Against the Current No. 17, November/December 1988

Against the Current No. 17, November/December 1988

Paralysis and Change in Eastern Europe

— The Editors

IN EASTERN EUROPE, everything changes and yet some things never change. The recent strike wave in Poland, the second in 1988 alone, illustrates this paradox. Solidarnosc, the greatest trade union in history as well as a social movement of over ten million Poles, had been proclaimed dead and buried long ago by General Jaruzelski, not to mention many sophisticated intellectuals of the western left.

Yet in the summer of 1988, as it had eight years earlier, the Polish working class flexed its muscles for the restoration of its own union. Once again, the strikes began with the shipyards and steel works, then spread to the southern coal mines where-once the struggle was unleashed-determination, toughness and militancy are greatest While the first strikes of 1988 saw economic demands in the most prominent place, the second wave centered on the relegalization of the banned independent union....

Bernie Sanders: Campaign for Congress

— David Finkel

BERNIE SANDERS' independent socialist campaign for Congress in Vermont raised important issues for socialists and for all activists concerned with the possibility of independent radical politics in the electoral arena.

The three-term Burlington mayor, running a strong campaign in a three-way race, finished second with 39% of the vote, trailing conservative Republican Pete Smith by only 3% and far out-distancing liberal Democrat Paul Poirier, who received 19%. In essence it was Poirier who played the "spoiler'' role by taking a part of the progressive vote away from Sanders....

A Year of the Palestinian Uprising

— Edward C. Corrigan

THE WORD "intifada" means "shaking off” in Arabic and expresses the determination of the over 1.5million Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza, to end the Israeli occupation. The Arabs in the Occupied Territories have lived for the past twenty-one years under military rule.

On December 8, 1987, an Israeli tank transporter drove into a line of cars of Arab workers who had just passed through a military check point at the northern end of the Gaza Strip. Four Palestinians were crushed to death and seven more were seriously injured....

Phtographers and the Israeli Army

FREELANCE PHOTO JOURNALIST Neal Cassidy, wounded by a plastic bullet fired by Israeli soldiers in Nablus October 18, 1988 was the first foreign journalist hit by live fire while covering the intifada. Cassidy was in the West Bank with Frontline reporter Phyllis Bennis.

The same day, five-year-old Ziya Jihad Fayez Haj-Mohammed died after six hours of emergency surgery at Al-lttihad hospital The boy, standing outside his own Nablus home, was shot by a soldier on an adjoining roof at less than twenty meters distance....

Activists Discuss Antiracist Unity

— Andy Pollack

SOME SEVENTY-FIVE activists from the eastern half of the United States gathered in Washington, D.C. in mid-October to develop strategy around issues of equal access and discrimination in education. The conference, called by the D.C. Student Coalition Against Apartheid and Racism (DCSCAR), was intended to reinforce the slowly developing network of activists who have engaged in rallies, built takeovers and organized political education over the last few years against domestic and international racism.

Activists around the country have gained experience both in forcing university administrations to divest from South Africa and in the far harder and more complex task of confronting the multifaceted institutional racism on the campuses. In tackling the latter task, they have also had to contend with such obstacles as co-optive reform plans put forward by pressured administrators, and divisions within the ranks of the antiracist fighters themselves....

Afghanistan, the War and the Future

Introduction to Afghanistan, the War and the Future

— The Editors

THE CIVIL WAR and, since 1979, Soviet intervention in Afghanistan has been controversial and disturbing for the left, particularly inasmuch as fundamental principles-the right of national self-determination and basic women's rights, for example-appear to be in conflict....

Afghanistan at the Crossroads

— Val Moghadam

ON APRIL 14, 1988, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Soviet Union and the United States signed agreements providing for the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan and the restoration of a nonaligned Afghan state. The agreements include documents pertaining to the return of Afghan refugees from Pakistan and the cessation of external interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan.

These accords were the culmination of several years of testy discussion in Geneva, made possible by the mediating efforts of the personal representation of the U.N. secretary-general. The process was accelerated in January 1987 following new and constructive initiatives promulgated by Moscow and Kabul which called for national reconciliation and an all-Afghan political dialogue....

A Failed Revolution from Above

— R.F. Kampfer

“Davison recalled how some of his colleagues had gone to visit a village near the Kabul river (during World War II). 'Have you seen any foreigners lately?' they asked the local inhabitants. They were rather taken aback when the reply came: 'Yes, two Italians.' Further investigation revealed that they were referring to two Jesuit priests on their way to Peking in the seventeenth century." --Victoria Schofield, Every Rock, Every Hill

ONE THING OF which we can be absolutely certain is that the future of Afghanistan will not be decided by the Geneva Treaty of April 1988. It was never intended to do so. The sole purpose of the treaty was to allow Mikhail Gorbachev a face-saving means of withdrawing from a bloody and expensive military stalemate and to provide a" decent interval" between e departure of the Russian troops and the fall of the Najibullah regime in Kabul....

Mexico in Crisis

Introduction to Mexican Elections and the Left

— The Editors

THE MEXICAN ELECTION of July 6, 1988 opened a new stage in the crisis of the Mexican state. The long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was declared the winner of the presidential race. But the process was so fraud-riddled that the election is widely considered to have been stolen from the populist candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas. Mass demonstrations erupted against the rigged ballot, and the turmoil continued throughout the fall in state election campaigns and the run-up to the December 1 inauguration of Salinas de Gortari....

Toward a Unified Left Perspective

— Arturo Auguiano

THE CRISIS OF the economy, the brutal offensive of capital against the worker and of the bourgeoisie and the government against the people-these defined the situation in Mexico on the eve of the presidential and legislative elections of July 6, 1988.

The implementation of the so-called Pact of Economic Solidarity, signed December 15, 1987, by the government, business and diverse sectors of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) bureaucracy, was intended to sanitize the political atmosphere and to provide some political space for the unfolding of the PRI's electoral campaign....

Opposition Political Parties in Mexico, 1988

The "parastatal" or "satellite" parties traditionally subordinated to the ruling PRl (Institutional Revolutionary Party) that broke away to support the Cardenas campaign are:...

For a Revolutionary Alternative

— Manuel Aguilar Mora

PRESIDENT DE LA MADRID's "modernization" campaign deepened the PRI's alliance with national and foreign capital. The PRI was on a collision course with its traditional nationalist line of the patriotic, anti-imperialist and democratic alliance. In 1986, this contradiction gave rise to the Democratic Current (DC) led by Cuauhtemoc Cardenas and Porfirio Munoz Ledo, who built the Current claiming it represented the historical continuity of the Mexican Revolution.

The absence of an independent workers...

Music for the Movements

Music for the Movements: Two Interviews

BILLY BRAGG AND Michelle Shocked toured the United States and Canada in 1988, promoting their new albums, "Workers Playtime" and "Short, Sharp, Shocked." They did fundraisers for progressive struggles ranging from AIDS support to Bernie Sanders's independent campaign for U.S. Congress. Movement activists were sure to be present at every concert stop, tabling and garnering support for a wide range of causes. Clearly these performers link the political and social content of their music with the necessity for political action by their fans and a context for getting involved....

Billy Bragg: Alive and Dubious

— Peter Thomson interviewing Bill Bragg

Peter Thomson: It's been quite awhile since you were last out this way. What have you been up to?

Billy Bragg: Loads of stuff since then. We went through the miners' strike, and we'd been doing more and more political shows. Consequently when we ended, people who'd been doing miners' gigs formed Red Wedge, which is kind of a collective of musicians, politicos and artists who want to remove the government of Margaret Thatcher and replace it with a democratically elected socialist government....

"A Simple Squatter from NYC..."

— Peter Thomson interviewing Michelle Shocked

IN 1987 MICHELLE SHOCKED's "Texas Campfire Tapes" went to the top of the independent-label charts in Britain and brought the previously unknown and unrecorded singer-guitarist widespread critical acclaim. "But this is no Horatio Alger story," she says. "Don't let them fool you-there is no room at the top."

"The Texas Campfire Tapes" was released last spring in the United States on Polygram Records, to coincide with a U.S. tour that included dates with British singer Billy Bragg. She is also featured on "Sergeant Pepper Knew My Father," a benefit compilation album for Childline, a British hotline for battered and abused children, on the British NME label.

Peter Thomson: Tell me in a nutshell the "Michelle Shocked story." I mean you've sort of come out of nowhere ...


Revolutionaries in the 1950s

— Samuel Farber

TIM WOHLFORTH's account of his life with the Shachtmanites (Against the Current, 14 and 15) was a useful and entertaining description of the 'feel" of the 1950s. Unfortunately, his piece is weak on analysis, and it retrospectively endorses a political perspective with which I would take issue, namely leaving the third camp current and joining the Socialist Workers Party.

The tragedy of the Shachtmanites was that they were perhaps the left group in the United States best suited to attempt the construction of a new Marxist revolutionary synthesis and in the end, missed the opportunity to do so....

Life in a Vanguard Party

— Stan Weir

TIM WOHLFOR1H's assessments of the Independent Socialist League (ISL)(1) during four of the last five years before its demise in 1958, are valuable to me because they come from a participant in the ISL's youth organization, the Young Socialist League (YSL). But disappointment dominated my feelings as I read this 12,000- word piece of autobiography called "Life With Shachtman."

Wohliorth's generalizations about his ISL experience captured my interest. Few have written on this subject. But there is too much that is not attempted....

Another View of W.J. Wilson

— Washington-Baltimore ATC Study Group

NO RECENT sociological/political thesis has sparked more controversy within the progressive left than William Julius Wilson's book, The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy. A self-proclaimed social democrat, Wilson has been relabeled by his left critics as a conservative, a “Black conservative,” a neo-liberal, and a liberal reformist

Our aim in this review will not be to label Wilson, nor to prove that he is or is not what he claims to be, but rather to grapple with the assertions he puts forth. We want to illuminate the real questions the left must deal with in regard to the marginalized Black population in America, and to use those questions to inform what action the left should take....

Big Red Fred: 1927-1988

— Theodore Edwards

AFTER LEAVING the navy in 1946, Fred Halstead at first intended to become a school teacher, attending UCLA on the GI Bill and working as a merchant seaman between semesters. Joining the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in 1948, both careers were closed to him due to President Truman's subversive list on which the SWP had been placed arbitrarily. Instead, Halstead went to work in the garment industry as a cutter. Thus began his life-long activity in strike struggles, union-organizing drives, and strike support work of one sort or another: from the agricultural workers in California, to the Cherry Rivet plant in Los Angeles, to the Square D strike in Detroit... to the P-9 strike in Austin, Minnesota.

When the movement against the war in Vietnam began to grow in 1965, Halstead represented the SWP in antiwar coalition meetings. ...


Whose Team Are You On?

— Marian Swerdlow

Choosing Sides:
Unions and the Team Concept
By Mike Parker and Jane Slaughter
Boston: South End Press 1988, $16

IN THE PAST decade, academics and other idea-mongers have been announcing the death of the "blue collar" proletariat. Among the mourners have been a number of socialists. The United States, they claimed, is being “deindustrialized,” stripped of its “smokestack industries.”

U.S. industrial workers could well retort, paraphrasing Mark Twain, "The report of our demise has been greatly exaggerated.” Heedless of the eulogies, industrial workers in this country are alive and kicking. One sign is their resistance to an extremely dangerous innovation in management control of the labor process called "the team concept...."

Poetry, Politics -- and Passion

— Patrick M. Quinn

Blackness of a White Night
By Sherry Mangan
edited by Marshall Brooks with an introduction by Alan Wald
Newton, Mass: Arts End Books, 1986. 64 pages, paper $6.50.

INFREQUENT IS IT that poetry and politics mix very well: yet, when they do the results are often extraordinary. Such is the case with this slim posthumous selection from the literary production of Sherry Mangan, a largely forgotten but extremely talented revolutionary socialist, journalist and imaginative writer....

Guatemala in Midpassage

— Jane Slaughter

Refugees of a Hidden War:
the Aftermath of Counterinsurgency in Guatemala
By Beatriz Manz
Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1987. $46.50 hardback, $16.95 paperback

False Hope, False Freedom
By James Painter
London: Catholic Institute for International Relations and Latin America Bureau, 1987.
Distributed by Monthly Review Press, $7.95 paperback

Eternal Spring, Eternal Tyranny
By Jean-Marie Simon
W.W. Norton and Co., 1988. $19.95 paperback Order from Americas Watch, 36 W. 44th St, New York, NY 10036.

THOSE WHO WORK in solidarity with Guatemala are used to Guatemala's taking third place, behind Nicaragua and El Salvador. Many Central America activists in the United States have a general notion of the violence Guatemala has suffered; they are aware of the country's Indian majority from the stunning textiles displayed at literature tables. But because Guatemala has had neither a victorious revolution nor an insurgency within hailing distance of victory, it suffers from lack of North American activists' attention...