Against the Current, No. 12-13, January-April 1988

Against the Current, No. 12-13, January-April 1988

Occupation in Permanent Crisis

— The Editors

"IT IS SIMPLY FORBIDDEN to be afraid of anything ....Out of 650,000 residents of the [Gaza] Strip, the occupying authorities have (at one time or another) arrested 47,000. Every one of them is already his own leader where he lives. The arrest creates a leader ....Let no idiot think that external forces are directing what goes on inside. The people inside belong to all kinds of organizations, _which are like political parties of the nascent state. Even those who do not belong to any group identify with the overall struggle."...

The Washington Legacy: Council Wars in the Windy City

— Alan Jacobson

AS SOMETIMES happens, a phenomenon occurs that Marxists term "a change in the objective circumstances." Last November Chicago politics took a turn which absolutely no one was expecting or was prepared to deal with. Mayor Harold Washington, just six months into his second term, died of a massive heart attack....

"New Period? A Letter to the Editors

— Steve Downs

THE "LETTER FROM the Editors" in ATC #11 argues that a new period may be opening in U.S. politics. While this may be true, the case you make is weak and the conclusion you reach regarding the tasks of socialists is puzzling. In my opinion, you overestimate both the importance of the Reagan Right's ideological hegemony and the significance of the defeats it has suffered....

Victor Serge's World and Ours

— Susan Weissman

THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION of October 1917 ushered in a new epoch; a large country had broken from world capitalism and socialists from all over the world watched with hope and enthusiasm the development of the first society beginning its transition to socialism. Revolutionaries flocked to Red Russia, "leaving the void and entering the kingdom of will ... where life is beginning anew."(1) One of them was Victor Serge....

Clear the Names of the Moscow Trial Victims

IT IS NOW OVER fifty years since the infamous Moscow Show Trials. It is astounding that at a time when the Soviet government is at pains to emphasize its concern with "human rights" and proclaims the need for "glasnost" -- "openness" -- the accused in these trials, with a few exceptions, are still considered guilty of being paid agents of Nazism, and other crimes....

Random Shots: Potato Head Blues

— R.F. Kampfer

THE RE-ENTRY OF Gary Hart into the presidential race has led to a torrent of items in the media about Hart being back in the saddle, back on top, pressing the flesh, etc….Not every editor is as squemish as the ones at ATC.

Those people who are determined that nobody should have any fun have succeeded in depriving Mr. Potato Head of his pipe, saying that it set a bad example for children. Nobody ever smoked that plastic pipe twice....

After the Crash

Notes on the Crash and Crisis

— Robert Brenner

THE STOCK MARKET dropoff of October 1987 was every bit as great as that of October 1929. The Dow Jones average fell by 36% between August 1987 and October 1987 and by 22.6% on Black Monday alone. By comparison, stocks fell by only 11.7% on Black Friday, Oct. 29, 1929....

Why a Crisis of Profitability?

— Mary Malloy

IN THE WEEKS following the Oct. 19 stock-market plunge, many were asking whether the- unprecedented one-day fall in stock values was the harbinger of another 1930s-type depression. Almost all economists agree upon the supposed lessons of that decade: economic depressions are preventable- if the correct economic policies are pursued. In other words, bad policies, rather than the logic of capitalist profitability, are the ultimate cause of economic crisis.

For those outside the upper circles of policymaking, the economists' consensus is not very reassuring because they are sharply divided over what is the ''correct policy." At the moment, the "right policy" for the White House is allowing the dollar to tumble against Japanese and German currencies in an effort to-promote U.S. exports. Implied in this cure is that restrictive monetary and fiscal policies abroad are to blame for the current U.S. economic distress and may induce a new global recession....

Another View of the Economy

— Steve Rose

IN 1971, PRESIDENT NIXON announced new policies to deal with U.S. economic difficulties; the left responded with a series of teach-ins on the "crisis" that had been long anticipated (in for example Baran and Sweezy's Monopoly Capital and Ernest Mandel's Marxist Economic Theory.)

Since then, the economy has swung wildly with higher unemployment rates, slower growth and bouts of inflation. With each tum, a new round of educationals on the failures of capitalism was organized...

Market Socialism

Market Socialism: An Overview

— David Finkel with Samuel Farber

THE DEBATE ON "market socialism" is not fundamentally over economic efficiency or technique in a narrow sense; nor is it triggered primarily by academic curiosity over the abstract model of a future society. It is at bottom a debate about what makes socialism popular and democratic and a response to real conditions confronted by real social movements, East and West, aspiring to freedom from exploitation and oppression....

The Limits of Socialist Planning

— Leslie Evans

UNTIL RECENTLY Marxists were generally agreed on what they meant by socialism. From the Communist Manifesto of 1847 through the socialist revolutions that have swept up a third of the human race in the twentieth century, socialism has been taken to mean a system of state ownership of the means of production operated through a planned economy by and on behalf of the working class. Such a system has been envisioned as evolving to a classless society where all citizens have a roughly equal claim on consumer goods, an equal voice in setting policy, and where amassing of private wealth, particularly in productive property, is strictly prohibited.

The capstone in such a guarantee against private monopolies counterposed to the rights of the majority is to be the abolition of money altogether. This would eliminate the very medium of unequal individual accumulation. All citizens would receive a far share of life’s chances, and no special advantages other than those conferred by biology and culture could be passed on through inheritance....

Legacies of Soviet Planning

— Mel Leiman

MEDIA ACCOUNTS AS WELL AS professional articles over the last several years have trumpeted the failure of economic planning in either the "Communist" or "Social Democrat" form. They have proclaimed the necessity for either a full-fledged market economy or, at the very least, the need to inject the play of market force into the otherwise rigid, centralized Russian-type economies. This approach has not only dovetailed with the obvious political drift to the right in most capitalist countries, but also with the partial abandonment of "socialist" forms in some of Eastern Europe (particularly Hungary and Yugoslavia) and China. Many Western observers see this process as confirmation of the inherent superiority of the market and inherent weakness of a planned system.

It is the purpose of this article to bring some historical and analytical perspective to bear on this important issue, employing an angle of vision which is neither reflexively pro-market nor pro-Soviet....

A Matter of Priorities

— Milton Fisk

I FIND I AM more tentative about market socialism than most other issues I have investigated. On the one hand, there is the feeling that one doesn't want socialism to degenerate into money grubbing of the sort associated with market economies. Those of us who read William Hinton's Fanshen in the late '60s find nothing encouraging in today's pictures of Chinese hawking jeans at Beijing's free market and buying stocks at their new exchange.

On the other hand, there is the nagging feeling that one will miss having an emporium like Service Merchandise in a planned economy. When I recently walked out of the Service outlet in Bloomington clutching a telephone answering machine, I could only think, "Why am I fighting to deprive myself of this?"...

Memorial Essays

Raya Dunayevskaya: Thinker, Fighter, Revolutionary

— Richard Greeman

WE MOURN the passing of Raya Dunayevskaya, the Russian-born philosopher and revolutionary whose long and rich life was dedicated to the revolutionary self-emancipation of humankind. Her voluminous writings, the many struggles in which she participated, and the memories of the thousands she touched with her words, deeds and example, are a remarkable living legacy....

Van Heijenoort Remembered

— Alexander Buchman

WE LIVE IN AN AGE so frequently characterized by violent death that one tends to dismiss as inconsequential the premature truncation of any life. One such case is the tragic death of Jean van Heijenoort who last year was shot by his estranged wife, Ana Maria, in Mexico City.

Socialist, philosopher, logician, linguist, and teacher, van Heijenoort had during the past twenty years won international repute as a mathematician of exceptional talent. An avowed Marxist from early student days, he was a lifelong opponent of Stalinism....


A Haymarket Memorial

— Michael Löwy

Haymarket Scrapbook
edited by Dave Roediger and Franklin Rosemont
Chicago, Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company, 1986. $29.95 hardback,
$14.95 paperback.

WALTER BENJAMIN once wrote that the memory of the martyred ancestors is one of the most powerful sources of inspiration for social movements and revolutionary struggles. To keep alive in the labor movement the memory of the Chicago events of May 1886 and of the five revolutionaries victimized by class injustice, is not only a work of historical justice but also a militant political action. This is particularly true in relation to the United States, where the ruling class has tried by all means to bury that memory by presenting the May 1 as some sort of official Soviet event, a parade in Moscow attended by the Politburo....

Body of Opinion

— Linda A. Rabben

The Woman in the Body:
A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction
By Emily Martin
Boston: Beacon Press, $21.95.

FEMINIST THEORISTS have a problem. One of their main a priori assumptions is that women, no matter what the differences among them, share a common experience of oppression. Since many women and men do not share this conviction, feminist scholars spend an inordinate amount of time trying to convince readers of basic feminist principles....

Radicalism in the Forties

— S.A. Longstaff

Daniel Bell and the Decline of Intellectual Radicalism:
Social Theory and Political Reconciliation in the 1940s
By Howard Brick
Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 1986, $30.

OF THE SURPRISING number of neo­conservatives who emerged out of the City College and Trotskyist ambience of the late 1930s and early 1940s including Irving Kristol, Nathan Glazer, and Seymour Martin Lipset it is the sociologist Daniel Bell who remains the most contradictory and elusive figure. Bell, whose much-debated End of Ideology (1960) left him with a lot of explaining to do in the 1960s, had joined the staff of the social-democratic weekly New Leader in 1940 at the age of twenty-one. Becoming its managing editor in 1943, he recruited the historian Richard Hofstadter and the sociologist C. Wright Mills, among others, as contributors....

In Memoriam

Raymond Williams, 1921-1988

— The Editors

THE EDITORS OF Against the Current wisH to pay tribute to the memory of Raymond Williams, who died in London on January 28, 1988, at the age of sixty-six. Born into a Welsh working-class family of Labour Party activists, Williams became a productive scholar and novelist, devoting his entire life to championing an egalitarian concept of culture....

Nora Astorga: ¡Presente!

— The Editors

THE EDITORS OF Against the Current salute the memory of Nora Astorga, Nicaragua's United National ambassador, who died of cancer at age 39 shortly before this issue went to press....