Archive | Commentary

  • Red

    1 She calls across the tenement valley to her friends pulling laundry off the cross-cut line A block away, hogs hang from steel question-marks Guts pour from the gashes in their bellies spill over the workers’ shoes fall between the floor slats into Miller’s River She calls Bernadette, Madge, Belinda in the chopped syllables of […]

  • Of Shibboleth and Power

    Sometimes, when a comrade intentionally ignores relevant facts in the discussion of an issue, it may indicate that the comrade is enthralled by an unexamined shibboleth. If I remember my Bible, the word shibboleth was used as a kind of military password, because enemy intruders couldn’t pronounce it.  Those who approached Hebrew positions at night […]

  • Judge of Character

    Nothing offend American voters more than the imputation that their vote is ideologically motivated. Anything that smacks of partisanship is rejected out of hand. “I don’t vote for the party,” they’ll insist.  “I vote for the person.” Then why, one wonders, is the American electorate such a lousy judge of character?  Why is inflexibility taken […]

  • “The Prime Minister’s New Clothes” in Denmark Today

    In Europe, the legitimacy of almost all established political parties and governments seems to be suffering from metal fatigue. This malaise is aggravated by their attempts to implement neoliberal economic policies and adapt themselves to US imperialism at the same time. Is the small Scandinavian country of Denmark an exception that proves the rule? The […]

  • Street Life of a Mad Activist

    Hey, lady. You got a problem with my hat? I mean, look. I was just walking down Fort Washington Avenue, minding my own business on my way to the A Train, and you — an ordinary, middle-aged white lady in a blue plaid housedress — stop to glare at my hat. How friendly is that? […]

  • Building Socialism of the 21st Century

    [The following is the concluding section of Michael A. Lebowitz’s talk “Socialism Doesn’t Drop from the Sky,” presented to the National Conference of Revolutionary Students for the Construction of Socialism of the XXI Century in Merida, Venezuela on 24 July 2005. — Ed.] In the same way that Marx was prepared to change his own […]

  • Let’s Put the Nature of Work on Labor’s Agenda: Part Three

      In Part Two, we examined the rapidly changing nature of post-secondary teaching, one of the two reasonably skilled  jobs among the top ten jobs estimated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to show the highest job growth between 2002 and 2012. The other job is nursing. Job experts claim that there is a […]

  • Starbucks: Selling Out the Counter-Culture?

    “Hip capital” . . . “Rebel consumers” . . . “Conquest of cool” . . . “Bobos [bourgeois bohemians] in paradise!” Such are the terms used by social critics to ironically sum up the marketing of the counter-culture, a phenomenon that is commonly exemplified by the reduction of one-time “anti-establishment” anthems to a seemingly endless […]

  • Letter to Young Activists: Beware Sixties Nostalgia

    In my lifetime, young people have changed the world. From Little Rock to Greensboro, from Selma to Soweto, in Tien an Mien and Seattle and Nepal, it was the young who dared to act in the face of the overwhelming certainty that nothing could be done. It was their direct action that educated, opened doors […]

  • On Freakonomics, Roe v. Wade, and John Roberts, Jr.

    Controversy sells. Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, a collaboration between economist Steven D. Levitt and journalist Sthephen J. Dubner, is a good example of this maxim. Levitt and Dubner tackle controversial subjects in an unconventional fashion, and now their book is a New York Times Bestseller. Although I do not […]

  • Holy war

    With god on our side we don’t need a conscience. The others are ripe for burning and burn them we will, the smoke of their flesh rising to heaven, an acceptable sacrifice. With god on our side there is no grey, no shading only glaring gorgeous white blinding with purity: beyond just blackness that could […]

  • China’s Landless  

      Since the 1990s, at least 40 million farmers in China have lost their land. This process is being driven by what the article below calls the “bureaucratic-commercial interest group.” Local bureaucrats need to have a “good record” if they are to advance in their careers. A “good record” implies rapid GDP growth from industry, […]

  • In the Reactionary Era of “No Alternative”  

    For years, U.S. political and economic leaders saw themselves in mortal combat with communist nations for the allegiance of peoples at home and abroad. The pressure of being in competition with an alternative economic system set limits on how thoroughly Western leaders dared to mistreat their own working populations. Indeed, during the Cold War, pains […]

  • Politics and the Playing Field: An interview with Dave Zirin

    It’s fashionable on the Left to look down one’s nose at the world of sports. To do so, according to Dave Zirin, would be to miss a chance at both inspiration and solidarity. Zirin’s new book, What’s My Name, Fool! Sports and Resistance in the United States creates a much-needed bridge between the political and […]

  • “The Question of Working-Class Power”: Bill Fletcher, Jr. Speaks to the Canadian Auto Workers Conference, Toronto, Canada, 13 July 2005

      Good morning. President Hargrove, leaders, and members of the Canadian Auto Workers, I wish to thank you very much for inviting me to speak with you today. This is a great honor and I have been looking forward to this opportunity. If all goes according to some plans, by the end of July, the […]

  • A “Labor Intensive” Strategy for Building Workers’ Power

    At noon on a beautiful June day in suburban Minneapolis, eighty-five women and men streamed out of the U.S. West corporate “campus” building, each one carrying a pink, lime green, or lemon yellow square. Each square bore a single letter in black paint. Laughing, they lined up in a particular order, spelling out “D-O-W-N-S-I-Z-I-N-G A-T  […]

  • Against Deferred Gratification

    Every now and then I see a slogan that’s credited to Ben Cohen, of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream: “If it’s not fun, why do it?” It seems like the worst part of the sixties in seven words — the mindless hedonism and self-involvement that made the counter-culture such fertile terrain for commodification. We serious […]

  • The Labor Movement: It’s More than We Bargain for

    The battle over labor’s future is heading toward a showdown at the AFL-CIO Convention, beginning Monday July 25th in Chicago. But the confrontation pitting a team of insurgent unions led by the Service Employees International Union against the AFL-CIO establishment is shaping up to be organizationally bloody, but spiritually bloodless. We’re fighting for the heart […]

  • Puppets on a String?

    Freedom of the press, like freedom of speech, is sacred to most of us, limited as it is in a capitalist society in which the press is free only if you own one.  Today, Judith Miller of the New York Times is considered a martyr for freedom of the press. The emblematic defense of reporters’ […]

  • The Red-Green Paint Comes Off

    [John Mage’s Note: A version of the following article appeared in German in the weekly Freitag on July 8, 2005. On July 21, the German president agreed to the call for new elections in the fall. The latest polls indicate that support for the new Left Party continues to rise and is now at twelve […]