Against the Current 166

— The Editors
Editorial Postscript – August 27, 2013
VERY SHORTLY AFTER Against the Current went to press, the judge in the court-martial trial of Bradley Edward Manning handed down a sentence of 35 years – less than the 60 or more years demanded by the prosecution, but shockingly harsh for Manning’s “crime” of exposing U.S. war atrocities in Iraq, none of which have been punished. Soon afterward, as everyone now knows, Manning announced that she wishes to be known as Chelsea...
— The Editors
THE PILLAGING OF Detroit by vandals in business suits and judicial robes is underway. The city’s “creditors,” including retired city workers who stand to lose their pension benefits, received a few days’ public notice that any objections to the bankruptcy proceedings had to be filed in federal court by Monday, August 19. Any actions in state courts against the bankruptcy or the Emergency Manager have been frozen.
Although the Michigan legislature has no constitutional...
— Malik Miah
IN CASE YOU thought we now live in a “colorblind country” where justice is equal and fair for all — the view of the 5-4 Supreme Court majority that gutted the Voting Rights Act — the Black and white responses to the murder of Trayvon Martin should put that delusion to rest.
His killer, George Zimmerman, racially profiled 17-year-old Martin, then claimed self-defense when Martin challenged him. The Florida jury, five white women and one Puerto Rican woman, acquitted him...
— Meleiza Figueroa
THE FRIDAY NIGHT before George Zimmerman was acquitted, some friends and I went to see the movie “Fruitvale Station.” “Fruitvale Station,” if you don’t already know, is an amazing film that chronicles the last day in the life of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old Black man from Oakland, CA — a bit of a screwup like a lot of guys are at that age, but at heart a devoted son and father — who was handcuffed and fatally shot in the back by a Bay Area Rapid Transit...
— Jennifer F. Hamer
DETROIT’S GOVERNOR-APPOINTED Financial Manager, bankruptcy attorney Kevyn Orr, told the Wall Street Journal that the cash-strapped municipality was “for a long time…dumb, lazy, happy, and rich.”
Detroit is frequently in the news. The former industrial center has suffered financial distress for much of its modern past. The state’s newest response to the city’s woes was to seize control of the municipal budget and related decision-making.
Orr’s blithe...
— The Editors
ON ONE LEVEL, even discussing the U.S. Senate’s tortuous immigration reform bill may seem pointless, given that anything that might be passed by the current chamber of horrors known as the House of Representatives will unquestionably be even worse, and absolutely unsupportable for any supporter of immigrant rights — or basic human rights for that matter.
Nonetheless, the discussion matters because this legislation, or the lack of it, heavily impacts the real lives of millions of...
— Joaquín Bustelo
HERE IN ATLANTA, there was a very serious discussion both in meetings and on the Spanish-language talk radio station beginning a week ago over whether we should continue to call on the Senators to vote yes. And at least for the Senate, we stuck with calling for a yes vote.
That’s not based on some cost-benefit analysis by the leaders, but on community sentiment. The community is desperate for legalization, even one bought at a very high price. To understand why, look at the daily list of...
— Milton Fisk
WHILE I NEVER approved of the for-profit health insurance industry, I eventually supported the Affordable Care Act. Nor do I now support buying 400 miles of border fencing or the long waits for legal status which the recently passed Senate immigration bill requires, even though I would now support that bill. Not all support need be unqualified, and mine in these cases is critical support.
Giving critical support is not an outcome of summing up our evaluations of what we think are the positive...
— a statement by the Mexican American Political Association
[This statement, dated July 18, 2013, appears on the website of the Mexican American Political Association,]
AFTER MUCH REFLECTION, we have concluded that S.744 does more harm than good to the cause of fair and humane immigration reform.
What follows is a more complete explanation of our major concerns about S. 744:
S.744’s Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) program will exclude and/or disqualify over time 5 million undocumented persons from adjustment of status....
— an interview with Gilbert Achcar
[Following the August 14 crackdown on supporters of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, we asked Gilbert Achcar a followup on the explosive turn of events. His response, sent August 19, follows. The confrontation continues as we go to press, with consequences still to be seen — ed.]
ATC: You had said that forcibly suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood “would be very costly for Egyptian economy and society.” After the massacre of August 14 and the events that have followed,...
— an interview with Gilbert Achcar
GILBERT ACHCAR IS the author of the newly published The People Want. A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising (University of California Press, September 2013). His previous books include The Arabs and the Holocaust. The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (2010). He was interviewed by phone on August 6, 2013 by David Finkel of the ATC editorial board.
Against the Current: To begin, we’d like to know something about your new book. Since you’ve been writing it in the midst of these...
— Jack Rasmus
[The first part of this article appeared in our previous issue, ATC 165. Jack Rasmus is the author of Obama’s Economy: Re­covery for the Few (2012), which provides a history of deficit cutting in the United States and predicts its impact. His blog is]
IN SIGNING THE “fiscal cliff” deal on January 2, Obama declared that more tax revenue hikes would have to be negotiated in future deals. No doubt he and Democrats believed that the March 1 date would put...
— Mark Mendoza
Ten Freedom Summers
a 4-CD box set by Leo Wadada Smith
Cuneiform, 2012, $26.
IF YOU BUY one jazz album this year, make it this one. This is not merely a moving testament to the contributions of African Americans to a free creative folk music of the Americas. It is y/our music. Savor it, and pass it down.
Ishmael Wadada Leo Smith, the American trumpeter, multi-instrumentalist, composer and teacher, has spent more than three decades composing the four-hour-twenty-minutes of music on this set....
— The Editors
THE YEAR 1963 was momentous on many levels. In our previous issue (#165) we commemorated the assassination of civil rights organizer Medgar Evers, one among many martyrs of the bloody racist response to the growing civil rights movement. It was also the year of the military overthrow and assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem, the ruler of South Vietnam, in a coup approved by the administration of U.S. president John F. Kennedy, who would himself be assassinated in November.
Less noted but of great...
— Ellen Meiksins Wood
WHEN E.P. THOMPSON’S The Making of the English Working Class came out in 1963, there still existed a vibrant anti-capitalist culture on the intellectual left, which flourished with a special vigor among the British Marxist historians, a remarkable group to which Thompson belonged. Within little more than a decade, despite (or maybe because of?) the militant eruptions of 1968 and various dramatic workers’ struggles in the following few years, the intellectual life of the left in the...
— Paul Buhle
A YOUTUBE VIDEO dating to 1982 surfaced some months ago, with E.P. Thompson and C.L.R. James discussing the exciting developments of the day.
Thompson, a leading figure in the Euro­pean anti-missile/antiwar movement directed against Reagan’s global madness but also closely in touch with East European dissidents, foresaw a potential radicalization on both sides of the Iron Curtain. James, in his last major initiative, hailed the achievement of Polish Solidarity, pushing against the very...
— Bruce Levine
I FIRST READ The Making of the English Working Class as a radical-minded college student in the late 1960s. Its focus on “anonymous” working people certainly did inspire me and help launch me on my own subsequent studies of labor and laboring classes.
I assume, though, that all these years later — and especially in a discussion like the present one — I needn’t elaborate on the book’s many strengths. Others will do that very well. I want instead to talk about...
— Bryan D. Palmer
A GREAT DEAL could be said about E.P. Thompson’s tremendous book, The Making of the English Working Class, on the 50th anniversary of its publication. Yet I want to make only one rather simple point: argument animated Thompson for his entire life, and it figures centrally on almost every page of his evocative account of class formation.
This is not the minor point it might seem on the surface. There was a time when apprentice historians were schooled in history as argument. We thought the...
— Robert Bartlett
The Future of our Schools:
Teachers Unions and Social Justice
By Lois Weiner
Haymarket Books 2012. 220 pages + index,
$16 paperback.
TEACHERS CONCERNED WITH the ongoing vilification of their profession and the worsening conditions under which they work will be interested in reading Lois Weiner’s new book. It’s written for a new generation of activist teachers who are being shaken into action by the attacks on them and public education, and perhaps inspired by the successes of the...
— Stephanie Luce
The State of Working America, 12th Edition
By Lawrence Mishel, Josh Bivens, Elise Gould and Heidi Sheirholz
Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute and Ithaca, NY:
Cornell University Press, 2012, $24.95 paper.
IN THE 1970s, conservative funders and thinkers began pouring money into think tanks designed to influence public opinion and Capitol Hill. By the 1980s groups such as the Heritage Foundation, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the Manhattan Institute were in...
— Jan Cox
No Local:
Why Small-Scale Alternatives Won’t Change the World
By Greg Sharzer
Zero Books 2012, 189 pages, $19.95 paperback.
NO LOCAL, THE title of Greg Sharzer’s book, echoes Naomi Klein’s influential No Logo, which examined globalization’s impact and documented the rise of the global justice movement. No Local, in contrast, takes aim at aspects of the localist movements (which have grown up in parallel and in opposition to the effects of globalization), where many of the...
— Michael Steven Smith
Priests of Our Democracy:
The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti- Communist Purge
By Marjorie Heins
New York University Press, 2013, 384 pages, $35 hardback.
PRIESTS OF OUR Democracy: The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge is a smart, well-crafted insightful book by an especially qualified author. Marjorie Heins is an unrepentant sixties radical out of SDS who went on to get a Harvard Law School degree and became a litigator, a law professor, an historian...
— Judith E. Smith
American Night:
The Literary Left in the Era of the Cold War
By Alan Wald
Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2012,
412 pages, $45 hardback.
AMERICAN NIGHT is the third volume of Alan Wald’s capacious study of the Communist-led literary left from the 1930s through the 1950s. This trilogy, launched in 2002, follows his earlier books about Trotskyist and anti-Stalinist writers on the left. It makes the case for the significance of Communist writers and their...
— Samuel Farber
Tony Cliff
A Marxist for His Time
By Ian Birchall
London, England: Bookmarks Publications, 2011, 648 pages,
Approx. $25 paperback (available from Amazon).
THE RECENT SCANDAL in the British Socialist Workers Party (SWP), involving accusations of rape against one of its leaders and opening up a profound internal party crisis, not only exposed how grossly the SWP central leadership mishandled the charges, but also revealed its historic lack of internal democracy.
Covered by much of the...