Against the Current, No. 9, May/June 1987

Against the Current, No. 9, May/June 1987

Letter from the Editors

— The Editors

LAST YEAR THE LABOR DEPARTMENT reported the lowest number of strikes since the record keeping began. Those strikes that occurred took longer to settle than ever before. But statistics tell only a part of the story. There was a victory-both human and political-for the workers at Watsonville Cannery, called back a-year-and-a-half into a strike some had called suicidal. And in all that time not one striker scabbed.

It is certainly true that the double whammy of deindustrialization and concession bargaining....

Baby M, Family Love & the Market in Women

— Johanna Brenner & Bill Resnick

EVERYTHING'S FOR SALE in the big city. When William Stem contracted with Mary Beth Whitehead to impregnate herself with his sperm, give the baby to him and his wife, and in return get his $10,000, it's clear the figure of speech is becoming literally true. One of the last sacred spheres-the womb, child bearing-is entering the market.

At the last minute Mary Beth Whitehead reconsidered. She fled New Jersey. The Stems tracked her down in Florida and seized the baby.....

A Life Worth Living: Benjamin Linder, 1959-87

— Alan Wald

ON APRIL 28, Benjamin Linder, a 27- year-old mechanical engineer performing volunteer humanitarian service as one of 1,300 North American "internationalists" in Nicaragua, was murdered by contras in northern Jinotega Province.

The assassination, sponsored by the Reagan administration, occurred at 8:00a.m. as Ben, an associate of the Nicaraguan Energy Institute,...

El Salvador: Popular Movement Gains

— David Finkel

HAND-PAINTED BANNERS of trade unions, farmworker and cooperative associations, students, relatives of the disappeared, and the indigenous [Indian] peoples of El Salvador filled the streets of Santa Ana, the largest city of the western zone, on May 1.

About 6,000 marchers took part, with several thousand more watching from the sidewalks....

A Personal Account: Awaiting Deportation

— Margaret Randall

Whole literatures
conceived in selective fragments
will be investigated to find some sign
that rebels also lived where there was oppression.
--Bertolt Brecht, "Literature Will Be Investigated"

Truthfulness anywhere means a heightened complexity.
But it is a movement into evolution.
--Adrienne Rich, "Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying"

I AM A WOMAN born in the United States, a white middle-class woman who at a relatively early age went out to see the world, and learn from it. I became a writer, a political activist, an oral historian, a photographer, and a teacher-in roughly that order. I lived in Latin America with three young children to support....

Comment from Margaret Randall

— Margaret Randall

THE HISTORIAN Gerda Lerner stopped me outside a radio station in Washington, D.C. Both of us were appearing on the same show, and I had gone first. Lerner had heard my response to one of the typical interviews I've had since the beginning of this ordeal, and she had these words of advice: "I heard what you said," she told me. "I think you were okay. But there's something you haven't emphasized, and I believe you should consider it. Deportation,,,,

Random Shots: Ghosts in the Machine

— R,F. Kampfer


Can you recommend any videotapes that might contribute to the education of a preschool child? --Progressive Parent....

When Workers Resist

Update on P-9: Concession Battles Continue

— Roger Horowitz

WHEN THE United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) signed contracts with the Hormel and Oscar Mayer companies last August, union leaders confidently predicted that wages in the packinghouse industry were finally stabilizing.

However, demands for concessions since the beginning of 1987 have forced strikes at packing plants....

United Support Group Continues P-9 Fight

— interview with Madeline Krueger

MADELINE KRUEGER IS an active member of the United Support Group in Austin, Minnesota. With her husband Merle she spent five-and-a-half months during 1986 on the road, spreading the word about UFCW Local P-9's continuing struggle. Besides raising seven children in Austin, she also worked as a real estate agent.

Merle was one of the highest seniority people in the Hormel plant before the strike, and was third on the recall list for strikers, if in fact such a list exists. Nonetheless, Merle Krueger was fired from Hormel in the spring of 1987,...

Watsonville: How the Strikers Won

— Frank Bardacke

THE HAPPY TASK of this article is to explain a major working-class victory, which seven long years after PATCO, surely needs some explaining. Frozen-food workers in Watsonville, California, after an extended eighteen-month strike in which not one striker crossed the picket line, have beaten back a heavily financed attempt to bust their union, and have won full wage and benefit parity with the rest of the frozen food industry.

What happened? Why did the Watsonville strikers win when so many others have lost?...

TDU: Ranks Try to Save the Union

— David Sampson

EVERYONE LOVES A WINNER. One of the main functions of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) has been to show rank-and-file Teamsters that members can take collective action to better their lives. In many instances the importance of winning goes well beyond the issue at hand. Perhaps as important as the immediate victory is the value that comes from building confidence and consciousness-to move on to the next fight....

Imprisoned by a Dream: Will the Giant Awake?

— Joel Rogers

Prisoners of the American Dream
by Mike Davis
London: Verso, 1986, 320 pages, $10.95 paperback.

THE AMERICAN working class is notoriously disorganized. Most evident perhaps, at least during the present period, the economic power of workers is constrained by the limited scope and fragmented structure of union organization....


Technology of Control

— Marty Glaberman

Work Transformed:
Automation and Labor in the Computer Ag
by Harley Shaiken
New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1986, $17.95

HARLEY SHAIKEN HAS documented, with considerable insight, the impact of the current wave of automation on the workplace. He has done this while maintaining a necessary balance between the plans and aims of management and the resistance of workers.

In The Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels....

Capital Relations in Bed

— Lizzie Olesker

Working Girls
Directed by Lizzie Borden; screenplay by Lizzie Borden with Sandra Kay; director of photography, Judy Irola.
With Louise Smith, Ellen McElduff, Amanda Goodwin, Marusia Zach, Janne Peters & Helen Nicholas. Running time: 90 minutes.

THE PROSTITUTE IS a cultural icon of tremendous power. She often represents the ultimate object of desire in uncensored male imaginings of female sexuality. Her body is available to men without questions of emotional return....

Heilbroner's View of Capitalism

— Howard Brick

The Nature and Logic of Capitalism
by Robert Heilbroner
New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1985, $15.95

IN THE Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels credited the bourgeoisie with carrying out a harsh program of enlightenment, with tearing the veil of sentiment off social relations of exploitation and compelling man "to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life."...

Von Trotta's Rosa Luxemburg

— Pat Kirkham

Rosa Luxemburg
Written and directed by Margarethe von Trotta
In German and Polish with English subtitles, released by New Yorker Films.
Running time: 122 minutes.

THE FILM ROSA LUXEMBURG recently opened in New York City and elsewhere in the United States. Luxemburg is one of the few well-known female Marxist theoreticians and activists, standing alongside Lenin, Trotsky, and in­ deed Marx himself, in a roll call of those who have made an outstanding contribution to Marxist ideas and dedicated their lives to socialism. Born in Poland (then part of Tsarist Russia) in 1871 into a Jewish family, she worked ceaselessly for proletarian revolution from her student years until her brutal murder by counter-revolutionary forces in Germany in 1919....


Nicaragua: Debt Crisis & Land Reform

— Carlos M. Vilas

IN ITS JANUARY-FEBRUARY 1987 issue, ATC published an article by Ralph Schoenman, "Their Socialism and Ours," in which the author discusses many aspects of the political economy of the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua. The article is very broad in its scope, dealing with both domestic and international issues, some of them not directly related to the Sandinista experience but to international politics in general and to contending political and philosophical tendencies within theories of revolution....

Response to Carlos M. Vilas

— Ralph Schoenman

CARLOS M. VlLAS ASCRIBES to me with liberal abandon a putative disregard for facts in my article "Their Socialism And Ours" (ATC #7). He scatters pejorative, ad hominem comment twenty-nine times in a scant 1,500 words, fathering upon me a methodology that is his very own....

On Democracy & Revolution

— Stanfield Smith

WALD'S ARTICLE "Some Perspectives on the FSLN" (ATC #7) reads like an anti-communist liberal's critique of the FSLN. Certainly he hides his "democratic rights" liberalism behind a disguise of Marxism, at least what is passed off as a "Trotskyist" variant of it. He poses his analysis in terms of what Sandinistas say about the Soviet Union, Cuba, Poland, Afghanistan -- do they criticize communism enough to satisfy American liberals concerned about "democratic forms."...

Response to Stanfield Smith

— Alan Wald

DOES STANFIELD SMITH have a convincing case for his claim that my critique of the FSLN is "liberal anti-communist"?

The phrase "liberal anti-communism" refers to a view widely held by U.S. intellectuals after the post-World War II years. Its basic tenet is that the dangers of Soviet expansionism are so enormous that one must give "critical support" to U.S. imperialism (usually referred to as "the West") when Third World countries struggle to free themselves from the exploitation of the more advanced capitalist nations.

Stalin-Hitler Pact: Buying Time?

— Joshua P. Kiok

DEBATES ON ANCIENT history have their obvious limitations. However, I just could not leave unanswered R.F. Kampfer's "random shots" on the "political atrocity" of the Soviet-German Treaty of Non-Aggression of 1939 that appeared in the May-June 1986 issue of Against The Current (ATC #3)....

Response to Joshua P. Kiok

— R.F. Kampfer

I MUST APOLOGIZE for the long delay in responding to your letter. In fact, this article represents my second response. The first, written several months ago, dealt primarily with the military consequences of the Hitler-Stalin Pact, an aspect I find highly interesting, although it has largely been ignored or misunderstood. My editors, however, felt that I should devote more attention to the political questions, which other commitments have prevented me from doing until now....

Elections & Revolutionary Politics

— Steve Leigh

THE ARTICLES IN ISSUE #4-5 of ATC on independent political action (IPA) and the Sanders campaign for governor of Vermont raised an important issue for the revolutionary left: "Can the left use bourgeois elections, and if so, how?" The writers of the articles in ATC #4-5, Dianne Feeley and David Finkel in one, and Robert Brenner, Warren Montag and Charlie Post in another, argue for a strategy of independent political action: calling for electoral campaigns independent of, and to the left of, the Democratic Party. This, they feel, is an important step in breaking people away from capitalist politics. This article will examine whether this is the best strategy for revolutionary socialists to pursue and will argue that their position of support for IPA in general and Sanders in particular does not contribute to their goal of revolution....