Against the Current, No. 140, May/June 2009

Against the Current, No. 140, May/June 2009

Socialism Then -- And Now!

— The Editors

THE PANIC LEAPS off the pages of the financial press. General Motors is getting ready to go under for the third and final time. In any case, “A share of General Motors stock, which fell below $2 Thursday as it warned of possible bankruptcy, is now not even enough to buy a gallon of gasoline for your Chevy. A share of General Electric, battered this week to little more than $6, would not be sufficient to buy two of the company’s compact fluorescent light bulbs…”

The NAACP at 100

— Malik Miah

THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) marks its 100th anniversary this year. It plans a full celebration at its centennial national convention July 11-16 in New York City.

Many may wonder if the NAACP — the nation’s oldest civil rights group — is still relevant. Doesn’t the election of the first African American president, Barack Obama, mean the legacy of slavery and legal discrimination becomes a lesson for history?...

John Hope Franklin's Message

— Malik Miah

THREE YEARS AGO the acclaimed historian, John Hope Franklin, who died in March at the age of 94, discussed his lifelong battle for equality and against racism. Franklin personally knew most of the major African American figures of the 20th Century — W.E.B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X -- and lived long enough to see Barack Obama be elected president....

The Many Faces of Bank Nationalization

— Jack Rasmus

CALLS FOR NATIONALIZATION of the banking industry have been bubbling since at least September 2008, when the current banking panic began in the wake of the Lehman Brothers' collapse, the initial AIG bailout, and the quick absorption of Merrill Lynch-Wachovia-Washington Mutual banks by their larger competitors, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase....

The FMLN's Historic Victory

— Marc Becker

FOR THE FIRST time, the left will govern El Salvador. In the March 15, 2009 presidential elections, Mauricio Funes of the former guerrilla movement the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) defeated former police director Rodrigo Ávila of the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) by a thin margin of less than three percentage points....

China's Disposable Labor

— Au Loong-yu

THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL crisis has begun to take its toll in China, with a rapid decline in China’s exports. In Guangdong province where the export processing zones house 20 million workers, tens of thousands of migrant workers have been sacked. By comparing various estimates one can conclude that nationally by the beginning of 2009 between four and nine million migrant workers have returned home. Millions more will stay home after the Chinese New Year holiday....

Crisis from Pakistan to Motown

— interview with Tariq Ali

TARIQ ALI IS the author of numerous political books and essays, as well as a filmmaker and novelist currently working on the fifth and final work of his “Islam Quintet,” which will focus on the end of the Muslim-ruled Al-Andalus civilization in Spain. (The most recent of these novels is A Sultan in Palermo.) In March he spent three weeks as a visiting professor and lecturer at University of Michigan-Flint. On March 14, he spoke with David Finkel and Dianne Feeley from the ATC editorial board....

Saving Corporations, Sacrificing Workers

— Dianne Feeley

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S MARCH 30th report on what General Motors and Chrysler must do to obtain further government loans demands that all “stakeholders” make additional sacrifices.

The assumption is that everyone must pull together to keep the U.S. auto industry afloat. But in actuality the industry has been structuring and restructuring itself over the last 30 years, and it’s the autoworkers who are continually expected to take the concessions — resulting in cuts in pay, benefits and working conditions....

Capitalism and Social Rights

— Ellen Meiksins Wood

WE’RE TALKING HERE about rights and how to guarantee them in an unequal globalized society. I’m just going to take it for granted that all of us here believe in human rights in some sense of the term. Let’s start from the premise that all human beings, just by virtue of being human, are entitled to certain basic conditions of freedom and dignity which have to be respected by others, not just by other individuals but also, and especially, by people in power and by states. That’s something I’m sure everyone here can accept....

Pinkney Fight Continues

REVEREND EDWARD PINKNEY was ordered released from prison last Christmas Eve while his conviction and 3-10 year prison term — for quoting Deuteronomy in regard to divine punishment of a racist judge — is on appeal. He remains under house arrest and is prohibited from speaking out on racism and corporate abuses in Berrien County, Michigan.

After the Destruction of Gaza

The United States and Gaza

— Stephen R. Shalom

THE COURAGEOUS ISRAELI journalist Amira Hass, in her 1996 book Drinking the Sea at Gaza, tells us that in Israeli slang “go to Gaza” means “go to hell.(1)

She wrote these words long before the murderous economic blockade imposed on Gaza, and also before the 23 days of savage violence that we’ve just witnessed, making Gaza a living hell not just in the Israeli imagination, but in reality....

The Lessons of Gaza 2009

— Bashir Abu-Manneh


"1285 Palestinians killed, mostly civilians, including 167 civil police officers. 4336 Palestinians wounded, mostly civilians. Two political leaders of Hamas assassinated, Nizar Rayan and Said Siam, in bombs that flattened their home and also killed many of their family members and neighbors. Tens of thousands of people forced to abandon their homes: 2400 houses completely destroyed, and 17,000 semi-destroyed or damaged. Tens of mosques, public civilian facilities, police stations, and media, health, and educational institutions either completely or partially destroyed. 121 industrial and commercial workshops destroyed and at least 200 others damaged...."(1)

Code Pink's Gaza Delegation

— Rick Congress

I WAS PART of a delegation of 62 people that entered Gaza on March 7, 2009. The purpose of our trip, organized by the women’s antiwar organization Code Pink, was to challenge the Israeli/Egyptian and U.S.-sanctioned blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza, which has been in force since the Palestinian elections of 2006.

Besides challenging the blockade of Gaza, Code Pink went to participate in International Women’s Day meetings in Gaza that were organized by UNRWA (United Nations Relief Works Agency). So after gathering in Cairo, the group bused across the Sinai to the Rafah border crossing....

Peace Prospects in the Middle East?

— Hisham H. Ahmed

THE PRIMACY OF economic concerns notwithstanding, the interplay between peace and the Obama Administration’s policies toward the Middle East can be considered a defining measure of the new administration’s success. It was only natural and also telling that President Obama decided to cut the ribbons on his foreign policy making journey by initiating phone calls to leaders in the region.(1)

However, given the fact that the Obama Administration took office while the fires of the latest Israeli aggression on Gaza were still burning, it becomes incumbent upon this Administration to try to understand some of the regional and global implications of this merciless assault....

Israel: Obama's "Bibiyahu" Problem

— Uri Avnery

IS THIS THE government of Biberman [Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of the right-wing Likud Party, and foreign minister Avigdor Liberman of the ultra-right Israel Beitenu], or perhaps of Bibarak [Bibi and Labor Party leader Ehud Barak]?

Neither. It is the government of Bibiyahu.

Binyamin Netanyahu has proven that he is a consummate politician. He has realized the dream of every politician (and theatergoer): a good place in the middle. In his new government he can play off the fascists on the right against the socialists on the left, Liberman’s secularists against the orthodox of the religious party Shas. An ideal situation....

Rachel Corrie Presente!

— Cindy and Craig Corrie

THE FOLLOWING IS an excerpt from a statement from the family of Rachel Corrie. You can contact the Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice at or

WE THANK ALL who continue to remember Rachel and who, on this sixth anniversary of her stand in Gaza, renew their own commitments to human rights, justice and peace in the Middle East....


Dissidents Looking Beyond Zionism

— David Finkel

Israel’s Vicious Circle
Ten Years of Writings on Israel and Palestine
By Uri Avnery
London: Pluto Press (, 2008, 224 pages + index, $29.95 hardcover.

An Israeli in Palestine
Resisting Dispossession, Redeeming Israel
By Jeff Halper
London: Pluto Press ( in association with ICAHD, 2008, 304 pages + index, $27.95 paperback.

IN 1968 — 1968! — a book appeared with the astonishing title Israel Without Zionists. A Plea for Peace in the Middle East. The timing was even more surprising, in Israel’s flush of euphoria in the wake of the 1967 war. This was also the moment when the mainstream American Jewish community and the U.S. intelligentsia in general had just discovered the State of Israel as the great inspiration and center of Jewish redemption — after two decades during which Israel had not been viewed with any such great enthusiasm, as chronicled by historian Peter Novick in The Holocaust In American Life....

Race, Politics and Christianity in America

— Angela Dillard

God and Race in American Politics:
A Short History
By Mark A. Noll
Princeton University Press, 224 pages, $22.95 cloth.

Your Spirit Walks Beside Us:
The Politics of Black Religion
By Barbara Dianne Savage
Harvard University Press, 368 pages, $27.95 cloth.

11:00AM ON SUNDAY morning is the most segregated hour in American life, and the implications of this stubborn fact have been known to unexpectedly erupt into our national political culture. In the invocation at the presidential inaugural, Pastor Rick Warren reminded us that we are not a nation united by race, or blood or religion — but he left our divisions on these grounds unarticulated, despite the role he has played in helping to generate them....

U.S. Poetry and the Politics of Form

— Sarah Ehlers

Counter-revolution of the Word:
The Conservative Attack on Modern Poetry, 1945-1960
By Alan Filreis
University of North Carolina Press, 2008, 422 pages, $40 cloth.

LAURA BUSH’S 2003 “Poetry and the American Voice” symposium is infamous because it never happened. Intended to be a White House celebration of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes, the event was cancelled when several poet-invitees (including former laureates) declined the invitation and, instead, composed poems protesting U.S. involvement in Iraq. When the symposium was called off, the First Lady’s spokesperson explained that a celebration of poets was in danger of being turned into a political event....

Reviewing Red: Love and Revolution

— Alan Wald

AT THE DAWN of the 1960s, the modest tradition of novels depicting men and women active in Marxist movements morphed abruptly from a comparatively marginal to a mainstream phenomenon.

What precipitated this new-won international stature of narratives of socialist commitment? Indisputably, a shifting political climate was essential for a renaissance in the quality and appreciation of art about the Left. Yet a correspondingly decisive explanation may reside in the choice by authors to take a more inspired and inventive turn in their literary representations of the intimate life of radical militants....

The Crisis of Revolutionary Power

— Sarah Badcock

The Bolsheviks in Power:
The First Year of Soviet Rule in Petrograd
By Alexander Rabinowitch
Bloomington and Indianapolis, Indiana University Press, 2007. 494 pages, illustrations, notes, index, bibliography,$21.95 paperback.

ALEXANDER RABINOWITCH HAS long stood as a major figure in the field of revolutionary history, his reputation forged by his series of books tackling the revolution in Petrograd.(1) The book under review, his latest addition to this canon, is a meticulous and painstaking history, showing us the gaps and exploring the confusions of a tightly defined period....