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Barry Sheppard reviews Peter Camejo's `North Star -- A Memoir'

North Star – A Memoir
By Peter Camejo
Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2010

Order a copy

Review by Barry Sheppard

[Posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission.]

July 8, 2010 -- North Star – A Memoir by Peter Camejo, who was an important figure in the radicalisation of “the Sixties” and beyond, up to his untimely death in 2008, should be read by veterans of the socialist movement and wider social causes. It also should be read by new activists thirsty for understanding of previous struggles in order to better equip themselves for present and future battles.

Also, the book is a good read. The first chapter is set in 1979, out of chronological order from the rest of the book. It explains how the CIA attempted to get Peter arrested in Colombia, on a leg of a speaking tour in South America. If he had been imprisoned there it is possible that he would have been “disappeared”. Without giving away the story, Peter escaped this fate through an unlikely intervention, quite a tale in itself.

United States: Victory as protesters and union block Israeli ship unloading at Oakland Port


Video by Tom Vee TV. More video below.

[For more information about trade union solidarity with Palestine, click HERE.]

June 20, 2010 -- ANSWER -- In a historic action and unprecedented action today, more 800 worker and community activists blocked the gates of the Oakland docks in the early morning hours, prompting longshore workers to refuse to cross the picketlines where they were scheduled to unload an Israeli ship.

(Updated June 21) Support for Palestinian unions' call for international unions to ban Israeli trade and ships

Palestinian trade union movement calls on international dockworkers' unions to block loading/offloading Israeli ships until Israel complies fully with international law and ends its illegal siege of Gaza

By the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, Palestine

June 7, 2010 -- The Palestinian trade union movement, as a key constituent member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls on dockworkers' unions worldwide to block Israeli maritime trade in response to Israel’s massacre of humanitarian relief workers and activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla, until Israel complies with international law and ends its illegal blockade of Gaza.

Memories of a participant: Kent & Jackson State, 1970 -- A firestorm they could not contain

By Mike Ely

May 4, 2010 -- Kasama Project -- May 4, 1970. Forty years have passed. It is history now in the eyes of the world. But for me, and many others, it is raw and alive. It always will be.

I won’t tell the well-known details – if you don’t know them, look them up. But I will tell you what it felt like, and looked like to a teenage boy who wanted desperately to see the liberation of the Vietnamese and Black people in America.

May Day for Bobby Seale — New Haven, 1970

On May 1 1970, I was in New Haven, Connecticut. Bobby Seale, the chairman of the Black Panther Party was facing a murder trial in New Haven. They had first bound and gagged him in the  courtroom of the Chicago 8, then shipped him to Connecticut to lock him up for life. We were determined to free him.

Students came from all over the US east coast to turn the city upside down. On my campus, we had worked day and night to explain the attack on the Black Panther Party – and to mobilise busloads to go New Haven.

Bobby Seale, chairman of the Black Panther Party.

From the civil rights movement to Barack Obama

Manning Marable.

Beyond Black & White
By Manning Marable,
Verso Press, 2009, 319 pages

Review by Malik Miah

Manning Marable’s latest book, Beyond Black & White, is an update of a valuable critique of Black and US politics first issued in 1995. He revised it last year, adding new chapters covering the period from 1995 to 2008, including an analysis of the meaning of the election of the first African-American president of the United States, Barack Obama, in November 2008.

The closing chapter, “Barack Obama, the 2008 Presidential Election and the Prospects for a ‘Post Racial Politics”, is a good place to begin reading the collection of articles and essays. Marable’s two prefaces —for the first and new edition — outline his views on “Black and white” and the evolution of how race impacts US political conversations and the failure of leadership in the Black community.

How African-American communists fought for racial equality to the US south

Februarry 16, 2010 -- NPR -- Tell Me More continues its Black History Month series of conversations with a discussion about the role of the Communist Party. It was prominent in the fight for racial equality in the south, specifically Alabama, where segregation was most oppressive. Many courageous activists were communists. Host Michel Martin speaks with historian Robin G. Kelley about his book Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists During the Great Depression about how the communist party tried to secure racial, economic, and political reforms. The transcript is available from NPR.

United States: `Clunker' healthcare bill protects private insurers, damages democracy

By Billy Wharton

March 24, 2010 -- Americans desperately need healthcare. The need is so desperate that many are buying into a “something is better than nothing” philosophy to support a healthcare bill that actively works against their own interests. The bill that US President Barack Obama plans to sign into law is being dubbed a “reform”, but actually amounts to a corporate restructuring that will solidify the reliance on the same private insurance companies that have caused the crisis in the nation’s healthcare system.

As single-payer heathcare activist Dr. Margaret Flowers stated, “The Democratic Party has now moved so far to the right that they have just passed a Republican health bill.” This is no surprise, private insurers and pharmaceutical companies have flooded the electoral system with money in order to guarantee their continued ability to accumulate profits.

[In the United States, "single-payer healthcare" refers to universal public health insurance schemes similar to Canada's scheme and Australia's Medicare.]

Alexandra Kollontai: International Women's Day -- a militant celebration

To mark International Women's Day 2010, Links International Journal of Socilalist Renewal reproduces Alexandra Kollontai's classic history and explanation of this important anniversary. Thanks to the Marxist Internet Archive (MIA) for making this and other writings by Kollontai available. Notes by MIA.

* * *

By Alexandra Kollontai

Mezhdunarodnyi den' rabotnitz, Moscow 1920 -- Women's Day or Working Women's Day is a day of international solidarity, and a day for reviewing the strength and organisation of proletarian women.

United States: The rise of bagel capitalism

By Harry Targ

February 27, 2010 -- Diary of a Heartland Radical -- A long time ago Karl Marx theorised that in capitalist societies the class of people that own and control the means of production -- the machines, the factories, the workers -- constituted an economic ruling class. The only thing that workers owned was their ability to do work. The workers would sell their ability to do work for a wage. The capitalists would hire workers, work them hard, and sell the goods and services produced. The capitalists would sell the products and/or services for more than the workers would get paid. They would keep the difference and that is where profit came from.

Over time, Marx said, the number of capitalists would get smaller and smaller and what they owned and controlled would get bigger and bigger. Marx’s predictions pretty much have come to pass with a few hundred corporations and banks controlling about one-third of all that is produced on the face of the globe.

Obama’s State of the Union: Year one of a corporate presidency

By Billy Wharton

January 27, 2010 -- From the start, Barack Obama’s presidency has seemed like one big public relations campaign. Tonight’s State of the Union address did little to dissuade one from this view. Sagging under the weight of depressed dreams of hope and change, he desperately needed to appear as though he was doing something to address the growing needs of the US people. Emphasis was on “appearances”, since Obama’s speech delivered more of the same from his first year in office: high rhetoric with little substance.

The clear emphasis of the speech was the US economy. This was a double-edged sword. In the first part, Obama presented his bank bailout as an unpopular, but necessary measure – “We all hated the bank bailout… I hated it… promised I wouldn’t just do what was popular, I would do what is necessary.” Yet, brushing off the bailout as a necessary evil misses important points.

Howard Zinn, 1922-2010: Howard Zinn interviewed by Dave Zirin

On May 2, 2009, the US International Socialist Organization invited Dave Zirin to sitdown and interview renowned historian Howard Zinn.

Martin Luther King Jr in the age of Obama: Why we can't wait

By Billy Wharton

January 17, 2010 -- Albert Boutwell's election as Birmingham, Alabama, mayor in 1963 might have signaled the end of the modern civil rights movement. As a moderate Democrat, Boutwell promised to temper the harsh repression unleashed by the city’s notorious chief of police and his mayoral opponent Eugene “Bull” Connor. Mainstream leaders of the black community were told to wait it out –- let the storm pass and incremental changes could begin. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. refused to wait. Instead, he launched Plan “C” (confrontation), a large-scale protest campaign that broke the back of Southern segregation.

United States: Blacks still taking the hit

By Malik Miah

January 2010 -- Against The Current -- It took 10 months before the US Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) stood up and challenged President Barack Obama. In a surprise move, 10 CBC leaders refused to participate in a key House of Representatives financial committee vote in December 2010 until some more relief is provided to Black businesses.

Black politicians and civil rights leaders have been understandably careful about criticising the first Black president. Yet facts on the ground, especially the super high unemployment in the Black communities, forced their hand. While their challenge is mild, it is significant.

The impact of the Great Recession has been greatest on Blacks as well as on other ethnic minorities. Official unemployment is nearly 50% higher for African Americans than for whites. What’s most striking is that the Black middle class, including those with Ivy League educations, are having a hard time finding jobs.

The issue of “race” once again is becoming a hot topic in the Black community as qualified professionals and skilled workers with equal or better résumés than whites are being turned down for jobs — going instead to whites with lesser qualifications. It is a reminder of the pre-civil rights era.

United States: Healthcare bill -- a nightmare before Christmas

By Billy Wharton

December 25, 2009 -- Call it the nightmare before Christmas or Santa’s lump of healthcare coal. Either title captures the disastrous qualities of the healthcare reform bill passed by US Senate on December 24. After months of media coverage, a summer of wild town hall meetings and all the high-sounding rhetoric one could swallow, a 2000 page monster has been birthed.

Though US President Barack Obama hailed the bill’s passage by declaring, "This will be the most important piece of social legislation since Social Security passed in the 1930s", it carries few of the universal qualities or public control of the social security legislation. For all the political theatre associated with the bill, remarkably little in the bigger picture of healthcare in the United States has changed: private health insurers still run the system; Washington politicians are still gathering in the campaign contributions from the industry; and millions of people will still be left without health insurance.

Bad gets worse in the Senate

United States: Photo essay -- Students occupy Berkeley university building to protest fee hikes

Story and photos by David Bacon

Berkeley, California -- November 20, 2009 -- Students occupied Wheeler Hall on the University of California campus in Berkeley, protesting against a decision by university regents to raise tuition fees by 32%, bringing them to US$10,302 per year for undergraduates.

At the beginning of the occupation the students made several demands, including the reinstatement of 38 laid-off custodial workers, and amnesty for protesting students.

United States: Where's the socialism? The good, the bad and the ugly of health-care reform

By Billy Wharton

November 9, 2009 -- Where is the socialism now? Frenetic right-wingers spent a good part of the US summer shouting about the “government takeover of health care” or the “stealth socialist health-care plan”. Now that the Affordable Healthcare for America Act has been passed by a slim margin in the US House of Representatives, on November 8, there are few traces of anything even resembling socialism. Instead, Americans will find the good, the bad and the ugly of health-care reform all contained within the 1990-page bill.

Climate change: The carbon trading debacle

By Carter Burke

October 28, 2009 -- The next major international summit on climate change will be held in Copenhagen in early December, 2009. The position of the United States in these talks remains ambiguous. The latest climate legislation to move through the US Congress is H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. It passed the US House of Representatives in June 2009, mostly along party lines, to the applause of President Obama and house speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Paul Le Blanc -- Why I'm joining the US International Socialist Organization: Intensifying the struggle for social change

Paul Le Blanc.

By Paul Le Blanc

October 2009 -- I have decided to join the International Socialist Organization (ISO) because I believe socialists can and must, at this moment, intensify the struggle to bring about positive social change. I have been active in this struggle for most of my life -- as a member of the "new left" in the 1960s and early '70s (first in Students for a Democratic Society and briefly in the New American Movement), then in the Trotskyist movement (the Socialist Workers Party for ten years, briefly in Socialist Action, the Fourth Internationalist Tendency for another eight years). I have always considered "Trotskyism" as the same as revolutionary socialism, associated with some of the most useful ideas and most inspiring traditions that ever existed -- something I will come back to shortly.

Since 1992 I have been a member of Solidarity, which over the years has attracted a number of fine people who have done excellent work, although it has never proved able to sustain a membership of more than 300. I feel I have done all that I can to help build Solidarity. At this point I believe I may have more to contribute to building the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and am hopeful that the ISO can play a badly needed role in the intensification of the struggle to bring fundamental social change.

`Monthly Review' at 60: Six decades of campaigning for `social and ecological revolution'

On September 17, 2009, Monthly Review celebrated its 60th anniversary at the New York Society for Ethical Culture in New York City. Five-hundred enthusiastic supporters gathered to hear remarks by Robert McChesney, Grace Lee Boggs, John Bellamy Foster, Fred Magdoff, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Michael Tigar, and hear music by Toshi Reagon.

More than six decades ago, Paul Sweezy and his good friend, the labour journalist Leo Huberman, had long dreamed of founding a magazine offering a forum for insightful comment and analysis of world and national events from a specifically socialist perspective. The two already had a history of activism in the radical cauldron spawned by the Great Depression, the rise of the labour movement, and the World War II. By 1948, with the accelerating crises of Cold War and domestic repression – and with seed money from Sweezy's good friend and Harvard colleague, the literary historian and critic F.O. Matthiessen – they pressed forward with their plan for what would become Monthly Review.

Review of `Renegade: The Making of Barack Obama'

Renegade: The Making of Barack Obama
By Richard Wolfe, Virgin Books, London 2009

Review by Jeff Richards

October 14, 2009 – Whatever your views are about Barack Obama, there is no doubt that his campaign for the US presidency was a major milestone in the history of electoral politics in the United States. How did a senatorial rookie who was black, with an alien name and a background in community organising get to the centre of the system of power? It was both a matter of circumstance (the crises and failure of neoconservative project) and the remarkable political skills of Obama and the campaign team led by David Axelrod.

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