Against the Current, No. 11, November-December 1987

Against the Current, No. 11, November-December 1987

The Crash of '87: Opening of a New Period?

— The Editors

U.S. POLITICS APPEARS to be entering a new phase, one that could offer significant openings for workers, movements of the oppressed and the left. The reactionary steamroller, originating in the late 1970s and gathering momentum when Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency, has lost its steam.

As early as the Democratic victory in the 1986 congressional elections, the Reagan-powered right-wing juggernaut seemed to be losing its power to convince and intimidate. Since then, the administration and its far­right supporters have sustained a series of devastating blows: the Iran arms sales and Contragate revelations, the Bork defeat followed by the Ginsburg comedy, and the sharp reduction of European confidence in U.S. leadership. The stock-market crash of October 1987 delivered the knockout blow....

The Rainbow: Storm Clouds Ahead?

— Joanna Misnik

"WIN, JESSE, WINI" was the battle cry punctuating the Rainbow Coalition convention in Raleigh, North Carolina, October 9-11. The convention attracted some 1,200 delegates, members and observers from thirty-five states and the District of Columbia. Going for broke to secure the Democratic Party presidential nomination for Jackson proved to be the gamble that still holds the Rainbow together.

An official Rainbow was hastily called into being for the convention.....

Vanunu and the Israeli Bomb

— Stanley Heller

HE SITS ALONE IN his cell twenty-four hours a day. He has been in solitary for twelve months. He is charged with crimes that could carry the death sentence. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

His name is Mordechai Vanunu.

Vanunu worked for nine years at Machon 2, an underground factory in Dimona, Israel. Its very existence had been denied by Israeli authorities. But in September 1986, Vanunu gave reporters from the British Sunday Times photographs....

Alan Garcia & the Crisis of Populist Rule in Peru

— Scott Malcomson

FROM THE MOMENT he was discovered by the international press, Peruvian President Alan Garcia Perez was considered either a hero or a dangerous maverick. According to Business Week, by September 1985 his name had "taken on a new meaning: Bad Boy."

The attention centered on Garcia's policy, declared in his inauguration speech on July 28, 1985, of refusing to pay more than 10% of Peru's export earning toward servicing the nation's foreign debt. Garcia has powerfully characterized foreign debt repayments as "a barefaced mechanism for the transference and extraction of resources."...

On Sendero Luminoso -- Shining Path

— Scott Malcomson

The "Communist Party of Peru -- On the Shining Path of Jose Carlos Mariategui" was the product of intricate factional struggles in the 1960s and '70s. Centered originally in the Universidad San Cristobal de Huamanga, in the Andean province of Ayacucho, Shining Path has committed acts of violence throughout Peru since beginning "armed struggle" in 1980.

The party governed some remote areas in 1980-82 until the armed forces intervened and brutally repressed the party's activities. The sanguinary conflict continues: 1984 remains its bloodiest year....

South Africa: The Black Unions & the State of Emergency

— Pippa Green & Alan Hirsch

THE RECENT STRIKE OF 300,000 black* South African miners against the most powerful industry in the subcontinent demonstrated the sturdiness of the roots the workers' movement in South Africa has set down in the past fifteen years.

The three-week strike organized by the 250,000-strong National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the largest affiliate of the mainly black Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), was in support of a demand for a 30% wage increase. The mining houses offered between 17% and 23%. Before the strike underground wages ranged between R45 and R62 a week (about $22-$32)....

South African Unionists Back Divestment

— John Gomomo

THE CONGRESS OF South African Trade Unions (COSATU) supports mandatory, comprehensive sanctions against the South African government as an important economic pressure. COSATU is, at the moment, discussing the effects of different kinds of sanctions internally.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), which represents 140,000 members, 22,000 of them autoworkers, and that was formed as a result of a merger of seven COSATU affiliates, wishes to condemn the attitude of General Motors (GM) towards South African workers....

Guidelines for Divestment

WE SUPPORT AN END to all corporate involvement in or with South Africa and Namibia. A corporation is doing business in or with the Republic of South Africa or Namibia if it, its parent, or its subsidiaries:

1. Have direct investments in South Africa or Namibia, or have entered into franchise, licensing or management agreements with, or for, any entity in those countries; or....

Of Scrooge, Bentham & Reagan

— Paul Siegel

DICKENS' A CHRISTMAS CAROL is familiar to everyone as the expression of the very essence of the Christmas spirit. However, A Christmas Carol is not merely a story of the Christmas that comes but once a year; it is, as Edgar Johnson, author of the definitive biography of Dickens, says, "a serio-comic parable of social redemption."

"The miserly Scrooge," Johnson points out, "is the embodiment of the pursuit of material gain and indifference to human welfare represented by both the businessmen and the nineteenth-century economists, and his conversion is a symbol of that change of heart in society on which Dickens had set his own heart."...

Random Shots: Pat Robertson's Miracle

— R.F. Kampfer

ANYBODY WHO THINKS that Iran is going to roll over for a couple of American destroyers, after everything they've put up with from Iraq for the past seven years, has to be about half a bubble out of plumb.

The best thing about the U.S. getting into the Persian Gulf war is that the troops won't be available for use in Central America....

Auto Unionism in Crisis

It's Their Crisis -- But Our Jobs

— Robert Brenner interviews Eric Mann

IN RESPONSE TO the growing pressures of international competition and the deepening international crisis, the auto industry is trying to implement a new, wide-ranging strategy. The strategy involves closures of inefficient plants and technical changes like robotization. It also features a new strategy of labor relations. Finally, it is based on forcing workers in one plant to bid against the workers in another plant for work, with the work going to the group offering the greatest concessions.

Against the Current editor Robert Brenner interviewed Eric Mann, a longtime activist, with roots in the civil rights and antiwar movements. For the last five years Mann has worked in the GM auto plant in Van Nuys, California (UAW #645), where he has served as coordinator of the Campaign to Keep GM-Van Nuys open. His book Taking on General Motors: A Case Study of the UAW Campaign to Keep GM-Van Nuys Open was recently published by the UCLA Institute of Industrial Relations Press....

New Speedup in Auto

— Kim Moody

IN SEPTEMBER 1987 the United Auto Workers (UAW) signed a new three-year accord with the Ford Motor Company. The union heralded the new contract's job­security plan, which was supposed to guarantee the jobs of all of the 104,000 workers currently on hourly payroll at Ford. The membership ratified it by a 72% majority.

Of course, the new program, called Guaranteed Employment Numbers (GEN), allowed for layoffs in the event of a decline in the auto market, and the number of guaranteed jobs could fall by half the rate of attrition. The deal did not really prevent contracting out of work previously done within the firm (outsourcing) or technological displacement, but it provided income protection up to $500 million for those displaced-more than twice the protection offered in the 1984 Protected Employee Program (PEP).(1)...

Central America

Central America's Peace Plan & the US. Solidarity Movement

— David Finkel

AN EXTRAORDINARY SERIES of events are unfolding around the Central American peace program "Esquipulas II," known popularly as the Arias plan. The plan, in its various phases and applications, is likely to dominate the Central America debate well into 1988.

The real prospects for the Arias plan leading to a regional peace agreement are extremely slim. However, the purpose of this preliminary analysis is not an attempt to predict the outcome. Rather it is to highlight key factors that are shaping the process and to examine what this political reality means for the U.S. solidarity and anti­intervention movement going into an election year....

CISPES: Challenge of Solidarity

— David Finkel

THE LABOR DAY weekend convention of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) was attended by 250 activists from over sixty CISPES chapters and affiliates. As the organizationally most developed of the existing Central America solidarity networks, CISPES plays a dual role in the U.S. anti-intervention movement.

First, CISPES uses its grassroots organization to build mass actions against U.S. intervention in Central America. It energetically threw itself into building the April 25 mobilization and the fall "Days of Decision" actions....

Nicaragua's Atlantic Coast Dialogue: Autonomy & the Revolution

— Katherine Yih

WHEN THE PROJECT to define an autonomous mode of government for the Atlantic Coast was announced at the end of 1984, it was heralded as a bold response to a historic demand of the people of the Coast and a way to bring peace to the region.

Less than 100 years have passed since the Atlantic Coast was incorporated into the Nicaraguan state by military force. The original inhabitants of the region actively resisted this internal colonialism for several decades. To the present day a degree of resentment toward Mestizos (the Spanish-speaking majority) and the Nicaraguan state is palpable in certain sectors of the population....

The FSLN, Mass Organizations & the Socialist Transition

— Milton Fisk

People in Power:
Forging A Grassroots Democracy in Nicaragua
by Gary Ruchwarger
South Hadley, MA: Bergin & Garvey, 1987, 340 pages, $16.95.

THIS IS A welcome addition to the growing list of books on revolutionary Nicaragua. It focuses on a feature of the Sandinista revolution that has created hope for its success: the mass organizations.

More Debate on Baby M

Debate on Baby M

— The Editors

Johanna Brenner and Bill Resnick's article (ATC #9) on the Baby M surrogate motherhood controversy stimulated responses from Marian Swerdlow, Julia Wigley and Leslie Reagan (all published in ATC #10). An additional response by Nancy Holmstrom is published here, followed by Brenner and Resnick's rejoinder to all four.

Protecting the Mother's Right Is Critical

— Nancy Holmstrom

THE ARTICLE ON the Baby M case and the meaning of motherhood by Johanna Brenner and Bill Resnick was a thoughtful, balanced, unmoralistic presentation. I appreciate their criticism of biological essentialism and their emphasis on the larger context of the case and the social conditions that produce the desire for one's own child.

However, I disagree with some of their concrete conclusions-at least, as I understand them. Specifically, I think their position regarding custody is inconsistent and I think there are good grounds, which do not stem from biological essentialism, for privileging the mother in a custody dispute stemming from surrogacy. Their position is overly abstract, in my opinion, and overlooks some important details of the case....

A Reply to Our Critics

— Johanna Brenner & Bill Resnick

BEFORE TAKING UP our disagreements with our critics, we want to state the broad areas of agreement.

First, surrogacy is a terrible social practice.

Second, surrogacy contracts should not be enforced....

In Memoriam

Harvey Goldberg: An Appreciation

— Patrick M. Quinn

IN A TYPICALLY antiseptic fashion the New York Times reported the death of cancer on Wednesday, May 20, in Madison, Wisconsin of Harvey Goldberg, Calling Goldberg "a historian and political advocate," the Times noted that "while specializing in European social history and advocating leftist causes" Goldberg taught at Oberlin (1948-51), Ohio State (1951-63), and the University of Wisconsin (1963 until his death).

What was not said, however, was that Harvey Goldberg was perhaps the finest Marxist teacher of his time; that he served as the inspiration for an entire generation of radical students at the University of Wisconsin, this writer included, during the 1960s, and that he never abandoned his vision of, and quest for, a just, humane, socialist society....