Against the Current No. 214, September/October 2021

Against the Current No. 214, September/October 2021

Facing the Long J6 Riot

— The Editors

TRUMP’S JANUARY 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol didn’t begin on that day, of course. It was prepared by the outgoing president’s feverish “stolen election” lies and bumbling lawsuits and cultish rightwing and social media disinformation in which a sizable sector of the Republican voting base has ensconced itself in a reality-free parallel ideological....

What the Cuban Protests Reveal

— The Editors

July 11 in Cuba. AFP

ANYONE WHO BELIEVED that in the arena of imperialist foreign policy at least, the Biden administration would be an improvement on the rampages of Trump, has come in for some rude awakenings. Biden’s no better and in some ways worse....

One Member, One Vote: Taking Back Our Union

— Dianne Feeley

During the 2019 strike at GM, UAW members on the picket line said they wanted everyone to earn the same wages and benefits. Jim West

UNITED AUTO WORKERS (UAW) members have been scandalized as a dozen top officers were convicted in federal court of taking at least $3.5 million in illegal deals from FCA, kickbacks from vendors and/or stealing $1.5 million in union funds. Included were past and current International UAW presidents, Dennis Williams and Gary Jones. Although the other International Executive Board (IEB) members claim that these were “bad” apples, few believe the dozen could have managed by themselves.

Rory Gamble was quickly and unanimously elected by the IEB to serve out the rest of Jones’ term, ending in 2022. Gamble, the first African-American UAW International President, previously served as Region 1A Director for 12 years and Vice President in charge of the Ford Department since 2018. Although he comes....

Alabama Strike Continues

— Zack Carter and Dianne Feeley

Strikers and their families gather at Tannehill State Park. UMWA

ELEVEN HUNDRED BROOKWOOD coal miners have been out on strike since April 1st. They took concessions in their last contract, negotiated in 2016 with Warrior Met Coal after the previous owner Jim Walter Resources, went bankrupt. Agreeing to a range of concessions in order to keep the mine from closing, members of UMWA Locals 2245, 2397, 2368 and 2427 received a promise from the mine’s new owner that they would be rewarded in the next contract....

On the Brink of the Abyss

— Daniel Tanuro

Comparing rise in world temperatures from 1951-80 period with those of June 2021. NASA

THE INTERGOVERNMENT PANEL on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group 1 has presented its Physical Basis Report as a contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report on climate change, due in early 2022.

The report and its summary are written in the precise style and vocabulary of scientific publications that make “objective” statements....

Life Under the Heat Dome

— Sally Moore Goldman

Fires blazing in the Oregon mountains. National Weather Service.

AS PEOPLE AROUND the country have seen on the news, ferocious fires are coming out of the Pacific northwest, particularly Washington, Oregon and California. Typically the wildfire season develops in August. This is what Oregonians expect and prepare for. However this year has been different. Spring was abnormally dry with low snowpack levels, adding to the persistent drought over the past 20 years....

Why Do Socialists Oppose Zionism?

— David Finkel

[THE FOLLOWING NOTES are a very sketchy primer. It is not a detailed historical analysis nor a discussion of the Palestinian liberation struggle. The readings cited at the end provide some background and insight on these critical subjects.]...

An Ethnic Cleansing Rampage

— David Finkel

EVEN BY THE degraded standards of Israeli jurisprudence, this Supreme Court “compromise offer” was particularly appalling as well as cowardly:

“Under the Israeli high court proposal, four Palestinian families and dozens of others threatened with forced expulsion from the [East Jerusalem}....

On Israel's New Government

— Suzi Weissman interviews Yoav Peled

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett -- how long will this government last?

SUZI WEISSMAN INTERVIEWED Yoav Peled for her program on Jacobin Radio, June 21, 2021. The following are brief excerpts from his comments on the new Israeli governing coalition. Here is where the entire interview can be accessed.

I DON’T THINK the alternation (between Naftali Bennett and....

Whistleblower Hero: In Praise of Daniel Hale

IT MAY BE no real surprise that ninety percent of people killed by U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan (and elsewhere) weren’t supposed to be targets. And while it’s impossible to know, it might also be that the ferocity of U.S. air strikes on real-or-suspected Taliban targets may be contributing to the reported extreme brutality of the Taliban as they overrun more and more of the country with the chaotic U.S. military pullout.

We owe our detailed knowledge of the drone carnage to Daniel Hale, “a man of tremendous conscience, courage, and moral clarity” as described by The Intercept reporter Jeremy Scahill. Hale, like Chelsea Manning, is one of those ordinary-people-turned-heroes who didn’t leave his ethics at the door when he joined the military....

Guatemala: Strike and Crisis

A NATIONAL STRIKE led by Indigenous Guatemalans, as well as an institutional crisis over the peremptory firing of anti-corruption prosecutor Juan Francisco Sandoval, are shaking that Central American country....

Confronting Voter Suppression

— Malik Miah

In addition to allowing more absentee voting because of the pandemic, some states had recently stipulated all who requested an absentee ballot receive one. Jim West

VOTING RIGHTS ARE under siege.

The right to vote without restrictions is an existential citizenship issue for African Americans. Other ethnic national minorities believe likewise. Progressive-minded whites also see the issue that way.

However, the Biden Administration does not. President Biden in a July 13 speech in Philadelphia attacked the Republican effort to overturn the will of the voters but laid out no action plan to stop it....

Thaddeus Stevens: Bourgeois Revolutionary

— Bruce Levine

Civil War era photo of Thaddeus Stevens by Matthew Brady.

THE AMERICAN AND French Revolutions of the late 18th century opened an era marked by what Marxists call bourgeois-democratic revolutions.(1) These are struggles to overturn pre-capitalist social relations and institutions and to win “bourgeois-democratic rights” — rights, that is, that abet the development of capitalism or, at least, do not intrinsically challenge capitalism’s existence.

Such rights include national unification and independence; republican rather than monarchical....

Rosa Luxemburg & Trotsky

— Michael Löwy

EDITORS’ NOTE: This article appears in a collection of his essays, in French, Rosa Luxemburg, L'enticelle Incendiare (2018). Thanks to Paul Le Blanc for bringing it to our attention, and to Lynne Sunderman for translation.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This article, if I remember well, was published around 1979 in the French Journal Quatrième Internationale. If I would rewrite it today, I would probably give greater emphasis on the positive side of Rosa Luxemburg’s and young Leon Trotsky’s views on political organization. But I still agree with the essential argument of the paper, bringing together both thinkers, as the....

Hindu Exceptionalism and COVID-19

— Mona Bhan and Purnima Bose

Faces of India's crisis" Farmers continue their long protest strikes against the Modi government's "free market" laws.

A YEAR AGO our article on “Authoritarianism and Lockdown Time: Coronavirus, Occupied Kashmir, and India” (ATC 207) analyzed the temporal dimensions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party’s [BJP] responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. We reflected on the juxtaposition of the “compression of time,” enacted through Modi’s four-hour notice that India would be....

Review Essay

Adrienne Rich, Trailblazer

— Peter Drucker

The Power of Adrienne Rich: A Biography
By Hilary Holladay
Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2020, 480 pages, $32.50 hardback.

ADRIENNE RICH WAS many things to many people. She was one of the United States’ leading poets, the recipient of countless honors, beginning while she was still in college and continuing until her death in 2012. In her forties, Rich became a lesbian feminist icon, idolized by crowds who flocked to her readings and talks, renowned for her book on motherhood Of Woman Born and her essay “Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence.”

She was also a public intellectual on the radical left, without interruption from the 1960s through the rest of her life. The red threads of her thought....


A Memoir of Anti-Racist Struggle

— Dick J. Reavis

Haunted by Slavery
A Southern White Woman in the Freedom Struggle
By Gwendolyn Midlo Hall
Haymarket Books, 2021, 234 pages, $21.95 paper

GWENDOLYN MIDLO HALL, now 92, has for 50 years been a noteworthy scholar of Western Hemisphere slavery, ever since the 1971 publication of her first book, Social Control in Slave Plantation Studies: A Comparison of Santo Domingue and Cuba. Her 1992 work Africans in Colonial Louisiana put her on the map of historians of American slavery and was followed by four more books with American settings, all of which are still in print....

Inner Lives in Hard Times

— Lukas Moe

The Emotional Life of the Great Depression
By John Marsh
Oxford University Press, 2019, 320 pages, $45 hardcover.

THE SLOWEST POPULATION growth in the United States since the 1930s. Average life expectancy in Black and brown communities nearly three years lower than pre-pandemic levels. As the economic and ecological crises of this century generate headlines, the long-term story comes into view.

Morbidity among poor Americans was chronic, of course, before COVID-19. But one effect of the COVID epoch has been to inject reality back into facts and statistics, even for the well off.

It makes sense that we feel panicked. Unlike the alternatives of blind rage and blank despair, panic permits us the fantasy at least of laying hold of reality. To feel “bad” feels better, somehow, than the numbness of numbers.

In The Emotional Life of the Great Depression, John Marsh chronicles the complex inner lives of Americans when the future looked as grim as it does now. The author, a professor of English at Pennsylvania State University who’s written for this magazine (“Where Did Our Red Love Go?” in ATC 184), brings a critic’s rather than a historian’s expertise to the archives and texts he reads....

A Study in "Populist" Racism

— Yoav Peled

Global Elites and National Citizens:
The Attack of the Upper Classes on Israel’s Democracy
By Gadi Taub
Tel Aviv: Meir Sela, 2020, 224 pages, NIS 94 paperback (in Hebrew).

Yoav Peled

GADI TAUB IS the most prominent intellectual promoter of right-wing populism in Israel. With a PhD from Rutgers in American history, he is a published author of fiction and children’s books, a professor at Hebrew University, and a high-profile public intellectual.

This book, however, is not an academic book but a political manifesto, a catalog of populist tropes adapted to the Israeli context. The African asylum seekers (“infiltrators” for Taub) who had been...

Dialectics of Progress and Regression

— Jake Ehrlich

Critique of Modern Barbarism:
Essays on fascism, anti-Semitism and the use of history
By Enzo Traverso
Second Edition, 2020, International Institute for Research and Education,
Amsterdam, 302 pages, $24 paperback.

THE NOTION THAT history moves on an inevitable trajectory towards ever-greater Progress is a hallmark of many philosophies of the Modern West. Marxism, of course, was no exception to this: Marx himself asserted that the development of capitalism had some liberatory aspects compared to medieval European serfdom, and saw it as a catalyzing force towards the expected result of socialism.

Even though postmodernism has made the notion....

Challenges for Democratic Socialists

— Dan Georgakas

The Socialist Challenge Today:
Syriza, Corbin, Sanders
By Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin with Stephen Maher
Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2020, 100 pages, $12.95 paperback.

Crisis, Movement, and Strategy:
The Greek Experience
Edited by Panagiotis Sotiris
Boston/Leiden: Brill, 2018. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2019, 297 pages,
$28 paperback.

DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISTS AND their allies now working in the Democratic Party will find The Socialist Challenge Today and The Greek Experienc very practical and instructive reading....

The Many Lives of Money

— Folko Mueller

War, Slavery, Finance and Empire
By David McNally
Haymarket Books, 2020, cloth, paperback and ebook.

IN HIS LATEST release, Blood and Money: War, Slavery, Finance, and Empire, David McNally is doing nothing short of challenging the common belief that money emerges as a universal measuring stick to facilitate the exchange of goods. Instead of seeing it as merely overcoming the tedious barter system, he demonstrates that it is inextricably linked to foreign conquest (war) and human bondage (slave trade).

The gory name, reminiscent of perhaps a neo-noir novel, should not come as a surprise to readers familiar with....

Reading Walter Benjamin Politically

— Joe Stapleton

The Benjamin Files
By Frederic Jameson
Verso Books, 2020, 272 pages, $29.95 hardcover.

IN THE ACADEMIC fields of cultural studies and critical theory, Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) is generally read in a particular way. He is more often than not mobilized to critique so-called “grand narratives,” to alert us to the ways narratives of historical progress paper over history’s more barbaric side, casting his dour gaze toward the cuts and the breaks that erode modern society’s pretensions to continuous improvement.

The dominant focus on these themes in Benjamin can hypostatize his thought as timelessly critical of political....