Against the Current 168

— The Editors
PENSION THEFT: IMPORTED from Detroit? In giving the state-appointed Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr the green light to take the city into bankruptcy, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes’ December 3 ruling opens up a national offensive to loot public sector workers’ pension and health care benefits.
Within a week Forbes magazine, aimed at audiences who don’t rely on public sector pensions for their secure retirement, published an article proclaiming “a silver...
— David Finkel
A POLITICALLY WEAKENED U.S. president is pulled by a powerful domestic lobby and influential foreign governments toward launching a war that U.S. imperialism right now doesn’t want, that the world doesn’t want, and that the large majority of the American public doesn’t want — what will be the outcome?
It’s an interesting, if dangerous and scary, test of how U.S. politics actually work. The initial results, at least, are in: The unleashed fury of the Israeli...
— Chris Vials
SINCE THE PUBLICATION of Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism in 2007, the American right has cried “fascism” as never before. Tea Party ideologues are not the first rightists to use the word — but they are the first to use it as more than a passing smear, and to invent an elaborate history in which fascism appears as a left-wing, even liberal movement.
Before conservative radio took up this chant, liberals and the left may not have “owned” antifascism, but they...
— David Finkel, for the ATC editors
[The following excerpt is from an article by Julius Falk (Jacobson), “McCarthy and McCarthyism. The New Look of America’s Post War Reaction,” which appeared in the January-February 1954 issue of the New International, the journal of the Independent Socialist League, pages 26-38. The article is online at
— David Finkel for the ATC editors]
“THERE IS A…distinctive...
— Marc Becker
ON OCTOBER 3, 2013 after a marathon 10-hour debate, the Ecuadorian National Assembly approved the extraction of petroleum from the ecologically fragile Yasuní National Park. That decision was a dramatic reversal of a signature program of leftist president Rafael Correa to preserve the park. It also highlights ongoing debates within the South American left over how to balance urgent needs for economic development with environmental sustainability.
Since taking office in 2007, Correa has...
— Ashwin Desai
NELSON MANDELA’S BEST-SELLING autobiography, published in 1994, is titled Long Walk to Freedom. It tells the powerful story of the journey of a rural Transkei boy who was a cow-herd and son of a deposed tribal chief, to guerilla fighter to decades-long prisoner on an island fortress and then to the first Black and democratic president of his nation, South Africa.
This story came at a time when the world was witnessing the collapse of the Soviet Union, the toppling of statues of many...
— David Finkel
MUCH HAS BEEN said in tribute to Nelson Mandela, some of it by self-serving politicians not fit to speak his name, who called Mandela a terrorist when he was buried alive by the apartheid regime for 27 years. It might be a moment to think about some other still-serving political prisoners.
Think about Palestine’s living Mandela, Marwan Barghouthi, sentenced to five life terms in an Israeli prison. (The first Palestinian Mandela, Yasir Arafat, was almost certainly murdered on orders of...
— Sheila Cohen
THIRTY PAGES INTO my re-reading of The Making of the English Working Class, it dawned on me why Thompson’s masterpiece is so loved: it celebrates (almost entirely) the movement aspect of the institution/movement dialectic, the direct dynamic of working-class democracy as opposed to the formalised “representative” antics of the powers-that-be.
Yet this masterpiece opens with a highly contentious pair of statements: “The working class…was present at its own...
— Manuel Yang
MY FATHER SHIH-LIN Yang died on August 14, 2013. He was born in 1920 — E.P. Thompson’s senior by four years — and, like EPT’s father Edward John, a Christian missionary and minister who cut his historical consciousness in the crucible of war and imperialism (the Japanese military suspected him, a Taiwanese colonial subject, to be an anti-Japanese dissident and imprisoned him for more than a year in 1943-44).
When I first read The Making of the English Working Class in...
— George Scott
This article was originally developed as a presentation on the realities of police brutality and the character of organized opposition in the city. The author is a member of the New York City branch of Solidarity.
I WANT TO explore a political question around the role of current police repression in the United States. I think we’d all agree that capitalists will use various state apparatus to accomplish their goals. But actually I’m looking for a more thorough, more complete, and...
— Marty Oppenheimer
IN 1962 A socialist writer, Michael Harring­ton, came out with a book called The Other America.(1) It was about poverty in the United States, a subject getting little attention in the media, in the academic world or in social policy circles at that time.
True, a handful of sociologists and social workers had been concerned with poor neighborhoods at least since the 1920s. They were primarily interested in such “deviant behaviors” as hoboes, prostitutes, taxi dancers, juvenile...
— Xiomara Santamarina
MANY HAVE DESCRIBED the visceral experience of viewing “12 Years as a Slave,” Steve McQueen’s film, as harrowing. But as a longtime teacher of 19th century U.S. slave narratives, I think the best term that describes the film is “uncanny.”
Resisting an impulse to leave the theater during the scene of Solomon Northup’s violent initiation into slavery, I was taken aback by its on-the-nail dramatization of tropes that 19th century abolitionists — white and...
— Malik Miah
A Freedom Budget for All Americans
Recapturing the Promise of the Civil Rights Movement in the Struggle for Economic Justice Today
By Paul LeBlanc and Michael D. Yates
New York: Monthly Review Press, 2013, 245 pages, $16.95 paperback.
This new book, A Freedom Budget for All Americans, by Paul LeBlanc and Michael Yates looks back at a piece of history from the Civil Rights Revolution that gets little if any mention today. It’s a time worth revisiting as the proposals offered in the Freedom...
— Bill Chandler
Jackson, Mississippi:
an American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism
By John R. Salter Jr.
University of Nebraska Press, 2011, 272 pages, $18.95 paperback.
Coming of Age in Mississippi
By Anne Moody
Bantam Dell, 1968; Delta paperback edition, 2004, 424 pages, $16. Also available in audio CD from Tantor Media.
ON SATURDAY, AUGUST 24, a national march commemorated the 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington, conceived and organized by A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin.
The 2013...
— Dianne Feeley
The Making of Black Detroit in the Age of Henry Ford
By Beth Tompkins Bates
Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2012, 344 pages with photographs. Paperback edition forthcoming in February 2014.
THE MAKING OF Black Detroit in the Age of Henry Ford attempts to map the transition from the Detroit Black community’s idolization of Henry Ford to its support of the UAW’s successful 1941 campaign to represent the workers at Ford. While General Motors, Chrysler, Packard, Briggs...
— Matthew Garrett
Black against Empire:
The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party
By Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013, 539 pages, $34.95 hardback. Paperback edition January 2014, $27.95.
JOSHUA BLOOM AND Waldo Martin, Jr. have written a remarkable partisan history of the Black Panther Party, concerned, above all, to provide an account of the Panthers’ political program, insurgent practice, and conditions of possibility. It is also an openly...
— Robert Caldwell
The Amistad Rebellion
An Atlantic Odyssey of Slavery and Freedom
By Marcus Rediker
New York: Viking/Penguin, 2012, 288 pages,
$27.95 hardback, $17 paper.
MARCUS REDIKER’S THE Amistad Rebellion embarks from Stephen Spielberg’s 1997 film “The Amistad,” a subject with which most readers will be familiar. But Rediker’s Amistad is not centered on the 1841 Supreme Court case, or the white elites on either side of the courtroom barrage.
Retelling the story from a bottom-up...
— Derrick Morrison
The Black Count:
Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
By Tom Reiss
Crown Publishers, New York, 2012, 414 pages, $27 hardback.
“THOMAS-ALEXANDRE DUMAS Davy de la Pailleterie, 14, stepped onto the dock in Le Havre on August 30, 1776. He was listed in the ship’s manifest as ‘the slave Alexandre,’ belonging to a ‘Lieutenant Jacques-Louis Roussel.’ This was a necessary ruse, because a young mulatto could not simply walk off a boat into...
— Charlie Post
In the Steps of Rosa Luxemburg:
Selected Writings of Paul Levi
Edited and introduced by David Fernbach
Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012, 349 pages, $28 paperback.
FOR RADICALS AND revolutionaries engaged in rebuilding an anti-capitalist movement in the early 21st century, the 20th century appears to be a record of disaster. Capitalism survived two great economic crises (1914-1934 and 1966-1982) that many on the left believed spelled the end of this form of class society.
The cost to humanity of...
— Jesse Lemisch
[On December 9, we received this note from Ellen Goldensohn: “Dear Steve died at 7:09 this morning. To him, all were equal — even those society had cast out.” We present this tribute by his longtime friend Jesse Lemisch, Professor of History Emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. We note that a celebration of his life will be held on Saturday, February 8, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. at the Murphy Center/ CUNY Labor Studies Department, 25 West 43rd...
— Dan LaBotz
Come on, let’s stop and say good-bye,
Steve’s leaving on his trip, on the road again.
See him standing there
in his hunter’s vest,
the pocket’s bulging
with notebooks and pens,
a small magnifying glass,
and a miniature flashlight,
miscellaneous papers
held together
with clips and rubber bands,
a couple of old maps,
his cigarette papers and tobacco.
He’s holding a small bag....