Against the Current No. 228, January/February 2024

Election 2024 Deform & Dysfunction

— The Editors

The sequel -- not by popular demand.

IN A POLARIZED, angry, anxiety-and-crisis-ridden United States of America, wide swathes of a fragmented and divided electorate find common ground at least on what they don’t want: a 2024 repeat of a presidential election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Yet eleven months in advance....

Door Opens to Return of Jim Crow

— Malik Miah

August 6, 1965: President Lyndon Johnson signs Voting Rights Act as MLK and others look on.

A FEDERAL COURT on November 20 issued a decision severely curtailing enforcement of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) that could affect voters of color nationwide and will probably be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The decision opens the door wider to a return to Jim Crow laws that once ruled the South. The laws made it nearly impossible for African American people to vote or function as equal citizens....

History of the VRA: from Landmark to Dead Letter

— Maik Miah

1865 — Adoption of 13th Amendment that abolished slavery,

1866 — Civil Rights Act gives citizenship to all born in the United States, although excluding the Indigenous population....

"Talking Socialism" on the Job

— Garrett Brown

Garrett Brown on a United Farm Workers picket line while at the University of Chicago, 1976.

WITH A NEW generation of socialist activists entering the workforce to build unions and the socialist movement, experiences from 45 years ago may provide lessons about what works and what does not work when talking socialism on the job.

I joined the Young Socialist Alliance in 1971 and the Socialist Workers Party in 1973, resigning from the party in December 1983. I was a student activist in California, Massachusetts, and Illinois, before becoming the labor reporter for The Daily Calumet newspaper in southeast Chicago in 1976.

While a journalist at The Daily Calumet I covered the United Steel Workers of America (USWA) and Ed Sadlowski’s campaign for union president in 1976-77.

I was also a member of the SWP’s national “fraction” or subcommittee of USWA members, and wrote articles about the Steelworkers Fight Back campaign under the pen name of “Michael Gillespie” for the party’s newspaper, The Militant....

A Joint Israeli-U.S. Genocide

— David Finkel

Demonstrators march in Detroit on October 25, demanding ceasefire for Gaza. Photo: Barbara Barefield

THE UNITED STATES’ December 8 veto of the UN Security Council emergency ceasefire resolution makes it all but official that the catastrophe engulfing Gaza and all of Palestine is a joint Israel-U.S. war of genocide. Compounding the monstrosity, the Biden administration immediately shipped hundreds of millions of dollars in new ammunition to Israel, not bothering with the formality of Congressional approval....

Weaponizing Antisemitism: The Battle at Indiana University

— Purnima Bose

Rabbis for Ceasefire in Washington, DC. Instagram

[The broadside attacks launched in Congress against pro-Palestinian activism exploded into the headlines with demands for the resignations of the presidents of Harvard, MIT, and the University of Pennsylvania who has already been forced out. The following account details a struggle unfolding at a major Midwestern public campus — ed.]

ON NOVEMBER 15, 2023 Representative Jim Banks (IN-03) sent Indiana University President Pamela Whitten a letter demanding information about antisemitic incidents at IU that had occurred following the horrifying October 7 Hamas attacks in Israel....

Abortion Rights Battle in Poland: Changes Not Forthcoming?

— Jacek Dalecki & Justyna Zając

The newly elected Polish parliament lists strengthening the rights of women as its sixth highest priority. Will protests demanding the right to abortion break out again?

LED BY Law and Justice (PiS), the conservative and far-right parties maintained a firm grip on power in Poland until the fall of 2023 when, in October, the opposition won the parliamentary election. A new more liberal government was sworn in by the President in mid-December.

After eight years of conservative rule, one could expect that the shift of power would lead to dismantling the current restrictive abortion laws. However proponents of abortion rights should be advised to lower their expectations....

Policing Wildfires

— Ivan Drury Zarin

THE FIRES THAT burned the forests of western Canada through the spring, summer, and early fall of 2023 were the hottest, broadest and most destructive in the region’s recorded history. Two million eight hundred thousand hectares burned in British Columbia (BC) alone — twice the area burned during the previous record-breaking wildfire year of 2018.

The entire city of Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, was evacuated, as was the entire city of West Kelowna, and a number...

Defeat of the Chilean Constitution

— Carolina Bank Muñoz

This mural on the side of a building in Arica depicts the Afro-Chilean legacy. Photo: Nell-Haynes-Flickr

[DECEMBER 17 WAS THE Chilean voters' second rejection of a draft constitution. The first, discussed in detail in this article, rejected a strongly progressive draft by a commission with left and Indigenous participation. The second and recent rejection was a rightwing draft produced by a highly conservatively-dominated body. As a result of these rejections, the Pinochet-era constitution created by the dictatorship of 1973-89 remains in place.--ed.]

ON OCTOBER 18, 2019, Chile despertó (woke up). It started with students jumping subway turnstiles in protest of a 30-cent subway fare increase, and quickly escalated to a series of massive protests....

Rustin, the Movie, the Organizer

— Joel Geier

BAYARD RUSTIN WAS the most talented mass organizer the American left has yet produced. His greatest success was the 1963 March on Washington, a turning point that aided the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banning segregated public facilities and discrimination in employment.

For many years, Rustin’s accomplishments were minimized, hidden or denied because he was an openly gay man. Gay consciousness in recent years reestablished his importance to the civil rights movement, but beyond the LGBTQ community, he often remains an obscure, minor figure....

About Rustin

RUSTIN IS A 2023 American biographical drama film directed by George C. Wolfe, from a screenplay by Julian Breece and Dustin Lance Black, and a story by Breece about the life of civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. Produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company Higher Ground, the film stars Colman Domingo in the title role, alongside Chris Rock, Glynn Turman, Aml Ameen, Gus Halper, CCH Pounder, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Johnny Ramey, Michael Potts, Jeffrey Wright and Audra McDonald.

A 2003 PBS documentary on Rustin, “Brother Outsider,” helped bring him back to public attention....

Boris Kargarlitsky Released!

BORIS KARGARLITSKY HAS been outspoken in opposing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He was arrested on July 26, 2023 on charges of “justifying terrorism,” supposedly for a social media post about the successful Ukrainian 2022 attack on the bridge linking Crimea to Russia.

In response to his arrest, a broad range of organizations and prominent individuals formed an international committee to demand his release....

Labor on the Move

TDU's Rank-and-File Convention

— Michael Friedman

At TDU's 2023 convention,UAW President Shawn Fain emphasized the importance of TDU as a model for UAW reformers.

ON NOVEMBER 3-5, the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) held its 48th annual Rank-and-File Convention. Having just written that, it overwhelms me a bit that this organization has been around for almost 50 years.

As someone who has gone to all but one of these gatherings, the 2023 convention made me reflect on the stability, growth and success of this movement to create an effective rank-and-file caucus within....

Labor Calls for Ceasefire Now!

— Dianne Feeley

At A NOVEMBER 29 news conference held in front of the White House, as hunger strikers called for permanent ceasefire in Gaza, UAW Region 9A Director Brandon Mancilla announced that the UAW had endorsed the ceasefire. The million-strong union joined with the American Postal Workers Union, California Nurses Association, Chicago Teachers Union and the UE, shortly before Israel resumed its military operation in Gaza. Mancilla spoke about the UAW leadership’s decision as in the tradition of earlier...

UAW Faces the Tasks Ahead

— Dianne Feeley

AS THE United Auto Workers’ tentative agreements were announced at the end of October, UAW President Shawn Fain explained that not all 10 central demands of the Stand-Up Strike were fully met. To do so it would be necessary to gain our “full strength.”

By the time of the next contract expiration on May 1, 2028, he anticipates, negotiations would not only take place with the Big Three but with the “Big Five, Big Seven or Big Ten.” Fain also had encouraged other unions...

Swedish Workers Strike Tesla

Elon Musk at Tesla Shareholder Meeting, 2014 photo by Jurvetson (flickr)

ALTHOUGH ELON MUSK’S Tesla does not manufacture cars in Sweden, it does operate several repair shops there. The company did not feel the need to enter into a collective agreement with IF Metall, a 300,000 member-strong union that organizes in the auto manufacturing industry.

After unsuccessfully attempting to negotiate a contract, the union struck Tesla on October 27. Veli-Pekka Säikkälä, IF Metall’s Collective Bargaining Secretary, commented:...

Review Essay

Israel's West Bank Inferno & the Responsibility of Socialists

— Alan Wald

A Palestinian funeral in the West Bank -- in 2023 a daily occurrence.

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama:
Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy

By Nathan Thrall
New York: Metropolitan Books, 2023. 255 pages. $29.99 hardback.

For those readers unfamiliar with the universe of suffering that structures Palestinian life on the West Bank, prepare yourself for a journey into a human-made political hell as you plunge into the pages of Nathan Thrall’s A Day in the Life of Abed Salama. The term “West Bank” refers to a land-locked area....

U.S. Politics Today

AOC's Journey to the Center of Politics

— Kim Moody

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about to join environmentalists at sit in at Nancy Pelosi's office, 2018, shortly after her first election. Photo: AP

WITH MOST OF the socialist and left progressives in the House of Representatives endorsing the centrist leadership of the Democratic Caucus and Joe Biden’s bid for re-election, the project inspired largely by Bernie Sanders’ 20216 run for the presidency that was to transform the Democratic Party appears to have hit the wall of establishment resistance and dissident adaptation....

Unprecedented Times, or Media Narrative

— Harvey J. Graff

AS WE CONTEMPLATE the 2024 election cycle, the present moment — or more broadly the past seven to ten years — marks an unprecedented period in American history. But it’s not for the usually repeated reasons.

None of the major factors is fundamentally or completely novel. ...


Torture and the Law

— Matthew Clark

The War in Court:
Inside the Long Fight Against Torture
By Lisa Hajjar
University of California Press, 2022, 376 pages. $29.95 hardcover.

THE RIGHT TO protection against torture and to challenge imprisonment by the government are fundamental human rights. Professor Lisa Hajjar tells how the U.S. government assaulted those rights in its “war on terror” by detaining and torturing “terror suspects” without any due process or safeguards.

Many did not survive the ordeal. Some are still in detention without trial. A sociologist with a career of expertise on state torture, who has gone to Guantanamo Bay to meet with detainees and their lawyers, Hajjar is well qualified to tell this story of horrific government abuse and those who oppose it....

Fire Alarm -- It's Up to Us

— Michael McCallister

“To live with hope in a world that seems determined to race off a cliff: this is the real radical choice.” —Renato Redentor Constantino

Future on Fire:
Capitalism and the Politics of Climate Change
By David Camfield
Fernwood Publishing/PM Press, 2023, 128 pages, $15.95, paperback

Not Too Late:
Changing the Climate Story from Despair to Possibility
Edited by Rebecca Solnit &
Thelma Young Lutunatabua
Haymarket Books, 2023, 220 pages,...