Against the Current 174

— The Editors
THE BRUTAL INJUSTICE and the social eruption in Ferguson, followed by nationwide outrage over the on-video murder of Eric Garner and police impunity, are suddenly reshaping the U.S. political climate. “We Can’t Breathe” and “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” express the righteous anger, especially of young people of color, in response to an unresponsive system — a system that’s politically blocked and utterly indifferent to the desperate conditions facing...
— Malik Miah
People need to know that Black lives and Brown lives matter as much as white lives. We are all responsible now. The weight of history can’t be our excuse.
—New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio after the Staten Island grand jury on December 3, 2014, refused to indict the cop who murdered Eric Garner.
RESPONDING TO MAYOR de Blasio’s obvious point, the New York City police “union” head said the mayor had thrown all cops under the bus by implying that police practices are...
— Dan La Botz
“THEY TOOK THEM alive and we want them back alive” demanded the families of 43 students kidnapped from Ayotzinapa in the Mexican state of Guerrero. The cry was taken up everywhere, even though many believed they must by now be dead.
At this writing on December 5, students, labor unionists and community groups had taken over the Sonora State Legislature, while teachers blocked the Highway of the Sun that links Mexico City to the resort city of Acapulco with the Christmas holiday...
— an interview with James Kilgore
JAMES KILGORE IS is a longtime activist, writer and researcher. He currently lives in Urbana, Illinois, where has been involved in local movements to pass a Ban the Box initiative (taking questions about criminal background off employment applications) and opposing the building of a new county jail. He spent six and a half years in prison (2002-09) for his participation in political violence in the 1970s. He has published three novels, all of which were drafted while he was incarcerated. His...
— Dianne Feeley
DESPITE HAPPY TALK of Detroit “rebounding” from bankruptcy, the basic problems remain: lack of jobs, deep poverty, the state takeover of the public schools and a 28% decrease in state revenue sharing over the last decade.
If one statistic could sum up the problem, the median Detroit family income is $19,800 while the national average stands at $60,700. How can such inequality exist? How can the city’s maternal death rate be so high? During 2008-11 it stood at 58.7 per 100,000...
— David Finkel
A MONTH AFTER her conviction and imprisonment for “unlawful procurement of naturalization,” Rasmea Odeh’s release on $50,000 cash bond was secured on December 11, 2014.
Observers and supporters of the 67-year-old Palestinian community leader were stunned immediately after a federal jury in Detroit returned a guilty verdict on November 10, following two hours of deliberation, when Federal District Judge Gershwin Drain ordered her jailed until a sentencing hearing that’s...
— The Editors
WE PRESENT HERE the second of a four-part series by historian Mark Lause on the history and evolution of the two-party system in the United States. The first installment in our previous issue, “The Other Peculiar Institution,” discussed the system from its British-derived origins through the U.S. Civil War (ATC 173, online at The present essay is a conversation on the American Two-Party System from post-Civil War Reconstruction to the...
— Mark A. Lause
RECONSTRUCTION OF THE two-party system became essential to the general Reconstruction after the Civil War, establishing some features that remain clear today. As such, the arrangement of the parties became an essential aspect of the betrayals of associated with the Reconstruction of the post-war South.
Over the 67 years from the murder of Abraham Lincoln to the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt, most participating voters cast Republican ballots. In fact, over this long expanse, only two...
— Charles Simmons
I REMEMBER DETROIT’S 1963 Walk to Freedom with Martin Luther King, Jr. [on June 23, a preparatory march for the historic March on Washington later that summer — ed.] I was part of a youth organization, UHURU (meaning Freedom in Swahili). We had taken this name because throughout the 1950s UHURU had been the battle cry of the people of Kenya struggling against British colonialism.
I had just returned from serving in the U.S. Air Force, where I had experienced the brutal, barbaric and...
— The Editors
THIS ESSAY CONTINUES ATC’s ongoing feature on the centennial of World War I, for which Allen Ruff is serving as our special guest editor. Contributions by Ruff, William Smaldone and Yassamine Mather have appeared in previous issues.
On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany, rhetorically framing the mission as a struggle for “the rights of nations great and small and the privilege of men everywhere to choose their way of...
— Allen Ruff
STATING THAT “THE world must be made safe for democracy,” president Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany on April 2, 1917. The United States formally entered World War I four days later.
To some extent by that time, all of U.S. society had come to experience the effects and impacts of what already was a global conflagration, underway since August 1914. Among those directly and profoundly affected by the “Great War” from its start were...
— Allen Ruff
DESPITE RHETORIC OF “liberty”, “freedom” and “democracy” and charges regarding German violations of America’s claimed neutrality, the United States entered World War I for basically the same imperial reasons as the other major belligerents. The war, at its base a German challenge to an older order dominated by British imperial power, threatened a global realignment and redistribution of spheres of influence and territorial and colonial spoils. In that...
— Claude McKay
— Malik Miah
This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed
How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible
By Charles E. Cobb Jr.
Basic Books, 2014, 294 pages,
$28 hardcover.
CHARLES COBB’S PROVOCATIVE title poses a serious question: did armed Blacks play an essential role in the southern Freedom Struggle and the victory of the civil rights movement?
Popular narrative says that the tactic of nonviolent direct action defeated Jim Crow segregation. Yet, as Cobb shows in this brilliant book, that tactic...
— Robbie Lieberman
Reckoning Day:
Race, Place, and the Atom Bomb in Postwar America
By Jacqueline Foertsch
Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2013, 251 pages, $24.95 paper.
THE ANTIWAR MOVEMENT has become noticeably more diverse since the Iraq War, and many communities cry out “no justice, no peace” as they respond to incidents of police violence against people of color. Yet there is still a dearth of scholarship that examines the links between racial equality and peace issues, broadly defined.
— Brian Dolinar
African American Folksong and American Cultural Politics:
The Lawrence Gellert Story
By Bruce Conforth
Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2013, 265 pages plus illustrations, $75 cloth.
THIS NEW BOOK explores the curious career of a white collector of Black music. The kid brother to Hungarian-born Hugo Gellert, probably the best-known Communist artist in his day, Lawrence Gellert was a folklorist who collected some of the earliest field recordings of African American music in the South. Written by...
— Kim D. Hunter
Africa Speaks, America Answers
Modern Jazz in Revolutionary Times
By Robin D.G. Kelley
Harvard University Press, 2012, 272 pages, $24.95 hardcover.
WHY HASN’T SOMEONE turned Guy Warren’s life story into a movie? That’s the question that circled my head as I read about the extraordinary Ghanaian musician in the opening chapter of Robin D.G. Kelley’s Africa Speaks, America Answers.
The book, which takes its title from Warren’s first album, unearths African and...
— Milton Fisk
THE FAMILIAR MODEL of union struggle has been ineffective in attempts to change capitalism. I will try to explain why unions have not shaken capitalism’s foundations. The explanation will point to the failure to challenge inequalities in returns to labor and capital from production.
A new model, developed by labor in conjunction with other radical social agents, has the possibility of being effective. This new model depends on extending boundaries of earlier views of fairness to make them...
— Meredith Schafer
Save Our Unions
Dispatches from a Movement in Distress
By Steve Early
New York, Monthly Review Press, 2013, 344 pages, $19.95 paperback.
THE DEBATE OVER how to save the labor movement suffers from a serious deficit of books written by organizers. Rarely do we get an entire book by someone who has been organizing for four decades, and is still actively engaged with union members, staff and leaders. Steve Early’s Save Our Unions doesn’t suffer from the luxury of being a memoir, but it...
— Sara R. Smith
Out in the Union:
A Labor History of Queer America
By Miriam Frank
Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2014, 240 pages. $54.50 cloth.
IN THE 1970s, Teresa Rankin kept her sexual orientation private while organizing textile workers at J.P. Stevens in North Carolina, relying on the lesbian social scene in nearby Washington, D.C. for community. When the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) offered her an organizing position in a small town in Virginia, Rankin, turned down the...
— Janice Cox and Michael Gasser
This Changes Everything:
Capitalism vs. the Climate
By Naomi Klein
Simon & Schuster, September 2014, 576 pages, $30 hardcover.
NAOMI KLEIN’S LATEST book is well on its way to becoming a bestseller. Deeply and meticulously researched, well-written and engaging, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate was timed to come out a week before the September 2014 UN Climate Summit and the People’s Climate March in New York City.
The march of over 400,000 vastly exceeded the...
— Shannon Ikebe
Taking Socialism Seriously
Anatole Anton and Richard Schmitt, eds.
Lexington Books, 2012, 276 pages, $90 cloth.
AS THE CAPITALIST crisis rages and inequality continues to soar, fewer and fewer people are satisfied with the status quo. But the powerful ideology of “There Is No Alternative” (TINA) has constrained many people’s political imagination and consigned them to political apathy; our task as socialists is to convince them that there is, indeed, an alternative to...