Had Marx written Capital in the early twenty-first century, knowing what he could not discern in 1867—that the global dominance of capital, through the military and imperialism, would be realized by the United States—this is the book he may have written using the methodology he developed in the mid-nineteenth century.… What Walter Johnson desires is to change entirely the way we think about the history of the United States, particularly the development of capitalism. He also wants to change how we think about the application of dialectical materialism to the United States. Like Marx, Johnson marshals thick description to disclose the theses that emerge.
In August 1917, tenant farmers and sharecroppers in several eastern and southern Oklahoma counties took up arms to overthrow the United States government, to stop military conscription and U.S. entry into the war in Europe. Renegade Socialists, organized in their own “Working Class Union” (WCU), white, black, and Indian, they believed that millions of armed working people across the country would march with them to take Washington
Following the 2005 election of the first Indigenous president of any country in the Americas—Evo Morales in Bolivia—I commented in MRzine on the fact that many were taken by surprise by this seemingly sudden occurrence out of nowhere, but only because they had not been paying attention to the development of the international Indigenous movement over the past three decades.
What has been left out of reports and analysis in both the mainstream press and among anti-imperialists and leftists about the triumph of Evo Morales’s election as president of Bolivia is the role played by the over three-decade-long international indigenous movement that preceded it. Few are even aware of that powerful and remarkable historic movement, which springs from generations of grassroots organizing
The evening before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, I was giving a talk at our main leftist meeting place in the San Francisco Mission District.…I was stunned when an admired leftist comrade began fervently invoking similarities between the Bush administration and the Roman Empire, analogizing Roman legions and the U.S. military. Others piled on, developing the comparison further, also talking hopefully about the ultimate fall of the Roman Empire. I interrupted the ancient history discussion, asking why not look at U.S. history, especially U.S. imperialism in Latin America as a precedent. Silence met my remark, and the discussion of Rome continued.
Ed Cray’s new biography of Woody Guthrie marks another step in a growing interest in the left-wing Okie troubadour. In 1997, historian Charles J. Shindo published Dust Bowl Migrants in the American Imagination, which includes analysis of Woody Guthrie’s work along with that of John Ford and John Steinbeck. Joe Klein’s enthusiastic biography of Guthrie, first published in 1980, was reissued in 1999, the year after Ed Cray began the new biography. Elizabeth Partridge’s book for young readers, This Land Was Made for You and Me: The Life and Songs of Woody Guthrie was published in 2002
At the onset of the U.S. military invasion of Iraq, Senator Robert Byrd emotionally queried: “What is happening to this country? When did we become a nation which ignores and berates our friends? When did we decide to risk undermining international order by adopting a radical and doctrinaire approach to using our awesome military might? How can we abandon diplomacy when the turmoil in the world cries out for diplomacy?”
Where were you during the Battle of Seattle in late November 1999? Due to my teaching schedule, I wasn’t able to be there, but like many other activists young and old around the world who weren’t there, I was thrilled, jumping with joy in front of my television watching CSPAN while listening to KPFA-Pacifica reporters on the ground, running to my computer to look up the latest IndyMedia news. I knew for sure that nothing would ever be the same. Not even the events of September 11, and their fascistic fallout have shaken that certainty. However, since September 11, I have felt the need for some evidence and encouragement, and I found it in From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization, a collection of compulsively readable analyses, first person stories, and interviews of forty-one activists brilliantly edited and introduced by Benjamin Shepard and Ronald Hayduk.
While at work on this paper, I glanced at the headline in the morning newspaper: SWAT Team Kills Gunman at Sacramento Tax Office, and I said to myself, Probably an Okie. I read the article and found no reference to Okies—that would never happen in California these days—but the evidence was there: A white man named Jim Ray Holloway, age fifty-three, from Manteca, wearing a cowboy hat, carrying a rifle, a shotgun, and a hand gun, ex-cop, mad about taxes. The name, the age, the hometown in the agricultural Central Valley, the cowboy hat, the kinds of weapons, the career, the lightening rage at the state, all point to his being an Okie