Against the Current, No. 118, September/October 2005

Against the Current, No. 118, September/October 2005

On to September 24th!

— The Editors

FOURTEEN MARINES FROM Ohio killed in one roadside bombing attack in western Iraq, a week after six snipers from the same unit were wiped out on patrol.  The U.S. military death toll is almost at 1,900, over 80% of these since George W. Bush announced "the end of major combat operations" in Spring 2003.

The NAACP's Future

— Malik Miah

The NAACP is one of the oldest civil rights organizations in the country. Founded in 1909, it played a leading role in opposing lynching laws and legal segregation until the demise of Jim Crow three decades ago .

Today it is struggling to be relevant to most African Americans. Many young political activists, not surprisingly, see the NAACP as irrelevant. Others label it as too legalistic and corporate to take on the extreme right wing political agenda in Washington today.

Muslims in Britain: After the London Bombs

— Liam Mac Uaid

WHITECHAPEL MARKET IS in the heart of George Galloway’s Bethnal Green (London) constituency, packed every Saturday wiith traders selling low priced fruit, unreliable electrical goods and cheap cigarettes.

It’s also where people go to hawk ideas. There you can usually find at least three varieties of socialist newspaper. During the general election one said vote Respect.* Another said don’t vote Respect, and the third said don’t vote for anyone at all because they are misleading you.

Solidarity with Iraqi Labor

— Traven Leyshon and Dianne Feeley

THE FIRST DELEGATION of Iraqi labor leaders to visit the United States—and one of the few Iraqi groups of any sort not sponsored by the U.S. government—addressed more than 70 meetings across the country this June.  The group included representatives from the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq (FWCUI) and General Union of Oil Employees (GUOE).

The Message and Meaning of Groundings 2005: Walter Rodney Lives!

— Sara Abraham

SEEKING TO GRASP at the core of Walter Rodney's legacies for Caribbean peoples today, speakers at the recent Groundings in Guyana used the words "decency," "boldness," and "humanity."  It was in such spirit that the Groundings were organized to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Rodney's assassination at the hands of the ruling paramount party, PNC, in Guyana in 1980.

Creating A Movement for Reparations

— Andrea Ritchie

ANDREA SMITH’S CONQUEST not only thoroughly documents the impacts of colonialism and sexual violence, but also highlights sites of resistance by Native women and women of color.

For instance, Smith is one of the co-founders of the Boarding School Healing Project (BSHP) (, a coalition of Native and allied organizations around the country documenting and organizing around physical, sexual, emotional, cultural and spiritual abuse suffered by the hundreds of thousands of Native children forced by the U.S. government to attend residential schools run by churches between 1869 and the late 1950s.

Economic Crisis & Fundamentalism

— Susan Weissman interviews John Daly

[Susan Weissman, host of “Beneath the Surface” on KPFK, Pacifica radio in Los Angeles, conducted this on-air interview with John Daly in April, 2005. Many thanks to Walter Tanner for transcribing. It has been edited and abridged for publication.]

SUZI WEISSMAN: JOHN Daly is the International Correspondent for UPI, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair, and writes for Janes’ Defense publications. He speaks Turkic languages and is an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C.

Kyrgyzstan After Akayev

— Susan Weissman

KYRGYZSTAN’S MARCH 2005 “Tulip Revolution,” if something less than really a revolution, resulted in its president, Askar Akayev, fleeing the country. Once hailed as the most democratic leader in the region, Akayev was overthrown by spontaneous demonstrations of a population angered by corruption, nepotism, economic despair and demoralization.

Attacks on the Academic Left

Assaulting pro-Palestinian Activism: Smear Tactics at U-M

— Nadine Naber

IN MARCH, 2005 the student assembly at the University of Michigan held a campus- wide meeting to vote on a resolution calling for the university to form an advisory committee to review university investments in companies supporting the Israeli occupation.  This was not a divestment resolution, but a small-scale resolution calling for an investigative committee to investigate university investments.

Labor Studies Under Siege

— Stephanie Luce

MORE THAN A decade since the collapse of the Soviet Union, leftists are now more likely to be targeted by the right wing as "terrorists" than as "communists"—yet redbaiting is alive and well in the field of Labor Studies.  In recent years, university labor programs have been attacked in the press for their teaching and research, and been targeted by university administrators for drastic budget reductions or elimination.

Racism & Conflict at Southern Illinois

— Robbie Lieberman

I TEACH ON a campus that prides itself on its racial diversity; Southern Illinois University is consistently ranked in the top ten among predominantly white campuses in graduation rates for African Americans. Yet the university has trouble confronting racial issues, and has no published policy on racial harassment.

This is the context in which a History professor (whom I will call Professor X) instructed his teaching assistants (TAs) to hand out a racist article, to make a point that the civil rights movement went too far and that Black people are now the oppressors. This act confounded his TAs and prompted public criticism from some of his colleagues.

Celebrating the Revolutionary Centenary

Rehearsing for 1917: Russia's 1905 Revolution

— David Finkel

AGAINST THE CURRENT is delighted to publish the following three centenary essays on “The First Russian Revolution,” the upheaval of 1905 that came to be seen as the rehearsal for February and October 1917.

As our regular readers know, throughout this year we’re offering a collection of commemorations on the world-historic events of 1905, from a mass strike in Guyana to the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) to Albert Einstein’s pathbreaking scientific papers of that year. But the outbreak of a revolutionary struggle that shook the Russian autocracy, the lynchpin of political and social reaction in Europe for the preceding century, was the greatest of them all — despite its defeat, a promise of triumph to come.

A Hidden Story of the 1905 Russian Revolution: The Unemployed Soviet

— Nikolai Preobrazhenksii

THE MOVEMENT OF the unemployed in St. Petersburg is a little-known episode of the First Russian Revolution of 1905-7.  The movement came as a complete surprise to everyone at the time, since it is did not fit any pre-conceived schema (although, strictly speaking, it had a precedent in the February Revolution of 1848 in France, when the revolutionary government established the "Ateliers nationaux" public-works program).

Rosa Luxemburg & the Mass Strike

— Lea Haro

THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION of 1905 sparked strikes and protests all over Central Europe. In Germany the workers took an active interest in the Russian situation and demanded the presence of the SPD’s (Social Democratic Party) inspiring speaker, Rosa Luxemburg. For Luxemburg, the upsurge in strikes symbolized the revolutionary spirit of the working class. She became increasingly disillusioned and frustrated, however, with the SPD’s lack of support and the Trade Unions’ attempts to prevent strikes.

Lessons from the 1905 Revolution

— Hillel Ticktin

1905 WAS A decisive year in Socialist History in that the working class movement developed two crucial weapons in its armory: Soviets (workers’ councils), which were new, and the general strike, which was not. Since that time both political forms have been extensively used and theorized.

It is notable that such basic weapons in working-class struggle either appeared first or were taken furthest in one of the least developed countries in Europe. In the opening chapters of 1905, Leon Trotsky develops his theory of the nature of Russian political economy, tracing its origins and its destiny in what came later to be called the epoch of capitalist decline.(1)

In Memoriam

Remembering a Revolutionary Artiist: Vlady Presente!

— Suzi Weissman

VLADY KIBALCHICH, BORN in Petrograd, Russia in June 1920, died on July 21, 2005 at home (in his studio) in Cuernavaca, Mexico after a difficult battle with cancer which began as a melanoma, but spread to his brain.  He was 85.


U.S. Law: Religious or Secular?

— Jennifer Jopp

One Nation Under Law:
America’s Early National Struggles to Separate Church and State
by Mark Douglas McGarvie
Dekalb, IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2004. 256 pages, $38 cloth.

“THE FOUNDING FATHERS,” my fundamentalist Christian friend once declared to me in the midst of a rather heated argument, “were Christians and created a Christian country.” “No, you’ve got it all wrong,” I sputtered and hastened to explain, “Jefferson was a Deist.”

From the Front Lines of Native Women's Struggles

— Andrea Ritchie

Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide
Andrea Smith
Cambridge, Mass: South End Press, 2005. 244 pages, $18 paper.

AS A LONGTIME Black lesbian feminist progressive who came up through the women’s, anti-racism, labor and environmental justice movements in the United States and Canada, I like to think of myself as fairly well read, and up on my analysis of the historical and current material conditions of women of color and our movements for liberation.

Fighting the Wal-Mart Plague

— Karen Miller

Selling Women Short:
The Landmark Battle for Workers’ Rights at Wal-Mart
Liza Featherstone
New York: Basic Books. 282 pages.
$25 hardcover.

LIZA FEATHERSTONE OFFERS a devastating portrait of rampant sex discrimination at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. Women working for the company at all levels — from cashier positions to the highest levels of corporate marketing — have been paid less than their male coworkers and offered far fewer raises and promotions.

Sports & Resistance

— Peter Ian Asen

What's My Name, Fool?
Sports and Resistance in the United States
Dave Zirin
Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2005.
304 pages. $15 paper.

THE TWO MOST famous fists in American history belong to Tommie Smith and John Carlos. In 1968, Smith and Carlos finished gold and bronze, respectively, in the 200-meter dash competition in the Olympic Games in Mexico City. Just months before, the two African-American men, both members of the Olympic Committee to Protect Human Rights (OPHR), had been considering a boycott of the games with their fellow OPHR members.

An Israeli Anti-Zionist Memoir: On the Border

— Larry Hochman

On the Border
Michel Warschawski
translated by Levi Laub
Cambridge. MA: South End Press, 2005. [First published in French as Sur la Frontiere, Editions Stock, 2002.]
228 pages + xv. $17 paperback.

MICHEL WARSCHAWSKI HAS written a richly deserved prize winning book On the Border. Warschawski, director of the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem and a well known anti-Zionist activist, first came to Israel from France before the1967 war, to study at a religious-Zionist Talmudic academy. He is a comrade and the husband of noted Israeli civil rights lawyer Lea Tsemel.

Already in Hell: Labor After Communism

— George Windau

Labour After Communism
Autoworkers and Their Unions in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus
David Mandel
Montreal, New York & London: Black Rose Press, 2004. (
$28.99 paper.

FACTORY WORKERS IN the former Soviet Union have a saying: “Things can’t get any worse, we are already in hell.” David Mandel’s book Labour After Communism documents the realities of working-class life in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus: factories with no central heating, where workers to maintain body heat build fires in metal drums or large metal toolboxes, the smoke of these fires rising up through holes in the roof.