Against the Current, No. 150, January/February 2011

Against the Current, No. 150, January/February 2011

Let Them Eat Cuts

— The Editors

THE GOOD TIMES are flowing again for Wall Street and bank executives, and U.S. corporate profits have rarely if ever looked so lush. But it’s a brutal moment for working people, with much worse possibly to come. These twin realities set the economic and political agenda heading into 2011-12. Everyone knows the Republicans are hell-bent on “making Obama a one-term president,” but few expected that they’d capture the White House in 2010. If that’s an exaggeration, it’s a mild one.

President Obama’s “compromise” on extending tax cuts for the rich announces that he is the Republicans’ captive for the next two years....

Prospects for African Americans

— Malik Miah

MUCH OF THE debate in Washington and Wall Street is about the ongoing world economic crisis and what to do about it. The ruling elites’ solution: cut taxes for the rich, who will “trickle down” their investments to hire more people who will then jumpstart the economy. The fact that this hasn’t worked for the past 10 years is irrelevant.

This reality bodes ill for African Americans in 2011-12. With or without a double-dip recession, the crisis for the Black communities will deepen, leading to even more homelessness and unemployment rising to the mid-20% range or higher. Official Black unemployment in November 2010 was at 16%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics....

Murfreesboro vs. Islamophobia

— Jase Short and Andy Woloszyn

WHEN THE MUSLIM community in Murfreesboro, Tennessee sought a permit to build an expanded Islamic Center, local bigots saw an opportunity to exploit the same “moral panic,” invented by the Tea Party, the Christian Right and much of the corporate media, that would also emerge in New York around the so-called “Ground Zero mosque.” The amalgamation of racial, ethnic, religious and national identities into a demonic Islamic “Other,” has been spreading throughout the United States as well as Western Europe.

A Primer on Immigrant Rights

— Zaragosa Vargas

IN THE LATE 20th century, immigration from Mexico to the United States was at its highest level since the early part of that century. Hunger and poverty, worsened by the inequalities of U.S. trade policies, have forced millions of Mexico’s citizens to leave their homes.

These “economic refugees” literally risk their lives to get to America. They are robbed, raped and murdered by bandits who stalk the borderlands, and preyed upon or abandoned to die in the desert by the human smugglers who traffic migrants from Mexico as a business. As the flow of desperate immigrants from Mexico as well as Central America increased, so did Anglo hostility to all immigrants, legal or undocumented, and to Latinos....

DREAM Deferred, Fight Continues

— Isaac Steiner

A NEW YOUTH wing of the immigrant rights movement blossomed over the past year — centered on, but not defined by, the DREAM Act. While this bill was the legislative focal point of many immigrant youth-led actions over the last year, its defeat in the Senate (55-41 in favor, five votes short of stopping the filibuster) is not the end — just the end of the beginning.

Originally introduced in 2001, the Act in its various forms would provide young undocumented immigrants a pathway to U.S. citizenship after two years of college or the military. Many of these youth have lived their whole lives here after their parents entered the country with them....

The Buckeye Socialist Alternative

— Micah O'Canain

THE DAN LA Botz Socialist for Senate campaign in Ohio represents an important success in the recent context of leftist third party initiatives. Running the first Socialist Party campaign for national office in Ohio since 1936, La Botz garnered 25,368 votes statewide, one of the more successful socialist electoral bids in decades. This experience provides some important lessons for how the left can engage the electoral arena in this period.

We talked to thousands of Ohio voters about socialist ideas, many for the first time. The campaign was also a catalyst for left unity in the state, bringing together activists from a number of social movements and organizations to work on a common project....

How Smart Are the "Smart" Meters?

— Barri Boone

WHAT DOES IT really mean when a corporation calls a new product “smart?” Gas and electric corporations are calling their newest technology “smart meters.”

These new wireless meters replace the old wired meters in measuring the amount of gas and electricity used for each household or business, and record the exact time of day it is used.

The purpose? “Providing information to give you control over how much energy you use and when you use it.”...

Living and Working Uncovered

— an interview with Sonya Huber

SONYA HUBER ( is the author of Cover Me: A Health Insurance Memoir (Class in America, University of Nebraska Press, 2010), The Backwards Research Guide for Writers: Using Your Life for Reflection, Connection, and Inspiration (Equinox Publications, forthcoming 2011), and previously Opa Nobody (American Lives Series, University of Nebraska Press, 2008). She teaches in the Department of Writing and Linguistics at Georgia Southern University. Dianne Feeley interviewed her about the background of her latest work on the health insurance crisis....

Detroit: Disappearing City?

— Dianne Feeley

FORTY PERCENT OF Detroit today is considered virtually “unoccupied.” The administration of Mayor Dave Bing is trying to figure out how to move the remaining residents of these areas out, in the name of “rightsizing” the city. Of course he hasn’t revealed any specifics — and the devil is in the details! Residents are wary: without the money to relocate people and the services needed, it’s just another round of displacing the urban poor.

Detroit is often compared to New Orleans after Katrina or Haiti, although Chris Hedges’ description of Camden, New Jersey as a “City of Ruins” also comes to mind, “the poster child of post-industrial decay....

Detroit Symphony Musicians on Strike

— Dianne Feeley

THE MUSICIANS OF the Detroit Symphony Orchestra have been on strike since October 4, 2010. Thirty-five concerts have been cancelled, while the musicians have organized nine magnificent performances with guest conductors in various churches and synagogues in the area. They charged $20 admission and got their friends to volunteer to be ushers and ticket sellers. At a concert of 1100 I attended in a Grosse Pointe Woods church, parishioners seated on either side of me were attending their first symphonic concert....

Police Violence, Resistance and The Crisis of Legitimacy

— Kristian Williams

ON SEPTEMBER 5, 2010, Los Angeles police shot and killed a Guatemalan day laborer named Manuel Jamines.

The next day, a crowd gathered on the corner where Jamines died. They assembled a small memorial, then piled debris and set fires in the street, and hurled rocks and bottles at the cops, reportedly injuring several.

Police responded with rubber bullets and tear gas; they arrested more than two dozen people. Rioting continued for three nights running....

A Strategy for Antiwar Organizing

— David Grosser

“[P]olitics begin where millions of men and women are; where there are not thousands but millions…” (V.I.  Lenin, “Political Report Of The Central Committee” Extraordinary Seventh Congress of the R.C.P.(B.) March 7, 1918

ACCORDING TO A recent CNN poll, “American support for the war in Afghanistan has never been lower” and “only 37% of all Americans favor the war,...

The Debate Around Liu Xiaobo

— Au Loong-Yu

WE DO NOT entirely share the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s statement on its decision to award the Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo, praising China for having “achieved economic advances to which history can hardly show any equal” but regretting that it is in breach of several international agreements on human rights and China’s own constitution concerning these rights.

The Committee lauds China’s economic achievement without noting that labor’s share of the national income has dropped, from an already very low level, by 15% over the last 20 years....

Political Repression in Russia

— Vladislav Bugera, Vladimir Sirotin and Peter Khrustalev

THE FULL IMPLICATIONS of the extraordinary drought that struck the European part of Russia this past summer became apparent only in the third quarter of 2010, when accurate statistics on the human casualties and economic losses became available. But from the outset a solid foundation on which to base projections emerged from amongst the potpourri of facts and expert opinions.

Many farms will be ruined — and not just because government aid will go primarily to large agricultural enterprises, but also because of the insurance market. Russian insurance companies are clever in their refusal to pay claims....

Feature Essays for ATC 150

Inside the Global Crisis

— Tony Smith

Socialists and the Capitalist Recession
(with “Basic Theories of Karl Marx”)
By Raphie De Santos, Michel Husson, Claudio Katz, Ernest Mandel et al
London: Resistance Books, 2009, 213 pages, $12 paper.

Global Capitalism in Crisis:
Karl Marx and the Decay of the Profit System
By Murray E.G. Smith
Halifax and Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing, 2010, 172 pages, $24.95 paper.

Confronting Global Neoliberalism:
Third World Resistance and Development Strategies
Edited by Richard Westra, Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2010, 276 pages, $21.95 paper.

“THE ROOTS OF the modern financial system lie in developments in the early 1980s when investors of capital could not find avenues where they could obtain reasonable returns after a decline....

Party and Class in Revolutionary Crises

— Charlie Post

The German Revolution, 1917-1923
By Pierre Broue
Chicago: Haymarket Press, 2006, xvii +991, $50 paper.

Lenin Rediscovered:
What is to Be Done? in Context
By Lars H. Lih
Chicago: Haymarket Press, 2008, xvii + 867 pages, $50 paper.

THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION of October 1917, the first successful revolution made by and for workers in world history, posed an immense paradox for revolutionary socialists....