Newton Becomes a Welcoming City

February 27, 2017

by Paul Garver
blanding 022117 22newton3 met

Newton is a middle-sized city of about 85.000 in the Boston metropolitan area.

On Feb. 21st, the Newton City Council passed the “Welcoming City” ordinance by a vote of 16-1.

The ordinance prohibits law enforcement or city officials from investigating or arresting someone based solely on immigration status, notifying federal authorities of the release of a person “for immigration purposes” or enforcing a federal program requiring the registration of individuals based on “religious affiliation or ethnic or national origin.”

Use of city resources to assist in the enforcement of federal immigration law is prohibited, as well.

The language of the ordinance was reached by a remarkable consensus among the City Council, Mayor Setti Warren and Police Chief David MacDonald. It could become a model for comparable legislation on other Massachusetts cities and towns. It is similar to the “Safe Communities Act” which has many co-sponsors in the Mass. State Senate and House, but it is currently blocked by autocratic Democratic House Speaker DiLeo and by the threat of veto by Republican Governor Baker.

The full text of the Newton Ordinance can be viewed at






Our Autumn Campaign

May 8, 2016

Let’s begin planning for our Autumn Campaign.

This is not about Clinton vs. Trump.  If we are not already sick and tired of the 2016 presidential campaign, which has already gone on forever, we will be by September.

Of course Trump must be defeated, and so must as many Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate and House as possible.  Those of us who live in a state where the Left’s help is needed to accomplish those objectives should act accordingly in the remaining months before November 2016.

The “Warren Wing” of the Democratic Party, with support from Bernie Sanders and leading members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, are trying to help elect more U.S. Senators and Representatives in 2016.  Some of these Democratic contenders are progressive enough and deserve support from the Left.  There will also be local and state electoral races where the Left should be involved [though there will be more of these coming up later in the election cycle in non=presidential election years.

We should not endorse Hillary Clinton. She will play lip service to core Democratic constituencies and even campaign on some of the issues raised by Bernie Sanders, but  she will campaign cautiously to win moderate Republican and Independent voters alienated by Trump’s right-wing racist populist nationalism.  If she wins the election, she will probably have a first presidential term  similar to Barack Obama’s, though arousing fewer hopes and {if left to her druthers] more “hawkish”    in military and foreign policy.

Nor should we endorse Jill Stein.  If we can help the Green Party’s presidential candidate get a respectable protest vote in non-swing states, that’s a good thing.  But socialist organizations that are seeking to shepherd Sanders voters into the Green Party or some other third party alternative should attempt to clarify why this is no longer a dead end strategy.   They have asserted, but failed to establish, that case.

I am not talking about Bernie Sanders, who will certainly not be running as an Independent and will have only marginal personal influence on Clinton’s campaign. Sanders has made a marvelous contribution to the future of democratic socialism and to the American Left, and hopefully will continue to play an important role in building our broad movement.   But we have little control over what he and leaders of his official campaign do after July.   I have no confidence that his potent small donor fundraising campaign mechanism will be made available for wider use by the movement.

No, what I mean by an autumn campaign is what we ourselves do as a movement in the second half of 2016 and moving forward.

The “we” that I am referring to is the biggest tent movement possible, celebrating and building upon the successes of the Sanders campaign, while taking into consideration its strengths and limitations.

A list of the organizations that initiated and endorsed the Peoples Summit in Chicago June 17-19 suggests a good beginning in its diversity, including some though not all of the  political organizations that initially encouraged the Sanders candidacy (PDA, DSA, People for Bernie), rallied to its support after endorsement by membership referenda (WFP), provided major labor support and finance (National Union of Nurses),  militant organizations for climate justice (, Friends of the Earth), single=payer supporters, a major network of community organizations (NPA), and several organizations that supported Sanders in communities of color.

But this is only a beginning that suggests potential for immediate outreach.  Five other national unions supported Sanders, as did numerous local unions through Labor for Bernie.  Other significant internet-based progressive organizations (DFA), numerous locally based organizations of volunteers for Bernie, and above all tens of thousands of campaign volunteers who mobilized for Bernie throughout the country can be reached before disillusionment sets in.

















October 5, 2015

By Paul Garver

Wen book image

(Beacon Press, October 6, 2015)
The temperature of the planet earth continues to rise. Floods, winds and fires increase in intensity. Arctic ice and mountain glaciers melt. Rising seas threaten to submerge low-lying coastal cities, islands and heavily populated low-lying agricultural basins. But these are only harbingers of worse things to come.
Pope Francis [Laudatio Si) and Naomi Klein [This Changes Everything] agree with the vast majority of scientists that catastrophic climate change is already happening. Unless drastic reductions in global carbon emissions begin to take effect immediately, accelerating global warming will melt polar ice, raise sea levels, drive many plant and animal species into extinction, threaten food production and drastically threaten the very survival of the most vulnerable people of the earth.
Although major climate disruptions can no longer be averted, the worst effects can still be mitigated by an unprecedented global commitment of governmental authorities to replace the burning of fossil fuels with renewable energy systems in the shortest possible time. Such global cooperation is rendered extremely difficult by the entrenched power of the giant fossil fuel industries that exert enormous influence over global economic and political systems. Only a massive and coordinated upsurge from below and a radical shift in social values can overcome that resistance rapidly enough to stave off the worst consequences of catastrophic climate disruption.
Wen Stephenson’s impassioned book WHAT WE’RE FIGHTING FOR NOW IS EACH OTHER, being released by Beacon Press this month [October 2015], draws out the implications of the climate crisis for what we do now in response to it. He describes his own personal awakening to this urgent threat to humanity, which encompasses his own upbringing as an evangelical Protestant, the impact of reading the Zen poetry of Gary Snyder, and above all his deep meditation upon the life and work of Henry David Thoreau. He interprets Thoreau not so much as an environmentalist living in the woods near Walden Pond, but as one who emerged from his walking the woods as a radical abolitionist who committed himself to the fight against slavery.
The bulk of Stephenson’s valuable book is based upon extensive interviews he conducted with some 70 climate activists from the fall of 2012 to the fall of 2014. He not only describes their committed activities, including nonviolent civil disobedience, but delves deeply into the moral and spiritual beliefs of those he interviewed. A few of these are well known [Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben], while others deserve more recognition for their courageous struggles.
These include Tim de Christopher, who spent nearly two years in federal prison for disrupting an illegal auction of federal public lands in Utah, Ken Ward and Jay O’Hara, who blocked a freighter carrying coal to a power plant in Somerset, MA, and many more young people and students who engaged in civil disobedience to block the construction of pipelines in Massachusetts and Texas. Stephenson also interviews several Hispanic and African-American activists who are fighting to protect local neighborhoods and communities against the health hazards and pollution caused by the oil industry in East Texas.
Stephenson and many of those he interviewed talk about overcoming their paralyzing feelings of sadness and despair at the sheer magnitude of what needs to be done. Comparing the climate justice movement to the movement against nuclear weapons and testing, he notes a crucial difference: In the case of global climate disruption, the “missiles have already left the silo.” The catastrophe is already unfolding, and even our most successful efforts can only reduce the scope of the disaster.
He finds hope in recalling that the movement to abolish slavery felt hopeless in 1857; racial segregation in the American South seemed deeply entrenched in 1955; the apartheid regime seemed impermeable to resistance in South Africa. Yet these social and political struggles were able to win decisive victories, even if ultimate success for their goals proved to be elusive.
Now today, even if only a radically transformative movement for climate justice comparable with these previous movements can avert an apocalyptic future for humanity, there remains the possibility of Individual and collective moral and spiritual awakening prefigured in the climate justice movement. The essential moral and spiritual values needed to overcome despair and to fully engage in this struggle are the ones common to all humanist and religious traditions: faith, hope and love: Faithful to the people and to the world we love, hopeful that we can prevail over the obstruction of entrenched power, and [he cites Martin Luther King’s Riverside Church speech] love as the supreme unifying principle of life and now essential to the survival of humanity and the possibility of social justice on earth.
Wen Stephenson challenges us to wake up and to act together with passionate love for each other. It may be all we have left. Maybe it Is enough.
Buy and read the book. If at $24.95 it seems a bit expensive {It may be cheaper from online booksellers or as an e-book}, all of the author’s returns will go to climate justice organizing. Wen Stephenson will be giving book talks in Cambridge, MA (First Parish Church, Harvard Square, 7th October at 7PM) and at BookCourt, 163 Court St, Brooklyn 8th October at 7PM). Also together with Tim de Christopher at Union Theological Seminary on 10th November at 7PM). More information on the Beacon Press web-site at