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 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
Sam Gindin, former Research Director of the Canadian Auto Workers union and co-author with Leo Panitch of “The making of global capitalism” graciously agreed to answer questions from NP board members about his book when he and I participated in a conference at the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Thirteen arrested as protesters tell Senators Menendez and Booker: ‘No more blank check for Israel’s crimes,’
[This article was first published on Mondoweiss.]
Another young black man has been shot and killed by the police in an American city. Michael Brown’s killing forms part of a national pattern that is a horror for the African American community, an outrage against humanity, and a disgrace to our country.
Hawkins Calls for Federal Jurisdiction in Police Brutality Cases; Statement on Ferguson, Garner, Syracuse, Militarization of Police
[We re-post here a statement by Howie Hawkins, Green Party candidate for Governor of New York.—eds.]
Staten Island, Syracuse, Ohio, and Ferguson. Garner, Grant, Crawford, and Brown. Add these locations and names to the long list of young black unarmed men (and women) who are racially profiled and injured or killed at the hands of Police Departments around the country. From every corner of the US there are daily reports of police brutality and misbehavior.
Review of Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty
Dear Frank Bruni,
I enjoyed your restaurant reviews in the NY Times. Reading your descriptions of the food and ambience allowed me to experience vicariously many restaurants. We seem to have a similar sensibility -- about food. You seemed not to allow restaurant publicity and PR to influence your ratings or judgment, maybe because you know good food and the restaurant business thoroughly enough so that you could see through hype.
In the past few weeks, New Politics has published two valuable commentaries on the role of socialists and the Left in local electoral campaigns, first a broad overview by Dan La Botz and then a response by David Judd specifically on Dan Siegel’s campaign for Mayor of Oakland.
Only large-scale civil disobedience will make our leaders address economic injustice.
In 1989, Bob Dylan recorded a song titled “Everything Is Broken”. That song seemed to go largely ignored, perhaps because it seemed to be only a pessimistic lament that offered no suggestions for how to go about fixing the “everything”.
But as with many of his songs, it was prophetic. Lately, many Americans are experiencing the feeling that everything is broken, but people in many other countries have had this feeling for a long time.
In 1968, the Mannington Mine in Farmington WV owned by Consol Coal, caught fire, blew up, and 78 miners were buried, many likely alive.
In 1972, a Consol mine in Blacksville, WV, caught fire and 9 miners were buried (again, likely alive) when Consol sealed the mine off to stop the fire and save the coal.
[Because Kshama Sawant is at the moment the leading elected socialist official in the United States her opinions carry a weight far more important than those of many other socialist groups and activists. We print below Sawant's recent statement on Israel's attacks on Gaza made in the Seattle City Council and reprinted on the Socialist Alternative website. - Eds]
Review of Andrew J. Bacevich, Breach of Trust: How Americans Failed Their Soldiers and Their Country. New York, Metropolitan Books, 2013. 238 pages. Endnotes. Hardcover $26. Paperback $16. Kindle $11.04
There is so much wrong with Michael Walzer’s brief essay on the New Republic website, supporting Israel in its latest onslaught, while criticizing “a little uneasily” some of the excessive civilian deaths, that it is hard to know where to begin.
Daniel Bensaïd. An Impatient Life: A Memoir. Foreword by Tariq Ali. New York: Verso, 2013. Photos. Notes. 358pp. Hardback - $34.95.
Daniel Bensaïd, raised in his Algerian Jewish and French Communist family in Toulouse, was strongly affected as an adolescent by the revolutionary movements in Algeria, Cuba, and Vietnam. At the university, he became swept up in and was soon a student leader of university strikes that set off the great upheaval of May 1968 leading to the strike by 11 million workers.