Against the Current, No. 159, July/August 2012

Swing of the Pendulum?

— The Editors

THE DEFEAT OF the Wisconsin recall of anti-labor Governor Scott Walker, along with the Republican jubilation that followed, demands a close examination of the state of U.S. politics. In the post-Citizens United era, it’s certainly true that unlimited Super-PAC funds from the likes of the Koch Brothers and other dark corners of “the one percent” lubricate the political machinery of the right wing’s “ground game,” savage media wars, lying attack ads and voter suppression campaigns.

But simply wailing about the tilted playing field doesn’t really explain the right wing’s game, and why its message reaches an audience among large sectors of white “middle-class” voters, i.e. mainly working people....

Immigrant Youth Victory!

— The Editors

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S DIRECTIVE removing the threat of deportation from hundreds of thousands of young people is a tribute to the heroism of those who have come out as “Undocumented and Unafraid.”....

Rolling Back Reconstruction

— Malik Miah

THE “RECONSTRUCTION AMENDMENTS” — the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments to the United States Constitution — are targeted in many of the Tea Party and far-right Republican campaigns against the rights of immigrants and women, marriage equality and LGBT rights, and voting rights for African Americans and other minority ethnic groups.

The racist tinge of many of these attacks, whether openly stated or implied, is obvious — but this does not mean that racism is more prevalent now than in the past. Rather, the smear campaign against president Obama’s mixed background and darker skin is calculated to appeal to the most extreme backward elements of the Republican Party....

The Pensions Funding Gap

— Jack Rasmus

A PENSION CRISIS of major dimensions is growing in the United States across all three forms of defined benefit plans (DBPs) — public, private single-employer, and private multi-employer plans.

Corporate America and its political friends have begun to use the economic crisis that commenced in 2007 as an opportunity to initiate and expand yet another offensive, aimed at further undermining defined benefit pensions. Having already begun in 2009-10 with a new attack by governors on public employees’ pension plans, the corporate offensive over the subsequent 18 months has expanded to new coordinated attacks on private sector multi-employer and single-employer DBPs....

The Media's Dirty War on Occupy

— Jacob Greene

ON SEPTEMBER 17, 2011 nearly one thousand people marched through the streets of New York City and set up camp in Zuccotti Park as a way of protesting the inequitable distribution of income in the American “free market” economy. In media portrayals of a protest movement widely criticized for its broad message and vague demands, one picture of the Occupy movement remained consistent across various outlets: the protestors are filthy.

In researching news media coverage of the Occupy movement, I noticed that many reports were redolent with discussions of the protestors’ waste, including everything from their trash and camping debris to their actual urine and feces....

"Authoritarian Populism" and the Wisconsin Recall

— Connor Donegan

ON MAY 5th, roughly 1,334,450 people voted in favor of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his program of union busting, austerity, corporate tax cuts and property-tax freezes, while 1,162,785, voted to recall the governor mid-way through his term. Walker’s victory will be seized on by the Right as they drum up support for copycat union-busting bills, while Walker himself has reinforced his “mandate” to “make tough decisions.”

Last year has been heralded as a year of “dreaming dangerously,”1 as mass movements and rebellions reasserted themselves as complex, unpredictable and very real historic forces....

Marching for Life, Water, Dignity

— Marc Becker

THOUSANDS OF INDIGENOUS protesters carrying a giant rainbow flag arrived in Ecuador’s capital Quito on March 22 (World Water Day), culminating a two-week Plurinational March for Life, Water, and Dignity of the Peoples. The march was in opposition to government plans to commence with large-scale mining, as well as to defend Ecuador’s new progressive 2008 constitution against neoliberal attacks and to demand the passage of water and agrarian revolution laws. The protesters contended that mining will siphon off and contaminate water supplies, and that communities were not properly consulted about the environmental impacts of the projects.

The march began on March 8, International Women’s Day, in the canton of El Pangui in the southern province of Zamora Chinchipe, traveling about 700 kilometers to Quito....

Geopolitical Fetishism and the Case of Afghanistan

— Purnima Bose

AS THE UNITED States’ military intervention in Afghanistan inches into its eleventh year, a profound disjunction characterizes the American public experience of this conflict and the realities of war.

According to the United Nations, the casualty count for Afghan civilians from 2007-2012 numbers 12,783, and the death toll from 2001 to the present for U.S. armed forces totals 1,895.(1) Yet the war in Afghanistan rarely features prominently on the front page of the national dailies, with the exception of the more excessive instances of military atrocities such as the recent massacre of 16 Afghan civilians by Staff Sergeant Robert Bales....

Living Under Occupation

— Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi

“From Brazil to Vietnam, from the Dominican Republic to Algeria, from Mali to Indonesia, from Bolivia to Greece, US fleets, air force, and intelligence networks were undermining the achievements of the post-war period and arresting the tide of history. The 1960s were indeed America’s decade. The 1970s shall be the decade of its dismantlement and complete undoing”. —Leila Khaled, My People Shall Live! (1973:89-90)

IN HER AUTOBIOGRAPHY, Palestinian militant Leila Khaled calls the 1960s “America’s decade,” pointing to several spots around the world where the U.S. intervened against people’s struggles as evidence that the decade was not a cause for celebration....

Samiha Khalil (1923-1999), Resistance Organizer

SAMIHA KHALIL (UM Khalil), born and raised in Anabta, Palestine, became a refugee in the 1948 Nakba with her family (husband Salameh Khalil, who was until retirement the director of the UNRWA Teachers College for Men, and their four children) and 750,000 other Palestinians. In 1965, she attended the founding meeting of the Palestine National Council (PNC) in Jerusalem. Samiha became a leader and an organizer of the Palestinian anti-occupation movement after the 1967 Israeli occupation of the rest of Palestine.

In addition to founding and leading the Society of Ina’sh el-Usra (Revitalization of the Family), an association serving at least 18,000 families in the occupied areas and dubbed by the Israeli military governor of Ramallah-El Bireh as a “state within a state,” Um Khalil was....

Drug War Capitalism

— Dawn Paley

IN BOTH THE United States and Canada there have been sustained grassroots efforts to spotlight the unjust mass incarceration and criminalization of poor people, and especially poor people of color, for drug-related arrests. But there has been too little analysis about the reasons behind and mechanisms of this war, and its economic impact on Mexico and beyond.

Even before a withdrawal from Iraq or Afghanistan has been achieved, the United States has become involved in a series of intensifying conflicts taking place from Mexico’s north border through Peru. Governments and mainstream media label it a “war on drugs.” It is important to examine how the expanding “war on drugs” connects to the expansion of transnational corporate control over markets, labor and natural resources.

Cannonite Bohemians After World War II

— Alan Wald

This essay is dedicated to the memory of George Lavan Weissman (1916-85), exemplary Marxist intellectual. “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.’” — C.S. Lewis

THOMAS CARLYLE FAMOUSLY observed: “History is the essence of innumerable biographies.”(1) If so, how does one write a historical account of artistic rebels and sexual non-conformists in the U.S. Trotskyist movement during the repressive years of the early Cold War? An odd collusion of circumstances, including the hardening of anticommunist stereotypes and the self-censorship of radicals, caused a widespread memory loss that was acute on certain subjects....

Why Music Must Be Revolutionary -- and How It Can Be

— Fred Ho

MUSIC, AND ALL artistic and creative expression, is intrinsic to and an essential characteristic of human species-being. Music is a form of language, a type of communication, a spiritual force, an aesthetic or artistic expression, social ritual, entertainment and recreational activity, and is socio-politically catalytic.

Some believe that music must not be contextualized by society, that to do so diminishes the artistry to servicing ideological premises. This is the bourgeois “art for art’s sake” argument....


Letter on Trayvon Martin

— Christina Reseigh

THIS LETTER TO the editors is in response to Malik Miah’s article on the Trayvon Martin murder that appeared in the May-June issue of ATC. It is by Christina Reseigh, a Pre-Nursing major and Spanish minor at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.

AMERICANS CANNOT AFFORD to become complacent and think the battle has been won when a murderer is finally tried for the crime he committed. Of course, I am referring to the current court proceedings against George Zimmerman, the killer of Trayvon Martin.

If our society has fooled itself into believing that this injustice has been resolved — if we continue to ignore the sheer magnitude of injustice exposed by the Trayvon Martin tragedy —....

Soldiers of Solidarity

— Mike Parker

Autoworkers Under the Gun
By Gregg Shotwell
Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2011, 237 pages, $17, paperback.

FROM 1998 TO 2009, Gregg Shotwell put out a series of leaflets entitled “Live Bait and Ammo” for workmates in response to immediate threats. Gregg’s writings grew in popularity and spread to other plants as workers sought to answer the flood of company, media, and politicians’ propaganda that blamed autoworkers for the seeming implosion of the industry. In the vacuum left by the union, Gregg provided a union viewpoint....

Organizing Is About People

— Carl Finamore

With God on Our Side
The Struggle for Workers’ Rights in a Catholic Hospital
by Adam D. Reich
Cornell University Press, 2011, 151 pages + notes and index, $26 hardcover.

WITH GOD ON Our Side is a very catchy book title, which may appear at first glance to be quite topical in that religion so dominates — and distorts, many would add — political discussion in this country. But if curiosity may initially draw the reader’s eye, the subtitle “The Struggle for Workers’ Rights in a Catholic Hospital” gives it away: This is a book about organized labor and workers....

An Unfinished Revolution

— Derrick Morrison

An Unfinished Revolution
Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln
By Robin Blackburn
Verso Press, 272 pages, published in 2011 in paperback, $19.95.

“Marx did not support the North because he believed that its victory would directly lead to socialism. Rather, he saw in South and North two species of capitalism — one allowing slavery, the other not. The then existing regime of American society and economy embraced the enslavement of four million people whose enforced toil produced the republic’s most valuable export, cotton, as well as much tobacco, sugar, rice, and turpentine. Defeating the slave power was going to be difficult....

The Black Panthers in Portland

— Kristian Williams

by Sarah Mirk; illustrated by Khris Soden
published by The Dill Pickle Club, 40 pages, black and white, soft cover, $3.
For checkout:

PORTLAND’S BLACK PANTHERS, the fourth in the Dill Pickle Club’s 10-part Oregon History Comics series, briefly recounts the highpoints in the local organization’s revolutionary activism — the founding of the Portland chapter, police harassment and court cases, and the breakfast program and free clinics....