Against the Current, No. 142, September/October 2009

Against the Current, No. 142, September/October 2009

Letter from the Editors: Health Care Reform

— Milton Fisk

[This guest editorial was written for Against the Current by Indiana single-payer activist Milton Fisk.]

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN CONYERS, author of the single-payer bill HR676, was asked if he would come around in the end to voting for a version of President Obama’s health reform plan. He replied that he would, but only on two conditions. First, there would have to be a full discussion of single-payer reform in Congress. With Senator Max Baucus’ exclusion of single-payer advocates from hearings held by his Finance Committee, the chances of meeting this condition have dwindled....

Race and Class: African Americans in a Sick System

— Malik Miah

THE CRITICAL LACK of quality and affordable health care is devastating for African Americans. Twice as likely as whites to go without insurance, African Americans suffer chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes at an escalating rate.

The root of the problem is not inferior Black — or better white — health care. It is first and foremost a class issue, exacerbated for Blacks and Latinos because of the institutional racism that still permeates society....

Resisting the Gutting of CUNY

— Carolina Bank-Muñoz, Scott Dexter and Tara Mulqueen

NEW YORK STATE is experiencing its worst fiscal crisis since the 1970s, with profound impacts on the City University of New York (CUNY), the nation’s largest urban public university system. CUNY has been under public scrutiny since its founding in 1847 as The Free Academy,(1) an institution dedicated to the experiment of providing education to “the children of the whole people” at a school “controlled by the popular will, not by the privileged few.”...

LA Teachers Face the Crisis

— interview with UTLA activist

Against the Current interviewed a longtime activist and current leader in the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) about the impact of California’s devastating budget crisis on public services and on education in particular. Our first discussion took place in July before the Governor announced his agreement with the state legislative leadership on a budget package. Even as we go to press, however, the implications for teachers and the education system remain murky as outlined below. We began by asking for an overview of the factors contributing to the crisis.

THE CRISIS, FIRST of all, is of course felt in every state, with declining tax revenues because of the economy....

Jazz in the New Depression

— interview with Connie Crothers

CONNIE CROTHERS IS a jazz pianist, recording artist and founder of New Artists Records in New York City. A student of the jazz giant Lennie Tristano, her discography includes sessions with the late Max Roach as well as numerous solo, duet and quartet performances. Against the Current editor David Finkel interviewed her about the impact of the economic crisis on jazz and the broader creative music scene.

Against the Current: How has the economic meltdown and especially the situation in New York City affected the life of a working jazz musician?...

Three Decades of Iranian Women's Activism

— Catherine Sameh

BEFORE THE JUNE elections and the protests that ensued, 2009 was hailed as a milestone in Iran for another reason: it marked the 30th anniversary of the 1979 revolution.

The revolution and recent protests shared the mass participation of women, as most media accurately reported. But the popular media’s comparisons of the election protests to the revolution oversimplify both upsurges and elide the dynamic, contradictory and complex decades that followed 1979.(1)...

Egyptian Labor Erupting

— Atef Said

IN APRIL 2009, a familiar scenario was repeated, as Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s police apparatus assaulted planned demonstrations and a Mahalla textile workers’ strike. A year earlier, many activists and ordinary people from Mahalla received sentences in politically charged criminal trials for “planning the April 6th strike in 2008.”...

Egypt's Long Labor History

— Atef Said

THE EGYPTIAN WORKING class is one of the oldest in the region, with a long history of internationalist solidarity. Egyptian loading and longshoremen workers in 1947, for example, boycotted the Dutch ship in Canal Suez in solidarity with the Indonesian people’s independence struggle. The union of the workers issued a statement against colonialism in general. They did not allow the ship to service or go through the Canal despite the resistance and efforts made by English and French administrators....

Disasters You Can Believe In

— David Finkel

THE YEAR 2009 coincidentally marks the 100th anniversary of the United States Marines’ invasion of Nicaragua. They stayed for a quarter century, and after assassinating the country’s resistance leader, Augusto Cesar Sandino, left the place in incomparably worse shape than they found it....

A Cosmetic Cover for Occupation

— Purnima Bose

“Only the terrorists and the Taliban forbid education to women. Only the terrorists and the Taliban threaten to pull out women’s fingernails for wearing nail polish.” — Laura Bush, November 2001

FOLLOWING THE U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October of 2001, the Bush administration belatedly latched on to the plight of Afghan women under the Taliban as a rationale for military action. As part of their ideological arsenal, they deployed the heretofore retiring First Lady to present a humanitarian face to military intervention....

Ecuador: Left Turn?

— Marc Becker

ON APRIL 26, 2009, Rafael Correa won re-election to the Ecuadorian presidency with an absolute majority of the vote. He gained broad popular appeal through a combination of nationalist rhetoric and increased social spending on education and health care. The victory cemented Correa’s control over the country as the old political establishment appeared to be in complete collapse....

Views on Cuba

Cuba Today

— Katherine Gordy

THE CUBAN REVOLUTION’S 50th anniversary has sparked academic conferences, debates and articles assessing its past and future.(1) How and why has the revolution survived? What does the future hold for Cuba? Or, as it is often put, more crudely, what will happen when Fidel/Raul dies?

My responses to these questions have always been short. The Cuban revolution has survived much as any established system survives, through a combination of coercion and consent.(2) The future holds gradual change, again, much as in any system that has been successfully institutionalized....

A Fifty-year Old Process

— Antonio Carmona Báez

p>“The dictatorship has been defeated. There is immense joy. But, nevertheless, there is still a lot to be done. Don’t let us deceive ourselves by believing that everything in the future will be easy; maybe everything will be harder from now on.” — Fidel Castro, 1959

“One cannot say that the transition of one social system to another can take place overnight, that’s impossible; it is a process of many steps, which concludes with the predominance of goods produced in the majority hands of the population.” — Raul Castro, 8 January 2008

TO GO BEYOND the debate concerning whether to characterise Cuba as socialist, state capitalist or simply an anti-imperialist state framed by Cold War logic, I propose that instead of defining socialism as a state or a place, we regard it as a process....

Che Guevara in Search of a New Socialism

— Michael Löwy

IN AN ARTICLE published in 1928, José Carlos Mariátegui, the true founder of Latin American Marxism, wrote: “Of course, we do not want socialism in Latin America to be an imitation or a copy. It must be a heroic creation. We must inspire Indo-American socialism with our own reality, our own language. That is a mission worthy of a new generation.”(1) His warning went unheard. In that same year the Latin American communist movement fell under the influence of the Stalinist paradigm, which for close to a half century imposed on it an imitation of the ideology of the Soviet bureaucracy and its so-called “actually existing socialism.”...


Dissecting Congo's Modern Holocaust

— Nnenna Okeke

Africa’s World War:
Congo, the Rwandan Genocide, and the Making of a Continental Catastrophe
By Gerard Prunier
Oxford University Press, 2008, 576 pages, $27.95.

A PRIMARY AIM of Gerard Prunier’s work is to detangle and lay bare the complexities of interests, alliances and deep-seeded antagonisms that have made the Congo crisis so brutal. He does this well, without simplifying the narrative for easy comprehension....

Timeline of the Congo Conflict

— Nnenna Okeke

1996-97—Rwandan troops invade and attack Hutu militia-dominated camps on the Rwanda-Zaire border.

1997—Tutsi and other anti-Mobutu rebels, aided by Rwanda, capture Kinshasa. Mobutu is removed as the president of Zaire, which is renamed the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Laurent Kabila becomes president....

A Mandel for All Seasons

— Alan Wald

Ernest Mandel:
A Rebel’s Dream Deferred
By Jan Willem Stutje
Translated by Christopher Beck & Peter Drucker. London: Verso, 2009, 392 pages, $25 hardback.

THE GERMAN NEW Left activist Rudi Dutshcke declared just prior to his death in 1979 that his friend Ernest Mandel “continues to surprise and yet remains the same.” (197) Dutshcke’s appraisal draws attention to the appeal of Ernest (born Ezra) Mandel (1923-95), the Belgian Marxist economist and revolutionary activist, for a generation of young people impelled toward Leftist politics in the 1960s era of decolonization, civil rights activism, and the student revolt....

In Memoriam

J. David Edelstein

J. DAVID EDELSTEIN, an ardent socialist all his life, died July 20, 2009 in Syracuse, NY at age 90. Dave was an at-large member of Solidarity and supporter of the Socialist Party USA; his life in the socialist movement dated back to the Workers Party and Independent Socialist League of the 1940s and 1950s....

Joe Frantz, 1950-2009

— Mike Parker

JOE GELDERS FRANTZ died unexpectedly on February 4, 2009. He was exercising at a club, fell or collapsed and hit his head. He died on the way to the hospital.

Joe came from an intense political background. He was named for his grandfather, a physics professor in Alabama who became a leader of the Communist Party there during the '30s. (See Robin D.G. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe) Joe’s parents were active Communist organizers in the South and then in California....


The Politics of Victor Serge

— Ernie Haberkern

VICTOR SERGE BY all accounts was a courageous, personally sympathetic figure whose writings, in the best humanist tradition, exposed the corruption and hypocrisy of the Stalinist dictatorship that grew out of the revolution and destroyed it. He wrote at a time when large segments of the labor and progressive movements still saw the Soviet Union and the Communist movement as “on our side” and shunned their critics as, perhaps unintentionally, providing aid and comfort to the enemy....

A Rejoinder: The Real Victor Serge

— Susan Weissman

WHAT THEN TO make of Victor Serge? A dishonest authoritarian, an anti-worker anarchist as Ernie Haberkern asserts in “Le Retif: The Politics of Victor Serge”? Haberkern directs his critique against Serge as an anarchist, and also against Serge scholarship that is either hagiographical, or selective in his view, because it pays scant attention to the early Victor Serge from the ages of 18-22....