Against the Current, No. 134, May/June 2008

Against the Current, No. 134, May/June 2008

Some Stupid Dirty Politics

— The Editors

YOU DIDN’T READ it here first: The Democratic Party is on the edge of sacrificing its 2008 presidential campaign before it officially starts. This kind of political suicide requires remarkable skill in the art of self-destruction, considering the current Republican administration’s legacy — the massively unpopular, lost war in Iraq and quagmire in Afghanistan, combined with the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression — and the fact that the Republican candidate eagerly embraces the war and the financial deregulation policies that produced these disasters....

Reverend Wright and Black Liberation Theology

— Malik Miah

THE GROUNDSWELL OF broad support for Barack Obama (both among Blacks and whites) is a phenomenon that deserves a serious analysis and understanding. It cannot be down played by passing it through the lens of pure-and-simple lesser-evilism....

Global Crisis and Opportunity

— Ben Terrall interviews Mike Davis

MIKE DAVIS IS a veteran writer and activist who cut his progressive teeth in the 1960s civil rights and antiwar movements. He has worked as a meat cutter, long-distance trucker, and currently teaches history at UC Irvine....

His first book, Prisoners of the American Dream, is a trenchant, thoroughly researched history of the U.S. labor movement; he is most famous for 1990’s City of Quartz, a modern history of Los Angeles that drew a wide audience. His cautionary book The Monster at Our Door: the Global Threat of Avian Flu has been translated into German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic and Swedish.

Models of Coming U.S. Interventions: Iraq or Haiti?

— Ben Terrall interviews Mike Davis

BT: I wanted to get in a question about the United Nations in Haiti. In Planet of Slums you talk about the Pentagon’s global approach to counter-insurgency being more focused on a kind of urban warfare. Having gone to Haiti and seeing what the UN is doing, I wonder if you see that as a new role for UN peacekeepers, as a kind of counterinsurgency proxy, in areas where politically, after Mogadishu [the “Black Hawk Down” debacle of U.S. troops in Somalia in the early 1990s —ed.], it’s too risky for U.S. forces to be there....

Detroit Politics Embroiled

— David Finkel

DETROIT IS A city entangled in a chain of interlocking crises, all the way from the world economic crisis, to deindustrialization in America, down to the regional and local levels of the housing market hemorrhage and a tidal wave of utility cutoffs in poor people’s homes. Some 40,000 Detroiters now are without water — the most shocking example, perhaps, of daily life in a city on the brink....

Everything's on the Line at AAM

— Dianne Feeley

THE STRIKE OF 3,600 UAW-represented workers at American Axle and Manufacturing plants in Michigan and New York has forced the idling of more than 40,000 workers in 30 GM plants and shut down a number of parts plants throughout North America. Eighty percent of AAM’s axles, chassis components and forged products are shipped to General Motors, but AAM also produces parts for other automakers, including Chrysler and Toyota....

A Union Defeated at United Air Lines

— Malik Miah and Terry O'Rourke

THE APRIL 1 certification of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) was no April Fool’s joke for the 8600 eligible mechanic and related United Airlines (UAL) employees who voted in the March 31 representational election. The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), which served the members for nearly five years under very difficult circumstances in the aviation industry, lost the vote by 4,113 to 2,631....

Algonquins vs. Frontenac Ventures

— P. Marie

“(…) Politicians at both the provincial and federal level, as well as judges, prosecutors, and police, have been sending a vicious and clear message that criminalization of indigenous resistance is the order of the day …”
—Ontario Coalition against Poverty, March 2008

I RECENTLY RETURNED from a little-publicized “political hotbed” ignited by Frontenac Ventures Corporation (FVC), a private mining company causing grave injustices against the Ardoch First Nation community in Ontario, Canada....

Mumia Federal Appeal Denied

— Steve Bloom

ON MARCH 27 a three-judge panel of the Third US Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request from long-time political prisoner and death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal that it overturn the results of his 1982 trial in which Mumia was convicted of killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. In its 2-1 decision the circuit court upheld a ruling by Federal District Court Judge William Yohn, who had upheld the results of the trial itself....

Winter Soldier 2008

— Nate Franco and Dianne Feeley

MORE THAN 250 veterans and military families gathered from March 13-15 outside Washington, DC for the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) Winter Soldier Investigation: Iraq and Afghanistan. Videos of their testimony on their experiences are posted at

The weekend was directly patterned on the example of the 1971 testimonies organized by Vietnam Veterans Against the War on the horrors and atrocities they had witnessed and perpetrated in that holocaust, calling the event “Winter Soldier” after Thomas Paine’s call for patriotic service during the Revolutionary War.

Report from Winter Soldier

— Elaine Brower

The following are excerpts from the account of Elaine Brower. Brower is a marine's mom who attended Winter Soldier, "is adamantly opposed to the so called ‘war on terror,' the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan," and a leader in the antiwar movement:

Notes from a Revolution Dying

— Simon Pirani

IN JUNE 1922, five years on from the Russian Revolution, a group of Moscow communists gathered to discuss a letter by Vladimir Petrzhek, an auto worker, tendering his resignation from the communist (or Bolshevik) party. Petrzhek was one of the worker communists who swelled the party’s ranks during the civil war of 1918-19, when the communist “Reds” had defended the revolution from the western-supported “White” generals....

Letter to the Editors

— Chude Pam Allen

I THOUGHT THE retrospectives on the women’s liberation movement (ATC 133) were excellent. However, I was sorry to see no mention of lesbian feminism and hope your next issue will include it....

A Reluctant Memoir of the '50s and '60s

— Paul Le Blanc

[During the 40th anniversary of the turbulent year 1968 — some highlights of which we discussed in the editorial statement of our previous issue (ATC 133, March-April 2008) — we are looking back at how its events shaped the consciousness of a generation of activists.

[The ways in which 1968 reshaped the left, however, must also be seen in the light of the preceding period. What came to be called the “Old Left” in the United States, i.e. the 1950s political milieu in which the Communist Party was the largest center, went into crisis when the CP shattered in the wake of the Soviet Union’s invasion to crush the Hungarian Revolution in 1956....

Women Remember 1968

A Parable of Women's Liberation

— Meredith Tax

Against the Current: Which events of 1968 were you involved in? How did that event/those events affect you personally and politically at the time?

Meredith Tax: Though I was inspired by the Civil Rights movement, I did not get involved in the left until I was a grad student in London, studying English lit. Because I was out of the country, I got an international perspective on everything happening in the United States and, on a visit home in 1967, the reality of the war and U.S. racism came crashing in on me. I decided the only way to stay sane was to become politically active, and I joined a group of American antiwar activists called the Stop It Committee....

Machismo and Its Discontents

— Ann Ferguson

THE ONE CLEAR memory I have of 1968 (as opposed to all those other antiwar and pro-civil rights struggles in which I was engaged in the 1960s and ‘70s) is that I was a member of a faculty ad-hoc group, mostly from UMass Amherst (but there was also someone who taught at Amherst college and his wife).

The group was a left group against the war and U.S. capitalism and racism. We pretentiously called ourselves The Collective, and we were all young and full of ourselves....

Triple Jeopardy and the Struggle

— Miriam Ching Yoon Louie

[The following is excerpted from the author’s essay “It’s Never Ever Boring! Triple Jeopardy from the Korean Side” in Asian Americans: The Movement and the Moment (UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press, 2006). The author employs the term “Bi-“ with the explicit meaning of her multiple Korean-Chinese ethnic and political identities, with the implicit connotation of solidarity across boundaries of gender and sexuality — ed.]

BEING BI- AND female in the Asian movement also means putting in double, triple, quadruple time....

Coming Home to the Struggle

— Wendy Thompson

I BECAME A political activist at the age of 12, when I marched for open housing in Evanston, Illinois. We lived next to the Black community in Evanston; African-American students made up 40% of my grade school. At the local YWCA girls club my sister and I were the only whites. The young Black women I became close to helped me overcome painful shyness. Later my father, a Methodist minister, was arrested trying to integrate churches in Jackson, Mississippi....

The Power of Women United

— Kipp Dawson

Against the Current: Which events of 1968 were you involved in? How did that event/those events affect you personally and politically at the time?

Kipp Dawson: I was living in New York City, working on staff as a national coordinator of the Student Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. I had moved to NYC the previous year from my home, the San Francisco Bay Area, where I had helped to coordinate the 1967 West Coast antiwar activities. In the middle of 1968 I celebrated my 23rd birthday, a truly fortunate young woman with a rich history in the high school, college, and general Civil Rights, Free Speech, and Vietnam antiwar movements of Berkeley and San Francisco....


Gaza, The World's Largest Outdoor Prison

— Kristine Currie

Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
By Sara Roy
Pluto Press (distributed by University of Michigan Press), 2006, 408 pages, $29.95 paper.

SARA ROY COULDN’T have predicted the deterioration of Gaza since the 2005 unilateral pullout of Israeli occupation forces and settlers any more effectively than in her book Failing Peace: Gaza and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict. For those seeking a thorough understanding of the failure for peace to spontaneously erupt upon the exit of the settlers from Gaza, Failing Peace is a valuable resource....

The Survival of Education

— Peter Olson

Letters to A Young Teacher
By Jonathan Kozol
Random House, 2007, 304 pages,
$19.95 hardcover, $12.95 paper.

I REMEMBER READING Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities as a student activist, when becoming a teacher was an abstract and somewhat romanticized idea floating around my head. I was moved by the politically sharp but also deeply humanizing way in which Kozol documented how institutional racism and class inequality shape the experiences of students in American schools, a reality that all of us who have been educated in this country have experienced first-hand in one way or another....

Religion and the Rise of Labor and Black Detroit

— Mark Higbee

Faith in the City:
Preaching Radical Social Change in Detroit
by Angela D. Dillard
Foreword by Dr. Charles G. Adams Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007, 392 pages, $24.95 paper.

HISTORIANS AND OTHER scholars have given Detroit plentiful attention, including some very important books, yet in this vital new study Angela Dillard manages to approach the Motor City’s past in several crucial yet previously neglected ways. What’s most valuable about the book is her attempt to encompass such subjects as race, labor radicalism, Black religion and the civil rights movement all in one narrative....