Against the Current Editing–July/August 2023, ATC 225

ATC 225—-JULY/AUGUST 2023 (deadline MAY 15)–projected
*Writers’ Strike–interview with Howard Rodman
LA School Strike–?
Upcoming UPS Strike–Rand Wilson
Sudan’s Popular Movement in the Face of the Military–Adam’s friend
*Green Party Debates ukraine–Howie Hawkins
+France under Macron–Gerd Rainer-Horn
Women in the Sri Lankan Economy—Niyanthini Kadirgamar
*Union Democracy–Steve Downs
F-35 and Madison—Marsha Rummel
*Race & Class–Malik Miah–immigration
+Resistance to Book Burning—Harvey Graff (without footnotes)
+Book Banning–Mark Weber
+Review: Prophets Unarmed/collected works (Gregor Benton)—Promise Li–EDIT
+Review: Hidden History of the New Cold War (Achcar)–Peter Solenberger–EDIT
*Review: Saito, Marx & the Anthropocene–Rafe Bernabe
Review: Socialism Feminism (Frieda Afary—Pluto Press)—Catherine Sameh
Review: Michael Kazin’s history of DP—Mark Lause
*Review: Combat Terrorism—Jan Haaken
*Review: Crossing A Line–Leila Kawar
Review: The Sum of Things—Mark Higbee
Review: Power Before Precarity (Joe Berry, Helena Werthan)—K. Mann
Review: Stuart Hall’s writings on Marxism—Matt Garrett
Need to think through how to continue our coverage on Ukraine and Russia. There’s all kinds of material but we need to think about what to emphasize.

ed 225 6-1
DIANNE: I read an earlier, partial draft and was thinking that it needed to add a paragraph about other social struggles–most importantly the housing crisis. This draft, updated after the House voted for the deal, is a bit over the word length. I fear many folks will feel that Biden got the better of the deal–but it really signals that the help that had to be given to ordinary folks given the pandemic, and which cut poerty in half, is long over. To me, that was the point of the whole exercise.

Howard Rodman transcript edited
ALAN (1st draft. Version above has been edited.): This has some good and original material in it but is going to need a lot of editing. As might be expected in a radio interview, it’s very talkative, repetitive, with a lot of fluff, especially from Rodman. One aspect that might be eliminated: The alleged “literary” quotations and references (from Rodman and Minsky’s memories) don’t make much sense to me and are a bit distant from the originals, so they might be dropped. For example, Rodman says: “As Vladimir Nabokov once said, reality is the only word that makes sense only between inverted commas.” But I don’t know that Nabokov believed that “reality” made sense even then! In any event, the actual statement was more limited: “‘Reality’ is the one word that should always appear in quotation marks.” Nabokov’s view of reality is a topic of debate; more specifically, he also wrote: “You can know more and more about one thing but you can never know everything about one thing: it’s hopeless. So that we live surrounded by more or less ghostly objects— that machine, there, for instance. It’s a complete ghost to me….”

As for William S. Burroughs saying about the economics of the heroin trade, “Don’t improve the product, degrade the buyer,” I really didn’t understand this but the full statement in NAKED LUNCH seems much clearer to me: “The junk merchant doesn’t sell his product to the consumer, he sells the consumer to his product. He does not improve and simplify his merchandise. He degrades and simplifies the client.”

There is also the stuff at the end about the “epigram” (short satirical poem) from THE GREAT GATSBY. This is attributed to a non-existent poet (actually, a fictional character in another Fitzgerald novel) and means that one must impress a woman until she gives in (a mocking summary, apparently, of the GREAT GATSBY theme–and kind of misleading). I’m not sure readers will know what this reference is all about. And the frog/scorpion story is very cliché–not worth the space.

Minsky, of course, is very well known as a Left liberal activist, head of Progressive Democrats, and Rodman, obviously, important to interview . Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about the technical aspects of the strike or support network to comment on those aspects.

DIANNE: I’m fine with cutting the references as Alan suggests. I do like the interview because it “holds.” That is, it explains the issues and will not be out of date by the time we go go press.

Green Party Debates Ukraine

Excellent and important contribution. For a subsequent issue, IF we can find an intelligent and non-abusive alternsative viewpoint I’m open to dialogue. But not the garbage from the campist left posing as “anti-imperialist.”

France under Macron
Dianne: Good and concise summary but scary that Macron can impose the law via 49.3 AND that Le Pen may get the benefit from the events. But that is the possibility raised in the Sebastian Budgen interview that Suzi did and is on the ATCE website.

Alan: Yes, a very incisive and comprehensive analysis. Of course, the ending is disturbing in terms of what may happen and he doesn’t get into the area of what can be done about it. As usual, the “Black Block” types seem to be playing a terrible role and getting all the attention as the “Left.”

Purnima: I agree that this is a good article which a scary prognosis. I had no idea that Macron’s covid restrictions were so restrictive!

ATC…book banning
Alan: This is pretty good–but doesn’t it address the same issue as the one by Harvey Graff (already approved)? Actually, I like it a bit better as it takes the time to describe some of the books under attack. Also, it avoids the documentation mess created by Graff’s by not having any documentation.

David:  Actually, this piece by Mark Weber (I asked him for it because he’s a retired librarian and knows the issue) makes a good combination with Graff’s and I’m glad we can run them together in the next issue. Meanwhile we’re posting Graff on the ATC website and giving his email address for readers who want to get the references from him.
By the way, Mark W is a new member of Solidarity and will be doing a piece for us on Colombia, where he’s done some solidarity work.

Dianne: I liked Mark’s article. Thought it comprehensive and very glad he mentioned some of the titles being banned.

Purnima: I liked this article too both for its prose style (very elegant!) and content. Two minor suggestions. 1) can he add the title of the book in Llano County that describes the KKK as a terrorist org? 2) when he makes two global points about book banning, I wonder if he could add the explicit point to number one that whereas previous banning attempts targeted specific titles, now they are geared to censoring general subjects. (This latter point is implied but I would like to see it foregrounded.)

Barry Eidlin suggested we use this article, written by an LA teacher and active DSA member (not written under her real name) and she is fine with that,

Alan: I don’t understand. You mean we should just reprint an article that already appeared in Labor Notes? Isn’t the overlap in readership between ATC and Labor Notes too much for that to make sense?

David: Unfortunately we’ve struck out on both the LA teachers and UPS contract fight (I can report on Sunday). In view of time and space constraints I don’t think we should reprint the LN article, although we could post it if that would be helpful.

Saito, Marx and the Anthropocene
Dianne: This is a clearly written and thoughtful review!

Combat Trauma_Haaken-ATC Review (1)

David: I don’t know much about the subject, but Jan  Haaken clearly does. El-Haj’s first book FACTS ON THE GROUND was about the politics of Israeli Biblical archeology, which exposed her to vicious abuse from Zionist hacks and demands that she be fired. I would like to briefly mention this.

Dianne: Here is the introductory talk Steve Downs gave for a Solidarity zoom call on union democracy.
Alan: I think the body of Steve’s comments is pretty good, but we should eliminate the first two paragraphs and the first 2 1/2 sentences of the third. It should then begin with something like: “Building democratic unions is not separate from the overall project of forging a socialist movement to transform capitalist society.” Perhaps we also need a separate introduction by the ATC editors to explain why we are running this and how it originated. We might also figure out a way to have this be part of a larger package on the topic.

Biden anti-immigrationFinal
ALAN: Content-wise, I guess this is a good summary of how bad both the Trump and Biden policies are. However, the “solution” given by Malik is simply to “open the borders”–a good & necessary beginning, but in what follows there not a word as to how there will suddenly become enough resources to competently & justly provide court dates, work papers, necessary services to house and feed people (and there is complete silence on the issue of locating the migrants, which seems to be controversial as when schools in the Black community are cloded down to house them). Under our present capitalist system all this might be a bit tricky. (And there is no mention of any form of vetting–isn’t it possible that one or two of the hundreds of thousands of migrants might be violent types with a record of rape, murder, death squad activity? It would be nice to have them weeded out so long as the people doing the weeding have just policies and are not racist.). It seems like resources will need to be diverted (and laws changed?) to accomplish all this humanely. Also, most Left critiques of US immigration policy also mention the necessity of addressing the root causes of new migration patterns in terms of the U.S.policies & practices in Latin America and elsewhere. (Many migrants would prefer not to move and leave friends, family, and culture behind.)

In terms of form, there is the usual problem of relying on long and multiple quotations instead of analysis in the author’s own words. The second section, “Reality at the Border,” consists of 3 paragraphs of quotation followed by just one sentence in the author’s own words, followed by another 3 paragraphs of quotation. The next section, “We are Human Beings,” has 3 short paragraphs by Mailk followed by 7 paragraphs of quotation. Can’t we ask him to try to avoid this style?

David: Alan’s questions are important and way beyond the expertise of Malik or, to my knowledge, any of us. For a proper discussion of “immigration reform” we need to find someone who understands the details and has practical experience. I always cut down Malik’s extensive quotes.

Crossing A Line_2023-5-31
DIANNE: A beautifully and emotionally powerful review.

Prophets-Unarmed-review edited
Above has been edited with some of Alan’s points in mind. (David: I added the book information and
background on Gregor Benton. For readers who need background I added the reference to the Harold Isaacs book THE TRAGEDY OF THE CHINESE REVOLUTION. I can tweak a couple other historical details.)

ALAN: This is a bit of a surprise, as Promise has written for ATC several times and is a Ph D student in English at Princeton. Maybe he was working in haste (there is no title, no information on the book–which came out in hardback some seven years ago and paper a year after that). He seems to know his stuff and writes intelligent grammatical sentences, but it is more like a mass of information flowing with so much vagueness that I can’t really get more than a general idea of what he is talking about. He starts by emphasizing how Chinese Trotskyism became “reduced in numbers”–does he mean from ten to five, or 5,000 to 3,000? He does say it was the largest grouping of Trotskyists outside the USSR–the SWP claimed 2000 in the late 30s, and I think the Vietnamese were 3000…so larger than that? (Actually, I think it was much less than either.) He talks several times about things happening “en masse” [all together]…not sure what he means (every single person in the movement at once? just a large number of them?) He says there were arrests in Moscow “overnight”–is this at time of the Moscow Trials (1936-8) or earlier? Can’t he give date of Japanese invasion?

What follows is a long stream of information but it continues to be weak on specifics. He doesn’t tell us who Benton is or his qualifications, and far too many unfamiliar Trotskyist names are mentioned without any individualized identification at all. The material needs to be divided up into clear sub-sections, with transitions, and something at the outset should be included to clarify the character of the volume, its principles of organization, its sources.

Here are the first paragraphs of an academic review that I think does all these things and gives a good angle of approach for the non-specialist reader:

“Gregor Benton, editor. Prophets Unarmed: Chinese Trotskyists in Revolution, War, Jail, and the Return from Limbo. Historical Materialism Book Series, vol. 81. The Netherlands: Brill, 2015. xvii, 1289 pp. Hardcover $263.00, ISBN 978-90-04-26976-7. Chicago: Haymarket
Books, 2017. Paperback $55.00, ISBN 978-1608465545.

Opposition to Chinese communist policies by a variety of political actors-for example the Guomindang -has been well documented. Less well known is the dissident movement that emerged within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) itself, namely the Left Opposition or Trotskyist movement. As in the Soviet Union, which played a key role in the events, this opposition was based on a revolutionary socialist critique of the CP leadership, not on an anti- communist platform. Prophets Unarmed is by far the most authoritative study of the Chinese Trotskyists.

Editor Gregor Benton, Emeritus Professor at Cardiff University, Wales, has a very distinguished record of publications on Chinese history and society. He has made a unique contribution to the historiography of the Chinese revolution, the New Fourth Army, and other political and military campaigns of the 1930s and 1940s. One of his major achievements has been to analyze and document strands of dissidence within and around the CP. Based on decades of interviews, friendships, discussions, and archival research, Benton’s studies have included work on Chen Duxiu and Mao Zedong, on many of the CCP leadership factions, and on writers such as Wang Shiwei and
Hu Feng.

Prophets Unarmed is a comprehensive collection of documents on the Chinese Trotskyists who, from the late 1920s, challenged the political analyses and practices of the CP. Benton explains that the Chinese Left Opposition was “was among the largest of the Trotskyist organisations outside Russia, and the best prepared and the most mature and able. Trotsky himself saw it as the cream of the crop” (p. 30). Analysis is therefore highly relevant to the Chinese revolution overall, to an understanding of trends within the CP, and to the unfolding dramas within the international communist movements. Apart from Benton’s earlier publications, this opposition itself has been almost unknown….”

I think he has all the makings of an excellent review here, but it just needs more work.

Purnima: Alan’s additional paragraphs do a great job contextualizing this movement, Benton, and the volume more generally. Adding subheadings and transitions would also help.

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