Against the Current, No. 157, March / April 2012

Against the Current, No. 157, March / April 2012

Who Are the Control Rods?

— The Editors

AFTER LOSING A war, one of the worst things that can happen to a society is for its people to be told it was a “victory.” The inability or failure to learn the lessons of the United States’ defeat in Iraq enables the plunge into the next disastrous adventure: Can you say “Iran”?

Is a U.S. and/or Israeli direct military attack on Iran really as imminent as recent reports might indicate? We think probably not, but the direction of events is ominous. Iran and Israel are engaged (“allegedly”) in mutual rounds of assassination. Elements of the Israeli intelligence and military establishments are waging either an open faction fight, or a strategic escalation of tension, through articles planted in the American press over the feasibility and timing of the coming war....

Who Speaks for the 99%

— Malik Miah

THE BITTER TRUTH about U.S. politics is that neither ruling-class party speaks for the working class or poor. President Obama likes to talk about the “middle class” and how he stands up for them, but he rarely mentions that poverty disproportionately hits African Americans and Latinos. While he personally supports social programs for the working poor, his actual proposed budgets would reduce funding for these programs.

The Republicans are worse. They propose massive cuts in Medicaid spending that services the poor (the Ryan budget slashes $1 trillion) as they demand new tax cuts for corporations and the super rich .01%....

The New Monument on the Mall

— Kelly Quinn

THE MARTIN LUTHER King, Jr. Memorial is the first devoted to an African American individual on the Washington Mall, a solemn civic space heretofore reserved for presidents and warriors. This memorial is a park that by its very presence, reconfigures the spatial stories of leadership in the United States. The location is auspicious and charged as it is tucked between the Lincoln and the Jefferson Memorials, encircles the Northwest edge of the Tidal Basin, and stands in close proximity to the Washington Monument adjacent to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.

The idea for the King Memorial stemmed from a conversation among several senior members of Alpha Phi Alpha, King’s fraternity, who wished to encourage more African Americans to visit the National Mall....

Assessing the Battle of Longview

— Bill Balderston

THE SETTLEMENT OF contractual issues involving International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 21 in Longview, Washington also ended the immediate plans by Occupy Oakland Labor and other West Coast Occupy groups for a mobilization in defense of the Longview workers. But relevant questions are still posed about how this settlement occurred, and how the Occupy movement connects with more militant segments of the workers’ movement.

The analysis presented here is both a followup of this author’s previous article on the Port closures in Oakland (ATC 156, January-February 2012) and other coverage of the Longview struggle (see in particular Eduardo Soriano-Castillo’s report in Labor Notes, February 2012).

"Right to Work": Menace to Labor

— Milton Fisk

A YEAR-LONG BATTLE ended in January with Indiana becoming the 23rd “Right to Work (RTW)” state — and ominously for labor, now the wedge state for opening the rest of the industrial Midwest to RTW campaigns. In neighboring Michigan, the home state of the United Auto Workers, rightwing state legislators are pushing to follow the Indiana example in the name of “competitiveness,” even though Republican Governor Rick Snyder says it’s not high on his agenda.

“Right to Work” is one of those truly Orwellian terms: It has nothing to do with the right to a job, let alone full employment. It prohibits collective bargaining agreements with mandatory payment of union dues or representation fees, and its purpose is to strangle unions’ organizing power and finances....

SIU's Community of Resistance

— Rachel Stocking

ON THE EVENING of November 2, a coalition of the four Illinois Education Association/ National Education Association (IEA/NEA) locals at Southern Illinois University Carbondale (SIUC) held a solidarity rally to prepare for a joint strike set to begin the next morning.

The rally was electrifying, the turnout fantastic: Hundreds of union members — Faculty Association (FA), Non-Tenure Track faculty (NTT), Association of Civil Service Employees (ACsE), and Graduate Assistants United (GAU) — assembled in the courtyard, took our picket signs, and gathered into sixteen carefully organized picket teams.  After getting our assignments, we all went home ready for the 6 a.m. start time the next morning....

Four Conference on Matriarchy

— Linda Thompson

THE GROWTH OF a diverse and broad international wave of feminism has led to the development of what has been called Modern Matriarchal Studies, which includes research both on ancient societies and on existing communal cultures. These studies represent work from a new layer of worldwide scholars and researchers, including indigenous women from present-day forms of matriarchal society.

The First World Congress of Matriarchal Studies, sponsored by Luxembourg’s Minister of Family and Women’s Affairs, took place in September 2003. Titled “Societies in Balance. Gender Equality, Consensus, Culture in Matrilineal, Matrifocal, Matriarchal Societies,” the conference was organized by Heide Goettner-Abendroth of the International Akademie HAGIA, Germany, and took place in Luxembourg....

Syria: Arab Solution Needed

— Hisham H. Ahmed

THE ENGLISH MEANING of the Arabic word Assad is “lion.” In the jungle, the lion is viewed as the king, as he is expected to be a more brutal monster.

Indeed, of all the Arab regimes that have been toppled since the start of the Arab Spring last year, Syria’s Assad regime is the most dangerous. While it is impossible to quantify oppression and repression, the Assad regime has certainly surpassed its Tunisian, Egyptian, Libyan and Yemeni counterparts in its assault on the rights of its people and other Arabs over the years....

The U.S.-Pakistan Co-dependency

— Adaner Usmani

AS 2011 CLOSED, the mainstream press was awash with ominous, dark assessments of the state of the relationship between the United States and Pakistan. After a cross-border NATO air strike in November resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers, Pakistan responded forcefully, closing the Af-Pak border to NATO traffic, expelling the U.S. military from an air base inside Pakistan,(1) and boycotting the International Conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, which had been tasked with outlining the next steps for the occupation.

While Pakistan is likely to re-open NATO supply routes imminently, the incident has significantly altered the tactical parameters of the alliance -- after a drone sortie on November 26, for example, the United States called a halt to drone operations for almost two months, in an attempt to assuage domestic outcry inside Pakistan....

Chile: Return of the Penguins!

— RenĂ© Rojas

THE PINGÜINOS CAME back, and their march turned into an all out anti-neoliberal stampede.

The powerful movement of Chilean students (nicknamed “the penguins” after their dark-blue and white uniforms), which first rocked the presidency of Socialist Michelle Bachelet in 2006, returned with a vengeance last year. It grew in numbers, allies and intensity, and had the rightwing businessman president Sebastián Piñera on the ropes. And although the movement and government have entered a sort of stalemate, the struggle to democratize Chile’s educational system has, for the first time since the country’s return to democracy in 1990, challenged the very foundations of its neoliberal model....

Honoring International Women's Day

Without Women, No Food Security

— Esther Vivas

IN THE COUNTRIES of the Global South, women are the primary producers of food: the ones in charge of working the earth, maintaining seed stores, harvesting fruit, obtaining water and safeguarding the harvest. Worldwide, half of all food production is done by women, but in the Global South between 60-80% is performed by women. Women are the primary producers of basic grains such as rice, wheat, and corn, which feed the most impoverished populations in the South.

Yet despite their key role in agriculture and food, women; together with their children; are the ones most affected by hunger....


Chicano Art vs. Censorship

— Debra J. Blake

Our Lady of Controversy:
Alma López’s Irreverent Apparition
Edited by Alicia Gaspar de Alba and Alma López
Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011
322 pages plus DVD, $27.95 paperback.

ALTHOUGH PAST CONTROVERSIES about artworks that incorporated sacred icons with perceived profane elements — such as Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ (1987) and Chris Ofili’s The Holy Virgin Mary (1996), referred to as “Dung Virgin” — are often cited as early examples of artistic culture wars, Chicana feminist artists have experienced protests, verbal attacks and even death threats for their reimaginings of the Mexican Virgin of Guadalupe since the 1970s....

Arab and Arab American Feminist Narratives

— Triana Kazaleh Sirdenis

Arab and Arab American Feminisms:
Gender, Violence, and Belonging
Edited by Rabab Abdulhadi, Evelyn Alsultany and Nadine Naber
Syracuse University Press, 2010,408 pages, $45 hardback.

NEARLY TEN YEARS in the making, Arab and Arab American Feminisms gathers activists, artists and academics to give voice to the most rapidly changing and complex issues in the Arab world. It builds upon the work of Joe Kadi’s Food for Our Grandmothers and Evelyn Shakir’s Bint Arab, two pioneering Arab feminist anthologies.

Arab Detroit, Targeted Community

— Frank D. Rashid

Arab Detroit 9/11:
Life in the Terror Decade
Nabeel Abraham, Sally Howell, and Andrew Shryock, Editors.
Wayne State University Press, 2011, 413 pages, $24.95 paper.

SINCE SEPTEMBER 11, 2001, the Detroit area’s Arab-American community has attracted plenty of attention — albeit much of it misdirected. As one of the largest concentrations of Arabs and Arab descendants outside the Middle East, this community became a convenient source of media reports, an object of investigation by government agencies, and a target of hatred for Americans looking for someone to blame for the 9/11 attacks....

Ernie Goodman's Long Struggle

— Angela D. Dillard

The Color of Law:
Ernie Goodman, Detroit, and the Struggle for Labor and Civil Rights
by Steve Babson, Dave Riddle and David Elsila
Wayne State University Press, 2010, 558 pages, $24.95 cloth.

LAST YEAR, 2011, marked the 50th anniversary of the Attica uprising, those four tense days of seizures and demands, negotiations and state violence that stunned the nation in September 1971. The rebellion involved over a thousand inmates who took control of the New York State facility and held 33 guards hostage in protest over inhumane living conditions and racial discrimination in the overcrowded prison.

Anatomy of the Oil States

— Jase Short

Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States
By Adam Hanieh
Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, 266 pages, $85 hardcover.

IT’S TAKEN FOR granted that the upheavals in much of the Middle East — and great-power decisions about which conflicts are worthy of “humanitarian intervention” and/or “regime change” — have a lot to do with oil and who profits from it. But understanding the dynamics behind the headlines requires more detailed and careful analysis. Adam Hanieh’s Capitalism and Class in the Gulf Arab States is a welcome materialist contribution.

Atzmon's Mistaken "Identity"

— David Finkel

The Wandering Who?
A Study of Jewish Identity Politics
By Gilad Atzmon
Zero Books, 2011, 202 pages, $14.95 paperback.

GILAD ATZMON IS one hell of a jazz musician, justly counted among the best global practitioners of the art of bop and post-bop. In fact, the dual status of modern jazz as both a pinnacle of African-American artistry and a world music is illustrated by the fact that international musicians like Atzmon have mastered it — and he could probably write a fine book on that subject....

Poetry and Political Change

— Dale Jacobson

Seeking to Make the World Anew
by Sam Friedman
Hamilton Books, Lanham, Maryland, 125 pages, $25 paperback.

THERE IS A tradition for engaged political poetry in America. A number of memorable writers come to mind, Walt Whitman, Kenneth Fearing, Langston Hughes, Carl Sandburg, John Beecher, Don Gordon, Thomas McGrath, Muriel Rukeyser, Meridel LeSueur, Olga Cabral, Adrienne Rich, Floyce Alexander, and others. There are also poets who write the occasional political poem.

Those for whom politics is central to their work have one quality in common: their poetry rises out of recognition of institutionalized social oppression....