Against the Current No. 16, September-October 1988

Against the Current No. 16, September-October 1988

The Rainbow and the Democrats After Atlanta

— The Editors

BY THE END OF THE 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta, a new politics and a new coalition of forces were in command of the post-Reagan Democratic Party. It wasn't the Rainbow Coalition. At the heart of the real politics to emerge from the 1988 Democratic Convention were a new "centrist" alliance between the neo-liberals of the North and West and the neo-Dixiecrats. Michael Dukakis, the cool suburban-bred technocrat, and Lloyd Bentsen, the cool Tory-bred millionaire, reflect the two trends that anchor this long-converging alliance.

On the one hand, there is the new generation of post-Watergate and post-Great Society Democrats with no ties to the Black community, labor or any of the social movements. Generally known as neo-liberals, they might better be called post-liberals. On the other hand, there are the post-segregation Dixiecrats, shorn of the old lynch-mob lingo, but conservative in domestic and foreign policy. The power of this post-liberal/Dixiecrat axis stems from its shared domination of a majority of the nation's state houses, state party organizations and of the committee structure of both houses of Congress....

Palestinian Women: Heart of the Intifadeh

— Johanna Brenner interviews Palestinian activist

This interview with a Palestinian educator and activist on a brief visit to the United States was conducted by Johanna Brenner, an editor of Against the Current. The Palestinian's anonymity is needed to protect her from harassment.

The discussion throws light on the central role of women in the grassroots organizations that are the heart of the Palestinian intifada (uprising) that has now continued for over nine months. Shortly after Jordan King Hussein's announcement that he was giving up responsibility for the West Bank, the Israeli government in August outlawed the popular committees organized by the Palestinians to take control of their economic and social struggles against the occupation....

Critique of William J. Wilson: The Ignored Significance of Class

— Andy Pollack

"We can contain racial violence. We must make economic violence illegal. Don't fight Archie Bunker. He's not investing in South Africa, sending troops to Central America or misusing your pension funds. If we must fight, let's fight American maniacs who merge our companies, purge our jobs and submerge our economy."--The Reverend Jesse Jackson, addressing a crowd of Black healthcare workers in New York, May 1987.(1)

AS THE ELECTORAL efforts of the Rainbow Coalition shifted from being the 1984-version of a pressure group on Democratic Party rules and platforms to making a 1988 bid for a first-ballot nomination, the most noticeable programmatic shift in Jesse Jackson's speeches became a championing of the plight of America's workers and farmers....

Ramdom Shots: Libs, Labs and Lawyers

— R.F. Kampfer

BRIBERY IN TI-IE Pentagon, drugs in the White House, scandal in the Justice Department, and Will Rogers' grandson blasting civilian airliners in the Persian Gulf. Has some mad hacker tapped into the AP wire? Do you really expect me to be able to top all this? Well, let's do our best:

Why not just divide the Justice Department in half and flip a coin to see which half indicts the other?

Any government officials that are assigned to administer the Teamsters Union should feel right at home....

From 1968 to 1988

1968 and Democracy from Below

— Ted Stolze

THE YEAR 1968 was the crest of a worldwide wave of political radicalization and struggle against both capitalism and bureaucratic socialism.(1) Yet contrary to the way it is often depicted in the mainstream media, 1968 was neither an historical accident nor a miraculous eruption that we can sadly or thankfully (as the case may be) put behind us from the safe distance of twenty years. In fact, 1968 was only the latest in a long series of challenges to the dominant social order.

We can see 1968 as the high point in the period of upsurge that began around 1959-60 with the Cuban revolution and Algerian civil war, and ended around 1974-75 with the defeat of the Portuguese revolution. In addition, although the struggles around 1968 have subsided, they have certainly not disappeared: the crises of both capitalism and bureaucratic socialism continue in 1988...

Lessons from the Campus Occupation

— Pierre Lalibert√©

THE FIVE-DAY TAKEOVER of the New Africa House (NAH) at University of Massachusetts in Amherst (UMass-Amherst) by 150 students of color last February was probably the most widely reported in a string of anti-racist protests on campuses in the United States.(1) The protest at UMass-Amherst highlights many contours of the university landscape in this country:

• the growing isolation of Black students on many campuses;

• the role the university plays in reproducing existing patterns of racism;

• the increase in cases of physical violence against students of color;...

Summary of Occupiers' Demands

Summary of the demands presented by Third World students occupying New Africa House:

1) That the university adopt and publicize specific regulations that would provide for immediate expulsion of students who commit acts of racial violence and repeated acts of verbal racial harassment;

2) That the New Africa House be returned in its entirety to the educational and cultural needs of African-American and other Third World students;...

USC Women Demand an Autonomous Center

— Christine Carr

THE UNIVERSITY of Southern California in Los Angeles seems an unlikely setting for a successful feminist struggle. But the recent demand for a women's resource center could hardly be seen as radical when USC has no rape crisis center, no anti-rape self-defense education and no means of redress for victims of sexual harassment.

In the fall of 1986, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity was barred from fraternity row following the second charge of gang rape to be filed against the fraternity that year. The fraternity was reinstated after one year, despite guilty convictions for two of its indicted members....

Something Old, Something New

— Dave Roediger

If I Had A Hammer…:
The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left
Maurice Isserman
Basic Books, 1987, 259 pages, $18.95.

IF I HAD A HAMMER tackles the vital and huge subject of the relationship between the Old Left and the New Left. It brings substantial research, significant insights, stylish writing and keen wit to bear on an examination of that relationship. It is written by a former new leftist who still hopes for radical change.

Its author knows that a viable left in the United States will much more likely be constructed by those who take something of a musician's approach to differing ideas--borrowing and blending--than by those who have a single correct line to teach....

The Participatory Years

— Howard Brick

"Democracy Is in the Streets"
From Fort Huron lo the Siege of Chicago
James Miller
New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987. 431 pages, $9.95.

THE REALLY "NEW" feature of the "New Left'' was its advocacy of "participatory democracy," says James Miller. In his new book, Miller aims to recover the history of that idea by telling the stories of a few dynamic individuals who built the organization most closely associated with it, Students fora Democratic Society (SDS), and wrote the document that defined it, "The Port Huron Statement."

In so doing, Miller vividly evokes a moment of moral fervor in the early1960s when young people were convinced of their capacity to change the world and devoted to making radicalism a fully workable American political rhetoric; he captures also the violent repression, personal disorientation and desperate acts 1hat marked the decline of SDS in 1968 and 1699....

Mexico: The Crisis, the Elections, the Left

Mexico: The One-Party State Faces a Deep Political Crisis

— The Editors

THE MEXICAN PRESIDENTIAL election, narrowly "won" by the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PR!) through methods reminiscent of the Ferdinand Marcos school of electoral fraud, brought to the surface a deep crisis of the Mexican state.

Reflected in the populist candidacy of Cuahtemoc Cardenas, who is widely believed to have actually won the vote, the crisis of political legitimacy has its roots in the terrifying social consequences of the “modernization" of the Mexican economy, a process that is described in some detail in the following articles....

The Need for a Revolutionary Alternative

— Manuel Aguilar Mora

THE HISTORIC MOMENT at first seems to be diluted by the details of everyday life. But it is these daily events which, added one after another, make up the life of a people. Turned into sequences, this ordinary life becomes the history of a people in their various social, economic, political and artistic expressions.

An historic event is not comparable to these details, which also nourish history. An historic moment is not merely one fact of history, although it resembles such an event. The historic moment is really a condensation, an extraordinary synthesis. Although such moments are explained and proceeded logically through daily life, historic events are key movements. They bring periods to a dose, they open eras, they forge new paths in the trajectory of a people....

The New Stage and the Democratic Current

— Arturo Anguiano

MEXICO HAS BEEN hard-hit by the capitalist crisis. A widespread economic crisis has gone hand in hand with an equally widespread political crisis. The favorable conditions of capital accumulation which allowed the country to transform itself in the '60s at an accelerated tempo are disappearing, as are the political conditions other and both mutually condition a common process that has opened a period of political and social instability in Mexico.

The crisis has determined the policies of Miguel de la Madrid's six-year presidency, a black period for society with respect to the living standards of the people, their capacity for action, and their freedom to exercise their rights....

Call for a Movement to Socialism

— Adolfo Gilly and 90 others

This “Convocation for the Movement to Socialism" (MAS) was published in March 1988. The statement was authored by Adolfo Gilly, a socialist militant and Marxist historian of the Mexican revolution, and signed by ninety others.

For space reasons we have had to abridge the statement significantly. It was translated for Against the Current by Samuel Farber and Selma Marks.

SIGNS OF A new Mexico are surging from the great and terrible changes produced by the crisis. This crisis has had a deep effect. It has destroyed structures, alliances, relations of trust and faith, and personal and political beliefs. The state and the big national bourgeoisie associated with foreign capital have joined in an offensive to ruthlessly raze the very foundations of the gains achieved by the Mexican people in the past decades: salaries, education, health and working conditions, employment, the ejido [traditional rural cooperatives], social security, nationalized enterprises, international solidarity....


Radical Religion--A Non-Response

— Paul Buhle

I content that there is virtually nothing in the tradition of historic Marxist theory or political leadership, as generally understood, to help us come fully to grips with this situation. But there is something, as I argued earlier, in the variegated traditions of religious or spiritual radicalism. There is also more than a little in socialist practice, the movements and mentalities of ordinary people who have made up the real heart and soul of the left and who (until at least 1900) usually viewed capitalism as a horrible interruption to age-old patterns of culture.

As an intellectual-political critique of capitalism, Marxism assumed that capitalism had the “progressive” (however unfair and exploitative) effect of creating the conditions--above all, the social relations of production—necessary for socialism. In that socialism, to quote Engels, Man would become “the real, conscious lord of nature."(1) Presumably, although Engels does not say so, he would rule his subjects kindly....

Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere

— Justin Schwartz

JESSE JACKSON AND many Rainbow activists present the Democratic Convention in Atlanta as victory. It was the first time a Black politician was taken seriously in national politics, they say; the first time hitherto forbidden topics were discussed in a national forum. On the socialist left, many see Atlanta as a vindication of a strategy of working for socialism in alliance with Black and movement insurgents within the Democratic Party.

Another view, however, sees Atlanta as an abject defeat for Jackson and the left, underlining the futility of trying to 0takeover" the Democratic Party or transforming it into something which might represent the interests of the working class and oppressed nationalities....

An Appreciation

Raymond Williams, 1921-1988

— Kenton Worchester

RAYMOND WILLIAMS' recent death at the age of sixty-six comes as depressing news for all those who have enjoyed his many essays, novels, and works of literary criticism.

While it is probably misleading to think of Williams as "the main voice of Britain's New Left," as the New York Times reports, Williams' eclectic radicalism has appealed to activists inside and outside the Labour Party for more than thirty years. (There were two British new lefts, the first emerged in the early 1960s around the banner of anti-nuclear unilateralism, the second came into being during the magical year of 1968. Williams was associated with the first.)...