Against the Current, No. 132, January/February 2008

Against the Current, No. 132, January/February 2008

Devastating Crisis Unfolds

— Bob Brenner, for the ATC Editors

THE CURRENT CRISIS could well turn out to be the most devastating since the Great Depression. It manifests profound, unresolved problems in the real economy that have been — literally — papered over by debt for decades, as well as a shorter term financial crunch of a depth unseen since World War II. The combination of the weakness of underlying capital accumulation and the meltdown of the banking system is what’s made the downward slide so intractable for policymakers and its potential for disaster so serious. The plague of foreclosures and abandoned homes — often broken into and stripped clean of everything, including copper wiring — stalks Detroit in particular, and other Midwest cities....

Behind the Dirty Cleansing of New Orleans

— Chloe Tribich

COMMENTARIES ON THE viciousness of Congressman Richard Baker’s (R-LA) oft-cited comment that “we couldn’t get rid of public housing, but God did” often miss the fact that it is, in many ways, an accurate assessment of the intentions of U.S. public housing policy.

Since the creation of a public housing program in 1937, policies that might have truly benefited poor and working people as a class were derailed by institutional racism. This was manifested by racial segregation of public housing projects, neglect of Black projects, and, more recently, demolition of the projects themselves . . . .

Update on Pakistan: After the "Emergency"

— Farooq Tariq

GENERAL PERVEZ MUSHARRAF has “taken off the uniform” and lifted the emergency as of December 15th. But Labour Party Pakistan rejects the Musharraf’s claim that the emergency is lifted. It is “lifted” with the Constitution amended, and with all the repressive measures protected by a decree. General Musharraf’s actions within 42 days of the “emergency” cannot be challenged by any court and the changes don’t have to be ratified by a two-third majority of the future parliament: According to General Musharraf these measures are now part of the Constitution; no one can change it . . . .

World Cup 2010: Showcase South Africa

— Sam Ross

SEPTEMBER 15, 2007, marked the beginning of a 1,000-day countdown to the 2010 International Federation of Football Associations World Cup hosted by South Africa, the first African nation ever to host the event. President Thabo Mbeki calls the premier soccer tournament “a golden opportunity to showcase Africa to the world” and adds that the South African government is determined to “show that the African renaissance is upon us and Africa’s time has come.”1 [Football is what almost everyone outside North America calls the game known as “soccer” in the United States and Canada — ed.] . . . .

Dubai Labor Fighting Back Vs. Indentured Globalization

— Vicky Francis

OCTOBER, 2007 SAW the government of the United Arab Emirates halfway through a “humane” immigration amnesty which, in turn, paved the way for a clampdown on labor. In November a huge strike wave erupted, culminating in pitched battles between militant laborers and Dubai police . . . .

Peace Beyond Annapolis

— Hasan Newash and David Finkel

WHAT ARE THE prospects for progress toward Israeli-Palestinian and regional peace coming out of the one-day conference called by president George W. Bush? One leading Arab-American organization offering a positive vision “hopes to see a just, comprehensive and lasting peace result out of the initial Middle East peace discussions taking place in Annapolis, Maryland.” . . .

HAMAS Under the Spotlight

— Hisham H. Ahmed

IN A SEEMINGLY dramatic move in mid-2004, Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement which hitherto refused to participate in the Palestinian political system, expressed its willingness to be a part of that system . . . .

The First Legal Russian Strike in a Decade

THE ALMOST MONTH-LONG strike at the Ford-Vsevolozhsk assembly plant, a small plant near St. Petersburg, ended December 16 with an agreement that negotiations would resume. The strike began on November 17, 2007, after four months of talks failed to produce any result. In fact, Ford management had initially refused to hold negotiations “during or under the threat of strike.”

Appreciating Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

— D.C. Faye

KURT VONNEGUT, JR. passed away on April 11, 2007, from a head injury sustained from a recent fall. Despite his best efforts to do away with himself by smoking heavily for many years, cigarettes, he had joked, were unable to do the job they promised. “If the washing don’t get you, the rinsing will” as the blues song says. So it goes . . . .

Black Struggle Then and Now

Obama and "I Have a Dream" in 2008

— Malik Miah

AS WE ENTER the 2008 presidential election, it is noteworthy that Illinois Senator Barack Obama is still a serious contender for the Democratic Party nomination. I say “noteworthy” because his campaign has been marked throughout with ambivalence among many African Americans.

In some ways his “success” shows the contradictions of the Black community 40 years since the assassination of the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968, and 45 years since King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial Monument in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963 . . . .

Remembrance: Ousmane Sembène, Father of African Film

— Kim D. Hunter interviews Louise M. Jefferson

Sembène was the author of ten works of fiction and at least that many full-length films. His work covered the West African experience, from the effects of indigenous religion to postcolonial cultural upheaval. He began his film career as a model of guerilla filmmaking — if that means making tremendous, sophisticated work with few resources and no role models. Yet even as his fame and resources grew, his subject matter and perspective remained focused on Africans remaining true to themselves and being their own rulers . . . .

Review: Riding the Bus to Freedom

— Dianne Feeley

Freedom Riders
1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice
Raymond Arsenault
Oxford University Press, 2006, 690 pages, $19.95 paper

THE 1961 FREEDOM Rides challenged a racially segregated society by openly defying its customs, riding in interracial groups on interstate buses going South and desegrating the stations’ facilities. Asserting their constitutional right to travel, participants employed direct action in the face of intimidation, violence and police complicity with the Ku Klux Klan and White Citizens’ Councils . . . .

Remembrance: Sekou Sundiata and the Dream State

— Kim D. Hunter

SEKOU SUNDIATA’s MULTIMEDIA performance “51st Dream State” opens in darkness with singers performing the song, The House that I live in, That’s America to Me. The lyrics paint a Norman Rockwell portrait of overly wholesome people going about their overly wholesome task, little old ladies and kindly clerks who make up the America of someone’s dream. As the song ends, white letters on a black background slowly appear on a screen high above the stage, the word “empire.” . . .

The Making of Jericho Road

— an interview with Michael Honey

THE FOLLOWING INTERVIEW was conducted in November, 2007 by Charles Williams on behalf of the ATC editorial board. The paperback edition of Michael Honey’s Going Down Jericho Road: The Memphis Strike, Martin Luther King’s Last Campaign is released this January 2008 . . . .


Puerto Rico, The Oldest U.S. Colony

— César F. Rosado Marzán

WHEN I WAS a high school senior, my history teacher promised the class that the Americans “would land” in Puerto Rico by the New Year. What he meant to tell us was that, different from most Puerto Rican history courses, our class would spend considerable time studying more recent historical events, and therefore the most controversial period of Puerto Rican history — the American Century. He kept his promise and many of us, including me, left the class with a deep sense of uneasiness against Puerto Rico’s colonial condition under the United States.

Myths of Cultural Dysfunction

— Samuel Farber

Clipping Their Own Wings
The Incompatibility Between Latino Culture and American Education
Ernesto Caravantes
Lanham, Md.: Hamilton Books, Rowman and Littlefield
Publishing Group, 2006, paperback, $22.

THIS IS ANOTHER “blame the victim” book faulting Latino immigrants for not being as prosperous as other ethnic and racial groups, such as the Asians, in the United States. According to the author, the cause is Latino culture, particularly its “counterproductive” values such as living for the moment, valuing and having large families, and, most important of all, resisting and not wanting to learn English.

Recovering Forgotten Voices

— Keith Gilyard

Trinity of Passion:
The Literary Left and the Antifascist Crusade
Alan M. Wald
The University of North Carolina Press, 2007, 319 pages, hardcover, $34.95.

A LOVER OF American literature will come away from reading Alan Wald’s Trinity of Passion: The Literary Left and the Antifascist Crusade excited about the prospect of investigating a long list of currently unheralded writers who collectively constitute a voice that deserves to be recognized as major . . . .

The Death of Retirement?

— Nomi Prins

Age Shock:
How Finance is Failing Us
Robin Blackburn
London and New York: Verso Press, 2006, 309 pages + index, hardcover $34.95.

AGE SHOCK: HOW Finance is Failing Us, Robin Blackburn’s followup masterpiece to Banking on Death (2002), is another sobering and insightful examination of retirement security. In Age Shock, Blackburn delves into the realities of an ageing demographic in the midst of the disintegration, from both a monetary and social obligation perspective, of sound financial conditions for the elderly.

Our History Recovered

— Patrick M. Quinn

Against Capitalism:
The European Left on the March
William A. Pelz
Peter Lang Publishing Group: New York, Bern, Berlin, Brussels, Frankfort, Oxford, Vienna, 2007. 259 pages, hardcover $39.95.

FOR THIRTY-SIX YEARS since its apogee in the late 1960s during the worldwide movement against the U.S. war in Vietnam, the global Left, including the Left in the United States, has been in decline. Globally, perhaps the most significant causal factor accelerating decline at the beginning of the 1990s was the collapse of the Soviet Union as a perceived alternative to dominant capitalist economic and governmental modes . . . .

Hillary: Hope or Hype?

— Barri Boone

IN CASE YOU run into people who’ve fallen for the Clinton PR, or still are guided by endorsements of their trusted organizations or heroes –- such as UTU, Letter Carriers, Steven Spielberg, Wesley Clark, Rob Reiner or Heidi Fleiss — here are some materials to offer clues about what kind of president Hillary would actually make.


A Reply on Overcoming Zionism

— Joel Kovel

DAVID FINKEL AND I see eye to eye on most basics where Israel is concerned, and he is generous in praising my recently published Overcoming Zionism. For years I have known him to be a stalwart anti-Zionist and one of the best-informed people on the socialist left concerning this most vexing and intractable of conflicts.

Yet there is a sharp difference between us, which David reveals midway in his review of Overcoming Zionism in ATC 131 (November-December 2007). Under a subheading titled “Missing Dimensions,” David tasks me with various lapses and theoretical weaknesses which allegedly vitiate the political impact of my book . . . .