Against the Current No. 213, July/August 2021

Against the Current No. 213, July/August 2021

Infrastructure: Who Needs It?

— The Editors

“INFRASTRUCTURE” IS ALL the rage, and not only just now. Trump talked about it, president Obama promised it, and so have administrations going back to the 1980s. Amidst the talk, the United States’ roads and bridges are crumbling, water and sanitation systems faltering, public health services  left in a condition that’s only been fully exposed in the coronavirus pandemic,...

Burma: The War vs. the People

— Suzi Weissman interviews Carlos Sardiña Galache

SUZI WEISSMAN conducted this interview with Carlos Sardiña Galache, the author of The Burmese Labyrinth: A History of the Rohingya Tragedy (Verso). He has recent articles in Jacobin and the Sidecar blog at He has a website. This interview, recorded on April 24, is on Suzi Weissman’s Jacobin Radio podcast), and has been edited for Against the Current.

Suzi Weissman: Since the military coup that overthrew the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi on February First, a massive civil disobedience movement has emerged. The economy has been paralyzed through strikes in key sectors. The military has been in power most of the time since the country’s independence from British colonial rule. What are the sources of this repressive form of rule?...

Afghanistan's Tragedy

— Valentine M. Moghadam

Editors’ Note: August 16 Update

THIS BACKGROUND ANALYSIS and personal account by Professor Valentine Moghadam obviously was completed and published before the precipitous August offensive and conquest of Afghanistan by the Taliban. This is a truly bipartisan imperialist debacle, more than 40 years in the making under successive Republican and Democratic U.S presidencies, as well as a profound tragedy for much of the Afghan population, especially for women. We’ll be following and discussing the events and their meaning as they develop further.

Malala Maiwand, one of 10 journalists killed in 2020.

AFGHANISTAN HAS BEEN in a state of chaos since at least the Taliban resurgence in 2006 and the entry of the Islamic State group (Daesh) more recently. Assaults have been made not just on Afghan police units and U.S. military targets but also on prisons, schools, funerals and maternity wards across the country. In early 2017, the UN estimated that some 18,000 civilians had been killed since 2015 alone....

The Detroit Left & Social Unionism in the 1930s

— Steve Babson

FOR LABOR ACTIVISTS pondering an uncertain future in the 2020s, there’s good reason to look back to the 1930s, a decade that began with the catastrophic collapse of organized labor and ended with the dramatic rise of a new movement. What can we learn from that stunning turnaround, heralded by the wave of sitdown strikes that swept across the nation in 1936-1937?

Nowhere was that social transformation more dramatic and far reaching than in Detroit, a city known in the 1920s as an exemplar of...

On the Left and Labor’s Upsurge: A Few Readings from ATC

THE HISTORY AND legacy of the U.S. left in labor’s 1930s upsurge, and its lessons for today, are subjects of huge bodies of research and debate. The following contributions, from varying perspectives, are among those appearing in Against the Current over many years, and can be found in the back issues at our website.

An extensive interview with Michael Goldfield, author of the recently published The Southern Key. Class, Race and Radicalism in the 1930s and 1940s, was conducted by Cory R. Melcher...

Detroit: Austerity and Politics, Part 2

— Peter Blackmer

In July 2020 members of the Amalgamated Transit Union joined Detroit fast food workers in a rally outside a McDonald's restaurant during the nationwide "Strike for Black Lives." The Service Employees International Union is calling for a $15 wage in the fast food industry. Jim West

“WELCOME TO BELOVED Detroit.” The words rang out across Woodward Avenue, echoing off the brick buildings behind the hundreds of marchers who filled the street where the Algiers Motel once stood.

Monica Lewis-Patrick, co-founder of We the People of Detroit, challenged the crowd to see the connections between the murder of George Floyd, the 1967 executions at the Algiers, and the violence of austerity imposed under emergency management that has shaped Detroit’s political landscape over the last decade.

Lewis-Patrick connected the dots: the defunding of public schools, theft of pensions, illegal foreclosures, and mass water shutoffs are interwoven in the systemic racism the young activists were confronting....

Chicago's Torture Machine

Reparations for Police Torture

— interview with Aislinn Pulley

Aislinn Pulley is an activist and co-executive director of the Chicago Torture Justice Center. Sarah Jane Rhee

DIANNE FEELEY AND Linda Loew interviewed Aislinn Pulley forAgainst the Current on April 30, 2021. Aislinn Pulley is co-executive director of the Chicago Torture Justice Center, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Chicago, former organizer of We Charge Genocide and founding member of Insight Arts.

Chicago has admitted that its police were involved in systematic torture of civilians, formalizing this with the passage of the Reparations Ordinance on May 6, 2015 and the establishment of the Chicago,....

Diana Ortiz ¡presente!

AN URSULINE NUN, Dianna Ortiz was gang-raped and tortured by a Guatemalan “security” force while teaching literacy as a Catholic missionary there in 1989, which The New York Times reported “helped lead to the release of documents showing American involvement in human rights abuses in that country.”

Hundreds of thousands of Indigenous Guatemalans were massacred in decades of U.S.-backed repression and dictatorship. The attackers told Dianna they “knew who she was”...

A Torture Survivor Speaks

— interview with Mark Clements

Mark Clements, explaining the need to pass a strong Reparations ordinance, March 18, 2015. Sarah Jane Rhee

MARK CLEMENTS, A survivor of the Chicago Police torture ring, was interviewed by Linda Loew and Dianne Feeley for Against the Current on May 17, 2021.

Linda Loew: As a torture survivor, what are your thoughts about the reparations campaign?

Mark Clements: Reparations was a great achievement. However, absent jobs, healthcare and housing, that ordinance still remains inadequate for sustaining someone’s life....

Torture, Reparations & Healing

— interview with Joey Mogul

Cicago City Hall, May 6, 2015: The Reparations Ordinance is announced. (Joey Mogul is standing with arms folded.) Sarah Jane Rhee

JOEY MOGUL, A partner at the People’s Law Office and a longtime activist in the struggle around the Chicago Police torture machine, drafted the Reparations Ordinance. Mogul was interviewed on May 13, 2021 by Linda Loew and Dianne Feeley on the movement and its impact on survivors’ attempts to heal.

Linda Loew: We want to step back just a little bit in time and ask about your experience giving testimony on Chicago torture cases to the United Nations Convention Against Torture. What impact....

The Windy City Torture Underground

— Linda Loew

The Torture Machine:
Racism and Police Violence in Chicago
By Flint Taylor
Haymarket Books, 2019 (hardback), 2020 (paperback),
556 pages, $19.95 paperhback.

THE “CITY OF broad shoulders” and architectural gems, Chicago also has a dark chapter in its history: torture of African American men carried out for decades by the Chicago Police Department (CPD). Flint Taylor’s The Torture Machine: Racism and Police Violence in Chicago spans nearly 50 years in more than 500 pages....

Palestine -- Then and Now

Palestinian Americans Take the Lead

— Malik Miah

Hundreds participated in the May 16 Nakba march and rally in Dearborn, Michigan. Barbara Barefield

LED BY PALESTINIAN Americans and especially young organizers, support for resistance to Israeli occupation is growing, as solidarity from other groups such as the Black Lives Matter movement has inspired them to stand up.

Many American Jews have joined the protests, including supporters of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). Supporting full equality for Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, JVP is the only major U.S. Jewish group to support the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

Marches and rallies in solidarity with Palestine have stretched from California to New York. May 15 marked the 73rd anniversary of al-Nakba or “catastrophe” in which more than 700,000 Palestinians were driven from or left their homes during the war that created the state of Israel...

Zionist Colonization and Its Victim

— Moshé Machover

May 23, 2021 Palestine Freedom Rally attended by hundreds at Warren, Michigan City Hall. Barbara Barefield

The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine:
A History of Settler-colonial Conquest and Resistance, 1917-2017
By Rashid Khalidi
Metropolitan Books (McMillan), 2020,
336 pages, $20 hardcover.

AS PART OF part of their professional training, historians are warned against injecting their personal narrative into their account of events. Rashid Khalidi’s book is a valuable violation of this taboo.

He is a historian, author of scholarly works on nationalism and colonialism in Palestine....

Conceiving Decolonization

— David Finkel

Decolonizing Israel, Liberating Palestine.
Zionism, Settler Colonialism, and the Case for
One Democratic State
By Jeff Halper
Foreword by Nadia Naser-Najjab
Pluto Press, 2021, 208 pages + notes and index,
$19.95 paperback.

THIS IS A powerful and challenging text that poses as many questions as it answers — particularly at the terrible moment of Israel’s May 2021 assault on the all-Aqsa mosque, the pending ethnic cleansing of the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem, and the latest round of murderous bombing of Gaza....

Not a Cause for Palestinians Only

— Merry Maisel

Socialist Introduction
Edited by Sumaya Awad and brian bean
Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2020,
244 pages, $18.95 paperback.

“The Palestinian cause is not a cause for Palestinians only, but a cause for every revolutionary, wherever he is, as a cause of the exploited and oppressed masses in our era.” — Ghassan Kanafani

THIS SENTENCE FROM Kanafani’s history of the Great Revolt (1936-1939) in Palestine is the epigraph of a superbly edited volume of essays on Palestine from the Nakba (1948) to the present....

When Liberals Fail on Palestine

— Donald B. Greenspon

Except for Palestine
The Limits of Progressive Politics
By Marc Lamont Hill and Mitchell Plitnick
The New Press, 2021, 240 pages, $25.99 hardcover.

Taking the lead, Palestinian Americans challenge the “Progressive Except Palestine” syndrome. Barbara Barefield

THE TITLE OF this book is partly based on a label applied to many progressives in the United States: “Progressive Except for Palestine.” Except for Palestine argues that progressives and liberals who oppose repressive policies on immigration, racial justice, gender equality, endless wars, LGBTQ rights and other human rights issues, must extend these principles and values to the oppression of Palestinians.

The challenge is particularly timely right now, as the longstanding consensus of the Democratic Party “in support of Israel” is fraying with Israel’s latest brutal assault on Gaza and continuing ethnic cleansing in occupied East Jerusalem. Palestinian American young people today are speaking out and finding growing support among Black Lives Matter activists and their allies....


Immigration: What's at Stake?

— Guy Miller

Blood Red Lines:
How Nativism Fuels the Right
By Brendan O’Connor
Haymarket Press, 2021, 350 pages, $26.95 hardcover.

“The borders that separate one country from another are an artifact of politics and history. They were born in violence, and their maintenance demands violence” —Brendan O’Connor

“They chase us like rustlers, like outlaws, like thieves.” —Woody Guthrie, “Deportees.”....

Exploring PTSD Politics

— Norm Diamond

Psychiatry, Politics and PTSD:
Breaking Down
By Janice Haaken
Routledge Press, 2021, 196 pages, $49 hardcover.

“Try as you might, want it ever so much, things are out of your control, even when they are in your mind, or especially because they are in your mind. The mind is a funny animal. If it were just conscious thought; or if conscious thought was something we could control; or if unconscious thoughts were conscious; or if moods were amenable to our desires…then maybe things could work. Things like … the project of sanity itself. Just make it happen!”

“But no. You’re swimming in a river. You can get carried out to sea on riptides not of your making, or at least not under your control. You can find yourself swimming against a current much stronger than you. You can drown.” —Kim Stanley Robinson(1)....

A Life of Struggle: Grace Carlson

— Dianne Feeley

The Fierce Life of Grace Holmes Carlson
Catholic, Socialist, Feminist
By Donna T. Haverty-Stacke
New York: New York University Press, 2021, 312 pages,
$50 hardcover.

A BIOGRAPHY THAT uncovers new information is a welcome read. For the thousands of people who cycled through the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) or the Young Socialist Alliance over the last 70 years, we learned of Grace Carlson and the role she played from James P Cannon....

Living in the Moment

— Martin Oppenheimer

Our Sixties:
An Activist’s History
By Paul Lauter
University of Rochester Press, 2020, 226 pages,
$29.95 hardback.

WHEN THIS STORY begins in 1957, Paul Lauter had never heard of Conscientious Objectors. With a Ph.D. from Yale in literature, he had little awareness of Black writing, or Black history. Seven years later he was teaching both subjects in a Freedom School in Mississippi and was Director of Peace Studies at the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), which...