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The State of Reproductive Rights in 2015

by Dianne Feeley
January 22, 2015

After the passage of so many restrictions on abortion procedures and increasing attacks on contraceptive information, the right seems to feel wind in its sails and various spokespeople—including the former Lieut. Governor of Texas, David Dewhurst, an oil and gas businessman—have called for the overturning of Roe v. Wade. The House of Representatives plans to vote on the 20-week abortion ban on the 2015 anniversary of Roe v. Wade. This ban is similar to one passed in Arizona that a federal appeals court called unconstitutional and was refused review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) promised coverage to the millions who have no medical insurance but none of the 10 essential benefits outlined for women’s health cover abortion. The provisions of the Hyde Amendment continue to reign. The ACA does mandate contraceptive coverage for both Medicare coverage and insurance providers through the exchanges that have been set up.

Even though the Obama administration exempted religious institutions from contraceptive coverage for their employees, the U.S. Supreme Court has broadened that ruling in its Burwell v. Hobby Lobby decision. Under this ruling, family-owned corporations are also exempt. The majority ruled that having these corporations (we are not talking about mom-and-pop stores, but mayor employers!) offer insurance policies which covered contraceptives the companies identified as abortifacents (whether true or not) would substantially burden their religious freedom. Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., writing the majority opinion, claimed the ruling was limited in its scope...

March to Freedom, 1963 and Beyond

by Charles Simmons
January 19, 2015

There were many small and large victories. This was the beginning of desegregation. There were civil rights bills, a tremendous expansion of the African-American middle class, the massive entry of women into the labor force, and the end of the war in Vietnam. Radical Black youth begin to talk to one another across borders of race and class. But over the 50 years since we've seen that the struggle for justice has many layers, some that we addressed in the 1960s and some that we did not.

We opposed the war in Vietnam but didn't--as MLK had argued we should--fight for a global system of peace and justice.

We never dreamed that half a century later we’d still be fighting against police violence. Nor could we have imagined Detroit forced into bankruptcy.

We didn’t address the fundamental issue of capitalism, which profited from slavery and war, then and now, and stole land and minerals and snatched food from the mouths of the poor locally and globally.

We didn’t address the relationship between Western wealth and deepening poverty in our cities and family farms, and among the masses in the Third World, nor our militaristic foreign policy, and how we in the rich nations--even the workers and middle classes--benefit from the plunder and rape of the peoples of the global South.

The Politics of Mass Incarceration

an interview with James Kilgore
January 2, 2015

Against the Current: Mass incarceration has suddenly gotten quite a lot of attention in the media and in the political mainstream. Why has it become a high profile issue all of a sudden?

James Kilgore: Lots of things have happened. The first, and most important, is that people in the critically impacted communities have started to fight back. We’ve had a lot of mobilization around the War on Drugs, some of it sparked by the wonderful book by Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow. She has helped people to name what is happening.

The disenfranchisement of over six million people with felony convictions has also gained a lot of traction, especially during an election year. But people have been mobilizing in communities. The major mobilizations around police violence are also powerful indicators that things are changing. The national response around Trayvon Martin's killing was crucial, but the organizing after the non-indictments of the killers of Michael Brown and Eric Garner has the potential to form the nucleus of a vital social justice grassroots movement with young people of color in leading roles. This could be historic but we have to see how it all plays out.

Also, the immigrant rights movement is an important complement to the largely African-American led resistance to the War on Drugs. Many people don’t connect the two, but Latinos have been the fastest growing group in the prison population in the last decade...

Cuba: A Victory and Some Risks

from the Bureau of the Fourth International
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 USA for espionage constitutes a victory for the Cuban people. For more than 50 years and under a dozen presidents, the US 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. It was not without difficulty, without suffering, but Cuba has held on, becoming an anti-imperialist reference for the entire Latin American left.

When the Soviet bloc collapsed in the 1990s, many observers predicted the fall of the Cuban regime. And it is true that the island, dependent on Soviet aid, went through an unprecedented crisis, the Cuban economy drained, in what the Cubans called the “special period." The economy, within certain limits, took a decade to rebuild (with the participation of the state but also with European capital in the tourism sector and later with the help of Venezuelan oil), but without overcoming a series of structural problems compounded by the US embargo, strengthened by the Helms-Burton act. The bureaucratization of the regime, the stifling of democratic freedoms, and the effects on popular mobilization have weighed on the situation of the island. Alongside the interventions, now, of Raul's daughter Mariela Castro, the restrictions on the autonomous self-organization of women, LGBTI persons, and other oppressed groups should also be noted.

But, despite these problems, US imperialism was unable to break this revolution: one cannot understand this resistance without taking into account the anti-imperialist, national, popular dynamic, of a socialist character, of the revolution of 1959...

From Ferguson to CIA Torture Cells

from the Political Committee of Solidarity
December 17, 2014

Two current high-profile stories--police killings of Black people and the secret torture prisons run by the U.S. military and CIA in the “war on terror”-- might seem separate and distinct. In truth, the path between them is short. A system that tortures prisoners abroad will murder people at home, and the targeted populations are not randomly chosen. There are several common elements:

1. Dehumanization. In order to subject someone to waterboarding, sleep deprivation, freezing, or stretching until their tendons rip and bones break, the torturer has to regard the prisoner as both subhuman and dangerous, inherently unworthy of life. To gun down or choke to death unarmed people on the pretext that they might have sold loose cigarettes or shoplifted a box of cigars, or a kid holding a toy gun, the police must regard those people and their communities as collectively and individually criminal, "animal-like" as officer Darren Wilson described Michael Brown, and too dangerous to come under the protection of human rights and due process.

2. Routinization. Torture of “terrorism suspects,” we’re told, began with CIA and U.S. government panic in the wake of the intelligence failure to detect the 9/11 attacks. It became a commonplace, institutional routine in the following years, even when it produced no authentic information.

In Black and Latino communities, institutional practices like stop-and-frisk in New York, or the regular practice of driving-while-Black and walking-while-Black arrests to fund Ferguson and other St. Louis County municipalities, or grabbing immigrant parents dropping off their kids at school, become standard daily routines of policing. It’s a permanent “low-intensity conflict" from which daily abuse escalates all the way to confrontations and deadly force.

January 22, 2015
by Dianne Feeley
After the passage of so many restrictions on abortion procedures and increasing attacks on contraceptive information, the right seems to feel wind in its sails and various spokespeople—including the...
January 19, 2015
by Charles Simmons
There were many small and large victories. This was the beginning of desegregation. There were civil rights bills, a tremendous expansion of the African-American middle class, the massive entry of...
January 2, 2015
an interview with James Kilgore
Against the Current: Mass incarceration has suddenly gotten quite a lot of attention in the media and in the political mainstream. Why has it become a high profile issue all of a sudden?
James...
December 24, 2014
from the Bureau of the Fourth International
The resumption of diplomatic relations between the USA and Cuba as well as the release of three Cubans sentenced to life imprisonment in the USA for espionage constitutes a victory for the Cuban...
December 17, 2014
from the Political Committee of Solidarity
Two current high-profile stories--police killings of Black people and the secret torture prisons run by the U.S. military and CIA in the “war on terror”-- might seem separate and distinct. In...

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