• print • Apr/May 2020

    The Revolution Will Be Compromised

    Vladimir Putin’s Russia lends itself to being seen in Manichaean terms. Commentators at home and abroad like to picture a desperate struggle between the centralized state and a righteous but comparatively powerless coalition of prodemocratic forces. This black-and-white view goes back at least to the Soviet era, when small groups of dissidents who celebrated “living in truth” and refused to surrender to the hated regime found an eager audience among Cold Warriors. Their enduring romantic vision has shaped much of the Western discourse about Russian politics, at the cost of much-needed nuance

    Read more
  • print • Apr/May 2020

    Top Guns

    “There are no ‘good guns,’” Charlton Heston once told Meet the Press. “There are no ‘bad guns.’ Any gun in the hands of a bad man is a bad thing. Any gun in the hands of a decent person is no threat to anybody, except bad people.” The merits of Heston’s argument notwithstanding, the dramatic force of his delivery was undeniable, affirming the actor’s status as one of Hollywood’s iconic heroes. Who could speak with more authority of guys good and bad than the man American audiences had grown up seeing in cowboy buckskin, shining armor, military fatigues, and the robes of Moses himself? This

    Read more
  • review • March 13, 2020

    All In

    According to the CDC, the United States performed eight COVID-19 tests on Tuesday. Zero by the CDC itself, which seemed to stop testing six days ago, eight by public health labs. [1] The CDC offered no data at all for Wednesday. U! S! A! We are, of course, the greatest country on earth, so I’m betting we can do even better today: 8 + 2 = a perfect ten! No, wait—aim higher, America! 8 + 3. This nation goes up to eleven.

    Of course, not only is the United States not actually the best at this—I think we all know that—it is, in fact, possibly the worst. COVID-19 has extended the Trumpocene’s mix

    Read more
  • excerpt • March 03, 2020

    The Wall

    In a campaign that included many startling pronouncements, Trump’s pledge to build the wall in June 2015 became the iconic phrase that stitched together a right-wing nationalist tapestry of resentment, nihilism, and violent nostalgia. Mexico would pay for it. A form of imperial tribute recast as reparations to a wronged and aggrieved America, whose sovereignty had been violated by unchecked “illegal immigration,” unfair trade deals, and unfavorable inter-state alliances. Justice would finally be secured by a president with the boldness to reassert the rightful order among nations. The American

    Read more
  • excerpt • February 25, 2020

    The Washing and the Clothes Line

    The neighbors thought my mother was crazy. How to explain that she sometimes put her washing on the line, sometimes in the field, sometimes on the grass, and sometimes even hung it from the branches of trees? What sense did it make that she would often lay it in the shade or in the windiest spot weighted down by large stones like the punctuation marks of some secret message?

    On this morning my mother had taken the flowerpots outside because the sun was back. The same sun that disappeared at times behind the sun and that we would look for all over the house, in the dust, under the bed, in a

    Read more
  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    Norm Corps

    Whether or not he was born that way, Ross Douthat is a defeated man. The child of hippie aspiring writers—a father who became an attorney and a mother who became a homemaker (both became published writers late in life: the father a poet, the mother a contributor to the Christian journal First Things)—Douthat arrived at Harvard in 1998 yearning to live the life of the mind and found himself among a horde of grade-grubbing careerists, most of them from affluent families, biding their time until they filled their reserved slots among the neoliberal power elite. This state of affairs became the

    Read more
  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    This Machine Kills Fascists

    When Hosea Hudson, a labor organizer and member of the Communist Party (CP) in Birmingham, Alabama, approached potential recruits, he didn’t minimize the stakes of what he was asking them to do: “You couldn’t pitty-pat with people. We had [to] tell people—when you join, it’s just like the army, but it’s not the army of the bosses, it’s the army of the working class.” For a black worker in the Deep South of the 1930s, there was no way to justify lying to fellow workers about what they were signing up for. Assassinations of labor organizers, often simply recorded as lynchings, were not unheard

    Read more
  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    They Meant Well

    As we enter what feels like the second or third decade of the 2020 presidential campaign, a question hovers menacingly over American politics: Can liberals get a grip? Three years into the Trump era, it cannot have escaped anyone that the country’s political system is in the throes of a major crisis. Yet the mainstream of the Democratic Party remains bogged down, lurching back and forth between melancholy and hysteria. “The Republic is in danger!” the Rachel Maddows of the world intone, but aside from a Trump impeachment that has no hope of actually removing him from office, the solutions on

    Read more
  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    The Secret Sharer

    Journalists often describe Chelsea Manning as a “whistle-blower.” This is understandable—I’ve called her that myself. The act for which Manning is best known, for which she has been celebrated and persecuted, is usually understood as a bold instance of whistle-blowing. But this is not how Manning primarily describes herself. On her Twitter profile, she identifies as a “Network Security Expert. Fmr. Intel Analyst. Trans Woman” and, first on the list, “Grand Jury Resister.” Grand jury resistance is the reason for Manning’s present incarceration. Last March, she was taken into federal custody for

    Read more
  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    Automatic for the People

    In the downstairs bar of a Brighton comedy club, I sat with sixty or so activists clustered around tables to discuss the four-day workweek. They were participating in The World Transformed, a radical gathering held alongside the Labour Party’s annual conference, where the party’s left wing hashes out proposals that it hopes Labour will adopt. Indeed, by the time this panel met, a shorter workweek had already been announced by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell in his floor speech. The people in that club, then, were thinking about implementation, as well as dreaming about what they’d do with more

    Read more
  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    Home Sick

    In April 2014, a group of protesters in Oakland blockaded a purple coach bus that was transporting Yahoo! employees to their Silicon Valley offices. Demonstrating against the tech-fueled inequalities in the Bay Area, one member of the protest climbed on top and intentionally vomited down the bus’s front windshield. Shortly after the incident, Oakland resident Sonja Trauss read a TechCrunch essay explaining how the “vomiting anarchist” had been born out of decades of inequitable Bay Area housing policies. Trauss, a thirty-two-year-old former teacher and “marginally employed rabble-rouser,”

    Read more
  • print • Feb/Mar 2020

    Socialism Butterfly

    It seems like all the kids—and many of their parents and grandparents, too—are socialists these days. The reasons are well known: a detoxification of the term socialism nearly three decades after the Soviet Union’s collapse; low wages and crushing student debt; and a newfound sense of possibility sparked by the rebirth of Left activism through the Democratic Socialists of America. The result: poll after poll showing a plurality of young people suspicious of capitalism and open to radical alternatives, even if they aren’t exactly sure what the latter entails.

    These developments are heartening

    Read more