Against the Current No. 18, January/February 1989

Against the Current No. 18, January/February 1989

The Populist Road Not Taken

— The Editors

THE JUST-COMPLETED U.S. election can be expected to bring little discontinuity to the political scene. This is not only, or even primarily, because the Republican vice president Bush is succeeding the Republican president Reagan. It is because policy options, for a long time, have been becoming progressively more restricted, and the Democrats, like the Republicans, see few choices open.

This is all the more true because of the fierce pressures imparted to the economy by Reagan's tax reduction/increased military spending policies. These have exacerbated the problems of an already fragile and crisis-prone economy, and the economic situation was made even worse by the inflationary drive to keep the economy afloat to insure the Republican election. Wall Street greeted Bush's victory by falling 100 points; meanwhile, the dollar fell by 10%. Bush and the Democrats will have to take sharp measures to try to prevent disaster. Even so, the Reagan boom, extending far, far longer than anyone (including us) predicted, seems finally nearing its end and may go out with a bang rather than a whimper....

Palestine: A New Urgency

— David Finkel

EVEN WHILE Palestinians around the world justly celebrated the second great political victory of the Intifada -- the opening of official "dialogue" between Washington and the Palestine Liberation Organization, in essence a U.S. recognition of the PLO as the only authentic voice of the Palestinian people -- events in Israel and the Occupied Territories gave a somber preview of things to come.

Just like King Hussein's earlier declaration, renouncing Jordanian claims to the West Bank and stating that the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem must be the territory of an independent Palestinian state, the U.S. policy shift represents not a "change of heart" but a concession to the extraordinary power the Palestinians have won through their year-long ongoing mass insurgency in the Occupied Territories....

The Teamster Monolith Cracks

— David Sampson

WHEN 500 RANK AND FILE Teamsters entered the ballroom of the Atlanta American Hotel for the 13th annual Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) Rank and File Convention, you could almost sense the new feeling that something big is happening in the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. From factories to giant freight barns, TDU had made a major impact on the union -- the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) -- within the past year.

Just as in other years, many of those in attendance were blurry eyed after driving hundreds of miles through the night to attend. All who attended were paying their own way-there were no expense accounts here. They came from California and Mississippi and Vermont; the truckers and the dock workers, the warehouse workers and the clericals..../p>

The Death of Tito's Yugoslavia?

— Michele Lee

1988 HAS BEEN one of the most dramatic years in Yugoslavia's post-war history. Indeed, in the month of October it seemed that the country might actually be falling apart. The foreign ministers of West Germany and France expressed their anxiety publicly, as Yugoslavia for a time became front-page news.

What this article will argue, however, is that 1988 was nothing but the consummation of a protracted process of decomposition of the ruling League of Communists (LCY)..../p>

Beyond the Cinderella Complex

— Janice Haaken

The Cinderella Complex
By Colette Dowling
New York: Pocket Books, 1981.

Men Who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them
By Susan Forward
New York: Bantam Books, 1986.

Women Who Love Too Much
New York: Pocket Books, 1986.

Letters from Women Who Love Too Much
By Robin Norwood
New York: Pocket Books, 1988.

THE AMERICAN MARKET for self-improvement manuals appears to be inexhaustible. The contradiction between promises of self-realization and personal fulfillment and the actual impoverishment of daily life apparently creates a state of perpetually unsatisfied need....

Random Shots: Ring in the New

— R.F. Kampfer

THIS YEAR MARKS the twentieth anniversary of the Woodstock Nation. It is doubtful that we will see its like again. The younger generation hasn't produced any music worth sleeping out in the rain for; and mine has reached the age of worrying about rheumatism.

The problem with the 1988 election was that Dukakis was running for the school board while Bush was running for sheriff.

The 1968 elections offered the choice between a fake progressive and a real reactionary....

James Baldwin and Stan Weir

Meetings with James Baldwin

— Stan Weir

IT IS POSSIBLE that some of the most creative and nurturing relationships being formed at any given moment in the life of a society are those grasped by young people recently, "out on their own" and about to leave early youth behind, but who are not yet into the main competition. It is also fortunate, though rare, if over the following years they are allowed to meet again and so cowitness for their generation.

James Baldwin and I came to Manhattan's Greenwich Village by separate ways early in the third year of World War II. He was eighteen, but knew that there was no other life for him than that of a writer. I was twenty-two, a merchant seaman temporarily ashore. We were introduced by Connie Williams, a Trinidadian restaurateur who was about to open her new cafe, The Calypso. She had recently told her friend and well-known artist, Buford Delaney, that she needed a waiter and to send her anyone he thought would be good. Delaney sent Baldwin.

Baldwin's Letter to Harry Bridges

— James Baldwin

Dear Mr. Bridges:

I am writing this letter because I have been a friend of Stan Weir's for nearly twenty years, and I know him to be incapable of dishonesty. This is an enormous statement: but it is impossible to know a man as long as I have known Stan without recognizing the man's essential quality. If he is anti-progressive and anti-labor, then I am a dues-paying member of the Birch society....

Baldwin to Stan Weir

— James Baldwin

Dear Stan:

I finally got the King letter out, and I wired you to that effect yesterday. I sent my letter special delivery to my sister, for I had left Coretta's address on my desk in New York. I left New York that abruptly. You must forgive me for my terrible delay, which I can hardly explain -- exhaustion hit me like a hammer, and knocked me down I can scarcely put it any other way, for, though I was, as it seemed, somewhat ill-first the stomach, then the eyes -- I never really believed that any of it was physical, really. I think I simply panicked, or, in effect, fainted. I'm Puritanical enough to be very ashamed of this, but perhaps I had something to learn....

Baldwin Joins Longshoreman in Bid for Justice

NEW YORK--James Baldwin has joined in an effort to raise defense funds to allow 51 fired West Boast longshoremen, mostly Black, to have a court hearing, already legally provided for by a decision of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, to determine if their unusual firing six years ago was discriminatory and illegal.

The famous Black author of the plays Blues for Mr. Charlie and Amen Corner, the novels Go Tell It on the Mountain, Giovanni's Room and nother Country and many essays, joined I8 others as sponsors of the Longshore Jobs Defense Committee in a six-year-old struggle against the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshoremen and Warehousemen's Union....

Abortion Rights on the Line

Canada: How Mass Action Won

— Julia Silverstein

A BROAD-BASED alliance of labor, the women's movement, anti-racist organizations and lesbian and gay organizations built a movement that enabled Canadians to win the Supreme Court victory last January 28th. But overturning the law is just the first stage in the fight for abortion rights in English Canada and Quebec. The decision clearly left a path open for new legislation-and no doubt the Conservative government is planning to recriminalize abortion, restricting it to the first twelve-to-sixteen weeks of gestation.

Immediately after the Supreme Court ruling several provinces declared they would not expand abortion services or authorize clinics to be set up. The most extreme position was taken by Bill Vander Zahn, premier of British Columbia, who explicitly allied himself with the anti-choice movement and attempted to allow funding only for abortion in cases where a woman's life was threatened. He stopped when the provincial attorney general advised him that such a course was illegal. Other provinces have attempted to circumvent the ruling by requiring the approval of a second physician....

Lessons from a Defeat

— Linda Manning Myatt

IN THE SIXTEEN years following the Supreme Court's decision in the Roe v. Wade case, the war between the forces for and against women's reproductive rights has continued.

The anti-choice forces have slowly regained some of the ground that they lost January 22, 1973. While they have been barred by Roe v. Wade from enacting laws that would ban abortions outright, the anti-choice groups have succeeded in getting Congress to cut off Medicaid funds for abortions, thereby limiting poor women's access to abortion....


Feminism and the "Underclass"

— Linda Gordon

I APPRECIATED THE discussion of William J. Wilson's ideas in the last two issues and particularly the Baltimore-Washington ATC study group's approach (ATC 17) with its criticism of Andy Pollack's sectarian attacks (ATC 16). Nevertheless I was quite dismayed at both authors'- and the journal's -- inattention to the gender implication of the discussion of the poor and welfare policy.

One of the major weaknesses of Wilson's work is his silence about women's situation and it is disappointing to find socialist critics of Wilson's work repeating this approach....


A Social Democratic Failure

— Mel Leiman

Is Socialism Doomed?
The Meaning of Mitterand
By Daniel Singer
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988, $24.95.

SOCIAL DEMOCRACY has intermittently held the reigns of state power during the last half-century in many Western European countries. Social democratic parties have traditionally championed a pragmatic blend of the welfare state, selective nationalization of industry (with considerable variation from one country to the next), a more enlightened stand toward Third World countries, a somewhat less belligerent stand on the armament-disarmament issue and government intervention to fine-tune the economy....

Strong But Mixed Signals

— Mike Fischer

Reshaping the U.S. Left:
Popular Struggles in the 1980s
Volume 3 of The Year Left
edited by Mike Davis and Michael Sprinker
London: Verso, 1988 (311 pages), $14.95 paper.

IN THEIR introduction to Reshaping the U.S. Left, the third volume in Versos The Year Left publishing project, editors Mike Davis and Michael Sprinker promise us a “mural, bold in sweep and rich in texture, of the new social movements, protest forces and radical programs thrown up during the 1980s” (2)....

Escape to New York?

— Susan Cahn

WORKING GIRL, written by Kevin Wade and well directed by Mike Nichols, is a terrific Cinderella story set in, and glorifying, modem-day American capitalist society. The good guys win and true lovers unite and all this happens in the high-powered world of Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A), where, it turns out, honesty is rewarded and anyone, from anywhere, even Staten Island, can climb sweetly to the top, if only s/he tries hard enough.

Melanie Griffith (Tess McGill) is luminous as the working girl from Staten Island who must relearn how to speak, wash off her garish and obviously “worker" make-up and chop off her luxurious locks (“You have to have serious hair if you want to be taken seriously”) in order to make it in the world of high finance. Harrison Ford (Jack Trainor) is charming in his slightly cynical but wholly boyish way as her partner in the boardroom and the bedroom (isn't that the way of the world? the sexual charge from consummating a deal….)...

In Memoriam

Max Geldman -- Notes on a Life

— Shevi Geldman

ON DECEMBER 23, 1988, a memorial meeting for Max Geldman was held under the sponsorship of the Los Angeles branch of Solidarity. Messages to the meeting were received from the United Secretariat of the Fourth International and from Socialist Action; a speaker from the Socialist Workers Party related Max's activity in the 1930s and '40s. Members of Solidarity who spoke included Theodore Edwards, Leslie Evans, Andrea Houtman and Shevi Geldman....

Max Geldman, 1905-1988, A Lifetime of Struggle

— Andrea Houtman

WHEN SOMEONE JOINS a protest against injustice, that is a contribution; and when someone helps to organize and bring others into that protest, that's an even bigger contribution.

But when a person has it in him/herself to pursue an understanding of the causes of injustice, and devotes his life to the historic interests of working men and women, devotes his entire life to the struggle to build a revolutionary party of the American working class and of the world working class-that person is rare and his contribution irreplaceable.

]'m talking about Max Geldman, of whom we've come together to share our impressions and memories. I came to know Max over the last several years of his life, and want to stress  to you what impresses me as central to who Max was....