Against the Current No. 225, July/August 2023

Against the Current No. 225, July/August 2023

"Noise as Usual" -- Or Crisis Now?

— The Editors

One year after the far right Supreme Court majority wiped out federal abortion rights, the deadly effects spread -- and so do state-by-state battles over reproductive rights. With so many other basic rights at stake -- from voting to contraception to essential transgender medical care -- is a massive U.S. political crisis looming?

AS THE UNITED States hurtled toward an unthinkable, and entirely artificial, default on the “full faith and credit” of meeting its debt obligations, the question arises: was the appearance of crisis more a case of “noise as usual, only louder”? Hadn’t we had debt-limit brinksmanship before — a periodic and partisan theatrical game of chicken, ultimately refereed by ruling class imperatives not to end in mutual suicide?...

Cruelty at the U.S.-Mexico Border

— Malik Miah

Venezuelan refugees in Chile. With global wars and climate change, families seek safety and a future. Photo: International Organization for Migration

At 11:59 PM EDT on May 11, Title 42 of the Immigration law expired. The code was enforced for three years during the coronavirus pandemic. Title 42 allowed the government to stop and expel migrants from entering the country.

Since its enforcement, millions of political and economic refugees have been stranded in Mexico or other countries in horrific conditions....

Gary Tyler Fundraiser

Gary Tyler, imprisoned for 42 years, is an accomplished textile artist. Photo: Ted Sorqui

A 65TH BIRTHDAY celebration and fundraiser for Gary Tyler takes place July 16, 2023 from 1-4 PM at 939 San Vicente Blvd in Santa Monica, CA. Tickets are available for a contribution of $65 or more.

October 7, 1974, a white mob almost 200 strong and enraged over school integration, attacked a school bus filled with Black students in Destrehan, Louisiana. In the frenzy, a 13-year-old white student, Timothy Weber, was shot and later died.

Gary Tyler was one of the Black students aboard that bus. Despite the bus driver’s statement that the shooting did not come from the bus, Gary was taken off the bus, threatened and beaten by the police....

Paving the Way for Le Pen?

— Gerd-Rainer Horn

During the January 2023 march against pension “reform,” the sign that dominated this massive action declared “Prisoners of work don’t get old.”

SINCE MID-JANUARY 2023 France is experiencing its most significant wave of social movement mobilization since the heady days of May/June 1968.

Though clearly of a lesser magnitude than those of 55 years ago, the ongoing demonstrations and strikes make clear that France remains one of the most prominent terrains for frontal challenges to politics....

Keith LaMar: A Struggle for Life and Freedom

— David Finkel

KEITH LAMAR, A death row prisoner in Ohio, faces a scheduled execution date of November 16, 2023. Several features of his case command attention — beginning with being held for nearly 30 years in indefinite solitary confinement, a condition that Amnesty International identifies as torture, while continually maintaining his innocence.

There’s also the background of an exceptionally violent, now largely forgotten prison uprising; the remarkable person, author and artist that he has become; and a team of cultural workers spearheading the struggle for Keith’s exoneration and freedom....

Libraries Under Attack

— Mark Weber

FROM MAINE TO Arizona and Idaho, more than 120 bills have been introduced in state legislatures that would either cut the budgets of public libraries or ban certain books or categories of books — thus endangering important literacy, children’s programming, and services for senior citizens.

While censorship and book banning has had a long and inglorious history in the United States, the most recent attacks on libraries seem to revolve around the issues of inclusion of books by queer and transgender authors. Also under threat are any books that dare to touch on the subjects of....

Our Movement of Rising Resistance

— Harvey J. Graff

AT A MOMENT of intensifying rightwing attacks and even defunding of libraries for refusing to remove books on Queer and anti-racist topics, the author has supplied an extensive list of references and sources, which can be obtained from him....

In Support of Fatima Mohammed

The following statement, “CUNY Law Jewish Law Students Association Stands With Fatima,” was issued in response to public attacks on Fatima Mohammed following her May 12 commencement address to the City University of New York School of Law. Fatima’s support of Palestinian freedom was denounced as “hate speech” by the school chancellor and board of trustees and by New York mayor Eric Adams (whose own talk at the commencement was greeted with boos and backs turned by students). The controversy at CUNY comes at a time of increasing attacks on supporters of the Palestinian struggle....

The Green Party Debates Ukraine

— Howie Hawkins

Howie Hawkins speaking at 50th anniversary commemoration of the civil rights movement at Syracuse University. To his left is John Steele of Mississippi Movement and Freedom Summer. To his right is Shelton Chappell, whose mother, Johnnie Mae Chappell, was shot by a white drive-by-shooter during Black civil rights protests in Jacksonville, Florida, 1964.

LIKE MUCH OF the ideological left and many peace groups, the Green Party of the United States is divided over how to respond to the Russian invasion....

Ukraine Peace Appeal: Toward a More Informed Solidarity

THE FOLLOWING “APPEAL to Pacifist and Peacebuilding Movements Worldwide” has been initiated in May, 2023 by the Ukrainian Community of Mediators and Dialogue Facilitators, and Ukrainian Feminist Network for Freedom and Democracy, and supported by Ukrainian civil society organizations and individual signers.

1. We, Ukrainian civil society activists, feminists, peacebuilders, mediators, dialogue facilitators, mental health practitioners, human rights defenders and academics, recognise that a growing strategic divergence worldwide has led to certain voices....

Commodification and Colonialism

— Delia D. Aguilar

from Facebook "Feminist News"

MY FIRST REACTION when I saw the side-by-side photos of 106-year-old Igorot tattoo artist Apo Whang-od and that of U.S. business mogul and household name Martha Stewart: is this a joke?

If so, it wasn’t funny to me. No doubt it didn’t matter a bit to Martha Stewart, accustomed to and thriving, in fact, on commodification.

But Whang-od’s picture — ruby-red lips, chin resting on thumb, affecting a model’s pose, likely contrived by her Vogue magazine handlers....

Resistance to Restructuring

The UPS Contract Campaign

— Jack Martin

The exuberance of UPS Teamsters shows they are committed to winning a decent contract. The UPS contract covers 350,000 workers, 60% of whom are part-time workers. They just voted by 97% to authorize a strike if they have not won a new contract when the current contract expires on July 31, 2023. Photo: Matt Leichenger

IT’s 7 A.M. on a sunny Thursday morning in California, and I’m headed to my United Parcel Service hub with two folding tables, rally signs, and hundreds of flyers packed into the back of my car. In about 15 minutes, I will meet up with a few other UPS drivers, unpack the tables, set up our “United for a Strong Contract” banner and begin to greet our co-workers on their way to and from the parking lot.

It’s a routine that’s become increasingly familiar over the past year — not just to me but to hundreds of UPS Teamster rank-and-file....

The Writers Guild Strike

— Alan Minsky interviews Howard A. Rodman

The former president of the Writers Guild of America West, Howard A. Rodman, joined Alan Minsky on Jacobin Radio to discuss the Writers Guild strike, begun a minute after midnight on May 2, after a near unanimous strike vote the day before. This strike action, the first in 15 years, is impacting TV, movies and streaming platforms across the country and the world. The last strike, in 2007-08, lasted 100 days and focused on the Internet when streaming was in its infancy and Netflix was still a DVD-by-mail company....

Socialists and Union Democracy

— Steve Downs

VERSION OF this article was the author’s opening presentation to a May 2, 2023 Zoom call for members and friends of Solidarity. His pamphlets Hell on Wheels and the newly published Socialist Strategies in Unions, both discussing the experience in Transport Workers Union Local 100, are available for purchase.

HOW DOES THE fight for democratic unions connect to the fight for socialism? My key point is that building democratic unions is not separate from what we call “our socialist tasks.” It is a socialist task....

Contingent and Powerful

— Kay Mann

Power Despite Precarity:
Strategies for the Contingent Faculty Movement in Higher Education
By Joe Berry and Helena Worthen
Pluto Press, 2021, 289 pages. $26.95 paperback.

OVER 75% OF of all college and university courses in the United States today are taught by contingent faculty. Job security is non-existent. Employment is often offered on a semester-by-semester basis, dependent on the needs, often last minute, of department chairs. This creates uncertainty and makes planning for basic needs difficult and stressful for contingent faculty and their families.

While some contingent faculty are paid livable salaries and are offered health care insurance and 401k-type retirement benefits, salaries are low and health and retirement benefits are not offered for the large numbers of faculty who work part time,...

Review Essay

Saito, Marx and the Anthropocene

— Rafael Bernabe

Karl Marx’s Ecosocialism
Capitalism, Nature and the Unfinished Critique of Political Economy
By Kohei Saito
New York: Monthly Review Press, 2017.

Marx in the Anthropocene
Towards the Idea of Degrowth Communism
By Kohei Saito
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2022.

El capital en la era del antropoceno
By Kohei Saito, translated by Víctor Illera Kanaya
Barcelona: Sine Qua Non, 2022.

KOHEI SAITO HAS become an important voice in the debates about Marxism and ecosocialism. His books deal with four key issues: the relation between capitalism and nature; between ecology and socialism; the agents and means of attaining ecosocialism (or degrowth communism) and the evolution of Marx’s views regarding these issues....


Trauma, Psychiatry and the War on Terror

— Janice Haaken

Combat Trauma:
Imaginaries of War and Citizenship in Post-9/11 America
By Nadia Abu El-Haj
Verso Books, 2022, 352 pages, $29.95 paperback.

Nadia Abu El-Haj

IN THIS INSIGHTFUL and timely new book, anthropologist Nadia Abu El-Haj takes up a genre of war stories that gathered notable currency in the 21st century. She traces the expanding role of psychiatrists and psychologists in the cultural production of what she terms the combat-trauma imaginary.

Public concerns over the problems of returning soldiers are as old as warfare itself. But how those problems are understood, El-Haj observes, is quite dynamic. The dead haunt the living in images of returning body bags, military cemeteries with rolling hills of....

Hidden History of the New Cold War

— Peter Solenberger

The New Cold War:
The United States, Russia, and China from Kosovo to Ukraine
by Gilbert Achcar
Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2023, 350 pages, $22.95 paperback.

IN THE NEW Cold War, Gilbert Achcar describes how the United States abused its “unipolar moment” after the collapse of the Soviet Union to try to ensure that Russia and China would never be able to challenge it. The attempt failed, and the result is the current geopolitical conflict. The alternative that Achcar proposes is a return to the principles of the United Nations and its 1945 Charter.

Achcar doesn’t excuse the Russian and Chinese governments for their conduct, domestically or internationally. But he sees the U.S. government....

China's Unarmed Prophets

— Promise Li

Prophets Unarmed:
Chinese Trotskyists in Revolution, War, Jail, and the Return from Limbo
Gregor Benton, editor
Brill Historical Materialism Series, 2015;
Haymarket Books, 2017, xvii + 1289 pages, $55 paperback.

JUST OVER 70 years ago, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) extinguished the last organized revolutionary Marxist tradition that emerged from the early CCP and remained independent after its regression. In the final weeks of 1952, what remained of the Chinese Trotskyists...

Meanings of Palestinian Peoplehood

— Leila Kawar

Crossing a Line:
Laws, Violence, and Roadblocks to Palestinian Political Expression
By Amahl A. Bishara
Stanford University Press, 2022, 376 pages, $30 paper.

REFLECTING ON THE struggle for self-determination in Palestine in the May/June 2023 issue of Against the Current, David Finkel writes: “The question for Israeli society is whether it can confront the consequences of the Zionist movement’s denial, from its very inception, of the Palestinian nation. That struggle requires assistance from the outside, through the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) campaign and other actions of solidarity for Palestinian rights.”...