—Samuel Adler-Bell focuses on labor, mass incarceration and literature.
“The Battle for Chattanooga: Southern Masculinity and the Anti-Union Campaign at Volkswagen,” by Mike Elk. In These Times, March 13, 2014.
When a majority of workers at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee factory voted against joining the United Auto Workers last month, many labor analysts were quick to blame a distinctly Southern anti-union bias—as if “Southernness” itself were simply antithetical to the ethos of collective bargaining. Mike Elk very elegantly complicates that story, identifying other contributing factors: the severe culture of managerial control that prevailed at the Chattanooga plant, low-level supervisors who organized to preserve their positions of relative dominance and a strain of work-place machismo (“Real men don’t complain about their work!”), which, while not limited to the South, is exacerbated by deeply held Southern, working-class ideas about masculinity and whiteness.
While the anti-union campaign may have mobilized a version of Southern history equating collective organizing with the poisonous influence of liberal Northerners—while glorifying the individualist, white Southern worker who resists the invasion of yet another “union” army—Elk proposes an alternative archetype: “The Anne Braden Southerner.” Coined by Michael Gilliland, head of Chattanooga for Workers, the term recalls the white, anti-racist crusader from Kentucky (Braden) who fought for racial equality beginning in the 1950s. History provides no single definition of Southerness—“Is the Confederacy really ‘more Southern’ than the civil rights movement?” asks Gilliland—but those who seek to preserve the present order of things would like us to forget that.
—Dustin Christensen focuses on Latin American politics and sports.
“Lo que hay detrás de las guarimbas [PDF],” by Laura Weffer Cifuentes. Últimas Noticias, March 16, 2014.
"The median age of the youth in the plaza of Altamira is between 19-22 years old, they wear hoods and swear that their fight is for Venezuela. The median age of the National Guard officers is between 19-22 years old, they wear uniforms and swear that their fight is for Venezuela." Thus begins the article that has sparked a mini-controversy in the Venezuelan publishing world. After the piece was scrapped last minute, reporters from the private media group Cadena Capriles staged a protest at their desks and chief investigative editor Tamoa Calzadilla quit. Laura Weffer's portrait of a group of protesters calls into question claims that opposition leaders are paying the protesters, and paints a far more complicated picture than either side is willing to concede. "I think they're right, but sometimes they go overboard," says one young National Guard member, adjusting his bulletproof vest for another day on the job. Powerful stuff.