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Soccer vs the State: A Review

International Soccer Network
March 2nd, 2019

If you spend much time on Twitter, you’ll see all kinds of people calling for change in the beautiful game.

Hashtags like #ProRelUSA and #UncorporateSoccer are quite common here in the States, while influencers like Ted Westervelt offer a love/hate relationship in the social world.  Overseas, players are still dealing with the more serious issues of racist chants, anti-antisemitism, neo-Nazis and the far-right.

Simply put, football and politics continue to be intertwined and not always in a good way.  Creating change, especially of the positive variety, in either is not easy.  But there is help on its way.

The second edition of Soccer vs. the State: Tackling Football and Radical Politics is the go-to guide to creating change and experiencing a paradigm shift in your thinking towards the game of football.  It’s written by by Gabriel Kuhn, an author that has seen his fair share of controversy.  The first edition was a slim 260 pages and drew rave reviews from ISN and just above everyone else all the way back in 2011.

The second is a hefty updated version that includes 332 pages of content.   There are lots of true updates in the form of new content.  Kuhn catches readers up to all the happenings over the past eight years, including the Middle Eastern uprisings, the FIFA scandal, and the strike by the Danish women’s team.  There’s even a foreword from musician Boff Whalley, who is best known for being the former lead guitarist for Chumbawamba.

Kuhn is passionate about his work and that comes through loud and clear in Soccer vs. the State.  This proves to be a must-read for any football fan that is not satisfied with the status quo.  It is a text that will get you thinking.  It will get you past the world of billionaire owners, celebrity players, and global brands, taking you back to the roots of a game that is called beautiful for a reason.

For those trying to create positive change in football, pick up this book and get to work.  It will definitely show you the way.




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David Ranney on Living and Dying on the Factory Floor

By Christian Belanger
Chicago Reader
April 17th, 2019

The UIC prof and former factory worker has no nostalgia for the days of middle-class manufacturing jobs.


In the mid-70s, David Ranney quit his position at the University of Iowa, where he was a tenured professor of urban planning, and moved to Chicago for a job at the Workers' Rights Center, a free legal clinic for industrial workers run out of a southeast Chicago storefront. When money got tight, Ranney decided to look for work at one of the many factories in the neighborhood. Armed with a made-up work history and a couple of friends willing to act as fake references, he landed a position at a shop that built centrifuges. Over the next seven years, he'd bounce from factory to factory, working at a box maker, a freight car manufacturer, a steel fabricator, and the Solo Cup Company.

Burned out and nearly broke, Ranney eventually made his way back to academia after a chance encounter at a cocktail party led to a position at a community research center affiliated with UIC, where he's now a professor emeritus.

Living and Dying on the Factory Floor, released earlier this month, is Ranney's account of his time spent laboring in southeast Chicago and northern Indiana. At the heart of the book is the story of a year-long stint at Chicago Shortening, where Ranney helped organize and lead a prolonged wildcat strike. While the strike ultimately failed, Ranney says the experience was illuminating: within the racially charged environment of the factory, the action was able to, however briefly, bring together different groups of white, Black, and Latinx workers in solidarity. At his apartment in Pilsen, where he's lived for the last 35 years, I spoke with Ranney about Living and Dying. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

In the introduction, you write that the book isn't a memoir. Can you explain what you mean by that?

I went to a memoir class, and the teacher said, "Write down three events that you think were transformative in your life. And you have 15 seconds to do it." So I just jot these down, and they were all deaths. One was a kid that, when I was in fifth grade, got hit by a car. My dad died when I was a senior in high school. But the third one was the death of Charles Sanders. [Sanders was an employee at Chicago Shortening who was stabbed to death by a scab worker shortly after the strike ended.] And that really surprised me, and I realized that his death was about more than just his death although that was very, very traumatic.

You know, he's a person who had some rough edges, you might say. But during the strike, he sobered up. I never saw him high during the strike. And it meant a lot to him, to stand up to these fuckers.

The things that happened at the plant that really shed a lot of light on the relationship of race and class, immigration policy, class policy, this whole idea about middle-class jobs as seen through the eyes of not just me, but workers that I encountered over a period of seven years. And so that's not exactly a memoir.

One person at Chicago Shortening that really interested me was Heinz, the avowed Nazi. Can you explain what was going on with him?

Well, Heinz took on all the symbols of fascism, you know. He had swastikas, he had Confederate flags on his jacket and on his motorbike. But he hung out with the Black workers.

And he'd come down the hall and they'd all go "Sieg heil, Heinz, sieg heil!" They'd laugh and so forth. And he was very militant during the strike. He was solidly working class, and he saw all the other workers as his allies. But why he did the other thing? I don't know. He was just a real contradiction.

You mentioned earlier, and in the book, that you're really annoyed by the rhetoric around bringing back "middle-class jobs" to the U.S. from some politicians and pundits. What do you mean by that?
It's not just that we probably will never have manufacturing at the level that we have—there were a million-and-a-half manufacturing workers in the area. It's also that I don't want people to have to work at jobs like that. There's nothing "middle" about it. A lot of it's really awful.

At that time, workers really could run the factories. I mean, there was enough knowledge there that they could do that. The autoworkers could have run a plant. So one point of view is: OK, workers will take over all these factories and run them. But the other truth is that a lot of them hated their jobs and didn't want to do that. So what is our goal as radicals: Do we want to help workers run these factories for the other society, or do we want to just get rid of those jobs and get rid of work altogether? At Chicago Shortening it was the second thing—those workers hated that place. They called it "the job." And they were always doing little petty acts of sabotage, or they were drunk or stoned. They had no desire to, you know, make shortening.

Reading about all the different groups that came out and supported the strike, it seems like there was a really vibrant, if fractured, leftist world in Chicago at the time.

Oh yeah, really, really vicious.

I was in the Sojourner Truth Organization for a time and we had a number of people that worked at a plant called Stewart-Warner on the north side. And every left group had people in Stewart-Warner, because it was one of the few plants where the workers entered from the sidewalk into the plant. And the parking lot was across the street. And so you could leaflet people as they came in.

At the end, all these differences really do come out. This Marxist-Leninist group wrote a critique of how we behaved in the Chicago Shortening strike. It was quite fascinating, really. They were totally critical because, you know, we didn't see ourselves as a vanguard party and we didn't take [the plant] over and organize it better. They thought that we had made this huge mistake.
Were you still working in factories when Harold Washington was elected mayor?

I actually left factory work in 1982. But I think that the Harold Washington business—I was working at UIC for that—he did try to see if you could have progressive public policy at the city level. There was one point where, after Wisconsin Steel closed down [in 1980], they had this thing called the Steelworkers Committee to Save our Jobs. And it was organized by a black steelworker named Frank Lumpkin who was in the Communist Party. I did sort of material support, helped them write a newsletter.

They had an ongoing lawsuit, because International Harvester had sold Wisconsin Steel to a firm that had no assets, so they couldn't be sued. And then they closed the mill and just literally locked the gate. We came up with a proposal that the city would buy the mill, mothball and preserve it, and then sell it once the price of steel went up again, and hire these guys back.

At that time, there was a thing called the Mayor's Task Force on Steel in South Chicago. I was on one of the subcommittees, but I did have standing to make proposals. So the steelworkers from Save our Jobs Committee asked me if I would go and make this proposal before the task force [on Steel in South Chicago]. So I did, and they didn't like it. The guy who was the chairman of the committee was Phil Klutznick, one of the biggest developers in the city at the time. And he kept saying, "OK, we've heard enough from you, son, we've heard enough." I said, "I'm not finished yet." I disrupted the meeting.

I went back to the office of Save Our Jobs Committee, and told Frank and the guys that are sitting around what had happened. And Frank says, "Shit, we got to tell Harold about this." And he picks up the phone and dials and says, "Harold, this is Frank Lumpkin." He says, "Can we come down? See you in about half an hour? OK, we'll see ya." And this says a lot about who Harold was, too, because he was close to these people. I don't think it was a [Communist Party] thing. I think this Black steelworker was a community leader and Harold respected it.

We went in—he had his office that, for security reasons, had no windows and was completely surrounded by an outer office. When you walk into this room and there's this desk had absolutely nothing on it but a yellow pad, and Harold was sitting behind the desk. We talked to him for about an hour, and he said, "The thing you guys have to understand is I really don't have much power. I'm trying, I'm doing my best. But when push comes to shove I doubt they'll go along with it, and I can't make them do it." I thought that was all very insightful. 

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Deflating the Legend of America's Golden Age of Industry

By Jenni Herrick
Shepard Express
April22nd, 2019


In 1976, there were more than 1.5 million heavy industrial jobs available to workers in Chicago and northwest Indiana. Today, when we hear politicians promising to bring middle-class manufacturing jobs back to American cities, they erase the harsh realities of what now-closed factories looked like in the United States only a few decades ago. Honestly, manufacturing work was dirty, dangerous and destructive to the environment. Racism, low pay and deplorable working conditions were the norm at most American factories long before deindustrialization reached its current levels.

An eye-opening and provocative new book by labor activist and professor emeritus David Ranney, Living and Dying on the Factory Floor: From the Outside In and the Inside Out, takes readers to Chicago as the author recounts his own experiences working in factories and organizing for better working conditions. Between 1976 and 1982, Ranney held jobs at seven manufacturing plants in the heavily industrialized area in the heart of Chicago’s South Side. He recounts sordid tales of illegal immigration raids, supervisor abuses, serious injuries and high tensions over race and class. During his year-and-a-half stint at the Chicago Shortening plant, Ranney found himself in the center of a wildcat strike, a work stoppage so named because it occurs in violation of a no-strike clause. The personal recollections in Living and Dying on the Factory Floor are passionate depictions of social struggle and outline tangible ways that activists of today can mobilize for a more just society.

Ranney left a faculty position in urban planning at the University of Iowa in 1973 to pursue socialist labor organizing. He later returned to academia at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He will speak at Boswell Book Co. at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 25.

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Not in Labor: Birth Strike in Jacobin

An interview with Jenny Brown

With meager public support for parents, US women are having fewer children than ever. Raising the next generation is work — and American women seem to be on strike.

by Liza Featherstone
Jacobin
April 23rd, 2019

In 2017, the birth rate in the United States reached an all-time low. In her new book Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight Over Women’s Work (PM Press), activist and author Jenny Brown argues that declining birth rates represent a work slowdown, or strike, in the face of the poor conditions for those who do the labor of bearing and raising children.

Like many of the classic texts of the Second Wave feminist movement, Brown’s book is her own, yet also a collective, intellectual endeavor, growing out of her organizing work with Redstockings and National Women’s Liberation, including those groups’ discussions and consciousness raising sessions.

Jacobin’s Liza Featherstone spoke with Jenny Brown about the book at New York City’s Strand bookstore earlier this month.

LF
Feminists are always fighting for our reproductive rights, to defend access to abortion. What assumptions have feminists generally made about why this is a fight in the first place? What stories have feminists told about the ruling class’s interest in our reproduction?

JB
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, feminists thought the reason that birth control and abortion had been outlawed was the need for cannon fodder; the government wanted more troops. And this was true and very explicit. Teddy Roosevelt was raging at women who didn’t have kids. Feminists were saying that the reason they want us to have so many kids was to supply this incipient empire that the US was becoming.

That is very different from the sixties, when we were hearing, at least from a portion of the establishment, that women were having too many babies. There was all this crime and overcrowding in the cities. Women were once again to blame.

So while some feminists still thought the ruling class wanted the birth rate up, for many feminists — and I count among these Linda Gordon, who wrote a history of birth control, and even some of the pioneers in the abortion movement like Lucinda Cisler — the US ruling class was cutting back on abortion and birth control not because they wanted more population but because of these other reasons: wanting the church to grow, religious objections. Punishing women for having sex is a big one.
 
LF
That’s a standard one.

JB
So it’s not about how many people are being produced. I think that’s where we stood early 2000s when we first started working on this project.
 
LF
And you’ve found that these narratives aren’t quite right.

JB
Our experience started, when Kathie Sarachild, one of the founders of Redstockings, basically said, it looks like women in the US are on strike. At the time it sounded right, but we weren’t sure.

We were trying to get the morning-after pill available over the counter. Dozens of countries already had that when we started. We expected the Bush Administration to be a big opponent, and they were. What we didn’t expect was that when the Obama administration came in, it was also opposed to making morning-after pill contraception available over the counter. In fact they overrode the FDA’s order to make it over the counter for all ages.

We were a little bit shocked. The Democratic Party hadn’t been all we wanted on reproductive rights, but here we were talking about contraception. Obama explicitly said he didn’t want his young daughters to get hold of this pill, which is sort of contradictory. [In 2011, when Obama said this, his daughters, Sasha and Malia, were respectively 10 and 13, ages at which, if pregnant, a person would certainly need an abortion.]

So we started to look at why opposition to birth control had become mainstream. Because with abortion at least you can say, okay, maybe it’s about politics, but since 80 percent of anti-abortion people are for birth control, you’re really taking a position that’s wildly at odds with your constituents, if you’re opposing birth control.

So we began to wonder if it was maybe a period more like 1913, in terms of what was going on with population politics.
 
LF
In other words, you began to think, the ruling class wants us to make babies.

JB
Yeah. And then at the same time, we were having this experience in our group of wanting to have kids and not being able to make it work.

We had a consciousness raising in 2015. We went around the room and many people had one child, wanted a second, felt that their family was not complete, had great relationships with their siblings, felt their family was not complete with only one, but could not make it work based on the double day that they were working, the expense of child care, unreliable health care, not having paid leave, all the things that we know go into making it possible to have kids.
Often those of us who hadn’t had kids also had similar reasons. This was certainly true for me: I went fifteen years without any health insurance at all, and when I got a policy, it ruled out anything that was a pre-existing condition — including my reproductive organs. It required that if I did get pregnant I had to already have bought in advance a pregnancy rider in order to cover the pregnancy.

You start to think, if I can’t even get healthcare, how am I going to cover this child? And I was not living a very well-paid life, so that definitely was a factor. And we found that was universally a factor for women in our group who wanted kids. Now, of course, there were some who never wanted kids, they wanted to do other things, and that’s fine. But for those who did want kids, their economic situation was really an obstacle.

Look at what other countries have, such as paid parental leave, where they’re essentially paying you to have a kid. You’re off your job but you’re getting a paycheck. The US is doing reproductive work entirely on the cheap. You get sixteen months in Sweden, you get almost two years in France. Here, apparently, employers could not even tolerate eight weeks of paid leave. We’ve had to struggle for that, and got it in a couple of states, but it’s a very small portion of your salary. We are the only country, really, that does not have paid parental leave.
Then there’s childcare. The expense of childcare is borne by families in the US whereas it’s largely borne by the state in many countries in Europe. Oh, and also, all these countries have national health care! Many of them have child allowances, basically a check for every kid you have. So once we started looking at that, we realized that the US strategy was to push all this expense and work onto the family.
 
LF
One of the things that’s so intriguing about the story you tell in your book is how differently the US seems to be dealing with the challenge of low or stable birth rates than other countries.
Some of the benefits in other countries that you just described seem to have been instituted at least partly in response to elite concerns over the birth rate. Whereas our solution to that problem seems to be forced childbearing.

JB
Yes. For example, in Sweden in the 1930s there was a lot of concern about women going out to work and the birth rate going down. And that’s basically the origin of the social welfare state in Sweden.

In France there has constantly been worry about the low birth rate because they were competing with Germany, which they had been at war with. There’s even a cartoon from the 1880s of three Germans against two French, bayonets drawn: the message is, have more kids.
France tried everything, and finally they tried making it easier for women to have kids by instituting long paid leaves, lots of childcare, and they’ve really put a lot of resources into it. But before that, they were doing the same thing that we’re doing here: making abortion illegal, bad sex education.

In the US we’re still in that situation of coercive natalism: making it harder and harder to get abortions, making it harder to get birth control, sex education that doesn’t explain sex.
 
LF
The concept of consciousness raising has come up a couple times already. Could you explain a bit for people who don’t know, what that is and where it came from, and how it’s been important in the process of creating this book?
 
JB
Consciousness raising was the program of the 1960s women’s liberation movement. Basically, rather than study books about who women are and what we are, we talk among ourselves and really examining our experiences in an honest and deep way. And then form a conclusion: what is going on? Why are we experiencing these things in our lives?

So that was consciousness raising and it spread the movement like wildfire. It was responsible for really spreading women’s liberation across the country by 1970. I’m in National Women’s Liberation, and also Redstockings, which has been almost continually in operation since its founding in 1969. But I was also involved in a group called Gainesville Women’s Liberation which was founded in 1968 and was the first Southern women’s liberation group. So my group, National Women’s Liberation, comes out of those strains of the women’s liberation movement and we still use consciousness raising pretty much for everything we do.

We use it to figure out our oppression, figure out our organizational strategy, we use it to figure out organizational issues. We really sit down and examine our experience in all of those instances and I think it gives our politics a little more grounding in women’s experiences and lives. We have been doing neighborhood consciousness raising in New York, so you don’t have to go a long distance, you can go somewhere that’s close to your house, meet with other women and talk about these issues. There’s even a chapter in the book that is just consciousness-raising testimonies about having kids.
 
LF
One of the assumptions that we as feminists have made about the politics of the birth rate is that governments want white women to reproduce more and women of color to reproduce less. You agree that there’s a lot of racism surrounding the discussion of birth rates and reproductive rights. But you argue that it hasn’t always played out in quite the way we assume.

JB
The history of reproductive coercion in this country starts with slavery. Black women have always borne the brunt of this. The slave system claimed that children of slave women were owned by the slave-owner even if the father was free. So that meant that an enslaved woman’s reproduction was a source of wealth for the owner, not just in the form of workers but as wealth in itself.

So this created enormous pressure for slave women to reproduce, and of course they resisted. It turns out that chewing on cotton root is a fairly effective contraceptive, which they discovered. Enslaved women also did all the things women do when they’re trying to control their reproduction: concealed miscarriages, forms of abortion and whatnot.

And I should say that there was a lot of nervousness on the part of slave-owners during that period about the fact that in many states they were outnumbered by the people they were holding captive. And when the Haitian revolution starts in 1791, they really freak out. They don’t want to import any slaves from the Caribbean because they are afraid it will bring the flame of insurrection north. Then there’s even more pressure on enslaved women to be the reproducers and that takes on all kinds of horrifying forms.

But when slavery ends, they still have to keep this workforce in place, and there’s a long period of making laws against vagrancy: they’re trying to keep in place this black workforce which is no longer in bondage, though these laws are trying to force them back into bondage. However, repression in the South being what it is, and the economic situation in the South being miserable for black people, they eventually leave: the great migration. There are even stories about southern landowners trying to prevent black people from leaving, tearing up their tickets.
So what happens in the 1960s? There’s enormous ferment during the Second World War around equal rights. Then almost a million black GIs come home and southern landowners get really nervous about this. So they hurry up the farm mechanization that had started during the war when there was a shortage of workers. And basically within fifteen years, cotton is mechanized in the South.

That means that suddenly they have a lot of very militant black workers who are unemployed — and they freak out and start to do forced sterilization. Fannie Lou Hamer, the legendary leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was sterilized in 1961 when she went into the local hospital to get a cyst removed. She estimated that 60 percent of women in her county had experienced this when they went to the hospitals. And there’s a lot of other evidence of forced sterilization going on. So it’s very clear that they wanted black people as long as they could control their work, and then as soon this population becomes restive, that’s when they come in with the forced sterilization.

And you can also see that in Puerto Rico. Big US owners come in and take over most of the land and suddenly there’s an “overpopulation crisis,” because everyone is being kicked off the land. Then they come in with both sterilization and an untested birth control pill, which they distribute lavishly.

So the issues are, is there a land grab? Is this population costing the elites money? Are they demanding things? Is the population in revolt or revolution? And do the elites need their work?
These are the considerations when the ruling class tries to figure out what the population policy is going to be.
 
LF
And how about now?

JB
It’s very clear why African-American women are always on the forefront of fighting for reproductive justice. The principles of reproductive justice are, to be able to not have kids when you don’t want to have kids, to be able to have kids when you do want to have them, and to have decent conditions in which to raise them.

Rather than just talking about “choice” or abortion rights, really talking about the whole range of things. And that comes from this horrifying experience of sterilization being forced on African-American women.
 
LF
You talk in your book about some other times in history when the phrase birth strike has been used. Can you talk about the roots of the idea?

JB
Emma Goldman when she toured around talking about birth control, called it her “birth strike” lecture. That would have been 1913-1914. It’s a term that, in that period, meant women controlling their reproduction. It doesn’t mean a coordinated, concerted effort; it means, we’re doing a slowdown because life is so hard.
 
LF
We tend as feminists to talk about women’s reproduction as a site of oppression: women are oppressed because we’re the ones who can biologically have babies and this is used against us in all kinds of ways.

Obviously that’s not wrong. But in the book, you wonderfully reframe this, arguing that our reproduction is also a kind of power. We have something that the elites want. And throughout history, they’ve often wanted it. That society needs this reproductive labor in the same way that it needs people to keep the factories making things, people to keep the trains and trains running.

This seems much more exciting and hopeful. We control the means of reproduction, in the same way that Marx observed that workers in a factory control the means of production. When workers go on strike, they try to get better pay and better working conditions. So, what should we try to win in this birth strike?

JB
 
A national health care system (guaranteed health care for everyone). Paid leave, lots of it, sixteen months like they have in Sweden for example. A national childcare system, free like the public schools, with unionized teachers who have decent benefits and good funding.
And again, the fight is over our time so shorter working hours for everybody. In the post-war period there was this idea that the family wage, the male breadwinner wage, would cover the family. It would cover the breadwinner and his spouse and children. So it was a sexist way of arranging things because women were dependent on a guy, but it also had a progressive element, which was that the employer was at least putting something in toward the family.

Well, we don’t want to go back to a sexist family wage system, but what we want to do is go forward to the social wage, like in Europe, where there are things you get just because you live in the country. So, national health care. In the family wage system, the health care is through the job, so you get it through your husband’s job. That makes you even more dependent on your spouse and you’re also dependent on his employer. In a social wage system, everybody gets health care, married or not, it’s doesn’t depend on your marital status at all; it’s not dependent on your relationship to a guy at all.
 
LF
I think people often don’t fully realize how feminist that is and how impossible women’s liberation is without that.

JB
Also, paid leave. In some countries in Europe you don’t even have to have a job to get paid leave; you just get it when you have the kid — so, really replacing some of these things that were done by the family wage with the social wage.

You also notice that with both spouses were now going out to work, now employers are getting eighty hours where they used to get forty hours, and the family care is crammed into the remainder of the day. Well, one feminist way to recapture that time is for everyone to work twenty hours for the same pay that they’re getting for 40 hours.

One thing I should add: we have not called for a birth strike. We’re simply reporting that there is one. Since the birth rate has dropped, if we’d called for a birth strike ten years ago we’d now feel fabulously successful.



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Science Fiction's Gay Elder Statesman

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Living and Dying on the Factory Floor: From the Outside In and the Inside Out: An Antipode Review

By Steven Tufts
Antipode
April 15th, 2019


David Ranney, Living and Dying on the Factory Floor: From the Outside In and the Inside Out,Oakland: PM Press, 2019. ISBN: 978-1-62963-639-9 (paper)

The pipeline from activism to academia is well established. Many of the New Left that took up full-time academic positions in the 1970s and 1980s transitioned quite well from the workplace, the union office, the street, or even the jail cell to the respectability of the lecture hall. Most continued activism within the university. As this generation ages, there are moments of reflectionon past political work and the lessons learned.

David Ranney’s book is both within and beyond this genre. Living and Dying on the Factory Floor could be considered a didactic memoir, but that would too easily dismiss the pages that read like a novel and discount many other passages with cutting analysis. The short book is an account of Ranney’s life from 1976 to 1982 when he worked in a number of factory jobs in southeast Chicago and northwest Indiana. The author was an active member of several revolutionary organizations who at the time sent members into factories to engage workers independently of unions. One such group that shared this practice was the Sojourner Truth Organization (STO) which greatly influenced Ranney’s politics. The organization named after the mid-19th century escaped slave and activist operated throughout the US Midwest in the 1970sand early 1980s. STO was not only skeptical of any transformative potential of unions and Sovietstate capitalism, but also situated white supremacy at the forefront of analysis and action.

Ranney captures this period with detailed narratives of life at work in different factory settings and at a Workers’ Rights Center. From his falsified work experience on job applications to the exhausting heat, stench, noise, and pollution on the shop floor, his account brings the workplaces to life. The author takes us on a journey from his first job re-servicing centrifuges to a box factory, shortening production, rail freight car assembly, steel fabrication, paper cupproduction, and steel mill equipment manufacturing. Each workplace reveals challenges from unsafe work and injuries to rampant racism and corrupt strike-breaking unions.

The experiences are recounted with humor and melancholy. Again, it reads like a novel with dialogue among workers and bosses establishing a number of unforgettable characters. An alcoholic who emerges as a leader during a strike and racist white men concerned primarily with their position in a racial hierarchy haunt the reader as well as the author. The stories of strikes, union drives, and immigrant workers escaping raids by La Migra all unfold with suspense and passion.

Important themes run through the accounts of the factory floor that Ranney develops in concluding reflective chapters. First, the drudgery of factory work in the narration in no way romanticizes the manufacturing sector. From the filth of the workplaces to the dangers of the work itself (including when the author badly burnt his face), the manufacturing labor process is seen for what it really was like. Ranney also sheds light on what the manufacturing sector was becoming as lines were automated and jobs outsourced. “Bringing back middle-class jobs” via manufacturing remains a contradiction (p.119). As the author notes in this and his other work (Ranney 2003, 2014) the outsourcing and deindustrialization which have destroyed communities are, in part, responses by capital to the demands of blue-collar workers in the first place.

Second, Ranney centers the racial division of labor as “both the keystone and mortar of the US factory system” (p.123). Here he echoes the work of C.L.R. James and the political writings of Noel Ignatin and Ted Allen (2011) as white-supremacy must never be “side-stepped” in order to focus on a false white masculine class-unity. Similarly, the issue of immigration which divides legal and illegal workers also needs to be viewed as a mechanism of class domination.

Third, Ranney reflects on the relationship between Left intellectuals and workers. He situates himself at a midpoint in the insider/outsider binary as someone having “dual status” with the privileges that come with whiteness and education. Cleverly, he turns to the different experiences and backgrounds of the workers he stood beside as complex “social individuals” (in the Marxist sense) with just as many contradictions. Ranney is optimistic that these differences can be transcended as unity is formed in moments of materialist struggle.

As much as I enjoyed this well-written book, I was left with a sense of frustration. In many post-industrial workplaces, the same issues portrayed by Ranney persist today. Fragmentedworkplaces with racial divisions of labor have not disappeared. Anti-black racism and labor market exclusion and anti-immigrant policies seem as prevalent as they were 35 years ago. And while manufacturing employment has declined in some economies, there are still large workplaces that could be targeted for mass organization, if an organized Left of any significance actually existed.

There is also a slight incompleteness in the work. Perhaps, I just wanted more from a project that is clearly designed to focus on a specific moment. Yet, I wanted to know more about the experience. Ranney is careful to avoid the “white savior” trope that creeps into many “outsider” organizing stories. He is clear that the STO position was to encourage and support resistance but not agitate as they did not have the capacity to support workers put in jeopardy. Was this really the case? In some of the events that unfold such as the strike at the shortening factory, he does appear to be in a leadership role and a threat to corrupt union leadership.

Ranney comes clean with his own limited understandings of the racist mechanisms of the workplace at the time. For example, only after reflection and talking with workers did he realize racist tests were used to exclude workers from the jobs he had. He does, however, come short of placing himself within these racial structures. In some accounts he ignores racist statements by co-workers, while directly confronting statements (and even Nazis) in others. What explains these different approaches at different times, and what are the contradictions of fighting in a racially divided workplace when your own presence in the hierarchy reproduces it? Similarly, more could be said about the masculinity and gender relations in these largely male workplaces. Here, is where I was left wanting for more reflection.

There is also the question of a tenured professor taking paid factory work. In the preface, Ranney speaks about his choice to leave academia and his tenured position at the University of Iowa in 1973. In his case, the pipeline from activism to academia was anything but linear as it went from activism to academia to activism to academia again. In today’s job market such a choice seems unimaginable given that landing a tenure stream position is almost like winning a lottery. The allure of political organizing in the factory was, however, strong enough to pull the author from his “comfortable perch”. In one particular history of the STO, Ranney has gone on the record that he (and others) were so convinced of the importance of organizing at the point of production that a split occurred in the organization when the leadership shifted to political organizing within the “white Left” (see Staudenmaier 2012: 144). If we accept this account, it raises some serious questions about the relationship between Left activism and workplace organizing. How many Left academics would leave secure employment to get a job at Walmart or Amazon? Is it a viable or preferable strategy over the long-term? After all, even Ranney himself returned to academia after dedicating a decade to organizing in factories.

Living and Dying will appeal to a number of audiences. Those with interests in labor studies and organizing, political formations emerging out of the New Left, and autobiography as research method should all read it. But anyone with a sense of humanity and social justice who has ever worked in a factory will eagerly turn the pages. For this reason alone, I really do hope the book travels beyond academia and makes it to the factory floor.

References

Ignatin N and Allen T W (2011 [1967]) The White Blindspot Documents. In C Davidson (ed) Revolutionary Youth and the New Working Class: The Praxis Papers, the Port Authority Statement, the RYM Documents, and Other Lost Writings of SDS (pp148-181). Pittsburgh: Changemaker

Ranney D (2003) Global Decisions, Local Collisions: Urban Life in the New World Order. Philadelphia: Temple University Press

Ranney D (2014) New World Disorder: The Decline of US Power. North Charleston: CreateSpace

Staudenmaier M (2012) Truth and Revolution: A History of the Sojourner Truth Organization, 1969-1986. Oakland: AK Press

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Birth Strike: A Review in The Progressive Populist

By Seth Sandronsky
The Progressive Populist
May 1st, 2019

April 2 was Equal Pay Day in the US. Why? The hourly pay gap between women and men workers is a social problem.
First, consider its character. For that, we turn to Elise Gould, a senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington DC.

“On average in 2018,” according to her, “women were paid 22.6% less than men, after controlling for race and ethnicity, education, age, and geographic division.

“Furthermore, if the overall 22.6% gender pay penalty isn’t cause enough for alarm, the gaps for black and Hispanic women are even larger. Compared to white men, black and Hispanic women are paid 34.9% and 34.3% less, respectively, after controlling for age, education, and geographic division.”

What to do about the gender pay gap? One policy Gould recommends is increasing the federal minimum wage. It is currently $7.25 an hour, no typo, folks.

Another policy recommendation is for the enactment of HR 7. As federal law, it would “amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes.”

Jenny Brown is the author of Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight over Women’s Work (PM Press, 2019). She, with National Women’s Liberation now and a former editor at Labor Notes, has a bold take on the systematic exploitation of women’s labor in and out of the paid labor force.

“First, when women have kids and,” she told The Progressive Populist in an email interview, “because of lack of paid leave and childcare, one spouse has to leave their job, unequal pay means it is almost always the woman because as a unit you want to keep getting the larger paycheck. That puts her back in the position created by the family wage of dependence on the male breadwinner.”

The consequences of a two-tier, gender-based hourly wage structure has far-reaching impacts in and out of the home. Children of all genders, for example, win or lose based in no small part on the rate of pay that adults receive.

Brown calls for increasing the social wage versus payments in cash, taxations benefits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or allowances for kids, e.g., taxable deductions. Why? Upping the social wage allows chronically underpaid women and their families to disconnect from the tyranny of the “family wage system” where the boss does not have to be right; s/he just has to be the boss and by force of power rules the increasingly union-free workplace.

By contrast, social wage provisions are universal policy options. That is “they are provided to everyone in the society regardless of marital status, age, or any other characteristic, and therefore are more of a feminist way to go.” No means-testing metrics that allocate social wage provisions based on household income, a kind of divide-and-conquer approach to keeping the working class, women and men, down and divided.


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Birth Strike: A Review in New York Journal of Books

By David Rosen
New York Journal of Books
April, 2019

Is a baby a commodity? Is pregnancy and childbirth work? Is raising a child a job? These are among the provocative questions that inform Jenny Brown’s study, Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight over Women’s Work.
 
Brown is a feminist without sentiment, a Marxist without humanism. In this well-researched work, the author seeks to strip away all sentiment from people’s—especially women’s—understanding of the economic role of the domestic services women perform. She sees such service as a form of undervalued and unpaid labor. These services include pregnancy and childbirth, rearing a child and all the domestic chores required to maintain a household, and taking care of the elderly and infirmed. As the old saying goes, a woman’s work is never done.
 
This argument is compounded by the book’s underlying thesis, the “baby bust.” She reminds readers that during the post WW-II era of the “American Dream” “the wages of one full-time male breadwinner” was enough to support a wife and kids, but now “two breadwinners are necessary to support a family.” In the face of this historic change, Brown argues, “women are deciding to have fewer children.”
 
Brown identifies two significant consequences of this development. First, corporate and political “elites are foretelling economic doom if women don’t step up reproduction.” She quotes a conservative writer who asserts, “declining birth rates constitute a problem for the survival and security of nations . . . in the broadest existential sense of national security.” Second, she stresses that the elites are using the power of the state, including the Supreme Court, to restrict a woman’s right to an abortion and limit contraception and birth control information (especially for young girls). The outcome of these developments is a decline in fertility rate.
 
The decline in the fertility rate is occurring at a time when life expectancy has significantly increased. Brown notes that in 1900, U.S. life expectancy was only 47 years and by 2018 it has jumped to 79 years. Compounding this picture, the Guttmacher Institute reports that nearly two-thirds (62%) of all women of reproductive age use a contraceptive and nearly all women aged 15–44 who have had sexual intercourse used at least one contraceptive method. Equally significant, between 1991 and 2014, the teen birthrate fell by nearly 40 percent, to 24.2 births per 1,000 females from 61.8 births, due to sex ed and use of contraceptives.
 
Embracing a traditional Marxist analysis, Brown argues that women are part of the “reserved army of labor.” She repeatedly reminds readers that conservative policymakers promote anti-abortion and anti-birth-control policies in order to promote an increase in the birth rate. The increase would help foster cheap labor. She details her critique through extensive discussions of birth rates and women’s work in terms of immigration, race, and labor practices.
 
She also makes clear that the U.S. is not alone facing the “below-replacement birth rate”; other countries facing a similar decline include China, Japan, Germany, and the UK. She insists that “the fight over the birth rate is mainly aimed at extracting another type of cheap labor: the labor of bearing and rearing children.”
 
Amidst her rigorous analysis, one small question comes up. In a chapter reviewing the history of the debate over the birth rate, she notes that in the early 20th century, leading radical socialists like Rosa Luxemburg, Clara Zetkin, and V. I. Lenin argued against what they believed was the moderate socialist position promoting the “birth strike” to contest capitalism.
 
While apparently intellectually and politically identifying more with radicals, Brown argues: “A birthrate slowdown or strike, accompanied by feminist organizing and protest, might pressure the power structure to provide better working conditions for reproductive work, but the problem isn’t too many children to being with.”
 
Drawing on the experiences of other advanced Western society, Brown recommends that the U.S. needs to introduce a national health care program, free abortion on-demand and birth-control, universal free childcare (and eldercare), parental leave for all, and a shorter work week. It’s unlikely that a birthrate strike will do much to realize these important goals.

David Rosen's most recent book is Sex, Sin & Subversion: The Transformation of 1950s New York's Forbidden into America's New Normal. His articles and book reviews have appeared in such diverse venues as Salon, Black Star News, Brooklyn Rails, Huffington Post, CounterPunch, Sexuality and Culture, The Hollywood Reporter, and others.

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How Anti-Abortion Rhetoric Shapes Pro-Choice Advocacy


By Marie Solis
Broadly
April 2nd, 2019
 

Historians and advocates for reproductive justice say our understanding of abortion has been influenced by the anti-abortion movement’s “pro-life” arguments against it.

For several weeks stretching from early-February well into March, President Donald Trump couldn’t stop talking about abortion.
During his State of the Union Address, Trump criticized a law that lifted a longstanding criminal ban on abortion after 24 weeks in New York, saying it allowed fetuses to be “ripped from the mother’s womb moments before birth.” The following week, Trump held a rally in El Paso, Texas, where he told the crowd that comments Virginia Governor Ralph Northam made days before—in response to a question about a bill to ease restrictions on abortion later in pregnancy—amounted to an endorsement of infanticide. “Democrats are also pushing extreme late-term abortion,” Trump said from the stage to his booing supporters.

“Late-term abortion” isn’t a medical term, Anuj Khattar, an abortion provider based in Washington, explained to Broadly last month. He described it as a rhetorical tactic anti-choice individuals use to “create more emotion around the process of abortion and make people feel empathy for the fetus.” Neither is “partial-birth abortion,” a term that has been used over decades to talk about a common second-trimester abortion procedure. "First of all, one can’t be partially born," Jennifer Gunter, a California-based OB/GYN, explained in a 2016 HuffPost column on what she sees as the absurdity of the “partial-birth abortion” term.

If we accept that language shapes our reality, then it’s not just possible but likely that the way we think about abortion, the way it’s legislated and regulated, and the polarized debate that swirls around it, has been influenced by terms like these. In many cases, it’s the anti-abortion camp that has either created the words we use to talk about abortion or redefined existing ones to suit its agenda—a phenomenon pro-choice advocates, abortion providers, and scholars say has resulted in our understanding of abortion care being shaped by an inherent bias against it.

Some argue the implicit message these words and phrases carry—that abortion is morally wrong and shameful—has managed to infiltrate the pro-choice side of the debate as well, meaning even the most ardent feminist activists might find themselves inadvertently apologizing for abortion even as they fight for the universal right to access it.

As federal abortion rights continue to face grave threats from a newly conservative-leaning Supreme Court, the stakes have gotten higher for those against more restrictions. Under these circumstances, thinking carefully about how we discuss abortion isn’t a petty semantic concern, Nathan Stormer, a University of Maine professor of rhetoric, explained: It’s a matter of women’s lives, and their ability to lead the lives they want.

“The secret rhetorical value of abortion is how it allows people to promote different ways of living over others—and that comes on the backs of women,” Stormer said. “And that’s what’s repugnant."

The terms “pro-life” and “pro-choice” frame contemporary debates around abortion. The former, which has come to represent the anti-abortion position, dates back to a 1960 text from the famous Scottish educator A.S. Neill, who used it to promote a progressive, “pro-life” approach to parenting. In the later half of the ‘60s, however, anti-abortion activists adapted the term for their slogan “right to life,” later changing it to “pro-life” after the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on Roe v. Wade in 1973.

When Katha Pollitt, the author of the 2014 book Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights, reflects on pivotal moments for the abortion rights movement, she counts this—the moment the anti-abortion side of the debate decided to identify itself as “pro-life”—as its biggest loss. “The anti-abortion movement managed to colonize the word ‘life,’ which is a very big and resonant and powerful word,” Pollitt said in a phone interview. “One thing that’s great about it is that it casts the other side as ‘pro-death.’”

The anti-abortion movement has also found success in that endeavor by making fetal personhood, the notion that a fetus has the same rights as a human being, its linchpin. This hadn’t always been the movement’s focus: Early arguments against abortion largely focused on the moral and social imperative for women to have children as well as maternal safety, according to Stormer, who studies medical literature on abortion from the 1800s to 1960s. In the mid-19th century, he explained, abortion did in fact pose a significant risk to maternal health, simply because knowledge about how to perform one safely and effectively wasn’t widespread. “People [opposed to abortion] would say, ‘Women are bleeding and dying’—and it was true,” Stormer said.

Over time, medicine became more sophisticated, abortion became safe, and, in 1973, it became legal. Rather than focusing on women’s lives, the anti-abortion camp found a stronger foothold in rhetoric emphasizing fetal life, which provided the basis for its new “pro-life” designation. Advancements in science also presented anti-abortion activists with the opportunity to further their cause, often by distorting scientific facts to fit their narrative.

Of these advancements, the development of ultrasound technology has been the biggest boon for the anti-abortion movement: Ultrasound machines became commonplace in clinical settings in the early 1960s, the availability of which led to a now-famous LIFE magazine photo essay of a 28-week fetus, “The Drama of Life Before Birth.” In 1976, medical ultrasonics became advanced enough that doctors could pick up the electrical pulses cardiac cells make as they develop—a phenomenon anti-abortion activists have come to refer to as a “fetal heartbeat."

“The anti-abortion movement managed to colonize the word ‘life,’ which is a very big and resonant and powerful word."

Anti-abortion politicians and activists continue to try to make science cohere to arguments against abortion. The typical anti-abortion protest in 2019 might include blown-up sonograms of fetuses developed past the point at which most women terminate pregnancies, or photos of infant children. “Fetal heartbeat” bills, which use the point at which doctors can first detect a “heartbeat”—around six weeks—as the threshold for banning abortion, have become increasingly popular among conservatives, as have legislative proposals concerning “fetal pain,” which seek to ban abortion at 20 weeks based on the scientifically debunked idea that fetuses begin to feel pain at that time.

When Iowa Republican Steve King introduced his version of a “fetal heartbeat” ban in 2017, he used an ultrasound machine to drive home his message. As the sound of a heartbeat thrummed over the speakers, King told attendees of the House committee meeting: “He can’t wait to be born.”And leaders in the anti-abortion movement also made a broader effort to invoke scientific consensus when they themed this year’s March for Life “Unique from Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science,” arguing in a mission statement that “life begins at fertilization, or day one, when egg meets sperm and a new, unique, human embryo is created."

“Technology, science, and medical developments provide the means to shape persuasive rhetoric to protect human life,” Clarke Forsythe, the senior counsel at Americans United for Life, the country’s first pro-life public interest law firm, wrote in an email.

That the pro-abortion rights camp would settle on “choice” to counter the anti-abortion discourse wasn’t always a given. In the early 1970s, Jimmye Kimmey, the executive director of a now-defunct group known as the Association for the Study of Abortion, wrote a memo arguing “choice” was the best way to counter the weightiness of “life.”

“‘Right to life’ is short, catchy, composed of monosyllabic words—an important consideration in English,” she wrote at the time. “We need something comparable. Right to choose would seem to do the job. And...choice has to do with action, and it's action that we're concerned with.’”

Activists in support of abortion rights began to coalesce around the term "choice" in the early '70s.

But even as abortion rights activists began to coalesce around the term “pro-choice,” discussions concerning the merits of the label sprung up in women’s organizations across the country. Years after Kimmey’s memo, a young woman who would go on to lead the National Organization for Women was attending one of her first meetings with the organization, where board members were debating the use of the term.

“We had a big discussion about whether we would say ‘pro-abortion’ or ‘pro-choice,’” Toni Van Pelt, who has served as NOW’s president since August 2017, said on the phone earlier this month. “We determined that we would go with ‘pro-choice’ because our goal was women’s self-autonomy. We didn’t want it to seem like we were pushing abortion on people.”

Van Pelt said she was “agnostic” at the time of the discussion—1989—and NOW ultimately decided to take the mainstream feminist line of using “pro-choice,” thought it has since adopted messaging referring to abortion as a human right. Considering the current threats to abortion rights on the local, state, and federal level, Van Pelt says she sympathizes with the early arguments in favor of taking a stronger rhetorical stance.

“What we’re seeing today is probably why people wanted to use the term ‘pro-abortion,’” Van Pelt continued. “And that’s because there’s nothing wrong with abortion and there’s nothing wrong with using the term ‘abortion.’ It shouldn’t be stigmatized.”

In the fetal personhood discourse, abortion constitutes murder, a crime for which society reserves its harshest moral judgements. And it’s in this context that nearly 1 in 4 women will obtain an abortion in her lifetime, according to Guttmacher Institute. Some say even those who reject the anti-abortion movement’s central premise—that a fetus is a person—can easily internalize its pro-life messaging.

Amid recently reignited debates over abortions later in pregnancy (again, widely discussed using the medically inaccurate term “late-term abortion”), a woman named Dana Weinstein told Broadly about the shame she’d experienced terminating a pregnancy around the 31-week mark, about a decade ago. At 29 weeks, her doctor had showed her an MRI scan of the fetus’ brain, showing gaping parts of it missing. The doctor told her the missing parts of the fetus’ brain meant that either the baby would seize to death moments after delivery, or that it would spend the rest of its life experiencing seizures 70 percent of the time. As Weinstein sought second and third opinions from genetic counselors and specialists, she says there was no point at which anyone present terminating the pregnancy as an option. When she finally asked if having an abortion was a possibility, she was overcome by tremendous guilt.

"I kept telling my husband, 'Please don't think I'm a horrible person,'" Weinstein said. "Of course he didn't—but it was so frustrating that I had this stigma in my face when I was in this devastating situation."

Anti-abortion activists circulate misinformation about abortion all of the time—common claims that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, or feelings of depression, for example, have all been disproven—and that misinformation can impact women’s choices. But so too can the intent behind spreading it, said Diane Horvath-Cosper, an OB/GYN and fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health.

Horvath-Cosper hears traces of this stigma all the time in her work as a Maryland abortion provider. “People come in and ask questions about the procedure that makes it very clear to me that the info they’ve received has been misrepresented by anti-abortion groups,” she said.

“Because the messaging is so negative and vile, people come in with an extra layer of guilt and sadness.”

It’s one of the pro-choice movement’s foremost objectives to get rid of that guilt and sadness. But even so, abortion rights activists see a slow creep of anti-abortion ideology influencing their own messaging and approach to advocacy.

“When I started at NOW, we started with: ‘Abortion on Demand, Without Apology,’” Van Pelt, the president of NOW, said. “But the movement as a whole stopped emphasizing that because of the blowback.”

The slogan had been popular in the pre- Roe 1970s, when the pro-life movement was still working to become more unified and organized. And though there are sects of the feminist movement that continue to use it, the rallying cry softened over time, partly in response to the still-pervasive anti-choice narrative that women were getting abortions on a whim. “They would say, ‘Oh, she needed to get her nails done and the pregnancy was an inconvenience to her, so she got an abortion,” Van Pelt recalled, thinking back to the discourse of the late 80s, when she first joined NOW.

Pro-choice activists march in support of safe and legal abortion in New York at a 1977 demonstration.

The Democratic Party under President Bill Clinton pushed the left to reframe the abortion debate when, in 1996, he used the slogan “safe, legal, and rare” to describe the party’s position. This moment helped precipitate what Pollitt calls the era of the “awfulization” of abortion, a central feature of which involves pro-choice advocates unwittingly implying that abortion is something regrettable and unfortunate.


At times, Pollitt says this internalized stigma seems to have penetrated even the highest reaches of abortion rights advocacy. When the Susan G. Komen Foundation withdrew funding from Planned Parenthood in 2012 amid a congressional investigation many thought to be fueled by anti-abortion activism, spokespeople from Planned Parenthood responded by reassuring the foundation that preventative care made up 90 percent of its services. And for years after, Planned Parenthood emphasized that abortion represented just 3 percent of what it provides to patients, the sort of statement Pollitt sees as a missed opportunity to say instead: “Yes, we provide abortions, a legal and necessary service, and we’re proud to do that.” Planned Parenthood did not respond to Broadly’s requests for comment, but on its website the organization states it is “proud to provide safe, legal abortion at health centers around the country.”

Pollitt says she understands what would move pro-choice advocates to make these appeals to the opposition: Planned Parenthood is under constant threat from the Trump administration. And, more broadly, as supporters of choice consider a country without federally guaranteed abortion rights, they’re forced to discuss some of the terrible positions women find themselves in that may necessitate abortion.

“I think pro-choicers are in a terrible bind,” Pollitt said. “You have to talk about rape victims, fatal fetal anomalies, and the risk to women’s lives when abortion becomes unavailable. … I understand all of this softened language, but I wish there were more people out there who used the stronger, prouder language.”

Much of this bolder language can be found in abortion storytelling, which most pro-choice advocates have come to see as the movement’s most effective strategy.

The origins of abortion storytelling trace back at least as far as 1971, when, led by French feminist scholar Simone de Beauvoir, 343 women published a manifesto, declaring: “One million women have abortions each year in France.” The year after, abortion storytelling gained a prominent platform in the US when Ms. magazine published its inaugural issue, featuring a story titled “Women Tell the Truth About Their Abortions.” The names of 53 women who had obtained abortions appeared beneath the article, including the likes of Billie Jean King, Susan Sontag, Grace Paley, and Ms. magazine founder Gloria Steinem.

One of the contemporary iterations of this phenomenon is Shout Your Abortion, an abortion storytelling platform a woman named Amelia Bonow started by accident in 2015. Following a congressional vote to defund Planned Parenthood, Bonow wrote a Facebook post about the positive experience she had getting an abortion at Planned Parenthood the year before. Days later, she took her story to Twitter, this time tagging it #ShoutYourAbortion; in just two weeks, more than 150,000 other posts cropped up using the same tag. “There’s something about talking about your life on your own terms that’s just unassailable,” Bonow said.

Four years later, the hashtag is still widely used, and pro-choice organizations like Planned Parenthood have launched their own storytelling campaigns to speak out against abortion restrictions on the state and federal level.

“There’s something about talking about your life on your own terms that’s just unassailable."
In the face of pro-choice apologetics, other abortion rights advocates have pushed more to identify as “pro-abortion,” that daunting label NOW and other women’s groups opted to avoid in the 80s. In an August 2018 piece for The Outline, writer Kathi Valeii asserts that “plenty of people are pro-abortion”—so more of them should say so.

“At its core, ‘no one is pro-abortion’ is a message of concession,” Valeii wrote. “It is this kind of rhetorical ceding that makes room for the anti-choice agenda to flourish, which has resulted in the consistent whittling away of people’s ability to access abortion.”

When Stormer considers the possibilities for how shifting language can change the abortion debate, he becomes pessimistic. Even being a rhetorical scholar, an area of study that relies on a belief in the power of words and how we employ them, he doesn’t see how using different ones could ever bridge the divide between the pro-life and pro-choice camps. The slogans, the messaging, the individual words and phrases we use to discuss abortion have changed dramatically since the 19th century, he said, yet the underlying arguments and values have remained the same.

But for Stormer, the goal of recasting the language surrounding abortion isn’t to reach a point of reconciliation—it’s to find a way to put up the best defense possible for the women whose lives depend on access to abortion.

“After all of this time, after all of the people who’ve died over this—why would we be able to resolve the debate?” he said. “It doesn’t make sense that we would come to a quick resolution. The short-term thing makes the most sense: Next year, women need to have more access.”
How can pro-choice advocates achieve this? Stormer has thought through many of the possibilities: He can see the pros and cons of framing abortion as a human right, or framing abortion as a form of health care, discourses that have emerged more forcefully in the Trump era. But at the basis of all these, he says, is the overarching idea that abortion is good, which is the most vital part of any argument in favor of it.

“If you frame abortion as a social good, it shifts things a bit,” Stormer said. “And the terrain will shift.”

Bonow can already feel the terrain shifting under her feet. As women continue to use #ShoutYourAbortion to talk about their experiences terminating pregnancies, she says she can see the fetters of shame falling away—one of the most powerful tools anti-choice activists have at their disposal.

“We’re chipping away at stigma and it’s working; it just is,” Bonow said. “One day we’ll get to a place where someone’s saying, ‘I’ve had five abortions; deal with it.’ We’re just not quite there yet. But it’ll happen.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify NOW's current messaging on abortion rights.

Leading voices and organizations in the anti-abortion movement are trying to rebrand their position as "pro-science," despite what medical professionals and reproductive health advocates say is a tendency for key figures and groups within the movement to distort scientific facts to further their cause.

March for Our Life President Jeanne Mancini will try out the new messaging on Friday at the largest annual anti-abortion demonstration, whose theme this year is "Unique from Day One: Pro-Life is Pro-Science," a decisive break from last year's: "Love Saves Lives."

"Being pro-life is not in opposition to science," the March states on its website. "It’s quite the opposite in fact! Medical and technological advancements continue to reaffirm the science behind the pro-life cause—that life begins at fertilization, or day one, when egg meets sperm and a new, unique, human embryo is created."

The March for Life did not immediately return Broadly's request for comment.
Doctors have a different view of how science relates to their work, seeing scientific findings as the basis for providing better care for their patients—abortion care included.

"As an OB/GYN, I find it an honor to take care of women in all sorts of reproductive health situations," Carley Zeal, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, tells Broadly. "Sometimes, that means they're seeking an abortion. I feel very confident that science really backs me up in providing the most comprehensive care for them."

Zeal is an abortion provider in Missouri, where some of the country's strictest anti-abortion laws have eliminated all but one abortion clinic, Planned Parenthood St. Louis, where she works. Zeal argues that some of the restrictions placed on women seeking abortions in the state are based in ideology rather than science. In order to terminate a pregnancy under Missouri law, women must first receive counseling that can include misleading information about the negative effects abortion can have on their mental health and likelihood of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Women are then required to wait 72 hours—the longest mandatory waiting period in the United States—before receiving abortion care.

"What we know is that the National Academy of Sciences, which is a nonpartisan scientific group, affirmed in their report on abortion safety that abortion is safe and effective in all forms and that same report found that the biggest threat to quality of abortion care is the litany of medically unnecessary precautions that raise costs and delay procedures," Zeal said.
The March 2018 report, as Zeal notes, deems legal abortions in the United States "safe and effective," and concludes definitely that having an abortion "does not increase a women's risk of secondary infertility, pregnancy-related hypertensive disorders, abnormal placentation, preterm birth, or breast cancer." Nor does it "increase a women's risk of depression, anxiety, and/or post-traumatic stress disorder."

"The anti-choice movement's attempt to turn toward science is misleading to women," Zeal said.

It's not the first time the anti-abortion movement has tried to alter its messaging to hew to more widely accepted ideas. Last year, BuzzFeed News reported that the movement was angling for a rebrand meant to evoke women's empowerment after reporter Ema O'Connor attended an anti-abortion convention in Missouri, where booths spilled over with feminist-inspired merchandise.

The event also offered a number of workshops in which speakers cautioned women against the old marketing strategies commonly used in efforts to end abortion. Instead of invoking religion or using fear tactics, speakers at the gathering suggested anti-abortion advocates take on a friendlier demeanor and deploy the girl-power messaging common in mainstream feminism.

“You have fornicated in the sight of God! Come out with your hands up!” one woman with a bullhorn shouted—providing an example of what not to do—at a talk called "Don't Be Weird: Ineffective Messaging in the Pro-Life Movement."

“Yes, this is real!” the leader of the workshop told the audience, according to BuzzFeed News, emphasizing the outdated nature of such an approach. “This is on the sidewalk in the Midwest.”
Anti-abortion activists are capitalizing on what they see as forward momentum for their agenda under the Trump administration, which many of them see as providing them with the ripest opportunity yet to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, the head of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, has called Trump "the most pro-life president" the country has ever seen. "We're on the cusp of making history," Dannenfelser told POLITICO in May. "This is the strongest position the pro-life movement has ever been in since 1973." (SBA List did not respond to Broadly's request for comment.)

The Trump administration has proven itself to be a loyal ally to the anti-abortion movement, as well as a particularly visible supporter of the March for Life, which takes place every year on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In 2018, Trump became the first sitting president to address the march, using his keynote speech—delivered remotely and broadcast at the event—to announce a new policy that would ban federal family planning dollars from going to clinics that provide abortions.

“When I ran for office, I pledged to stand for life, and as president, that’s exactly what I have done,” Trump said. “Today, we have kept another promise."


As anti-abortion ideology continues to pervade the highest reaches of government and inform federal policy, Zeal worries about the March for Life's evolving "pro-science" messaging.

"It’s important for us to keep focused," Zeal said. "We have to ask: 'Where does the scientific evidence support us?' And that’s definitely toward access to family planning."

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San Francisco; Or, How To Destroy A City

By Shannon Mattern
Public Books
March 27th, 2019

In Cities, Knowledge, and the Digital Age, a new partnership between Public Books and SFMOMA’s Public Knowledge project, we seek to understand how technology has changed cities. Today’s article is in conversation with Bik Van der Pol’s “Take Part,” which asks: “Is there room for San Francisco in San Francisco?”

As New York City and Greater Washington, DC, prepared for the arrival of Amazon’s new secondary headquarters, Torontonians opened a section of their waterfront to Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs, which plans to prototype a new neighborhood “from the internet up.” Fervent resistance arose in all three locations, particularly as citizens and even some elected officials discovered that many of the terms of these public-private partnerships were hashed out in closed-door deals, secreted by nondisclosure agreements. Critics raised questions about the generous tax incentives and other subsidies granted to these multibillion-dollar corporations, their plans for data privacy and digital governance, what kind of jobs they’d create and housing they’d provide, and how their arrival could impact local infrastructures, economies, and cultures. While such questioning led Amazon to cancel their plans for Long Island City in mid-February, other initiatives press forward. What does it mean when Silicon Valley—a geographic region that’s become shorthand for an integrated ideology and management style usually equated with libertarian techno-utopianism—serves as landlord, utility provider, urban developer, (unelected) city official, and employer, all rolled into one?1

We can look to Alphabet’s and Amazon’s home cities for clues. Both the San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle have been dramatically remade by their local tech powerhouses: Amazon and Microsoft in Seattle; and Google, Facebook, and Apple (along with countless other firms) around the Bay. As Jennifer Light, Louise Mozingo, Margaret O’Mara, and Fred Turner have demonstrated, technology companies have been reprogramming urban and suburban landscapes for decades.2 And “company towns” have long sprung up around mills, mines, and factories.3 But over the past few years, as development has boomed and income inequality has dramatically increased in the Bay Area, we’ve witnessed the arrival of several new books reflecting on the region’s transformation.

These titles, while focusing on the Bay, offer lessons to New York, DC, Toronto, and the countless other cities around the globe hoping to spur growth and economic development by hosting and ingesting tech—by fostering the growth of technology companies, boosting STEM education, and integrating new sensors and screens into their streetscapes and city halls. For years, other municipalities, fashioning themselves as “the Silicon Valley of [elsewhere],” have sought to reverse-engineer the Bay’s blueprint for success. As we’ll see, that blueprint, drafted to optimize the habits and habitats of a privileged few, commonly elides the material needs of marginalized populations and fragile ecosystems. It prioritizes efficiency and growth over the maintenance of community and the messiness of public life. Yet perhaps we can still redraw those plans, modeling cities that aren’t only made by powerbrokers, and that thrive when they prioritize the stewardship of civic resources over the relentless pursuit of innovation and growth.


Nearly 20 years ago, long-time San Francisco resident Rebecca Solnit, in her Hollow City: The Siege of San Francisco and the Crisis of American Urbanism, described the coming gentrification, privatization, and homogenization and subsequent hollowing out of a vibrant metropolis. This prescient book of linked essays, illustrated with photographs by Susan Schwartzenberg, was reprinted in 2018. As we reencounter Solnit’s resonant lament, we meet a host of new San Francisco characters in Cary McClelland’s 2018 Silicon City: San Francisco in the Long Shadow of the Valley. McClelland, a one-time San Franciscan, interviewed more than 150 regional residents and laborers—from angel investors and ER doctors to Uber drivers to longshoremen. His edited transcripts of those conversations offer a prismatic view of this economically stratified and segregated metropolitan region.

While McClelland presents a loosely stitched-together quilt of San Franciscan subjectivities, Berkeley geographer Richard Walker, another Bay Area fixture, has produced the kind of book only an embedded scholar with enviable endurance can create: a deep, virtuosic saga supported by mounds of data and fieldwork. His Pictures of a Gone City: Tech and the Dark Side of Prosperity in the San Francisco Bay Area echoes and updates many of Solnit’s and McClelland’s subjects’ laments, while also explaining, in great detail, how the conditions for their shared concern came to be: how San Francisco became a hotbed of counterculture, environmental activism, and technological innovation, and why those distinctions are now in tension and under threat.

Finally, urban historian Alison Isenberg, in her Designing San Francisco: Art, Land, and Urban Renewal in the City by the Bay, turns to a different set of sources—archival records, the alternative press, unpublished manuscripts, and old architectural renderings—to rewrite a chapter of the city’s narrative that can’t be told through economic data, macroscale maps, or tech company profiles. Focusing on a selection of large-scale Bay Area urban redevelopment projects from the 1940s through the 1970s, Isenberg argues that the assemblage of agents and concerns shaping the modern city’s form and character was much broader than what we find portrayed in dominant East Coast development narratives, like Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities and Robert Caro’s profile of planning mogul Robert Moses.4 In short, she demonstrates, urban change isn’t driven solely by developers and preservationists.

Solnit, McClelland, and Walker join in celebrating San Francisco’s history of racial and socioeconomic diversity, cultural inclusivity, and technological innovation. “We were a sanctuary for the queer, the eccentric, the creative, the radical, the political and economic refugees, and so they came and reinforced the city’s difference,” Solnit writes. McClelland extends the list, adding a couple of the city’s less noble accomplishments: “It bore witness to the Gold rush, the Transcontinental Railroad, Japanese internment, the Beat poets, the free speech movement, the AIDS crisis and modern LGBTQ politics, and the birth of the semiconductor and motherboard.” This mix of factors—along with the region’s clustering of complementary industries (“agglomeration economies”), its “liberation from rigid corporate culture,” and its mix of cyberculture and counterculture, military contracts and university research, progressivism and libertarianism—made the Bay Area a fertile ground for the growth of Silicon Valley, Walker argues.

Today, Walker continues, “the bay region is one of the prime generators of new wealth on the planet, and home to many of the largest and richest corporations astride the globe. It is, moreover”—still—“a place in the vanguard of many political and cultural movements, sending forth ideas that are changing life far beyond its borders.” Yet such material wealth and intellectual and cultural richness have generated their own problems, both in the world beyond its borders and, especially, at home: sprawl, a dearth of available housing, widespread homelessness, debilitating air pollution, more frequent and deadly wildfires, water scarcity, and insufficient resources for all the low-wage workers—often women and people of color—who support the everyday material operations of the tech industry and the city that houses it. “Think of San Francisco as both a laboratory of the new and a preserve for the old subversive functionality of cities,” Solnit writes. Now, “Think about what happens if both these aspects get bulldozed by the technology economy.”

“For San Francisco to become a place that just provides opportunities to buy pet food online is, to say the least, a decline whose effects will be felt far away,” Solnit says, referencing Pets.com, the signature “bust” story of the first dot-com boom. The Bay Area’s consumption of resources impoverishes the surrounding region, and its concentration of wealth and talent leaves less for other cities, Walker notes. We also can’t ignore Silicon Valley’s powerful cultural imperialism, whose effects are felt both locally and globally. McClelland quotes Alex Kaufman, who runs a design team at Google: “It’s this messianic tech thing. We’re saving the world mostly making useless products that solve problems that real people don’t have—it’s problems rich twenty-year-olds have.” He laments tech’s widespread “callousness” and “oversimplification of political problems.”

Almost two decades ago Solnit saw that the efficiency-minded tech industry was framing the messiness of public life as comparatively inconvenient and inefficient, and that the sector thus played a key role in “accommodating spatial privatization and speeding up an economic privatization.” What results, she argues, is a Hollow City, one whose colorful Victorian homes and corporate workspaces mask its increasingly monochromatic populations and cultures. Paul Gillespie, a cab driver quoted in McClelland’s book, wonders: “If you are riding the Google bus, and you are looking on your cell phone for stories that are tailored just for you, and at night you are taking an Uber to a nightclub or restaurant with a lot of other people just like you, where is the interaction with everyone else? Where is the knowledge of what other people are thinking or what’s going on in the world?” Walker likewise acknowledges the tech industry’s role as global evangelist for the exploitative sharing economy, the Californian Ideology, and neoliberalism, and its failure to address privacy breaches and fake news and technological solutionism—all of which have shaped politics and economics around the globe.

These authors lament the Bay Area’s increasing gentrification and homogenization, the displacement of the poor, and the increasing marginalization of the unorthodox and the radical within a Silicon Valley monoculture—all common refrains in political-economic chronicles of modern capitalist urbanization. (And all, we must admit, products of some degree of romanticization; Solnit acknowledges that “what one remembers [in a city] is not necessarily primordial, and all cities sit atop erased landscapes.” The “golden ages” whose passing we lament had themselves erased earlier pasts.) Yet we must remember, as Walker does, that the Bay Area is still “remarkably open to new people and ideas; it is politically and intellectually in continual ferment; and it repeatedly reveals new possibilities of human achievement and social justice” and environmental stewardship.


We must also recognize the ferment and diversity inherent in Bay Area urban historiography, even in the chronicles of its large-scale development projects. Isenberg reminds us that even within the institutions and companies responsible for redevelopment, which are often vilified for exacerbating urban ills, we find pockets of heterogeneity and progressivism. Isenberg seeks to supplement the dominant East Coast narratives, which tend to frame urban renewal as a battle between development and preservation.

In surveying a variety of Bay Area projects, from Ghirardelli Square to The Sea Ranch to the Transamerica Pyramid, Isenberg shifts our attention from star architects and planners to less prominent, but no less important, contributors in allied design fields: architectural illustration, model-making, publicity, journalism, property management, retail planning, the arts, and activism. “People who are elsewhere peripheral and invisible in the history of urban design are,” in her book, “networked through the center”; they play critical roles in shaping not only the urban landscape, but also the discourses and processes through which that landscape takes shape.

For instance, debates over public art in Ghirardelli Square—particularly Ruth Asawa’s mermaid sculpture, which featured breastfeeding lesbian mermaids—“provoked debates about gender, sexuality, and the role of urban open space in San Francisco.” Property manager Caree Rose, who worked alongside her husband, Stuart, coordinated with designers to master-plan the Square, acknowledging that retail, restaurants, and parking are also vital ingredients of successful public space. Publicist Marion Conrad and graphic designer Bobbie Stauffacher were key members of many San Francisco design teams, including that for The Sea Ranch community, in Sonoma County. Illustrators and model-makers, many of them women, created objects that mediated design concepts for clients and typically sat at the center of public debates.

These creative collaborators “had the capacity to swing urban design decisions, structure competition for land, and generally set in motion the fate of neighborhoods.” We see the rhetorical power of diverse visualization strategies reflected across these four books, too: Solnit’s offers dozens of photographs, by Susan Schwartzenberg—of renovations, construction sites, protests, dot-com workplaces, SRO hotels, artists’ studios—while Walker’s dense text is supplemented with charts, graphs, and clinical maps. McClelland’s book, with its relatively large typeface and extra-wide leading, makes space for his interviewees’ words to resonate, while Isenberg generously illustrates her pages with archival photos, plans, and design renderings, many reproduced in evocative technicolor.

By decentering the star designer and master planner, Isenberg reframes urban (re)development as a collaborative enterprise involving participants with diverse identities, skills, and values. And in elevating the work of “allied” practitioners, Isenberg also aims to shift the focus from design to land: public awareness of land ownership and commitment to responsible public land stewardship. She introduces us to several mid-century alternative publications—weekly newspapers, Black periodicals, activists’ manuals, and books that never made it to the best-seller list … or never even made it to press—that advocated for a focus on land ownership and politics. Yet the discursive power of Jacobs and Caro, which framed the debate in terms of urban development vs. preservation, pushed these other texts off the shelf—and, along with them, the “moral questions of land stewardship” they highlighted.

These alternative tales and supporting casts serve as reminders that the modern city need not succumb to Haussmannization or Moses-ification or, now, Googlization. Mid-century urban development wasn’t necessarily the monolithic, patriarchal, hegemonic force we imagined it to be—a realization that should steel us to expect more and better of our contemporary city-building projects. Today, New York, Washington, DC, and Toronto—and other cities around the world—are being reshaped not only by architects, planners, and municipal administrators, but also by technologists, programmers, data scientists, “user experience” experts and logistics engineers. These are urbanism’s new “allied” professions, and their work deals not only with land and buildings, but also, increasingly, with data and algorithms.

Some critics have argued that the real reason behind Amazon’s nationwide HQ2 search was to gather data from hundreds of cities—both quantitative and qualitative data that “could guide it in its expansion of the physical footprint, in the kinds of services it rolls out next, and in future negotiations and lobbying with states and municipalities.”5 This “trove of information” could ultimately be much more valuable than all those tax incentives and grants. If this is the future of urban development, our city officials and citizens must attend to the ownership and stewardship not only of their public land, but also of their public data. The mismanagement of either could—to paraphrase our four books’ titles—elongate the dark shadows cast by growing inequality, abet the siege of exploitation and displacement, “hollow out” our already homogenizing neighborhoods, and expedite the departure of an already “gone” city.

As Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti muses in his “Pictures of the Gone World 11,” which inspired Walker’s title: “The world is a beautiful place / to be born into / if you don’t mind some people dying / all the time / or maybe only starving / some of the time / which isn’t half so bad / if it isn’t you.” This is precisely the sort of solipsism and stratification that tech-libertarianism and capitalist development promotes—and that responsible planning, design, and public stewardship must prevent.

 

This article was commissioned by Caitlin Zaloom. 

  1. As Fred Turner argues, in Silicon Valley’s engineering culture, ethics are reduced to pragmatism and functionality, and politics are equated with infrastructural engineering. “Don’t Be Evil: Fred Turner on Utopias, Frontiers, and Brogrammers,” Logic, issue 3 (2018). 
  2. Jennifer S. Light, From Warfare to Welfare: Defense Intellectuals and Urban Problems in Cold War America (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003); Louise Mozingo, Pastoral Capitalism: A History of Suburban Corporate Landscapes (MIT Press, 2011); Margaret O’Mara, “Landscapes of Knowledge and High Technology,” Places Journal, vol. 19, no. 1 (2007); Fred Turner, From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism (University of Chicago Press, 2006). 
  3. Margaret Crawford, Building the Workingman’s Paradise: The Design of American Company Towns (Verso, 1995); Oliver J. Dinius and Angela Vergara, eds., Company Towns in the Americas: Landscape, Power, and Working-Class Communities (University of Georgia Press, 2011); John S. Garner, ed., The Company Town: Architecture and Society in the Early Industrial Age (Oxford University Press, 1992). 
  4. Jane Jacobs, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Random House, 1961); Robert A. Caro, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (Knopf, 1974). 
  5. E.g., Nick Tabor, “Amazon Is an Infrastructure Company. The HQ2 Bids Were Reconnaissance,” Intelligencer, December 3, 2018.

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