Against the Current, No. 161, November/December 2012

Against the Current, No. 161, November/December 2012

The Next Four Years

— The Editors

NASTY, BRUTISH AND long, the U.S. election will reach its conclusion on November 6, 2012, to the general relief of an exhausted population — unless the process is dragged into the courts over voter suppression and ballot machine fraud. This issue of Against the Current goes to press before Election Day, but will reach our readers afterward. What matters most in any case is the prospect for the next four years, whatever the election outcome.

No strong, sustained economic recovery — in the United States or Europe — is anywhere on the horizon. After all the political blather about “the middle class,” downward pressure on workers’ standards of living and assaults on unions will most certainly intensify....

Final Blow to Affirmative Action?

— Malik Miah

THE SUPREME COURT’S decision to take the case of Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin in its current term indicates that this Court may finally nail shut the concept of affirmative action. The case involves Abigail Fisher, who claims the only reason she was not admitted into her university of first choice was her white race.

The fact that race is only a very small consideration at the University of Texas system does not matter to her and her supporters. The university explained that many qualified students did not make the final cut for the limited number of slots that year. (Ms. Fisher attended and recently graduated from Louisiana State University.)...

Chicago Teachers Strike Back

— Rob Bartlett

AFTER TWO YEARS of preparations and skirmishes with  two mayors of Chicago and their appointed school boards, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) led a seven-day walkout over economic and social issues that culminated in a significant victory. In the ratification voting held on October 2, the new contract was approved with 79% in favor.

To understand why the strike is justifiably hailed as a victory, it is necessary to place it within the context of the attacks directed against public workers and teachers in particular. But the biggest victory in this strike was the growth of consciousness among CTU members....

A Marxist Ecological Vision

— Nicholas Davenport

[The following article is adapted from a presentation at the Solidarity summer school in August 2012. Nicholas Davenport is a member of the newly formed Ecosocialism Working Group of Solidarity. The editors of Against the Current view this contribution as part of an urgently needed discussion.

The questions facing environmental activists, and socialists in particular, range from the sheer scale of the environmental disasters already underway to the problems of beginning a transition from a system organized around massive consumption of fossil fuels, vast megacities and global agribusiness.

In the process of doing so, how will an ecosocialist movement and society address the crisis of global inequality and the need to “develop the productive forces” without pushing the planet and human civilization over the environmental cliff?...

Murfreesboro Islamic Center Opens

— Jase Short

ALTHOUGH THERE HAVE been no pop­ular mobilizations on the right or the left since the 2010 “mosque wars” (see “Murfreesboro vs. Islamophobia,”, the issue has certainly dominated public consciousness through multiple incidents of harassment by the Islamophobic right against the Muslim population, whether through legal action or through personal attacks on the careers and reputation of prominent individuals.

It is clear from the blogs and personal visits of notable Islamophobes like Robert Spencer and Geert Wilders that Murfreesboro became a target of opportunity for these insidious hatemongers....

A BDS Movement That Works

— Barbara Harvey

IN 2005, 173 Palestinian civil society organizations and 71 members of parliament, political parties, and unions in Jordan united to issue a powerful nongovernmental call for global nonviolent resistance to occupation through acts of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.(1) They had three goals: an end to occupation and return to the pre-1967 Green Line, equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and recognition of the Palestinian right of return.

The strongly united 2005 Palestinian civil society call for BDS electrified progressives around the world. European activists responded strongly, but in the United States, where the mainstream news media have tended to voluntarily censor undistorted news reports about Israel’s ever-widening theft of Palestinian lands,...

Letter to the Editors

— Chris Wegemer

The argument for sweatshops comes not only from “free market” ideologues but sometimes from voices of establishment liberalism. See a controversial column by Nicholas Kristof, “Where Sweatshops are a Dream” ( The following is a refutation of this kind of “choice.” — The Editors]

A LIFE OF unemployment, destitution, criminal activities? Or 14-hour days in an abusive and hazardous sweatshop? It is unfathomable that anyone would have seriously told you that these are your only two career choices. Why would we think that it is acceptable for others to be forced into this dilemma...?

International Struggles

South Africa After Marikana

— Suzi Weissman interviews Leonard Gentle

This interview was conducted by Suzi Weissman for her radio program “Beneath the Surface” on KPFK, in Los Angeles on September 29, 2012. It was transcribed by Martin J. Kessler and slightly abridged for publication here.

Suzi Weissman: Welcome to Beneath the Surface. I’m very pleased to have Leonard Gentle with us today. We see a situation of a generalized strike wave that is front page news in the financial press, the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the business pages of other newspapers; it’s quite extraordinary....

Political Developments in South Africa

— excerpt from Amandla!

An excerpt from the South African journal Amandla! Full text appears at — The ATC Editors

UNDERLINING (RECENT) POLITICAL developments is extreme inequality and a dysfunctional state.... The South African state, one of the most energy-intensive economies in the world, has embarked on an infrastructure investment program aimed at intensifying the extraction of mineral wealth....

When Will We See Tanks in Barcelona?

— Esther Vivas

“INDEPENDENT CATALONIA? OVER my dead body and those of many other soldiers.” With these words on August 31, retired infantry lieutenant-colonel Francisco Alaman Castro referred to the possibility of an independent Catalonia. And he added: “We will not make it easy. Although the lion seems to be sleeping, they have no interest in provoking it too much, because it has already given enough proof of its ferocity over the centuries. These plebs are not up to much, if we know how to confront them.”

In the current verbiage that some politicians have adopted, these statements are not the only ones that we might call “undemocratic,” “putschist” and “anti-system.”...

The Struggle in Balochistan

— Adaner Usmani

OVER THE ELEVEN years that have elapsed since 9/11, Pakistan has found itself in the headlights of the mainstream press for a few, consistent reasons. International audiences have been instructed to worry earnestly about the country’s fate, what with the Army’s “double-game” in Afghanistan, drone attacks in the tribal areas, the Taliban-led insurgencies in the northwest, and suicide bombings in its urban centers.

While it’s true that the American adventure in Af-Pak has had real effects on Pakistan, these mainstream narratives have never adequately captured the actual political dynamics of the country. There’s perhaps no better illustration of this than the fact that the country’s most significant armed conflict is not the one in the northwest,...

Against Fundamentalism and Imperialism

— Adaner Usmani

RECENT DEVELOPMENTS NOT related to the situation in Balochistan have been the subject of much discussion, both in Pakistan’s mainstream media and on the Left. In early October, a group of protesters marshaled by [populist politician and former cricket star] Imran Khan’s PTI party embarked on an anti-drone march to South Waziristan. A group of U.S.-based activists accompanied them. The protest convoy was turned back at the border by the Pakistani Army on October 7th, a day after it had left the capital Islamabad.

Two days later gunmen from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attempted to murder Malala Yousafzai, an outspoken 14-year-old who had risen to national prominence for her impassioned defense of girls’ education in the face of the Taliban’s takeover of her home district, Swat. At the time of writing (October 16) her fate remains uncertain....

Venezuelan Elections: Latest Step in the Long Road

— Jeffery R. Webber

[The following analysis by Jeffery Webber appears in full at the online publication “The Bullet,” It is abridged for publication here. — The ATC editors.]

OCTOBER 11, 2012 — That Hugo Chávez had to win last Sunday’s elections in order for the Bolivarian process to continue — in whatever form — was recognized by close to the entirety of the Venezuelan Left over the last several months, including those sectors especially critical of the limits to the political economic program of the government, and the lingering influence of an important conservative bureaucratic layer within the ruling party....

Toward Revolution and Collective Leadership

— an interview with Andrés Antillano

Andrés Antillano was interviewed August 7, 2012 by Susan Spronk and Jeffery R. Webber. Other reports and interviews are online at Susan Spronk teaches international development at the University of Ottawa. She is a research associate with the Municipal Services Project ( and has published various articles on working-class formation and water politics in Latin America. Jeffery R. Webber teaches politics and international relations at Queen Mary, University of London. He is the author of Red October: Left Indigenous Struggles in Modern Bolivia (Haymarket, 2012).

Against the Current: As an introduction, can you speak about your own personal history and political formation?...

Resistance in China Today

— Au Loong Yu and Bai Ruixue

CASES OF RESISTANCE in China continue to grow. Protests both large and small are extremely frequent. These range from workers’ protests against unpaid wages and demands for labor rights to protests against corrupt officials and environmental abuses. While these struggles have often been brought to a swift end through repression, they have also frequently led to protestors being granted concessions. The party-state adopts different means by which to limit social unrest and restore “social harmony.”

The fact that the overwhelming majority of protests are spontaneous, or limited to one locality or issue, and furthermore that the information and reports are frequently censored, means that it is very difficult to gain an in-depth picture of resistance. However, some recently emerging struggles stand out for having significant and new features....


Subversive Viewing/Viewing Subversives

— Paula Rabinowitz

Dark Borders:
Film Noir and American Citizenship
by Jonathan Auerbach
Duke University Press, 2011; x, 268 pages, illustrations, $23.95 paperback.

Cold War Femme:
Lesbianism, National Security, and Hollywood Cinema
by Robert J. Corber
Duke University Press, 2011; x, 225 pages, illustrations, $23.95 paperback.

THE EDGES OF bodies and nations — how to find them, secure them, shift them, and how shifty they can be — drive the quest for knowing behind the films these two books survey, and also compel the authors of the books themselves....

Their "Recovery" and Ours

— Zoltan Zigedy

Obama’s Economy
Recovery for the Few
By Jack Rasmus
Pluto Press, 2012, 188 pages + notes and index, $25 paperback.

JACK RASMUS’ NEW book Obama’s Economy is a marked departure from his earlier volume, Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Recession (Pluto Press, 2010). Where the earlier effort sought to provide a theoretical framework to understand the worldwide economic crisis that began over four years ago, the new book offers a detailed, critical history of president Barack Obama’s policy responses to that crisis....

The Russian Revolution Revisited

— Loren Goldner

The October Revolution in Prospect and Retrospect
Interventions in Russian and Soviet History
By John Eric Marot
Historical Materialism Book Series, Volume 37, Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2012,
273 pages, $136 hardcover.

THIS IS A very important book, one of the very few books published since 1991 on the “Russian question” that will compel people (this reviewer included) long wedded to different characterizations of the post-1917 or post-1929 Soviet regime to think through their commitments.

Those people most set for a rethink are those (not including this reviewer) committed to variants of “orthodox Trotskyism.” John Marot upends many views long held....

In Memoriam

Flint Sitdowner: Olen Ham (1917-2012)

— Dianne Feeley

IN 1936, JUST out of high school, Olen Ham got a job working in the Buick foundry in Flint. It was the dirtiest and hottest place to work. There was no ventilation, no safety standards, no breaks. The wage was 52 cents an hour for men and six cents less for women, although the work was often the same.

He started work just a few months before the 44-day sitdown strike forced General Motors to negotiate with the workers and recognize the UAW. During the strike his job was to walk the picket line and built support for the sitdowners inside....

Eric Hobsbawm: 1917-2012

— Radical Socialist

“I, who belong to a people of refugees whose experience has been such as to make me still vaguely uneasy if I don’t possess a valid passport and enough cash to transport me to the nearest suitable country at short notice, can understand the situation of the Kenyan Asians and feel horrified by British immigration officials in a more profound and visceral way than those from whom the question is primarily one of equal rights and civil liberty in general.” —Eric Hobsbawm, 1969

ERIC JOHN ERNEST Hobsbawm, one of the most read Marxist historians of the 20th century, passed away at the age of 95. While in no sense an adequate survey of his works and ideas, Radical Socialist presents a short view of his life and politics....