Welcome to Against the Current

Against the Current No. 208, September/October 2020

A Note from the Editors

The bimonthly was launched in 1986 to promote analysis and dialogue from activist movements for social, political and economic justice, and from engaged scholars on the left. Our perspective is “socialism from below,” rooted in the struggles for self-emancipation of the working class and oppressed peoples as the foundation for a new society without exploiters or oppressors.....

From Against the Current

History, Great Britain, and Julian Assange

— Clifford D. Conner

BELOW ARE THE comments Clifford D. Conner made at a September 8th press conference in front of the British consulate in New York City. Conner is an historian and author of Jean Paul Marat: Tribune of the French Revolution and The Tragedy of American Science: From Truman to Trump. The court in Britain is holding hearings on the Trump administration’s request to have Julian Assange, the publisher of WikiLeaks and an Australian citizen, extradited. Assange would be tried in a Virginia court on 17 counts of espionage and one count of conspiracy to commit a computer crime. If convicted, he could face up to 175 years in prison.....

Opening Up the Schools?

— Robert Bartlett

SIX MONTHS SINCE the worst health crisis in 100 years began, there is no sign that it is under control in most parts of the world. In the United States, it has created mass unemployment, exposed the vast rifts between the rich and poor, and promises to widen them unless the social movements impelled by Black Lives Matter and teacher/community organizing can continue to reframe the political, social and economic landscape.

Until mid-March, when governors and mayors took drastic steps, with orders to shelter in place, closing businesses and schools to slow the spread of the virus, many people continued their lives with a growing sense of fear of what would happen....

Toward Class Struggle Electoral Politics

— Barry Eidlin interviews Micah Uetricht & Meagan Day

LABOR SOCIOLOGIST BARRY Eidlin interviewed Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) activists Micah Uetricht and Meagan Day, authors of Bigger than Bernie: How We Go from the Sanders Campaign to Democratic Socialism (Verso Books, 2020) for Against the Current. Eidlin is the author of Labor and the Class Idea in the United States and Canada (Cambridge University Press, 2018) and a professor of sociology at McGill University in Montreal....

Fragments from a Past – La Lotta Continua

— Jeffrey L. Gould

MY POLITICAL ACTIVISM began in 1964 when I passed out SDS leaflets: “better a crook than a fascist” [Johnson over Goldwater]; it effectively ended by the late 1980s. Although I consider my scholarly research and writings and especially my films to be a continuation of my earlier activism, I can’t speak to activists as one in the trenches. Yet today’s political moment is too charged to remain silent....

From ATC authors and friends

Hong Kong in Revolt: A Conversation with Au Loong-Yu

— Ivan Franceschini interviews Au Loong-Yu

For the past year and a half, Hong Kong has been in turmoil, with a new generation of young and politically active citizens mobilizing to protest Beijing’s tightening grip over the city. In Hong Kong in Revolt: The Protest Movement and the Future of China (Pluto Books 2020), prominent Hong Kong leftist intellectual Au Loong-Yu retraces the development of the protest movement in his place of birth over the past two decades, setting them within the context of broader political trends in mainland China and beyond. Published after the Chinese authorities enacted a new draconian National Security Law that effectively signaled a new stage in the crackdown, this book provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on the events of the past months, dispel some myths, and, possibly, draw a few early lessons....

Cop Shoots Jacob Blake: Kenosha Intensifies Racial Reckoning

— Malik Miah

ONCE AGAIN A young Black man, 29, is shot in the back on August 23 by a white cop in the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin, about 40 miles north of Milwaukee where the majority of African Americans in that state live.

The man, Jacob Blake Jr., had intervened in a street dispute between two women. The cops arrived and immediately challenged Blake. Two of them shot taser guns at him.

Then when he walked to his car where his three young boys of 3, 5 and 8 years sat in the back seat alone, the white cop grabbed Blake’s shirt and then fired seven shots at his back with four hitting him. Afterwards, the cops said Blake had a knife on the car’s floorboard…

Escalating Plunder

— Robert Brenner

THIS ARTICLE IS adapted from Robert Brenner’s article* in the May/June New Left Review, which is Part I of a two-part article on the economy. That article is well footnoted while this tells the story without them.

THE FEDERAL RESERVE’S March 23rd declaration that it intended to provide loans to non-financial corporations was decisive in indicating the Fed’s assumption of leadership of the government’s corporate bailout. It signaled what was expected of Congress and the Treasury. It also specified the intended level of support for big business in the coronavirus economic crisis.

On cue Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that the centerpiece of their just-approved bill, soon to be called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security or CARES Act, was a giant rescue of non-financial corporations, amounting to half a trillion dollars…

Protest, Politics, Passion

— Alan Wald

This review essay was published on the Boston Review website, June 11, 2020.

The Romance of American Communism
By Vivian Gornick
1st edition 1977; 2019 edition with new introduction by the author
Verso, $19.95 paper.

THROUGHOUT THE LATE 20th century, assorted political gravediggers worked overtime to entomb the legacy of U.S. Communism. In hindsight they may strike us as having protested altogether too much, as those were decades when, like today, most activists on the far left referenced Moscow and its aging authoritarians mainly as punch lines to political jokes. Yet the terror that the pro-Soviet Old Left might inspire new forms of radicalism ran deep among the intellectual establishment that had emerged during the High Cold War and continued to take root in its wake. These anointed gatekeepers, from the reactionary James Burnham to the liberal Sidney Hook, wanted their version of the legacy of the left—in short, a horrific one—so fixed in the cultural firmament that all roads of inquiry would lead straight to the 1949 collection The God That Failed: A Confession, that touchstone of disillusionment with Communism…