Against the Current, No. 114, January/February 2005

Against the Current, No. 114, January/February 2005

On Oil and Quicksand

— The Editors

THE DEATH OF Yaser Arafat, as well as the American assault and ensuing holocaust in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, occurred shortly after our previous issue (Against the Current 113) went to press.  The end of 2004 finds the Middle East sliding toward an even bloodier morass, thanks in large part to imperial and colonial arrogance which has rarely been on such open display. 

Racist Outrage at UMass-Amherst

— Jeffrey Napalitano, Mishy Leiblum, Barak Sered and Stephanie Luce

OVER THE PAST decade, students around the country have fought a conservative backlash on college campuses that has sought to reverse many gains won in the 1970s and 1980s.  Along with attacks on labor studies, women's studies, and progressive student organizations, this has also included efforts to roll back affirmative action policies and programs for students of color.

Privatizing Social Security: Who Wins?

— Nomi Prins

OVER THE YEARS, there have been numerous attempts and proposals to privatize the social security system.  It was a key Republican platform item in the 2000 election.  The idea was subsequently thwarted by the small matter of the stock market bust that wiped out $8 trillion of market value, and caused a 60% drop in the NASDAQ over the first two years of Bush's first term.

The Dollar's Crisis & the Left

— Loren Goldner

INCREDIBLE AS IT may sound, ever since the late 1950s the world economy has been tossing around a “hot potato,” in the form of an ever-increasing mass of “nomad dollars.” These are dollars held outside the United States, whose actual conversion into tangible wealth would plunge the world economy into a deflationary crash.

Grad Student Organizing "19th-Century Style"

— Ursula McTaggart

AS A GRADUATE student in English at Indiana University (IU), I am the sole instructor for 46 students in W131, Introduction to Composition.(1) W131 is a writing course, and students compose rough and final drafts for four essays in addition to several smaller writing assignments.

Airline Bankruptcies & Workers' Control

— Malik Miah

INCREDIBLE AS IT may sound, ever since the late 1950s the world economy has been tossing around a “hot potato,” in the form of an ever-increasing mass of “nomad dollars.” These are dollars held outside the United States, whose actual conversion into tangible wealth would plunge the world economy into a deflationary crash.

Iraq: Guerrilla War in Sadr City

— Michael Schwartz

IN ATTACKING FIRST Najaf, then Tal Afar and Samarra, and finally tackling the center of Sunni resistance in Fallujah, the United States was seeking to reverse this process.  But these attacks were not designed to restore order; they were, instead, intended to prevent the consolidation of a very orderly anti-American status quo in a constantly expanding set of "liberated" areas.  Ironically, the American attacks in the Fall of 2004 underscore the larger contradictions in American policy in Iraq: that the chaos American leaders keep saying there are preventing will, in fact, occur only if U.S. military forces succeed in destroying these nascent city-states.

Best of Random Shots

— R.F. Kampfer

[In our previous issue we sadly reported the death of Neil Chacker, whose Random Shots column appeared in this magazine from its inception under the byline R.F. Kampfer. As a farewell to the column I have selected some of Kampfer’s best representative items from “randomly” chosen back issues. — David Finkel]

DURING THE EXCAVATION of Pompeii, archaeologists found the body of a young Roman soldier who had been standing guard duty when Vesuvius erupted. He had remained at his post while being covered with molten lava. That’s the kind of discipline we need!

Celebrating the Revolutionary Centenary

Introducing the Year 1905: Centennial of Struggle

— The Editors

THE YEAR 1905 stands out as the onset of an era of explosive anticapitalist struggle—all the more so 100 years later, when we feel stranded in a neoliberal ice age. Looking back at the events of that year helps give some perspective on how rapidly consciousness and levels of struggle can change.

Revolutionary Centennial: Guyana's 1905 Rebellion

— Nigel Westmaas

1905 WAS A landmark year in the history of Guyana, as it was for several places around the world.  In Russia, the Tsar and his troops shot workers delivering a petition in St. Petersburg.  In Bengal there were communal shootings; in South West Africa the German massacre of the Herero people was in full progress.

Israel/Palestine and the Peace Mirage

The Illusion of Gaza Withdrawal

— Tanya Reinhart

WE GATHER HERE in difficult times, when it seems that the Palestinian cause has been almost eliminated from the international agenda. The Western world is hailing the new “peace vision” of Sharon’s disengagement plan.

In Defense of Divestment

— Shamai K. Leibowitz

AS AN ISRAELI citizen and former tank gunner in the Israeli army, I feel the need to explain why I, along with many other Jews, support divestment from Israel. We are asking the city of Somerville, as well as other cities and civic institutions, to divest from companies involved in selling arms, bulldozers and military technologies that are used by the Israeli army to commit war crimes against Palestinians.

US Politics After November

After Shock & Gawk

— James E. Vann

NOVEMBER 3 BEGAN with a shock — the early morning newscast reporting the front page of The London Daily Mirror: “How Can 59,054,087 People be So Dumb?” Culminating what had seemed the longest and unceasingly miserable campaign in U.S. history — and in its wake, the most inconceivable of outcomes: The brazen robber was presented the reward!! Was the campaign stolen yet again? Most likely! Will the theft be exposed? Most probably!

The Democrats' New Scapegoat

— Ann Menasche

IN 2000, THE Democratic Party establishment and much of the left blamed Ralph Nader for the election of George Bush.  The “spoiler” label conveniently ignored the fact that Al Gore ran a weak campaign with no compelling message; that more registered Democrats voted for Bush than for Nader; and that the Democratic Party refused to challenge the removal of African Americans from the voter rolls in Florida.

Northern California in 2005

— Todd Chretien

CALIFORNIA’S BLUE STATE status notwithstanding, times are tough and getting tougher and there is no shortage of issues that could flare up into substantial social movements. This article will review some of these problems as well as outline the debates on the left (and Greens in particular) in the Bay Area.

Reviewing African-American and Antiracist Struggle

Unwhitening America

— Bill V. Mullen

After Whiteness:
Unmaking an American Majority
Mike Hill
New York University Press, 2004. 268 pp., $21.00 paperback.

MIKE HILL’S AFTER Whiteness is an important, provocative and timely book, one that Marxists and other Left academics will especially enjoy: a rigorous, materialist and politically progressive account of how white racial identity has become an index to the conditions of both U.S. capitalism and the American university.

Dudley Randall Rediscovered

— Kim D. Hunter

WHAT BERRY GORDY and Motown were to pop music in the sixties, Dudley Randall and Broadside Press were to the Black Arts Movement (the cultural parallel to the Black Power Movement). Unlike Gordy, who made it his business to “crossover” to the larger, more lucrative white market, Randall’s bread and butter was militant political work aimed directly at Blacks.

Caging Race & Gender

— Kristian Williams

Are Prisons Obsolete?
Angela Y. Davis
New York: Seven Stories Press,
2003, 128 pp., $8.95 paperback.

IN HER LATEST book, Are Prisons Obsolete? Angela Davis lays out the facts about incarceration, citing the current numbers, outlining the history of the prison system, and identifying the race, class and gender dynamics underpinning the prison boom. She explains the economics of the punishment industry and deconstructs the ideology supporting it.

The Prophet Gone Astray

— Peter Drucker

Lost Prophet:
The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin.
John D’Emilio
New York: Free Press, 2003, $20.

THE HISTORY OF African-Americans’ long struggle for equality in the United States is full of unsung heroes, few of whom have been so unjustly neglected as Bayard Rustin. Particularly in the crucial years from the 1940s to the 1960s there was virtually no act or scene of the civil rights drama, or for that matter of the peace movement, in which Rustin did not play a major role — mostly behind the scenes.


A Reichstag Fire on Steroids?

— David Finkel

THE EDITORS OF Against the Current struggled at some length with the question of publishing this review of The New Pearl Harbor, and posed some hard questions to our comrade and friend Jack Ceder as he developed and re-drafted it. We decided ultimately to publish it, given the obvious importance of the topic, while also feeling compelled to briefly indicate our dissent from its central thesis.

Another Look at 9/11

— Jack Ceder

The New Pearl Harbor
Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11.
David Ray Griffin.
Olive Branch Press (Interlink Publishing Group), updated edition, 2004. 256 pages, $15 paper.
9/11 In Plane Site
DVD/VHS video
Dave von Kleist,
65 minutes,, $20.

THERE ARE TWO conflicting conspiracy theories about the 9/11 attacks, each of which appear implausible and mind-boggling to many people. One is the official story as spun by the government and the media,and largely seconded by the 9/11 Commission: Nineteen Arab terrorists were able to hijack four planes without U.S. Intelligence’s knowledge, and to penetrate the air defense systems to hit the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

In Memoriam

Margaret Schirmer Remembered

— Delia D. Aguilar

PROGRESSIVE FILIPINOS LOST a steadfast friend in Margaret (Peggy) Schirmer when she died in Cambridge, Massachusetts on August 8 at the age of 89. My family and I lost a dear personal friend. We first met Peggy and her husband Boone when Ferdinand Marcos had just declared martial law in 1972, and we were calling on justice-minded people for help in urging attention to U.S. support of the dictatorship. As a founder of Friends of the Filipino People, Peggy worked tirelessly to expose U.S. complicity with Marcos in the brutal repression in the Philippines.