Against the Current, No. 15, July/August 1988

Against the Current, No. 15, July/August 1988

Central America: Danger and Hope

— The Editors

THE CONTINUING NICARAGUAN cease-fire represents an important-though still fragile-victory for the Sandinista revolution and the Nicaraguan people. As Against the Current goes to press the maintenance of the cease-fire is tenuous. Yet the strategic defeat, lack of unity and political isolation of the contras may well make it impossible for them to be the United States' military option. While nothing is certain, there is real hope today that Nicaragua has won-at a terrible cost, the contra war.

The military defeat of the counterrevolution is, of course, only a phase in a larger struggle. Now U.S. funding of contra operations will shift to the political sphere: funding the rightist parties the contras will establish and bankrolling a "private" television for the non-stop dissemination of U.S.-orchestrated propaganda. The contras and their North American patrons are depending on the shattered state of the Nicaraguan economy, to which their terrorist operations have so greatly contributed, to provide fertile ground for destabilization....

Hidden Life of Project D

— Tim Krause and Zoltan Grossman

DR. CLAYTON CAMBRIDGE was a senior staff scientist at Consolidated Cybertech, Inc., an artificial intelligence venture in Massachusetts, until his sudden resignation earlier this year. Dr. Cambridge had dropped from public sight until he recently contacted our science editor, and gave us a portfolio of classified documents pertaining to a previously unknown "Project D."

The following are excerpts from our interview with Dr. Cambridge, the first he has granted since his disappearance.

Q: Why are you coming out now with this stunning information about Project D?

A: It's clear to me now that the experiment has gone too far....

Fighting for the Homeless: Some Thoughts on Strategy

— Steve Burghardt

OVER THE PAST five years, most Americans have learned that homelessness is a serious problem, one that looms larger and more pervasive every year. First there were eccentric bag ladies dotting the urban landscape; then there were young Black and Hispanic men; then families, usually headed by single women; now working families.

First it was an urban problem of the largest cities; then rural areas were mentioned; now even the suburban Sunbelt has its desperate people seeking shelter. The scope of the problem has left leading analysts and media journalists with a distinctly unsettling scenario....

Civil Rights and Self-Defense

— John R. Salter, Jr.

COMMUNITY ORGANIZING for social justice purposes is, by its very nature, controversial-frequently drawing violent attacks from adversaries and hostility or cold indifference from law-enforcement and other governmental agencies. This paper will discuss the necessity of personal firearms protection in the organizing context, and will cite a number of representative, firsthand examples.

In the mid-1960s, I was a full-time grassroots civil rights organizer for the radical Southern Conference Educational Fund. I directed a large-scale and ultimately quite successful community organizing project in the extremely recalcitrant, poverty-stricken, and intractable segregated northeastern North Carolina Black belt....

Their Technology -- and Ours

— Nancy Holmstrom

LET'S DEFINE "TECHNOLOGY" as the practical know-how involved in production, embodied in skills, organization and machinery. A lot of thinking about technology-both on the left and the right-makes the same mistake: giving too much weight to technology itself rather than to the social system in which the technology exists, in particular, the social relations of the system.

This is most striking in two extreme and opposite views of technology: utopian and dystopian.(1) While these views are so global that few would subscribe to them in toto, I will argue that many of the same assumptions can be found in writings about particular technologies, especially in discussions of alienation. First I will present the utopian and dystopian views and then I will briefly explain my interpretation of Marx's view of technology. In the body of the article I will elaborate and defend this view by contrasting it with a liberal technological account of alienation, concentrating on the example of numerical control technology....

Shachtmanites & Cannonites: Socialist Politics After Hungary '56

— Tim Wohlforth

[In the first installment of this personal account of political life in the socialist movement of the 1950s (ATC 14), Tim Wohlfarth discussed his recruitment to socialist politics and his early years in the Young Socialist League (YSL), the youth organization of the Independent Socialist League led by Max Shachtman.]

THE MOVEMENT I was part of between 1955 and 1957 was definitely one in transition from a radical communist past toward a predominantly social-democratic future.(1) Yet few, except perhaps a core of Shachtman's personal friends, were aware of where we were headed politically. Certainly I was not. Many of us still studied Trotsky's works and borrowed arguments from Lenin. Others were clearly embarrassed by such utterances. Stalinism was the main (some seem to suggest only) enemy and democracy was the battle cry. Imperceptibly, radical communists were becoming-social democrats....

Chile: Building from the Grassroots

— interview with Martin Garate

Martin Garate is a Chilean activist. Deeply involved in the social and political struggles of 1970-73, he was forced to flee his country following the Pinochet coup of Sept. 11, 1973. He returned to Chile in 1980 and helped found Servicio de Comunicaciones Populares (SECOP), a popular communications project working in poor neighborhoods in Santiago.

Garate visited Detroit early in 1988 as a guest of the Latin America Task Force (LATF), a local solidarity group organized by church­based activists, many of whom have lived and worked in Latin America. ATC editor David Finkel interviewed him to learn about the perspectives of the Chilean movement today.

Against the Current: Why has the Pinochet regime lasted longer than the Left anticipated?

Martin Garate: When the coup happened, it really threw the left into disarray for several years. At the level of the cadres, more than top leadership, people were killed or fled into exile. Those who did grassroots work were the main victims. It took a long time to reorganize under clandestine conditions, with continuous repression by a very sophisticated security police....

Comment on Victor Serge

— Gerd-Rainer Horn

SUSAN WEISSMAN'S brief summary of Victor Serge's political itinerary in ATC 12-13 was a welcome addition to the range of topics covered in the pages of Against the Current. Yet, towards the very end of her article, Weissman adds an unnecessarily gloomy touch to Serge's personal life and, by extension, to the destiny of revolutionary internationalism in the first half of the 20th century.

Weissman states that in his last exile, "Politically isolated and deprived of a livelihood, Serge wrote mostly for the desk drawer," although much of these writings were of high caliber....

Appeal Isareli Press Censorship

— Joel Beinin, John Kelley, David Millstein & Zachary Lockman

THE ISRAELI GOVERNMENT has stepped up its recent harassment of journalists-from revoking licenses of publications such as Al-Awdah newspaper and its English language weekly, to the administrative detention of nearly thirty journalists, to the closure of media sources such as the Palestine Press Service, which has been ordered shut for six months.

Now, Israeli authorities have struck inside Israel's pre-1967 borders to close the Hebrew-Arabic newspaper Derech Ha-Nitzotz/Tariq a-Sharara, arresting five Israeli Jews and one Palestinian, and revoking the paper's license. Derech Ha-Nitzotz is the first Hebrew language newspaper ever to be banned in Israel -- an ominous sign for freedom of the press....

Random Shots: Fur Files in Eco-Wars

— R.F. Kampfer

A RESOLUTE BLOW for safe energy was recently struck by a heroic raccoon who climbed a utility pole at Michigan's controversial Fermi II nuclear reactor. The furry militant, said to have been wearing a tiny green armband, hurled himself into a circuit breaker, shutting down the plant at the cost of his own life.

The shadowy Eco-Terrorist Recycling Center has claimed responsibility for the action, threatening further animal assaults if the reactor is not permanently closed.....


An Introduction: Jesse Jackson, Rainbow Politics & the Future

— The Editors

NO EVENT IN decades of U.S. electoral politics has captured the imagination of U.S. social movements and the left as Jesse Jackson's 1988 campaign for the presidency. Towering over the field of Democratic contenders, Jackson appeared to many as a real possibility for the nomination, until the consolidation of the party's mainstream leadership around Dukakis made the odds unbeatable.

Previous articles and editorials in Against the Current have discussed the contradictory situation confronting the pro-Jackson left, which provides the grassroots workers for an electoral campaign increasingly shaped by the established Black Democratic leadership and by the necessities of “practical” politics, with ever-decreasing left input into the campaign's agenda....

What Do Some Socialists Want?

— Charles Sarkis

IT IS NOT ONLY Democratic Party bosses that have been left in disarray by the Jackson campaign. There is a large part of the predominantly white left, including the predominantly white socialist left, whose plans have not fared much better than the Super-Tuesday Southern primary that was supposed to insure the Democrats an acceptably conservative nominee.

The "white fright" that the Michigan caucus result brought into the open has been matched by a certain hysteria on the far edges of the Democratic Socialists of America and in the columns of In These Times (see John Judis, "New Page in Left History of Failure," Jan. 13-19, 1988). Those advocating abstention from the Rainbow and Jackson campaign have also grown quiet....

The Problem Is Electoralism

— Wayne Price

THE PROBLEM WITH Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition is not simply their participation in the Democratic Party. It is the orientation to electoralism as such. Jackson believes that the main way to advance the movement is to run in elections, get elected to office and do the best job he can to manage this government. All of which is very unlikely to work. This country is not run by elections.

The movement around the Jackson candidacy is exciting to see: a Black-led movement, calling for alliances with other oppressed groups and causes, raising programs to the left of the Reagan/Democratic Party consensus. As such, it is one part (certainly not the only one) of the upsurge in popular struggle. That it begins with reformist leadership is only to be expected....

Latino Politics & the Rainbow

— interview with Angela Sanbrano

ANGELO SANBRANO IS the executive director of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). At its September 1987 national convention, CISPES adopted a non-partisan policy toward the 1988 elections with the understanding that members were free to support candidates of their choice. Angela Sanbrano is a supporter of Latinos for Jackson. David Finkel, an editor of ATC and Central America solidarity activist, interviewed her in early May, prior to the Callifornia primary.

Against the Current: Can you start by describing Latinos for Jackson and the origins of this effort? And how wide is Jackson's Latino support?

Angela Sanbrono: Latinos for Jackson came out of the 1984 presidential campaign and is based primarily in the major cities like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York....

Will the Rainbow Face Reality?

— Mel Leiman

JESSE JACKSON HAS singlehandedly electrified the fairly dull and routine presidential campaigns of 1984 and 1988. His growing strength across race lines in the current 1988 campaign has surprised virtually all of the professionals and produced consternation, perhaps bordering on panic, among the leading political power brokers of the Democratic Party.

Some of the liberal members of the press corps are trying to sanitize Jackson by simultaneously flattering and prodding him away from his "leftist" positions. A.M. Rosenthal, for example, in a March 19 New York Times column entitled "Bravo, Jesse," gives Jackson advice on how to win over white liberals and centrists:

An Alliance for Empowerment

— an interview with Abdeen Jabara

Abdeen Jabara is president of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), an organization founded by former Sen. James Abourezk to educate the U.S. media and public on issues of anti-Arab stereotyping and U.S. policy of giving a "blank check" to Israel. As an attorney and activist, Jabara was active for many years in the Detroit Arab-American community and nationally, organizing numerous delegations to the Middle East, defending civil rights and promoting dialogue between the Arab, Black and Jewish communities. He was an early and outspoken supporter of Jesse Jackson's 1984 and 1988 campaigns. David Finkel of the ATC editorial board interviewed him in early May.

ATC: What's your general view of the Jackson campaign?

Abdeen Jabara: To begin with, certainly the Jackson campaign and the Rainbow Coalition are among the most significant political phenomena of our times. They have attempted to put into some meaningful and practical framework an agenda that hasn't been articulated, in an organizational sense, in a mass-based U.S. political movement since the 1940s with Henry Wallace's campaign. It's an attempt to show that it's possible to organize as a political force the 40 percent of the population that has shared only tangentially, if at all, in the postwar boom....

What Jackson Built -- And Didn't

— Joanna Misnik

SOLIDARITY TAKES NO pleasure in the now apparent failure of the Rainbow Coalition project to become a material reality. Solidarity's pamphlet, "Jesse Jackson, the Rainbow and the Democratic Party -- New Politics or Old," presents an historically grounded argument against lesser-evilism and attempts by the left and the social movements to "transform" the capitalist Democratic Party into an instrument for radical social change. The full argumentation presented by this pamphlet can¬ be repeated in this short contribution. We urge readers of Against the Current to write us for a copy.

Throughout the primary period, Solidarity has been helping to organize public discussions on the meaning of the Jackson campaign and the different strategic visions of it on the left. We have not campaigned in this way because of any self-identification as the "one and true" socialist group. We have vigorously sought comradely exchange among leftists for eminently practical reasons....


Palestine: The Truth About 1948

— Norman G. Finkelstein

The Birth of Israel:
Myths and Realities
By Simha Flapan
New York: Pantheon Books, 1987. 277 pages, $18.50.

THE 1982 ISRAELI invasion of Lebanon prompted a spate of "revisionist'' scholarship in both Israel and the United States purporting to radically question received truths about the Middle East conflict. In both cases, the findings were widely publicized and acclaimed in the media. But in spirit, methodology and consequences, they couldn't have been more different.

Israeli revisionism bears close comparison with that 1960s U.S. revisionist scholarship that, in the harsh light of U.S. aggression against Vietnam, questioned the mainstream consensus that the Soviet Union bore sole responsibility for the Cold War....

Sex as Work and Industry

— Leslie J. Reagan

Sex Work:
Writings by Women in the Sex Industry
Edited by Frederique Delacoste and Priscilla Alexander
Pittsburgh: Cleis Press, 1987, $10.95.

DURING “THE PORN WARS,” as the feminist debate over prostitution and pornography has been dubbed, proposed legislation and many arguments centered on women who worked in the sex industry. Yet the voices of sex workers have rarely been heard in this debate. Finally women who work as prostitutes, who act in porn flicks, or perform in sex shows have a chance to talk about their lives and to participate in this debate....