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Eric Laursen, "The People's Pension: The Anarchist Origins of Social Security and Today's Battle Ove

The People's Pension: The Anarchist Origins of Social Security and Today's Battle Over Its Future

Eric Laursen

Wednesday, November 16 at 7:30 pm

One of the hottest US domestic political debates today is over the
future of Social Security. The crown jewel of the New Deal, Social
Security is the basic old-age income protection program for elderly and
disabled American workers. It's also the most successful anti-poverty
program in US history, and has always been overwhelmingly popular.

But a patient, well-funded, and determined conservative coalition has
been fighting to dismantle Social Security for more than 20 years now.
Ultimately, they expect to win. Why?

We will explore the reasons why the closest program the US has to true
mutual aid is in mortal danger. These go back to the original ideas
behind Social Security, which have their roots in the early anarchist
and socialist movements at the beginning of the 19th century. Social
Security and workers' compensation originally were conceived as a
cooperative way for workers to supply each others' mutual needs. In the
late 19th century, the original conception was co-opted by the state.The US was the last major country to institute Social Security for
retired workers, during the Great Depression. It wasn't something that
Washington did willingly, but because it was forced to by a remarkable
popular uprising called the Townsend Movement. After Social Security was
instituted in 1936, however, that popular movement was given no role in
running the program, which became merely another bureaucratic
institution (although a very successful one). That left it vulnerable to
conservative critics and Wall Street interests who argue that Social
Security is a "bad deal" for workers.

This talk will offer some perspectives on how popular, autonomous
organizing can offer a real alternative to the privatization movement
and in so doing, reclaim the movement for lifetime worker security by
rediscovering and reactivating the anarchist roots of Social Security.

Eric Laursen is an independent journalist, activist and anarchist living
in New York City. He has written for a wide variety of publications
including Practical Anarchy, the Village Voice, In These Times, The New
Formulation, The Nation, Institutional Investor, the AICPA Journal of
Accountancy, and the forthcoming issue of Perspectives on Anarchist
Theory. He has worked with the NYC Direct Action Network, the
International Solidarity Movement, NoRNC Coalition, and other activist
networks and alliances. Laursen is currently completing a history of the
Social Security privatization wars.


Lower East Side, New York City, between Rivington and Delancey Streets.

Take F train to Delancey stop, J, M or Z train to Essex St. stop.
Exit station at northeast corner (look for escalator).

See website for
map. [ http://tinyurl.com/89hau] [or B, D to Grand (@ Christie/Forsythe
& walk] [google map may need IE6 http://tinyurl.com/bt2xw ; yahoomap

All events are in the second floor Art Gallery.

Suggested Donation: $7 - $10