Against the Current, No. 165, July/August 2013

Against the Current, No. 165, July/August 2013

Obama: Human Rights Disaster

— The Editors

IN THE PAST five years, two million people have been deported from the United States, a staggering number in itself that barely begins to reflect the human toll in broken families and misery. This period covers the final year of the George W. Bush presidency as well as the first Obama term, but that’s precisely part of the bigger pattern we want to explore here: The presidency of Barack Obama has continued, consolidated and institutionalized the human rights catastrophe of its predecessor. It’s frankly impossible to look at the string of atrocities without becoming enraged, and rage is imperative, but it’s also critical to understand why they’re happening....

Austerity Is Not Colorblind

— Malik Miah

THERE ARE MANY myths about austerity. It will solve deficits and debts. It will lead to economic growth. It will bring business confidence. It is a way to cut spending by government, as a family does with a household budget that doesn’t balance.

None of this is true. The U.S. government can print more money when needed, as the Federal Reserve is doing, when necessary to lower interest rates to prop up hiring and investments by businesses. Much more importantly, however, the key to stimulate growth is government spending, to “make up for” reduced consumer demand (caused by lower working class wages, higher unemployment and household debts) that’s depressing the economy....

Defending Public Education in Philadelphia

— Ron Whitehorne

PHILADELPHIA HAS BECOME ground zero in the application of “shock and awe” tactics to public education. Faced with a manufactured fiscal crisis, an appointed board dominated by the state government has rapidly moved to close an unprecedented number of schools, slash instructional programs and support services, impose draconian cuts on school employees, gut collective bargaining, and institute privatization in the form of contracting out and unfettered charter school expansion.

In response, a broad-based movement of students, parents, unions, civil rights, immigrant, and religious groups and neighborhood community organizations has come together to defend public schools and put forward progressive alternatives....

Update: Chicago's School War

— Rob Bartlett

CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS took a hit on May 22nd as the appointed Board of Education of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) voted to close 50 schools, of the 54 originally targeted for shutdown — in the largest closing of public schools in U.S. history. This was done despite an outpouring of opposition, expressed by thousands of parents in more than 100 meetings mandated by state law to allow parental and community input into the process.

Additionally, two simultaneous three-day marches through the south and west sides of Chicago drew hundreds of marchers who passed through many of the neighborhoods to be affected by the closings....

BDS Campaign Sweeps UC Campuses

— Rahim Kurwa

The 2012-2013 academic year has seen seven University of California campuses launch campaigns to divest university funds from corporations enabling oppression of Palestinians. This essay outlines the roots of the campaign, its progress, and the pressures facing activists working to support Palestinian rights. For background on the broad BDS (boycott/divestment/sanctions) movement, see “A BDS Movement that Works” by Barbara Harvey in ATC 161,

WHILE THE FIRST divestment campaign at the University of California dates back to 2001 at UC Berkeley, the current wave of divestment activism has grown significantly in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead in the winter of 2008-2009....

Inside the Corporate University

— Purnima Bose

DESPITE A LONG and noble history of faculty involvement in social justice issues, there is surprisingly little evidence lately of organized faculty activism directed at specific causes.(1) This quiescence is often attributed to neoliberalism, the corporatization of the university, and the cultural hostility toward a professoriat perceived to be aligned with the left.

While many bemoan what they believe to be the recent corporate transformation of the university, the profit-driven research orientation and the direction of instruction to the requirements of the private sector, the struggle over the nature of university education — whether it should be geared toward the needs of business or humanity — actually dates back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries.(2)

Changing Ecology and Coffee Rust

— John Vandermeer

THE DEVASTATION OF coffee rust in the late 19th century seems to be repeating itself in the Americas, from Colombia to Mexico. “From Guatemala to Panama, governments are boosting aid to fight the fungus and keep workers from migrating to cities or north toward the United States. The disease wiped out as much as 25 percent of the region’s coffee crop this season.” (Seattle Times, May 18, 2013, ( It’s both an old and a new story.

It is commonly understood that the concentration of urban populations historically created a health care crisis....

Austerity American Style (Part 1)

— Jack Rasmus

This is the first of a two-part essay. Jack Rasmus is the author of Obama’s Economy: Recovery for the Few (2012), which provides a history of deficit cutting in the United States and predictions of its impact. His blog is For a video presentation on Social Security and Medicare given recently to the Progressive Democrats of America, see his website at His radio show “Alternative Visions” airs every Wednesday at 2pm on the Progressive Radio Network.

ON APRIL 10, 2013, president Obama released his formal budget, ushering in what this writer predicts will be the final stage of recent negotiations involving deficit cuts — Austerity American Style — a process that began with Obama’s creation of a Deficit Cutting Commission in the summer of 2009....

Arab Uprising & Women's Rights: Lessons from Iran

— Haideh Moghissi

FEW PEOPLE WOULD consider the changes in regimes in the Arab countries as the birth of a new order that will transform aspects of the societies that bred the revolts. Regime changes carried out through a revolution are just the first stage of a lengthy process whose ultimate outcome is defined — among other factors, and if intervention of foreign powers is not at issue — by the strategies adopted in the post-revolution period.

Most notably, the outcomes vary based on whether or not efforts are made to control or expand the revolutionary demands, and whether political participation by the citizenry is encouraged, motivated, or inhibited. The political elites who take up power in the aftermath of a revolution invariably want to consolidate their position and restrain and overcome opposition....

On Assata Shakur

IN ONE OF those all too frequent outrages where the facts of the case mean nothing, the FBI has placed political refugee Assata Shakur, now 65, who has lived in Cuba since receiving asylum there in 1984 following her prison escape, on its “fugitive terrorist” list. Among other things, this deprives “terrorism” of any specific meaning.

Shakur is a revolutionary militant who was convicted in 1977 — under the most dubious circumstances — in the killing of a New Jersey state trooper after a traffic stop in which she was herself shot with her hands up....

Fifty Years Ago

Remembering Medgar Evers

— John R. Salter, Jr. (Hunter Gray)

MEDGAR EVERS WAS assassinated June 12, 1963, by white supremacist Byron De la Beckwith, who was convicted of the crime three decades later, in 1994. John R. Salter, Jr., who lived through and has chronicled these events for several decades, wrote this 50th anniversary tribute for Against the Current.

AROUND 2 AM, September 1, 1961, my spouse Eldri and I crossed the Mississippi River into the Magnolia State’s Closed Society. We were both in our mid-20s. Married a few weeks before at Superior, Wisconsin, where I had done an academic year of college teaching, we had come directly from my home town of Flagstaff, Arizona.

We were headed to private and all-Black Tougaloo Southern Christian College, just north of Jackson, where a teaching position awaited me....

The Indiana "Subversion" Case 50 Years Later

— Alan Wald

This essay is dedicated to Ralph Levitt, who taught me how to think politically and historically. Some of the aspects of the events of 24 October 1962 and the subsequent defense case are in dispute, and I have tried to provide documentation for divergent claims.

AT 2:30 IN the afternoon of Wednesday, 24 October 1962, seventeen students, neatly groomed and mostly in their early 20s, walked briskly toward the steps of the main auditorium on the campus of Indiana University (IU).

In the conservative ambience of Bloomington, a small city in the southern part of the “Hoosier” state, the clean-shaven men with short hair and the women in modest, long skirts and dresses might have appeared to be rushing to a church social or PTA meeting.(1)...


Marxism and "Subaltern Studies"

— Adaner Usmani

SEVERAL YEARS AGO in a seminar on social theory packed with left-wing graduate students from around NYU, I had the misfortune of being assigned Dipesh Chakrabarty’s Provincializing Europe. The book, which impugns not only Marxism’s incorrigible European-ness, but also the very possibility of making arguments that traverse the East-West divide, struck me immediately as antithetical to the ‘universalizing’ project that is radical social science.

Yet, to my horror, it hit a chord with much of my cohort. One friend, who was later very active in Occupy NYU, met my criticisms of the argument by asking, in all seriousness, whether I could name even one thing that people across borders had in common. That they have to eat, I had answered....

Palestinians and the Queer Left

— Peter Drucker

Israel/Palestine and the Queer International
By Sarah Schulman
Durham: Duke University Press, 2012, 204 pages, $22.95 paperback.

LIFE IS HARD for the Palestinians. It isn’t a picnic for leftists in LGBT movements either. So a book that brings good news on both fronts is a definite reason for celebration.

Sarah Schulman, author of Israel/Palestine and the Queer International, has decades of organizing experience under her belt in New York in groups like ACT UP. But she is even better known as the author of 17 books, most of them novels. It shows. She may not be a theorist, but she clearly knows how to tell a good story: entertaining, suspenseful, heartwarming and honest — sometimes painfully honest about her own naiveté....

A Novel of Class Struggle & Romance

— Ravi Malhotra

The Gleaming Archway
By A.M. Stephen
Lexington, Kentucky: Iconoclassic Books, 2012 (originally published 1929)
274 pages, $11.99 paperback.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN 1929 and recently re-released by Iconoclassic Books, this novel provides a window into a lost world of class struggle and labor strife, with some passionate romance along the way. In so doing, it is a revealing portrait of a left that had a significant impact in the daily culture of the working class and yet viewed the world in strikingly different ways from contemporary anti-capitalist activists....

The Radicalness of the Accessory

— Kristin Swenson

Accessorizing the Body:
Habits of Being 1.
Edited by Cristina Giorcelli and Paula Rabinowitz
University of Minnesota, 2011, 272 pages,
$24.95 paperback.

Exchanging Clothes:
Habits of Being 2.
Edited by Cristina Giorcelli and Paula Rabinowitz
University of Minnesota, 2012, 288 pages, $25 paperback.

“Speaking crudely, football and sport are ‘important’; the worship of fashion, the buying of clothes ‘trivial.”
—Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

CRISTINA GIORCELLI AND Paula Rabino­witz’s first two volumes of the four-part series in progress, Habits of Being, reveal that clothes, accessories, and fashion are anything but trivial....

The Implacable Russell Maroon Shoatz

— Steve Bloom

Maroon the Implacable
The Collected Writings of Russell Maroon Shoatz
Edited by Quincy Saul and Fred Ho
Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2013, 294 pages, $20, paperback.

RUSSELL MAROON SHOATZ is not a household name. Even within the milieu of those who are engaged in work to free the many political prisoners in the United States there are some who have not heard about his case — though a new political campaign that was launched in early 2013 is actively changing that reality as these lines are written (April of the same year). Go to to find out more....

In Memoriam

Howard Wallace, 1936-2012

— Sue Englander

HOWARD WALLACE’S SISTERS and brothers in the queer, labor, elder and human rights movements have the sad duty to report his death on Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at beautiful Buena Vista Manor in San Francisco. A veteran of social movements since his high school years in Denver, Colorado, Howard was a radical, gay and trade union activist up until a year before his death from the destructive ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease.

The January 6, 2013 Celebration of Life at ILWU Local 34’s Hall was classic Howard, with lots of great music greeting attendees that could be heard for blocks and blocks away performed by the fabulous Brass Liberation Orchestra....