Against the Current, No. 129, July/August 2007

Against the Current, No. 129, July/August 2007

Deferred Freedom Agenda

— The Editors

ON THE NIGHT of July 23, 1967, Black Detroit exploded. Although only one of dozens of large and small “ghetto rebellions” in U.S. cities that summer, the Detroit uprising was the one that most shocked white America and the political establishment, highlighted the limitations of the struggle for purely formal civil rights, and brought America — or at least those of its citizens who were willing to look — face to face with the nation’s real condition. Neither the city police nor the National Guard could suppress it; it ended only when federal troops (including many Back Vietnam veterans) came in.

Race and Class: Facing the New Backlash

— Malik Miah

IN 1967 A major rebellion/riot in Detroit, responding to an act of police violence, was the tipping point in a city where Blacks had been basically excluded from real political and economic power.

Today the city is led by African Americans, but the real economic power remains in the hands of big business — the same major corporations that have controlled affairs for decades — although these forces themselves are bruised and battered by global capitalist restructuring.

Memoirs of a 1960s Activist

— Gloria House

IN 1965 I was part of a faction within the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) that called for a stronger international orientation and self-determination for oppressed nations around the world, including our own nation of thirty million Black people in the United States. This new direction grew out of our deepening understanding of our history as a people in America, and in Africa, and our identification with liberation movements of the period in Asia, South America, and Africa.

July 1967: Rebellion

— Kate Stacy

[The following article appeared on the tenth anniversary of the rebellion in the Detroit-based International Socialists paper Workers Power, July 25, 1967. We reprint it here to convey how the events’ impact rippled through the movement’s consciousness in succeeding years.]

“A LONG HOT summer.” Ten years ago, those words did not mean record-breaking temperatures.

In the violent summer of 1967, Detroit, Newark and more than 40 other urban ghettos became the scenes of bloody conflicts and community uprisings.

Voices of Iraqi Workers

— Traven Leyshon

TWO LEADERS OF  Iraq’s reborn labor movement have toured 12 U.S. cities in June. Hashmeya Muhsin Hussein, President of the Electrical Utility Workers Union, is the first woman to lead an Iraqi union. Faleh Abood Umara is General Secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions (IFOU).

It's Political Not Personal

— Paula Chakravartty and Stephanie Luce

WHEN THE UNIVERSITY of Massachusetts-Amherst announced that it would award an honorary doctorate degree to Andrew Card this spring, students, faculty and staff were outraged. Card, Bush’s Chief of Staff from 2000 to 2006, is probably best known as the person who whispered news about the falling Twin Towers into Bush’s ear on 9/11. A native of Massachusetts, Card had also served as a state legislator in the 1970s.

How to Resist Sarkozy?

— Peter Drucker

FRANCE IS A paradoxical country. Nowhere else in Europe has the neoliberal offensive — the drive to privatize services and enshrine free-market supremacy over social welfare — been resisted more fiercely or more successfully. In November-December 1995 striking public sector workers brought down the government and defeated an attempt to roll back their pension rights. In May 2005 French voters derailed a “constitutional treaty” that would have set the neoliberal project of the European Union (EU) in stone.

Women's NGOs Under Conditions of Occupation and War

— Shahrzad Mojab

I WILL START by remembering Abeer, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, who was raped by four American soldiers in 2006.  Abeer’s 5-year-old sister, Haddel, and their parents were murdered by soldiers of occupation. I also would like to call your attention to the Amnesty International Report of 2005, which tells us that Afghan women “live with the risk of: abduction and rape by armed individuals; forced marriage; being traded for settling disputes and debts; and face daily discrimination from all segments of society as well as by state officials” (Amnesty International, 2005a).

Bolivia: Transition on Hold

— Jeffery R. Webber

THE 19TH NATIONAL Congress of Factory Workers of Bolivia was held in October 2006, and the proceedings produced a remarkable document that speaks to the unique depth of radical labor traditions in Bolivia. The document situates the contemporary domestic situation within the wider parameters of global capitalism since the fall of “real socialism” in the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc

Coca and Conflict in Bolivia

— Benjamin Dangl

I MET UP with coca farmer Leonilda Zurita and her colleague Apolonia Sánchez in the town of Eterazama in February, 2006. Both of them wore the wide, pleated skirts and white, mesh, wide-brimmed hats common to indigenous women in the Chapare.

Zurita is a motherly but fierce social movement leader, and answered my questions with enthusiasm. Her charisma and strength of spirit helped make her one of the most distinguished organizers in the country, as well as an alternate senator in the national congress. Sánchez is a member of the union led by Zurita and, in addition to producing coca, sells clothes for a living. They brought me to the town coca market, which is organized and monitored by the local union.

Bolivia's Long Revolution

— Susan Spronk

The Price of Fire:
Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia
Benjamin Dangl
AK Press, 2007, 226 pages
$15.95 paper. (

ANY ACTIVIST OR researcher looking for an up-to-date, accessible read on contemporary Bolivia should buy this book. Presenting a people’s history of Bolivia, Ben Dangl describes the amazing panorama of social struggles of both past and present. As Dangl rightfully argues, the contemporary struggles over the “price of fire” — “access to basic elements of survival — gas, water, land, coca, employment, and other resources” (7) — must ultimately be understood in the context of a long history of indigenous and worker mobilization and revolt.


A Nation at Canaan's Edge

— Mark Higbee

At Canaan’s Edge:
America in the King Years 1965-68
Taylor Branch.
New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006, 1,038 pages, $35 hardcover, $20 paper.

TAKEN TOGETHER, TAYLOR Branch’s three volumes on “America in the King Years” comprise the most comprehensive narrative of the high-water years of the Civil Rights Revolution, as well as a monumental and dramatic life-and-times biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. Branch’s prose is rich and powerful, propelling readers along through the cumulatively nearly 3,000 pages of the story he has crafted.

Artistry Serving Activism

— Paul Le Blanc

Poetry and Protest:
A Dennis Brutus Reader
edited by Lee Sustar and Aisha Karim
Chicago: Haymarket Books
2006, 414 pages, including index.
$16 paper.

Dennis Brutus
edited by Lamont B. Steptoe
Camden, NJ: Whirlwind Press, 2005, 216 pages, $21.95 paper.

WE HAVE BEEN given a gi

Speaking for New Orleans

— Christian Roselund

What Lies Beneath:
Katrina, Race and the State of the Nation
South End Press Collective, eds., 2007, 176 pages, $14 paper.

SO MANY WORDS have been spilled over the disaster of Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent levee failures in New Orleans, yet still they do not address the full complexity of this tragedy, a tragedy that defies easy explanation by virtue of its sheer scale.

Unselling War

— Dianne Feeley

10 Excellent Reasons
Not to Join the Military
introduction by Cindy Sheehan
edited by Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg
NY: New Press, 2006, 157 pages, $14.95 paper.

TWO-THIRDS OF those who join the U.S. military are looking to enlarge career options or get benefits that will enable them to go to college. In examining the military recruitment ads included in 10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military, one might conclude a third reason is in response to “you can be all that you can be,” or to find a place in society where equality, personal courage, integrity and loyalty are valued.

A Revolutionary Life

— Alan Wald

James P. Cannon and the Origins of the American Revolutionary Left, 1890-1928.
Bryan D. Palmer
Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2007,
542 pages, $50 hardcover.

ONE OF THE most inspiring leaders of the early United States Communist movement has at long last found a biographer worthy to recount the first four decades of his life. James P. Cannon (1890-1974) is little known today beyond activists familiar with the history of Marxist political organizations in the United States, and a handful of scholars who specialize in Communist historiography.

On String Theory

— Ansar Fayyazuddin

Not Even Wrong:
The Failure of String Theory and the Search for Unity in Physical Law
Peter Woit
New York: Basic Books, 2006. $26.95 paper.

WHATEVER ELSE MAY be said about Not Even Wrong, it is one of the bravest popular science books that I have read.

In Memoriam

Martin Seldon, 1923-2007

— Christopher Phelps

IN MAY IN Detroit, Martin Seldon, a lifelong socialist activist, died from the ravages of terminal cancer.

Seldon was born in 1923 in Harlem to Jewish parents who had immigrated to the United States in 1905 to escape anti-Semitism. His father, who originated in Lithuania but had lived in Warsaw, told stories of having to hide in the cellar from the Cossacks.