Against the Current, No. 222, January/February 2023

Against the Current, No. 222, January/February 2023

The Smoke Thickens

— The Editors

The ghost of elections past -- or future?

THE SMOKE HAS cleared, or more accurately thickened, over the U.S. midterm election results. The result of the Georgia Senate runoff means that Democratic control of the Senate (51-49) will become a bit less razor-thin. Has the crisis of “our democracy” passed? Not by a long shot.

The rightwing intention going into the November election was evident....

Inequality, Gender Apartheid & Revolt

— Suzi Weissman interviews Yassamine Mather

Protest in Saqqe, Iranian Kurdiston, 40 days after the killing of Jina/Mahsa Amini.

ON OCTOBER 16, 2022 Suzi Weissman interviewed Yassamine Mather on the demonstrations following Jina (Mahsa) Amini’s murder for Jacobin Radio. Arrested by Iran’s morality police for wearing a hijab too loosely, Amini was beaten to death and died in the hospital on September 16,

The protest movement quickly spread across the country and around the world as women took the lead, hurling their hijab and chopping off their hair. These demonstrations represent the biggest challenge the Islamic Republic has ever faced and are continuing and even growing larger. But in the first three months of demonstrations throughout Iran....

Workers' Protests in Early December

— Yassamine Mather

Oil workers on strike.

AT THE BEGINNING of December as we entered the 11th week of nationwide protests in Iran, there were reports of strikes in a number of production centers, including important industries such as the plants of the Esfahan Steel company....

Student Strikes, Regime Cracks

— Yassamine Mather

Women's strike at Al-Zahra University.

THE DAYS OF protests were announced by Iranian university students  earlier this week to mark Student Day. Videos from many Iranian cities confirm that shops were closed and many workers went on strike for at least a day in most of the country’s larger production plants. Protesters used nightfall,,,,

Repression Continues to Grow in Nicaragua

— William I. Robinson

Oscar René Vargas

William I. Robinson reports in NACLA online:

“THREE WEEKS AFTER after his arrest by the regime of President Daniel Ortega made international headlines, one of Nicaragua’s most renowned intellectuals, Oscar René Vargas, has been indicted by the government with “conspiracy....

Queering "A League of Their Own"

— Catherine Z. Sameh

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Chanté Adams plays Max Chapman, who evades her mother's attempts to find her a husband to live an exciting queer life.

IN WHY STORIES Matter: The Political Grammar of Feminist Theory, Clare Hemmings (2011) argues that an investment in telling different feminist stories — so that we might redress the problems of an incomplete or exclusive feminist past — entraps us in a continuous loop of reproducing what can always only be partial stories. Hemmings urges us to experiment “with how we might tell stories differently rather than telling different stories.” (17)

One of her experimental methods for doing this is to surface the affective attachments we have to our stories and the subjects that populate them. Rather than require our subjects to be more (heroic, agential, feminist) and our stories to be better (complete, inclusive), Hemmings encourages an engagement with the many desires,...

A Radical's Industrial Experience

— David McCullough

MY ROOTS WERE in Texas but war and the New Deal took the family from Dallas to Washington, D.C. where I grew up as a liberal Democrat. My first political experience was getting punched in the nose for wearing a Truman button.

Our family was middle of the white middle class. High school sports were segregated until my last two years of high school, 1955-57....

A New Day for UAW Members?

— Dianne Feeley

THE RECENT ELECTION in the United Auto Workers union (UAW) has produced a stunning overturn of the long-ruling Administration Caucus (AC) monopoly of power. Previous ATC articles have traced the history of the Administration Caucus’ control over the union apparatus and various caucuses through the years that have challenged the growing partnership between UAW officials and the corporations.

Even activists fighting for internal democracy and contracts that improved conditions were shocked by...

Ukraine's War of Survival

Future Struggles in Ukraine

— Sam Friedman

Ukraine's health care in crisis as even maternity wards are targeted by Russian attacks.

FOLLOWING RUSSIA’S INVASION of Ukraine last February, the political left in the United Stares country and much of the world has been divided about whether to support the Ukrainians in defending their right to self-determination, the Russian invaders in their efforts to “defeat Ukrainian fascism” or “restore the Russian homeland,” or whether to seek an abstract “peace.”...

Russia's Road Toward Fascism

— Zakhar Popovych

Russian missile and drone attacks on Ukraine's power grid, an attempt to freeze and starve the civilian population.

WAR IN UKRAINE is plunging more and more into massacre but possibly the worst is about to come. Mass killings of prisoners and civilians, numerous and systematic rape in Russian-occupied territories are now “normal” news from Ukraine. Millions could be killed this winter by freezing alive in their apartments without heat, water and electricity....

Race and Class

The Black Internationalism of William Gardner Smith

— Alan Wald

The Stone Face
By William Gardner Smith
Introduction by Adam Shatz
New York: New York Review of Books Classics, 2022, 240 pages,
$10.99 paperback.

William Gardner Smith

THE STONE FACE, republished this past year after nearly six decades, remains a novel downright fearless in its quest to unsettle. A work of historical fiction, the book’s central characters are a tight-knit coterie of Black American expatriates in Paris during the months of 1960-61 when the Algerian Revolution for independence from France (1954-62) was reaching its climax. The insights may not all seem new, but they are profound, and many readers will find the storyline as startlingly radical now as it was in 1963.

Artistically, The Stone Face is a hybrid that is at once particular and capacious. To some extent it is a character study of Simeon Brown, a one-eyed African American painter and journalist with a Biblical first name frequently translated as “God has heard.”...

Movement Challenges

— Owólabi Aboyade

Elite Capture
By Olúfémi O. Táíwò
Haymarket Books, 2022, 168 pages, $16.95 paper.

Elite Capture by Olúfémi O. Táíwò makes critical, controversial, interventions into today’s progressive politics. The author is an associate professor of philosophy at Georgetown University and writes from the framework of the Black radical tradition.

Seeking to engage in today’s social movements, the book is worthy of intergenerational discussion from the grassroots to the halls of today’s intelligentsia.

Elite Capture uses the folk tale of the “The Emperor’s New Clothes” as a central metaphor to investigate....

George Floyd, A Life

— Malik Miah

His Name Is George Floyd:
One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice
By Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa
Viking, May 2022, 428 pages.

I PARTICIPATED IN the popular uprising for racial justice after George Floyd was murdered by a white Minneapolis cop on May 25, 2020. I thought I knew his story — how George Floyd died, where he came from and how he lived. The cold-blooded assassination of this typical Black man sparked a massive national and international response — the largest ever in this country.

But this new book goes much deeper into his early life and places him in the context of America’s racial history, going back to slavery, emancipation and legal segregation, and the white backlash that persists....

Police Murder and State Coverup

Ronald Greene

THREE AND A half years after Louisi­ana state troopers beat Ronald Greene, 49, to death following a traffic stop, five officers have been charged with negligent homicide and malfeasance.

The December 16, 2022 Los Angeles Times reports:

“These are the first criminal charges of any kind to emerge from Greene’s bloody death on a roadside in rural northeast Louisiana. The case received little attention until an Associated Press investigation exposed a cover-up....

Reviews

Out of the Two-Party Trap

— Marsha Rummel

Breaking the Impasse.
Electoral Politics, Mass Action & The New Socialist Movement in the United States
By Kim Moody
Haymarket Books, 2022, 250 pages, $19.95 paper.

IN THIS THOUGHT-PROVOKING book, Kim Moody offers new insights about the old debate on the left regarding the role of electoral politics and orientation to the Democratic Party. Moody traces U.S. history from the Progressive Era of the 1890s through today’s increasing popular interest in socialism and the “spectacular growth of DSA” (2) since Bernie Sanders launched his 2016 presidential campaign.

Breaking the Impasse challenges the strategies proposed by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)....

Feminists Tell Their Own Stories

— Linda Loew

Inside the Second Wave of Feminism
Boston Female Liberation, 1968-1972
An Account by Participants
by Nancy Rosenstock
Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2022, 202 pages, hardback and paper.

INSIDE THE SECOND Wave of Feminism is a small volume packed with big ideas and activities shared by a militant group of young feminists in Boston a half century ago. It was a time of explosive ferment, with millions of people protesting against U.S. involvement in Vietnam and on the heels of massive civil rights marches earlier in the decade. Women were part of those movements and beginning to organize around feminist issues.

Twelve of the 13 feminists interviewed in the book, including the author Nancy Rosenstock, were members....

Working-Class Fault Lines in China

— Listen Chen

The Urbanization of People:
The Politics of Development, Labor Markets, & Schooling in the Chinese City
By Eli Friedman
Columbia University Press, 2022, 352 pages, $35 paperback.

IN 2021 THERE were 293 million internal migrant workers in China.(1) Although they constitute 40% of the national workforce, migrants are largely barred from accessing social services like public housing, education and healthcare in the cities where they work. These exclusions are held in place by China’s hukou, or household registration, system first put in place by the Chinese Communist Party in the late 1950s in an effort to control migration in service of central planning.

One of the most disruptive effects of the hukou system has been to keep migrant parents....

In Memoriam

Mike Davis, 1946-2022

— Bryan D. Palmer

“He was, as they say, an ‘incompressible algorithm,’ one of the most complex people that I’ve ever known. One of the kindest, one of the most tempestuous; one of the wryest, one of the most serious. So I loved him even if I didn’t fully know him. His death is simply a hole in the world.”(1)

The young Mike Davis.

TIME SPENT WITH with Mike Davis was always memorable. My first encounter with Mike was in 1981. He was working, and to all appearances squatting, at the London Meard Street offices of Verso/New Left Review. I dropped in unannounced, peddling a small book on E.P. Thompson that Toronto’s New Hogtown Press had just published. Mike was affability itself.

We went out to lunch “on the firm.” Pizza and beers turned into an afternoon of imbibing and telling tall tales....