Against the Current 177

— The Editors
[NOTE: This editorial statement for the July-August Against the Current went to press before the Supreme Court rulings on health care and marriage equality, and Congressional approval of fast-track authorization for negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership.]
WHILE THE ROSTER of Republican presidential candidates seems to expand exponentially, on the Democratic side — with one Democratic candidate awaiting either coronation or token competition — Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont,...
— Malik Miah
Our investigation concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that CDP [Cleveland Division of Police] engages in a pattern or practice of using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment. That pattern manifested in a range of ways, including:
• The unnecessary and excessive use of deadly force, including shootings and head strikes with impact weapons;...
— Dianne Feeley
ALTHOUGH 61% OF Detroit’s police force is Black — and headed by a Black police chief — between 1995-2000 police shot 47 people; from 2009-14 there were 18 additional shootings. Perhaps the most publicized case has been the SWAT-like raid on a home that resulted in the death of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, killed as she lay sleeping on the couch next to her grandmother.
The officer who led the raid, Joseph Weekley, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and two lesser...
— Brad Duncan
MUMIA ABU-JAMAL is facing a potentially fatal health crisis brought about by medical neglect and abuse suffered inside State Correctional Institution — Mahanoy in Eastern Pennsylvania. In addition he has been held incommunicado and denied visits from his lawyer, wife or independent physicians.
In 2011, after years of international protest, Mumia’s 1981 death sentence (following his wrongful conviction for killing a Philadelphia police officer) was rescinded allowing him to enter the...
— Daniel Denvir
AT THE BEGINNING of January, the Penn­sylvania ACLU filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn a Pennsylvania law that tramples on the free speech rights, not only of the incarcerated and journalists like me who report on the criminal justice system. The law is clearly unconstitutional, violating both free speech and due process rights.
The Revictimization Relief Act, which my lawyers at the Pennsylvania ACLU have appropriately dubbed the “Silencing Act,” allows victims of...
— Brian Dolinar and James Kilgore
MIGUEL SAUCEDO REMEMBERS as an eight-year-old the five-hour drive to visit his older brother, incarcerated downstate at Menard Correctional Center, a high security fortress in the town of Chester, Illinois which bills itself as the “Home of Popeye the Sailor Man.”
His family loaded into a rented van for a day-long trip from their Latino neighborhood of Little Village in Chicago. Now almost 30, Miguel recalls those journeys as traumatic, the family at times pulled over and harassed by...
— Dianne Feeley
WHILE MAINSTREAM MEDIA paint Detroit as a city “coming back” — meaning that the gentrification strategy of remaking downtown will trickle down in benefits to the neighborhoods that comprise the majority of Detroit’s 140 square miles — this corporate-driven strategy overlooks the main issues that prevent vibrant neighborhoods.
High rates of poverty, lack of jobs, waves of mortgage foreclosures that blight neighborhoods, along with high tax assessments and water...
— Dianne Feeley
DETROIT — WHERE 85% of the working class once owned homes — has been suffering a waterless hurricane. Predatory mortgage practices that disproportionately targeted African-American homeowners and inflated mortgages resulted in foreclosure on 25% of all residential buildings in the city between 2005 and 2011. Vacancy escalated and blight blossomed.
While Detroit endures the highest poverty rate of any major U.S. city, where schools have been closed and services cut to the bone,...
— David Finkel
AS IF TO show the world that the state of Louisiana is a human rights dead zone, the release of Albert Woodfox after 43 years in solitary confinement — what the prison system calls “cell restriction” — was delayed while the state attorney general appeals a federal judge’s order. His release was ordered by judge James Brady, who ruled that Woodfox cannot be tried a third time in the 1972 fatal stabbing of a prison guard at the infamous Angola state prison. Two...
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. Speakers were Justin Hansford, from the School of Law at St. Louis University; Cheryl Harris, UCLA School of Law; Michael Brown, Black Lives Matter Long Beach; and Melina...
— Justin Hansford
I CAME TO THIS conference from Baltimore, and on a Saturday in the evening the police in Baltimore engaged in some of the most racially divisive policing tactics I’ve ever seen — and I’m coming from Ferguson. I am going to start off with a short rundown of my involvement in Ferguson and Baltimore, and then talk about some of the lessons I’ve learned.
I used to start my lectures by showing a picture of what brought me into this movement, which was an image I saw on...
— Melina Abdullah
WANT TO talk about how Black Lives Matter began, what it is we’re doing and how you can get involved. I always have an “ask” at the end, because I don’t think that there is very much point in doing these conversations to just engage in dialogue. I think it’s what you do when you get out of the room. So thank you all for inviting me and thank you for having this conversation; the energy that I’m feeling is that many of you hopefully will be inspired to engage...
— Robin D.G. Kelley
I’M GOING TO be brief. First of all, this is an excellent, amazing panel; I don’t actually need to add anything. Everything’s been laid out. So what I want to do is just amplify a couple of points and read a couple of quotes that I think are relevant for our discussion.
The first point is that all of these talks, and this movement in particular, speak to the disposability of Black life, of Black people being treated as refuse. Secondly, what this movement recognizes is that we...
— Shamell Bell
HI EVERYONE, I’M Shamell Bell, I’m from BLM Los Angeles and I’m also from the Black Infinity Complex — and that would be myself, Thabisile Griffin, and Mark over there. And Johnny, this is my son. He’s four.
And there are history grad students here, and I’m in world arts culture and dance, and culture and performance. We sent about 50 emails out to all the Black organizations, and I’m not sure that everyone got them, but it looks like a lot of us are...
— an interview with Alice Ragland
AGAINST THE CURRENT interviewed Alice Ragland, who has been central to organizing Black youth in Cleveland against the police murder of Tamir Rice, the 12-year old shot to death two seconds after the police arrived at the park where Rice was playing with a toy gun. The Movement for Black Lives National Conference will be held in Cleveland July 24-26. Groups scheduled to attend include Cleveland Action, Ferguson Action and Million Hoodies Movement for Justice. For registration information:...
— Bob Hansman
Two months ago I had a nice apartment in Chicago. I had a good job. I had a son. When something happened to the Negroes in the South I said, “That’s their business, not mine.” Now I know how wrong I was. The murder of my son has shown me that what happens to any of us, anywhere in the world, had better be the business of us all. — Mamie Till, 1955
I BEGAN THINKING about this article during the period between Mike Brown’s funeral (which I attended — one of a...
— an interview with Andrew Hemingway
ANDREW HEMINGWAY IS an art historian and Professor Emeritus at University College London. His books include Artists on the Left. American Artists and the Communist Movement 1926-1956 (Yale University Press, 2002) and The Mysticism of Money: Precisionist Painting and Machine Age America (Periscope Publishing, 2013). Alan Wald’s discussion of Artists on the Left is online at
Against the Current: What drew you to the subject of U.S. artists on the...
— Andrew Hemingway
I WANT TO address the theme of Proletarian and Revolutionary Art in the United States between 1928 and 1935; that is to say in the years of the so-called Third Period line in the tactics of the international Communist movement. Although the terms “Proletarian Art” and “Revolutionary Art” were often used seemingly interchangeably at this time — or even used in combination — they are not synonymous, and I will argue that the distinction points up tensions...
— Alan Wald
The Extreme Center: A Warning
By Tariq Ali
London and New York: Verso, 2015, 200 pages, $10.17 paper (40% off).
A CHARISMATIC ACTIVIST, writer and speaker, British-Pakistani Marxist Tariq Ali stands out as an observant decoder of political trends and a passionate believer in the cross-pollination of ideas within the Left.
For half a century, Ali has been the kind of forward-looking thinker to whom reflective militants in many countries turn for assistance in ascertaining what the...
— Kevin Young
Drug War Capitalism
By Dawn Paley
Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2014, 279 pages, $16.95 paperback.
THE DISAPPEARANCE AND likely massacre of 43 leftist students in Mexico’s Guerrero state in September 2014 has cast a spotlight on the deep ties between high-level state personnel and violent criminal forces in Mexico, as well as U.S. knowledge of those ties. Since then, ongoing protests and revelations have further undermined official justifications for the militarized “war on drugs.”...
— Waskar T. Ari-Chachaki
Intimate Indigeneities:
Race, Sex and History in the Small Space of Andean Life
By Andrew Canessa
Duke University Press, 2012, 344 pages, $26.96 paperback.
THIS BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN book is a very important contribution to scholarship on race and sex in Latin America. Andrew Canessa concentrates on a small and remote Bolivian indigenous village, yet his goals are broad and complex in understanding crucial factors in the making and trajectory of contemporary indigeneity.
The author works in...
— Antonio Camona Báez
Black Flag Boricuas:
Anarchism, Antiauthoritarianism, and the Left in Puerto Rico 1897-1921
By Kirwin R. Shaffer
University of Illinois Press, 2013, 240 pages, $65 cloth.
AS PUERTO RICO falls deeper into economic crisis and political decomposition, radical activists are looking for well-documented historical references to feed their strategies and foster inspiration.
University students, independent union activists, striking public school teachers and environmentalists insist: There must be an...
— Sheila McClear
Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion
By Tansy E. Hoskins
Pluto Press, 2014, 264 pages, $16.99 paperback (40% off).
IN FEBRUARY 2013, 21-year-old Kayla Phillips — who happened to be Black — bought a bright orange leather bag costing $2,500 by Paris brand Celine. Then things went disastrously wrong.
The woman left the store, but the clerk notified the police. Apparently the clerk believed there was no way that a Black, working-class woman could have the means to buy such a...
— Nancy Holmstrom
Women and Class: Toward a Socialist Feminism
Essays by Hal Draper
Alameda, CA: Center for Socialist History (, 316 pages paperback. Order online from the publisher (discount using the code 7BDEVRPS) or from Amazon.
HAL DRAPER (1914-1990) was both a master polemicist and an erudite scholar of Marxism and of socialist history, often combining these talents in withering critiques of alternative analyses. These qualities are fully manifested in Women and Class: Towards a...
— David Cohen
The Death and Life of American Labor:
Toward a New Workers’ Movement
By Stanley Aronowitz
Verso Books, 2014, 224 pages, $19.95 paperback.
IN HIS NEW book, veteran labor activist/academic Stanley Aronowitz offers a critique of what is wrong with the labor movement in the United States, as well as a 10-point manifesto for the steps “Toward a New Workers Movement.”
His analysis of the labor movement revolves basically around the following:
• Unions concern themselves with...