Against the Current, No. 156, January/February 2012

— The ATC Editors

THE QUESTION ISN’T whether the magnificent “Occupy” movement will continue after police action and the onset of winter have largely emptied the encampments. The righteous rage that made the movement possible, and the enormous social and economic crisis that made it necessary, are not going away anytime soon. Quite the contrary — capitalism’s inherent contradictions, made worse by economic policies in Europe and the United States that seem calculated to maximize the damage, pose the real possibility of a new global financial meltdown and potential world depression.

Let’s assume that the worst-case scenario of a collapse of the euro and widespread bank failures can be avoided....

— Malik Miah

WHAT’S STRIKING ABOUT the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) Movement and its popular slogan “We are the 99 percent” is how much the central demand of the movement resonates with the Black community. African Americans with few exceptions are in the bottom 20% of income and wealth. Double digit unemployment is the norm in “good” economic times.

Yet the social composition of most OWS occupations (some 10,000 including college campuses) has had few Black faces including in urban areas with large Black populations. The reality of high unemployment, few job opportunities, poverty and inadequate health care has most poor people trying to survive. It is why African Americans are not visible in large numbers....

— Stephanie Luce

A DEBATE IS going on about whether Occupy Wall Street should adopt a list of demands. A number of people I know and respect have supported the Demands Working Group in New York and have called for the General Assembly to adopt their list. The draft includes great demands — there is nothing I’ve seen that I don’t agree with, and I’ve worked hard for some of them for much of my life. Yet I keep thinking that pushing the list of demands is not the way to go right now.

First, I don’t think the left that I tend to work with has done an adequate job of theorizing the state and how to relate to it....

— an interview with David Martinez

FORTY-TWO TEAMSTER art-handlers at Sotheby’s auction house in New York City have been locked-out of their jobs for more than four months. Against the Current interviewed Sotheby’s shop steward David Martinez about what’s at stake, and how they’ve built links with the Occupy movement to fight back.

Against the Current: You’ve been locked-out for four months now? How did we get here?

David Martinez: Sotheby’s chose this fight. Their arrogance was on display from the very beginning....

— Bill Balderston

THIS ARTICLE IS a personal account of the growing dialogue between the labor movement and the Occupy organizing, as seen by someone heavily involved in attempting to build these linkages. It is not intended to be a comprehensive description of all the events which occurred December 12th along the whole Pacific coast (a good such report is the Labor Notes online article of December 12th by Evan Rohar. See http://labornotes.org/2011/12/west-coast-port-shutdown-sparks-heated-debate-between-unions-occupy).

Rather, I will describe the trajectory of events and discussions that led to the December 12th Port shutdown, involving much of the labor and Occupy communities in the Bay Area, which has served as a bellwether for such interaction....

— Kim Hunter and Dianne Feeley

WHAT’S THE NEW center of gravity on the political landscape? Author Dan La Botz has provocatively remarked that Occupy Oakland’s November 2 shutdown of the Port of Oakland — one of the largest recent labor actions — was initiated from outside union structures. Earlier, in New York City, on the morning Mayor Bloomberg dispatched police to expel Occupiers from Liberty Park, 5,000 people — many city workers, transit workers and teachers — turned out, forcing him to back off. TWU Local 100 endorsed Occupy Wall Street early on, but their members were present from day one.

Pushed by its membership, organized labor has been drawn into the country’s Occupations in complex ways....

— David Finkel

THERE ARE TWO realities to grasp about the current plight of Detroit.

Reality one: Detroit is caught in a set of interlocking crises, from the level of the world economy and national political gridlock down to the viciously reactionary Michigan state government and the yawning divide between the city and suburban Detroit, that would severely challenge the most competent, the most visionary, the most energetic and most progressive city leadership.

Reality two: That’s not the leadership we’ve got....

— Meleiza Figueroa and Julie Michelle Klinger

THE TUMULTUOUS MONTH of November 2011 marked the emergence of a powerful and widespread movement on public university campuses throughout California.

Brutal police repression of Occupy encampments at UC Berkeley and UC Davis gained national media attention and sparked massive solidarity actions among social justice movements around the nation and the world. Our experiences in the Bay Area — especially at Occupy Oakland and UC Berkeley — present a snapshot of recent events, which offer some insights and possibilities for the relationship between Occupy Wall Street and existing social justice struggles....

— Rob Peters-Slaughter

I REMEMBER AS if it were just yesterday. I was linked in arms, peacefully protesting in support and solidarity with the students of UC Berkeley and my friend Meleiza. What I would soon have to witness would leave me traumatized and utterly disgusted.

The first scene was that of an elderly couple in front of me who were also protesting peacefully. This couple would soon be shoved to the ground and left defenseless by the officers of the Alameda County Sheriffs Department....

— Connor Elkington

TWO MONTHS EARLIER, I had been sitting in class listening to an ILWU member talk about Export Grain Terminal’s (EGT) union-busting tactics in Longview, WA. “Great,” I thought, “but how can I help from the campus of a little college in Moraga, California?”

Little did I know that the answer would develop out of my class project on Occupy Wall Street, when researching its strategies quickly morphed into organizing a movement on campus....

— Elizabeth Roland

SOME OF YOU might know me; I’m Elizabeth Roland and a senior at Saint Mary’s. I am a women’s studies major and history minor and have worked damn hard to keep a 3.808 GPA. I am super active and social on campus, the only thing is…. I am not on campus this semester.

Instead, I work in a factory, 45 hours a week making aerospace printers for minimum wage. I am sure that sentence was hard to comprehend but, yes there is such a thing as aerospace printers, and yes I work in a factory that makes them....

— Antonio Venegas

I TRULY DON’T want to be another sob story. But when the rare opportunity comes along to tell my story and affect many, like a stone cast into the water, it is necessary to at least attempt to grab the hearts of people who will listen.

As I constructed the presentation that I was going to show my social justice organizing class at St. Mary’s College about my experience with the organization Causa Justa (Just Cause), I ran across something that froze me. I searched for “foreclosure” on Wikipedia in hopes of finding a comprehensive definition, and like most articles on that site, its words were displayed accompanied by an image.

— Johanna Brenner and Bill Resnick

EARLY ON A dark and freezing Monday morning, December 12, more than 800 people descended on terminals five and six at the Port of Portland. Having announced their intention to occupy and shut down the port, the demonstrators arrived to find that the Port of Portland management had beaten them to the punch and closed the two terminals over “safety concerns.”

More people came and went during the day, as pickets remained to ensure the terminals remained closed through what would have been the arrival of the second shift. At 5 pm about 400 demonstrators gathered at Terminal 4 and closed it down as well....

— Vanessa Carlisle

OCCUPY LOS ANGELES was the largest of the “Occupy” encampments: In the space of two months, we grew from around 50 to nearly 500 tents. Our camp developed neighborhoods, tribes, collectives, a print shop, a library, a people’s university, a wellness center, a meditation tent, a kid’s village, and all sorts of fascinating community problems to go with them. This is the particular joy and struggle of being an occupation, and not a traditional group of community organizers; the internal conflict of a commune or a family was playing out simultaneously with our movement and message-building.

Our General Assemblies are smaller than Occupy Wall Street’s but our tent city was over twice as large....

— Vanessa Carlisle

AMONG MANY TACTICS used by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD ) to disorient, dishearten, and divide members of Occupy Los Angeles during our detention at city jails, one of the more insidious was denying us access to the news.

We requested a newspaper, as is our right, on Wednesday morning, November 30 when we were booked and awaiting arraignment. We did not receive one until Thursday morning. Twelve of us sat in a circle and on bunks in a holding cell and read through the cover story about the “peaceful evacuation” of Occupy Los Angeles....

— E. Feng and J. Gamma

ISLA VISTA IS an unincorporated community within the Santa Barbara County, a gentrified ghetto on the sunny seaside of southern California packing 23,000 people within its meager 1.8 square miles. The core is composed of students studying at the nearby University of California, with a largely ignored community composed of Latino/Latina working-class and other permanent residents, including a houseless population.

Occupy Isla Vista began on November 5th at People’s Park, adjacent to a university-owned building known as Embarcadero Hall. As a former property of Bank of America, the building was burned down twice by local activists in 1970....

— Hisham H. Ahmed

THE CONTEMPORARY ARAB political system, until the recent outbreak of Arab revolutions, is the byproduct of a number of domestic, regional and global arrangements and developments in the post-World War II international order.

Established in 1945, the League of Arab States did not reflect popular sentiments but rather the desires of the leaders in the newly independent states and the support of Britain, the region’s former superpower. Widespread demands for Arab unity were sidetracked and suppressed....

— an interview with Atef Said

Atef Said is a Ph.D candidate in sociology at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. A human rights lawyer and a political activist in Egypt before moving to the United States in 2004, he is the author of two books (in Arabic) on torture under Mubarak. Said was interviewed on December 2 by David Finkel for the editors of Against the Current.

Against the Current: We’re speaking during the first round of the parliamentary elections in Egypt. How do you assess the information so far about the large turnout and early results?

Atef Said: Before discussing the election, I would like to remind the readers of Against the Current what happened in the Egyptian revolution in January/February 2011....

WHEN HILLARY CLINTON expressed dismay over gender segregation on buses in ultra-Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem — where women are forced to sit separately — she somehow neglected to mention the Jewish-settlers-only bus system in the Occupied Palestinan Territories.

On November 15, a group of Palestinian activists were arrested travelling on a bus carrying Israeli settlers. The activists call themselves the “Freedom Riders,” after the U.S. civil rights campaigners of 1961....

— Jason Stanley

FRANCE’S NEW ANTI-CAPITALIST Party (NPA) is in crisis. While only two years ago many on the international left talked about the NPA as one of the brightest lights on an otherwise dim revolutionary horizon, today the Party is hemorrhaging members and struggling to stay afloat.

Founded in 2009, the NPA brought together members of the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) and a number of diffuse anti-capitalist, anti-globalization and identity-based movements in France. Whereas the LCR had been a party that sprouted from the fertile terrain of the May 1968 moment, the NPA was to be a party of the new, post-Berlin Wall left....

— Steve Bloom

ON WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 7, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams held a news conference to announce that the city will no longer seek the death penalty against long-time political prisoner and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jama — convicted in a frameup trial for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner.

Mumia was sentenced to death by trial judge Albert Sabo and has been in prison, on death row, ever since. Entire careers have been crafted by Philadelphia politicians based on the call for Mumia’s execution. Thus the announcement by Williams was a major news event....

— Paul Ortiz

I WOULD LIKE to begin with a quote that readers of Caribbean literature will instantly recognize. We start here because in order to understand the connection between Black History Month and revolution, we must explode the stifling separation between art and everyday life that bourgeois society everywhere seeks to impose on us:

“It is not often recognized that the major thrust of Caribbean literature in English rose from the soil of labor resistance in the 1930s. The expansion of social justice initiated by the labor struggle had a direct effect on liberating the imagination and restoring the confidence of men and women in the essential humanity of their simple lives. In the cultural history of the region, there is a direct connection between labor and literature.”(1) — George Lamming
— Derrick Morrison
American Uprising
The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt
By Daniel Rasmussen
Harper, 2010, 276 pages, $27 hardcover.

“Destrehan did not mention the spiked iron collars, cowhide whips, and face masks that he and the other planters used to encourage the slaves’ ‘natural habits.’ Though the planters had no difficulty reconciling the wealth they enjoyed and the price the slaves paid, the region’s black laborers did. By aborting their own children, poisoning livestock, lighting fires, and escaping to the cypress swamps, the slaves struggled to dilute, deflect, and if possible demolish slaveholders’ authority. Even open revolt was not beyond question....

— Bruce Levine
The American Road to Capitalism:
Studies in Class-Structure, Economic Development and Political Conflict,
1620-1877
By Charles Post
298 + xvii pages, including bibliography and index. Hardcover, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2011. Short-listed for the 2011 Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize. Haymarket Books is scheduled to release a paperback edition in March 2012 for $28, with 20% pre-order discount (www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/The-American-Road-to-Capitalism; use code HM 2011).

THIS IS A thoughtful, learned, stimulating, challenging and altogether valuable volume. It reprints a series of reflections by the Marxist sociologist Charles Post on various aspects of the rise and evolution of capitalism in North America between the colonial era and the late 19th century.

— E. Haberkern
Martov and Zinoviev:
Head to Head in Halle
Edited with introductory essays by Ben Lewis and Lars T. Lih
November Publications Ltd., First Edition 2011, 229 pages, $22 paperback.

THERE WERE TWO defining moments in the history of the international working-class movement in the first half of the 20th century. The first, by far the most discussed and written about for obvious reasons, was the revolution in Russia in October 1917 and its subsequent isolation and defeat. The second was the disaster in the German movement, which had been for half a century the model of a militant, socialist working-class movement, and the subsequent collapse of that movement in the face of Nazism....

— Kathlene McDonald
In the Garden of Beasts:
Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin
By Erik Larson
Crown Publishing Group, Random House, 460 pages, $26 hardcover, $16 paperback.

OVER A DECADE ago, I spent several months poring through the Martha Eccles Dodd papers at the Library of Congress. I was driven to research her life while working on a book about Left feminist culture and antifascist resistance in the McCarthy era. I had just read two of Dodd’s novels (Sowing the Wind and The Searching Light) and was driven to find out more about the sources of Dodd’s attraction to antifascist causes....

— Susan Dirr and Tessa Echeverria
Queer (In)Justice:
The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States
By Joey L. Mogul, Andrea J. Ritchie & Kay Whitlock
Boston: Beacon Press, 2011, 240 pages, $27.97 cloth.

QUEER (IN)JUSTICE IS authored by Joey Mogul, a partner at the People’s Law Office in Chicago and director of DePaul University’s Civil Rights Clinic; Andrea Ritchie, an attorney and organizer who works on issues of police misconduct; and Kay Whitlock, an organizer and writer around structural injustices.

It is no surprise then, that in their opening the authors explain that they use the term “Criminal Legal System,” because the system does not serve justice to the people of this country....

— Michael Löwy
Who Killed Che?
How the CIA got away with murder
By Michael Ratner and Michael Steven Smith
New York: Or Books, 2011, 200 pages, $16 paperback.

IN COMPELLING DETAIL, two leading civil rights attorneys — both leaders of the Center for Constitutional Rights (New York) — recount the extraordinary life and deliberate killing of the world’s most popular revolutionary, Ernesto Che Guevara. Using internal U.S. governmental documentation, only recently released, the authors use their forensic skills to analyze the evidence of the CIA’s involvement in the execution of a war prisoner captured alive....