Against the Current, No. 126, January/February 2007

Against the Current, No. 126, January/February 2007

The War Is (Not) Over

— The Editors

VOTERS ON NOVEMBER 7 massively repudiated the war in Iraq, and the leadership that produced this disaster. The result: The Democratic Party holds the majority in both houses of Congress, and more troops are heading to Iraq. While the people of the United States want out of Iraq right away, Democrats now share responsibility with a discredited Bush administration for this war and for the next two years of government. The nasty and volatile politics of the coming period will clearly be dominated by the same facts that forged the context for the election — the reality of the U.S. defeat in Iraq. That defeat was the context and driving force of the midterm election. It will continue to be the central political question even as the Democrats collaborate with Bush to continue the war despite the wishes of the majority to end it.

Racism and "Colorblind" Society

— Malik Miah

THE DECISION TO create a Martin Luther King, Jr. monument on the Washington mall — the first ever for an African American — has been praised by some as a sign of a progress and proof that the United States is a “colorblind” society. President George Bush, former President Bill Clinton and civil rights leaders including Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton all came together in Washington, D.C., on November 14, 2006.

The Democrats' Domestic Agenda

— David Finkel

THE DEMOCRATS ARE taking over Congress with what we might generously call a “minimalist reform” program. That’s not fundamentally why they were elected; the dominant political question in America, as discussed in the “Letter from the Editors” in this issue, will be Iraq and related imperial criminal mischief. But the realities of our dysfunctional society at home will be on the agenda too — at least to some degree.

ICE's Terror Raids

— Milo Mumgaard & Lourdes Gouveia

TODAY’S WORKPLACE RAID in Grand Island, Nebraska meatpacking plant is merely the last gasps of a broken  system, and is both an economic dead-end and cause of human misery. There is a better way.

Reproductive Rights Today

— Dianne Feeley

IT’S CLEAR THAT women can make intelligent decisions for their lives when they are supported in their goals and encouraged to consider their full range of options. This begins with reproductive freedom, but needs to include access to education and health care, the right to a decent and meaningful job, the right to have a family and to raise children in a safe environment. It includes quality day care for parents who need it, as most do. No matter how many obstacles the radical right attempts to put in front of women, women have an objective need to circumvent them. In 2006 opponents of reproductive rights moved on several different fronts:

The Detroit Teachers' Strike

— Carmen Regalado & Ron Lare

LAST AUGUST 27, the 9500-member Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT), including 6000 teachers for over 100,000 students, voted overwhelmingly to strike. On September 13, union members narrowly voted to return to work. By October 6, they voted up the new contract, 5401-1714. The Board of Education’s extreme demands for wage cuts were beaten back, but after a highly active strike that defied intimidation and a back-to-work court injunction, many teacher activists felt that their dramatic strike had been settled for too little.

Brutality in Oaxaca

— Dan La Botz

DECEMBER, 2006 — THE Mexican Federal police have pulled out of the central plaza of the city of Oaxaca, Oaxaca after occupying it for three weeks. The buildings on the square have all been freshly painted to cover the graffiti. A Christmas tree, a nativity scene, and poinsettias have been set up. But several of the surrounding shops have been boarded up, their windows broken during the recent clashes between citizens and police. Others on the verge of bankruptcy may board up soon.

Ecuador Swings Left

— Cyril Mychalejko

WHEN ECUADORIANS WENT to the polls November 26, they collectively said no to neoliberalism when they voted overwhelmingly for maverick candidate Rafael Correa over billionaire banana tycoon Alvaro Noboa. This election undoubtedly makes Washington uneasy, as one more country in Latin America has elected a left-of-center candidate. The choice between Noboa and Correa was a choice between the past and the future.

Cuban Reality Beyond Fidel

— interview with Sam Farber

SAMUEL FARBER IS the author of The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered, which is reviewed by Paul Le Blanc elsewhere in this issue. He is also a former editor of this journal. He was interviewed by phone on November 28 by David Finkel from the ATC editorial board.

Against the Current: Your book was written, as you explain there, as part of a discussion on the impending post-Castro future of Cuba. We’ll get to that; but first I wanted to ask how you perceived the glee of the U.S. right wing and Bush administration when they thought Fidel was on his deathbed or had already died. It was rather grotesque, wasn’t it?

The China Advantage, Part 2

— Au Loong-Yu

THE HUGE GROWTH of China’s manufacturing in the last 20 years cannot be attributed to China’s embrace of the world market alone, as neoliberal academics want us to believe. It is the outcome of a combination of many unique factors, the most important of which relate to the legacy of the great social and political transformation that came about between 1949-79, albeit at unnecessarily high social cost. Not understanding China’s contemporary history is to understand nothing about China’s future. Here we can only briefly touch on this vast subject.

The Water Crisis in Gaza

— Alice Gray

THE POLITICAL RHETORIC and frequent violence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict often serve to mask underlying environmental issues which, if not resolved, may pose an even greater threat to the well-being of the Palestinian population than the guns and bombs of the military occupation.

Fitting Means & Ends

— Nancy Holmstrom

MARX AND ENGELS  liked to characterize their approach to socialism as “scientific” in contrast to others they dismissed as “utopian,” using the phrases “the materialist conception of history,”(1) or “historical materialism” to describe the scientific approach to understanding history and society on which they based both their theorizing and practical politics. This emphasis on the scientific character of their commitment to socialism, combined with their many scathing criticisms of socialists’ appeals to ethics and morality, have led some socialists to wonder whether historical materialism needs an ethics.

Honoring Black History

The Attica Uprising

— Heather Ann Thompson

ON SEPTEMBER 13, 1971 a four-day rebellion of over 1200 inmates at the Attica State Correctional Facility in bucolic upstate New York ended most horrifically after Governor Nelson Rockefeller ordered almost 600 state troopers to storm the prison. Even though the raid took only 10 minutes, when one could finally see through the haze of spent ammunition, it was immediately clear that the price of retaking this facility by force had been staggeringly high.

Black Arts for Liberation

— Cynthia A. Young

The Black Arts Movement:
Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s.
James Edward Smethurst
Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press,
2005, 471 pages, $24.95 paper.

IT IS RARE to encounter a book that lives up so completely to its far-reaching title as does James Edward Smethurst’s The Black Arts Movement: Literary Nationalism in the 1960s and 1970s. Smethurst, an Associate Professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has written a tour-de-force that will quickly become the definitive analysis of the sprawling and internally contradictory entity known as the Black Arts movement.

A Century of African-American Internationalism

— Regennia N. Williams

Bill Mullen
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004. 240 pages, $18.95 paper.

"The problem of the twentieth-century is the problem of the color line — the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea." —W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903)

THE BELIEF THAT African Americans are members of a global community of color is over 100 years old. Yet recent articles (in the Chronicle of Higher Education, The Village Voice and other publications) expressing the need for Black Studies programs to reinvent themselves by starting to focus on Black internationalism, the African Diaspora, or the Black Atlantic.

Cops Against Brutality

— Kristian Williams

Black Cops Against Police Brutality:
A Crisis Action Plan
DeLacy Davis
East Orange, NJ: Black Cops Against Police Brutality,
2005, 142 pages, $25 paper.

IF YOU”RE LOOKING for a 12-step program to end society’s addiction to violence, this isn’t the book for you. It’s more of an organizational tool kit. DeLacy Davis gives some quick attention to the problem of police brutality — its scope and its consequences— before moving on to outline the lessons he’s drawn from his own unique experience as, simultaneously, a sergeant with the East Orange (New Jersey) police, a student of administrative science (with a Master’s Degree from Fairleigh Dickenson University), and a founder of Black Cops Against Police Brutality (

Race, Class & the Left

— Allen Ruff

Max Yergan —
Race Man, Internationalist, Cold Warrior
David Henry Anthony III
NY: New York University press, 2006, 390 pages, $49 cloth.

Caribbean Crusaders and the Harlem Renaissance
Joyce Moore Turner
University of Illinois Press, 2005,
344 pages with 35 photos, $25 paper.

DAVID ANTHONY’S BIOGRAPHY of Max Yergan, and the story of Otto Huiswoud and his comrades by Joyce Moore Turner, have provided us with deeper understandings of that complex and often contradictory history that has been the African-American relationship with the communist movement. Approximate contemporaries differing in class origin and background, Yergan and Huiswoud came to reflect two divergent poles, positive and negative, on that broader continuum of Black experience with communism as it evolved from the 1920s through the 1940s, ‘50s and beyond.


On the Origins of the Cuban Revolution

— Paul Le Blanc

The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered
Samuel Farber.
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press,
2006, 212 pages, $19.95 paper.

ONE OF THE most useful works on the Cuban Revolution has appeared with Samuel Farber’s The Origins of the Cuban Revolution Reconsidered. Its succinct, clearly-written, straightforward account draws widely on range of primary and secondary sources, and also on the author’s personal experience as someone who grew up in pre- revolutionary Cuba and who retains a connection with revolutionary socialist perspectives.


The Roots of Conservatism

— Sebastian Lamb

CHARLIE POST’S TWO-PART ARTICLE “The Myth of the Labor Aristocracy” (Against the Current 123-124, 7/8 and 9/10, 2006) is a welcome effort to address crucial questions that face supporters of any kind of radical working-class politics (perhaps nowhere more so than in imperialist North America — the United States and the Canadian state). While agreeing with the bulk of his analysis, I think that Post’s explanation of the material basis of working-class conservatism, relying largely on what Bob Brenner and Johanna Brenner once wrote, is too narrow and too centered on labor market competition.

Against "Autonomism"

— Tom Smith

In Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin argued that the “super-profits” of imperialism are used by the capitalist class to grant relative privileges and thereby co-opt sectors of the working class in the West. Lenin and other early 20th century Marxist intellectuals, such as Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky, wanted to channel all the frustrations of workers with capitalism into the struggle for working class unity and successful revolution.

Labor Aristocracy: Myth—or Reality?

— Steve Bloom

IN ATCs 123 and 124 a two-part article by Charlie Post declares “The Myth of the Labor Aristocracy.” As the author notes, this idea was originated by Frederick Engels, one of the founders of Marxism. It was subsequently developed by Lenin as an explanation for the social chauvinist capitulation of the Second International at the beginning of World War.