Against the Current, No. 187, March/April 2017

Against the Current, No. 187, March/April 2017

Trump's Road to Ruin

— The Editors

TO DONALD TRUMP’S credit, he instantly produced the most immense tsunami of popular revulsion to greet any incoming occupant of the White House. From the snarling menace of his “America First” inaugural address, to his cabinet of multi-millionaire and billionaire reactionaries, to the pending removal of millions of people from health insurance, to assaulting women’s reproductive rights and attempting to bar Muslim travelers, to attacking Black youth and every vulnerable population, the fear and loathing he’s generated have opened up a new period of organizing and resistance.

Hundreds of thousands of people have poured into the streets, diverse in their political viewpoints but unified by the need to defend basic human decency. With his team’s promise to wage a permanent campaign of White House councilor Kellyanne Conway’s brilliant “alternative facts,” Trump has even managed to provoke the corporate media to report when he tells blatant falsehoods....

Making Trump's America Ungovernable

— Malik Miah

“TRUMP’S AMERICA,” WROTE a leading African-American journalist, Charles Blow, “is not America: not today’s or tomorrow’s, but yesterday’s. Trump’s America is brutal, perverse, regressive, insular and afraid. There is no hope in it; there is no light in it. It is a vast expanse of darkness and desolation.” (The New York Times, January 30, 2017)

There is a lot of disgust toward Trump and his white nationalist strategist Steve Bannon, former executive chairman of Breitbart News, a leading promoter of conspiracy theories and white supremacists. The Princeton economist and NYT columnist Paul Krugman calls the Trump government the “Trump-Putin regime.” However, the attempt to label Trump a puppet of Putin (the Russian president) is an easy way out for liberals, who failed to speak to their own failures or to the decline of unions and working-class political influence....

The Ohio Vote in November

— Kim Moody

Kim Moody’s article “Who Put Trump in the White House?” appeared in our previous issue, ATC 186 (online at We are publishing here a segment on the vote in four Ohio counties. It bears out the analysis that working-class votes in 2016 declined more than they swung to Trump — which space didn’t permit us to include in that issue. The author’s conclusion there bears repeating: the Democratic Party’s neoliberalism “will not significantly or permanently increased voter turnout for working-class people, especially African-American and Latino voters…

“Nor will the centrist liberalism, much less neoliberalism, of Democratic incumbents and most likely candidates win back those white working-clas people or those in union households who have been voting Republican for decades, much less the recent angry Trump converts....

Sanders' Campaign & the Democratic Party

— Jules Greenstein

THE FOUR ARTICLES featured in the January/February issue (ATC 186) under the heading “The Election and Beyond” were informative, particularly Kim Moody’s piece “Who Put Trump In The White House?” Strangely, however, only Chris Maisano’s article “Hope In Dark Times” gives the Bernie Sanders campaign more than passing mention. This convinces me that the socialist left does not really understand that campaign’s significance and the lessons to be drawn from it.

Bernie Sanders, an Independent senator, has called himself a democratic socialist and as late as 1979 was denouncing the two capitalist parties as dead ends for workers. He produced a documentary about his hero, E.V. Debs, entitled “Eugene V. Debs, Trade Unionist, Socialist, Revolutionary: 1855-1926” (Smithsonian Folkways, 1979) in which he quoted Debs:...

Adorno's The Authoritarian Personality

— Christopher Vials

IN THE EARLY post-World War II years, antifascism’s most intricate, intersectional analysis of the political right came from a highly influential work within the academic social sciences: The Authoritarian Personality (1950, reissued 1982), by Theodor Adorno and University of California-Berkeley psychologists Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel Levinson and Nevitt Sanford. [For background on Adorno’s life and work, see the essay in “The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy,” — ed.]

The book is most remembered for its development of an “F Scale,” a quantifiable measure of an individual’s susceptibility to fascism, gleaned from survey questions and interviews....

A Partial Peace in Colombia

— Kevin Young

COLOMBIA’S PEACE ACCORD serves capitalist interests, but may also open new space for the grassroots left. In November 2016 the Colombian Congress approved a peace deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, potentially ending a 50-year armed conflict that has killed at least 220,000 people — 82% civilians — and displaced almost seven million.

The accord includes mechanisms for disarmament and reintegration of guerrilla fighters, lenient sentencing for those who confess to committing acts of violence, and an allotment of 10 congressional seats for FARC politicians for eight years. Separate peace talks with the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrilla force are now underway.

Most of Colombia’s independent progressive movements support the accord, but also stress its limitations....

Lessons from New Orleans

— Peter Brogan interviews Kristen Buras

KRISTEN BURAS IS the author of Charter Schools, Race, and Urban Space: Where the Market Meets Grassroots Resistance (2015). She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta and a fellow of the National Education Policy Center. Peter Brogan interviewed Buras and holds a doctorate in geography from York University in Toronto. For his dissertation he studied the ways in which school privatization and activism among teachers and parents to defend and transform public education figures into today’s Chicago and New York City school systems. He is presently employed as an organizer in Northern California with the National Union of Healthcare Workers.

WHILE PRESIDENT TRUMP has doubled down on the war against public education with Michigan billionaire and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, the project to dismantle and privatize public education has been driven by a diverse network of think tanks,...

Women in Struggle

Birth of a New Movement

— Nancy Holmstrom

I CAME BACK from the Women’s March in D.C. exhausted but thrilled, convinced that we are seeing the birth of a new women’s movement. Hearing about all the other Women’s Marches around the world only confirmed that impression. The size, the inclusiveness, the defiant but good-humored spirit and the progressive politics make me very optimistic. Although there will be challenges, as I will discuss, this is one ground for optimism in our current very discouraging political climate (the “upside of the downside” as Gloria Steinem put it).

Let’s start with the size. Having gone to demonstrations in D.C. since I was in high school more than 50 years ago, including the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom, numerous anti-Vietnam War demos, and the 2004 March for Women’s Lives, my estimate is that the numbers for this one were a lot more than the 500,000 estimate so far....

The Journeys of Julia de Burgos

— Natalia Santos-Orozco

Becoming Julia de Burgos
The Making of a Puerto Rican Icon
By Vanessa Pérez Rosario
University of Illinois Press 2014, 224 pages, $25 paperback.

¿Cómo habré de llamarme cuando sólo me quede
recordarme, en la roca de una isla desierta?
Un clavel interpuesto entre el viento y mi sombra,
hijo mío y de la muerte, me llamarán poeta.
—Julia de Burgos,
“Poema para mi muerte”(1)

FOR THOSE LIKE me who have grown up in the north coastal Puerto Rican town of Carolina, the figure of Julia Constancia Burgos García....

Florynce Kennedy & Black Feminism

— Angela Hubler

Florynce “Flo” Kennedy:
The Life of a Black Feminist Radical
By Sherie M. Randolph
The University of North Carolina Press, 2015, 328 pages, $30 hardcover.

FLORYNCE KENNEDY (1916-2000) is probably most commonly remembered for her distinctive appearance — sporting one of her many cowboy hats and more than one political button — and her profane, humorous, and witty manner of speaking. About reproductive justice, for example, Flo coined the memorable line, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.” (175)

Sherie M. Randolph’s stimulating and very readable Florynce “Flo” Kennedy: the Life of a Black Feminist Radical persuasively shows that Flo’s intellectual and political....

Marxist and Feminist Interventions

— Ann Ferguson

Marxism and Feminism
edited by Shahrzad Mojab
Zed Books, 2015, 400 pages, $30.95 paperback.

THIS NEW ANTHOLOGY edited by Shahrzad Mojab, an Iranian-born scholar and activist at the University of Toronto, is an important addition to the body of radical analysis that left feminists can use to educate ourselves about old and new theoretical, political and methodological debates on the left. It also is a signal that such debates are receiving new energy in the 21st century by new generations of left feminist intellectuals and activists dissatisfied with the academic compromises that institutionalized feminism has made, and the failure to incorporate feminist insights into Marxist-inspired theory and politics.

I was present at the first international Marxist Feminist Congress in Berlin in 2015, as well as the second one this past fall in Vienna....

Beyond Lean-In: For a Feminism of the 99% and a Militant International Strike on March 8

— Linda Martin Alcoff, Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, Angela Davis, Nancy Fraser, Rasmea Yousef Odeh, Barbara Ransby & Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

THE MASSIVE WOMEN’s marches of January 21st may mark the beginning of a new wave of militant feminist struggle. But what exactly will be its focus? In our view, it is not enough to oppose Trump and his aggressively misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and racist policies; we also need to target the ongoing neoliberal attack on social provision and labor rights.

While Trump’s blatant misogyny was the immediate trigger for the massive response on January 21st, the attack on women (and all working people) long predates his administration. Women’s conditions of life, especially those of women of color and of working, unemployed and migrant women, have steadily deteriorated over the last 30 years, thanks to financialization and corporate globalization. Lean-in feminism and other variants of corporate feminism have failed the overwhelming majority of us, who do not have access to individual self-promotion and advancement and whose conditions of life can be improved only....


Demythifying Native Americans

— Robert Caldwell

“All the Real Indians Died Off”
And 20 Other Myths about Native Americans
By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker
Boston: Beacon Press, 2016, 208 pages, $15 paper.

CHALENGING PERSISTENT MYTHS, “All the Real Indians Died Off” and 20 Other Myths about Native Americans offers a much-needed and excellent introduction to American Indian history and contemporary life for a broad audience. Veteran writer Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz teamed up with Indian Country Today journalist Dian Gilio-Whitaker to offer this informative yet fun to read work.

The myths that the book challenges, the authors demonstrate, “grow from the racialized social structures on which the United States is built” (6), explaining the myths’ persistence despite changes in law and policy over time....

Attica: The Revolt and Afterward

— Jack M. Bloom

Blood in the Water:
The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy
By Heather Ann Thompson
Pantheon Books, 724 pages, $35 hardcover.

BY NOMINATING BARRY Goldwater as its presidential candidate in 1964, the Republican Party signified the takeover of the party by its right wing, an effort that was bitterly opposed by the party’s “moderates.”

The leader of the “liberal Republicans” and the main alternative to Goldwater was John D. Rockefeller’s grandson, Nelson Rockefeller, then in his second of four terms as governor of New York.

While serving as an undersecretary in the Department of Health,...

Arab Spring: Against Shallow Optimism and Pessimism

— Atef Said

Morbid Symptoms:
Relapse in the Arab Uprising
By Gilbert Achcar
Stanford University Press, 2016, 240 pages, $21.95 paperback.

Workers and Thieves:
Labor Movements and Popular Uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt
By Joel Beinin
Stanford University Press, 2015, 176 pages, $12.99 paperback.

IN 2011, MILLIONS in the Middle East and around the world rejoiced over the Arab Spring uprisings. By 2013, however, most were disappointed at the apparent major defeat of these uprisings....

A Global Matrix of Control

— Michael J. Friedman

War Against the People:
Israel, the Palestinians and Global Pacification
By Jeff Halper
London: Pluto Press, 2015, distributed by University of Chicago Press, 280 pages plus notes & index, $25 paperback.

IN ITS LAST days the Obama administration offered a futile, last-minute gesture of rebuke to Israel’s undiminished drive to build more settlements in the Occupied Territories (particularly East Jerusalem). It abstained on a UN Security Council vote condemning Israel’s illegal, defiant and hostile commitment to continue this expansion.(1) This makes the question Jeff Halper poses in the introduction to War Against the People even more relevant: “How does Israel get away with it?” (2)

An anthropologist by training and a native of Hibbing, Minnesota (also the birthplace of Bob Dylan),...

The Politics of Some Bodies

— Peter Drucker

The Politics of Everybody:
Feminism, Queer Theory and Marxism at the Intersection
By Holly Lewis
Zed Books 2016, 340 pages, $29.95 paperback [Amazon price — Zed price only in GBP]

AT A TIME when Marxist politics is struggling more than ever against the current, queer Marxist scholarship is enjoying a slight, startling, heartening resurgence.(1) Holly Lewis’ The Politics of Everybody is a major contribution to the trend.

While uncompromisingly committed to the politics of class, Lewis insightfully interweaves Marxism and feminism. On one front after another, The Politics of Everybody’s arguments about queer struggles raise debates to a qualitatively higher plane....

In Memoriam

Erwin Baur (1915-2016)

— Charles Williams

ERWIN BAUR, RADICAL trade unionist and founding member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), died on November 30 in Alameda, California at the age of 101. Unlike many veteran unionists of the 1930s generation, Baur made a youthful contract with revolutionary socialism that he never broke.

In the 1940s, he was part of a crucial layer of dissident local leaders in the UAW who for a time sustained the combative traditions of the union in the face of hostile UAW officials and the larger political shifts of the period. He remained deeply involved in the labor movement and revolutionary socialist organizations for the rest of his life.

Born in Hilden, Germany, Baur came to the United States with his parents in 1927. His father, an active socialist, had been a machinist working at the German steel firm Thyssen before moving to Allenport, Pennsylvania on the promise of higher earnings at U.S. Steel....

Lillian Pollak

— Dianne Feeley

ACTIVIST, REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALIST and writer Lillian Pollak died in New York City at the age of 101. Her autobiographical novel, The Sweetest Dream, began with the Russian Revolution and ended with the death of Leon Trotsky in Mexico.

Self-published in 1998, when she was 93, the book chronicled the lives of two friends who grew up in New York City, flourished during the radicalization of the 1930s but chose different political trajectories. Her friend remained in the Communist Party, while Lillian, much more of a free thinker, joined the Trotskyist movement. (See Alan Wald’s review, “Reviewing Red: Love and Revolution,” ATC 140, May-June 2009,

Lillian grew up in an impoverished and difficult home in upper Manhattan, the youngest of three sisters....