Against the Current, No. 148, September/October 2010

Against the Current, No. 148, September/October 2010

Obama's Reform, Recovery Stalled

— The Editors

THE REFORM AGENDA of president Obama and the Democrats, such as it was, is exhausted. Two failing wars, a fragile and almost jobless economic recovery teetering on the cusp of a double-dip Great Recession, and an all-out rightwing racial, economic and political offensive have defined the ground for the November midterm election and the period to follow.

Did we mention the oil spill? You’ll understand much of U.S. politics today if you can untangle this riddle: How is it that the Republican party of “Drill, Baby, Drill,”...

How Race Fuels Rightist Agenda

— Malik Miah

NEARLY 50 YEARS after the 1963 March on Washington for civil rights, the conservative movement is mobilizing its electoral base by using the wedge issues of race and racism. The principal targets are not new — African Americans and “illegal immigrants” from Mexico.

To whip up fear among white voters and to support their pro-Wall Street, pro-Big Business agenda, wealthy white politicians and talk show hosts are in hyper drive leading up to the November elections. The strategy has worked in the past and appears to be working today....

Obama's RTTT vs. Teacher Unions

— Kit Adam Wainer

THE 165 WASHINGTON, DC public school teachers terminated for poor evaluations on July 23 may be the first victims of the Obama reform agenda. The teachers were fired because of low scores on the DC school system’s new evaluation procedure — one which ties teacher evaluations to student scores on standardized tests.(1)

The Washington experience is not an aberration. Rather, it is an omen of developments to come as states compete with each other to gut union rules, replace unionized public schools with privately managed charter schools, and extend the Bush-era emphasis on standardized test scores as the primary measure of student achievement....

October 7: Defend Education!

— Adam Dylan Hefty

STUDENTS, FACULTY AND campus workers across the United States will kick off the 2010-2011 school year with an October 7 national day of action to defend public education. This day of action will attempt to pick up from where last year’s movement to defend public education left off. March 4 represented the broadest point of last year’s organizing, with strikes, major rallies and marches, and smaller local speak-outs taking place throughout California, across the country, and to some extent around the world.

Student activism frequently falls into a summer lull, and while endorsements for October 7 have been piling up, in many schools and communities organizing and planning is still incipient....

The Danger of SB1070

— Pancho Valdez

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall do him no wrong.” --The Book of Leviticus 19:33

THE RECENT PASSAGE of SB 1070 in Arizona must be a wakeup call not only for those of us of Latino heritage, but for all progressives who cherish freedom and justice. A draconian law [partially blocked by a court injunction] that basically legalizes racial profiling, it compels the law enforcement officers in the state of Arizona to stop and question any person that they suspect of being in the U.S. illegally. [See Malik Miah on “Arizona’s Racial Profiling Push,” ATC 147, for more background — ed.]...

Wikileaks and the Truth of the Af-Pak War

— Adaner Usmani

IN THE AFTERMATH of the much-discussed leak of the Afghan war documents, few aspects of the Af-Pak imbroglio have been as scrutinized as the supposed duplicity of the Pakistani security establishment. The New York Times editorial board, for example, promptly declared that of all of the revelations, the reports detailing the “cynical collusion between Pakistan’s military intelligence service and the Taliban” were the “most alarming.” (This, too, from a paper that had been privy to the leaked material for some time before the database went public).(1)...

Venezuela: Voices on the Struggle

— Jeffery R. Webber and Susan Spronk interviewing activists

IN MID-JUNE 2010, we caught up with three revolutionary socialist activists, Gonzalo Gómez, Stalin Pérez Borges, and Luis Primo in Caracas, Venezuela to discuss their views on the contradictions and prospects of the Bolivarian process. [For background on Venezuela under Hugo Chávez and the dynamics of the “Bolivarian process,” see Jeffery Webber’s review essay “Where Is Venezuela Going?” ATC 144 (Jan.-Feb. 2010. — ed.]...

Orwell in the Maze of Memory

— Victor Pardo Lancina

[This article, by Victor Pardo Lancina, appeared in Heraldo de Aragon, December 13, 2009. It has been translated for ATC by Michel Vale with the assistance of Susan Weissman. We present it here, abridged, for its interest in connection with our 70th anniversary issue on the tragic defeat of the Spanish revolution, ATC 143, Nov.-Dec. 2009. — The Editors]

ON 23 JUNE 1937, George Orwell and his wife Eileen boarded a train in the Barcelona station, destination Portbou.

They were leaving Spain for good, clandestinely, despite their passports being in order, since the POUM (Party of Marxist Unity) had been declared illegal after the May events,...

Letter to Readers

— Esteban Volkov Bronstein and Olivia Gall

WE ARE WRITING this letter to invite you to support the effort to preserve and renovate the Leon Trotsky Museum (IDA-MCLTAC) in Mexico City as we mark the 70th anniversary of the assassination of Leon Trotsky, the 35th anniversary of the opening of the Trotsky Museum, and the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Institute on the Right of Asylum.

The Renovation Project consists in gradually transforming the museum into an institution that takes the figure of Leon Trotsky as its central axis, but also approaches the various ideological and political currents of socialist thought, actions and debates, the right of asylum and the history of revolutionary and post-revolutionary Mexico, where Trotsky was admitted as a political refugee....

The Mexican Revolution at 100

¡Viva la Revolución! Part 2

— Dan La Botz

WHILE THE MOST violent stage of the Mexican Revolution was over by 1920, the country faced a series of new crises in the 1930s. The era opened in 1928 with the assassination of former President Álvaro Obregón, killed by a Catholic militant opposed to the secularizing Revolution in the formerly officially Catholic country.

Óbregon, who had served as president from 1920-24, had thrown the country into political panic by announcing that he would run a second time for the presidency. Since the Revolution had been fought to end Profirio Díaz’s decades-long practice of presidential self-succession,...

Genealogies of the Uprisings

— an interview with Adolfo Gilly

Adolfo Gilly is a longtime activist and prominent historian of the Mexican Revolution. This interview appeared in the Argentine magazine Sudestada (Buenos Aires, No. 88, May 1, 2010). According to the Larousse dictionary, a “sudestada” in Argentina is “wind with persistent rain that comes from the southeast and usually causes rivers to swell.” This was translated for Against the Current by Rene Rojas with the assistance of Micah Landau.

WHAT FEATURES OF peasant culture in Mexico gave force to the revolutionary movement led by Zapata?

Adolfo Gilly: During the last decades of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th,...

Mexico's Crisis in Context

— James D. Cockcroft

IN THIS ARTICLE I offer an historical context for understanding Mexico’s current economic, political, and human crisis triggered by 28 years of neoliberal economic policies. Neoliberal governments have privatized most sectors of the economy and reduced the Mexican state’s role to one of being a repressive apparatus. NAFTA and related neoliberal policies have left the economy without a dynamic internal market for local products and with a socio-economic inequality that is one of the most extreme in the world.(1)...

Mexican Women -- Then and Now

— Heather Dashner Monk

ARACELI’S KNARLED HANDS knead the corn dough in a smoke-filled lean-to next to her kitchen, as the 5 a.m. sunlight begins to squint through the slats. She will make about 48 pounds of tortillas, as she does every day. By noon they’ll be on the table in houses all over the 500-inhabitant town she has lived in her whole life, half-way between Mexico City and Toluca, the capital of the State of Mexico.

This is the 21st century: 100 years after the Mexican Revolution. So many things have changed, yet so much looks so similar. Araceli may well develop a serious lung condition from working over a wood fire in an enclosed space, as thousands of other women have for centuries in Mexico....

Mexico 2010: The Spreading Crisis

— Fred Rosen

ON JULY 4, in an atmosphere of widespread insecurity, unabated violence, and an uncertain allocation of authority and impunity,* Mexico held local elections in 15 of its 32 states.

The fear of violence and criminality is real and widespread in Mexico. Opinion polls, interviews with citizens, marches against impunity and insecurity, show that Mexicans of all social strata and across the political spectrum feel strongly about the need to put an end to the fear of violence. People tell pollsters and interviewers that they feel insecure going about their normal day-to-day business....

Oaxaca: Autonomy Under Seige

— Scott Campbell

ON APRIL 27, 2010, the Mexican state of Oaxaca again garnered international attention as a humanitarian aid and solidarity caravan comprised of national and international activists heading to the Autonomous Municipality of San Juan Copala was ambushed by state-backed paramilitaries, resulting in the deaths of two activists, leaving several wounded, and others disappeared for days.

Using army-grade weapons, members of the so-called Union for the Social Well-Being of the Triqui Region (UBISORT) blockaded the road outside of San Juan Copala and while the caravan attempted to turn around, opened fire on it from the surrounding hillsides,...


Feminism's Global Contradictions

— Angela Hubler

Feminism Seduced:
How Global Elites Use Women’s Labor
and Ideas to Exploit the World
By Hester Eisenstein
Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, 2009,
293 pages, $26.95 paperback.

IT IS CLEAR that the most significant factor now shaping women’s lives and status worldwide is globalization. What isn’t clear, however, is whether globalization is affecting women positively or negatively.

One recent book, Leslie T. Chang’s Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China (reviewed by Jane Slaughter in ATC 144),...

The Rawick File: How Do People Revolt?

— Paul Buhle

George Rawick
Listening to Revolt, Selected Writings
Edited by David Roediger and Martin Smith
Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Company, 2010,
$14 paperback.

GEORGE RAWICK (1929-1990) was a powerful socialist scholar in the C.L.R. James tradition, sometimes an equally powerful mentor for young radicals, and also a tortured soul.  He is largely forgotten today, because he did not write easily or found a “school” with his methods — or even get along with his friends and allies very well....

In Memoriam

Remembering Barbara Zeluck

— Johanna Brenner

HOW DOES ONE encapsulate a life as long and as full of political activity as Barbara Zeluck’s? How might we understand her unflagging dedication to revolutionary politics through all the sectarian battles, disappointments, and challenges of the past 60 years with her capacity to grow and change politically? Perhaps that capacity to grow and change helps to account for her unwavering revolutionary socialist engagement. How might we grasp how she was both a woman of her times and also a unique individual who charted a particular life course? These are some of the questions that motivated me as I researched Barbara’s life....

Edmond Kovacs, 1924-2010

— Leslie Evans

I FIRST MET Edmond Kovacs in the fall of 1961. I was then 19 and he 37. He was teaching a class for the Los Angeles chapter of the Young Socialist Alliance, the youth group of the Socialist Workers Party. He was the SWP’s Southern California Chairman, introduced under his party name, Theodore Edwards. Most of us in those days had nommes de guerre, fake names that we rather optimistically hoped the FBI wouldn’t figure out. It was only years later that I got in the habit of calling him Edmond....