Current Issue Article Abstracts

Volume 66, Number 1, Winter 2019

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Voldemort Politics

Timothy Shenk

"I don't even say his name," the finance bro told me as we made awkward small talk at the birthday party. Not that we would need to. He's Donald J. Drumpf, Adolf Twitler, Covfefe in Chief, and whatever else the #Resistance has come up with to avoid directly referring to its own personal Voldemort.

Bisbee's Ghosts

Nick Serpe

On June 26, 1917, copper miners in the border town of Bisbee, Arizona, went on strike. The companies they worked for had refused demands put forth by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) for higher pay, safer working conditions, and an end to wage discrimination against Mexican miners and union members. Rather than negotiate, the companies worked with the local sheriff to deputize a "posse" of 2,000 men to deport the strikers. Early in the morning on July 12, the vigilantes roused the miners from their beds at gunpoint, loaded them onto cattle cars, and sent them on a sixteen-hour, 200-mile trip across state lines to Columbus, New Mexico. They were told never to return, on threat of death. One hundred years later the town of Bisbee staged a reenactment of the deportation in collaboration with filmmaker Robert Greene, whose Bisbee '17 was released in theaters last September.

Character Limits

Ava Kofman

Who doesn't love the idea of a novel ripped straight from the headlines of daily life, which is also now to say, our digital lives? Every Twitter addict with literary aspirations harbors the dream that there's a little novelist napping inside of them; that "Thread." and "This." are actual sentences; that stalking someone's timeline constitutes critical research into the human condition; and that the dramatis personae of social media are nothing if not supremely crafted characters.

After the Pink Tide

Patrick Iber

On November 1, 2018, Trump's bellicose National Security Advisor John Bolton gave a speech in Miami where he identified Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua as a "Troika of Tyranny" and the "genesis of a sordid cradle of communism in the Western Hemisphere." At the same time, he singled out Iván Duque of Colombia and Brazil's president-elect, the neo-fascist Jair Bolsonaro, as "like-minded leaders." Bolsonaro, elected with 55 percent of the vote on October 28, has promised to rid the country of "reds" and has argued that the problem with Brazil's military dictatorship was that it only tortured, rather than killed, its political opponents. An anonymous official in Duque's government told a Brazilian newspaper that if Bolsonaro or Trump were to invade Venezuela, then Colombia would back them up, raising the possibility of a "nationalist international."

Stop Eco-Apartheid: The Left's Challenge in Bolsonaro's Brazil

Daniel Aldana Cohen

The horrors threatened by Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's new president, are compounded by the global climate stakes of a potential war on the Amazon. Roberto Schaeffer, a leading energy and environment scholar based in Rio de Janeiro, told me, "It could not be worse. Donald Trump would be a blessing for Brazil right now." Bolsonaro has promised an orgy of destructive new development in the embattled Amazon rainforest, which would release gigatons of heat-trapping carbon. But the backlash has already begun. Brazilian social movements are mobilizing, and even key pro-Bolsonaro business leaders are telling him to back off on deforestation. This combined economic and environmental battle isn't a sideshow—it's the new center stage.

Socialism from Above: Assessing the Cuban Experience

Ailynn Torres Santana

Any serious analysis of the Latin-American and global lefts in the last sixty years needs to include Cuba. The Cuban Revolution has left a deep impression on the region and across the world. Cuba, it has been said, spoke for Latin America, embodied the region's Cold War, articulated twentieth-century Latin-American anti-imperialist socialism, and changed the order of things on the island and beyond.

Cuba Without the Castros

Andrés Pertierra

Months after his elevation to head of state, the new Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, largely remains a mystery. At most, we have just begun to catch glimpses of his long-term strategy and personality as a leader.

Uruguay: The End of the Dream?

Gerardo Caetano

During the Pink Tide, international attention often focused on the most flamboyant and controversial heads of state, with their radical rhetoric and often limited commitment to the separation of powers. Perhaps it was for that reason that Uruguay, despite a very serious project of reform and three consecutive left-wing governments led by the Frente Amplio (Broad Front), attracted less attention. When international attention did arrive, it was usually by way of contrast. The avuncular former guerrilla, in the figure of José "Pepe" Mujica, seemed an antithesis to the large egos serving as heads of state elsewhere; he lived on a modest farm and drove a 1987 blue Volkswagen Beetle while president from 2010 to 2015. He could also be counted on for expressions of democratic values. He made way for his predecessor (and successor), Tabaré Vázquez. And surveying the struggles of the left on the international scene shortly after he left office, Mujica judged: "If it is the left's turn to lose ground, let it lose ground and learn, for it will have to begin again." But if Uruguay seems like the most successful of the Pink Tide's "social democratic governments," its transformative legacy in Uruguayan history assured, its future is less certain.

Ecuador's Dilemma

Pablo Ospina Peralta

The Ecuadorian government of Rafael Correa (2007–2017) stirred hopeful expectations in the continental and global lefts. Although the young economist did not have a record of participation in social movements and had not played any direct role in resistance to neoliberalism, he had been part of a group of heterodox economists known as the Foro Ecuador Alternativo (Ecuador Alternative Forum), some of whom were critics of structural adjustment. His brief tenure as minister of finance in 2005 showed the potential for a different kind of economic management, embracing a neo-Keynesianism at odds with the policies of the International Monetary Fund. Suffused with radical rhetoric, his government, under the banner of "Alianza PAIS," undertook various measures in line with those ideas in its first years that encouraged those high expectations: the approval of a constitution that considerably widened the range of rights and laid out ample democratic guarantees, an audit of the external public debt, a reaffirmation of new labor rights (in outsourced businesses and for domestic workers), an effort to strengthen publicly owned business in the provision of social services and in strategic areas of the economy, an expansion of social spending, and an increase in taxes on the highest incomes. Correa's government presented itself as one of the most consistent participants in the Latin American "Pink Tide" and even encouraged people, like me, who did not expect large structural transformations in property relations or in the country's place in the global economic order.

What Comes After Extractivism?

Thea Riofrancos

On December 14, 2016, leftist President Rafael Correa declared a state of emergency in the province of Morona Santiago in the Amazonian region of Ecuador, deploying hundreds of troops and national police. This marked the culmination of years of clashes at the site of an open-pit copper mine in the area of San Carlos, which indigenous Shuar activists had occupied in protest against the expansion of mining and the threat posed to their territory and livelihoods. Between 2009 and 2015, three Shuar were violently killed by state forces while either protesting mining or defending their water rights. The months leading up to the 2016 state of emergency saw military raids and the violent dispossession of Shuar villages, leaving homes, tools, and agricultural plots destroyed. In mid-December, the conflict reached its peak in a clash that left a policeman dead, prompting Correa to call in the military.

The Democrats' Existential Battle

Jedediah Purdy

The midterm elections confirmed that Democrats are a national majority party. They have won the popular vote in four of the last five presidential elections and overcame gerrymandering on November 8 to retake the House of Representatives. Their positions are much more popular than Republicans' when it comes to healthcare, taxes, environmental protection, and the other basic work of a modern state. And Donald Trump is not helping his party nationally; his nativist, racist, fear-spreading campaign pushed down-ballot Republicans into electoral craters in educated, prosperous, suburban districts, at a time when the economy is as strong as it has been in twelve years. That takes some doing.

Hate Was Not a Winning Ticket

Michelle Chen

If Trump's election in 2016 was a victory for the demagoguery of racist nationalism, the midterms marked a quiet but meaningful repudiation of that vision. Looming over the campaign trail was the "migrant caravan," which Trump painted as an invading boogeyman, illustrated with vitriolic caricatures. But Trump's last-minute racist television ad did not seem to have its intended effect. There was no dramatic sweep, but a number of midterm victories showed that the constituencies most historically disenfranchised at the ballot box—youth, immigrants, and communities of color—could still be a linchpin in a broken election process.

There Is Power in This Union

Michael Kazin 

The throng of workers, all clad in bright red shirts with the name of their local etched in thick black letters, half-walked, half-marched through the ridiculously wide corridors of Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip. The members of Culinary Workers Union Local 226 laughed and chatted; occasionally, one would start chanting, "We vote, we win!" and a dozen or so of his or her comrades would keep the slogan going, loudly and gleefully, for a few minutes. They were headed for a ballroom at the hotel that looks like a gargantuan parody of the Roman Forum to watch the returns come in on election night.

Labour's Missing Brexit Strategy

James Stafford

On October 20, 2018, some 700,000 marchers descended on London to demand a "people's vote" on the terms of Britain's impending exit from the European Union. The march was the largest demonstration against a sitting British government since the rallies against the Iraq War in 2003, eclipsing in size (if not fervor) the youth mobilization against David Cameron's government's tripling of university fees in 2010. During the forty-three years between the UK's accession to the EU and its vote to leave, the blue-and-gold European flag was rarely seen in public spaces. Now it has been adopted as a symbol of pride by a sizeable, vocal minority of the young, the educated, and the professional: daubed on faces, encircling punning slogans, glued onto hats and badges.

The Philanthropy Con

Vanessa Williamson

Last September Jeff Bezos announced that he would devote a small portion of his vastly undertaxed wealth—$2 billion of a fortune well over $100 billion—to start schools where "the child will be the customer." One could hardly ask for a more illustrative example of how elite philanthropy undermines public institutions, provides cover for extractive capitalism, and enshrines a neoliberal vision of the world in which even childhood is understood as a commodity. But this analysis does not go far enough, because it does not make the positive case. Leftists need to be comfortable saying it: In a democracy, taxes are better than charity.

Is Anti-Intellectualism Ever Good for Democracy?

Adam Waters and E.J. Dionne Jr. 

Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency and continues to govern as a man who is anti-intellectual, as well as anti-fact and anti-truth. "The experts are terrible," Trump said while discussing foreign policy during the 2016 campaign. "Look at the mess we're in with all these experts that we have." But Trump belongs to a long U.S. tradition of skepticism about the role and motivations of intellectuals in political life. And his particularly toxic version of this tradition raises provocative and difficult questions: Are there occasions when anti-intellectualism is defensible or justified? Should we always dismiss charges that intellectuals are out of touch or too protective of established ways of thinking?

The New Psychoanalysis

Stephen Seligman

Psychoanalysis has fallen on hard times. Freud's gender theories are trashed for their sexism, and his original instinct theories are regarded skeptically. Psychiatrists don't study it, and the only attention it gets in universities is from a handful of literature professors. Health insurers prefer the quick fix of psychoactive drugs, although they help less than their popularizers would lead us to believe.

Right Privilege: Conservatism in the Age of Trump

Timothy Shenk

What do American conservatives believe? The answer used to be simple. You believed in the genius of capitalism, the importance of U.S. superpower, and the glories of the Judeo-Christian tradition. When in doubt, you invoked Ronald Reagan. A working knowledge of a few big names in the modern right's canon—a little Russell Kirk here, some Irving Kristol there—was enough to qualify you for a position as a promising voice on the right. The CliffsNotes version was available in George Nash's The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945. If you didn't have time for any of that, nobody worried much. There were enough disagreements to allow for debates that made you feel like an independent thinker, but not so much that it would ever be in doubt which team you belonged to—the Republicans, always the Republicans.Crisis CranksTim BarkerIn its day, George's treatise Progress and Poverty was more popular than any book besides the Bible and Uncle Tom's Cabin. Though he is little remembered (much less read) today, you can trace the subterranean influence of his ideas into the present. Harold Hotelling, born in 1895, gave a presidential lecture to the Econometric Society in 1937 that mixed cutting-edge statistical analysis with a suggestion that the landless classes should confiscate rentier wealth. One of Hotelling's students, William S. Vickrey, died en route to a Georgist conference that he had helped to found, just days after he had won the 1996 Nobel Prize in Economics. And now Eric Posner and Glen Weyl, a law professor and an economist respectively, have published Radical Markets, a book dedicated to the memory of Vickrey.After Repression, Revolt?Maura Elizabeth CunninghamIn March 2018, China's National People's Congress (NPC) voted to revise the country's constitution and eliminate the two-term limit on the presidency that had been in place since 1982. Xi Jinping, whose second five-year term as president is scheduled to end in 2023, is now positioned to remain China's paramount leader more or less indefinitely.America Through the Eyes of the NazisOmer AzizIn September 1933, an important policy document known as the Prussian Memorandum began circulating among lawmakers and jurists of the Third Reich. The Nazi regime was still in its infancy; Hitler had been named chancellor just nine months prior, the result of a power-sharing arrangement with nationalist conservatives who thought they could control the mercurial Austrian. Following the Reichstag Fire in February of that year, Hitler had assumed emergency powers and within weeks usurped the authority of the parliament. By that critical autumn, the Third Reich had begun Nazifying the German legal code. The Prussian Memorandum that passed between Nazi legal hands was an early blueprint for the 1935 Nuremberg Laws, which stripped Jews of their citizenship and criminalized sexual relations between Germans and those thougt to have impure blood. It was the foundational text of Nazi legal thinking. Incredibly, the Prussian Memorandum expressly cited the gold standard of racist lawmaking at the time: the United States of America.Life from All SidesAna Isabel KeilsonRecent work by the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard can be read as an attempt to examine a "whole life from all sides." What for Dolly took shape as a four-hour respite from child-rearing has for Knausgaard become several books, including the six My Struggle novels. In the first two volumes, Knausgaard documents a landscape of encounters and objects (family dinners, cassette tapes, Rembrandt), his relationship with his abusive father, his two marriages, and the birth of his first three children. In volumes three, four, and five, there are more family dinners, white Nikes, and Flaubert; we learn about his childhood, sexual awakening, struggle with alcoholism, and ambition to become a writer. The final volume charts the publication and reception of the first book, including a lawsuit filed by an uncle, unhappy with the portrayal of a brother. The series courses along for nearly 4,000 pages, yet Knausgaard's clarity of voice and his compulsive, convulsive attention to detail means that nothing feels repetitive.