Author Archives: Richard Esbenshade

About Richard Esbenshade

12-year resident of Urbana, taught history for several years at UIUC, specializing in Eastern Europe; contract not renewed due to budget cuts, currently self-employed; longtime activist in peace/green/social justice/solidarity movements; father of two, including Public i alumna Shara.

Anti-Semitism: Still the “Socialism of Fools”?

Scandals over alleged anti-Semitism have recently ensnared leftist British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn; the populist Yellow Vest movement, which leans both Left and Right (and neither, rejecting both); and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), critic of Israel and supporter of … Continue reading

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What Can We Learn from the Yellow Vests?

The last Saturday in March marked “Act XX” for the the Gilets Jaunes or Yellow Vests protests, the 20th consecutive weekend citizens have marched in the tens of thousands and occupied traffic roundabouts across France. Since hundreds of thousands mobilized … Continue reading

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Brexit, Regrexit, Lexit: Is Socialism in One (European) Country Possible?

On November 25, Great Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May returned from Brussels with approval from the other 27 European Union (EU) member states for a deal on Brexit, the British commitment to exit the EU pursuant to the results of … Continue reading

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Good-Bye, and Hello, to the “Pocket Prairie”: Interview with Dave Monk—Edited (Print) Version

  Dave Monk established the “Pocket Prairie,” across the street from the WEFT 90.1 FM studios on Market Street in downtown Champaign, in the 1980s; due to development of the space, it has been relocated to the Second Street Detention … Continue reading

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Good-Bye, and Hello, to the “Pocket Prairie”: Interview with Dave Monk—Long Version

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Poland: Following in Hungary’s Footsteps

Second of two parts. On December 20, the European Commission—the executive arm of the European Union (EU), consisting of one representative from each of the 28 member countries—launched the “nuclear option” of EU politics against Poland: a proposed formal warning … Continue reading

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Understanding the Rise of the Right in Poland

First of two parts On November 11, Poland’s Independence Day, some 60,000 people converged in a Warsaw demonstration organized by Polish extreme-right nationalist groups; large banners proclaimed slogans including “Pure Blood” and “White Europe.” The Interior Minister of the ruling … Continue reading

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“Anti-Refugeeism without Refugees” in Eastern Europe

Analysts of post-World War II, post-Holocaust Eastern Europe coined the term “Anti-Semitism without Jews” to characterize the uncanny persistence of prejudice in countries mostly cleansed of any actual Jewish presence. The category of “Jew” took on a symbolic character, incorporating … Continue reading

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The Beheading of a Saint: Junipero Serra and the California Monument Wars

During his visit to Mexico in February, Pope Francis apologized for the “systematic and organized” exclusion of indigenous Americans over the centuries. This took place in San Cristobal de las Casas, the epicenter of the indigenous-identified Zapatista uprising in 1994, … Continue reading

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Students Rally for Coal Divestment

On April 4, the student group UIUC Beyond Coal rallied on the Quad to push the Academic Senate to pass a resolution urging the University divest $5.1 million held in the coal industry through stock index funds, in order to slow … Continue reading

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Whither the Refugees, W(h)ither Europe?

Since I arrived in Hungary in early summer, the media, and everyday conversations, were filled with the refugee crisis. From the dangerous boat crossings from Libya to Europe’s Mediterranean island outposts such as Lampedusa, Italy, the main flow had shifted … Continue reading

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The Greek Crisis: Beginning of the End for European Unity?

Protesters burn an EU flag during an anti-austerity demonstration in Thessaloniki, Greece. Practically since the moment of its victory in the January 25 elections, Greece’s Syriza party has been locked in a struggle with the “troika,” the triumvirate of the … Continue reading

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Political Soccer: A Global Phenomenon—Except Here

This summer’s soccer World Cup—always the most-watched sporting event on the planet—in Brazil was accompanied by enormous demonstrations, at times violently repressed. Citizens protested the diversion of vast resources from urgent social needs to the building of hugely expensive stadiums, … Continue reading

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Monumental Struggles in Hungary

After midnight on Saturday, July 19, dozens of workers with heavy machinery, protected by hundreds of special-unit police, installed the Monument to the German Occupation on Szabadság (Freedom) Square in central Budapest. The surprise nighttime action and heavy police presence … Continue reading

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Ukraine: Is There an Alternative?

Surveying both the mainstream and the alternative/Left media on the Ukraine crisis can seem like switching between alternate universes. In one, Ukrainians struggling for democracy, European values and independence, after toppling a corrupt President in thrall to oligarchs and the … Continue reading

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Hungarians Debate their Nuclear Future

On the weekend of February 1-2, thousands of Hungarians took to the streets to oppose the government’s plans to double the capacity of the country’s only nuclear power plant, with construction and financing by Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The plant, at … Continue reading

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CU Immigration Forum Steps Up Push for Comprehensive Immigration Reform

(Compiled from material provided by CU Immigration Forum) Champaign-Urbana activists and other supporters of immigrants and a diverse and stable community have been working on a number of new initiatives to pressure legislators to make immigration reform a reality. During … Continue reading

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Who’s the Bigger Scapegoat in Europe, Roma or Jew?

On October 24 of last year, the Memorial to the Sinti and Roma of Europe Murdered under the National Socialist Regime was unveiled and dedicated in Berlin, Germany, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck in attendance. Almost … Continue reading

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C-U Marches for Immigration Reform

(Compiled from C-U Immigration Forum materials) On Wednesday, April 10th, over 200 students and community members braved steady rain and cold to support comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). Families, students, community and church leaders marched in solidarity from the University Y … Continue reading

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Interview with Todd Gitlin – full version

Todd Gitlin was president of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) in 1963-64, and helped organize the first national demonstration against the Vietnam War in 1965. He has written widely on politics and culture, with a special focus on … Continue reading

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