Welcome to Against the Current

Against the Current No. 211, March/April 2021

Transition, Trauma, and Troubled Times

— The Editors

International Women's March, Los Angeles, June 2017. Molly Adams/Flickr

JANUARY 6 CERTAINLY marked a highly original way of showing “the celebration of America’s sacred peaceful transition of presidential power,” and a signal of continuing troubled times. It was a spectacle for the ages — a final futile grasp at retaining power by the outgoing president, morphing from an absurdist quasi-putsch into a deadly aspiring lynch mob inside the Capitol, followed by the late-evening reconvening of Congress for the ritual of ratifying the Electoral College vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris....

International Appeal for the Immediate Release of All Political Prisoners in Russia

— CADTM, Eric Toussaint, Collective, Tariq Ali, Dianne Feeley, Miguel Urbán Crespo, Gilbert Achcar, Fatima Zahra El Beghiti, Myriam Bregman, Noam Chomsky, Fernanda Melchionna and Suzi Weissman

Thousands arrested at nationwide protest against the jailing of Aleksei A. Navalny. Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

AT THE END of January 2021, a wave of mass protests swept through all of Russia’s major cities. The occasion for these protests was the arrest of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, but the genuine cause was the enormous social inequality and political disenfranchisement prevailing in the country. Not all of those who took to the streets were supporters of Navalny, but they were all united by a desire for social and political change and a fatigue with the corrupt, authoritarian regime ruling Russia today....

Health Care Inequalities, Racism and Death

— Malik Miah

If Dr. Susan Moore can't get medical care, what Black persion in the U.S. can?

DR. SUSAN MOORE died of COVID-19 in December after making a video and declaring; “I put forth and I maintain: If I was white, I wouldn’t have to go through that.”

The headline of a Washington Post Op-Ed (December 26, 2020) written by four female African American medical professionals put it bluntly: “Susan Moore’s death underscores the racism embedded in the U.S. health care system.”

Aletha Maybank is chief health equity officer at the American Medical Association. Camara Phyllis Jones is a family physician, epidemiologist and past president of the American Public Health Association. Uché Blackstock is founder and CEO....

From ATC authors and friends

Powerless in Texas

— Snehal Shingavi

Capitalist competition and greed lie at the heart of the power outages causing desperation across the state.

Two images capture the crisis in Texas perfectly. First, nurses at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center came to work on Thursday to this: “A notice said the water went out. The notice then listed some instructions for using the restroom, such as to not put toilet paper in the toilet when urinating, and to use trash bags to remove feces from the toilet and to then place it in a biohazard bag.” Reminder, this is in the middle of the pandemic....

A Weapon vs. White Domestic Terrorists: Anti-Klan Act of 1871

— Malik Miah

President Ulysses S. Grant, with Secretary of the Navy George M. Robeson and presidential advisor General Horace Porter signed the Third Ku Klux Klan Act. Frank Leslie’s Illustrated print, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson filed a federal lawsuit January 16 accusing Donald J. Trump, Rudy Giuliani, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers of conspiring to incite a violent riot at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, with the goal of preventing Congress from certifying the 2020 presidential election.

The lawsuit alleges that, by preventing Congress from carrying out its official duties, Trump, Giuliani and the hate groups directly violated the 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act.

The NAACP and Thompson, a long-serving and only African American Congressman....

The Historical Significance of the 2019 Hong Kong Resistance Movement

— Au Loong-yu

On February 19, 2021 Lausan, along with several other organizations including Solidarity, held a webinar book launch for Au Loong-yu’s book, Hong Kong in Revolt, The Protest Movement and the Future of China (Pluto Press, 2020). The following are the author’s slightly edited introductory remarks.

THANKS LAUSAN FOR organizing this exchange. I will like to give a seven-point presentation on the topic of “the historical significance of the 2019 Hong Kong resistance movement,” which my book attempted to cover. But first let me share with you my experiences in relation to my writings on the 2019 Revolt....

On COVID and the Plague of Capital

— Suzi Weissman interviews Rob Wallace, Meleiza Figueroa and Graham Christensen

Agroecology establishes a sustainable relationship of crops to the environment.

Suzi Weissman: Rob Wallace is an evolutionary epidemiologist with the Agroecology and Royal Economics Research Corps. His new book, Dead Epidemiologists (2020), is on the origins of COVID-19. He authored Big Farms Make Big Flu and co-authored Clear-Cutting Disease Control: Capital-Led Deforestation, Public Health Austerity, and Vector-Borne Infection.

We are also joined by Graham Christensen in northeastern Nebraska....

The Fortunate Marxist: Ernie Tate (1934-2021)

— Bryan D. Palmer

We are republishing Bryan D. Palmer's tribute to Ernie Tate, a friend and reader of Against the Current. Palmer's warm remembrance was first published in Canadian Dimension. He mentions speaking at Tate's book launch of his memoir, Revolutionary Activism, which was reviewed in ATC 179.

Born poor on Belfast’s Shankill Road in the midst of the Great Depression was certainly no entré to a life that would cross paths with Bertrand Russell, Vanessa Redgrave, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir....

Opposition to the "War on Women"

— Dianne Feeley

A protester confronts police with a Women’s Strike symbol. EPA-EFE/MARCIN OBARA

THOUSANDS IMMEDIATELY PROTESTED the Polish law, which went into effect January 27, 2021, that eliminated of one of the few reasons women can obtain an abortion.

The Constitutional Court ruled last October 22nd that any termination because of fetal abnormality is "incompatible" with the Polish constitution. However massive demonstrations forced the government to hold off publishing the controversial ruling in the Journal of Laws. Three months later and given that gatherings of more than five are banned during the pandemic, the government moved to implement the decision....

Why the Massive Protests Throughout Russia?

— Suzi Weissman's interviews Ilya Budraitskis

Massive demonstration in Pushkin Square, 1/23/21. Associated Press photo

WE ARE PUBLISHING Susi Weissman's interview with Ilya Budraitskis, conducted on February 5th (Moscow time) for Jacobin Radio.

SW: I'm very pleased to have Ilya Budraitskis speaking with us for the first time about the recent protest movement in Russia. He's a Moscow-based historian, political writer, cultural worker, and co-host of the podcast called Political Diary, which you can find online and listen to if you know Russian. Russia has been rocked by massive protests over the last few weeks. These are the first large protests since the ones that took place....

The G20’s Solutions -- Not! -- and the Need to Suspend Debt Repayment

— Eric Toussaint

Last April, the G20 countries launched the idea of debt service suspension by poor countries until the end of 2020. What actually happened?

Measures taken by the G20 regarding debt relief are utterly insufficient as well as unacceptable since they involve intensifying neoliberal policies....

Building Power for the Long Term

— Stephanie Luce

As activists orient to the post-election landscape, we’re having lots of conversations about building power for the long term. We’re taking stock of the types of power we need and how they can reinforce each other – narrative, organizing, mobilizing, and electoral power, to name a few. And despite the decline in union membership and strength, workers’ collective bargaining power also offers a means of making gains for broader communities. “Bargaining for the Common Good” (BCG) makes this real....

Richmond Progressive Alliance Wins

— Mike Parker

IN CALIFORNIA, THE Richmond Progressive Alliance won another stunning victory in this month’s local elections.

Richmond is a working class city of 110,000, 80 percent people of color, north of Oakland on the San Francisco Bay. It is home to a major Chevron refinery that has been the focus of political battles about Chevron’s pollution, Chevron’s special tax considerations, and Chevron’s political involvement....

State Racism, Islamophobia & Religious Fundamentalism

— Joseph Daher

Thousands demonstrated in Paris and Marseille in October, after a gunman with links to the far right attracted two men at a mosque in Bayonne.

THE CONTINUOUS GROWTH of Islamophobia in France can be understood both in view of its current socio-economic and political context as well as in its colonial and imperialist heritage. On the one hand, the French government is trying to make people forget its socio-economic difficulties by the policies of stigmatization and exclusion of Muslim populations. On the other hand, the "defence of religion and an authentic Islamic identity" serves as a screen on the political and economic agenda of Islamic fundamentalists....

The First Decade of the Arab Revolutionary Process

— Gilbert Achcar

TEN YEARS AGO, on 17 December 2010, a young street vendor in the town of Sidi Bouzid in central Tunisia sparked a political firestorm that soon engulfed the whole country, before spreading across the entire Arabic-speaking region, in what has been known since 2011 as the “Arab Spring.”

The initial months of that “spring” were euphoric: a wave of massive protests....

Ethiopia: The Perils of War

— Pierre Beaudet interviews Paulos Tesfagiorgis

The confrontation between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the other components of Ethiopia’s leadership has erupted into armed conflict. What are the opportunities for peace and the risks for the region.

Since 2018, the new Ethiopian Prime Minister (PM), Abiy Ahmed has been presented as a champion of peace and democracy. He released political prisoners and relaxed control over the press. And he signed a peace accord with Eritrea. Under Abiy, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) which had dominated the regime since the overthrow of the dictatorship, was gradually pushed out of one commanding position after another. Abiy’s actions resonated with vast numbers of Ethiopians, who seemed to have given him a strong mandate to continue with his reform agenda and consolidate it....

Socialisms: A Critical Debate

— Catherine Samary

Revolutions betrayed, mislaid and unmade
By Ian Parker
Resistance Books, 192 pages, $15.

IAN PARKER IS an activist and academic based in Manchester in the north of England. On the basis of a vast political culture and radical commitment in struggles against all intertwined forms of oppression, he offers us a journey in time and space, anchored in eight stopovers  – Russia, Georgia, Serbia, North Korea, China, Cuba, Laos and Venezuela, They all “went through...

Eightieth Anniversary of Walter Benjamin's Death. Ten Theses on His Contribution to Critical Theory

— Michael Löwy

A permanent exile, a dissident Marxist, a lucid anti-fascist, Walter Benjamin died in Port-Bou 80 years ago, in September 1940, after an attempt to flee Vichy's France to Spain. Like thousands of other German Jewish and/or anti-fascist refugees, he was interned in a camp in the summer of 1939, at the beginning of World War II, as a “national of an enemy country.”

Unanswered Questions

— Steve Bloom

Connecting Contemporary African-Asian Peacemaking and Nonviolence:
From Satagraha to Ujamaa

Vidya Jain and Matt Meyer (Eds.)
518 pages, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2018.

Since readers might be curious we will begin this review by citing the definitions offered in the book itself of two words used in the title that will surely be unfamiliar to many:

’Satagraha’— Sanskrit word meaning ‘truth-force,’ ‘soul-force’ or ‘love-force,’ popularized by Gandhi throughout India to suggest the establishment of power based on truth, soul, and love rather than on greed, individualism, and a striving for personal profit.”

’Ujamaa’—Swahili word describing village-based socialistic practices. It was used prominently by Julius Nyerere of Tanzania in his effort to bring scattered peasant communities together in order to encourage collective production and provision of social services.”...