Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Marshall Ganz on Obama, Sweatshops Won't Save Haiti

Hi. Jerry Kay and Marshall Ganz honed their skills as high level
organizers for Cesar Chavez and the UFW. Marshall was a key
planner of the mass mobilization which elected Obama. This
interview reflects great insight and provides understanding in the
puzzle that occupies many minds.

From: Jerry Kay
Subject: MArshall Ganz's recent Opinion on Obama

Ed, Marshall and I talked for quite awhile last August and I said that Obama
blew it already 1) he should have in his inaugural address mobilized the
nation --especially the young as did JFK--to pitch in on specific projects
to help the country. Failing to do that he lost his ardent base.

2) he should have tackled jobs first, not healthcare, because that became
the primary concern of most people.

He disagreed with number 2 and said Obama had to tackle everything at once
and that was good.
But here's his anaysis about the WAY he has gone about and why it's failing.
rather technical, and from an organizer's prospective; probably not for mass
consumption. But thought you'd like to skim thru it. You may disagree on
certain political principles.

Former Obama Adviser: Why Is Administration So Unassertive?
by Ari Melber / www.thenation. com

President Obama's reignited health care campaign faces two burning
questions. Will it succeed, after so much skirmishing and compromise,
and why did it take so long for Obama to settle on the most direct route
to legislative victory--the unapologetic pursuit of a majority vote
through the maneuver formerly known as reconciliation?

Everyone has their theories, of course, but a recent conversation
with one former Obama campaign adviser offers some provocative insights.
Marshall Ganz, the veteran United Farm Workers Organizer who advised the
Obama and Dean campaigns, is speaking out on the record--a rarity among
Obama's circle of disciplined political aides.

"The job of those trying to create change is actually to create crises
that require a legislative solution," says Ganz, who now lectures
on public policy and organizing at Harvard's Kennedy School. "Now, a
crisis that is felt by the powerless isn't a crisis, because the powers
that be don't experience it to be a crisis. And so the challenge of the
powerless," he argued in an interview last week, "is how to create the

Ganz was reflecting on the Obama administration' s struggle to summon
public support for health care reform. He believes Obama's team forgot
the Saul Alinsky maxim that good organizers have split personalities
--they polarize audiences in order to mobilize for a cause, and after
building power, they de-polarize to settle for negotiated gains.

"You have to create the urgency and the need for action, which
inherently involves a process of polarization, " Ganz explained, "but
then, to actually settle anything, you have to shift and be able to
negotiate." Obama, whether on the public option or lowering the age
for Medicare, often seems to settle first. Ganz argues that tendency
drives a "government strategy that is curiously non-assertive. " He
blasted both the administration and progressive groups for investing in
a health care approach that was not only fatally flawed, but obviously
so, based on his reading of history:

The Obama Administration seemed to try to mobilize by depolarizing. ..
it seemed like an effort to compromise your way to deep reform. I've
never seen that that has ever worked in the history of this country, and I
doubt anywhere, because it's a contradiction. So, on the one hand, the
administration was not being clear, aggressive.. .as it
had been in the campaign...and more culpably, the leadership of the
reform movements, the people who were fighting for health care, for
labor law reform, for environmental reform, for immigration reform, all
bought in to this strategy. They all bought into "let Obama do it. He
knows what he's doing."

Contrary to the conventional narrative, both in traditional and
progressive media, those "reform movements" were not always
outgunned.Some even had budgets that rivaled the health care
industry. Health reform groups spent $23 million on advertising alone
by last summer, for example, topping industry advertising at the time,
according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group.

Yet rather than building independent support for initiatives beyond
Obama's plan, such as the public option or single payer, the big players
like Health Care for America Now (HCAN) spent their resources backing
the administration' s lowest common denominator. Now rhetorically,
HCAN remains strident--or polarizing, in Ganz's taxonomy. As Obama
moves forward with reconciliation, the top priority on the group's website
is a call for a "mass citizens' arrest of the Insurance Companies" on
March 9, to hold them accountable for the "criminal health care system."
Of course, this is the same group that spent money to defend Sen.
Blanche Lincoln, despite her threat to join GOP filibusters of the health
care bill. It's like having Stokely Carmichael as spokesman for the DLC.

Meanwhile, the crucial task of pressuring wayward Democrats has been
left to much smaller, upstart groups that rely on grassroots donations.
(See Chris Hayes' new report on that effort, "CPR for The Public Option.")

Ganz confronted this disconnect, and outlined its costs, in a Washington
Post essay last summer that roiled Obamaland. Matt Beiber, a Harvard
graduate student who interviewed Ganz last week, asked about the
reaction to that article.

"I think our piece sort of struck a chord, but not enough of the chord,"
Ganz said, though he detects a growing awareness that "unless
people who want to see deep reform mobilize and fight for it, it's not
going to happen, and that what Obama offers is an opportunity to do
that." Returning to "Rules for Radicals," Ganz added, "It's like Alinsky
once said, 'The liberals need radicals.'.. .Unless you have that pressure
out there, it's not going to happen."

Apart from interest group politics, Ganz has concluded that Organizing for
America,the 13-million-person network from the 2008 campaign, has been
reduced to redundancy:

By keeping [OFA] tied directly to the President, then it was like if the
President was pursuing a strategy of, "Let's compromise with everybody,
and I'm not going to define what I'm for..." And you're out here in the
field trying to mobilize people around "we don't know what, from who,
under what circumstances" --you can't mobilize that way. You can't
organize that way.

So [OFA] wound up being in a very weird position, where they really had
no program, that there was nothing they were clearly fighting
for...So there was no strategy. So they were reduced to getting people
to make phone calls to legislators who already supported their position,
and act as if that was mobilizing something.

Finally, Ganz ended with a note of resigned speculation. "You know,
it almost makes it appear like what they wanted to do was keep the
machine on for the next election."

This article can be found on the web at:


Sweatshops Won't Save Haiti
by Tope Folarin

Common Dreams: March 15, 2010

The United Nations will host a Haiti donors' conference at the end of March.

This conference will be quite different from last year's event, of course,
coming as it does on the heels of the worst earthquake to strike Haiti in
two centuries. An agenda has already begun to take shape: It's already clear
that a future Haiti must be populated with environmentally sustainable,
earthquake-resistant buildings, for example, and it's also clear that the
international community must do something to ease Haiti's massive debt

Former President Bill Clinton, currently serving as the UN's envoy to Haiti,
and economist Paul Collier have another idea that could prove disastrous.
They think Haiti needs to leverage its "cheap labor."

In other words, they think Haiti will solve its problems by opening up more

Of course Clinton and Collier don't call them sweatshops. They talk about
"garment factories" or "manufacturing centers" or simply "workshops," but
they are sweatshops and nothing more.

For Haiti to join the ranks of developed nations, they argue, Haitians must
first work as many hours as possible for paltry wages so that their economy
can grow.

Congress seems to agree. It has passed several bills that provide Haitian
garment-makers preferential access to American consumers. According to
conventional knowledge, Haiti was on the road to economic success--as a
result of these legislative reforms--before the earthquake. Now, the logic
goes, Haitians must rebuild their collapsed "workshops" and produce as many
cheap T-shirts as possible.

All this ignores the most important point: sweatshop labor's inherent
inhumanity. Sweatshop labor proponents have never worked in the conditions
they so enthusiastically endorse for others. When advocating such solutions,
they often offer compelling numbers as proof of their effectiveness. But
what about the human costs: the extra hours workers spend away from their
families, the risk of injury that accompanies repetitive movements, and the
loss of morale as some boss demands that you produce even more?

In Haiti, there are a few plausible alternatives to sweatshop labor. In the
lead-up to last year's donors' conference, progressive Haitian civil society
organizations suggested a development program that focuses on local
production and agriculture. They argued, convincingly, that the benefits
from sweatshop labor often end up somewhere else, since the clothes are
constructed on-site; the material for the clothes are shipped in, and the
clothes are shipped out upon completion.

A focus on locally produced goods, however, would have the opposite effect.
Haitian entrepreneurs would produce according to Haitian needs, and every
part of the manufacturing process--from the development of materials to the
production of goods--would take place in Haiti and benefit Haitians.

In addition, building up the capacity of Haitian farmers is crucial in the
coming months and years. Haiti has been dependent on food aid for many years
now, and a national program that focused on sustainable agriculture would
not only have the effect of providing a livelihood and locally produced food
for countless Haitians, it would also allow Haiti to address the
environmental degradation that has crippled its economy for generations.

The link between these two suggestions is infrastructure development. Better
roads and better transportation generally mean a much more stable and
efficient economy.

All three of these proposals would require funding from the international
community and expertise from abroad as well. All three proposals, if
enacted, would benefit Haitians enormously.

The upcoming donors' conference is an incredibly important forum. We have an
opportunity to help Haitians rebuild in a manner that simultaneously
respects their humanity and enables them to become more productive.

We have an opportunity to heed the voices of concerned and knowledgeable
Haitians. Now isn't the time to subsidize foreign investors' sweatshops.

Distributed by Minuteman Media

Tope Folarin is the 2010 Carol Jean and Edward F. Newman Fellow at the
Institute for Policy Studies, a community of public scholars and organizers
linking peace, justice, and the environment in the U.S. and globally.

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