In this issue, we shift our focus toward domestic concerns, though we also look abroad with anxiety and trepidation.
The American political system, so highly polarized between conservative Republicans and moderate Democrats, has experienced in the last year some interesting changes on the left-hand margin of the national political scene.
Universalism and Health Care in the Twenty-first Century
The Affordable Care Act commentariat—including those confidently awaiting the day when all its promises are vindicated, those rooting for its ignominious demise, and those of us in a separate camp—have been kept occupied in recent months. Between autumn’s website drama and winter’s enrollment saga, the news cycle has been full of stories of IT dysfunctions tackled, right-wing challenges thwarted, enrollment goals met, electoral prospects threatened, and individuals newly insured (or variously dissatisfied).
Democracy, Social Justice, Mobilization
Across the United States, we are in the midst of a great struggle over the nation’s education system. On one side is a bipartisan effort to privatize schools and undermine the promise of public education. Opposing that effort are large numbers of parents and teachers.
A Memoir and Reflection on Badass Boffo Revolutionary Feminist Music
In Chicagoland, in 1970, almost every teenage girl listened to rock. They considered it their music—hormonal, quasi-outlaw, with screaming guitars and a heavy, driving beat. But it was sooo misogynist! This wasn’t the Beatles’ playful woman-affectionate songs.
We’re here and we’re not going away
On February 7, 2014, I sat down with Adelina Nicholls, executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR) in Atlanta, to talk about the organization’s history and achievements, as well as to reflect on the political role of Latino immigrants in the United States today.
Foreign Policy in the Obama Era
The moral collapse of the Obama administration on so many fronts—Guantanamo, Palestine, drone warfare atrocities, mass electronic surveillance and brutal prosecution of whistleblowers, presidential-ordered assassinations, and so much more—has rightly drawn shock and outrage from the peace and global justice movements. Indeed, this presidency has been a civil and human rights travesty both domestically and globally. Alongside our horror, however, must be a clear material and political assessment of the underlying strategic purpose of this administration.
The crisis in the Ukraine has raised grave problems for the people of that country, significant dangers for world peace, and many contending views on the left. Here we offer three articles that we think help us make sense of what’s going on, by Joanne Landy, Kevin B. Anderson, and Sean Larson.
Is There a Way Out?
The governments of the United States and Russia are attempting to shape events in Ukraine in their own interests, not for the benefit of the Ukrainian people. Ukrainians have long suffered from domination by Moscow, under the Russian czars and later in the Soviet Union, most horrifically under Stalin. With the end of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, millions hoped for freedom and a new beginning.
Ukraine constitutes a test not only for democratic movements, or the unevenly matched imperialisms of the U.S./EU and Russia, but also for the global left. As with other “difficult” moments like the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo, Iran 2009, or the Libyan uprising, our support for democracy and human rights has in some quarters come into conflict with the long held stance that neoliberal capitalism, led by the United States, is the main danger confronting humanity.
Ukrainian capitalism today is distinguished by the most fortified oligarchy of the post-Soviet states. Politics in Ukraine have been subject to volatile lurches over the last decade, driven by the direct involvement of masses of Ukrainians. Meanwhile, shaping the economic, political, and ideological aspects of society and daily life in Ukraine is a ubiquitous inter-imperialist competition between Russia on the one side and the United States and the European Union on the other.
[Ed. note: This essay by James Kilgore was the winner of the Daniel Singer Prize for 2013. Kilgore lived in South Africa from 1991-2002. During that time he was a fugitive from U.S. justice living under the pseudonym “John Pape.” He worked as an educator and researcher for unions and social movements. In 2002 he was arrested on the streets of Cape Town, then extradited to the United States where he served six and a half years in prison. In July 2012 he returned to South Africa for the first time since his arrest. Here he presents his reflections on the journey.]
Scholars have sometimes noted that Argentinian history seems unusually punctuated by periods of booming prosperity followed by dramatic collapse.
One of the most important issues in world politics today is China’s rise as a great imperialist power. Most left-wing writers consider China either as a “socialist country,” a “deformed workers’ state,” or as a “dependent capitalist country” exploited by Western monopolies.
Right-wing militias killed Rosa Luxemburg and dumped her dead body into the Landwehr Canal after the Spartacus uprising in Berlin. Social democrats and communists finished off her intellectual and political legacy by putting her on their respective pedestals. She became a principal witness against Bolshevik organizing practices for the former and was praised as a co-founder of the German Communist Party and a revolutionary martyr by the latter.
Doug Ireland, radical journalist, blogger, passionate human rights and queer activist, and relentless scourge of the LGBT establishment, died in his East Village home on Oct. 26. Doug had lived with chronic pain for many years, suffering from diabetes, kidney disease, sciatica, and the debilitating effects of childhood polio. In recent years he was so ill that he was virtually confined to his apartment. Towards the end, even writing, his calling, had become extremely difficult.
The gifted political cartoonist Phil Evans passed away earlier this year in the seaside town of Hastings, England. He was 68.
Inequality is the theme of our time. It should perhaps be said that it has always been so. But after the surge of globalization since the 1990s, the decreasing fortunes of the middle class, and the more recent shock of the 2008 financial crisis, it has come more sharply into focus. It is within this context that Thomas Piketty has published Capital in the Twenty-First Century, a book that is exhaustively researched and brimming with empirical data and interpretation.
Sit-ins at lunch counters by black students began in Greensboro, North Carolina, on February 1, 1960. Blacks had traditionally not been served there or anywhere in the South at that time. Within a week the sit-ins spread to Durham and Winston-Salem. Eleven of the first sit-ins were within 100 miles of Greensboro. After many arrests, and assaults by white hoodlums, on July 25 all Greensboro stores targeted by the sit-ins agreed to serve blacks on an equal basis.
The mainstream media was never true to its pretension of comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable—which was Gilded Age humorist Finley Peter Dunne’s point—but there were exceptions, and exceptional practices. “Accountability reporting,” or investigative reporting, is one of them.
The labor- and third-party movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have been studied and written about extensively by academics and writers on the left. Most readers of this journal are probably familiar with much of this material. This book, however, is of particular interest today for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the author concentrates on the South and emphasizes the biracial nature of the movement.
For many years the dominant trend in scholarship on C.L.R. James has been to emphasize his cultural and literary writings. Arguably the most popular way to frame his legacy has been to situate him as a forerunner to cultural studies, post-colonial studies, and identity politics. Grant Farred, for example, has criticized “earlier modes of James studies” that addressed “debates that occupied sectarian James scholars” and welcomed “the centrality of cultural studies within James scholarship,” while Brett St. Louis has argued that the “march of identity politics and post-modernism” is “irresistible,” and that James’s work is of value precisely because it “grapples with a proto-post-marxist problematic.”
Blogs & On-Line Features
JULY 21, 2014 -- Since the writing of my effort to analyze the Obama foreign policy (“Droning On, Fracking the Planet,” New Politics Summer 2014), a confluence of events – in various ways, all blowback from ravages of U.S policies past and present – combined to transform much of world politics in nasty and dangerous directions, with huge tolls in destruction and human misery. To review very briefly:
Dan La Botz' article on the return of Left to electoral politics is generally insightful, and its survey of campaigns around the U.S. is a valuable contribution. However, the article's analysis of the Dan Siegel campaign for mayor of Oakland is off.
Will MORENA, the National Regeneration Movement founded and led by former presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, be able to change Mexican politics and what sort of change might that mean? We will soon have an idea. Founded in November 2012, MORENA is now a legitimate political party with the right to run candidates in elections.
Words have histories, and history affects meaning. And since the history of the English language is very much bound up with the history of the English Empire, many ordinary words have histories that are subtly, or even covertly, racist, imperialist, or otherwise troublesome. I recently received a letter from a colleague, taking me to task for using the word tribalism in an article. He wrote:
These are desperately bad times. The government of Israel, having provoked the firing of rockets by its rampage through the West Bank, is now using that response as the pretext for an aerial assault on Gaza which has already cost scores of lives. An atmosphere of hysteria is being deliberately provoked in Israel, and whole communities are being subject to collective punishment, a war crime. People are dying, and for what? To prevent a unity government of Fatah and Hamas?
Both US teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), held their national conventions in July. For the first time in decades the conventions were marked by challenges to union leaders on educational policies, including union approval of the Common Core and union leader's unwillingness to take on the Obama administration and Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education.
The World Cup is the most widely viewed sporting event around the world. Millions of viewers will tune in Sunday to watch the broadcast of the upcoming final match and cheer on their favorite teams as they battle for the golden trophy. In the United States, the event has become a much anticipated and celebrated source of entertainment – an opportunity for people to show support for their country and an excuse to grab a drink and watch the game with friends at a local bar.
Claudio Lomnitz. The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón. New York: Zone Books, 2014. 594 pages. Notes. Index of Names. Photos. Hardback. $35.95.
If it were a house, Claudio Lomnitz’s The Return of Comrade Ricardo Flores Magón would be a rambling, decaying mansion with various jerrybuilt stories and wings, a ramshackle place filled with archives and artifacts, old political posters and antique typewriters, a building straddling the U.S.-Mexico border, a shared abode whose residents are an interesting and odd collection of characters, some of them lovely people, some noble, and others quite disagreeable, coming and going at all hours, sometimes reciting poetry. And don’t be surprised if, while you’re visiting, the place is raided by Furlong or Pinkerton agents, by the police or the Texas rangers who carry off some of the boarders to prison; some of whom will be gone for years at a time.
An Interview with David McNally
[This is part two of an interview with scholar-activist David McNally on the current economic crisis. The first part focused on the crisis itself, its causes, the way in which working life has been reorganized, the perspective of ruling elites in managing the crisis and pursuing austerity policies, and how this should help inform our stance as movement activists.
Bernard Duterme et al. Zapatisme: la rébellion qui dure. Alternatives du Sud. Paris: Centre Tricontinental and Éditions Syllepse, 2014. Chronology. Notes. Index. 205pp.
An Interview with David McNally
[It’s been nearly seven years since the onset of the global economic crisis that began in 2007. In order to get an understanding of the crisis—of its origins, depth, and trajectory, we spoke with David McNally, activist, political economist, and author of Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance (2010) and more recently Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires and Global Capitalism (2012). For readability’s sake, we have broken this interview into two parts. This first part focuses on the crisis itself, its causes, the way in which working life has been reorganized, the perspective of ruling elites in managing the crisis and pursuing austerity policies, and how this should help inform our stance as movement activists.
Adopted by U.S. Labor Against the War (USLAW) Steering Committee, June 25, 2014
A majority of working people opposed the Iraq War and participated in the eight year struggle to end it. We felt great relief when the last troops departed Iraq in 2011.
Göran Therborn. The Killing Fields of Inequality. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2013. Hardback: $40.00 Paperback: $19.95 Kindle: $9.99
We don’t think of philanthropists as ragged: louche, maybe even a tad shabby, as with