Against the Current, No. 215, November/December 2021

Against the Current, No. 215, November/December 2021

The Rising Price of Insanity

— The Editors

The Roberts Court, April 23, 2021. Seated from left to right: Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr. & Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr.; Justices Stephen G. Breyer & Sonia Sotomayor; Standing from left to right: Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh, Elena Kagan, Neil M. Gorsuch & Amy Coney Barrett. Photograph by Fred Schilling, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

THERE WAS NEVER anything like it: In the midst of a mounting public health disaster, a phalanx of state governors deliberately and maliciously sabotaging the elementary measures required to protect the population. Driven by a toxic mix of greed, political opportunism and pure ideology, “opening the economy” in states from Florida and Texas to South Dakota outweighs the terrifying realities of overwhelmed hospital Intensive Care Units as well as burnout-and-COVID-depleted medical staffs. Insanity!...

Reproductive Justice on the Line

— Dianne Feeley

Detroit, one of hundreds of rallies across the country just before the Supreme Court began its new term, where it will have challenges to Roe v. Wade on its docket. Jim West

TENS OF THOUSANDS rallied, marched, and chanted for reproductive justice in 650 U.S. cities on October 2. Ranging in size from a hundred to 10,000-20,000, the actions came in response to the Texas anti-abortion law that went into effect September 1. The predominance of hand-made signs expressed defiance and determination: “My arm’s tired from holding this sign since the 60s”; “TEXAS: where a virus has reproductive rights and a woman doesn’t”; and “One day I just hope to have the same rights as a gun.” The overarching message was that we will not return to the era when abortion was illegal.

The Texas anti-abortion law bans abortions beyond the sixth week of pregnancy. Anyone aiding or abetting an abortion beyond that period could be sued: a doctor, a clerical worker at the clinic or a person who provided money, transportation or even....

Teenagers Are Children, Not "Bad Seed"

— an interview with Deborah LaBelle

AT THE START of last year, 1465 people incarcerated in U.S. prisons were serving sentences they had received when they were children—some as young as 14. The combination of public pressure and civil rights lawsuits resulted in U.S. Supreme Court rulings curtailing these sentences. Today 25 states and the District of Columbia have banned life sentences for youth....

Blocking an Ecocidal Pipeline

— an interview with Rebecca Kemble

The “Shell River Seven” Mary Klein, Winona LaDuke, Barbara With, Trish Weber, Kelly Maracle, Cheryl Barnds and Flo Razowsky practice 1855 treaty rights on the Line 3 escarpment at the Shell River. They were arrested on July 20, 2021 and face criminal trespassing charges in Wadena County. LaDuke’s attorney has made a motion for change of venue to White Earth Tribal Court. Photo by Citizen X

REBECCA KEMBLE IS a community activist and former member of the Madison, Wisconsin Common Council. This past summer she attended the blockade by Anishinaabe land protectors and allies against the construction of the new Enbridge Line 3 that cuts through their territory and threatens their treaty rights. Since then Enbridge has announced they have completed construction and are transporting tar sands oil. Meanwhile Indigenous protesters are still facing charges, and it was revealed that Enbridge has paid police $2.4 million for security. However, the protesters do not intend to end their opposition. Dianne Feeley interviewed her for ATC....

The Ecosocialist Imperative

— Solidarity Ecosocialist Working Group

THIRTY YEARS AGO, climate modeling scientists predicted exactly the global events — massive wildfires, intensified tropical storms, flooding and droughts — that we’re seeing right now. The only mistake was that they projected these disasters in 100 years’ time — the effects have hit us 70 years early....

Hitting the Bricks for "Striketober"

IT MIGHT NOT be a massive strike wave by historic standards, but a rash of fall walkouts have earned the label “Striketober” and attracted the attention of the media:

“From Alabama coal miners to Hollywood theater hands and from....

The Assault on Rashida Tlaib

— David Finkel

“(I)n most aspects of life, Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy. In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity. In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.” (Human Rights Watch)

EVEN WHILE SCRAMBLING to hold their caucus together for votes on infrastructure bills, the Democratic Congressional leadership displayed a distinctive approach to party “unity” when it comes to subsidizing Israel’s war machine.

Not a single one of these leaders, whether “moderate” or “progressive,” stood up for Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) on September 23 after her courageous and principled one-minute statement opposing a $1 billion supplemental appropriation for Israel’s “Iron Dome” system. Tlaib was immediately and....

Nicaragua, as Elections Approach

— Margaret Randall

Daniel Ortega, January 2017 Roosewelt Pinheiro/ABr CC by 3.0BR

IN EARLY OCTOBER the Working Group on the Nicaraguan Crisis held a panel discussion, “The Nicaraguan Crisis: A Left Perspective” featuring Luis Carrión, a former member of the National Directorate of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). He is a leader of the political party UNAMOS (formerly the Sandinista Renovation Movement) and living in exile.

Socialist feminist poet and author Margaret Randall and Leonor Zúñiga, a prominent Nicaraguan sociologist and documentary filmmaker participated along with William I. Robinson, a sociology professor at UC Santa Barbara. Both Randall and Robinson had lived in Nicaragua after the Sandinista revolution of 1979....

Crime Scene at the U.S.-Mexico Border

— Malik Miah

The Biden administration deported thousands of Haitians back to one of the hemisphere's poorest countries, and after it was devastated by an earthquake last August. Logan Abassi/flickrcom

UNITED STATES PRESIDENT Joe Biden continues to show his government’s true face in the mass deportation of Haitian migrants.

In mid-September, nearly 15,000 desperate Haitian migrants, camped under a bridge on the Mexico-Texas border, were rounded up by U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback, some using their reins as whips....

Revolutionary Tradition

The '60s Left Turns to Industry

— The Editors

Working in a steel mill.

BEGINNING IN THE 1960s, socialist organizations across the U.S. left, seeking to root themselves deeper in the working class, encouraged (and, in some cases, ordered) their member­ship to take jobs in specific industries. This led to building membership teams in order to coordinate their work as socialists. This process known variously as “industrialization,” “the turn to the working-class” or “the turn to industry.” In recent years, an emerging generation of socialist labor activists has become keenly interested in the history of that experience, and lessons to be learned for today....

The SWP's 1970s Turn to Industry

— Bill Breihan

Bill Breihan on Strike at Wehr Steel, Milwaukee, 1977. One of three strikes over an eight-year period.

THE SOCIALIST WORKERS Party (SWP) was organized in 1938 as a democratic centralist cadre organization. Standards and expectations of membership were high.

Coming out of the 1950s witch hunt, party membership –– which had peaked at 2,000 during the post-war strike wave –– was down to only 400. Once concentrated in the industrial trade unions, few party members still worked there, the political conditions and prospects for recruitment considered so unpromising.

Growing in the late 1960s during a period of worldwide youth radicalization –– and in response to>>>>

Organizing in HERE, 1979-1991

— Warren Mar

Warren Mar

THIS ARTICLE WAS first written in preparation for an online forum hosted by the Labor Caucus of the Democratic Socialist of America (DSA). It has been edited for historical context and some background information on my involvement with the I Wor Kuen (IWK) and the League of Revolutionary Struggle (LRS), groups founded as part of the new socialist left during the late 1960s and ’70s.

Some background knowledge of the groups I was affiliated with is helpful to understand why we chose to go into particular workplaces and industries....


Preserving Voices and Legacies: Jazz Oral Histories

— Cliff Conner

The Cats!
Volume 1: On the Bandstand of Life with Master Musicians
Volume 2: The Cadence of Their Time
Volume 3: Servants of the Musical Sanga
By Jake Feinberg
Portland, OR, Instant Harmony, 2020 and 2021

JAKE FEINBERG IS a talk radio and podcast personality in Tucson, Arizona who has interviewed thousands of musicians, mostly unheralded but highly talented sidemen and studio musicians, but with an occasional artist with name recognition — a “headliner” — in the...

On COVID's Death Toll

— David Finkel

The great Ellis Marsalis, 1934-2020 https//

THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC has taken a devastating toll everywhere, of course, not least in the world of music in deaths — to say nothing of the crippling economic loss of performance opportunities. For labor and the left, one of our great losses was Anne Feeney, singer and longtime inspirational fixture at picket lines and progressive labor events (died February 3, 2021, age 69).

The following brief list covers losses among internationally known jazz musicians in 2020 alone — the actual toll is undoubtedly higher....

Reflections on Party Lines, Party Lives, American Tragedy

— Paula Rabinowitz

Michael Gold:
The People’s Writer
By Patrick Chura
Albany: SUNY Press, 2020, 354 pages, $26.95 paperback.

Ethel Rosenberg:
An American Tragedy
By Anne Sebba
New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2021, 304 pages, $17.50 hardcover.

OKAY, I ADMIT it: I am an inveterate gossip, a sucker for memoirs. However, I dislike biographies. I rarely read them and when I do, it is more for some juicy detail, on the one hand, or the cultural milieu of the subject, the times, than the life, on the other.

It’s not the narration of a life that bothers me about biography; perhaps instead, it is the gap I often find when a third person attempts to tell another’s story and set it in history. How much life, how much history, how much subject’s voice, how much teller’s?...

Reclaiming the Narrative: Immigrant Workers and Precarity

— Leila Kawar

Immigrant Labor and
the New Precariat
By Ruth Milkman
Polity Press, 2020, 200 pages, $22.95 paper

THE TERM “ESSENTIAL workers” has been broadly applied during the COVID-19 pandemic, designating not only healthcare providers but also frontline workers in the food, construction, and home-based care sectors. These are all occupations characterized by low-wage and insecure employment with little possibility of job promotion. Importantly, they are all also occupations sustained by...

Envisioning a World to Win

— Matthew Garrett

Edited by Michael Löwy
Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2020, 540 pages, $40 hardback.

EVERY READER SHOULD buy this book immediately, or rush to the library to find it. But they should do so in a spirit of unsparing scrutiny. Our revolutionary genealogies sustain us, above all in dark times, but the passion for changing the world is rightly paired with the cold eye of evaluation.

One risk in uncritically embracing the iconographies and image-repertoires of the past is that they can short-circuit true historical understanding, and therefore foreclose clear political thinking. The reappearance of Revolutions raises difficult questions for a revolutionary reader today....

Sharing and Surveilling

— Peter Solenberger

Radical Secrecy:
The Ends of Transparency in Datified America
By Clare Birchall
University of Minnesota Press, 2021, 244 pages, $25.00

CLARE BIRCHALL’S RADICAL Secrecy: The Ends of Transparency in Datified America is an interrogation of the meaning of secrecy and transparency in the digital era. The title plays with the phrase “radical transparency,” promoted by liberal consultants to business, government and education.

The book examines the hidden ends of transparency under neoliberal capitalism, and proposes “radical secrecy” as a way to interrupt the uses and abuses of information by corporations and governments. It envisions a post-capitalist, post-secret future that would combine a still-necessary right to opacity with the possibility of a new politics of openness....

A Labor Warrior Enabled

— Giselle Gerolami

Able to Lead:
Disablement, Radicalism, and the Political Life of E.T. Kingsley
By Ravi Malhotra and Benjamin Isitt
University of Chicago Press, 2021, 320 pages, $34.95 paperback.

ABLE TO LEAD: Disablement, Radicalism, and the Political Life of E.T. Kingsley examines the life of a unique and remarkable radical socialist political figure and writer.

Kingsley has largely been overlooked even though he was politically active through such notable historical events as the Winnipeg General strike and the First World War. While there is a dearth of information on his personal life, his political life is fairly well documented....