You are right, writing letters, etc. will do no good.
Saturday, February 25, 2017
In my opinion, this is the way to build movements provided we are also sharing these letters and our ideas with family, friends, neighbors and fellow workers.
If you are only writing the letters to politicians and not sharing them publicly they do no good at all... they end up in the "circular file."
But even the most reactionary politicians can be convinced to support progressive, pro-worker legislation.
Let me give you an example.
A long time ago I met with Gerald Ford to discuss extending unemployment benefits when he was still a Congressman and House Minority Leader.
We agreed to meet a second time with a larger group of people.
Gerald Ford had never supported any pro-worker legislation of any kind.
During our second meeting I showed him the petition we had begun circulating. He asked how many signatures we had. I told him a couple hundred and he laughed. But, he said, come back with ten thousand signatures on your petition in a month and I will support this legislation to extend unemployment benefits. Obviously he thought we couldn't get the signatures.
I met with the president of the local labor council and told him what Ford said. He didn't believe Ford would go along.
So, I called a press conference at the unemployment office and said what Ford told us. The media went back to Ford and asked him. He acknowledged he told us that.
So, we started a massive letter writing campaign, turned the published letters into leaflets and tabled using these leaflets at the unemployment office, supper markets, public parks, at plant gates and on college campuses.
We held small street corner demonstrations at busy pedestrian crossings.
We collected over 25,000 signatures in less than a month... Ford kept his promise and got a slew of Republicans to support the legislation that even many Democrats had opposed until Ford announced he was voting for it.
Because of our "little" campaign supporting extending unemployment benefits workers today get extended benefits when unemployment goes above a certain level.
By the way... Gerald Ford later told me he would never again make such an agreement with me.
It is possible to build movements capable of winning using methods like this even when dealing with the most reactionary politicians if we work in the right way.
We have prevented foreclosures using such methods and won welfare benefits for people, too.
I was very involved working with U.S. Senators Phil Hart and Gaylord Nelson and we forced Nixon to agree to very progressive environmental legislation.
I was also very involved in the national movement that won free school lunches for children from poor families... we used very similar methods. This movement started with about a dozen people sitting around in a living room talking about the problem.
Just ask the Liberal Party in Canada what kind of movement they came up against when they tried to deport me and my family using similar methods.
When the movement against the Vietnam War first started we worked in the same way.
And the movement to free Angela Davis began in the same way.
I don't buy the non-struggle position that it does no good to write letters and circulate petitions, sign onto statements, and have personal meetings with even the most reactionary politicians...
But, if people are not going to work together in an agreed upon way towards a common objective...
You are right, writing letters, etc. will do no good.
You are right, writing letters, etc. will do no good.
So, if I am the only one writing such letters, the politicians will just laugh at me. What I have found is that once a few people start initiating a struggle in this way it starts to spread. People like to see everyone working together and it encourages them to get involved.
The idea is to think of letter writing as part of movement building.
We all need health care, don't we? What better reform to build a movement around?
And one of the most important things is for these politicians to see movements growing. They can't stand it when they can't stop a movement with phony promises.
You know, when it comes to health care reform it really can't hurt to write a letter to the editor similar to the one I wrote... try it; and try using the letter after it gets published and meet with your members of the U.S. Senate and member of Congress--- show them your published letter and let them know you are talking to everyone you can.
Politicians understand a very simple rule of advertising... when people are happy they don't say much; but, when people aren't happy and they start talking to everyone there is a problem that could end up destroying what it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to create goodwill with buyers.
Maybe your letter won't do any good; but, can it do any harm?
I called U.S. Senator Ted Cruz after my letter was published and told him to check out my letter to the editor. I told Cruz I want to meet with him. I doubt he wants to meet with me but I am willing to bet before I am done he is going to meet with me to discuss health care reform.
I am sure I am going to hear from a bunch of people who will say I'm full of shit. That we can't ever hope to get anything from these politicians.
But, here is the thing... if we want to win this kind of reform right now we are going to have to force these politicians to sit down and talk. They are, unfortunately, what we have for the moment.
The Republican members of Congress, who were thrilled with the vicious Tea Party attacks organized by the John Birch Society and paid for by the likes of the Koch brothers, are now bemoaning the raucous "paid attendees" at their own "town hall" meetings.
The problem as I see it, is these politicians holding these "town hall" meetings are probably the only paid attendees there--- they are paid, bribed, by Wall Street, the Chamber of Commerce and the American Medical Association.
How are "We the People" going to get a voice in the decision-making process if we don't organize and raise hell?
Out of sight, is out of mind.
No wonder the politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, would rather working people keep their mouths shut.
The Democrats are really no better than the Republicans because they are trying to contain us by using these town hall meetings to build support for Obamacare which is really nothing but the Romneycare developed by the reactionary Heritage Foundation and it should be rejected and called what it is:
"The Health Insurance and Pharmaceutical Industry Bailout and Profit Maximization Act of 2010."
What don't need the private, free enterprise, for-profit health care schemes the Democrats or Republicans are selling are selling on behalf of the AMA, the insurance companies and the pharmaceutical industry...
What we need is very simple and straight forward but we are not going to get it without an organized movement demanding it:
A National Public Health Care System.
This is nothing controversial... it is just like public education.
Free health care dispensed through a national network of community and neighborhood health care centers.
Pay for it all with the Peace Dividend that would be derived by putting an end to this insane military spending and financing these dirty wars.
Now is the time to speak up and speak out.
Wall Street has its high paid lobbyists trying to sell us their schemes.
What we need is a powerful and well organized "People's Lobby"--- of you and me and our friends and neighbors and fellow workers (We the People)--- to insist on a National Public Health Care System paid for with a Peace Dividend.
Tell these politicians you want peace and real health care reform.
Write a "Letter to the Editor" and make sure these politicians see it. Print it as a leaflet with a petition on the other side...
Here is my Letter to the Editor published in the Austin American-Statesman which every single politician in Texas reads:
Re: Feb. 9 article, “Trump looks to stabilize health insurance market”
So, the “health” — read: profits — of the health insurance industry supersedes the human right of access to health care?
Left out of the discussion is the real solution to this health care mess, which would eliminate the health insurance industry: national public health care based on the public education model. Publicly financed. Publicly administered. Publicly delivered.
It makes more sense to finance a network of publicly funded neighborhood and community health care centers across the country dispensing free health care for everyone instead of squandering the precious wealth of our nation maintaining over 800 military bases dotting the globe protecting Wall Street’s interests and wasting trillions of dollars on these dirty wars from which only the Wall Street merchants profit.
ALAN MAKI, LAKEWAY
Something like this... Distribute this at a town hall meeting... just add your name and a contact number or e-mail address at the bottom:
Campaign for a “21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity”
We are fed up with politicians campaigning on promises of “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” and then failing to make themselves legislatively responsible for attaining and maintaining full employment.
We are fed up with our tax dollars being squandered on militarism and wars instead of being used to create jobs by solving the problems of the people and defending our living environment… its time to beat swords into plowshares. Put people to work solving the problems of the people.
A National Public Health Care System would create over twelve-million new jobs paying real living wages providing people with free health care--- general medical, eyes, ears, dental, family planning and mental health--- through a network of neighborhood and community health care centers; this is a better use of our tax-dollars than wasting our human and financial resources on a far flung empire of over 800 U.S. military bases around the world. Or, it could be financed the same way Social Security is financed. Public funding. Public administration. Public delivery… nothing controversial; just like public education.
A National Public Child Care System would create over three-million new jobs providing working class families with free child care.
We need to restore C.E.T.A., WPA and CCC.
“At Will Employment” legislation in states across the country needs to be rescinded to expand democracy in the workplace and provide workers with the right to freely participate in the communities where they live.
All attacks on immigrant workers, documented and undocumented, need to end.
Planned Parenthood needs to be defended and programs expanded.
We insist Congress and the president enact full employment legislation which makes them legislatively responsible for attaining and maintaining full employment; assure everyone who wants a job employment at real living wages in line with the actual cost-of-living.
Full employment would provide stability for Social Security; everyone paying in; everyone getting something out. Pensions must be honored and protected. The Wall Street swindle of pension funds must end. Restore the Glass-Steagall Act.
We are entitled to a Peace Dividend.