Against the Current, No. 146, May/June 2010

Against the Current, No. 146, May/June 2010

Who's Dysfunctional Now?

— The Editors

THE GOOD NEWS is that the Republicans and the Tea Party movement not only lost the health insurance reform vote, but made such a obscene spectacle of themselves that everyone now knows who and what they really are. The bad news is that the Democrats now take credit for passing “health care reform” when in fact they’ve gutted it — hiding who and what they really are.

What and who is dysfunctional in the present U.S. political system?...

U.S.-Israel Crisis: The Test

— David Finkel, for the ATC Editors

THE CRISIS IN U.S.-Israeli relations, triggered by the Netanyahu government’s blatant disregard of the Obama administration’s concern over expanding settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, poses important tests both of political will and of theory.

To be clear about this, the test is not whether U.S. imperialism cares one bit about Palestinian human rights, democracy or self-determination....

Race & Class: Obama & the Politics of Protest

— Malik Miah

CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING contradiction of modern African-American politics: We have the first African-American president (he checked “Black” on the new census form) offering hope to millions of working-class Blacks. Yet we see a drawdown of protest politics by longtime civil rights leaders, even though the “Great Recession” is causing the greatest harm Black communities have seen in decades....

U.S. Social Forum in Detroit

— Dianne Feeley

2010 IS A year of one, two, many Social Forums around the world, including the second U.S. Social Forum. The first USSF, attended by more than 12,000, was held three years ago in Atlanta. It featured an opening march that wove through the city streets, stopping for rallies at important sites of social struggle, including Grady Hospital, where activists from AFSCME Local 1644, explained their opposition to the privatization of the city’s largest public hospital....

The Death of NUMMI

— Barry Sheppard

DURING THE 1980-82 recession, U.S. automobile corporations were closing factories, reflecting growing international competition and overproduction. One of the plants closed was a large General Motors facility in the city of Fremont, California, part of the San Francisco Bay Area.

This factory was reopened in 1984, in a deal between Toyota and GM. They formed a new corporation, New United Motors Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI). Toyota held 70% of the company and GM the rest, with management largely from Toyota....

Obama's Imperial Continuity

— Allen Ruff

DESPITE THE RHETORIC of hope and promises of “change we can believe in” that ushered him into the White House, Barack Obama has offered anything but a marked shift in the fundamental course of U.S. foreign policy. The change Obama has brought — to the relief of U.S. and global elites — is away from the George W. Bush-era fantasy that U.S. military firepower and ideological muscle could unilaterally dominate the globe. But his underlying policy goals are very much in continuity not only with Bush but with a century of his predecessors....

Ohio Socialist Runs for U.S. Senate

— Dan La Botz

I’M RUNNING AS the Ohio Socialist Party candidate for the U.S. Senate because I believe that the severity of the crisis, and the depth of dissatisfaction and discontent in our society, obligate socialists to put forward our alternative and to organize to achieve it.  We on the left need to present the vision of a democratic socialist society, a society which can only be achieved through building a mass social movement and a radically different sort of political organization.

The idea of running for the Senate arose sometime in January when I was approached by a couple of people in the Socialist Party USA asking me to be the candidate....

Islamophobia Sets the Terms

— Alex de Jong

THE DUTCH GOVERNMENT didn’t fall in February over involvement in Afghanistan, the unstable governing coalition stumbled over it. But the Islamophobic right wing might be the beneficiary.

Until the 20th of February the Netherlands were ruled by a coalition of the Labor party (PvdA), the Christian-democratic CDA and a smaller Christian party. The Dutch system of proportional parliamentary representation means that the largest party in parliament has to enter into coalition with other parties to form a government....

Food Sovereignty in Mexico & The Organizing Power of Women

— Ann Ferguson

IN JANUARY, 2009 I participated in a three-day women’s conference on Women, Food and Food Sovereignty at a nonprofit regional development center in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico called CEDESA (Centro de Desarrollo Agropecuario). Also attending were several other academics besides myself from the United States, the two present directors of CEDESA, and local residents of Mexico working as activists in the food sovereignty movement, including some from Oaxaca....

The New Sexual Radicalism

— Peter Drucker

FROM ITS BEGINNING in the 1990s in the United States, a “queer” activist current has gradually spread to other countries, including in recent years in Western Europe. In decades when the prevailing trend in LGBT movements has been to orient to legal reforms by parliamentary means, queer activism has constituted a third wave of sexual radicalism,(1) emphasizing visibility, difference, direct action, refusal to assimilate to the dominant culture, and the fluidity and diversity of sexual desire....

Making Sense of This Economic Crisis

— Ismael Hossein-zadeh

WHILE IT NOW generally agreed that the main source of the 2008 financial implosion was the accumulation of too much toxic debt, there is little agreement on the factors that precipitated the buildup of all that unsustainable debt. Whereas neoclassical/neoliberal economists blame the “irrational behavior of the agents” (both lenders and borrowers), Keynesian economists blame financial deregulation and insufficient public policy....

California Crisis Hits, Fightback Erupts

Public Education in California--What's After March 4?

— Adam Dylan Hefty

ON MARCH FOURTH, we marched forth. Hundreds of marches, rallies and direct actions in defense of public education took place on March 4 across California. Now what?

This is the question being asked across the state in activist meetings of all sorts and configurations. The situation is contradictory: March 4 was by almost all measures an impressive success, yet the answer to the question “now what?” is a lot murkier now than it was in February....

Teachers, Parents, Community Together

— interview with Joshua Pechthalt

ATC INTERVIEWED JOSHUA Pechthalt, an activist who is Vice President of the United Teachers Los Angeles/American Federation of Teachers and President of AFT Local 1021. He also sits on the Executive Boards of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the California State Federation of Labor.

Against the Current: What relationship did UTLA and other teacher unions have to the March 4 actions around the California education crisis?

Joshua Pechthalt: UTLA played a leadership role in the March 4th activities in Los Angeles. Prior to the actions by University of California students last November, I had begun talking to teacher union leaders in the community colleges,...

Republic of Dunces

— Gray Brechin

FOR ITS ENTIRE 142-year history, the University of California has served the state’s wealthiest businessmen well as a taxpayer-funded R&D facility. Its graduates have gone out into the world to serve as their mining engineers, attorneys, inventors, weapons designers, and business associates.

It was such a sweet deal for them that the question that we must ask is: Why are they now destroying all of California’s public education system?...

Undisputed Success

— Claudette Begin

MARCH 4th WAS AN undisputed success in California. Students, workers, teachers, parents and UC faculty found a way to participate. The major demonstration in San Francisco of 10,000, and other demonstrations in Sacramento and Oakland and in Southern California brought people together from different sectors, K-12, community colleges, state universities and university of California campuses....


Myths of the Exile and Return

— David Finkel

The Invention of the Jewish People
By Shlomo Sand
Verso, 2009, translation by Yael Lotan, 313 pages + index.
$16.95 paperback.

SO WHERE DID “the Jewish people” come from anyway? Was there an Exodus from Egypt, an Empire of David and Solomon, an Exile ending in a triumphant Return to Zion? Does any of it matter and if so, why?...

Terror As It Was and Is

— Aparna Sundar

The Other Side of Terror: An Anthology of Writings on Terrorism in South Asia
Edited by Nivedita Majumdar
New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2009,
368 pages, $49.95 hardcover.

DESPITE THE CENTRALITY today of “terrorism” as a political phenomenon, justifying a re-ordering of global power relations as well as the suppression of dissent and civil liberties domestically, it is in fact a far older phenomenon, as Nivedita Majumdar’s wonderful anthology of writing on the subject reminds us....

Philippines: Resisting Gobble-ization

— Michael Viola

Toward Filipino Self-Determination:
Beyond Transnational Globalization
By Epifania San Juan Jr.
Albany, New York: State University of New York, Press, 2009, 184 pages, hardcover, $65.

IN HIS LATEST book, Epifanio San Juan Jr. uncovers the concealed operations of power and the historic inequalities of political economic systems that have impacted Filipinos in an age of globalized crisis and contradiction. While the definition of globalization is often debated, for the majority of people in the Philippines the process of globalization can be more accurately described as “gobble-ization.”(1)...

Sacred Roots of A People's Music

— Kim D. Hunter

Secular Devotion
Afro-Latin Music and Imperial Jazz
By Timothy Brennan
London and New York: Verso, 2008,
320 pages, $29.95 paperback.

THE GOAL OF Timothy Brennan’s Secular Devotion is an ambitious one, to create an historical map of African culture’s influence on the social politics of the Americas in general and the United States in particular....

Discography to Sacred Roots of A People's Music

— compiled by Kim D. Hunter

The Jazz Afro Latin Connection:

Dizzy Gillespie – “Manteca Suite” (the full 17-min. suite, not the 3.5 min. reduced version)
Lee Morgan – “Mr. Kenyatta” (from Search for the New Land)
Horace Silver – “Que Pasa” (from Song for My Father)
Jelly Roll Morton – “St. Louis Blues”
Chano Pozo – virtually any recording...


On the Legacy of Che Guevara

— Charlie Post

PETER DRUCKER’S LETTER (ATC 144) commenting on Kit Wainer's review of Besancenot and Lowy's new biography of Che (ATC 143) rehearses many of Besancenot and Lowy's arguments that Che's Marxism was some sort of alternative to Stalinism. I, for one, am no longer convinced by these claims.

Drucker objects to Kit's characterization of Che's politics as a variant of "third period" or radical Stalinism....

An Answer to Charlie Post

— Michael Löwy

CHARLIE POST IS an old friend of mine and I respect his views. But I beg to disagree…

In our book, Olivier Besancenot and myself pointed to several limitations of Che Guevara concerning issues as workers’ democracy and the critique of Stalinism. But we tried to grasp his thought not as a monolithic body of theory, but as thinking in movement, a movement going towards a more democratic conception of socialism. Did he come to a full understanding that socialism is “the democratically organized power of the working class”?...

Reply to A Reviewer

— James D. Young

MY OLD FRIEND Paul Buhle has developed a neat general formula for reviewing the books he is out of sympathy with. Paul begins by making laudatory comments and concludes by expressing overwhelmingly negative judgments. But he has gone too far in his review of my The Rousing of the Scottish Working Class, 1774-2008 (ATC 144, January-February 2010) by falsely accusing me of using “a club to beat [E.P.] Thompson.”

To set the record straight, Edward Thompson and I were good friends from 1955 when I helped to sell the old New Reasoner; and before his death he read some chapters of my autobiography Making Trouble and said “I like your Bolshie and anti-state attitudes.”...


— Paul Buhle

OLDTIMERS, ACROSS GEOGRAPHICAL space and chronological time, tend to swat at each other, responding to insults both real and imagined, long past and present. I know that in my family, Ma and Pa did it with increasing vigor over the years. Probably not all of the swatting within the greatly diminished U.S., UK or any other Left can be attributed to political disappointment.

I'm not greatly offended by James Young's swats, mainly just surprised....