.000 USD
        Sources de financement :PNUD, UNDEF
        PublicationFiche du projet

      Projet d’Appui au Cycle Electoral en RDC (PACE)
      • Projet d’Appui au Cycle Electoral en RDCEtat : en cours
        Suite à l’assistance électorale fournie à travers le projet PNUD/APEC entre 2005 et 2006 dans le cadre de la mission intégrée des Nations Unies, le présent projet représente la nouvelle étape de l’intervention du PNUD en matière d’assistance électorale, essentiellement consacrée au renforcement des capacités de la CENI.
        Lieu:Ensemble du territoire national
        Période:10/2007 au 12/2011
        Chargé de Programme:Aissata Dei aissata.de@undp.org
        Budget Total:296 988 683 USD
        Sources de financement :
        PublicationFiche du projet