PIEDMONT LEFT REVIEW The Triad's Socialist Magazine
Jul 2019 • Issue 1 • Volume 2
A MESSAGE FROM THE EDITORIAL COLLECTIVE OF THE PIEDMONT LEFT REVIEW Local media is dying in Greensboro. Our corporate-owned media— aligned ever-more closely to real estate, the police department, and Lincoln Financial—is failing to connect and cover the issues that matter to the vast majority of people who live and work in the Triad. In this ever-shrinking privatized news environment, stories are measured not by their positive impact on people’s lives, but by how much advertising revenue they can generate. This business model for press is not only unethical, but is squeezing out the few remaining popular mediums we have for creative expression and intellectual engagement. Without spaces for critical voices to be heard and for ruling class ideas to be challenged, our city will become less open, less democratic, and more oppressive. We hope this zine will be a change in course and a new beginning of media in the Triad that sees ordinary people as ends, not means, and doesn’t condescend to the downtrodden and struggling. We are an anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist creative collective that believes popular education and culture are vital to a vibrant left and thriving community. Piedmont Left Review is our tool in building towards these ideals. We want to amplify the silenced voices in our city the voices of the workers, the tenants, the marginalized. We want to shed light on the stories that are not covered in our mainstream local news media and provide a forum for the creativity of every-day people. We want to facilitate building collective power to tear down the bosses and the landlords, the developers and the politicians in the spirit of liberation. We want to uplift our friends and our neighbors, our siblings and our comrades. We are not just another alt-weekly trying to appeal to the tastes of Irving Park and Buena Vista. We envision a publication that doesn’t just provide left perspectives to the comings and goings of the Triad, but plants the seeds of a true community resource. This is a space that builds up writers, artists, organizers, poets, and working people. Pied1
mont Left Review is curated for our community, by our community. This publication is not one that seeks merely to commodify its voices and stories; any money our magazine ever receives will be put back into the hands of our writers and contributors, not in the hands of editors. All decisions will be made democratically by our editorial collective. Building the future we want means building in the here and now. Our practice will reflect our principles in the way we run and grow Piedmont Left Review. There is a future beyond capitalism, beyond white supremacy, beyond patriarchy. A future born out of solidarity and community. Our aim is to build that future here in the Triad, North Carolina, and the South. Love & Solidarity, The Piedmont Left Review Editorial Collective Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT THE EDITORIAL COLLECTIVE
Garrison Clark (he/him) is an organizer in Greensboro, paw-paw tree enthusiast, and a member of DSA. Cameron Crowder (he/him) is an applied economics grad student who developed his radical politics in the aftermath of the 2016 election. He is passionate about political education and he is involved in DSA, SRA, and blacklist. Hamish Oâ€™Brien (he/him) is an organizer in Greensboro, a grad student, and is ashamed to have been born in the North. Nate Rosenberger (he/him) comes from a large reactionary family and had to leave home to learn about the joys of socialism. He is involved in the DSA and SRA and is passionate about housing justice and community defense. Rachel Wieselquist (she/her) has been moving and shaking in Greensboro for over 23 years. She is a community-centered socialist, enjoys cooking for friends, and loves podcasts and pets. 2
Poem, The War of Women by Kaitlyn Hinds………………...……………………..……….…..4 Organization profile, Southerners On New Ground……….....5 Essay, On Some of the Tasks for Socialists in the US South by Hamish O’Brien………………...………………………………..6-13 By The Numbers…………………………………………………..14 Organization profile, Hate Out of Winston………….………..15 Poem, neat & nasty by Michelle Everette……….…….……………………………..…...16 Visual art, Copper Intaglio Etching Guillotine by Natasha Popkin……….…….……………………………..…...17 Organization profile, WHOA: Working class and Homeless Organizing Alliance.…………………………….18 Poem, something. by Cameron Crowder……….…….……………………………..…...19
Negligence Kills Inmates in Forsyth County Jails Well Path, the medical provider company contracted by Forsyth County Jails, is currently facing two wrongful death lawsuits. DeShawn Coley, 39, and Stephen Patterson, 40, died after being refused medical care, both in May 2017. Well Path has already settled two lawsuits over the deaths of inmates in 2013 and 2014. According to the Department of Justice, 12 inmates die every day in jails and prisons, mainly due to poor health care and conditions. 3
Kait Hinds is a poet, author of The Texture of Colors, and an advocate for mental health based in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Whatâ€™s the mission of your organization? SONG is a home for LGBTQ liberation across all lines of race, class, abilities, age, culture, gender, and sexuality in the South. We build, sustain, and connect a southern regional base of LBGTQ people in order to transform the region through strategic projects and campaigns developed in response to the current conditions in our communities. SONG builds this movement through leadership development, intersectional analysis, and organizing. What are you working on currently? The Free From Fear campaign: an end to profiling and state violence against people of color and LGBTQ people in southern towns and cities. Efforts in support of this campaign include ending money bail and the Black Mama Bailout, as well as a site fellowship to help mamas adjust after coming home and learn how to organize How can people plug in? Facebook: Greensboro Southerners on New Ground; Twitter: @GreensboroSong, Instagram: @ignitekindred, email: email@example.com; website: southernersonnewground.org
Murderers Ordered to Pay, Avoid Jailtime Local slumlords the Agapions - Basil, Sophia, Irene, Bill, Emanuel, and Despina - who became infamous in 2018 after one of their properties was the site of a kitchen fire that killed five children, are finally being held accountable for about $700,000 in housing code violation fines. The Agapions owe more than half of the debt that landlords owe the city of Greensboro. Despite outstanding code violations and numerous tenant complaints to City Council since 2005, the city has only just decided to sue the family and their company, Arco Realty, this year. 5
ON SOME OF THE TASKS FOR SOCIALISTS IN THE U.S. SOUTH BY HAMISH O’BRIEN footnotes and citations can be found online at piedmontleftreview.com/socialistsouth
Socialism is on the rise across the U.S. With the looming threat of environmental catastrophe, rising tide of authoritarianism across the country and the world, rampant xenophobia, increase in right-wing violence, austerity, and union density at historic lows, people are finally starting to fight back. What unifies many of those who fight? Socialism. As the socialist movement continues to coalesce around the country, we want to contribute to the discussion of what building socialism in North Carolina, and the South more broadly, would look like. In the following, we’ll examine some of the conditions of contemporary working class life in the South, and some ideas for what socialists can do to empower workers and oppressed people to fight those conditions.
Contemporary Economic and Social Conditions in the American South For the purposes of this discussion, the South is composed of the following states: Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas.1 Suffice it to say that these states are characterized by their historical relationship to chattel slavery and the former confederacy, a similar pattern of settlement (slave empires beginning in South Carolina and Virginia which expanded West towards the Mississippi, displacing poor whites to mountainous and less fertile regions), and a broadly defined sense of cultural identification.
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis data, the 12 states of the South produce about 21% of the U.S. GDP, accounting for about $4 trillion of 2018’s total economic output.2 By comparison, this is roughly equal to the economies of California and New York combined. Real median income, however, rests slightly below $52,000, about 83% of the national average.3 6
The dominant industries in the region are typical of national trends, with healthcare predominating in most states in addition to extractive industries, agriculture, and their subsidiaries. Manufacturing as a share of GDP in the South also surpasses national averages, second only to the Midwest.4 If thereâ€™s one great unifier in the American South, it is poverty. The regional poverty rate is 13.6%, with over 16 million people in the region living in poverty. Only 5 southern states have expanded Medicaid, so around 11% of the population in the South has no healthcare coverage, slightly above the national rate. Nine of the Southâ€™s states have a rate of household food insecurity above the national figure, and 7 of the 10 most food insecure states in the country can be found in the South.5 Given the disproportionate burden of social reproduction on women, itâ€™s especially relevant that men tend to make about 10.5K more a year than women for the same occupations in these states.6 But blanket poverty does not describe the US South in its entirety. Five of the ten most unequal cities (income-based) in the US are in the South, a disproportionate representation based on population.7 This stems in part from the way in which Southern cities attempted to diversify their economies during the neoliberal eras while rural areas continued reliance of extractive industries or agriculture. This has implications for building movements in the South because it leads to a deep towncountry resentment and inequality that is a challenge to overcome. Of the 12 states in the South, all are right-to-work, 5 have no state minimum wage laws, and only 3 have set the minimum wage higher 7
than the federally mandated $7.25 an hour. As far as union density is concerned, only West Virginia exceeds the national average of 10.7%, and 6 of the 10 states in the countryâ€™s bottom quintile for union density are in the South. None of this data means anything, however, without seeing it through the lens of race. Outside of the Appalachian states, the population of each Southern state is more Black than the national average. Further, the majority of the countryâ€™s total Black population resides in the South, despite many Southern states having relatively small populations. Nine southern states have many majority Black towns, counties, and cities in them.8 The latino population across the South is highly uneven, but makes up a significant portion of the population in Florida, Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina and faces draconian laws throughout the region. Of note here is the disproportionate impact of the 2008 crisis on the economic security of Black people. According to the Urban Institute, middle aged Black homeowners were three times more likely to lose their homes during the recession, a nightmare that continues to terrorize the Black working class. An investigation by the ACLU showed that home equity decreased 25% more for Black households than white households.9 Additionally, home equity is a much larger proportion of total household wealth for Black families than whites. Racist predatory loan practices made Black families 50% more likely to have experienced foreclosure after the crisis. The massive cuts to the public sector have also disproportionately impacted Black communities: Black people are 30% more likely to have a public sector job than whites. Overall, the crisis was a wholesale theft from one of the most oppressed populations in the south. Any analysis of the south must also include the key ways in which undocumented agricultural and service sector labor and the attendant oppressive laws and repressive police practices that shape southern economies. Undocumented workers make up more than 5% of the labor force in four southern states (FL, GA, NC, VA). They are primarily employed in agriculture, hospitality and food-service industries. In order to ensure their hyper-exploited status, Southern states have some of the most punitive anti-immigrant laws in the nation. Three of the five states in the nation to bar undocumented youth from receiving instate tuition are in the South, and three of the six states with virtually complete integration of ICE and the local police are also in the South. 8
The continued hyper-exploitation of Black and Latinx people underlies the emerging reputation of the South as having “a business-friendly climate.”
“Recovery” since the 2008 Recession
In the South, recovery since the recession has been varied. Extractive industry-based states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Louisiana fared moderately well up until the drop in global fuel prices, with unemployment never surpassing 10%. In most every other state, however, unemployment climbed above 10% early on, and did not dip below this level until late 2011. And according to the EPI, in most Southern states, the ratio of Black to white unemployment is around 2:1, making the “recovery” even more lopsided. With the rise of the Tea party in 2010, many states rejected federal recovery measures, and instead were punished by crushing austerity, and deregulation. Like many states across the nation, this money stolen from public coffers has not been returned, leaving a skeleton of the former social safety net and weak public sector employment. In 2018, 4 of Forbes Magazine’s top 10 states to do business in were in the South, North Carolina leading the way having attracted two Amazon distribution centers, bio-tech firms, and a Chinese tire manufacturer to set up shop. This is primarily due to lax regulations and some of the lowest labor costs in the industrialized world. The vast majority of this work to make Southern economies attractive to capital has been done by the Republican party which has enjoyed near one party rule in many southern states since 2010. It is worth noting that the end of the Reconstruction era had the same dynamic: Redeemers winning office in the wake of a massive economic crisis which resulted in deregulation and stripping Black people of their political rights. To sum up, we can observe that in terms of economics and demographics, the South has certain peculiarities combined with conformity to many macro-trends across the U.S. Of these peculiarities are its heavily racialized rates of poverty and income inequality, compounded by food insecurity, low wages, low union density, and low rates of insurance. Each of these economic factors have a heavily racialized character as well. The objective need for radical transformation in the South should be clear in light of the brutal economic and social regime imposed on workers detailed above.
The State of Struggles It would be hard to do justice to all the struggles against the above described state of affairs, so this essay will focus on the character of a few key arenas of particular concern for socialists: labor, race, and voting. We will also touch briefly on environmental struggles which have become particularly acute in many locales.
Labor in the South
As discussed previously, right-to-work laws are on the books in every state in the American South. This does not mean, however, that thereâ€™s been a foreclosure on labor struggle. It just means that workers have that much more of a hump to get over to win a contract or a fair deal. The most high profile private sector union campaigns in the South since the recession have been three failed campaigns in auto and plane manufacturing: at Volkswagen in Chattanooga, TN; at Boeing in Charleston, SC; and at Nissan in Canton, MS. The Boeing campaign was led by the International Association of Machinists (IAM) union, while the fledgling United Auto Workers (UAW) union took up the torch in Chattanooga and Canton.10 Similar themes emerged from both, although each campaign had very different circumstances: topdown organizing by the international unions, extensive anti-union campaigns by the companies and state politicians, and premature votes. These struggles, however, are likely to continue. IAM recently won a foothold at Boeing (although it may be overruled),11 and auto manufacturing, especially in rural areas in the Deep South is booming thanks to low union density and laissez-faire labor laws which have resulted in high injury rates at southern plants.12 Outside of manufacturing, the Fight for $15 had a considerable presence in the South which has largely dissipated since the 2016 elections, however labor actions continue in this sector. Public sector labor struggles of note are teachers struggles, most notably in West Virginia, but also in North Carolina, and Baton Rouge, LA where teachers voted to authorize a strike in protest of Exxon Mobilâ€™s bid for tax exempt status.13 Other southern states including the state with the countryâ€™s lowest union density, South Carolina, recently saw a one day teacher walkout in Columbia. A final interesting development in this arena is an ongoing Communication Workers of America and Service Employees International Un10
ion initiative to unionize higher education systems throughout the South, most recently at Elon University. Campaigns thus far have been marked by shop floor activity and political activity (the origins for several states unionization came out of campus involvement in local living wage campaigns).14
While socialists in many Northern and Western states are having rich debates over whether or not to use the Democratic ballot line, in the South the question of simply being able to vote is perhaps the largest electoral concern for folks on the Left. A key component of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was struck down by the supreme court 2013, ending federal oversight of voting restrictions in Southern States and opening the floodgates of racist voter suppression in states held hostage by Republican supermajorities. On the flip side, southern activists have been leading the charge to restore voting rights to felons, with successful campaigns in both Virginia and Florida.15 Southern states have some of the strictest criminal codes and highest rates of incarceration, so these wins should certainly be seen also from the lens of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and prison abolition movements. Many of these organizations were involved in solidarity work around Trayvon Martin and Troy Davis before pushing through these measures.
Much of the front-line fighting against climate change and the struggles directly tied to that fight occurs in the South. The increasingly devastating hurricanes that continue to ravage the Gulf Coast and Florida Coast line (not to mention the mid and upper South) pose a direct threat to millions of Southerners. Indeed 2018 witnessed the worst toxic blue/green algae on both coasts of Florida in decades. The Gulf Coast is still reeling from the impacts of the BP oil spill, and pipeline projects from West Virginia to Louisiana have been met with resistance from coalitions of indigenous and multi-racial rural communities.16 There are also active, and occasionally successful, campaigns against offshore drilling in Florida and Georgia.17
Tasks for Socialists
The struggles highlighted above must be seen from both the point of view of how far the left has come in the region, and how far it still has to go. All struggles remain sporadic, flare ups occurring more regularly than sustained movements, but all leaving valuable organizations 11
and activists in their wake who continue to carry struggles forward. For marxists, this clarifies a set of tasks and political orientations in order to merge more directly with the social movements challenging the ravages of neoliberal capitalism in our region. Of particular note is the centrality of anti-racist politics, the need for mass-based and labor organizations, and a strategic orientation around elections, together which will form key components of the emergent Southern Left. Currently, each of these remain siloed to a large degree. Mass based organizations like the New Virginia Majority, the Moral Monday Movement, and the Poor People’s Campaign quickly tied themselves to the Democratic Party channeling mass energy largely into electoral campaigns and disappearing almost as quickly as they arose. Each prove the potential for mass mobilization in the South, but also illustrate the trappings of mass organizations that cannot connect the dots of activity between elections. Northern liberal money comes pouring into a select few southern states, namely Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, during election years, sometimes proliferating out into semi-independent organizations, but the money disappears just as quickly as it arrived, leaving activated people across the region left in the lurch in the process. Leftists in the South seeking to combat the hegemony of the Democratic party, and build struggle outside of the electoral arena have a major uphill battle to combat this trend by building mass organizations accountable to people not parties and donors. As discussed before, this likely will not come in the form of trade unions or traditional left formations due to legal constraints facing both private and public sector workers. There is also a major historical hurdle, in that Southerners have long been resistant to institutions they see as foreign or not acting on their immediate needs, and the institutions that are home-grown and respond to immediate needs are often disbanded by racist violence, law enforcement, or fearmongering campaigns. This does not mean, however, that the potential for mass organization has been foreclosed upon. Anti-racist organizations focused on base building such as the Southerners on New Ground, Dream Defenders, the Southern Workers Assembly based in Charleston, and others are bright lights in this regard. As concerns labor organization, Southern workers have responded to low union density by waging fights through minority organizations, such as North Carolina’s United Electrical Workers Local 150, the Workers Dignity worker’s center in Nashville, or IAM’s minority un12
ion at Boeing in Charleston. While the organized left has played a role in the formation of each of these, it can do much more to amplify and reproduce the models they present across the region, and bringing them into contact with each other. Combinations of organizations like these have proven instrumental in the electoral arena as well. North Carolinaâ€™s Durham for All has proven effective at electing progressive city council members, and holding them to account on a range of issues, while subsequent coalitions like Durham Beyond Policing have succeeded in winning measures like divestment from police training with the Israeli Defense Force, raising wages for public sector workers, lifting a ban on collective bargaining, and stopping increases to police budgets. In the face of extremely reactionary state governments, these must be seen as major wins for the Left. The key question facing socialists in the South in the coming years will be how to merge with already existing Southern movements, and building networks that draw these forces together and help them reproduce themselves in ever more distant corners of the region. Much of the traditional knowledge inherited from the Northern Left will not apply to the South, which means experimentation and assessment based on local conditions in this new period is essential. The tasks facing the Left in the South are immense, but it should be encouraging to all who consider themselves part of the Left that we are growing. While this growth has largely been siloed in separate arenas of struggle, there is now a larger collective body of experience and struggle within each silo that can now be compiled to inform future action. The Piedmont Left Review hopes to play a part in compiling the experiences and struggles of the left in the Triad and beyond to inform activists seeking to build a better South than the sick and tortured one we know today.
Hamish Oâ€™Brien is a member of the Piedmont Left Review editorial collective. 13
BY THE NUMBERS
Economic Output of the American South
~$4 trillion Number of Southerners below their state level poverty line
16.3 million Number of Southern states with minimum wage above $7.25/hr
3 of 12 Percentage of Southerners without healthcare
11% Median income gap between men and women in the South
$10,500 Likelihood of Black Southerners losing their homes during the Great Recession when compared to white Southerners
50% more likely Unemployment ratio between Black and white workers
2:1 States with Right to Work laws on the books in the South
ALL Number of Southerners under state supervision
1,635,080 Number of disenfranchised Black Southerners
1,613,700 Number of Southern states that have considered “bathroom bills”
6 Number of Southern states with laws penalizing gender identity-based hate crimes
0 Duke Energy’s Gross Profits between March 2018-March 2019 17.07 billion Number of North Carolinians living in deep poverty
698,000 Greensboro and Winston-Salem have the 7th and 16th highest eviction rates among large cities across the country. On average, 13 households are evicted in Greensboro per day. 14
Education Inadequacies at Core of Anti-Racism Organizing in Winston-Salem Educators and organizers in Winston-Salem are pressuring the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education to adopt a mandatory black history curriculum. Efforts have been ongoing for over three years, initiated by the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) in Winston. The campaign has called into question yet again the racial competency of the district; Action4Equity filed a Federal Civil Rights Complaint in 2018 in conjunction with asking the Board to address the achievement gap and the inequitable funding and safety of schools.
HATE OUT OF WINSTON Whatâ€™s the mission of your organization? This organization was formed around dismantling white supremacy. We started as a group organizing around the removal of the Confederate statue in Winston-Salem and have since moved beyond racist symbols to focus on dismantling institutional racism.
What are you working on currently? Mandatory Black History class. This is a push that originates from community members and the Local Organizing Committee (LOC, who are Nation of Islam Affiliates) three years ago and has gained new traction without involvement. How can people plug in?
Want us to profile your organization? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org 15
Michelle Everette is a synecdoche. 16
Natasha Popkin Copper Intaglio Etching Guillotine, 2018 Description: This guillotine is part of a series of dozens of guillotine etchings and wood carvings. Natasha Popkin is an organizer, goofball, and artist. They hope to continue making art which evokes the dread of a capitalist world. 17
What’s the mission of your organization? We are a revolutionary socialist organization that believes in the complete destruction of the housing-industrial complex, and the prisonindustrial complex, and the complete liberation of incarcerated and houseless people. We are anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, antitransphobic, and against any other form of institutionalized bigotry. What are you working on currently? Aiding the Free Table in the Glenwood People’s Market, which provides free items for people visiting the market. Part of the #JusticeForMarcusSmith coalition, a coalition directed at getting justice for the brutal killing Marcus Smith and its cover-up. The Prison Outreach Initiative, a prison letter writing group to make direct contact with the incarcerated. Establishing what we call the “Need initiative network”, a network dedicated to reallocating surplus goods and products to houseless people that need it. How can people plug in? We meet every Sunday at 3pm at Common Grounds. We also have a twitter @GsoWhoa, a facebook WHOA: Working Class & Homeless Organizing Alliance https://www.facebook.com/WHOAgso/, and email email@example.com.
Kiss My Glass The city of Greensboro stopped recycling glass products on July 1, 2019 due a downturn in the market for recycled glass. Recycling glass currently costs the city $22/ton. Meanwhile the Greensboro Police Department, currently the defendant in a Federal civil rights lawsuit over their involvement in the murder of Marcus Deon Smith, will see a 3% “merit” increase in salary and approximately $3,000,000 total increase in funds from Fiscal Year 2018-19 to Fiscal Year 2019-20. 18
Cameron Crowder is a member of the Piedmont Left Review editorial collective. 19
A Womanâ€™s Choice Reproductive care provider that performs abortions, STI testing, and more.
(336) 273-9485 2425 Randleman Rd Greensboro, NC 27406
Carolina Abortion Fund Organization that helps fund abortion care, including transportation. Leave a message and a volunteer will get back to you within 48 hours.
Urban Survivorâ€™s Union Provides free naloxone, clean syringe access, and safer drug use information.
(336) 669-5543 1114 Grove Street Greensboro, NC 27403
Interactive Resource Center Day center that provides services and materials for people experiencing houselessness.
(336) 332-0824 407 E Washington St Greensboro, NC 27401
Legal Aid Greensboro Provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income Greensboro residents.
(866) 219-5262122 N Elm St #700 Greensboro, NC 27401
Trans Lifeline Hotline Peer support hotline run by and for trans people. Available 10AM-4AM.
Piedmont Domestic Violence Crisis Line
GSO: (336) 273-7273 High Point: (336) 889-7273
Food Not Bombs Organization that serves free meals to the community by cutting into the waste created by the food industry. Every Monday at 4:30 PM.
Siembra NC Hotline Grassroots organization of Latinx and immigrant people in the Triad. Call to report ICE activity.
407 East Washington St. Greensboro, NC
The Triad's Socialist Magazine returns with an issue full of art, commentary, poetry, and more!