Against the Current, No. 139, March/April 2009

Against the Current, No. 139, March/April 2009

Crisis and Coronation

— The Editors

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:” Weeks later, it’s still hard to say the words without a tingle of wonderment, even after the hard realities have set in. Right away, of course, Obama will be judged above all on the following issues: the economy, the economy and the economy. The immediate political moment is not about Tom Daschle’s luxury-limo tax issues or Iran or even Afghanistan or environmental disaster; it’s about the American people’s terror about their lives here and now....

The Economy in a World of Trouble

— interview with Robert Brenner

ROBERT BRENNER, AN editor of Against the Current and the author of The Economics of Global Turbulence (Verso, 2006), was interviewed by Seongjin Jeong for Hankyoreh, Korea’s leading daily newspaper. This interview was published on January 22, 2009 and has been slightly edited for publication here.

Songjin Jeong: Most media and analysts label the current crisis as a “financial crisis.” Do you agree with this characterization?

Robert Brenner It’s understandable that analysts of the crisis have made the meltdown in banking and the securities markets their point of departure....

Race and Class: Downturn Undermines Black "Middle Class"

— Malik Miah

ALTHOUGH THE HISTORIC election of president Barack Obama has led to big cheers in the Black community and society in general, the reality for the vast majority of African Americans is growing uncertainty if not joblessness and poverty. Cities like Detroit, and the Rust Belt in the Midwest, are reeling under the blows of the recession and structural changes, including overseas outsourcing and shifting work to nonunion companies in “right to work” states....

Richmond, CA vs. Chevron

— Mike Parker & Margaret Jordan

THERE WAS NO shortage of attention-getting politics in the fall of 2008. Yet even in the context of the history-making national election, the local city council campaign and vote on business license fees in Richmond, California should be of interest to readers of a national magazine.

These campaigns in this struggling post heavy-industrial suburb of San Francisco with 100,000 residents were in fact a reflection of all the larger pressing global issues — including the unmatched economic crisis, imperialist misadventures, massive investment banking fraud and California’s anti-gay Proposition 8....

Stirring Up Racism

— Mike Parker & Margaret Jordan

In an attempt to discredit the progressive candidates, the Richmond Police Officers Association (RPOA) put out a flyer which claimed the Latino community and particularly undocumented immigrants were the source of Richmond’s drug and violence problem and that the progressive candidates opposed police efforts to control it.

Critical Resistance at 10

— Kristian Williams

ON THE WEEKEND of September 26-28, 3,500 people gathered in Oakland, California to hasten the death of the prison system.

Marking the tenth anniversary of the prison-abolition group Critical Resistance, this conference, “CR-10” drew a diverse assemblage from around the country — diverse in terms of age, race, gender, sexuality, and political experience....

The Battle for Puerto Rico's Labor Movement

— Rafael Bernabe

THE TEACHERS’ UNION Federación de Maestros de Puerto Rico (FMPR) is the island’s largest labor union. Its evolution has considerable impact on Puerto Rico’s labor movement as a whole. In fact, recent events surrounding the FMPR reflect many of the debates and tensions that have shaped the island’s largest labor struggles over the past decade. These include:

* The conflict between public sector unions and successive government administrations bent on implementing a neoliberal, privatization agenda....

Health Care Unions at War

THE SERVICE EMPLOYEES International Union (SEIU) and its former section United Health Care Workers-West (UHW) are at war after SEIU’s leadership ordered the seizure of UHW’s headquarters. UHW’s elected officers, deposed in the SEIU takeover, are forming a new union, the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW)....

Socialist Feminist Writings

Intersectionality Coming Alive

— Stephanie Luce

IT’S HARD TO choose just one thing to recommend for a socialist feminist “must-read,” as there are so many writers that influenced my thinking, from Audre Lorde to Meredith Tax. However, when I think about the works that have had the greatest impact on my thinking, I’d have to focus on fiction. While I appreciate reading history and theory, I’ve found that novels give me the opportunity to visualize other worlds in a much deeper and lasting way....

Foremothers and Fathers

— Nancy Holmstrom

SOCIALIST FEMINISM IS usually said to have begun in the 1960s and ‘70s, but in fact it was a significant radical current 100-150 years ago.

I am not referring to Friedrich Engels and August Bebel but to unknown or lesser known activists and writers like Frances Morrison, William Thompson, Catherine and Goodwyn Barmby, Charles Fourier, Pauline Roland, Jeanne Deroin, Flora Tristan, Eleanor Marx, Alexandra Kollontai, Emma Goldman and Edward Carpenter, whose work is often strikingly contemporary.(1)...

Meeting Alexandra Kollontai

— Abra Quinn

MY FIRST ENCOUNTER with Wikipedia was several years ago when I was looking up some female Bolsheviks — there was very little about them by way of normal Googling, and I had never tried this collective online encyclopedia before.

I got quite a surprise, when reading the page on Nadezhda Krupskaya, Lenin’s wife, to see that apparently, in Switzerland, she had many affairs with other revolutionaries and liked to take it up the ass. At that point, I did not know that people tussled for amusement over what is written in Wikipedia, and sometimes fought back and forth over articles, maliciously defacing them....

Feminism, The Global Struggle

— Purnima Bose

COMING TO FEMINIST consciousness in the early 1980s, I belong to a generation of U.S. feminists caught between the second and third “waves” of the movement. The activist energy of second-wave feminism was inspiring indeed. It challenged the ideological presuppositions of heteronormative patriarchy, established some legal protection against discrimination in the workplace and educational institutions, and enabled a significant percentage of women to enter the ranks of the professional-managerial class....

After the Destruction of Gaza

After the Destruction

— The Editors

AS BARACK OBAMA mounted the Washington, DC inaugural stage on the euphoric morning of January 20, 2009, in Gaza the sounds of Israel’s invasion — the U.S.-supplied F-16s’ bombing runs, the artillery shells that accurately hit their targets of hospitals and clinics and refugee schools with children inside, the clearly-marked made-in-USA canisters of white phosphorus that burn people alive from the inside, the newly field-tested “DIME” bombs that efficiently tear multiple limbs off the victims — had gone at least temporarily silent....

The Future of Israel/Palestine

— Jeff Halper

[Jeff Halper is Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (, an activist organization that rebuilds Palestinian families’ homes destroyed by the Israeli Occupation Forces, particularly in the East Jerusalem region. He is the author of important studies on the Occupation’s “Matrix of Control” and the new book An Israeli in Palestine: Resisting Oppression, Redeeming Israel (Pluto Press)....

Selected Bibliography

— Jeff Halper

Abu Hussein, Hussein, and Fiona McKay  2003  Access Denied: Palestinian Land Rights in Israel. London: Zed Books.

Agha, Hussein and Robert Malley  2001  Camp David: A Tragedy of Errors. New York Review of Books 48(13).

Amnesty International  1999a  Demolition and Dispossession: The Destruction of Palestinian Homes (December).

---- 1999b Universal Jurisdiction: 14 Principles on the Effective Exercise of Universal Jurisdiction. London (May).

----  2002  Shielded...

Ethnic Cleansing: Palestine Reality

— Joel Finkel

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
By Ilan Pappé
Oneworld Publications, 2006, 256 pages,
$14.95 paperback.

Today’s horrific attacks mark only a change in Israel’s method of killing Palestinians recently. In recent months they died mostly silent deaths, the elderly and sick especially, deprived of food and necessary medicine by the two-year-old Israeli blockade calculated and intended to cause suffering and deprivation to 1.5 million Palestinians, the vast majority refugees and children, caged into the Gaza Strip....


Toward A New Socialism

— Ursula McTaggart

Toward a New Socialism
edited by Anatole Anton and Richard Schmitt
Lanham: Lexington Books, 2007,
520 pages, $39.95 paperback.

RICHARD SCHMITT AND Anatole Anton correctly insist in the introduction to their anthology Toward a New Socialism that we are in need of a new socialism for the 21st century. This claim has little currency in contemporary academic or even activist cultures. “To speak of ‘socialism’ in today’s academy in the U.S.,” says Anton, “is to betray a lack of academic breeding.” (23)...

The Enemy of Nature

— Ansar Fayyazuddin

The Enemy of Nature
The End of Capitalism
or the End of the World?
by Joel Kovel
Zed Books, 2007, 2nd edition, xvi + 329 pages, $27 paper.

IMAGES OF THE rapidly melting polar icecaps, the receding snows of Mount Kilimanjaro and human suffering at the hands of ever more violent storms all over the world occupy central places in our present-day collective culture....

In Memoriam

Peter Camejo: A Red-Green Life

— Claudette Begin

THE PROGRESSIVE MOVEMENTS lost a major advocate last September 13th when Peter Camejo died after a long battle with lymphoma at the age of 67. The broad, historical impact he had was obvious in the national media response and the hundreds of emails and blog entries following his death.

At Peter’s memorial on November 23rd in Berkeley, California, the range of speakers attested to his persistent dedication to helping the poor and working class from his teenage years to his death. They spoke one after another of his personal warmth, enthusiasm, boundless energy and stream of ideas, strategic thinking, oratorical talents, optimism, and of how inspiring he was to them....

Camejo's Early Political Years

— Barry Sheppard

I FIRST MET Peter Camejo in 1958, when we were both students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He had joined the Young Socialist Alliance in New York, politically aligned with the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party, the year before, and I was a member of the Young People’s Socialist League, politically aligned with the Socialist Party-Social Democratic Federation....

Peter Camejo at Berkeley

— Jack Bloom

I MET AND worked with Peter Camejo in Berkeley during the latter half of the ’60s. He was a leader of the Socialist Workers Party and the Young Socialist Alliance there, while I was active in the Independent Socialist Clubs, which later became the International Socialists. Peter was always a hard-driving speaker who always knew what he wanted to say, and he could say it elegantly....

Kenn Cox and Donald Walden: "Free Jazz Radicals"

— Melba Joyce Boyd

WHEN I FIRST got the news that Donald Walden had died from cancer on April 6, 2008, the first persons I called were Marsha Walden, Donald’s wife, and Kenn Cox, Donald’s best friend. Kenn helped Marsha with the arrangements and conducted funeral proceedings centered on Donald’s music in a service embellished with remarks by relatives and friends in a crowded chapel invigorated by jazz. I read a piece about Donald, and a poem, in a voice thick with remorse....

"A Mingus Among Us" and a Walden Within Us

— Melba Joyce Boyd

when Dexter Gordon
glanced back,
he saw Donald Walden
taking Giant Steps
in clear, blue space.
So, he held the gate,
makin’ the jazz greats wait—
Monk, Byrd, Coltrane,
the contentious Miles,
and the sultry Billie—....

Working It Out "A lot of people have died for this music...," Kenn Cox

— Melba Joyce Boyd

black keys
with ivory
like oblique
irony in
Chopin sonatas
confer with
Strayhorn symphonics
Monk disrupts
with tempos
linked like dominoes....

A Comrade and Friend

STEFFIE BROOKS, a member of Solidarity in New York, died Monday evening, February 9, 2009 after a struggle with a cancer that had spread from her lungs into her spine. Steffie’s final few months were difficult and painful, but she remained committed to her political activism, which included giving a presentation at a summer school our organization co-sponsored with others last August....