Against the Current, No. 136, September/October 2008

Against the Current, No. 136, September/October 2008

War(s) With No Exit

— The Editors

THE RAGING DEBATE on “war policy” between the corporate presidential campaigns has come down to this:

* John McCain says the “surge” in Iraq has succeeded, that victory is in sight by the end of his first term (2013). In addition more U.S. troops will be rapidly sent into Afghanistan; NATO allies need to be pressured into committing themselves to the same.

* Barack Obama says he can get “most” U.S. troops out of Iraq within his first 16 months (2010), enabling them to rapidly shift to Afghanistan while putting more pressure on NATO…you get the idea....

The Elephant in the Room

— Malik Miah

MUCH OF THE world is fascinated by the U.S. presidential election. The main reason is that the country may be ready to do something that most developed countries wouldn’t consider: electing a representative from an oppressed minority as head of government or state. (Try to imagine an Arab citizen of Israel or France as either country’s prime minister or president; or a British prime minister of South Asian descent.)...

Rev. Edward Pinkney Imprisoned

— Dorothy Pinkney

UPDATE: AS THIS issue was in preparation, Rev. Pinkney was transferred, this time to the Upper Penninsula. Write to: Rev. Edward Pinkney #294671, Hiawatha Correctional Facility, 4533 Industrial Park Drive, Kincheloe MI 49786-0001. Please send letters or postcards supporting his application to the Parole Board. These can be as simple as “I support Rev. Pinkney’s application for pardon.” Sent to: Michigan Department of Corrections, Office of the Parole Board, Pardons and Commutations Coordinator, PO Box 30003, Lansing MI 48909; also send a copy to Governor Jennifer Granholm, PO Box 30013, Lansing MI 48909. To sign a petition in support of Rev. Pinkney and his struggle, go to

When Human Beings Are Illegal

— Peter Rachleff

ONCE THE GOVERNMENT assumes the task of separating citizens from "impossible subjects," historian Mae Ngai points out, "the border" is everywhere, not just between countries. Thus, the border has come to the Midwest. In the two years since the immigrant rights marches of spring 2006, there have been federal ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids of workplaces, especially meatpacking plants, in Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska.

The God Question

— Terry Eagleton

WHY IS EVERYONE talking about God? From the English scientist Richard Dawkins to the American philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, from the leading French thinker Alain Badiou to the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, the Almighty is suddenly back on the agenda, summoned back on to the public stage at just the moment when he must have been looking forward to a well-deserved retirement from such a demanding career.

Obama and the Empire

— Allen Ruff

AS BARACK OBAMA’s campaign shifted focus to battle John McCain following his victory over Hillary Clinton, various observers began to suggest that Obama had begun to “move to the center” in order to get elected. Supporters explained that shift as a necessary pragmatic step; others, airing varied degrees of disappointment, went so far as to suggest that he had somehow “lurched to the right.”...

The New Chinese Nationalism

— Au Loong Yu

CORPORATE GLOBALIZATION HAS been remarkably successful in driving down wages and the welfare of working people across the world. Resistance to this is necessary and inevitable, hence the birth of the anti-globalization movement. The movement is vastly heterogeneous, but internationalist aspirations are strongly visible....

The Russian-Georgian Clash

— interview with Ronald Grigor Suny

Suzi Weissman: What's happening in Georgia?

Ron Suny: Russia and Georgia are neighbors; Russia's been an imperial power over Georgia, but Georgia achieved its independence at the beginning of the '90s. The current series of problems and clashes stems from this period....

Democracy Against Politics

— Joseph Grim Feinberg

“¡QUE SE VAYAN todos!” shouted rebellious crowds during the Argentine economic crisis of 2001, “Out with them all!” The call soon spread throughout Latin America: for a new politics without politicians and a new society without social elites. Many radicals have been inspired by the movements that seemed to rise with so much energy and idealism from this foundational fire. Others have been quick to criticize the inadequacy of movements which seem to have forgotten that economic exploitation is more fundamental than political oppression, and that exploitation is held up by political power which must be seized rather than ignored....

The Revolution of '68

The Legacy of 1968

— Gerd-Rainer Horn

IN 1989, THE world systems theorists Giovanni Arrighi, Terence K. Hopkins and Immanuel Wallerstein wrote the following five short sentences: “There have only been two world revolutions. One took place in 1848. The second took place in 1968. Both were historical failures. Both transformed the world.”(1)...

On May '68

— Michael Löwy

MICHAEL LÖWY IS the author of numerous works on socialist thought from Marx to the present as well as on liberation theology in Latin America. This interview was conducted by and first appeared in the Greek newspaper Elefterotipia.

Q. You have described the spirit of ’68 as "an intoxicating mixture, an explosive cocktail composed of various ingredients." Which do you consider as the most important among those ingredients?...

Letters to the Editors

— Barri Boone, Pam Chude Allen & Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

I READ THE letter from Pam Chude Allen in ATC 134, mentioning that the previous issue’s editorial had referred to a male leader saying the position of women should be “prone.” She claimed that this was said informally and not in a meeting.

But actually there was a prominent male leader who was on stage at a demonstration in Oakland in the summer of ‘68, who was asked about the position of women in the movement, and yelled out that it should be — “prone!” It was Stokely Carmichael, a leader of SNCC, speaking at a Black Panther rally in the Bobby Hutton Memorial Park in West Oakland.

No Outside Saviors!

— ATC interviews Gwen Patton

AGAINST THE CURRENT spoke with Gwendolyn M. Patton as part of our retrospective on the events of 1968 and the surrounding years. (For a selection of women activists’ reflections see our March-April and May-June 2008 issues, ATC 133 and 134.) The interview was conducted by Dianne Feeley and David Finkel of the editorial board; we present here some of Gwen Patton’s thoughts focused on gender, class and self-organization in the Civil Rights Movement....

Russian Revolution Revisited

Victor Serge: For Our Time

— Susan Weissman

Suzi (Susan) Weissman is the author of Victor Serge: The Course is set on Hope, and editor of The Ideas of Victor Serge and Victor Serge: Russia Twenty Years After. She is a member of the editorial boards of Against the Current and Critique. This essay is adapted from a section of a paper she delivered at a July, 2008 conference on Trotsky’s legacy.

VICTOR SERGE HAD an enormous impact on the developing consciousness of revolutionary Marxists, libertarians and anarchists all over the world. He was the best known Trotskyist of his time, though his relationship with the Trotskyist movement was contentious.

The Russian Revolution in Retreat

— review by Samuel Farber

The Russian Revolution in Retreat, 1920-24
Soviet Workers and the New Communist Elite
by Simon Pirani
London and New York: Routledge, 2008,
312 pages, hardcover $160.

THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN “Leninism” and Stalinism has been a highly controversial topic between the political left and right as well as within the left itself. The “totalitarian” school of thought, historically associated with the political right and with many liberals, has held that there are no qualitative differences between the two regimes and that the main source of Stalinism was the Bolshevik ideology and politics that existed before the October Revolution....


Voices of Asian Americans

— Seonghee Lim

Asian Americans:
The Movement and the Moment
edited by Steve Louie and Glenn K. Omatsu
Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press, 2006, 322 pages,
$24.95 papaerback (large format).

ASIAN AMERICAS: THE Movement and the Moment is an anthology of some 30 entries written by Asian Americans who initiated or participated in social and community movements in the late 1960s and 1970s. It is about how they perceived the world, how they became involved in the movements, what they think they accomplished and learned through their involvement, and how their experiences and lessons shaped their own lives and can be linked to present-day struggles for social justice.

In Memoriam

B.J. Widick, 1910-2008

— Alan Wald

ON JUNE 28, 2008, Branko J. Widick, known to everyone as “B.J.” or “Jack,” died at age 97 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Widick was a prominent figure in the history of U.S. Trotskyism and above all in the unorthodox political tendency known as the “Shachtmanites.” In the Great Depression, he was directly involved in the rise of the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) and was a participant in General Motors sitdown strike of automobile workers.(1)...