Against the Current, No. 203, November/December 2019

Against the Current, No. 203, November/December 2019

Impeachment and Imperialism

— The Editors

DONALD TRUMP IS the first modern politician who’s used the U.S. presidency — as everyone knows, since the liberal media, punditry and presidential historians repeat it on a daily basis — to brazenly solicit a foreign regime’s intervention for his personal benefit in electoral politics. It’s a damning indictment of the “big twit” in the White House. It also happens to be false. The notorious precedents aren’t even secret anymore: Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, in their election campaigns, pulled the same tricks that Trump did with Russia in 2016.

During the 1968 campaign, Nixon reached out to the government of South Vietnam to ensure that outgoing president Lyndon Johnson’s attempts at a last-ditch peace agreement would fail. Known as “the Chennault affair,” after the rightwing operative Anna Chennault who carried it out, the full story is told by John A. Farrell (“When a Candidate Conspired with a Foreign Power to Win an Election,”, August 6, 2017). Indeed Nixon won, and the war would last another seven years, inflicting even more death and devastation on Vietnam than between 1962 (when John F. Kennedy began the secret bombing of South Vietnam) and the upheaval of 1968....

Detroit Foreclosed

— Dianne Feeley

MARY JONES-SANDERS BOUGHT her home on Detroit’s east side back in 1975. That’s where the African-American woman raised her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

More than 35 years later, in her late seventies and living on a fixed income, she had trouble paying her property taxes, but managed to do so before the deadline. However, her home was foreclosed and sold in the county auction that fall because she failed to pay a $600 fee she didn’t realize she had.

A California investor snatched it up for $2300. It was only when her granddaughter saw a notice that she found out she no longer owned her home. Not knowing what to do, the two came to a Detroit Eviction Defense meeting. We organized a delegation to go to the local management company and demand that the investor sell the home back for what he’d paid. Initially he refused, demanding six times his investment....

An Overview of Detroit's Affordable Housing

— Dianne Feeley

BETWEEN 1837, WHEN the first Michigan constitution abolished slavery, and 1910, with the Great Migration of southern Blacks — and southern whites — to the North, Detroit had no formal housing segregation. However, racial and class distinctions meant that the majority of Blacks lived in the older, more rundown lower east side.

In Michigan, Black men only won the vote with passage of the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And although public schools were open to Black children, the fact that Blacks were clustered into poorer neighborhoods — although ethnically diverse — meant their schools had few resources and likely to be segregated.

It was only in the 20th century that housing segregation became enforced by custom, law and government programs. These ranged from restrictive contracts, which forbade selling property to anyone who was not white, to redlining for the purpose of receiving federal-backed mortgages to segregated public housing....

Thoughts on Bolivia

— Bret Gustafson

“The battle, the struggle, is permanent. And I want you to know, sisters and brothers, that as long as imperialism exists, as long as capitalism exists, the struggle will continue, not just in Bolivia, not just in Latin America, but across the planet, wherever there are human beings. [….B]ecause, sisters and brothers, uprisings don’t just happen in Bolivia nor in Latin America, but around the world, we can talk about the French Revolution, we can revisit the grand uprisings of many countries, of Africa. That is to say, where there is inequality, where there is injustice, the people rebel, the peoples rise up…”(1)

SO SPOKE BOLIVIAN President Evo Morales on the 7th of November, 2017. It happened to be the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, so his message was fitting. Yet it was also a moment of state ritual during which money generated from natural gas development was transformed into material objects — in this case checks — delivered to the people....

Viewpoint: Defeating Trump

— Dave Jette

DIANNE FEELEY’S VIEWPOINT in ATC 202 (September-October 2019) “What Sanders’ Campaign Opens,” very well describes the possibilities that Bernie Sanders’ pursuit of the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nomination opens up for socialists. I agree with this presentation, but I think that it incorrectly omits the critical need to defeat Donald Trump next year even if we have to actively support a more mainstream Democrat for this purpose.

There are two basic reasons for what may be for some a shocking proposition: first, Trump is systematically, and with considerable success, bringing about fascism in our country; and second, he is destroying whatever defenses we presently have to help avoid the climate change which will be catastrophic for the whole world.

This suggested course of action would certainly have been shocking to me until very recently, for until then I had been adamant in rejecting any collusion with the Democratic Party, realizing that it like the Republican Party is a creature of the 1% and that its role for countless decades has been to emasculate and absorb any serious challenge to their rule....

Which Green New Deal?

— Howie Hawkins

AS A CANDIDATE for the Green Party 2020 nomination for president, I released a Budget for an Ecosocialist Green New Deal(1) during the Global Climate Strike, September 20-27, 2019. Our bottom line is that a ten-year, $27.5 trillion public investment in a Green Economy Reconstruction Program is needed to zero out greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 across all sectors of the economy: electric power, manufacturing, agriculture, transportation and buildings.

The program would create 30.5 million jobs, including 8.7 million jobs in manufacturing. Unlike any of the other Green New Deal proposals, we show our homework — how we got these numbers.

Our ecosocialist Green New Deal also includes an Economic Bill of Rights, which is an ongoing program of public provision to ensure jobs, income, housing, health care, education and retirement. The Economic Bill of Rights will cost $1.4 trillion per year and create another 7.6 million jobs....

Howie Hawkins' Statement on Presidential Run

— Howie Hawkins

I AM RUNNING for the Green Party nomination for president because I was urged to do so by many Greens around the country. I am running as part of a collective leadership this “Draft Howie” committee put together that is diverse by race, gender, sexual orientation, age and geography.

We have conceived of a campaign with two basic goals: to advance an ecosocialist program and to build the Green Party.

We are emphasizing three life and death issues an ecosocialist program must address:

The Climate Crisis: We are calling for an ecosocialist Green New Deal that calls for public ownership and democratic planning of key sectors of the economy — energy, railroads, manufacturing — in order to coordinate the transformation of all productive sectors — electric power, manufacturing, agriculture, buildings, and transportation — to zero greenhouse gas emissions and 100% clean energy by 2030....

Radical Labor History

Introduction: William Z. Foster and Syndicalism

— The ATC Editors

WHILE FOR MANY years the U.S. labor left was weak and isolated, the rise of a new labor insurgency and of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has opened the space for renewed activism and discussion around socialist participation in the labor movement. In this context, the concept of a “rank-and-file strategy” is gaining wider currency.

The rank-and-file strategy starts from the centrality of unions as a locus of class struggle, and as schools of workers’ democracy. But it also recognizes the obstacle of bureaucratic business unionism that has long afflicted the labor movement. Responding to those contradictions, the strategy aims to build a layer of rank-and-file militant leaders, capable of confronting the power of capital and the union bureaucracy....

William Z. Foster and Syndicalism

— Avery Wear

IN THE 1930s, U.S. union membership leapt forward, general strikes and sit-downs won strings of victories, welfare and labor laws were passed, and the mass-production heart of the economy got organized. Anti-capitalists in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and Communist Party proved the value of marginalized methods: direct action, mass democracy, and struggle against race and sex discrimination.

But “Labor’s Giant Step” was not just a break from the past. The 50-year-old American Federation of Labor (AFL), not just the new insurgent Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), provided organizational scaffolding for the advance. And the CIO itself, despite its rebellious ranks, stayed under John L. Lewis’ established leadership. This conflictual mix of radical and conservative reflected both the prior accumulation of forces on each side, and decades of emerging strategy on the Left....


Voices from the "Other '60s"

— David Grosser

You Say You Want a Revolution: SDS, PL, and Adventures in Building a Worker-Student Alliance
John Levin and Earl Silbar, editors
San Francisco, 1741 Press, 404 pages, 2019, $18.95 paperback.

JACOBIN RECENTLY REVIEWED a couple of books about FBI infiltration and disruption of the left.(1) One reviewer wrote that the book Heavy Radicals contains a bombshell that upends our understanding of the disintegration of SDS. There were a number of FBI infiltrators at the fateful last SDS convention where the faction that went on to become the Weather Underground outvoted the Progressive Labor Party (PLP). Heavy Radicals shows that the FBI gave its infiltrators explicit instructions on how to vote — against the PLP.

The FBI’s reasoning was that they could handle the isolated adventurism of the group that would soon become the Weather Underground, but they feared the PLP could turn SDS into a disciplined, mass organization....

New Deal Writing and Its Pains

— Nathaniel Mills

Labor Pains:
New Deal Fictions of Race, Work, and Sex in the South
By Christin Marie Taylor
Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2019, 232 pages, $30 paperback.

DURING THE 1930s, Communist Richard Wright and Harlem Renais­sance veteran Zora Neale Hurston exchanged brief reviews of each other’s fiction that have long framed both writers’ reputations. In 1937, Wright suggested that the “facile sensuality” of Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, a story of a southern Black woman’s psychological and sexual growth, had no social or political relevance and thus, like minstrel shows, merely gratified whites.

The following year, Hurston excoriated Wright’s Uncle Tom’s Children for flattening Black life into Communist propaganda. Wright, she charged, depicted the southern Black folk as “elemental and brutish” individuals, and Black experience as merely violence and victimization. Racialized gender politics of representation inform both reviews: if Wright suggested that a novel about Black female interiority would merely titillate white audiences, Hurston found in Wright “lavish killing . . . enough to satisfy all male black readers.”(1)...

Latinx Struggles and Today's Left

— Allen Ruff

The Latino Question:
Politics, Laboring Classes and the Next Left
By Armando Ibarra, Alfredo Carlos, and Rodolfo D. Torres. Foreword by Christine Neumann-Ortiz. London: Pluto Press/Univ. of Chicago, distr., 2018, 256 pages, $27 paperback.

ASSAYING THE POLITICAL and social terrain facing Latinx workers and communities in the United States, this significant work by activist scholars Armando Ibarra, Alfredo Carlos and Rodolfo Torres comes as a critical engagement and important set of interventions.

The authors take on a range of strategic and tactical concerns for a way forward in these increasingly reactionary times, striving to reintroduce the centrality of class back into the course and direction of Latino politics....

Tear Down the Manosphere

— Giselle Gerolami

The New Activism
By Gail Ukockis
Oxford University Press, 2019, 336 pages, $24.95 hardcover.

GAIL UKOCKIS IS a writer, social worker and instructor who taught Women’s Issues at Ohio Dominican University for 11 years. In the title of her book Misogyny: The New Activism, she consciously avoided the word “feminism.” While Ukockis considers herself a feminist, she invites those who are not feminists but reject misogyny to read her book.

Ukockis argues that we are seeing new forms of misogyny, or “hatred of women,” with the rise of social media, be it rape threats by trolls on the internet or revenge porn by men who feel rejected. These new forms of misogyny and the less extreme sexism add to those that have always confronted women in public, whether at work, in the street, or elsewhere: objectification, dehumanization and humiliation....

Turkey's Authoritarian Roots

— Daniel Johnson

Why Turkey is Authoritarian:
From Atatürk to Erdoğan
By Halil Karaveli
Pluto Press: Left Book Club, 2018, 256 pages, $21 paper.

TURKEY’S RULING JUSTICE and Develop­ment Party (AKP) was delivered a number of blows in municipal elections in March 2019. The party of President Tayyip Recep Erdo?gan lost the country’s three largest cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir, as well as the important urban centers of Adana, Antalya and Mersin.

The Istanbul race was especially close, with People’s Republican Party (CHP) candidate Ekrem Imamo?glu defeating the AKP’s Binaldi Y?ld?r?m by some 13,700 votes in a city of more than 15 million. The AKP unsurprisingly contested the election and, equally unsurprisingly, Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council agreed to the regime’s demands for a rerun....

Remembering a Fighter

— Joe Stapleton

John Maclean:
Hero of Red Clydeside
By Henry Bell
Pluto Press, 2018, 256 pages, $21 paperback.

THE CITY OF Glasgow at the turn of the 20th century was among the places in the industrial West where capitalism’s contradictions were in plain view. It was a cosmopolitan port city, where “Italian, Irish, Gaelic, Yiddish, Lithuanian, Chinese, and Russian could be heard;” it was also made up of vast worker slums, where half of the population “lived in one- or two-bedroom...

History & the Standing Rock Saga

— Brian Ward

Our History is the Future:
Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance
By Nick Estes
Verso, 2019, 320 pages. $26.95 paperback.

NICK ESTES IS a revolutionary and co­founder of the Native liberation organization The Red Nation, and is a citizen of the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe. Estes begins Our History is the Future with a sketch of what the Standing Rock fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) looked like at the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball Rivers in North Dakota.

The Standing Rock Indian Reservation is home to the Hunkpapa Lakota, who are part of the Oceti Sakowin, the seven nations of the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota (dubbed by the United States as “The Great Sioux Nation”). The largest single act of Indigenous resistance in the United States since the 1970s occurred at Standing Rock from April 2016 to February 2017....

In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Hisham H. Ahmed

— Suzi Weissman

HISHAM AHMED, A longtime Palestinian political resister, distinguished scholar and contributor to Against the Current on the Middle East, died July 7, 2019 at age 56, after a long and difficult struggle with colon cancer. He is survived by his wife Amneh, and school-aged children Noor and Ahmed, his many colleagues, friends and family in California and in Palestine.

His death leaves a deep hole in the lives he touched. He was beloved and respected by his students and fellow professors and the community at large. We have lost a brother, father, friend, teacher, colleague and comrade. Hisham was generous, sweet, funny and positive in outlook, even in the worst of circumstances whether personal or political....

In Memoriam: William "Buzz" Alexander

— Alan Wald

WILLIAM RAYMOND ALEXANDER, always called by the childhood nickname “Buzz,” died at the age of 80 in Ann Arbor of complications from frontal temporal degeneration on September 19th. In 1986, he was a founding member of Solidarity and afterwards an occasional contributor to Against the Current.

Buzz was also a committed radical professor whose innovative, path-breaking pedagogy made many of his old-school colleagues blanch. In fact, his entire adult life can be considered a rebuke to the default setting of those who assume that academics live in an ivory tower, happily cut off from the rest of the world to indulge their own privileged pursuits....