Against the Current, No. 205, March/April 2020

Against the Current, No. 205, March/April 2020

All the Wars: No End, No Point?

— The Editors

AS THE UNITED States and Iran lurch back and forth, toward war and then away and back again, the question inevitably arises: what’s it all about anyway? Similar questions can be asked in retrospect about the 2003 invasion of Iraq that’s produced such a massive catastrophe, the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan that’s now one of the longest running sores in U.S. history, the bombing of Libya and the subsequent meltdown of that country, and other interventions large and small, direct and by proxy.

On top of all this comes the Trump-Netanyahu-Kushner “peace plan,” the apartheid-annexationist blueprint for completing Israel’s seizure of the Occupied Palestinian Territories — which also envisions stripping Israeli Arabs of their citizenship by the “transfer” of their towns to the proposed Palestinian Bantustan. This atrocity is discussed elsewhere in this issue. (See also, for example, “Yet Another Declaration of War on Palestinians,” a discussion with Rashid Khalidi, January 29, 2020,

Immigration: The Public Charge Rule

— Emily Pope-Obeda

SINCE THE 19TH century, federal immigration policy has centered on determining which immigrants are “desirable” or “beneficial” to the nation. The “dependent” immigrant has been one of the most contested subjects in immigration policy across American history. In thousands of individual cases, the meaning and boundaries of the category “likely to become a public charge” and the accompanying “becoming a public charge within five years of entry” have been fiercely debated.

Although it has received less attention in recent years than immigration control around rationales of crime or unauthorized border crossing, the use of the immigration bureaucracy to police poverty and dependency among foreign-born residents has been an enduring feature of the state....

Siwatu Salama-Ra Is Free!

SIWATU SALAMA-RA, A Detroit community and environmental justice organizer who served nine months in prison before her felonious assault conviction was overturned last year, is free. Because Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy’s office refused to drop the spurious charge, Siwatu made the difficult decision to accept a misdemeanor plea of ”brandishing a firearm” that carries a 90-day sentence — enabling her to go free for time already served.

While in prison, Siwatu was forced to give birth while shackled and then removed from her newborn son. The conviction was overturned due to errors by the trial judge.

Moms 4 Housing Struggle

— Isaac Harris

FOR DOMINIQUE WALKER, facing homelessness was “a matter of life or death.” So she decided to take matters into her own hands.

Fed up with suffering from homelessness while working multiple jobs and caring for their children, Dominique and her friend Sameerah Karim began occupying a vacant, investor-owned house on Magnolia Street in West Oakland on November 18, 2019.

In the following months they formed the group Moms 4 Housing, orchestrated a successful media campaign, and galvanized scores of activists during a “Week of Action” for housing organized by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). They emphasized their occupation was nonviolent. (See

Why the Right-wing Populist Upsurge?

— Val Moghadam

FOR AT LEAST a decade scholars, pundits and activists have observed and commented on the upsurge in electoral victories by right-wing populist movements and political parties (which I’ll call here RWP).

Initially, much of the commentary pertained to European countries including France, Italy, Poland, Hungary, the Netherlands and Sweden, with studies identifying common grievances and demands — immigration, welfare cuts, the refugee crisis of 2015 — but also differences in approaches to women, the family, and sexuality.(1)...

Notes to Readers

YOU’RE THE BEST: We’re thrilled to report that our annual fund appeal, concluding on Super Bowl Sunday, raised $5875 in support of Against the Current. Many thanks to everyone who so generously contributed!

We encourage our readers to attend the Socialism 2020 conference, July 2-5 in Chicago (see for online registration). In addition to prominent speakers, this event features over 100 panels with ample audience participation, including some sponsored by Solidarity and ATC. We hope to see many of you there.

March-April 2020, ATC 205

The Torture of Chelsea Manning

UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL repporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, last November sent a scathng letter to the U.S. government last November condemning the continuing imprisonment of whistleblower Chelsea Mannng. The letter was made public in late December and reported by The Guardian (London) on December 31, 2019.

Manning has been held since last May 16 for refusal to testify to a grand jury pursuing the federal government’s charges against Julian Assange. An army computer specialist, she previously served seven years of a 35-year sentence for disclosing U.S. atrocities in Iraq until her sentence was commuted by president Obama. ...

The Fallacies of Geoengineering

— Ansar Fayyazuddin

“For the first time, nature becomes purely an object for humankind, purely a matter of utility; ceases to be recognized as a power for itself; and the theoretical discovery of its autonomous laws appears merely as a ruse so as to subjugate it under human needs, whether as an object of consumption or as a means of production.” (Karl Marx, Grundrisse, Penguin Classics Edition 1993, 410)

THE GENERIC TERM “geoengineering” has come to denote a battery of hypothetical technological interventions to mitigate climate change. It is coming into vogue as the increasingly dire predictions of climate disaster make us desperate for a solution. Yet it is precisely in these moments of desperation and panic that we cannot lose our capacity for clear thinking and become susceptible to the specious promises of a miracle cure.

There is broad consensus that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions must be reduced drastically in order to avert an even greater climate disaster than what we are on target to hit. Yet GHG production has not gone down and, despite the righteous rhetoric of the supposedly enlightened members of the political class, nothing of any significance is being done....

Markets & Private Sector: View from the Farm

— John Vandermeer

FROM INTERACTING WITH small-scale farmers in Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Michigan, I have come to understand some of their problems and some of the ways in which they analyze the world. From this perspective, recent proclamations from national politicians and local academics alike have caused me to reflect on certain basic features of contemporary capitalism.

Recent comments about markets and the private sector suggest an incautious use of language. The actual operation of small-scale and peasant farmers* as background shows that the very nature of such operations are clearly within both the private sector and market participation, but hardly correspond to the common meaning of either under current capitalist logic....

Trump-Netanyahu-Apartheid Plan

— David Finkel

MANY APPALLING DETAILS of the apartheid-annexation Steal of the Century proclaimed as the Middle East “peace plan”  by Donald Trump, Benjamin Netanyahu and Jared Kushner — the troika of the impeached, the indicted and the idiotic — have been pretty well covered by the progressive media and Middle East commentators. (I’ll suggest a brief list of sources at the conclusion of this article.)

Predictably, the plan rollout was timed to boost Trump’s standing with his Christian-Zionist fundamentalist base and the right wing of the Jewish community. It also bolsters his crony Netanyahu’s standing in Israel’s pending third election within the last year (the main opposition candidate Benny Gantz also welcomed the plan to annex Israel’s West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley)....

Chicago Teachers Strike, Win

— Robert Bartlett

THE 2012 CHICAGO Teachers Union (CTU) strike was a defining moment that changed the narrative and direction of teacher unionism. The community supported the strike because they saw the teachers’ demands as fighting for what schools should be.

The union leadership, forged out of a caucus that supported parents when they struggled for better schools, described this process as “bargaining for the common good.” After years of attacks on public teachers, the victory against a neoliberal mayor laid the groundwork not only for schools that Chicago children deserve, but opened a path for teachers’ unions across the country.

In 2019, the stakes were just as high for the CTU and again they came away with a clear victory. The strike settlement contains improvements for educators and students with no givebacks....

SNCC: Freedom Now to Black Power

— Martin Oppenheimer

SIXTY YEARS AGO the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was founded by delegates from Black student groups that had been staging sit-ins to integrate lunch counters in the South.

The sit-ins had spread rapidly from the first one in Greensboro, North Carolina on February 1, 1960. In a period of 60 days the sit-ins had spread to nearly eighty communities as far apart as Xenia, Ohio and Sarasota, Florida. It had become clear that training for and coordination of these scattered efforts were needed. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ella Baker of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) secured the cooperation of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, all committed to nonviolent desegregation efforts, to sponsor a “Leadership Conference on Nonviolent Resistance.” The Conference began on April 15 at Shaw University, a predominantly Black institution in Raleigh, the North Carolina state capital. Ella Baker had been a student there....

Feminist Theory and Action

#MeToo in Japan

— Chie Matsumoto

JAPAN’S #ME-TOO MOVEMENT was sparked by a television reporter who said she was sexually harassed by the country’s highest-ranking finance ministry official.

“Can I touch your breast?” “Can I tie you up?” The voice of the man’s relentless sexual advances was heard on a tape that ran in the weekly tabloid magazine Shukan Shincho. His target was the reporter herself.

When the full story appeared in 2018, there was sympathy among female journalists but little surprise. Most had experienced similar harassment. The recording of the encounter went viral on the Internet....

Looking at Social Reproduction

— Cynthia Wright

Social Reproduction Theory: Remapping Class, Recentering Oppression
Edited by Tithi Bhattacharya
London: Pluto Press, 2017, $17 paperback.

MATERIALIST AND MARXIST feminist theory is currently undergoing something of a renaissance. Wide-ranging conceptual and empirical work on social reproduction is a major part of that theoretical innovation.(1) So, too, are the recent international women’s strikes highlighting key issues such as gender violence and attacks on reproductive autonomy, as well as the range of unpaid social reproductive labor often performed by those gendered as women.

As Cinzia Arruzza observes in the concluding essay of Social Reproduction Theory, “the women’s strike can legitimately be seen as a political translation of social reproduction theory.”(2)...


Burning Questions of Our Planet

— Steve Leigh

The Burning Case for a Green New Deal
By Naomi Klein
Simon and Schuster, 2019, 320 pages, $27 hardcover.

AS WITH HER previous book This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein lays out an excellent case for a rapid transition to clean energy and leaving fossil fuels in the ground. Her strongest political point is that the Green transformation must be multi-issue. There are two reasons for this:

1) Logically the green transformation requires massive government involvement against...

A Voice of Resistance Revisited

— By David Finkel

Culture and Resistance
Conversations with Edward W. Said
By David Barsamian
Haymarket Books reissue (first publication South End Press, 2003), 193 pages + notes and index, $17.95 paperback.

WHAT WOULD IT be worth to have the wisdom and passionate commitment of Edward Said with us today? What would Said have to say about the U.S. confrontation with Iran, the Syrian catastrophe, the ever-deeper bloody impasse of Palestine/Israel, devastating climate change, Donald Trump and so much more — especially the apartheid-annexation “Deal of the Century” atrocity that Trump-Kushner and Netanyahu have dumped on the Palestinian people?...

Decaying Teeth, Decaying System

— Rachel Lee Rubin

The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America
By Mary Otto
New York: The New Press, 2017, paperback edition 2019, 304 pages, $20 paperback.

WHEN I FIRST learned about Mary Otto’s book, I was both immediately drawn in and internally shaken. I am from Baltimore — where, as it turns out, much of the book is set — and I’ve objected for years to the way poor people, especially Appalachians (many of whom ended up in Baltimore), are frequently mocked for their teeth: in Halloween costumes, in movies, in cartoons....

Escaping the Debt Trap

— Michael McCallister

The Debt System:
A History of Sovereign Debts and Their Repudiation
By Eric Toussaint
Haymarket Books, 2019, 280 pages, $19.95 paper.

YOU CAN’T REALLY understand the world, especially global North-South relationships, without understanding how foreign aid works. The Debt System will help you do that. The book argues for the necessity of a radical restructuring of global finance.

Eric Toussaint is a leading figure in the Fourth International and president of the Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debts (CADTM), based in Belgium. The committee’s website ( provides a compendium of important information about the debt problem. Toussaint’s previous book was Bankocracy (Resistance Books, 2015)....

Class, Race and Elections

— Fran Shor

Merge Left:
Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America
By Ian Haney Lopez
The New Press, 2019, 288 pages, $27 hardcover.

THE LEFT IN the United States has historically foundered over how to develop a political strategy that recognizes all the contradictions inherent in the intersections of class and race. Early 20th century socialists, like Eugene Debs, believed that attacking the class system embedded in capitalism would, in itself, solve the “Negro Question.”...

Surveillance Capital & Resistance

— Peter Solenberger

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism:
The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power
By Shoshana Zuboff
New York: Public Affairs/Hachette Book Group, 2019, 704 pages, $38 hardcover.

Activists and the Surveillance State:
Learning from Repression
Edited by Aziz Choudry
London: Pluto Press, 2019, 264 pages, $29 paperback.

Permanent Record
By Edward Snowden
New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt and Co., 2019, 352 pages, $30 hardcover.


In Memoriam

Margaret Shaper Jordan, 1942-2020

— Dianne Feeley & Johanna Parker

MARGARET SHAPER JORDAN, a founding member of Solidarity, died early January 3rd. She is survived by her partner, Mike Parker, and her daughter, Johanna Parker.

Margaret grew up in Berkeley, California. Her parents Hans and Lore Shaper, whose parents were murdered in the Nazi concentration camps, fled Germany in 1939. Margaret was born in 1942 and her brother, Andrew, four years later.

Attending the University of California Riverside, Margaret then taught first and second grades in Richmond public schools. She became a specialist in teaching math to elementary school students. An early marriage to Joel Jordan ended but her lasting partnership with Mike Parker began in the late 1960s....