I've been ignoring the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) because their paper--The Militant--has not caught my fancy recently. They're following some labor issues that haven't interested me; they waste a lot of pixels on Cuba; they tout ancient books that don't look to be very relevant today. This week's issue, for example, has a long excerpt from American Labor Struggles 1877-1934--surely of purely academic interest.
For all their interest in labor struggles, it was weird that they waited until this week to comment on the defeat of the Amazon union effort--an event that happened on April 9th. I purposely postponed my own account (dated May 1) so to include their response, but I gave up on them. As it turns out author Susan Lamont adds nothing new to the conversation, so no update from me is needed.
The big news is that the pandemic-postponed Active Workers Conference will happen this year from July 22 - 24. Historically these have occurred in Oberlin, OH, and are known informally as "Oberlin Conferences"--a very long tradition in the Trotskyist movement. Some reminiscences of my time at Oberlin are here.
But these days the Oberlin brand is hopelessly tarnished given the eponymous college's failed and dishonorable crusade against a small-town bakery. So this year's "Oberlin Conference" will instead take place at Wittenberg University in Springfield, OH. Springfield is a mid-sized, struggling, rust-belt town 26 miles east of Dayton International Airport. I, being a geography buff, find it an odd place to hold the affair--so please let me indulge my geography itch to explain why.
I surmise that the Oberlin site was originally chosen because it was close to the Cleveland branch. Indeed, I recall at one such shindig we adjourned to a big hotel in that city for a large campaign rally. The Cleveland comrades played a key role in organizing the event every year. Further, Oberlin was within a couple hours drive of branches in Detroit and Pittsburgh, and not that far from Chicago. Folks from further afield could fly into Cleveland airport (though we Portland comrades drove).
Today the Party has no branches in Ohio, the Detroit branch also no longer exists, and Pittsburgh is a four hour drive from Springfield. The closest branch is Louisville--a three-hour ride. So Springfield seems remarkably inconvenient. Further, while Dayton airport is close by, it is smallish and rather expensive to fly in to. I checked connections from the West Coast (SEA, SFO, LAX--this is how I waste my time) and they're horrible. The layover time in Chicago is as long as five hours.
The closest large airport is Cincinnati (CVG), a bit under two hours away. That's a Delta hub, and nonstop flights are available from LAX, though from SEA or SFO a connection is still necessary. The fares are lower as well. While I didn't check, being a Delta hub CVG is probably easier to reach from Atlanta, Miami, or Texas.
So were I in charge, Wittenberg wouldn't be my top pick. The criteria are: 1) a small-campus setting, 2) near an existing branch, 3) not too far from a major airport, 4) in the Midwest--because that's centrally located wrt SWP branches. There are four branches that meet the Midwest criterion: Chicago, Louisville, Pittsburgh, St. Louis.
- Chicago is a logical choice--definitely centrally located and certainly a big airport. There are a bunch of colleges in the suburbs or further afield that would be an easy reach. Lots of options here, but Chicago is a big city and doesn't really have the "vacation" vibe that is essential to the Oberlin experience.
- Louisville doesn't have a major airport, though CVG is only about 90 minutes away. Otherwise it's a fine choice. The city is charming and the surrounding countryside is lovely. There are lots of colleges both in town and out of town. St. Meinrad's--a Catholic seminary in Indiana--is glorious. Hanover College--halfway between Louisville and Cincinnati--is gorgeous.
- Pittsburgh has a big airport, and the region doesn't lack for colleges. Allegheny College in Meadville has a beautiful campus--but there are many others to choose from. The scenery is spectacular, and the airport offers many nonstop flights. But it's too far east to be easy for comrades driving from places like Minneapolis, Lincoln, St. Louis, or even Chicago.
- St. Louis is literally in the middle of the country, and has the best location. The airport is major. It's an easy drive from Louisville, Chicago, Lincoln, or even Minneapolis. There are plenty of colleges around.
The spark for today’s crisis is the refusal of the Israeli government to halt attempts to evict 300 Palestinians from 13 households in Sheikh Jarrah, in East Jerusalem. Regardless of who “owns” the homes, Palestinians have lived in them since the 1950s.While the Israeli government portrays this as a private landlord-tenant dispute, Palestinians rightly fear that allowing the evictions would open the floodgate to more, and to Israeli government refusal to ever accept East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state.