Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Poster of the Week

"What is right has always been called radical by those with a stake in things that are wrong."
—Senator George McGovern 
(July 19, 1922 – October 21, 2012)

Come Home America
Corita Kent
Offset, 1972
Boston, MA

South Dakota Senator George McGovern died this week.  He was considered by many to have been one of the most honest and principled men to have run for president on either Democratic or Republican Party ticket. 

McGovern was an American historian, author and U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator.  A decorated World War II bomber pilot, McGovern said he learned to hate war by waging it. In 1970 he attached to a military procurement bill the McGovern-Hatfield Amendment, which would have required, through a cutoff of funding, a withdrawal of all American forces from Indochina. The amendment did not pass, although the majority of Americans supported it. McGovern denounced on the Senate floor the politicians who, by refusing to support the amendment, prolonged the war.

“Every senator in this chamber is partly responsible for sending 50,000 young Americans to an early grave,” he said. “This chamber reeks of blood. Every senator here is partly responsible for that human wreckage at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval [hospitals] and all across our land—young men without legs, or arms, or genitals, or faces or hopes. There are not very many of these blasted and broken boys who think this war is a glorious adventure. Do not talk to them about bugging out, or national honor or courage. It does not take any courage at all for a congressman, or a senator, or a president to wrap himself in the flag and say we are staying in Vietnam, because it is not our blood that is being shed. But we are responsible for those young men and their lives and their hopes. And if we do not end this damnable war those young men will some day curse us for our pitiful willingness to let the Executive carry the burden that the Constitution places on us.”
McGovern’s moral condemnation was greeted in the chamber with stunned silence. When one senator told McGovern he was personally offended by his remarks, McGovern answered: “That’s what I meant to do.”
McGovern ran against Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election.   He was the only anti-Viet Nam War candidate running, and was strongly supported by the anti-war movement. The Republican party, however, successfully colored McGovern as a radical leftist, crippling his reputation with many voters.

With Nixon garnering almost 61% of the popular vote, the election was the most one-sided in American history. In his disastrous race against Nixon, McGovern had promised to end the conflict in Viet Nam and cut defense spending by billions of dollars. He helped create the Food for Peace program and spent much of his career believing the United States should be more accommodating to the former Soviet Union. And McGovern never shied from the word “liberal,” even as other Democrats blanched at the label and Republicans used it as an epithet.  “I am a liberal and always have been,” McGovern said in 2001. “Just not the wild-eyed character the Republicans made me out to be.”

The Watergate scandal
In June 1972, the Richard M. Nixon Administration was behind a break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C. to learn about the Democratic Party strategies for the November 1972 election. The Watergate scandal was a result of both the break-in and the subsequent attempt by the Nixon administration to cover-up their involvement. The scandal eventually led to the resignation of President Nixon, on August 9, 1974, the only resignation of a U.S. President. The scandal also resulted in the indictment, trial, conviction and incarceration of 43 people, including dozens of Nixon's top administration officials.

Americans voting for president in 1972 were aware of the Watergate break-in, and McGovern tried to make a campaign issue out of the bungled attempt to wiretap the offices of the Democratic National Committee.  He called Nixon the most corrupt president in history, but the most damaging details of Nixon's involvement wouldn't emerge until after Election Day. Many considered this to be part of the cover-up to ensure Nixon’s election.

In a moving obituary about McGovern, Chris Hedges writes, “Here was a politician who cared more for his country and for human decency than he did for his political ambitions or his career.”  Hedges concludes with excerpts from McGovern’s acceptance speech.  Would that someone would say these words today:

“From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America.
From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America.
From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism; from the waste of idle lands to the joy of useful labor; from the prejudice based on race and sex; from the loneliness of the aging poor and the despair of the neglected sick—come home, America.
Come home to the affirmation that we have a dream. Come home to the conviction that we can move our country forward.
Come home to the belief that we can seek a newer world, and let us be joyful in that homecoming, for “this is your land, this land is my land—from California to New York island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters—this land was made for you and me.”
So let us close on this note: May God grant each one of us the wisdom to cherish this good land and to meet the great challenge that beckons us home.
And now is the time to meet that challenge.”

Friday, October 19, 2012

Poster of the Week

Andy Zermeño
United Farm Workers Organizing Committee
Offset, 1966
Los Angeles, California
CSPG’s Poster of the Week is by Andy Zermeño, who volunteered for the farm workers movement for 14 years, helping to create their powerful graphic identity.  Andy, along with Tom Morello and Joan Sekler will be honored by the Center for the Study of Political Graphics on Sunday, October 21st. For ticket information, please visit
Andy was the first artist recruited by Cesar Chavez to design posters and other graphics for organizing farm workers—years before Chavez and Dolores Huerta formed the United Farm Workers Union.  Andy’s longer bio is below, and a ten minute interview with him can be seen on youtube:
Andy describes this Huelga! poster:
I was just trying to show the spirit of the guys (who) were attacking the status quo…They were eager to get in there, eager to do something for themselves.  That’s what impressed me, that’s what I wanted to show. 
This powerful poster is both important and fascinating, not only for what it openly says, but for what it historically reveals.  Every archive and library with a copy of this poster, from the UFW website to university collections, consistently dates it from 1965.  CSPG research, however, raises a question. The sign on the farm worker’s chest says UFWOC, for the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee, a precursor of the United Farm Workers (UFW). The problem with the 1965 date, is that UFWOC wasn’t created until 1966.
UFWOC formed from the merging of two groups, the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) led by Filipino organizer Larry Itliong, and the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) co-founded by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. This union changed from a workers' rights organization that helped workers get unemployment insurance to that of a union of farm workers almost overnight, when the NFWA went out on strike in support of the mostly Filipino farmworkers of the AWOC in Delano, California, who had previously initiated a grape strike on September 8, 1965. The NFWA and the AWOC, recognizing their common goals and methods, and realizing the strengths of coalition formation, jointly formed the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee on August 22, 1966. This organization was accepted into the AFL-CIO in 1972 and changed its name to the United Farm Workers union (UFW).

Andy Zermeño Biography
Born in Salinas, California in 1935, Andy grew up in the mostly poor working class agricultural town of Soledad.  He is the oldest of 5 brothers and sisters.  His father was born in Mexico, and his mother is from Boyle Heights.  In 1954, following high school graduation, Andy attended the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland on a scholarship.  He worked as a set designer and production artist for KSBW-TV and worked summers as a state fruit inspector to finance college.
Andy credits his brother Alex for introducing him to the civil rights struggle for Mexican Americans.  In Salinas, Alex was active in the Community Service Organization (CSO) founded by Saul Alinsky and Fred Ross.  The CSO organized voter registration, participated in civic and political affairs, and fought discrimination against minorities. Cesar Chavez was in CSO at the time, and when Andy designed a logo for the organization, Chavez recognized his talent. 
In 1958, Andy transferred to the Art Center School of Design in Los Angeles to study painting and drawing, graduating in 1961 with a Bachelor of Professional Arts degree.  When Cesar Chavez left the CSO in 1962 to organize farmworkers in Delano, he asked Andy to volunteer his artistic skills.  Andy put the finishing touches on the design of the iconic UFW eagle, and created posters and graphics for the farmworkers for fourteen years. He created the look and the majority of the illustrations for UFW newspaper, El Malcriado, creating cartoon characters to educate often illiterate farmworkers about their rights and the need to join the union: Don Sotaco, the exploited farm worker; El Patron, the greedy landowner; and El Coyote, the brutal labor contractor.  In 1965, the Mexican farm workers led by Chavez, Huerta and their National Farm Workers Association (NFWA), joined with striking Filipino farm workers who had started what became an historic grape strike and boycott. A year later, the Filipino Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC) merged with the NFWA to create the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (UFWOC), precursor to the UFW.  Andy created the powerful Huelga!/Strike poster to promote this historic collaboration, support the strike, and show the determination of the union members to achieve justice.
In 1970, Andy moved with his wife Anita, and their children, Claire, Greg, and Andrea, to Keene, California to work for the United Farm Workers for one year. In addition to continuing making art for El Malcriado, he created posters promoting strikes and boycotts—notably of Gallo Wine—benefit concert posters, as well as stamps and a calendar to be used as fundraisers to support union activities against nonunion produce. At the end of the year the family returned to Los Angeles to recover financially, but he continued to volunteer for the UFW.  Andy worked as a freelance commercial illustrator, as a technical illustrator and writer of assembly instruction for Hughes Aerospace Company, and was the owner of a solar power design firm.  He retired in 1998 to dedicate more time to painting, sculpture, and other personal projects.
CSPG is honoring Andy Zermeño, along with activist/documentary filmmaker Joan Sekler and musician/activist Tom Morello, on Sunday, October 21, 2012, from 3-7 in Hollywood. Following the awards program, Morello will perform a 30-40 minute set. For more information about the event, please go to

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Poster of the Week

Vote Commoner for President
Peace Press
Offset, 1980
Los Angeles, CA
CSPG’s Poster of the Week commemorates Barry Commoner, a founder of the modern ecology movement.  Commoner was one of the movement’s most provocative thinkers and mobilizers in making environmentalism a people’s political cause.  He died on Sunday in Manhattan; he was 95.
In the late 1950s, Dr. Commoner became well known for his opposition to nuclear weapons testing, becoming part of the team which demonstrated the presence of Strontium 90 in children’s teeth as a direct result of nuclear fallout.  His work contributed materially to the adoption of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963.
In his bestselling 1971 book The Closing Circle, Dr. Commoner suggested that the American economy should be restructured to conform to the unbending laws of ecology. For example, he argued that polluting products (like detergents or synthetic textiles) should be replaced with natural products (like soap or cotton and wool). This book was one of the first to bring the idea of sustainability to a mass audience. Dr. Commoner suggested a left-wing, eco-socialist response to the limits to growth thesis, postulating that capitalist technologies were chiefly responsible for environmental degradation, as opposed to population pressures.
Dr. Commoner’s overarching concern was not ecology as such but rather a radical ideal of social justice in which everything was indeed connected to everything else. Like some other left-leaning dissenters of his time, he believed that environmental pollution, war, and racial and sexual inequality needed to be addressed as related issues of a central problem.
In 1980, Commoner founded the Citizens Party to serve as a vehicle for his ecological message, and he ran for President of the United States the same year. His official running mate was La Donna Harris. It is especially fitting to pay tribute to him during the season of presidential debates, when both the Democrats and Republicans strongly agree on at least one thing:  Not to allow Third Party Candidates  from participating in the debates!
One of Commoner's lasting legacies is his four laws of ecology, as written in The Closing Circle (1971). The four laws are:
  1. Everything is Connected to Everything Else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all.
  2. Everything Must Go Somewhere. There is no "waste" in nature and there is no "away" to which things can be thrown.
  3. Nature Knows Best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is, says Commoner, "likely to be detrimental to that system."
  4. There Is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch. Exploitation of nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms.
Commoner wrote this over 40 years ago.  When will we ever learn.