Against the Current, No. 178, September/October 2015

— The Editors

BAILOUT? GREECE IS not being “bailed out.” Greece is being waterboarded. And the reasons are overwhelmingly political, having little or nothing to do with economic realities. It’s about destroying any forces that support alternatives to the crushing dictates of capital.

The Greek “Catastroika” — as Michael Löwy aptly labels it in his article on “Capitalism versus Democracy” in this issue — is far from ending with the “third bailout” of August 12, with consequences likely to reverberate well beyond the boundaries of one modest-sized southern European economy. It may portend a disastrous future for the eurozone and ultimately the European Union. But in the meantime, the gnomes of Berlin and the creditors (read: “predators”) led by the European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund will suck more juice loans from what’s left of the Greek economy they’re smashing into the ground....

— Malik Miah

“In the two years since its conception, the Black Lives Matter movement has transformed from a powerful, U.S.-based unifier to a globalized movement connecting black and oppressed people all over the world.

“After the acquittal of George Zimmer­man in July 2013 in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, three black women created #BlackLivesMatter to represent black people who were being terrorized by state-sanctioned violence, poverty and mass incarceration.

“It was a declaration.

“Let’s be clear: The reach of anti-black racism is not confined to the borders of North America. Black Lives Matter has become a transformative outlet for all black people from different historical, cultural, socioeconomic and political identities. It is a source of solidarity for the survivors of colonization, exploitation, capitalism and police brutality.” (Janaya Khan, “Black Lives Matter Has Become a Global Movement,” August 7, 2015, www.TheRoot.com)

THE BLACK LIVES Matter Convening took place July 24-26 at Cleveland State University in Cleveland, Ohio. Some 1500 activists and organizers attended....

— Premilla Nadasen

INCOME INEQUALITY IS at its highest point in a century, as real wages for most Americans have barely budged for decades. Corporate streamlining, downsizing and outsourcing have led to a dramatic decline in manufacturing jobs in the United States. Public sector unions are under attack across the country, most visibly in Wisconsin.

Meanwhile those on the left lament the weakness of the labor movement in American politics. Indeed the mainstream labor union has waned, with a private sector unionization rate of only 6.6%. But a working-class movement that includes farmworkers, domestic workers and the Fight-for-$15 seems to be growing.

The example of household workers, who for generations have utilized alternative labor strategies, illustrates how these marginalized labor sectors have a great deal to offer us in thinking of a new way forward....

— Premilla Nadasen

THE WOMEN’S POLITICAL Council, a civil rights group founded in Montgomery, had been meeting for years and discussing a possible citywide bus boycott. It had a distributional network in place and was ready to launch such a protest at a moment’s notice. Martin Luther King Jr. would become the primary spokesperson of the yearlong boycott, bringing him to national attention. Less prominent in the boycott’s retelling are the working-class and poor black women who were the grassroots base of the movement, whose voices are often muted. The iconic black maid dutifully supporting the boycott by refusing to ride the buses after a long and exhausting workday is an image closely associated with the national narrative of the boycott. In some ways the representation of the maid in the movement fed popular stereotypes of the loyal black mammy — although in the service of the movement rather than the white family. She is strong but not confrontational; tired but determined, as evidenced in the oft-repeated quote attributed to Mother Pollard, a poor elderly black woman....

— a statement by Solidarity

The following statement was discussed at Solidarity’s July 2015 Convention and approved by majority vote, with the additional note that the organization also has many members engaged in the Green Party and that we support their work and the Jill Stein campaign. This resolution is intended to outline an approach to the Sanders campaign and his supporters, not as an evaluation as Sanders himself or his political views. Against the Current welcomes comments and additional viewpoints.

For a discussion of the Seattle rally where Sanders’ speech was interrupted, see “Thoughts for White Activists on Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter” and responses online at www.solidarity-us.org/node/4483.

SOLIDARITY UNDERSTANDS THE strategic imperative of organizing a mass base for independent working-class political action that unites working people, the independent social movements,...

FIVE YEARS INTO her 35-year military prison sentence, Chelsea Manning was threatened with indefinite solitary confinement — a form of torture as identified by international human rights organizations. However the August 18th closed disciplinary hearing, after convicting her on four counts, did not result in any solidarity cofinement but rather 21 days of restrictions and a conviction record.

“Charges” included “disorderly conduct” and “disrespect” to a corrections offer in a dining hall, possession of literature (Vanity Fair with Caitlin Jenner on the cover, the Senate Torture Report, etc., and — quoting directly from the charge sheet — “a tube of anti-cavity toothpaste may-keep-in-cell, was found in your possession past its expiration date of 9 April 2015.”...

— Peter Brogan

The following statement was discussed at Solidarity’s July 2015 Convention and approved by majority vote, with the additional note that the organization also has many members engaged in the Green Party and that we support their work and the Jill Stein campaign. This resolution is intended to outline an approach to the Sanders campaign and his supporters, not as an evaluation as Sanders himself or his political views. Against the Current welcomes comments and additional viewpoints.

For a discussion of the Seattle rally where Sanders’ speech was interrupted, see “Thoughts for White Activists on Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter” and responses online at www.solidarity-us.org/node/4483.

SOLIDARITY UNDERSTANDS THE strategic imperative of organizing a mass base for independent working-class political action that unites working people, the independent social movements,...

— Michael Löwy

LET US BEGIN with a quote from an essay on bourgeois democracy in Russia, written in 1906, after the defeat of the first Russian revolution:

“It is highly ridiculous to believe that there is an elective affinity between grand capitalism today, as it is presently imported into Russia, and well established in the United States (…) and ‘democracy’ or ‘liberty’ (in all the possible meanings of the word); the real question should be: how are these things even ‘possible,’ in the long term, under capitalist domination?”(1)

Who is the author of this insightful comment? Lenin, Trotsky or, perhaps, the early Russian Marxist Plekhanov? In fact, it is from Max Weber, the well-known bourgeois sociologist. Although Weber never developed this insight,...

— Dan Georgakas

AUGUST 31st UPDATE: Some options discussed in my article below have been resolved.

Alexis Tsipras has resigned as head of the government, which will result in a new election on September 20.   Panagiotis Lafanazis  and 53 Syriza MPs have left Syriza to form the Popular Unity Party (Laiki Enotita). For the moment this makes it the third largest party in the Greek Parliament.

Opinion Polls for the coming election show Tsipras with between 25-30% of the vote, not enough to form a government without a coalition with one or more centrist parties. He has stated he will not serve as Prime Minister in a government of national unity.

Popular Unity has stated that if elected, it would default on Greek debts even if that meant leaving the Eurozone....

— Richard Roman and Edur Valasco Arregui

THE BRUTAL VIOLENCE of the Mexican state against its own population, much of it carried out under the cover of the drug war, is inseparably linked to the global capitalist offensive. In Mexico’s case, where the assault is especially rapacious and traditions of collectivity and resistance still very strong, the repression is thereby all the more fierce.

Impunity and state terrorism are not new in Mexico, but their sharp escalation is the other side of the coin of neoliberal restructuring. Popular resistance, which has slowed down Mexico’s neoliberal transformation, must be crushed in order to fully implement the massive despoliation, dispossession and destruction of social rights being imposed on Mexico by its capitalist class and political elites as well as by foreign capital (Roman and Velasco, November 2014).

The multiple and intertwined crises of Mexico are producing....

— Andrew Hemingway

[The first portion of this essay appeared in our previous issue, ATC 177, and is online at www.solidarity-us.org/node/4467.]

THE FORM OF visual art illustrated in New Masses and exhibited at the John Reed Club’s art exhibitions that corresponded most closely to Mike Gold’s literary practice, and that of the worker writers, was represented by artists such as Philip Reisman and Raphael Soyer. Not coincidentally, both were like Gold the children of Jewish immigrants, though unlike them Gold was born in the United States.

Reisman — whose father worked in the sweatshops of the Lower East Side — quit high school after his first term and took part-time jobs as a soda jerk and waiter while studying at the Art Students’ League....

— The Editors

AT UCLA THE Center for Social Theory & Comparative History, the Bunche Center for African American Studies and the Gary Nash Chair in US History co-sponsored a forum on Black Lives Matter on May 4, 2015. Panelists were asked to address why the movement arose at this moment, what issues drive it and what forms it is taking. We are printing here the edited versions of talks by Cheryl Harris, UCLA School of Law, and Michael Brown, Black Lives Matter Long Beach. In the July/August ATC, we ran those by Justin Hansford, from the School of Law at St. Louis University, and Melina Abdullah, Pan-African Studies Cal-State Los Angeles. We also carried remarks by Robin D.G. Kelley, from the UCLA Department of History, who was a discussant, and Shamell Bell, who was invited to give remarks from the floor about Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. ATC thanks Meleiza Figueroa for her superb transcriptions of the forum talks.

September-October 2015, ATC 178

— Cheryl Harris

LAST FALL, AT a panel at the Law School entitled “From Gaza to Ferguson,” I started my remarks as follows:

“Days after the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson on August 11, a 25-year-old mentally ill Black man by the name of Ezell Ford was killed by the Los Angeles Police Department in South Los Angeles as he walked near his house. The police claimed that as they stopped their car and attempted to speak to him, he kept walking and “made suspicious movements,” including attempting to conceal his hands. When they moved towards him, he tackled one of them, they said, and reached for their gun, and they simply exercised self-defense in shooting him, including some shots which entered his back.

“Neighbors in the area had a very different account; they reported that when they saw the police approach him,...

— Michael Brown

I REMEMBER AS a student several years ago at Cal State coming to symposiums like this, which really helped with my development. I didn’t necessarily jump out there in activism quickly. I was going to Cal State Fullerton when Kelly Thomas was killed — the homeless white man in Fullerton. That ended up being my first time getting into activism. It was me and a bunch of white folks. I just kept going from there.

I like the theme of this program — it’s called “Crisis, Rebellion, and Reaction” under the larger framework of Black Lives Matter.

I’ll start with “crisis.” I think it’s important to mention the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement report again; and I really encourage people to read it (“Operation Ghetto Storm,” https://mxgm.org/operation-ghetto-storm-2012-annual-report-on-the-extrajudicial-killing-of-313-black-people/ — ed.)...

— Martin Oppenheimer

AFRICAN AMERICANS HAVE been murdered by white mobs, vigilantes, and “law enforcement” from the time of slavery to, quite possibly, this morning.

The fundamental reason for the killing of African-Americans by whites has been fear by many whites of all classes that the existing rules of racial hierarchy, that is, white supremacy, are endangered — whether by slave uprisings, Blacks threatening white job monopolies, taking political power from whites, moving into white neighborhoods, undermining their monopoly on white women by allegedly having “intimate relations” with them, or simply seeming insubordinate.

In the June 17, 2015 Charleston, South Carolina church shooting, the 21-year-old assassin Dylan Roof apparently melded these fears into one, common among many klansmen and neo-Nazis (an overlapping category)....

— Steve Downs
Enough Blame to Go Around
The Labor Pains of New York City’s Public Employee Unions
By Richard Steier
SUNY Press, 2014, 301 pages, $24.95 paperback.

IMAGINE A NEWSPAPER that reported from a pro-union, pro-public sector, point of view. New Yorkers don’t have to imagine it; we have it.

The Chief-Leader is a weekly paper that covers the public sector, public employees and their unions. It carries information on filing for Civil Service tests, ads from Workers’ Comp lawyers, and articles about pensions and Social Security. It reports on union elections, contract talks and state and local politics....

— Paul Prescod
The Counter-Revolution of 1776
Slave Resistance and the Origins of the United States of America
By Gerald Horne
NYU Press, 2014, 363 pages, $39 cloth.

THE BASIC CONTRADICTIONS of the American Revolution of 1776 are by now fairly openly acknowledged and discussed. A rapidly growing set of colonies fights for its independence from Great Britain under the slogans of “liberty” and “all men are created equal.” Meanwhile, the same people who lead this movement enforce a massive system of African slave labor, with all the brutalities that it entails. This slave system is not dismantled or at all weakened by the Revolution, but is instead deepened and expanded more than ever.

However much these contradictions are accepted by scholars and historians today,...

— Michael Principe
The Next New Left:
A History of the Future
By Alan Sears
Halifax and Winnipeg, Canada: Fernwood Publishing, 2014, 134 pages, $19.95 paperback from Amazon.

BOOKS TAKING A hard look at the current state of “the left” are rarely upbeat, let alone inspiring. Alan Sears’ The Next New Left successfully achieves this without dreaminess or utopian speculation.

Sears (professor of sociology, Ryerson University and a member of Canada’s New Socialist Group) brings many years of activist work as well as academic study to the task, which involves both theoretical innovation and an important historical perspective on radical politics in the 20th century,...

— Jane Slaughter
Inside China’s Automobile Factories:
The Politics of Labor and Worker Resistance
By Lu Zhang Cambridge University Press, 2015, $95 cloth, paperback forthcoming in 2016.
Insurgency Trap:
Labor Politics in Postsocialist China
By Eli Friedman
Institute for Labor Research: Cornell University Press, 2014, 232 pages, $24.95 paperback.

WHEN I READ a book about rebellious factory workers in China, what I want to know is: Where are all the wildcat strikes heading? Will workers be able to build real (at this point illegal) unions? Will they be able to keep any kind of organization going?...

— Alan Wald
Leon Trotsky
By Paul Le Blanc
London: Reaktion Books, 2015, 224 pages, 35 halftones. Paper: $16.95. A Volume in the “Critical Lives” series, distributed in the United States by the University of Chicago Press.

PAUL LE BLANC has achieved the implausible — he has written a concise and compelling book about a sprawling, gargantuan subject. Leon Trotsky (born Lev Davidovich Bronstein, 1879-1940) was a titan of 20th century politics, a revolutionary Marxist genius who theorized a strategy for the Russian Revolution of 1917 and functioned as its on-the-ground organizer in the capital city of Petrograd (now St. Petersburg).

The son of wealthy Jewish farmers in the Ukraine, Trotsky was also a magnificent military tactician and brilliant orator....