Against the Current, No. 175, March/April 2015

— The Editors

IN THE UNITED States, as elsewhere, a woman’s body is not her own. The evidence of the video-gone-viral of a woman walking in New York City, capturing the remarks that men felt they had the right to make as she passed, is a case in point. College campuses are also a hunting ground for sexual predators, as women come forward to disclose various forms of date rape.

According to police records, almost one-third of female homicide victims are killed by their partners. Each year an estimated 1.3 million women suffer domestic abuse; one of every four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime. Witnessing violence between parents (or other caregivers) is the strongest risk factor in transmitting violence from one generation to another.

Breaking this epidemic of violence against women,...

— Malik Miah
“If, in 2014, we’re still making ‘white savior movies’ then it’s just lazy and unfortunate. We’ve grown up as a country and cinema should be able to reflect what’s true. And what’s true is that black people are the center of their own lives and should tell their own stories from their own perspectives.” — Ava DuVernay speaking to the Boston Globe (January 3, 2015) in response to criticism of her treatment of President Johnson in her film, Selma.
“In spite of Obama’s debt to the civil-rights movement, the ideal of American exceptionalism is only as valid as the standing of people who have just as often been seen as exceptions to America.” — Jelani Cobb in his column for the New Yorker (January 26, 2015), “A president and a King.”

WHEN PRESIDENT OBAMA gave his sixth State of the Union speech....

— Traven Leyson

AFTER A SUSTAINED grassroots campaign, Vermont passed a law in 2011 which commits the state to a universal, publicly-financed healthcare system.

Act 48 laid out plans for implementing the Affordable Care Act in the short term, and provided the roadmap for the creation of Green Mountain Care, a universal, publicly and equitably financed healthcare system by 2017.

The victory in Vermont served as a model for organizers in dozens of states and a rallying point to rebuild national momentum for healthcare for all.

But the bill did not include a plan for funding it....

— Jane Slaughter

IN A SOCIETY filled with violence — from unpunished police officers to killings by mentally ill people with access to firearms — there’s also an epidemic of criminal assaults on workers at their job sites each year, which mostly will go unpunished, even unreported and unremarked, unless a perpetrator “goes postal” with a shooting spree.

Workplace violence ranges from threats and curses to murder. Spitting on bus drivers is so common in New York City that their union won them DNA kits last year, to collect saliva.

A study covering 7,169 emergency room nurses found that 43% had been verbally abused by a patient or visitor just in the previous week, one percent were physically abused, and 11% were both physically and verbally abused....

— Jane Slaughter

THE DEPARTMENT OF Labor defines workplace violence as “any threat or act of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at [a] worksite.”

The Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration says there are two million reports of workplace violence each year and that many more go unreported. The Department of Justice says that  workplace violence is less likely to be reported to the police than other violence: 47% of incidents vs. 52%.

Using a more restrictive category of “nonfatal violent crimes” at work — rape/sexual assault, robbery, simple assault and aggravated assault —...

— Lars Henriksson

HERE HAVE BEEN a lot of great analyses and interpretations of the world and I won’t try to compete with them. I’ll say a few words about changing the world.

I don’t have any great success story to present, just a few thoughts about solving the old contradiction between jobs and the environment, in the special case of the auto industry, which I came up with as we were facing the dual crisis of economy and ecology.

It began in 2008, the year after Al Gore and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and climate change had been a worldwide top story. But with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the auto industry in free fall,...

AS AGAINST THE Current goes to press, an appeal hearing is scheduled for February 24 regarding the imprisonment of Reverend Edward Pinkney of Benton Harbor, MI. The American Civil Leaders Union has filed an “Amicus Curiae Brief” in support of Pinkney.

Pinkney was convicted on a highly dubious charge of “voter fraud” involving alleged forgery (changing a handful of dates) in the handling of recall petitions against Mayor James Hightower of Benton Harbor earlier this year. During the five-day trial, no witnesses said they saw Pinkney change any dates or signatures on the recall petitions.

The all-white jury in St. Joseph, adjacent to the mostly Black impoverished town of Benton Harbor,...

— Kevin Young and Diana C. Sierra Becerra

ASSUMING HILLARY CLINTON runs for president in 2016, much of her popular support will be based on her image as an advocate of women’s rights. During her 2008 candidacy, the National Organization of Women (NOW) endorsed Clinton based on her “long history of support for women’s empowerment.” A group of 250 academics and activists calling themselves “Feminists for Clinton” praised her “powerful, inspiring advocacy of the human rights of women” and her “enormous contributions” as a policymaker.

Since then, NOW and other mainstream women’s organizations have been eagerly anticipating her 2016 candidacy. Clinton and supporters have recently stepped up efforts to portray her as a champion of both women’s and LGBT rights.

Such depictions have little basis in Clinton’s past....

— Mark A. Lause

AMERICANS WHO ARE predisposed to “progressive” ideas regularly praise the merits of pragmatism and flexibility, while denouncing “rigidity and dogmatism.”

Most often they do this to disparage the idea of doing anything other than voting Democratic. From their perspective, flexibility and pragmatism means seeing the election of Democrats as the way to foster a more just, rational and peaceful world. In reality, offering only one course against all possible alternatives is practically the definition of an inflexible dogma.

This perceived marriage of “progressive” change and the Democratic Party grew from conditions that prevailed from the 1930s through the 1960s. The next half century sustained this faith....

— Sara Abraham interviews Nityanand Jayaraman

ON THE NIGHT of December 2, 1984, unknown poisonous gases (released by the runaway reaction of water with methyl isocyanate, or MIC) burst out from a Union Carbide pesticide plant located in a densely populated, working poor vicinity of the city of Bhopal in central India. The plant, scheduled for possible closure, was understaffed, not maintained adequately, and had already seen prior deaths from exposure to leaks.

Over 5000 persons from the area immediately adjacent to the factory died in the 72 hours following the gas “leak,” and over 20,000 persons died subsequently as a result of severe health complications from the toxic air.

To this day, 30 years later, toxic materials (wastes, by-products, solvents, polluted water) dumped by the plant have not been assessed or cleaned up and there are few warning signs in the adjacent areas. The waste has entered the water supply of the city....

— Radical Socialist (India)

THE POLICE TORTURE of a woman at Kalamadanga village, in the Bardhaman district of West Bengal, is a grim reminder that “normalization” of state violence, particularly violence on women, has continued unabated regardless of which party is in power.

Sheikh Mithun, of the Parui region, is reported to have switched party allegiance from the All India Trinamool Congres (TMC) to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). As part of the threat to wipe out the BJP from the area, he was injured by a bomb thrown by alleged TMC goondas. Treated in a hospital, he was released. Meanwhile police, accompanied by TMC people, turned up at the home of Mithun’s aunt. She was asked about his whereabouts, then dragged to a forest area, tied to a tree, beaten, with a blade used on her body, stripped and tortured.

The internal police report has been trying to find inconsistencies....

SHAIMAA AL-SABBAGH, 32 years old, a mother, poet and member of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, was gunned down January 24 by black-clad snipers who were seen on video pointing rifles in her direction (see (http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2015/01/25/shaimaa-al-sabbagh-died-near-tahrir-birdshot-back-forensic-authority/).

It was a targeted assassination by agents of the regime that has reversed the Arab Spring and restored the old order under the new presidentialist dictatorship.

A participant in a demonstration in Cairo marking the fourth anniversary of the 2011 popular uprising that toppled the Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak, al-Sabbagh was in a group of protesters carrying slogans and chanting for “bread, freedom and social justice,” and carrying roses....

— Allen Ruff

WITH THE CENTENARY of World War I underway, it does us well to recall the remarkable socialist militant, Mary Marcy (1877-1922). Described by Eugene V. Debs as “one of the clearest minds and greatest souls in our movement,” Marcy provided a significant voice for the revolutionary left of American socialism in opposition to imperialism and capitalist-bred war during that turbulent era.

Born Mary Edna Tobias and orphaned as a young woman, she initially worked as a switchboard operator and self-taught stenographer to support herself and her siblings. Fired from her job for wearing a William Jennings Bryan button during the election campaign of 1896, she subsequently worked at the University of Chicago where she then studied with educator John Dewey.

Marcy joined the Socialist Party (SP) in 1903. Her muckraking exposé of the meatpacking industry,...

— Carmen Teeple Hopkins

[The murder at Charlie Hebdo and the Paris kosher supermarket have unleashed a wave of attacks on French Muslim communities, their culture and religion. For a report on these developments, see “An Outpouring of Islamophobia,” by Julien Salingue, posted at http://www.solidarity-us.org/node/4354. The following analysis by Carmen Teeple Hopkins helps explain the gendered background of the present dangers and tragedies. — The ATC editors.]

IN THE SPRING of 2011, France became the first country in Europe to ban the burka and niqab (face veil) from public space. Any woman who wears the burka or niqab in public can be fined 150 euros or forced to take a course on French citizenship. Of the five million Muslims in France, fewer than 2000 wear a face veil.

An International Women’s Day issue is the perfect place....

— Dayo F. Gore
Eslanda:
The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson
By Barbara Ransby
Yale University Press, 2013, 424 pages, $25 paper.

FOR A WOMAN often described by men as “too abrasive,” “formidable,” and “too ambitious,” Barbara Ransby’s incisive biography provides a more nuanced picture of Eslanda Robeson.

Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson offers a dynamic detailing of Eslanda and Paul Robeson’s shared political vision and the journeys that led them from the Black social and cultural milieu of Harlem in the 1920s, to 1930s left politics and an embrace of Soviet communism, anticolonial solidarity,...

— Ann Ferguson
Dangerous Liaisons:
The marriages and divorces of Marxism and Feminism
By Cinzia Arruzza
Translated by Marie Lagatta and Dave Kelly
Wales, UK: Merlin Books, 2013; also notebook 55 of the International Institute for Research and Education (www.iire.org), 156 pages paperback.

CINZIA ARRUZZA’S DANGEROUS Liaisons is an ambitious attempt to give a brief history of the interrelation between the 18th to 20th century women’s, labor and left anti-capitalist movements in the UK and Europe, and the theoretical debates in that same period about the interconnection between male and class domination and exploitation.

For those of us who have been left feminist activists from the 1960s forward,...

— Dianne Feeley
Marxism and the Oppression of Women
Toward a Unitary Theory
By Lise Vogel
New introduction by Susan Ferguson and David McNally
Boston: Brill, 2013, Original Publication Rutgers University Press, 1983,
Haymarket paperback 2014. $28 paperback.

THE RE-ISSUING OF Marxism and the Oppression of Women: Toward a Unitary Theory, 30 years after its initial publication, is a chance for socialist feminists to review the legacy of the Marxist tradition in theorizing the secondary status of women. Vogel’s study stands out for its thorough research and critical inspection of Marx’s and Engels’ discussion of women’s oppression, and how their views evolved.

To the original text, the new edition has added an introduction....

— David Finkel, for the ATC editors

AGAINST THE CURRENT has invited several authors from varying political perspectives to discuss the historic breakthrough in Cuba-U.S. relations, and what it might mean for the politics and the situation in each country. We present here commentaries by Walter Lippmann, Samuel Farber, and a declaration by the Fourth International. Further contributions will appear in our next issue, and we welcome our readers’ comments on the issues raised in this discussion.

March/April 2015, ATC 175

— Walter Lippmann

CUBA AND THE United States announced December 17, 2014, that they had agreed to resume diplomatic relations.

Relations had been broken by Washing­ton in 1961, when Cuba ordered the United States to reduce its embassy staff to the same number as Cuba’s embassy in Washington: 11.

Initial talks between the two have taken place. Both say the conversations were respectful and courteous.

What does this mean?

The news marked a major victory for Cuba on several accounts. Washington broke relations, and imposed a blockade over half a century ago. It hoped the pain and suffering caused by U.S. pressure would drive the Cuban people to rise up....

— Samuel Farber

ON DECEMBER 17, 2014 the White House and Raúl Castro’s government agreed to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations and a significant relaxation of travel restrictions and remittances to Cuba, among other significant changes. This is a turning point for a relationship that, for more than 50 years, was characterized by U. S. efforts to overthrow the Cuban government, including the sponsorship of invasions, economic blockade and sabotage, numerous assassination attempts, and terrorist attacks.

It remains to be seen whether the alliance of anti-blockade pro-business Repub­licans and Democrats will succeed in modifying if not repealing the economic blockade established by the Helms-Burton Act, approved by the U. S. Congress and signed into law by president Bill Clinton in 1996.

Obama may succeed where previous U.S. administrations....

— statement from the Fourth International

[This declaration from the Bureau of the Fourth International was posted on December 24, 2014.]

THE RESUMPTION OF diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba, as well as the release of three Cubans sentenced to life imprisonment in the United States for espionage, constitutes a victory for the Cuban people. For more than 50 years and under a dozen presidents, the U.S. administration has tried everything to destroy the Cuban revolution. Military intervention in 1961 at the Bay of Pigs, conspiracies to assassinate Cuban leaders, an economic embargo to strangle the life of the island, pressures of all kinds to isolate the country, everything has been tried to break Cuba.

As was recognized by Obama, this strategy has failed. Facing the biggest world imperialist power, Cuba has held fast....

— Alan Wald
American Pulp:
How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street
By Paula Rabinowitz
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014, 390 pages, $29.95 hardback.

PAULA RABINOWITZ’S EXQUISITE and startling new book about the “golden age” of U.S. pulp publishing, from the late 1930s to the early 1960s, is rightly confident in the originality of its enterprise. Gorgeously illustrated, American Pulp audaciously sets in motion at least a half-dozen crisscrossing storylines to create a new cartography of pulp performance.

Rabinowitz spells out this stratagem in a boffo first chapter called “Pulp: Biography of an American Object”: “A story of quotidian objects, widely available and yet somehow secreted....

— Jase Short
Fragility
By Au Loong Yu, with contributions from Bai Ruixue, Bruno Jetin and Pierre Rousset
Merlin Press in association with Resistance Books and IIRE, 2012, 326 pages, €26 + shipping from www.iire.org/en/iire-shop.html.

THE METEORIC RISE of Chinese capitalism over the past two decades has elicited myriad responses by mainstream and left commentators. From neoconservatives decrying the rise of the “red dragon” to leftists seeking to find socialist diamonds in the rough of “the sweatshop of the world,” enormous confusion has been sparked by the seeming contradiction of the world’s largest self-proclaimed “communist” party leading its nation in capitalist dynamism....

— Patrick M. Quinn

FRANK FRIED, AMONG the most remarkable U.S. revolutionary socialists in the second half of the 20th century, passed away in Alameda, CA on January 13, 2014 at the age of 87. He is survived by his wife of 27 years, the novelist Alice Wilson-Fried.

Frank was attracted to the political views of the Socialist Workers Party in Chicago as a teenager. He joined the SWP in 1944 just before he entered the U.S. Navy. It was not a propitious time to be joining the party. Its leaders, including those who led the famed 1934 Teamsters strike in Minneapolis and the SWP’s founder, James P. Cannon, were in the federal prison in Sandstone, MN having been unjustly convicted in 1941 of “violating” the Smith Act.

After the end of World War II and his discharge from the Navy, Frank became an active member of the party’s Chicago branch....