Against the Current, No. 216, January-February 2022

Against the Current, No. 216, January-February 2022

COP26: Success Not an Option

— Daniel Tanuro

THE GLASGOW CONFERENCE (COP26) should have given priority to 1) making good on the promise of the “developed” countries to contribute to the Green Climate Fund, from 2020 onwards, at least one hundred billion dollars a year to help the global South meet the climate challenge; 2) forcing these same countries to intervene financially to cover the enormous “loss and....

Afghan Women: Always Resisting Empire

— Helena Zeweri and Wazhmah Osman

Malalai of Maiwand, Afghan forkloric ethno-national hero.

IN RECENT MONTHS we have seen the resuscitation of the “saving Afghan women” narrative in media commentaries following the U.S. military withdrawal. As much scholarship has shown ever since the 2001 military intervention, this narrative functions to do two things.

First, it ignores the fact that Afghan women have not only been critiquing the inhumane Taliban regime, but the human consequences of U.S. empire. Second, it fails to consider how Afghan women’s resistance over the past 100 years has been deeply committed to an anti-imperial politics.

From resisting the British to the Soviet Union, to more recently the United States, since the mid-19th....

Entangled Rivalry: the United States and China

— Peter Solenberger

Guangzhou port, gateway to the massive transformation of the global political economy and of China itself. Dianne Feeley

THE ENTANGLED RIVALRY of the United States and China partly repeats old patterns. States and empires have been rising and falling, cooperating and clashing for 5000 years, capitalist ones since the early 17th century, and imperialist ones since the late 19th century....

On Global Solidarity

— Karl Marx

KARL MARX CONCLUDES the 1864 Inaugural Address of the International Working Men’s Association (the First International) by saying:

"If the emancipation of the working classes requires their fraternal....

#MeToo in China

THE “ME TOO” movement in China has bubbled up over the last decade, first exposing predatory university professors, some of whom were removed from their positions. Since 2020 sexual harassment has become a crime. But when women attempt to expose sexual harassers, particularly through social media, their posts are quickly removed. They are bullied while those who support them are threatened by police and employers.

The first suit against a sexual harasser was filed by Zhou-Xiaoxuan against prominent CCTV anchor Zhu Jun....

How Electric Utilities Thwart Climate Action: Politics & Power

— Isha Bhasin, M. V. Ramana & Sara Nelson

Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant on the coast of California. Wikipedia

SPEAKING AT THE Glasgow Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 26), U.S. President Joe Biden pledged to reduce U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases to at least half of 2005 levels by 2030. The ambitious goal is necessary to limit the likely temperature increase due to climate change to within 1.5 degrees Celsius, the preferred target at the 2015 Paris Conference of Parties....

Ending Michigan's Inhumane Policy

— Efrén Paredes, Jr.

From within the Michigan prison system Efrén Paredes, Jr. advocates for prisoner rights.

NEARLY A DECADE after the U.S. Supreme Court issued its landmark Miller v. Alabama ruling which forbids mandatory life without parole (LWOP) sentences for people convicted of homicide when they were minors, Michigan shamefully leads the nation as the state with the largest number of people still serving the extreme sentence.

In 2012 the nation’s high court ruled that trial courts now had discretion whether to impose a LWOP or term-of-year sentence in cases. Previously the only option Michigan courts had when sentencing a juvenile convicted of certain homicide offenses was LWOP...

Oupa Lehulere, Renowned South African Marxist

— James Kilgore

I FIRST MET Oupa Lehulere in 1992. He took a job at Khanya College where I was the coordinator. At that historical moment, the foundation of post-apartheid South Africa was being laid. It was an incredibly challenging, complicated, often confusing time. Oupa helped us make sense of it. He was the right person in the right place at the right time.

While many other activists positioned themselves for jobs in the post-....

Reproductive Justice Under the Gun

— Dianne Feeley

Rally and march for the right to legal abortions, October 2nd in Detroit. Jim West

WE’VE BEEN FOREWARNED: Brett Kavanaugh laid out the precedents for overturning Roe v. Wade, and Amy Coney Barrett suggested that those who want to terminate their pregnancy should have no problem because they can just continue to nourish the fetus, bring it to full term and then give it away.

Sonia Sotomayor has sounded the alarm, not only for the human consequence but for undermining the authority of the U.S. Supreme Court. The problem for the Court’s anti- choice majority is how to put a stop to a medical procedure that public....

Save Julian Assange!

JUST AS JOE Biden wrapped up his “Democracy Summit” and called for protecting persecuted journalists, the U.S. “Justice” Department won a British appeals court ruling for the extradition of Julian Assange on espionage charges — for publishing information on U.S. war crimes in Iraq, which the Wikileaks founder obtained by the standard means of investigative journalism.

The British judge ruled that extradition can proceed on the basis of U.S. commitments not to hold Assange...

The Horror of Oxford

THE HORROR OF the Oxford, Mich­i­gan high school mass shooting has highlighted the brutal contradictions of the current legal system. As a conservative Detroit News columnist Nolan Finley wrote of the 15-year-old shooter, “Ethan Crumbley, as charged, is a stone-cold killer…He is despicable. He is evil. He’s also something else: a child.”

Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald has charged Ethan Crumbley with four counts of first-degree murder, each carrying mandatory life without parole sentences, as well as other crimes include one “terrorism” (?) count....

Racial Justice

Why Critical Race Theory Is Important

— Malik Miah

Kimberlé Crenshaw developed the legal concept of intersectionarlity in order to analyze how a person could face multiple oppression."

WHO WOULD EVER think that the issue of public education — aside from masks — in the time of a pandemic would be one of the central issues for voters in Virginia, New Jersey, and many other states?

Commentators and analysts say it’s because “parents seek more control” of their children’s education, especially when it discusses race and racism. It’s led to some parents calling for bans of books by prominent authors including Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

The attack on “Critical Race Theory” is fraudulent. The real issue, as every Black person knows, is not....

Texas in Myth and History

— Dick J. Reavis

Forget the Alamo
The Rise and Fall of an American Myth
By Bryan Burrough, Chris Tomlinson and Jason Stanford
Penguin Books, 2021, 386 pages, $32 hardcover.

THE HOLIEST PLACE in Texas is the Alamo, a former Spanish mission in today’s downtown San Antonio. The site of an 1836 battle between Mexican forces and Texan rebels, it’s the state’s most-visited tourist site. A plainspoken new book, Forget the Alamo, examines that conflict and the lives of its principals....

A City's History and Racial Capitalism

— David Helps

The Broken Heart of America: St. Louis and the Violent History
of the United States
By Walter Johnson
Basic Books, 2020, $19.99 paperback.

ON JUNE, 2020 a middle-aged white couple in St. Louis greeted Black Lives Matter protesters on their street by brandishing firearms. The images became instantly iconic: neither was wearing shoes, he holding an AR-15, she waving a semiautomatic pistol — sometimes at his head — outside their palatial mansion in a gated section of St. Louis’ Central West End.

The couple was soon identified as Mark and Patricia McCloskey, two highly litigious personal injury lawyers. Despite their nouveau riche occupation and high-powered....

Reduction to Oppression

— David McCarthy

THE EDITORS OF Against the Current are publishing this review essay by David McCarthy toward inaugurating what we hope will become a critical discussion of the complicated relationship of the anti-racist struggle in the 21st century to the ultimate goal of transforming the class structure and state of our society. Marxists have long argued, of course, that racism is rooted in political economy. But that is far from the full story: like sexism, racism cannot be understood simply as a reflex of economic relations....

Protesting the Protest Novel: Richard Wright's The Man Who Lived Underground

— Alan Wald

The Man Who Lived Underground
By Richard Wright
New York: Library of America, 2021, 240 pages, $22.95 hardback.

The Nightmare of Racism

Richard Wright, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Carl Van Vechten Collection [LC-USZ62-54231]

WHEN THE POSTHUMOUSLY published The Man Who Lived Underground appeared in the spring of 2021, after a year in which fifteen to twenty million people protested in the streets over a number of police killings, political antennae in the media went on high alert. Some subjects are elusive and ambiguous, but at this moment there was a turbocharged awareness of the vicious actuality of racial subjugation in the United States.

All of a sudden, a new generation of anti-racist adversaries was living in a near-permanent state of emergency over the very form of cop violence recounted in the book’s opening pages. In the midst of what a New York Times article declares has grown into a “tsunami” of volumes about anti-Black racism, allusions to the re-emergence of Richard Wright seemed everywhere.(1)...

Revolutionary Tradition

The '60s Left Turns to Industry

— The Editors

Speaking at the UAW National Convention in 1986, Wendy Thompson supported one member, one vote in electing top officers. This was a demand members won only in the 2021 referendum.

WE ARE CONTINUING a series of articles written by leftists who, under the direction of their socialist organization, took working-class jobs in order to root themselves and their organizations deeper into the U.S. working class. 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....

My Life as a Union Activist

— Rob Bartlett

Some former members of the SWP rail fraction in Chicago, 1984. From the left, Norman Christofferson, Guy Miller, Antonio DeLeon (deceased), Vinny Longo, Tina Beacock, Rob Bartlett, David Rollins (deceased), Bill Banta (deceased), bottom, Carl Finamore and Norine Gutekanst. Linda Loew

I DROPPED OUT of college in 1971, got a job as a janitor at the University of Wisconsin and became an AFSCME member. I didn’t have much of an idea of what I was going to do within the union, but quickly discovered a “radical” caucus that put out a monthly newsletter and was active within AFSCME Local 171. This local represented many of the support workers at the university including hospital and janitorial workers among others....

Working 33 Years in an Auto Plant

— Wendy Thompson

Retirement award in Plant 3, while Wendy Thompson (second from left) was committeeperson.

IN 1960 MY family took a trip to Jackson, Mississippi. Shortly after, my father, a Methodist minister, was arrested there for attempting to integrate churches. I became a committed political activist in the civil rights movement at the age of 12.

Years later, when I arrived in Detroit to industrialize and live in the Black community, I felt immediately comfortable. I was fortunate to have grown up on the border of the large ....


Michael Ratner, Legal Warrior

— Matthew Clark

Moving the Bar:
My Life as a Radical Lawyer
By Michael Ratner
OR Books, 2021, 366 pages, $23 paperback.

MICHAEL RATNER (1943-2016) was a trailblazing radical human rights lawyer whose work sets a standard for a lawyer’s role in left political movements. His autobiography Moving the Bar, published five years after his passing, is a story of his life and legal work. It is a valuable guide for activists and attorneys looking to use the law as part of larger movements for justice.

A more traditional lawyer’s autobiography might open with high-minded rhetoric about the sacredness of the law and the Constitution. Ratner immediately shows he is not....

The Turkish State Today

— Daniel Johnson

Turkey’s New State in the Making:
Transformations in Legality, Economy and Coercion
Pınar Bedirhanoğlu, Çağlar Dölek, Funda Hülagü and Özlem Kaygusuz, editors
Bloomsbury Publishing/Zed Books, 2020, 320 pages. $35.95 paperback.

ACADEMIC CONFERENCES ARE generally uncontroversial, even boring, affairs. This was decidedly not the case in October of 2018, when a two-day workshop titled “Turkey’s New Neoliberal State in the Making?” was held at Middle East Technical University in Ankara.

The gathering took place in the midst of a purge of academia by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that began with a failed 2016 coup. Since then more than 6,000 professors lost their positions. (More than 150,000 government employees, teachers, and academics have been fired since the attempted coup)....