Against the Current, No. 154, September/October 2011

— The Editors

THE DECADE THAT opened with the attacks of September 11, 2011 may have symbolically closed with the elite U.S. death-squad assassination of Osama bin Laden. But the turmoil of these post-9/11 years, notably the self-inflicted wounds of U.S. capitalism, have exceeded the terrorist mastermind’s wildest dreams. There are the wars that George W. Bush, with the support of congressional Democrats, launched in Afghanistan and Iraq — wars that the government promised wouldn’t have to be paid for — leading to a major U.S. defeat in Iraq, a defeat all the more damaging because it is not acknowledged as such, and a quagmire in Afghanistan and Pakistan....

— John O'Connor

RESPONDING TO THE terrorist attacks of September 2001, Against the Current’s “Letter from the Editors” (#95, November/December 2001) made an impassioned plea that the alternative to war was a political movement for social justice. Like many on the left, the editors pointed out that only an agenda for social justice could save the people of Afghanistan and Iraq from America’s military wrath and help curb the attraction of individual terrorist solutions.

As we all know, after just three weeks of preparation, America’s “war on terror” was unleashed. The struggle to influence the U.S. response was unsuccessful, not because people desired war, but for the simple reason that the New York/Washington carnage offered ruling elites a unique political opportunity....

— Julie Hurwitz

THE ABUSE OF government/police power in this country is not a new or recent phenomenon — as evidenced by the government’s court-sanctioned internment of thousands of Japanese Americans during WWII, the red scare of the 1940s-1950s to repress the labor movement and other progressive causes, the use of grand juries and COINTELPRO during the ’60s to repress the civil rights and anti-war movements.

In the post-9/11 era, however, we face new and in many respects more serious challenges regarding the increasingly deteriorating state of civil, constitutional, human and political rights....

— an interview with Martin Espada

CALLED “THE LATINO poet of his generation” and “the Pablo Neruda of North American authors,” Martín Espada was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1957. He has published more than 15 books as a poet, editor, essayist and translator. His new collection of poems is called The Trouble Ball (Norton, 2011). The Republic of Poetry, a collection published by Norton in 2006, received the Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. An earlier book of poems, Imagine the Angels of Bread (Norton, 1996), won an American Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Other books of poetry include A Mayan Astronomer in Hell’s Kitchen (Norton, 2000), City of Coughing and Dead Radiators (Norton, 1993), and Rebellion is the Circle of a Lover’s Hands (Curbstone, 1990)....

— Martin Espada

for the 43 members of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 100, working at the Windows on the World restaurant, who lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center

Alabanza. Praise the cook with a shaven head
and a tattoo on his shoulder that said Oye,
a blue-eyed Puerto Rican with people from Fajardo,
the harbor of pirates centuries ago.
Praise the lighthouse in Fajardo, candle
glimmering white to worship the dark saint of the sea.
Alabanza. Praise the cook’s yellow Pirates cap
worn in the name of Roberto Clemente, his plane
that flamed into the ocean loaded with cans for Nicaragua,
for all the mouths chewing the ash of earthquakes....
— an interview with Sandy Pope

SANDY POPE IS the candidate for General President of the Teamsters Union in the election this coming October, running against incumbent James Hoffa Jr. She’s a longtime member of Teamsters for a Democratic Union and president of Local 805 in New York City. She was interviewed by Dianne Feeley from the ATC editorial board.

Against the Current: Why do you want to be General President of the Teamsters at a time like this?

Sandy Pope: You’re not the first to ask that! The Teamsters Union has a lot of potential, which is not being realized. Hoffa likes to call it “America’s Strongest Union” and he’s right, if we tap our potential power. We’re strategically located in vital supply-chain industries....

— Kit Adam Wainer

THE NEW YORK City school system averted catastrophe on June 24, 2011 when mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew reached an accord to prevent more than 4000 teacher layoffs. Under the deal, the teachers’ union agreed to suspend sabbaticals for one year and to reorganize the way in which teachers without full programs are assigned.

The deal marked a significant setback for the Mayor, who had hoped to use the city and state fiscal crises to more dramatically restructure the school workforce. It also highlighted the weakness of the teachers union, which had to agree to concessions in order to provide Bloomberg with a face-saving retreat from a layoff threat he didn’t want to carry out in the first place....

— Nina Kampfer

IT’S NO SECRET that the Detroit Public Schools have been in a state of chaos for some time. When former Democratic governor Jennifer Granholm appointed Robert Bobb as Emergency Financial Manager in 2009, many hoped that he would make positive changes. The district was carrying a $219 million deficit, not to mention some of the country’s lowest graduation rates and standardized test scores.

Bobb immediately began calling out fraud and embezzlement and taking a much-needed critical look at how resources were being allocated within the district. To increase enrollment, he launched the successful “I’m In” campaign to encourage students to stay in the district....

— Nina Kampfer

Catherine Ferguson Academy, a school for teen mothers, has been central in controversies surrounding the closures and charters of Detroit’s public schools. Although the cost of $19,000 per student each year is comparable to the cost of educating students at other similar schools, the operational costs, from an Emergency Manager’s perspective, were excessive.

However, the preparation for the futures of CFA students goes far beyond academics. Their curriculum also includes instruction on parenting and  the school features a full-scale farm, including a vegetable garden and livestock. The school has a 90% graduation rate, well above the district’s average, and most students go on to college....

— Jack Rasmus

WHAT CAN BE called the latest phase of “concession bargaining” emerging in the past year — politically imposed concessions taking back working people’s “social wage” — is historic.

Call it “grand scale concession bargaining:” Not content with union concessions in money and benefits at the shop-floor level in the private sector, not even content with extending that in intensified form today to the public worker sector, corporate interests now demand concession bargaining over social wages at the political level....

— Matt Noyes
Radiation is mighty!
Radiation is great!
You can’t beat it and
it doesn’t discriminate.
— Rankin Taxi and the Ainu Dub Band(1)

ON THE MORNING of Thursday, March 17th, six days after the earthquake and tsunamis, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper had just one advertising supplement: a full-color glossy piece from a Buddhist temple, selling grave sites.(2)

The news gap was at its height, with Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) declaring the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant “an accident with local consequences” like Three Mile Island....

— Clarence Lang
Malcolm X:
A Life of Reinvention
by Manning Marable
New York: Viking, 2011, 594 pages, $30 hardback.

SOCIAL MOVEMENT THEORISTS have written much about the political opportunities, constraints, and levels of organizational readiness enabling or inhibiting popular insurgency.(1) We still know less, however, about the complex framing processes involved in forging and maintaining activist identities and self-narratives.

From this standpoint, Manning Marable’s posthumously published Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention is an important endeavor in historical and political biography....

— Malik Miah
“Many will ask what Harlem finds to honor in this stormy, controversial, and bold young captain — and we will smile….And we will answer and say unto them: Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you?....And if you know him you would know why we must honor him: Malcolm was our manhood, our living Black manhood!....And we will know him then for what he was and is — a prince — our own Black prince — our own Black shining prince — who didn’t hesitate to die, because he loved us so.”
— Ossie Davis’s eulogy, February 27, 1965, Faith Temple Church, New York City (459)

MANNING MARABLE’S FINAL book, Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, is a serious political biography....

— Allen Ruff
Policing America’s Empire:
The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State
By Alfred McCoy
Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009,
659 pages, $29.95 paper.
Washington Rules:
America’s Path to Permanent War
By Andrew J. Bacevich
Metropolitan Books, 2010, 286 pages, $25 paper.

THE HISTORICAL ANALYSIS of imperialism as a system of domination and subordination, of colonizer and colonized, of the “developed world” or global North over the “underdeveloped” global South, maintained for the benefit of the “imperial center” or “metropol” continues to evolve....

— David Finkel

Following Chris Hedges’ forced retirement as a war correspondent and New York Times reporter (where his reputation was forged by his acclaimed first book War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning), Hedges has emerged as a trenchant and increasingly radical critic of the politics and imperial culture of the United States. His prolific articles and speeches paint a picture of a society well on its way to self-destruction through the dominance of corporate power and sheer greed.

Hedges has produced a series of sharp, polemical treatises on a range of topics from the realities of war to the illusions of inevitable progress....

— Richard Lichtman
The Death of the Liberal Class
by Chris Hedges
Nation Books, 2010, 256 pages, $25 hardcover.

THERE ARE FEW writers today who can bring to vision the articulate passion that Chris Hedges directs against the present corporate system; its vile and self-satisfied destructiveness, and the symboitic collusion between this structure of perversion and the betrayal engaged in by “the liberal class.” I believe this aspect of Hedges’ perspective is vitally important and obvious to any reader who begins with the sense that our political culture is in a descending spiral of decay.

In this review, I intend no disavowal of the validity of Hedges’ critique of the direction of our society....

— Simon Pirani
In the Crossfire:
Adventures of a Vietnamese Revolutionary
By Ngo Van
Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2011, 264 pages, $19.95 paper.

THIS BOOK OPENS with a vivid, gut-wrenching account of the arrest, detention and torture of two young Vietnamese revolutionaries in Saigon in June 1936 by the Sûreté, the political police who defended France’s colonial might. We are spared no details: the electric shock treatment; the kicking; the insertion of a wood plank in the prisoner’s mouth while his wrists are tied back to his ankles and he is beaten....

— Ron Lare
Reinterrogating the Classical Marxist Discourses of Revolutionary Democracy
By Soma Marik
Delhi, India: Aakar Books, 2008, 496 pages plus bibliography and index.
To order: aakarbooks@gmail.com.

2017 WILL MARK the Russian Revolution’s 100th anniversary. Socialists will again ask how the revolution was made and why it degenerated.

Soma Marik is an Indian Marxist-feminist and activist against the plague of intercommunal violence in her country, as well as a scholar in Russian history. She teaches in Kolkata at a college, Ramakrishna Sarada Mission Vivekananda Vidya Bhavan, and is guest faculty at the School of Women’s Studies at Jadavpur University....

— Kim D. Hunter

David Blair (D. Blair, or simply Blair on stage) was born in Newton, New Jersey in 1967 — coincidentally, a fateful year of urban rebellions — and died this August in Detroit. His memorial included a jazz funeral that was large enough to stop traffic on Woodward Avenue, Detroit’s main drag.  The crowd was a testament to his incredible life, his power to reach people and how he used that power.

The awards he garnered and the work he created in his less than 50 years speak to the speed with which Blair created great work. He was a 2010 Callaloo Fellow, was nominated seven times for the Detroit Music Awards and won in 2007 which was also the year he earned BENT Writing Institute Mentor Award....