Against the Current, No. 164, May/June 2013

Against the Current, No. 164, May/June 2013

Keystone and Humanity's Fate

— The Editors

WITH DECISION DAY looming for the Keystone XL pipeline, what’s really at stake for climate change, for human civilization, and for the environmental movement that’s fighting to save the future? That tar sands development may determine “game over for the climate,” in the phrase of NASA scientist and climate researcher James Hansen, is illustrated by data provided by environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben.

The “carbon budget” for future emissions to prevent global warming from exceeding two degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — which many scientists think is too high for safely avoiding catastrophic climatic impacts — is calculated at 565 gigatons. But five times that amount — 2795 gigatons — is already figured into the calculus of the fossil fuel industry....

Immigration and Racial Bias

— Malik Miah

THE IMMIGRATION DEBATE, once again at the center of U.S. politics, was accelerated by the success of president Obama winning more than 70% of the Latino and Asian vote in the 2012 elections. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s call for all 11 million undocumented immigrants to “self deport” was a significant reason for his defeat. Latinos are the largest ethnic minority in the country — and growing rapidly — and more and more of them vote.

Bipartisan groups have formed in the Senate (the “Gang of Eight”) and House of Representatives to hammer out a compromise bill to send to President Obama by the summer. The compromise under discussion centers on “border security” with Mexico, and if that is accomplished a long pathway to permanent residency or citizenship would then begin....

Detroit: Restructured or Ravaged?

— Dianne Feeley

APPOINTED BY MICHIGAN Governor Rick Snyder (R), Kevyn Orr became Emergency Manager (EM) over the city of Detroit this March 28. The media repeat that he has 18 months to “turn the city around,” but it’s unclear whether anyone believes that’s possible. Orr himself has described his mission as “the Olympics of restructuring” (see

Over a year ago, State Treasurer Andy Dillon (D), Mayor Dave Bing and City Clerk Janice Winfrey had signed a Financial Stability Agreement that established a Financial Advisory Board. It hired a Chief Financial Officer to supervise all of the city’s financial activities and a Program Management Director to initiate “reforms.”...

Independent Politics and Self-Determination

— an interview with Chokwe Lumumba

WE PRESENT THIS discussion with Chokwe Lumumba to inform readers about a project combining community organizing and electoral efforts in a changing South, “under the independent banner of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party” as explained in the section on 2013 electoral campaigns in The Jackson-Kush Plan: The Struggle for Black Self-Determination and Economic Prosperity.

“The objective of running these candidates and winning these offices is to create political space and advance policy that will provide maneuverable space for the autonomous initiatives promoted as part of the J-K plan to develop and grow. They are also intended to be used to build more Ward-based People’s Assemblies and Task Forces in Jackson, base build for the overall plan, and raise political consciousness about the need for self-determination and economic democracy…...

Greece Nearing the Breaking Point

— Dan Georgakas

THE GREEK FINANCIAL crisis stems largely from actions by the same economic forces that sent the United States economy to the brink of fiscal collapse in 2008. These forces interacted with corrupt Greek governmental practices, some of which date back to the Ottoman Empire.

Another factor in the crisis involves the wealthy nations of the northern tier of the Eurozone making de facto economic colonies of the southern tier. Mass media, however, have generally highlighted the specific Greek aspects of the crisis, downplayed the Eurozone aspects, and virtually ignored the intrigues of international capital....

The Sussex University Occupation

— an interview with Maïa Pal

AGAINST THE CURRENT interviewed Maïa Pal during and immediately following the campus occupation against outsourcing at Sussex, England, which was broken up by the police on April 2. Dr. Pal is an Associate Tutor in International Relations at the University of Sussex, member of the Political Marxism Research Group ( and supporter of the Anticapitalist Initiative ( She has recently joined twitter at Maia_pal. We begin here with her April 12 account of the police crackdown and next steps in the struggle.

Maïa Pal: The 55-days-long occupation was evicted on 2 April, following an injunction and possession order issued by the High Court. This legal process was exciting for campaigners, because, to the management's surprise...

El Salvador: Labor vs. P3

— an interview with Jaime Rivera

A NEW “CONCESSIONS” law is before Salva­doran legislators, threatening Salva­doran workers, and further submitting the national economy to foreign capital. President Mauricio Funes’ office proposed the Public-Private Partnership (P3) law in early 2012; it is slated for a legislative vote in April or May. The proposed P3 law creates the framework to contract out the operation of state industries, services and infrastructure to corporations for up to 40 years, but does not allow for outright privatization of state-owned industries.

President Funes came to power in 2009 through a strategic alliance with the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN, the political party emerging from the revolutionary insurgency of the 1980s), although he was not a party member....

The Flint Sitdown Comic

— Ethan Heitner

IS ORGANIZED LABOR going extinct? Is the power of working class people a relic from a bygone era?

As Michigan becomes a “Right to Work for less” state, it’s useful to remind ourselves how industrial unions were built in the first place.  Before workers had the “legal right” to organize and to strike, they took that right by doing it — and no example was more important than the magnificent 44-day Flint sitdown strike of 1936-’37.

This turning point in U.S. labor history has been retold in books and film, but it comes alive again in the important but underutilized medium of the comic. Artist Ethan Heitner has produced the rendering of the Flint events that appears in ATC 163 and 164; and we are presenting it here as a PDF....


Labor's Bitter Defeat in Detroit

— Barbara Ingalls

The Broken Table: The Detroit Newspaper Strike and the State of American Labor
By Chris Rhomberg
Russell Sage Foundation, 2012, 387 pages,
$47.50 paperback.

A GREEN THUNDERSTORM lit the Detroit sky on the evening of July 1, 1995. The air literally turns green from ozone, which hangs in the air until the thunder, lightning and rain begin. On the fourth floor of the Detroit News building on Lafayette Street in downtown Detroit, the green light added to our anxiety and excitement.

The clock was ticking, the management team of Gannett and Knight Ridder, publishers of the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press, were meeting with the Council of Newspaper Unions and....

The NGO-Industrial Complex

— Dawn Paley

Paved with Good Intentions:
Canada’s development NGOs from idealism to imperialism
By Nikolas Barry-Shaw and Dru Oja Jay
Fernwood Publishing, Black Point, NS, 2012
302 pages, $24.95 (Canadian) paperback.

IN ONE SENSE, I came of age with regard to the problems with Canadian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) around the same time that Nikolas Barry-Shaw and Dru Oja Jay’s new book Paved with Good Intentions was conceived. In late 2003 I had stayed for four months in Johannesburg, South Africa on a journalism internship where I hung around with dedicated grassroots activists who, after years of struggle against apartheid, were organizing against the policies of the African National Congress.

The H-Block Struggle

— Brad Duncan

Smashing H Block:
The Rise and Fall of the Popular Campaign Against Criminalization, 1976-1982
By F. Stuart Ross
Liverpool University Press, 2012, 224 pages, $34.95.

OVER THE PAST decade there has been a flowering of critical, unorthodox and revisionist historical writings that examine the armed conflict that raged between 1969 and 1997 over Britain’s occupation of the north of Ireland — a period commonly referred to as “The Troubles.” For decades historians and journalists, even those with diametrically opposed political sympathies, mostly relied on a handful of established political tropes to tell the story of the war. But the plot has thickened in recent years as a new wave of historical works....

Rebellion in India's Heartland

— Sara Abraham

Days and Nights in the Heartland of Rebellion
By Gautam Navlakha
Penguin India, 2012, 272 pages, $22.75 paperback.

THIS BOOK INTRODUCES the reader to the deeply engrossing tale of the ongoing struggle of people in the Bastar region (aka “the red corridor” by Indian media and state intelligence). This region, comprising 10-13 districts that cross five state lines in central India, is home to multiple adivasi (indigenous tribal) peoples such as Gond, Madia, Godavari, Kondh, Dolra, Muia and Oriya. It is an area of thick forests, hills and rivers, rich in iron ore, bauxite, dolomite, granite, marble and other natural resources....

Realities of Zionism

— David Finkel

Israelis and Palestinians:
Conflict and Resolution
By Moshe Machover
Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2012, 302 pages + notes and index, $24 paperback.

False Prophets of Peace
Liberal Zionism and the Struggle for Palestine
By Tikva Honig-Parnass
Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2011, 212 pages + notes and index, $20 paperback.

THE POWER OF Marxist analysis lies not so much in sweeping generalizations, but in the application of basic principles to an understanding of concrete social formations and the struggles to transform them....

Arabs and Muslims After 9/11

— Thomas Abowd

Arabs and Muslims in the Media
Race and Representation After 9/11
By Evelyn Alsultany
New York: New York University Press, 2012,
239 pages, $23 paperback.

Arab America
Gender, Cultural Politidcs, and Activism
By Nadine Naber
New York: New York University Press, 320 pages, $24 paperback.

THE LITERATURE ON Arabs and Muslims in the contemporary Americas is not simply a growing body of diverse work, but one expanding in its theoretical sophistication and originality....

Tear Down These Walls!

— Jimmy Johnson

Border Walls:
Security and the War on Terror in the United States, India, and Israel
By Reece Jones
London: Zed Books, 2012, 224 pages, $29.95 paper.

BRAZIL, INDIA, ISRAEL, Saudi Arabia, the United States and several other nation-states are constructing or have constructed barriers near their claimed borders. Their concurrence cannot be dismissed as coincidence, although there is no coordinated international effort of nation-state border fortification (the European Union’s Frontex agency partially to the contrary).

University of Hawai’i at Manoa geographer Reece Jones offers an intervention with his new Border Walls: Security and the War on Terror in the United States, India, and Israel....


— Charlie Post

An Introduction to the Three Volumes of Karl Marx’s Capital
By Michael Heinrich
(translated by Alexander Locascio)
New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012, 240 pages, $15.95 paper.

THE GLOBAL REDISCOVERY of Marx’s economic writings in the past five years should come as no surprise. The financial meltdown that heralded the beginning of a new global slump in capital accumulation struck a fatal blow to the neoliberal fantasy of continuous economic growth without bothersome business cycles or long-term recessions. After several decades of condescending dismissal by academics, media commentators and politicians on both the left and right, we have seen a “return of Marx” since 2007....

In Memoriam

Jerry Tucker, 1938-2012

— Peter Downs

THE LABOR MOVEMENT lost an insightful unionist, tactician and strategist when Jerry Tucker died last October 19, 2012 of pancreatic cancer, at age 73. A passionate advocate of workers’ rights, his career in the labor officialdom was hindered by his investing greater loyalty in the workers he represented than in the organizations for which he worked.

Jerry was a third-generation unionist who saw himself as part of the social unionist tradition forged by long-time UAW president Walter Reuther and Reuther’s brothers. His standout quality was to understand the power of rank-and-file members to advance social unionist goals if they had the guidance and support to do so....