New Politics Vol. XIII No. 4, Whole Number 52

Campaign for Peace and Democracy Update on Bahrain

Derrick Bell: Fighting Losing Battles, Stephen Steinberg

ARTICLES

Occupy Wall Street Declaration

From Occupy Wall Street to Occupy the World, Daniel La Botz

On War Tax Resistance, Lawrence Rosenwald

Obama and Debt Ceiling Crisis, Jack Gerson

Music of Change: Politics and Meaning in the Age of Obama, John Halle

Wrestling on Shaky Ground: Israel, Palestine and the Decline of a Superpower, Adam Keller

The Greek and the European Crisis in Context, C. J. Polychroniou

The District of Columbia: From the Oldest Colony to the 51st State?, Bill Mosley

Letter from Ireland: Queen Lizzy’s Tour of Shame, Lily Murphy

Why the Korean School System Is Not Superior, Se Hoon Park

Reading the Bible for the Wrong Reasons, Russell Pregeant

In Sweden, When the Voters Turn Right, the Right Turns Left, Steven Saxonberg

Teacher Unionism Reborn, Lois Weiner

BOOK REVIEWS

  • Betty Reid Mandell rev. of John Atlas, Seeds of Change: the Story of Acorn
  • Michael Wreszin rev. of Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow
  • Kent Worcester rev. of Ian Birchall’s Tony Cliff: A Marxist for His Time
  • Horst Brand rev. of Anne Nelson, Red Orchestra
  • Lynn Chancer rev. of Carol Giardina, Freedom for Women: Forging the Women’s Liberation Movement, 1953-1970
  • Phil Gasper rev. of R. York and B. Clark, Science and Humanism of Stephen Jay Gould
  • Daniel La Botz rev. of McKenzie Wark, The Beach Beneath the Street
  • Amy Littlefield rev. of The Revolution Starts At Home, eds., Ching-In Chen, Jai Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha
  • Betty Reid Mandell rev. of Vincent Dubois, The Bureaucrat and the Poor
  • Greg Smithsimon rev. of Joe Flood, The Fires: How a Computer Formula, Big Ideas, and the Best of Intentions Burned Down New York City and Determined the Future of Cities
  • Dan Steinberg rev. of Julian Brash on Bloomberg Administration
  • Michael Wreszin rev. of Thomas L. Jeffers, Norman Podhoretz, a Biography

FILM REVIEW

Mark P. Worrell, The Inner Logic of Avatar

WORDS AND PICTURES

Kent Worcester presents Tim Sanders

In this issue:

BAHRAIN UPDATE

By:

CPD’s statement "End U.S. Support for Bahrain’s Repressive Government" was signed by more than 1900 people, including several hundred Bahrainis, and was widely circulated in this country and Bahrain.

Derrick Bell: Fighting Losing Battles

By:

When Derrick Bell published Gospel Choirs in 1996, he sent me a copy with this inscription: "Our job is to turn out the truth. God’s help is needed to get the truth accepted." This epigrammatic note — principled resolve, on the one hand, and pessimism born of despair, on the other — encapsulated the two sides of Bell’s world view.

Occupy Wall Street Declaration

By: newpolitics

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

From Occupy Wall Street to Occupy the World: The Emergence of a Mass Movement

By:

The Occupy movement has changed the American political landscape. We are at the opening of a new mass movement and a radicalization that presage an era of coming social upheaval and class conflict that require the left to both analyze these developments and to develop a strategy to intervene. The left today, small, divided, and weak, must develop an approach that will make it possible for it to grow and unite so that it can influence events.

On War Tax Resistance

By:

Doing tax resistance has for me been connected with thinking about Thoreau, whose works I often teach in my classes. I used not to teach "Civil Disobedience," but only Walden I admired "Civil Disobedience" very much, but couldn’t bring myself to teach it.

Obama, Austerity, and Change We Really Can Believe In

By:

Barack Obama took office three years ago on a euphoric wave of aspirations.

Music of Change: Politics and Meaning in the Age of Obama

By:

In a classic essay[1] George Orwell describes himself as "amazed when I hear people saying that sport creates goodwill between the nations." Rather it leads to "orgies of hatred" as "young men . . . kick each other on the shins amid the roars of infuriated spectators."

Wrestling on Shaky Ground: Israel, Palestine, and the Decline of a Superpower

By:

Since the beginning of 2011, Israeli politicians, generals, and diplomats displayed a growing nervousness in anticipation of "September," i.e., the proclaimed Palestinian intention to seek a full United Nations Membership for the State of Palestine.

The Greek and the European Crisis in Context

By:

At the beginning of the new millennium, Greece, a weak, peripheral nation in the European economy, was still licking its wounds from the greatest politico-financial scandal in its post-war history — the collapse of the Athens stock exchange. The wild stock market speculation had been fuelled by often-repeated statements from various government officials (with Finance Minister Yiannos Papantoniou leading the chorus) that the upward trend was an accurate reflection of the robust state of the real economy.

The District of Columbia: From the Oldest Colony to the 51st State?

By:

On a warm evening in early April, a rally on Washington, DC’s Capitol Hill took a turn for the dramatic when protestors surged into Constitution Avenue, blocking rush-hour traffic. U.S. Capitol police arrested 41 of the demonstrators, among them District of Columbia Mayor Vince Gray and six members of the DC Council.

Letter from Ireland: Queen Lizzy’s Tour of Shame

By:

Here’s another one for the Irish history books: Queen Elizabeth II making a state visit to the Republic of Ireland, the first British monarch to do so since 1911. The visit began on May 18, and massive security made sure that most of the island was experiencing a lock down. She and her husband, Phillip, made Dublin their first port of call.

Why the Korean School System Is Not Superior

By:

In trying to assemble my thoughts on comparing Korean and American schools, I have to start with my personal experience. In fact, please keep the following in mind: I am not better than you in evaluating education systems; I am just a middle-aged man who lives next door and has 9- and 11-year-old kids. This article does not aim to define the Korean school system or rigidly evaluate its pros and cons. My own analysis of some of the ideology behind the Korean school system is entirely based on experience, rather than any formal knowledge.

The Bible on Community, Poverty, and Riches

By:

The religious right is wrong on many points, but perhaps its most outrageous distortion of truth is its use of the Bible in support of predatory capitalism. The Hebrew prophets’ bombastic indictments of the exploitation of the poor by the rich are fairly well known outside the boundaries of right-wing fundamentalism.[1] What I emphasize in this article is a broader point: the centrality of economic justice in ancient Israel’s self-understanding as a community in covenant with God and in the New Testament as well.

In Sweden, When the Voters Turn Right, the Right Turns Left

By:

With the electoral losses of left-leaning parties in the past year in Germany, the UK and even in the model social democratic country, Sweden, recent events do not seem encouraging for those engaged in progressive politics. Given the meltdown of the financial markets and the rising consensus against free-market policies, even within the business community and business magazines, such as the Economist, one might have expected the Left to do much better and even see some kind of renaissance.

Teacher Unionism Reborn

By:

In the past five years, we have witnessed a demonization of teachers unions that is close to achieving its goal: destruction of the most stable and potentially powerful defender of mass public education. Teacher unionism’s continued existence is imperiled — if what we define as "existence" is organizations having the legal capacity to bargain over any meaningful economic benefits and defend teachers’ rights to exercise professional judgment about what to teach and how to do it.

review

The Rise and Fall of ACORN

By:

Most people never heard of ACORN (Association of Community Organization for Reform Now) until the conservatives attacked it. The media does not follow long and complicated organizing campaigns. It prefers more time limited dramatic news such as lawsuits or demonstrations. But even when ACORN organized large demonstrations, the media was not likely to credit ACORN.

review

The Consequences of Denial and Indifference

By:

Anyone walking about in a large urban city today cannot help but see the overwhelming signs of the importance of race in our daily lives. Neighborhoods are segregated into black and white areas. The former are invariably blighted and unattended. The schools are almost totally segregated, black in the inner cities and white in the suburbs. The New York Times almost daily has a story on the impact of race on employment. Black resumes are often simply rejected without being read.

review

Building the Party

By: newpolitics

A fair number of New Politics readers will have read one or more of Tony Cliff’s books, or perhaps even seen him deliver one of his stem-winding speeches. For more than half a century, Tony Cliff (1917-2000) played a leading role in the movement to rebuild the international far left in the wake of Stalinism and fascism. He was a proponent of the theory of Soviet state-capitalism, a biographer of Lenin, Luxemburg, and Trotsky, and a central figure in the development of the International Socialist tendency.

review

German Resistance to the Nazi State

By:

The book’s title translates a term, "Rote Kapelle," that the Gestapo applied to a relatively small circle of men and women in Berlin, active in seeking to weaken the political authority of the Hitler regime during the 1930s and early 1940s. The term, however, was meant to convey the notion that the group was involved in a Soviet conspiracy — a notion that survived the war and was perpetuated in the ensuing climate of a public opinion shaped by the cold war and hostility to the Soviet Union.

review

The Dialectical Biologist

By:

It has been almost 10 years since the death of the Harvard paleontologist and evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould at the relatively early age of 60. Gould was not only a major figure in the life sciences, he was also one of the great popularizers of science. He wrote a monthly column for Natural History magazine from 1974 to 2001, generating exactly 300 essays that explained complex scientific ideas without oversimplifying them.

review

The Situation of the Situationists: A Cultural Left in France in the 1950s and 60s

By:

Most of us, if we know anything at all about the Situationist International, know Guy Debord’s brilliant and famous pamphlet The Society of the Spectacle and, if we are old enough, perhaps remember the striking cover of its English language edition showing rows of moviegoers sitting passively and expectantly in a theater wearing 3-D glasses.

review

"Our Movements Suffer as We Do": Ending Abuse in Activist Communities

By:

My friend, a young, radical woman of color, is frustrated. She has been participating in our local contingent of the Occupy Wall Street movement, and has been accused of perpetrating "hate speech" for gently reminding white men in the group that they should share space with women. She has watched women and people of color leave meetings after being silenced. She can’t decide whether to keep fighting or quit. Across the country, in spaces occupied by "the 99%," women are finding themselves marginalized or harassed.

review

French Welfare

By:

This is a study of two French welfare offices, done in six months in 1995. Dubois says that it is the first study of French welfare offices ever done. He calls it a "critical policy ethnography." Dubois observed interactions between workers and clients, mostly at the reception desk. He is a political scientist/sociologist (he says that political science in France was redefined on a sociological basis in the 1980s). He was not a specialist in welfare policy, which he claims as an advantage as it left him free of preconceptions.

review

The Fires Next Time

By:

On December 3, 1967, Regina and Charles Schneibel were trapped by fire in their Lower East Side apartment. Charles was unable to open the wooden shutters he’d installed in their home after one of their children had fallen from the window and died. In the blaze, Charles, Regina, and their two oldest children suffered severe burns. Their three youngest children died of smoke inhalation. Incredibly, the death of the three children didn’t even merit its own headline, because it wasn’t the biggest fire tragedy to report.

review

Planning the Neoliberal City

By:

Radical planning theorists have long held that one of the defining activities of municipal government historically has been to physically shape the city in order to facilitate the circulation and accumulation of capital.

review

A Journey to Mean-spiritedness

By:

This biography suffers from extreme hagiography and fanatical sycophantry. Norman Podhoretz is a notoriously opinionated ideologue (always denied) who expressed the most provocative statements on a world of ideas and issues. For more than fifty years there was a steady stream of books, three memoirs or autobiographies, and an endless list of articles from the early 1950s through the first decade of the 21st century.

review

The Inner Logic of Avatar

By:

In March 2010, Žižek reviewed Avatar for the New Statesman; his conclusion was that, at its core, the film duplicates a time-honored "reactionary myth" that perpetuates "vampiric exploitation" in the guise of "compassion for the poor." In short, Avatar is racist and brutal in its implications.

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