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ISR Issue 51, January–February 2007


ISR 51 has two main themes: One, the foreign and domestic crises of the Bush administration; and two, the question of what has been described as “actually existing socialism” past and present, in particular in Cuba (present) and in Hungary (past).

Lance Selfa argues that the 2006 midterm elections represent a turning point in U.S. politics—“a sharp rebuke to President Bush, and, above all, to his war in Iraq.” The Democrats however, are not interested in giving the public what they want because they are committed to “winning” in Iraq, not pulling up stakes. “The disjunction between expectations and reality will open up a bigger political space for rebuilding an independent Left,” he concludes, “that looks to its own actions and politics.”
Sharon Smith, author of Subterranean Fire: A History of Working Class Radicalism in the United States, offers an analysis of the history of liberalism and the Democratic Party, offering the background necessary to understand how the Democrats moved from being the party of New Deal liberalism to being the party of neoliberalism—without ever abandoning their commitment to U.S. power abroad.

Anthony Arnove, author of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, reviews the scale of the disaster in Iraq and takes on some of the myths that are now being peddled, including by those who want an “improved” Iraq policy—to justify continuing the U.S. occupation. He notes that the Iraq Study Group’s role is to “repackage a failing war,” and he appeals to the antiwar movement to revive and deepen its opposition in the face of bipartisan efforts to keep the war going. Phil Gasper’s column, “Thinking it Through,” reminds us that the war in Afghanistan is on the verge of becoming a quagmire as bad as the one in Iraq.

The abysmal response of the Bush administration to Hurricane Katrina helped fuel Bush’s growing unpopularity. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor reviews a series of reports on the continuing fallout from Hurricane Katrina, and concludes, “From public education and public health, to criminal justice and the rebuilding of infrastructure—the entire process has been a disaster of Katrina-sized proportions, hardening racial and class disparities.”

As part of an ongoing series of articles on political prisoners, Joe Allen—who has also written “Leonard Peltier: Incident at Oglala thirty years on,” and “Free Gary Tyler: Thirty years of injustice”—tells the story of the Omaha Two, Black Panther Party members who were framed for murder and have spent more than three and a half decades in prison.

Two articles written by Paul D’Amato deal with the question of the Cuban Revolution, Cuba’s development since the revolution, and the question of what attitude the Left should take toward Cuba in the context of Washington’s attacks on the island. In part a polemic with uncritical apologists for Castro’s regime, D’Amato’s article draws a distinction between the Left’s responsibility to defend Cuba against U.S. intervention and offering political support for the one-party regime. How socialists answer the question as to the class nature of Cuba, D’Amato argues, determines whether we identify socialism with a society of human liberation or with an economic system in which the interests of the working class “are sacrificed to the demands of state accumulation.” A companion piece discusses the developing situation of women, gays, and Blacks in Cuba after the revolution.

The old joke in the Eastern Bloc went that capitalism is the exploitation of man by man, whereas under socialism it’s the reverse. Dennis Kosuth offers an enlightening, but also entertaining, historical review of the crucial year in Hungary, 1956, when workers rose up in struggle and challenged the Stalinist bureaucracy. This struggle, and Khrushchev’s famous speech about Stalin’s crimes, created a crisis in the Left, but it also inspired that minority on the left, mostly Trotskyists, who still identified genuine Marxism with workers’ control of society rather than the bureaucratic monstrosity in Russia that rose on its ruins.

There are also two reports on developments in Latin America. Tom Lewis’s concise report on Bolivia outlines a brewing crisis that threatens to envelop the country in civil war, and Lee Sustar reviews the elections in Venezuela and the political implications of Chávez’s overwhelming victory. Antonis Davanellos reports form Greece on the struggles of teachers and students against privatization.

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