11: Trump to Iran: “This is America,” with Frieda Afary and Ashley Smith

Donald Trump has ended the Iran nuclear deal, making the entire world an even more dangerous place. Our guests explain both the method and the madness behind the decision, which has already emboldened U.S. allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia to step up their repression in Palestine and Yemen.

We also discuss the view from Iran, where there have been major protests in recent months for both workers’ and women’s rights. This interview is a continuation of our ongoing discussions about the importance of building democratic anti-imperialist politics that stand not only in opposition to the U.S. repression, but also in solidarity with people fighting for their rights, whether or not their government is allied with Washington.

Frieda Afary is an Iranian-American librarian, writer, translator, activist and producer of Iranian Progressives in Translation. She’s also a founding member of the Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists, which is an international collective of Syrian, Iranian, Kurdish, Palestinian, Turkish, Lebanese, Iraqi and Egyptian members. It is opposed to capitalism, militarism, authoritarianism, imperialism, religious fundamentalism, patriarchy/sexism/heterosexism, racism, ethnic and religious prejudice. It stands for socialism as a concept of human emancipation and an affirmative vision distinguished from the authoritarian regimes that called themselves “Communist.” Its main goals are:

1. Developing connections and active forms of solidarity between labor, feminist, anti-racist, LGBT, student and environmental struggles in the Middle East region and internationally; 2. Tackling the deep and historical problems of Middle Eastern socialism; 3. Developing an affirmative vision of a humanist alternative to capitalism.

Learn more here (http://bit.ly/AlliancePrinciples) about the Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists and its current campaign in solidarity with Middle Eastern political prisoners and activities in solidarity with Syrian Kurdish and Arab revolutionaries, Palestinians as well as Iranian labor and feminist activists in the current popular uprising in Iran.

You can read Frieda’s writing on the protests in Iran (http://bit.ly/IranStrikes) and the need for solidarity with all of those suffering military attacks in Syria (http://bit.ly/SolidarityAfrin).

Ashley Smith is on the editorial board of the International Socialist Review. His new article “Illiberal Hegemony: Trump’s Imperial Strategy” isn’t yet online, which is all the more reason to subscribe to the magazine here (http://bit.ly/ISRsubscribe).

Ashley is also a frequent contributor to Socialist Worker on issues of U.S. wars and imperial rivalries. Check out his recent articles “The return of the regime change haws” (http://bit.ly/RegimeChangeReturn) and “Why the left has to stand with Iran’s uprising” (http://bit.ly/StandWithIan).

Finally, the best English language reporting on the recent strikes in Iran might be in the Wall Street Journal (http://bit.ly/WSJonIran), which would never provide such sympathetic coverage in a country backed by the U.S.  

For our opener, we invited socialists and Movement for Black Lives activists Akua Ofori and Khury Peterson-Smith to discuss the wild and disturbing video for Childish Gambino’s “This is America.”

Akua’s powerful Socialist Worker obituary for Erica Garner (http://bit.ly/EricaGarnerObit) touched on some of the themes she discusses about the casualties taken in recent fights against racism. Meanwhile, Khury’s review of Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” (http://bit.ly/KPSonLemonade) shows where his artistic sympathies lie.

Music in this episode

The Boy & Sister Alma, “Lizard Eyes” (Dead Sea Captains Remix)

Childish Gambino, “This Is America”

Fela Kuti, “Zombie”

Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”

Mohammad Reza Shajarian, “Az Eshgh (Love Song),” NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert

Niyaz, “Sabza Ba Naz (The Triumph of Love)”

Sima Bina, اواز کردی کرمانجی و سیزه گل یار

Pallett, “Vagabond”


10: Sarah Jaffe, #MeToo, Gender, and the Working Class

This week we talked to socialist journalist Sarah Jaffe about the U.S. working class—real and perceived. Sarah is the author of Necessary Trouble: Americans in Revolt (bit.ly/Jaffebook) and the co-host of the Belabored Podcast (bit.ly/BelaboredPod). She’s a regular contributor to The New Republic, The Nation and many other progressive publications and her work is increasingly in shmancy places like the New York Times. She’s a hardworking uncompromising radical who’s paid her dues and is finding a wider audience.

Sarah has smart things to say about issues like gender as well as class, and how they in fact can’t be separated. So we did something different for our tenth episode and invited our interview guest to join us for our opening discussion about the latest devastating revelations of sexual assaults from high profile figures, and the ways that the #MeToo moment continues to pose challenges both the powerful and new questions for those trying to build collective movements against their power. 
Sarah’s website (/bit.ly/Jaffesite) has info about her book, articles, podcast and upcoming appearances.

To follow up on our discussion of #MeToo, check out Sarah’s Dissent article “The Collective Power of #MeToo” (bit.ly/CollectiveMeToo), Ronan Farrow and Jane Meyer’s New Yorker detailed story about the allegations of abuse against New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (bit.ly/Schneidermanabuse), and Alianza Nacional de Campesinas statement (bit.ly/AlianzaCampesinas) issued in solidarity with Hollywood actresses from farmworkers that Sarah credits with helping to transform #MeToo into an actual movement.

For more on the accounts of author Junot Díaz’s abuse and abusive behavior, check out Díaz’s “The Silence: The Legacy of Childhood Trauma” (bit.ly/Diazstory) and Aya de Leon’s “Reconciling Rage and Compassion: The Unfolding #MeTooMoment and Junot Díaz” (bit.ly/AyadeLeon).

Finally, you really should check out Gina Haspel Shatters the Glass Ceiling! (bit.ly/PiaGuerra), the Pia Guerra cartoon in The Nib that Sarah referenced about the war criminal being nominated for CIA director.

In our conversation about the working class we referenced these articles:

At the top of the discussion, we talked about Sarah’s New Republic “The Struggle to Stay Middle Class” (bit.ly/StruggleMiddleClass) about the teacher strikes and class consciousness since the Great Recession.

Some of Sarah’s other articles that relate to our discussion are her Guardian piece about home care workers (bit.ly/homecareworkers) who will lose their jobs if Medicaid cuts go through and her New Republic piece about how “welfare” is a racist buzzword deployed to justify cutting any number of social programs (bit.ly/Jaffewelfare).

For more on Sarah’s comment on Democrats like Andrew Cuomo having Republican policies toward public sector workers, check out Danny’s Socialist Worker article criticizing the United Federation of Teachers’ endorsement of Cuomo (bit.ly/CuomoBlues).

Finally, we talked about the Socialism 2018 conference (bit.ly/Socialism2018), where Sarah will be interviewing Francis Fox Piven, author of the classic Poor People’s Movements: Why The Succeed, How They Fail (bit.ly/PoorPeoplesMovements). At the Socialism conference you can also see Jen talking about “From Apathy to Rebellion: What Makes Workers Fight?”, Eric on “Marxists, Elections and the State”, and Danny on gun violence and gun control.

The Boy & Sister Alma, “Lizard Eyes” (Dead Sea Captains Remix) 
Jamila Woods, “Blk Girl Soldier”
X Ray Spex, “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!”
Bikini Kill, “Liar”
Dolly Parton, “9 to 5”
Alan Jackson, “A Hard Hat and a Hammer”
Sarah Jones, “Your Revolution”
Janelle Monae, “American”

Audio of Tamara Burke (founder of the “Me Too” movement) and Mily Treviño-Sauceda (National Alliance of Women Farmworkers) interviewed on Democracy Now!

09: Happy Birthday Karl Marx; The New Scramble for Africa with Lee Wengraf

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This week we talk to Lee Wengraf about her book, Extracting Profit: Imperialism, Neoliberalism and the New Scramble for Africa (bit.ly/ExtractingProfit). Lee’s book challenges the prevailing myths that shape how most people understand the persistence of war and poverty in Africa. These come not only in outright racist forms, but also as paternalistic, liberal tropes. We discuss the Guyanese Marxist Walter Rodney’s groundbreaking work How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Lee describes how economic and social development was reversed in Africa history as a result of colonial intervention. She argues that this is not only in the colonial past, but that imperialism and neoliberalism have continued to shape the development of Africa.

Lee extends Rodney’s analysis to discuss the role of the IMF, the World Bank and neoliberal economic policy since the establishment of national independence throughout most of Africa. Today there is a new scramble for Africa, with the US and China competing for access to oil and mineral assets. Extractive industries have threatened the ecological sustainability of the continent and are displacing local communities. But they are also creating a powerful working-class.

Lee talks about her recent trip to attend a conference of left-wing activists in Tanzania and then to South Africa, where she was able to witness a one-day national strike. She talks about how the debates that African socialists have wrestled with for many decades, and which are discussed in her book, have taken on a pressing urgency today. If you're in the New York area, catch Lee's book launch event on May 18.

In our opener, we wish Karl Marx’s a happy 200th birthday (which was on May 5th). We discuss the centrality of struggle from below, the concept of self-emancipation and why Marxism is not just a narrow economic struggle but a strategy for full human liberation. We point to the teachers’ strikes as a vindication of Marx’s project of working-class self-emancipation and end our opening segment with interviews with Arizona teachers on strike.


You can purchase Lee’s book at Haymarket Books (bit.ly/ExtractingProfit). If you want to learn more about Walter Rodney, you can see the video of Lee’s presentation for the Socialism Conference (bit.ly/Socialism2018) at our YouTube channel (bit.ly/RodneyVideo).

For more about class struggles in South Africa after independence, two excellent talks are available at We Are Many (bit.ly/WeareMany): Pranav Jani on After Independence (bit.ly/AfterIndependenceJani); and, Aaron Amaral on Class Struggle in South Africa Today (bit.ly/SouthAfricaAmaral).

If you liked what we had to say about Karl Marx’ relevance today, read Todd Chretien on How Marx Became a Marxist (bit.ly/SWMarxist) for Socialist Worker’s 200th birthday feature. To find out more about socialism and ways to get involved, check out Socialism 2018 , held in Chicago, July 5-8 (bit.ly/Socialism2018). The NYC ISO, DSA and Jacobin are hosting a meeting on the Lessons of the Teachers’ Revolt (bit.ly/LessonsTeachers) May 9th at Verso in NYC - you can watch the livestream at Jacobin's facebook page (bit.ly/JacobinFB).


The Boy & Sister Alma, “Lizard Eyes” (Dead Sea Captains Remix)

DJ Mujava, “Township Funk,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBNYjAhEsx4

Amandla, “Sasol,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fu9N1U9fFY

Band Aid 1984, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjQzJAKxTrE

Seun Kuti, “IMF,” ft. M1 (from Dead Prez), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fGcf3GODKE

Y'en a Marre, “Dox ak sa Gox,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74YyD_SB33U

Fela Kuti, “International Thief Thief (I.T.T.),” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jptR_YwCs3o


08: Anti-imperialism, Internationalism, and Palestine with Sumaya Awad

08: Anti-imperialism, Internationalism, and Palestine with Sumaya Awad


In this week’s episode, we speak with Sumaya Awad, a Palestinian activist who has been active in Students for Justice and Palestine and co-founded a project to counter the Canary Mission, an odious blacklist of campus Palestine solidarity activists.

Sumaya talked to us about the incredible bravery currently taking place at the Gaza-Israel border, where thousands are enduring violent and often sadistic Israeli repression in a nonviolent protest to assert their right to return to their historic homes. She put the current protests in the historic context of the first and second intifadas, and the endless “peace process” that has been cynically used to defuse Palestinian resistance without ever touching the fundamental questions that the marches to the border have put back on the agenda. And we discussed the importance of the international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) solidarity movement, and her work in helping to start Against Canary Mission to defend BDS activists.


In opening discussion, Jen, Danny and Eric discuss the meaning of anti-imperialism, an important concept in the socialist tradition that some have distorted to mean supporting any regime (no matter how repressive or reactionary) that opposes the U.S. government. We talk about what it means for leftists to recognize that “the main enemy is at home”—especially when their home is the world’s biggest imperial power—while also being internationalists who instinctively support struggles for justice by people anywhere in the world regardless of whether their governments are allied or opposed to Washington.


Here are some links if you want to pursue any of these topics further:


You can read Sumaya’s writings in Socialist Worker about the Great Return March in Gaza and her solidarity visit to Standing Rock, and visit Against Canary Mission to learn more about this important effort to defend the free speech rights of Palestine solidarity activists.


For further reading about the state of Israel and the Palestinian struggle, there are many useful pieces in the International Socialist Review, including Phil Gasper’s Israel: Colonial Settler State in the International Socialist Review, Naseer Aruri’s 2001 interview about Israel’s cynical abuse of the peace process, and Sherry Wolf’s piece on the rise of the BDS movement.

In addition, Haymarket Books is having a 70% sale this month on all of its books about Palestine.

For further reading about our discussion of anti-imperialism, check out Anti-Imperialism and the Syrian Revolution by Ashley Smith and the solidarity statement with the protests in Iran that Jen referred to from the Alliance of Middle Eastern Socialists.


Music and audio from this episode

The Boy Sister Alma, “Lizard Eyes” (Dead Sea Captains Remix)



07: Trump’s Lies and Dominique Morisseau’s Truths about Race and Class

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In this week’s episode, we talk to award-winning playwright Dominique Morisseau. She is the author of a three-play cycle about Detroit. One of those plays, Paradise Blue, opens at the Signature Theater this week. In this wide-ranging conversation, we talk about violence against women, Black feminism, the destruction of the Black Power movement, the importance of earned rage, the power of that rage when directed outwards, and the pain when it gets twisted and directed against those closest to us. Dominique shares her influences with us, from Pearl Cleage to Tupac to her revolutionary family—and more. Music is an important source of inspiration for her, and we’ve included some of the music that appears in her plays. We also discuss her work as a social justice activist and her fight to expand both representation in and access to the theater.

In the opener, Jen, Danny and Eric discuss Trump’s “welfare reform 2.0” plan and what it tells us about how race, poverty and class are talked about in this country.

There’s so much we got into in this episode. If you want to follow any of the threads further, here are some resources:

  • Our opener was inspired by a longer piece Danny wrote about welfare reform 2.0 for Socialist Worker. (bit.ly/Welfare2-0)

  • This NY Times profile (bit.ly/DetroitMorisseau) explores the history and meaning of Detroit in Morisseau’s work.

  • We discuss Dominique’s play, Blood at the Root, which is a fictionalized account of the Jena 6—a group of 6 Black teenagers threatened with decades in prison for their alleged role in a school fight following a series of racist incidents. It’s a story that everyone should know about, and you can read more in this reporting Nicole Colson did from Jena. (bit.ly/Jena6)

  • Dominique talks about why Pearl Cleage is such an important influence for her. You can find her books, plays and appearances at her website. (bit.ly/Cleage)

  • As you can hear, we are very interested in the themes Dominique explores in her play Sunset Baby—the story of a freed Black political prisoner, his estranged daughter, her drug-dealing boyfriend and some missing love letters. This study guide (bit.ly/SunsetBabyRedPod) is a rich resource and contains a fascinating interview with Dominique, some of which we pick up on in this episode.

  • Dominique was inspired by the episode she describes in her essay, “Why I Almost Slapped a Fellow Theater Patron, and What That Says About Our Theaters” (bit.ly/SlapPatron) to rewrite the rules of theater etiquette (bit.ly/TheaterEtiquette) for Lincoln Center’s production of her play Pipeline.

Music and audio from this episode:

The Boy & Sister Alma, “Lizard Eyes” (Dead Sea Captains Remix); A Tribe Called Quest, “Scenario”; The Temptations, “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”; Charles Mingus, “Haitian Fight Song”; Orbert Davis, “Paradise Blue Compilation”; Tupac, “Keep Ya Head Up”; Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, “Nowhere to Run”; J-Dilla, "City Of Boom"

We’ve created a full playlist for this episode at Spotify. (bit.ly/MorisseauPlaylist)

More about our guest:

DOMINIQUE MORISSEAU is the author of The Detroit Project (A 3-Play Cycle) which includes the following plays: Skeleton Crew (Atlantic Theater Company), Paradise Blue (Signature Theatre), and Detroit ’67 (Public Theater, Classical Theatre of Harlem and NBT). Additional plays include: Pipeline (Lincoln Center Theatre), Sunset Baby (LAByrinth Theatre); Blood at the Root (National Black Theatre) and Follow Me To Nellie’s (Premiere Stages). Dominique is an alumna of The Public Theater Emerging Writer’s Group, Women’s Project Lab, and Lark Playwrights Workshop and has developed work at Sundance Lab, Williamstown Theatre Festival and Eugene O’Neil Playwrights Conference. Her work has been commissioned by Steppenwolf Theater, Women’s Project, South Coast Rep, People’s Light and Theatre, and Oregon Shakespeare Festival/Penumbra Theatre. She most recently served as Co-Producer on the Showtime series “Shameless.” Following its record breaking run at Berkeley Repertory Theatre last summer, her new musical Ain’t Too Proud —The Life and Times of The Temptations, is set to open at The Kennedy Center (Washington DC), The Ahmanson (Los Angeles), and The Princess of Whales Theater (Toronto) this season. Awards include: Spirit of Detroit Award, PoNY Fellowship, Sky-Cooper Prize, TEER Trailblazer Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, Audelco Awards, NBFT August Wilson Playwriting Award, Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama, OBIE Award, Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellowship, and being named one of Variety’s Women of Impact for 2017-18.



06: Cops are bad for mental health, Paul Heideman on Class Struggle and the Color Line

06: Cops are bad for mental health, Paul Heideman on Class Struggle and the Color Line

In this week’s episode we talk to activist and author Paul Heideman about his new book, Class Struggle and the Color Line: American Socialism and the Race Question, 1900-1930. Most histories of the left claim that Communist Party members in the 1930s were the first U.S. socialists to prioritize the fight against racism, but Heideman’s collection of writings from a range of American radicals tells a different story. Paul talks with us about the overlooked contributions to the U.S. and international left made by Black socialists like Claude McKay and Cyrill Briggs, and how events like the Russian Revolution in 1917 and the race riots of 1919 helped set in motion the Black radical movement that didn’t fully flower for another two generations.

If after listening to this episode you want to learn more about how the socialist movement approached the “race question”, you can (and should!) check out Class Struggle and the Color Line (bit.ly/HeidemanBook). Here are some other resources:

A shorter introduction to the topic is John Riddell’s article for the International Socialist Review, “Black Liberation and the Communist International” (bit.ly/RiddellBlackLiberation).

For more on Karl Marx’s avid interest in the fight against slavery, check out Donnie Schraffenberger’s “Karl Marx and the American Civil War” (bit.ly/MarxCivilWar).

Danny goes off on one of his tangents, citing Oscar Ameringer’s classic socialist pamphlet “The Life and Deeds of Uncle Sam”, which you can find here (bit.ly/LifeDeedsUncleSam) and judge for yourself if it was really worth interrupting Paul.

In our introduction, Danny and Eric discuss the contemporary horror of police killings of people in the midst of mental health episodes. The discussion quickly covers a lot of ground. Here are links for some of the cases and statistics we talk about:

Shaun King’s article for The Intecept: “Danny Ray Thomas Was a Broken Man Who Needed Help. Instead He Was Gunned Down by a Cop in Broad Daylight.” (bit.ly/DannyRayThomas)

The New York Daily News story about why New Yorkers are afraid of police showing up if they call 911 for a family member having an episode. (bit.ly/911Fears)

Many of the statistics Jen cites about deadly interactions between police and people with mental illness come from the Treatment Advocacy Center (bit.ly/TreatmentAdvocacy)

A talk given by socialist David Whitehouse on “The Origins of the Police” (bit.ly/PoliceOrigins)

The Atlantic’s story on Cook County Jail being “America’s Largest Mental Hospital” (theatln.tc/2qudB6G)


Music and audio from this episode:

Lizard Eyes – The Boy & Sister Alma (Dead Sea Captains Remix)
Jamilia Land, speaking at a rally on March 31 in Sacramento
Swim Good – Frank Ocean
Joe Hill and Let My People Go - Paul Robeson

“If We Must Die” read by Claude McKay
Keeanga-Yamahtta speaking on “The Fight Against the New Jim Crow” at the 2012 Socialism conference

05: Teachers’ Rebellion-Strike Wave Edition

05: Teachers’ Rebellion-Strike Wave Edition

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“West Virginia first, Oklahoma next”. That’s what teachers started chanting when they won their strike in West Virginia. And now the teachers’ rebellion really has spread like a wildfire, with the Oklahoma teachers’ strike entering its second week and teachers talking action in Kentucky and Arizona. This episode is entirely about the teachers’ rebellion. Danny, Jen and Eric discuss some of the lessons of these strikes before bringing you a series of great interviews from the front lines. We bring you clips from an onsite interview with Oklahoma teacher Jessica Lightle. Then we are joined by Eric Blanc, a journalist who has been covering the strike wave for Jacobin magazine. Eric has been on the ground in both West Virginia and Oklahoma and shares his analysis and insights with us. And finally, we talk to a teacher organizer and striker from West Virginia, Nicole McCormick. She is joined by Dana Blanchard, a veteran teacher who travelled to West Virginia to cover the strike for Socialist Worker.

There’s a lot packed in this episode and we’re pretty sure you’ll want to hear more. Here are some resources mentioned in the show as well as links for further reading:

Socialist Worker ran an article featuring the voices of Oklahoma teachers (bit.ly/OklahomaSW), including more from the interview we excerpted with Jessica Lightle. You can also go to the full site of SW to read extensive coverage of West Virginia, Kentucky and Oklahoma as well as more on why these strikes are spreading.

Eric Blanc’s has been covering the strikes for Jacobin and his most recent article is on Oklahoma’s turn to strike (bit.ly/OklahomaJacobin). You can also go to the full site at Jacobin for more coverage of the strikes.

We’re including a link to the full video of the solidarity rally held in NYC (bit.ly/SolidarityNYC) just after the victory of the strike in West Virginia. There was also a solidarity rally held in Seattle (bit.ly/SolidaritySeattle) a few weeks later, which featured Seattle educator Jesse Hagopian in conversation with Nicole McCormick (featured in this episode) and Oklahoma strike leader Larry Cagle.

04: Undocumented and Unafraid with Lupita Romero (bonus episode)

04: Undocumented and Unafraid with Lupita Romero

In this bonus episode, we talk to immigrant rights activist Lupita Romero about her experiences growing up as an undocumented immigrant and as a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Lupita describes the tension that many DREAMers feel between fighting to preserve DACA and rejecting the narrative that they are somehow uniquely “good” immigrants who alone deserve protection and equality.  

Lupita is a socialist and long-time immigrant justice organizer in New York City. She’s written a number of articles for Socialist Worker, including “The ugly business of immigrant detention” at bit.ly/uglybusiness.

If you want to further explore any of the themes in this episode, check out some of the following links:


  • You can read Lupita’s interview (bit.ly/DACAclock) about the mood among DREAM activists as DACA neared expiration.

  • Learn more about about the 4,000 DACA applications mysteriously delayed in the mail, from this report in Vox (bit.ly/delayedapplications).

  • And here’s an important resolution passed by a union (bit.ly/unionresolution) representing legal workers to affirm its commitment to support members who are in the DACA and Temporary Refugee Status programs now under threat from the Trump administration.