Against the Current, No. 14, May/June 1988

Against the Current, No. 14, May/June 1988

From Locked Out to Locked In?

— The Editors

JESSE JACKSON'S SMASHING electoral victory in the Michigan caucuses and his impressive showings in the subsequent Wisconsin and New York primaries are important signs that conditions for the revival of left politics in the United States are significantly improving. They are therefore cause for optimism. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for Jesse Jackson's campaign, which voices, with ever fewer doubts and qualifications daily, the goal of building a Black and progressive block inside the Democratic Party.

This strategy has the uncritical support of much of the left. But it is bound to disappoint the hopes for greater power and improved conditions of Jackson’s own “locked out” constituencies of Blacks, poor, and working people; to frustrate the political aims of the majority of Rainbow activists; and to rechannel, still another time, important opposition sentiment back into the political mainstream....

Our Heroes, As We See Them

— Sol Saporta

MY RECOLLECTION of the year 1948 is that the two activities that occupied most of my time and energy were rooting for Jackie Robinson and the Brooklyn Dodgers, and campaigning for Henry Wallace, the Progressive Party candidate for president who was challenging both Harry Truman and Thomas E. Dewey.

Sometime between then and now I came to understand that, in its own way, the first of these commitments was just as political as the second....

Eyewitness to the Palestinian Uprising

— an interview with Marty Rosenbluth

THE PALESTINIAN uprising in the West Bank and Gaza continues without letup after more than five months. Recent dramatic developments have included the Israeli death-squad murder of Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Khalil el-Wazir (Abu Jihad); continuing mass commercial strikes in the Occupied Territories; the detention of over a thousand Palestinians in concentration-camp conditions, most notably in the newly constructed prison called “Ansar 3.” Israeli troops blew up a dozen Palestinian homes in the village of Beita after an Israeli teen-age settler, Tirza Porat, was killed by a bullet from an ultra-rightist settler, bodyguard; and the Israeli army staged a new massive incursion into southern Lebanon.,,,

Latin American Women: "We're All Feminists"

— Joanne Rappaport

AN ENGLISH-SPEAKING Chicana from California, meeting a Chilean woman, begins to discover that she, too, is a Latin American. A Guatemalan Indian refugee living in Mexico City tells a group that she feels naked in the trousers she wears to hide her Quiche identity. A Black unionist from Peru describes how on the street, her sister would introduce her as the maid, because she had the darkest skin of all the members of her family. A Salvadoran activist meets and speaks for the first time in her life to a lesbian mother. The Honduran delegation, who at the beginning of the week had emphasized that they were not feminists, by the plenary session joins their sisters in chanting, "We're all feminists."

From Oct. 18 to Oct. 24, 1987m more than 1,500 women from every country in Latin America except Panama, as well as numerous women from the United States and Europe, came together at the Fourth Encounter of Latin American and Caribbean Feminists in Taxco, Mexico, to discuss the future of feminism in their continents....

Chile in 2000: The Generals' Blueprint

— James Petras

AUGUSTO PINOCHET, in power since the 1973 overthrow of the democratically elected Socialist government of Salvador Allende, is establishing the basis for the continuation of his rule into the twenty-first century. Pinochet's 1980 constitution, established on the basis of a rigged plebiscite, calls for a yes-or-no ballot by early 1989 on a single presidential candidate to be selected by the chiefs of the armed forces and Pinochet If the candidate is approved by the voters, he/she would serve an eight-year term. If he/she is rejected, arrangements would be made for a broader election.

Pinochet is intent on securing nomination by the generals and winning the elections. He is proceeding, however, to formulate a comprehensive ideological-institutional strategy that goes far beyond the elections. This strategy was spelled out in detail by a series of secret documents prepared by the Ministry of the Interior and presented to a closed meeting of more than 300 mayors on Aug. 10-12, 1987, in the resort city of Vina del Mar. I received a copy of these documents from a source in Chile....

Revolutionaries in the 1950s

— Tim Wohlforth

I BECAME A SOCIALIST in 1953, right at the height of McCarthyism and at the lowest ebb that the American socialist movement had ever experienced. I was won to socialism by a group, the Shachtmanites, whose intellectual vitality made up for what they clearly lacked in numbers. The Shachtmanites were the dissidents of the dissidents, the uncompromising defenders of democracy in a world dominated by totalitarianism and in a period when the left itself was by no means untouched by totalitarian thought and practice.

The Shachtman group, the Independent Socialist League (ISL), were descendants of the American Trotskyist movement of the 1930s. Max Shachtman had been one of the founders in 1928, along with James P. Cannon, of the movement.(1) They based themselves on Trotsky's criticisms of the lack of democracy within the Soviet Union as well as his views of Stalin's deviations from a Leninist world revolutionary strategy....

Victor Serge's Critique of Stalinism, Part II

— Suzi Weissman

[The first half of this article, published in ATC 12-13, summarized the life and political career of Victor Serge, a lifelong revolutionary fighter and opponent of the bureaucratic destruction of the Russian Revolution. This concluding section examines Serge's views on the Soviet Union in the 1930s and the relevance of his insights for today's debates on glasnost and Soviet economic reforms.(])

SERGE'S CONTRIBUTION TO our understanding of the system Stalin created in the 1930s is increasingly relevant today not only because the same questions, such as plan vs. market, are being raised, but because the period Serge described was the one in which the class relations of the Soviet Union were formed. If one wishes to make sense of the Soviet Union today, one must turn to the period Serge examined....

Random Shots: The Bones Break, the Clubs Hold

— R.F. Kampfer

THE ISRAELI ARMY is issuing fiberglass batons to replace the wooden clubs that the soldiers formerly used to beat demonstrating Palestinians. It seems that the wooden clubs broke too easily, and several soldiers suffered splinter wounds. During more humane times, police nightsticks were made of locust wood specifically because that wood had a lower breaking point than human bone and serious injuries were less likely.

Another innovation is the use of high-velocity gravel cannon with a range of 100 yards. What these weapons have in common is that they are only useful against people who are unarmed....

Resisting the New Racism

Racism and the University

— Alan Wald

FOR THE PAST fourteen months, the University of Michigan, like many other university campuses across the country, has been the scene of militant mass marches sit-ins, explosive confrontations ignited by explicit acts of racism. Almost every day, the student-run Michigan Daily and the city's Ann Arbor Newsprint articles, ed1tonals, letters, and guest viewpoints decrying racism on campus. On weekends, they sometimes publish entire supplements devoted to the subject.

The weekly University Record, funded by a frightened university administration that knows that it cannot directly oppose an antiracist movement in a liberal community such as Ann Arbor and in a state with a large Black population such as Michigan, almost always contains sophisticated propaganda pieces about alleged achievements in the recruitment of students and faculty of color....

South Africa's Media Scam

— Dianne Feeley

CHANTING "FREEDOM YES! Apartheid No! Shaka Zulu's got to go!" over 600 demonstrators marched with their flashlights and picket signs outside WKBD-TV studios in Southfield, a suburb of Detroit, last November.

Protesting the station's showing of the mini-series, "Shaka Zulu," the overwhelmingly Black picketers rejected the attempt to package a brutally racist history of South Africa and peddle it as a compelling epic....

The Economy & the Crash

After the Crash: A New Stage?

— Frank Thompson

THE RECORD-BREAKING crash in stock prices last October has prompted diverse interpretations. Conventional economic pundits have almost entirely limited themselves to speculation as to the immediate "technical" determinants of the market fall: the preceding slight tightening of credit by the Federal Reserve, uncontrolled computerized program trading, the failure of nerve and/or undercapitalization of some specialist firms responsible for making markets in specific stocks.

Likewise a plethora of hurried analyses by ad hoc governmental and semi-private commissions  have delivered separately soothing, if, on examination, collectively inconsistent, suggestions for superficial reforms in stock market trading procedures. Largely absent from conventional accounts has been an effort to relate the stock market crash to a fundamental analysis of the prospects of the capitalist economy, which stock prices as supposed to represent..../p>

Accumulation Leads to Crisis

— Paul Sweezy

I'M NOT going to dwell on the crash itself--inevitable, but its trigger and timing were indeterminate. When it did come, it could not but mark a break in the continuity of the history of the period.

After the crash, the direction is downhill and will be for as far ahead as it is useful to try to look What is now uncertain is only the speed and severity of the decline.

Having said that, I want to focus on locating the present period in the history of the United States and the history of capitalism....

Who's Been on a Binge?

— Robert Pollin

THE QUESTION IS: What does the Wall Street crash mean? I want to begin by considering some alternative perspectives.

Much of the discussion following Oct. 19 has focused on problems within Wall Street itself. This we could call the "Wall Street mess" school of thought. The two types of "messes" to which this approach refers are by now familiar...:

In a World of Uncertainty

— Hyman P. Minsky

1HE CRASH OF1987 furnishes prima facie evidence that modem capitalist economies, with complex, sophisticated, and ever-evolving financial structures, are inherently unstable.

Over the years since World War II, economics has been dominated by doctrines-united under the broad umbrella of "neoclassical theory"--that yield the conclusion that free-market forces generated equilibrium results: steady growth, full employment of human and material resources, and stable prices....


What Makes Things Change?

— Tony Smith

Analyzing Marx
By Richard W. Miller
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984. $31.50 hardback, $9.95 paperback.

RICHARD W. MILLER'S Analyzing Marx is in my view the most significant philosophical work ever written on Marx in English. Not the least of its contributions is the thorough and definitive refutation of technological determinism, both as an interpretation of Marx and as a plausible view of history in its own right.

There are three central questions any version of historical materialism must answer. Why is it that the economic structure of a society, its production relations, remains stable, when it does? What accounts for the development of the productive forces? What accounts for basic internal change when it does occur, and what accounts for the direction of that change?


Against Radical Mythology

— Peter Drucker

I WAS GLAD to see Paul Buhle and Loren Goldner in Against the Current 10 trying to dig down to the roots of U.S. radicalism. With socialists in this country feeling so isolated and so alienated from the forces dominating its culture, we desperately need a "usable past" that can reconnect us to indigenous traditions. I'm glad ATC is trying to meet this need.

But a real usable past has to be a past that actually existed. Consoling ourselves with an imaginary past can only make us misunderstand the present. Y m afraid the past Buhle and Goldner conjure up for us is imaginary. More strictly speaking, they have taken a mix of radical currents from different cultures and times and tried to weld them together into a coherent, native radical tradition....

The Power of Radical Religion

— Ken Todd

YOUR TOPICS AND the level of discussion persuaded me, after reading several issues of ATC, that there now exists an American left, prepared to tackle today's socialist issues in a productive way. ATC 10 proved no exception. The articles by Paul Buhle and his respondents’ addressed what experience and discussion have led me to consider a crucial question of the left in the next years: the influence of religious radicalism in progressive American politics and our relationship to religious activists. Unfortunately, I feel two essential aspects of these problems remain untouched in the discussion.

Neither Buhle nor his respondents seem to me to do justice to the history and social character of religious activism. As his respondents note, Buhle does not carefully distinguish contemporary progressive and reactionary politicism. This distinction, or its absence, also has an historical dimension....

Letters to the Editors

Clarify Palestinian Self-Determination

— Charlie Post

YOUR "LETTER From the Editors: Occupation in Permanent Crisis" in ATC 12- 13 presented both a convincing analysis of the origins and significance of the current uprising in Gaza and the West Bank and a clear set of tasks for socialists and Palestine solidarity activists in the United States. However, your failure to specify the content of 0an independent Palestinian state... self-determi1111tion" (8) could lead to a political practice very different from the one you advocate.

The relationship of an independent Palestinian state to the current Zionist state is never made dear. Will the new state be a democratic and secular Palestine that embraces the current populations and territories of Israel and the occupied territories?...

Market Socialism through Socialist Feminist Analysis

— Ilene Winkler

SO HERE I am tonight eating dinner in the local independent Republic of Ukraine coffee shop (bless you comrade Stalin for this food...). I am attempting to read with appropriate interest your articles on market socialism-although between my increasingly dense brain and your increasingly dense style it is a formidable task indeed-and it seems to me that once again a wonderful opportunity was lost to develop a socialist-feminist analysis of bureaucratic collectivism or whatever term we are using these days.

Here's the point: in all the articles on the subject there is only the most perfunctory mention of anything having to do with women, family, etc. But the question is not only what happens at the point of production, and using the term "consumer goods" misses the point....