Against the Current No. 208, September/October 2020

Against the Current No. 208, September/October 2020

The Pandemic and the Vote

— The Editors

BY ALL POLITICAL leading indicators, Donald Trump is taking down the Republican Party to its most shattering electoral debacle in decades. “Presiding,” if that’s a word for anything Trump does, over the entirely preventable health and economic COVID-19 calamity, he’s proving himself willing to sacrifice anything for his own interests....

"Good Trouble, Necessary Trouble"

— Malik Miah

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” — A tweet from June 2019

JOHN ROBERT LEWIS died July 17 in Atlanta, Georgia, at the age of 80. He was born on February 21, 1940, in the segregated town of Troy, Alabama. His parents were sharecroppers. He was the last living member of the civil rights leadership known as the “Big Six.”

In 1960, as a seminary student in Nashville, Lewis participated in the sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters....

Black Lives Matter & the Now Moment

— Anthony Bogues

WE LIVE IN an extraordinary moment. One in which many cross currents tussle for sustained dominance. A moment when armed white supremacy groups attempt break-ins to legislative offices in states like Michigan. One in which the science of contagion is in battle with a myopic individualism, wherein the wearing of a mask for medical protection becomes a signifier for a political symbolic battle around hegemony....

Why Send Troops to Portland?

— Scott McLemee

SOMEDAY HISTORIANS WILL look back on the cascade of events in 2020 and probably conclude that developments in the United States took a sinister turn on or about July 15.

That day, troubling reports started coming out of Portland, Oregon, where, as in countless other parts of the country, mass protests against racism and police brutality were underway. The word among activists on social media was that protesters were being grabbed up by people in military fatigues....

A Victory, an Unfinished Agenda

— Donna Cartwright

THE SUPREME COURT’s decision on June 15 upholding three employment discrimination cases brought by LGBT people marks a huge step forward toward full equality for queer people. The court ruled that job discrimination based on employees’ sexual orientation or gender identity necessarily violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination based on sex....

Your Postal Service in Crisis -- Why?

— David Yao

THE U.S. POSTAL Service, a publicly owned institution with a large (630,000) unionized workforce and a history dating to 1775, is facing a financial crisis that could present a real opportunity for the Trump administration to enact its program of privatization as well as weakening its employee unions.

As payments and correspondence have shifted....

Solidarity's Election Poll

— David Finkel for the Solidarity National Committee

SOLIDARITY, THE SOCIALIST organization that sponsors Against the Current, is taking no formal position regarding the 2020 U.S. presidential election. In view of the complexity of the issues and the impossibility of in-person meetings during the coronavirus pandemic, the National Committee organized an online poll to test the balance of opinion of the membership. Three options were offered, and members were also encouraged to submit comments....

Why Green? Why Now?

— Angela Walker

IN THE SPRING of 2020 I received the phone call from Howie Hawkins, who was seeking the Green Party nomination for president and had already received the Socialist Party’s nomination. While I was expecting only to be asked to support his candidacy, Howie asked me to be his running mate.

I thought of my grandkids, and I asked myself what kind of world they are inheriting and what can I do to change it....

Opening Up the Schools?

— Robert Bartlett

SIX MONTHS SINCE the worst health crisis in 100 years began, there is no sign that it is under control in most parts of the world. In the United States, it has created mass unemployment, exposed the vast rifts between the rich and poor, and promises to widen them unless the social movements impelled by Black Lives Matter and teacher/community organizing can continue to reframe the political, social and economic landscape.

Until mid-March, when governors and mayors took drastic steps, with orders to shelter in place, closing businesses and schools to slow the spread of the virus, many people continued their lives with a growing sense of fear of what would happen....

Toward a Real Culture of Care

— Kathleen Brown

IN JUNE, THE Office of Student Life released the “Wolverine Culture of Care Pledge” as part of the “community’s shared responsibility” to limit the spread of COVID-19. The pledge calls on students to wash their hands, wear face masks, and practice social distancing while on campus.

“Shared responsibility” is invoked again and again....

Toward Class Struggle Electoral Politics

— Barry Eidlin interviews Micah Uetricht & Meagan Day

LABOR SOCIOLOGIST BARRY Eidlin interviewed Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) activists Micah Uetricht and Meagan Day, authors of Bigger than Bernie: How We Go from the Sanders Campaign to Democratic Socialism (Verso Books, 2020) for Against the Current. Eidlin is the author of Labor and the Class Idea in the United States and Canada (Cambridge University Press, 2018) and a professor of sociology at McGill University in Montreal....

C.T. Vivian, Organizer and Teacher

— Malik Miah

THE SAME DAY that civil rights icon John Lewis died, one of his teachers of nonviolent direct action also passed away in Atlanta. Rev C.T. Vivian (Cordy Tindell Vivian) was 95 years old, just two weeks before his 96th birthday.

Unlike Lewis who decided to run for elected office in Atlanta, first a City Council member and then Congress in 1986, Vivian continued to be an organizer, activist and teacher. Martin Luther King called him “the greatest preacher to ever live.”…

Vivian was born in Boonville, Missouri, and later his family moved to Illinois. Vivian’s first sit in occurred in 1947 in Peoria, Illinois where, as a young worker,...

Behind Lebanon's Catastrophe

— Suzi Weissman interviews Gilbert Achcar

Suzi Weissman interviewed Gilbert Achcar for her program on Jacobin Radio, August 8, 2020 on the massive August 4 chemical explosion and subsequent political upheaval in Lebanon. The discussion took place shortly before the Lebanese government resigned.

Gilbert Achcar, a native of Lebanon, is professor of Development Studies and International Relations at SOAS, University of London. His most recent book is Morbid Symptoms: Relapse in the Arab Uprising of 2016, a sequel to The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising (2013)....

Support for Mahmoud Nawajaa

MAHMOUD NAWAJAA, A prominent human rights defender and general coordinator of the Palestinian national Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, was dragged away from his family by Israeli occupation forces in a July 30 night raid on his West Bank home. Held on unspecified “security offenses” in Israel’s Jalameh interrogation center, denied access to lawyers, following widespread international protests he was released without charge after two weeks....

Dead Trotskyists Society: Provocative Presence of a Difficult Past

— Alan Wald

THIS ESSAY IS dedicated to the memory of Anne Chester, Froben Lozada, Asher Harer, Kwame Samburu, Nat Weinstein and Sylvia Weinstein -- working class heroines and heroes.

EVEN THOUGH ALLEN Ginsberg’s “America” was not among the ardent verses recited in the 1989 teen drama Dead Poets Society, his 1956 anti-capitalist protest poem....

Nonviolence and Black Self-Defense

— Dick J. Reavis

WHILE THE POST-World War II Southern Civil Rights Movement is viewed as a nonviolent movement, reality is more complicated. Charles Cobb, Jr., who was a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) field secretary from 1962-67, points out that mass marches and other forms of direct action necessitated nonviolence in the face of government officials....


Experiments in Free Transit

— Joshua DeVries

AMONG THE FEW positive aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, some localities have taken the impressive step of implementing free transit. Several cities in Ohio, including Akron, Canton, Toledo and Youngstown announced free fares as of March 16. Towns in Vermont and Nevada have done so as well.

Unfortunately, local officials are quite clear that these are only temporary for health purposes and will be reversed once it is “safe.”…

Over the last several decades, though, many cities around the world have experimented with free transit....

Studying for a New World

— Joe Stapleton

THEORY WITHOUT PRAXIS is empty; praxis without theory is blind. That Leninist twist on the old Kantian formula is perhaps never more necessary to remember than in times of crisis.

Though written before COVID-19 and the police murder of George Floyd, Eli Meyerhoff’s book Beyond Education: Radical Studying for Another World represents one of those theoretical interventions without which our praxis can end up wandering around in the dark.

Nowhere is our present crisis felt more acutely than in public education. COVID-19 and the government’s non-response....

The Fight for Indigenous Liberation

— Brian Ward

THIS YEAR’S INDEPENDENCE Day celebrations included President Trump giving a divisive right-wing speech in front of four racist presidents who expanded the settler state on Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota.

Mt. Rushmore is in the Black Hills known as He Sapa to the Oceti Sakowin, the seven council fires or Lakota, Dakota and Nakota (the Sioux), which is sacred to the Oceti Sakowin....

Mt. Rushmore is in the Black Hills known as He Sapa to the Oceti Sakowin, the seven council fires or Lakota, Dakota and Nakota (the Sioux), which is sacred to the Oceti Sakowin. He Sapa was stolen by the United States and in 1980....

At Home in the World

— Dan Georgakas

I NEVER LEFT Home is a passionate account of the perspectives of the radical generation of the 1960s as experienced by the extraordinary Margaret Randall. Active all her adult life as a poet, feminist and revolutionary, Randall writes candidly of her experiences in the political and artistic movements in New York (1958-61), Mexico (1961-68), Cuba (1969-1980), Nicaragua (1980-84), and the American Southwest (1984- ).

The book begins and ends in the Southwest. Its initial chapters are about her experiences as a restless youth, and later chapters, those of a returned expatriate…

The Larry Kramer Paradox

— Peter Drucker

IN DYING ON May 27, 2020, Larry Kramer showed one last time his keen sense of timing. After many years when AIDS had rarely generated big headlines in the United States, there are now lively discussions of the lessons of the struggle against AIDS for the current struggle against COVID-19.(1)...

Larry Kramer, a Brief Biography

LARRY KRAMER (BORN Laurence David Kramer, 1935-2020) died of pneumonia at age 84. From a middle-class Jewish family in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Kramer launched a career as a screenwriter and then became an award-winning playwright, novelist, essayist and political activist. He is survived by his spouse, David Webster.

His first Hollywood movie credit was for Women in Love (1969); his most well-known play is The Normal Heart (1985), a largely autobiographical work set during the rise of the HIV/AIDS...