After protests and occupations temporarily shut down ICE offices, Donald Trump suffered a significant political defeat when he was forced to reverse himself on separating immigrant children from their parents after they were arrested at the border. By and large, people were horrified at the separation of kids from their families and at the creation of what were basically prison camps for children. Polls showed that only about a quarter of the U.S. population supported Trump on this child-hostage policy, though about half of Republicans did.
Like the Arab Spring, the U.S. “Education Spring” was an explosive wave of protests. Statewide teacher walkouts seemed to arise out of nowhere, organized through Facebook groups, with demands for increased school funding and political voice for teachers. Though the walkouts confounded national media outlets, which had little idea how to explain or report on the movements, for parent and teacher activists who have been organizing against reforms in public education over the past four decades, the protests were understandable, if unexpected. What was surprising was their breadth of support (statewide), their organizing strategy (Facebook), and their breathtakingly rapid spread.
Reasons for Cautious Optimism from the Landless Workers Movement
In May 2017, Left politics in Brazil were pretty bleak. It was almost a year after the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff of the Brazilian Workers Party (PT), whose ousting from power brought along with it an onslaught of austerity policies.2
It is the sixtieth anniversary of Raya Dunayevskaya’s Marxism and Freedom, a work both of its time and ahead of its time.
If one thing was clear coming out of the New York City Democratic Socialists of America’s May 5 convention, it was that most delegates uniformly consider themselves socialists and aspire to build an anti-corporate resistance movement nationwide. So far, so good.
An Interview with Lawrence Brown on Community Trauma and Healing
Lawrence Brown associate professor of public health in the School of Community Health and Policy at Morgan State University. He is the grandson of sharecroppers who lived in the Mississippi Delta and a native of West Memphis, Arkansas. He is a historian, critical geographer, and political economist who sees public health from a critical, interdisciplinary perspective and advocates for holistic approaches to healing the Black communities of Baltimore. His book The Black Butterfly: Why We Must Make Black Neighborhoods Matter (Johns Hopkins Press) is forthcoming.
A Clash of Classes and a Brewing Perfect Storm
Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration. - Abraham Lincoln
The Federal Reserve Board, the bankers’ bank, has put out figures and reports showing that even before the Trump regime, the rich were acquiring a larger share of the nation’s total income and wealth. The September 2017 Federal Reserve Bulletin reports that “the distribution of income and wealth has grown increasingly unequal in recent years.”1 Other government reports show that many continue to live in poverty and lack shelter and an adequate amount of food.
Sitting alone in my room watching videos on YouTube, hearing sounds from across the hall of my roommate watching Netflix, the obvious point occurs to me that a key element of the demonic genius of late capitalism is enforcing a crushing passiveness on the populace.
At time of writing, we are still in the dissipating wake of another mass shooting in the United States, this time in a Parkland, Florida, high school. The American people are once again reminded of the ubiquitous threat of violence that characterizes their everyday lives. We are once again confronted with the nauseating reality of a two-party system that defends this violence in word and deed—while providing rhetorical paeans to security, freedom, and safety.
A CNN report last November about slave auctions in present-day Libya shocked the world.1 The existence of these slave auctions was widely treated as a new development in the country and a result of the chaos that resulted from the NATO-supported overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. In truth, however, what CNN discovered is but a surviving remnant of Gaddafi’s regime—the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya—a police state with systematic racism and abuse both of Libyans of sub-Saharan African descent and of sub-Saharan African migrants.
This season’s roundup of nonfiction comics includes self-published and small-press titles as well as noteworthy releases from major trade publishers. Topics covered range from consumer capitalism and imprisoned anarchists to Trinidadian social history and the war in Syria. Each of these titles deploys a distinctive approach to the challenge of folding political themes into visual narrative. In different ways, these books suggest that the forward march of political cartooning continues unabated.
This memoir of sorts by Fordham University sociology professor Heather Gautney, who became a policy fellow in Bernie Sanders’ Washington DC office and a volunteer researcher and organizer for his unexpectedly popular 2016 presidential campaign, has a very specific focus: to “offer insights from up-close work with Bernie, mixed in with historical and sociological analysis, to perform an autopsy of the 2016 election” (2). Given the sheer number of insightless (to put it mildly) autopsies that have been proffered across the political spectrum—perhaps none more useless than Hillary Clinton’s own What Happened (Simon & Schuster, 2017)—Gautney’s book is more than welcome and even slightly overdue.
Why the United States has not developed a permanent socialist movement has perplexed activists and theorists for more than a century. Paul Le Blanc takes up that query as an activist who wants to see an anti-capitalism mass movement take shape in twenty-first century America. To that end, he investigates some of the moments when the possibility of a significant left presence in the United States seemed at hand. He focuses on what made those movements viable and what thwarted their long-term success. The volume’s fourteen essays were written over a period of thirty years, from 1986 to 2015.
Steve Fraser is a weathered veteran of the New Left and many subsequent movements, author of shrewd books on the acquisitive ruling class and also of the outstanding biography of famed left-leaning labor giant Sidney Hillman, among other works. Here he once again ranges far, but also comes close to home, his own personal home space.
More than a hundred years ago, the muckraking journalist Upton Sinclair worked undercover for several weeks in the cattle slaughterhouses of Chicago. The result was his melodramatic but revelatory novel The Jungle, a work Jack London called the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin of wage slavery.” Sinclair’s narrative depicted the brutal working conditions endured by East European immigrants on the killing floor, engaging in back-breaking, dangerous, and tedious labor for subsistence wages.
— Reprinted from New Politics, vol. II, no. 2 (new series), #6, Winter 1989 —
By Martin Oppenheimer
“The Year of Dangerous Living” was written for the twentieth anniversary of 1968. The “’68ers” were still young in 1988, in the prime of their lives, and memories were fresh. There was an explosion of protests against campus racism, gay-bashing, and increasing corporatization of universities (including union-busting). These baby-boomers, then hitting the big 4-0, were nostalgic. There was a sense that despite a Republican president, the moment was ripe for new efforts that required a serious appraisal of past campaigns.
— Reprinted from New Politics, vol. VI, no. 3, #23, Summer 1967 (printed June 1968)
At 4 am on April 30 , my wife and I stood with tears streaming down our faces on the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and 117th Street, watching the last of the Fayerweather Hall sit-ins being tossed into waiting police vans. We were not the only ones crying, nor were the tears merely those of pity or self-pity. There was also anger, frustration, and actual joy. The incredible—and inevitable—had happened; the “Big Bust” had come. Seven hundred and twenty student and faculty protesters were under arrest; more than 130 had been beaten up, some quite badly. The last illusions about what was happening were shed.
Blogs & On-Line Features
Reformers in the Teamsters have the wind at their backs. A rank-and-file slate swept to victory November 10 at Local 767 in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, the largest UPS local in the South.
Renzo Llorente. The Political Theory of Che Guevara. Rowman & Littlefield International, London, 2018. 196 pp., $39.95 pb.
The iconic Alberto Korda image of Che Guevara captured at a political event in Havana in 1960 continues to cast a spell over the imagination of the global left. In the wake of the wave of revolutions that erupted across the world one year after his execution in 1967, t-shirts and posters carrying the photo were de rigueur for rebels with and without a cause. In this century, the legend of Che has been re-fuelled by the resurgence of the radical left in the form of the anti-capitalist movement and its electoral manifestations such as Syriza and Podemos. The publication of his youthful Motorcycle Diaries in 2003 sparked another slew of biographies and movies that propagated the paradox of revolutionary chic.
Central American migrants, both desperate and courageous, have thrust themselves into the center of Mexican and U.S. politics with their demand for refuge and asylum. As the head of the NGO Pueblos Sin Fronteras told a reporter, “This isn’t just a caravan, it’s an exodus created by hunger and death.”
The victory of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO) in Mexico’s July 2018 presidential election has led many to hope that a left is again resurgent in Latin America. His success bucks the recent trend in a region where the threat of ‘Castrochavismo’ has been used relatively effectively by the right to attack the left, which has sustained widespread electoral setbacks in the face of significant failings in government. Accusations of authoritarianism, economic mismanagement, corruption and even violence overshadow commitments to redistribution and social change.
The devastating victory of extreme right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil’s presidential elections on October 28 left many across the world shocked and wondering how someone who openly preaches hate and violence could have won. Claudia Fanti, an Italian journalist, spoke to João Pedro Stedile of the national board of the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST), about the elections and the way forward for the left in Brazil.
An interview by Andy Piascik
Jane LaTour has been active in the labor movement since the 1960s. She has worked in factories and on staff for several unions including District 65, one of New York City’s best-known left-led unions. LaTour also worked for the Association for Union Democracy and the Wagner Labor Archives at New York University and is the author of Sisters in the Brotherhoods: Working Women Organizing for Equality in New York City.
Thousands of Google employees throughout the United States and around the world walked off their jobs yesterday, Nov. 1, “to protest sexual harassment, misconduct, lack of transparency, and a workplace that doesn’t work for everyone.” Beginning in Singapore and working its way around the globe the movement closed Google offices from Mountain View, California, in Boulder and New York, as well as in London, Dublin, Zurich, Berlin and Hyderabad.
Kristen Ghodsee, Red Hangover: Legacies of Twentieth Century Communism, Duke University Press, 2017, 227 pages. $24.95
Kristen Ghodsee, an American academic with family roots in Latin America and the Middle East, has written a strange, but fascinating book, combining history, personal anecdotes and short stories. Her overriding theme is that the imposition of free market capitalism and parliamentary democracy on the former Soviet satellites in Eastern and Central Europe came at too high of a social cost, a conclusion that will be shared by the typical reader of New Politics. However, her favorable assessment of certain aspects of the old Communist order may raise eyebrows.
(This article was originally published on Oct. 27.)
Brazil will elect its new President on 28 October 2018. Since the judicial-parliamentary coup that removed elected President Dilma Rousseff, of the Workers’ Party (PT), the new administration (led by her former Vice-President, Michel Temer) has advanced its agenda of neoliberal ‘reforms’. The economic crisis has continued unabated, and the campaign for the destruction of the PT has intensified, leading to the imprisonment of former President and PT founder Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.1
Scott McLemee considers Leo R. Chavez's Anchor Babies and The Challenge of Birthright Citizenship, which makes clear how little has been added to the stock of anti-immigrant rhetoric over the past century.
Reports of the forcible separation of parents and children at the border by U.S. immigration authorities tell only part of the story of the violence now being directed against hard-won norms of civil society.
As the GOP’s fears of a progressive wave in November grow, Donald Trump has made it his personal mission to make everyone else afraid, too.
Note: While teachers in Los Angeles Unified School District have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, members of the largest teachers union local in the US, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) in New York City, are debating a proposed contract settlement. In this guest blog, UFT activist Dan Lupkin explains why he wants the proposed contract to be voted down. We invite other opinions on this debate underway in the UFT. - Lois Weiner
Seymour Hersh. Reporter: A Memoir. Knopf, 2018. 368 pp.
Writing in 1940, George Orwell opined in a review of a Bertrand Russell book that “we have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” Much the same can be said about the more than fifty-year career of journalist Seymour Hersh, whose pioneering exposés of the lies of the Great Powers report and affirm facts that follow Orwell’s dictum.