Against the Current 160

— The Editors
RIGHT-WING HOWLS OF outrage over the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act soon faded into the general background noise. “Repeal Obamacare” is the Republican mantra for the November election, but an actual legislative reversal of ACA is highly unlikely. What’s actually on the agenda — and more ominous not only for health care, but as a signal of the Supreme Court’s direction on a wide range of issues — is the...
— The Editors
ALEXANDER COCKBURN, WHO died in July at age 71, was perhaps the best-known columnist and essayist on the U.S. as well as British left. His passing is a loss to all of us who were enlightened, entertained and sometimes enraged by his politics as well as his polemical wit.
We also mourn the loss of James D. Young, the revolutionary Scottish historian, who died on June 24 at age 81.
— Malik Miah
WE SOMETIMES HEAR that the drive by the Repub­lican Party and the far right to “suppress the vote” — attempting to ensure the election of a Republican president and win control of the Congress — is just hardball politics, not about race or racism.
Yet the primary target is people of color. Not since the days of Jim Crow segregation in the Deep South, where poll taxes were used to prevent African Americans from voting, has such an orchestrated effort taken place across...
— Milton Fisk
FAR FROM LAYING the health care debate to rest, the June 28 Supreme Court decision on Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) put life back into it. Calling the individual health insurance mandate a “tax” aroused anger on the right, but the court’s ruling on federal Medicaid money is what really puts a new dimension into the fight.
The Court ruled that the federal government cannot deny a state all its Medicaid money for refusing only that part earmarked for expanding the...
— Rob Bartlett
WHETHER OR NOT the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) will strike this September is an open question. But the issues they raise are gaining national attention. Although the CTU has not been out on strike since 1987, 23,780 out of 26,502 union members voted to authorize a strike last June if an agreement cannot be reached. There were only 482 no votes. Almost 90% of the entire membership approved the action, easily surpassing the required 75% set by a new state law Senate Bill 7, which was intended to...
— Michael Rubin and Linda Thompson
THE STAKES IN the 2012 presidential election are high: global warming manifesting itself in the hottest summer ever, wreaking havoc on agriculture and weather patterns; the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline all but approved; and the unmitigated effects of the BP oil spill and plans for drilling for oil in the Artic proceeding apace.
Yet these, along with other key issues of war, civil liberties and racism aren’t even part of the Democratic-Republican debate. When addressing issues of the...
— Kim Moody
INSPIRED BY THE boldness of the movement, activists of Occupy Oakland issued a “call for a general strike” in that city for November 2 — a sign of the movement’s radicalism and its sense of where social power lies.
One criticism of the Occupy activists was that they had not consulted the unions. Had they done so, however, it is very unlikely that very many union leaders would have agreed to jointly “call” such an action. But what’s more important, as I...
— Clifford J. Straehley, M.D.
In 1948 I slept in the ER to be awakened by the nurse whenever a new patient arrived. There came to the ER a woman in profound shock. Her story: She had five children and when she became pregnant once again, her husband abandoned her....
— an interview with Brian Ashley
BRIAN ASHLEY IS the editor of the South African journal AMANDLA! He was interviewed for Against the Current by David Finkel and Dianne Feeley.
Against the Current: Please tell us about the magazine Amandla! — what’s your orientation and perspective, and what’s your audience in the overall framework of the South African left?
Brian Ashley: Amandla! was initiated in 2006 as the crisis in the country was deepening, as neoliberal policies exacerbated the divisions of apartheid and...
— Zachary Levenson
A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN continued stuffing an old tire with bits of straw, refusing to stop as two younger men pleaded with her not to ignite it. She didn’t seem to take them seriously, presumably because one of them was wearing a Democratic Alliance (DA) shirt, the reigning party in the Western Cape and largely despised by black voters. It was hard to hear the substance of the debate over the chanting of struggle songs and vigorous toyi-toyiing, not to mention the crowd shouting down officers...
— Amandla! Statement issued August 16, 2012
THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT, “A Brutal Tragedy that Never Should Have Happened,” was issued by the editors of Amandla! immediately following the August 16 shooting of striking miners. It appears at http://www.amandlapublishers.co.za/home-page/1522-a-brutal-tragedy-that-should-never-have-happened-editorial-comment.
NO EVENT SINCE the end of apartheid sums up the shallowness of the transformation in this country like the Marikana massacre. What occurred will be debated for years. It is...
— Niall Reddy
A PROMINENT COMMENTATOR and a brother of the former president, Moeletsi Mbeki caused a major stir last year when he announced that South Africa is headed for a “Tunisia Moment.” The vociferous denial that the comment elicited from local elites was itself evidence of a growing consensus, now encompassing much more than the odd Marxist analyst, that South Africa is headed towards total social crisis.
As the eurozone crisis and signs of fatigue in Asian economies seem likely to arrest...
— David Finkel, for the ATC Editors
The background material on South Africa in our new issue (ATC 160) –- an interview with Brian Ashley, Zachary Levenson on social movements and Niall Reddy on the economic and social background to the crisis -– was planned and compiled over a period of several months before publication. We could not imagine, of course, that the “Tunisia moment” foretold in Niall Reddy’s essay would explode just as we were going to press, in the shocking form of the police massacre of...
— Benjamin Balthaser
American Socialist Triptych:
The Literary-Political Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman,
Upton Sinclair, and W.E.B. Du Bois
By Mark W. Van Wienen
Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012, 390 pages, $80 cloth.
IT SEEMS HARD to believe that in parts of the country where Democrats today are viewed as radical socialists, actual self-described Socialists once won upwards of 20% of the vote, elected two members of Congress, and in locales such as Minot, Kansas and Oklahoma City held mayoral office...
— Sarah Ehlers
Hog Butchers, Beggars, and Busboys:
Poverty, Labor, and the Making of Modern American Poetry
By John Marsh
University of Michigan Press, 2011, 280 pages, $80 cloth, $35 paper.
IN 1925, WHILE clearing tables at the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., Langston Hughes (then relatively unknown in the literary world) noticed famed poet Vachel Lindsay dining alone. Even though busboys weren’t permitted to talk to guests, he took a chance and recited three poems from his forthcoming The Weary...
— Alan Wald
The Century’s Midnight:
Dissenting European and American Writers in the Era of the Second World War
by Clive Bush
Oxford: Peter Lang, 2010, 608 pages, $77.95 cloth.
NON-COMMUNIST RADICAL CULTURE of the anti-fascist years has long been a subject in search of a critic who can boldly embrace the enigmatic. That quest is now ended with the publication of the furiously intelligent The Century’s Midnight.
In the sure hands of Clive Bush, biography and cultural history combine to create a...
— Konstantina M. Karageorgos
The Indignant Generation:
A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960
By Lawrence Jackson
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011, 579 pages, $37.50 cloth.
LAWRENCE P. JACKSON’S The Indignant Generation: A Narrative History of African American Writers and Critics, 1934-1960 is the most recent study, and to date perhaps the most thorough, of the mid-20th century African-American literary Left. It provides a powerful countermand to leading African American...
— Julie R. Enszer
“I refuse these givens the splitting/between love and action”
EMININENT POET, ESSAYIST, lesbian and feminist Adrienne Cecile Rich died on March 27, 2012. Rich was born on May 16, 1929 in Baltimore, Maryland.
In 1951, when Rich was a student at Radcliffe College, W. H. Auden selected her first collection of poetry, A Change of World, for the Yale Younger Poets Prize. In the introduction, Auden said that Rich “displays a modesty not so common at that age,” and described her...
— Kelli Morgan
IN JANUARY 2011 The Bronx Museum presented “Stargazers: Elizabeth Catlett in Conversation with 21 Contemporary Artists” to explore what art historian Isolde Brielmaier describes as the “beauty, aesthetic excellence, conceptual strength, and inventive stance of Catlett’s work throughout time.”
This exhibition was one of the more recent celebrations of Catlett’s fascinating oeuvre and long-standing career.  For 70 years Elizabeth Catlett’s elegant...
— Kim D. Hunter
FARUQ Z. BEY, the recently deceased saxophonist, poet and visionary, was at the heart of a tremendous ensemble in the 1970s and ’80s called Griot Galaxy. They were also called “the best band that never left Detroit.” That may seem faint, even damning praise unless you take stock of Detroit’s disproportionate influence on the nation’s music scene. Strictly speaking, it also wasn’t true as the band and its members were travelers of the European festival circuit...
— David Finkel
The Party: The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988.
A Political Memoir. Volume 2: Interregnum, Decline and Collapse, 1973-1988
by Barry Sheppard
London: Resistance Books, 2012, 336 pages + index. $18 paperback.
THE GENERAL POLITICAL and organizational principles of the “revolutionary vanguard” (so-called “Leninist”) party, it seems to me, are easily stated: a party deeply rooted in the struggles and communities of working people, committed to the destruction of capitalism...
— Malik Miah
The Party: The Socialist Workers Party 1960-1988.
A Political Memoir. Volume 2: Interregnum, Decline and Collapse, 1973-1988
by Barry Sheppard
London: Resistance Books, 2012, 336 pages + index. $18 paperback.
I’VE KNOWN BARRY Sheppard as a comrade and friend for more than 40 years. I joined the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA) in 1969 as a high school student in Detroit. I joined the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in 1970 and met Barry at the SWP’s national conference that year. I later...