Good reads and essential traffic from June '22

News is moving fast nowadays. Here's some articles to scan over in case you've been out of the loop...

Early June..

A report from Washington City Paper: DC’s rent-control database — one of the critical policies needed to utilize DC’s rent-control laws as a way to deliver consistently affordable housing to DC residents — has failed to gain traction for over two decades. The database was supposed to be ready in 2016. But it’s not the guns, it’s the people … the people who own the gun manufacturing/gun peddling corporations that dangle guns like candy before the susceptible … a NYT article.

It’s the 200th anniversary of Charles Babbage’s “difference engine,” considered the first computer and from which came, well, Instagram and QAnon, etc. From Portside, Lady Ada (Byron) Lovelace, a brilliant mathematician and collaborator with Babbage, gets some props in this account, but you might want to know more about this singular woman.

From Dissent via Portside: “Given the degree to which democratic socialists have been systematically excluded from wielding political power, especially foreign policy authority, in the United States, one might think that the unraveling of the postwar order could present a real political opportunity.” But first, this wide-ranging longread suggests the socialist left needs to get itself together ideologically on how to turn the opportunity into real change.

Mid June..

Co-ops are restoring their historic roots in Wisconsin, with a social justice emphasis: “A business model that allows workers to have a stake in how their employer pays and supports them while also tackling social justice issues is expanding in Madison and statewide,” as we read in the Popular Resistance newsletter. Touted by our comrade Bob B, an ESOP advocate.

From Mondoweiss: coverage of a fight between two Zionist organizations — J Street and AIPAC — over power and influence in the Democratic Party. Could the outcome of the political struggle between these two organizations lead to new openings for the Palestinian freedom movement here in the States?

“For years, Thomas Piketty has articulated a cogent critique of 21st-century capitalism. He now appears to be moving beyond just critique to call for a 21st-century socialism.” Here is Jacobin’s review of Piketty’s latest book, Time for Socialism.

Workers are always trying to catch up with inflation (tip: having a union helps). Fast-consolidating corporate oligarchies are always ahead of inflation, causing more. Business Insider has this study about it. It’s from, um, the Boston Fed.

Socialism Is Supposed to Be a Working-Class Movement. Why Isn’t It?” Ezra Klein’s NYT podcast with the Jacobin founder, Bhaskar Sunkara, who engages with the progressive left’s setbacks in winning power — and elections — in America.

The first round of French parliamentary elections this past weekend appeared to show first-place honors for Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s NUPES grand coalition of left parties, though only by a whisker. Here’s a sober and scholarly assessment (from The Conversation, which specializes in them) of the results, including the observation: “The creation of the NUPES recalled the glory days of the unified left — the Popular Front of 1936 or the Common Programme of 1972 — and tried to instill a new dynamic for these legislative elections. The slogan ‘Jean-Luc Mélenchon Prime Minister’ adopted by the coalition personified and nationalised these elections and the strategy of the ‘third round’ finally followed the logic of presidentialisation of the regime.”

AND in this interesting cross-national assessment from The Guardian of left political strategy across the rich world, Mélenchon and Bernie are bracketed as firebrands tempered, each moving more social-democratic (in their respective political environments) than previously.

Back to the US left: Effective external activism has been hindered by crises of internal disharmony among left groups. “Instead of fueling a groundswell of public support to reinvigorate the [Democratic] party’s ambitious agenda, most of the foundation-backed organizations that make up the backbone of the party’s ideological infrastructure were still spending their time locked in virtual retreats, Slack wars, and healing sessions, grappling with tensions over hierarchy, patriarchy, race, gender, and power,” Ryan Grim writes in The Intercept. As noted by many of our comrades, Grim’s account is heavy on management-level testimony, and not so much attention is paid to the workers many of those executives are frustrated with. For more on worker testimony, Chapter 5 of Sarah Jaffe’s Work Won’t Love You Back (2021), a recent MDC DSA reading-group focus, provides worker testimony about “Suffering for the Cause” …

Late June..

An American History of the Socialist Idea — longtime member Harold Meyerson reviews a new book in Dissent, via Portside.

For the first time, Colombia will have a leftist president.” Ex-rebel Gustavo Petro and his running mate, Francia Marquez, won the presidential election in Colombia last weekend, becoming the first left-wing presidential administration, with Marquez, the country’s first Black vice president. 

It’s been a big couple weeks in US labor, with the first unionization of an Apple store in the country, the Labor Notes conference and the AFL-CIO convention. And in the UK, the biggest rail strikes in three decades began on Tuesday, with “union leadership warning that industrial action will ‘run as long as it needs to run.’” Read more from The Guardian

Congressional Democratic primaries in Maryland don’t get the attention they should — but when they do, it is revealing. An Intercept article on the race between Glenn Ivey and Donna Edwards points out how AIPAC (through a dark-money dummy PAC) is running negative ads against Edwards because she is not sufficiently “pro-Israel.” That the ads attack her on constituent services reflect the fundamental dishonesty of such ads — if we can’t justify sending money for arms to Israel that will be used to shoot Palestinians, let’s talk about something completely different. Read the article here. Also note this WaPo article on the attack ads that appeared on the same day.

John Harris, gray eminence of Politico, writes about the recent anguished discussion on progressive left organizations expending energy on internal disputes. In an interesting piece of analysis, he nails us, i.e., socialists, to the wall — at least theory-wise — as “lumpers” who “see American society in need of a sustained and comprehensive overhaul, and are wary of people, even potential allies, who don’t share this synoptic worldview. A core assumption is a commitment to “intersectionality” — the concept that contemporary power arrangements reflect historic and overlapping patterns of discrimination on grounds of race, class and gender and that progress on specific issues must include challenging the underlying power structure.” Also in the progressive ranks are “splitters” who may see the world the same way but will take incremental victories — and more narrowly focused allies — when they can get them. Harris is sympathetic to both and brings in a useful history overview.

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