Against the Current 185

— The Editors
THE SWIRLING CRAZINESS and bizarre entertainments of the 2016 presidential election sometimes obscure how much the outgoing U.S. administration — and the next one taking office in January 2017 — face a set of global crises on a scale that’s hard to recall in recent history.
There’s not a central “superpower conflict” as during the Cold War, but rather partially interlocking developments in a world of general turmoil. Some of these conundrums, particularly in...
— Malik Miah
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Formally abolishing slavery in the United States, the 13th Amendment was passed by the Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865.
WHEN BARACK OBAMA was elected in 2008 as the first U.S. President of African descent, many believed that racism...
— Josiah Rector
IN JUNE 2016, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a lawsuit against Veolia North America (a subsidiary of the French multinational Veolia) and the Texas law firm Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam (LAN). The lawsuit charged the two firms with “professional negligence, fraud, and public nuisance.”
The criminal negligence of LAN and Veolia should have come as no surprise. The Flint water crisis also fits into a larger pattern, documented by environmental justice activists and...
— Michael Gasser
IN SANTA CRUZ, California a much-beloved community garden, tended by immigrant gardeners for 23 years, has been reduced to half its size, with the future of even the smaller plot in doubt.
The fight to save the garden has galvanized progressive Santa Cruzans, many of whom seem to be in this for the long haul. Even if insignificant in the larger scheme of things, this campaign has much to teach us about how different forms of injustice converge and about how to confront the environmental racism...
— Sam Friedman
THE MEDIA RARELY discuss AIDS anymore, and when a news report does appear it usually is about a new drug that helps people stay alive longer or even about “the end of AIDS.” Many doctors and biomedical researchers think that findings in the last five years have opened the way to use antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV transmission and, in addition, see these drugs as prolonging the lives of the HIV-infected indefinitely.
The State of the Epidemic
Indeed, some evidence does suggest...
— Sam Friedman
LAST YEAR THERE was extensive news media coverage of an HIV (and hepatitis C) outbreak in rural Scott County, Indiana. Rates of new HIV cases in Scott County increased from about five per year to about 30 per month in late 2014. Most of those getting infected were people who had become users of prescription pain relievers and then had changed over to heroin and to injecting their drugs — both of which reduce costs for someone with a drug problem.
Less reported were some of the political...
— Robert Bartlett
AS THE OCTOBER 11th strike approached, Chicago teachers set up a strike headquarters and distributed picket signs while parents and their children picketed the mayor’s house. After 18 months of bargaining — and over a year since their contract expired — the Board of Education blinked just before the deadline and came up with a significantly better contract offer that is now being debated within the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU). Both the earlier January 2016 Board of Eduction...
— Robert Bartlett
TEACHERS ARE BELEAGUERED by unrelenting attacks on their jobs and security. All teachers feel vulnerable, but the risk is greatest in low-income areas of the city where neighborhood schools are targeted by the growth of charter schools.
Today there are approximately 394,000 students in both the public and charter sectors in Chicago. Both public schools and charters receive the same student-based funding and many charter advocates complain about the amount.
With 530 district schools and 130...
— Marian Swerdlow
The Prize:
Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?
By Dale Russakoff
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016, 272 pages, $27 hardback, $15.95 paper.
Common Core Dilemma
Who Owns Our Schools?
By Mercedes Schneider
Teachers College Press, 2015, 240 pages, $68 hardback, $29.95 paper.
IN THE PRIZE: Who’s In Charge of America’s Schools? journalist Dale Russakoff takes a close look at Newark, New Jersey schools. In Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools? teacher and blogger Mercedes...
— Marc Becker
WHEN THE WORLD Social Forum (WSF) began in 2001 the possibilities of a leftist victory, either through elections or via an armed struggle, appeared remote in Latin America. In contrast, social movements were in ascendency in their battles against neoliberal capitalism. In this environment, the WSF embraced civil society as the best path forward toward a transformation of society.
Grassroots mobilizations quickly remade Latin America’s political landscape. Their successes led to a wave of...
— an interview with Jeffery Webber
THE ECONOMIC COLLAPSE in Venezuela, and the appalling social crisis and desintegration of the “Bolivarian Revolution,” is widely reported but only thinly analyzed in the media. We explore here some of the background and dynamics of the disaster.
Jeffery R. Webber was interviewed by George Souvlis for the online journal ( The discussion is wide ranging, covering developments in Latin America from the 1970s including its use as a testing-ground for...
— Allen Ruff
WORLD WAR I had already been raging across Europe and elsewhere for two and a half years when Woodrow Wilson went before a joint session of Congress on April 2nd, 1917 to request a declaration of war against Germany.
The President began his address with a casus belli indictment against the “Kaisereich” centered primarily upon the continued violation of U.S. neutrality that Wilson had declared at the very start of the war in August, 1914. Overriding limited but vocal opposition, the...
— Sandra Lindberg
It isn’t nice to block the doorways,
It isn’t nice to go to jail,
There are nicer ways to do it,
But the nice ways always fail...
Yeah, we tried negotiations
And the token picket line,
Mister Charlie didn’t see us
And he might as well be blind;
When you deal with men of ice,
You can’t deal with ways so nice,
But if that’s freedom’s price,
We don’t mind...
— “It Isn’t Nice,” by Malvina Reynolds (1965)
— Cliff Conner
The WikiLeaks Files:
The World According to US Empire
Verso: London & New York, 2015, 624 pages, $19.95 paperback.
WIKILEAKS TRULY NEEDS no introduction. Everyone with even the slightest degree of political awareness knows what WikiLeaks is. It was founded in 2006 and in its first year posted to its website more than a million documents leaked by whistleblowers.
In 2010, however, its importance took a qualitative leap forward. In July of that year it published more than 75,000 secret...
— Keith Mann
Understanding Mass Incarceration:
A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time
By James Kilgore
New York: The New Press, 2015, 264 pages, $17.95 paper.
UNDERSTANDING MASS INCAR­CER­ATION by James Kilgore is the latest in a wave of publications on mass incarceration spawned by Michelle Alexander’s highly influential 2009 book, The New Jim Crow. Alexander’s book and her speaking tours helped to make mass incarceration the object of intense public debate...
— Alan Wald
Cold War Modernists:
Art, Literature, and American Cultural Diplomacy
By Greg Barnhisel
New York: Columbia University Press, 2015, 322 pages, $40.
THE POLITICAL MANIPULATION of American culture in the 1950s by the Central Intelligence Agency has been the subject of enduring fascination for over 50 years. Using financial “soft power,” the CIA attracted and co-opted the work of abstract expressionist artists and jazz musicians for Cold War propaganda purposes.
Much absorbing background...
— Peter Solenberger
The Politics of Che Guevara:
Theory and Practice
By Samuel Farber
Haymarket Books, 2016, 120 pages + bibliography, notes and index, $16.95 paperback.
IN HIS INTRODUCTION Samuel Farber explains why he wrote The Politics of Che Guevara: Theory and Practice. “To many of the contemporary rebels active in anticapitalist movements, Che is not only a radical, uncompromising opponent of capitalism, but — given his opposition to the traditional pro-Moscow Communist parties — also a...
— Alex Lichtenstein
Choosing to be Free:
A Life Story of Rick Turner
By Billy Keniston
Justseeds, 2015, 220 pages, $20 paper,
IF APARTHEID SOUTH Africa had its May 1968 or its Prague Spring, the moment came in January and February 1973, with the mass strikes that rocked the Indian Ocean port city of Durban and the surrounding province of Natal.
Marking an unusual confluence of Black Consciousness, white student radicalism and spontaneous shop-floor action by African workers, this...
— Billy Keniston
The Eye of the Needle:
Towards Participatory Democracy in South Africa
By Rick Turner
Seagull Books edition 2015, distributed by University of Chicago Press,
266 pages, $21 cloth.
“South Africa, everyone agrees, is a profoundly unequal society.
It is marked by inequality of power, of wealth, of access to the means for acquiring power and/or wealth, of education and of status.
This much is agreed upon…”(1)
— Rebecca Hill
THERE IS LITTLE to be gained from debating anyone whose primary tactic is to distort what one has said in order to fight a straw-man of his own making. For the left audience of ATC, Timothy Messer-Kruse insists that he is seeking to restore the Chicago anarchists to their rightful reputation as revolutionaries, only because every other historian has “declawed” and “domesticated” them. (See his “Response to Rebecca Hill,” in the July/August 2016 ATC,...