Against the Current No. 19, March/April 1989

Against the Current No. 19, March/April 1989

Struggling vs. Theft of Communal Lands in New Mexico

— Alan Wald

IN APRIL 1988, Tierra Amarilla, a village of 300-400 people in northern New Mexico, became the site of a militant political struggle of national significance. At that time, the community of mostly impoverished Mexican-Americans(1) rose up to defend Amador Flores, his family and a small group of political supporters who decided to defend by armed force 500 acres of land that a real-estate company was plotting to steal.

Presently, Flores, who served a jail sentence for "contempt of court" last summer, is banned from the occupation site. But armed supporters have remained on the land throughout a brutal winter, with temperatures often thirty degrees below zero and with two feet of snow. The two legal cases are in progress in state and federal courts....

Mexican Activist "Disappeared"

JOSE RAMON GARCIA GOMEZ, a member of the Mexican Revolutionary Workers Party (PR1), was kidnapped by the members of the Ministry of the Interior last December 16. He is the first disappeared under the new Salinas regime.

Repression has been escalating throughout Mexico, but most severely in Morales. In January police opened fire on a crowd gathered for a local election, killing five people.

Cuauhtemoc Cardenas and Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, both candidates in the recent elections, have endorsed the case, as has Sergio Mendez Arceo, VII Bishop of Cuernavaca, retired....

Defending the Right to Choose

— Norine Gutekanst

THE HARD-FOUGHT gams of women for the right to abortion are being threatened on two fronts. The "right-to-life" movement is mobilizing to shut down abortion clinics in targeted cities throughout the nation. At the same time, the Supreme Court, dominated by Reagan appointees, will be reviewing the constitutionality of an anti-abortion law. These events have galvanized many women who had not previously felt their rights were endangered. New coalitions and committees are springing up around the country. Some, such as Emergency Clinic Defense Coalition (ECDC) in Chicago, are determined to go beyond clinic defense, to organize around the full spectrum of reproductive rights.

Anti-abortionists blockaded a local abortion clinic last August, preventing women from entering, and using civil disobedience tactics. A number of pro-choice supporters responded, but in a somewhat disorganized manner. So last fall, when in conjunction with the “National Day of Rescue,” a local call by anti-abortionists went out, supporters of reproductive rights felt the need for a broad and effective response....

The Transformation of AIDS: Polarization of a Movement

— Peter Drucker

THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON for Gay and Lesbian rights -- October 11, 1987 -- marked a turning point in the lesbian/gay movement's level of activity and militancy. It was not only the largest lesbian/gay demonstration ever, but also the largest demonstration around broad radical demands since the mobilizations against the Vietnam War.

The march also helped launch a new wave of lesbian/gay activism, which has developed, inevitably, around AIDS. In city after city, since the march, people have continued to work together and have consistently chosen AIDS as the issue to work on-an issue that can only become more urgent as the epidemic grows....

The Politics of Child Sex Abuse

— Linda Gordon

IN THE EARLY 1970s, when a radical feminist consciousness pulled incest out of the closet, we thought we were engaged in an unprecedented discovery. In fact, charity volunteers and social workers a century earlier dealt with incest cases daily, understanding them to be a standard, expected part of the caseload of a child-protective agency such as a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (SPCC).

How are we to explain this historical amnesia? Like the suppression of so much women's history and feminist analysis, this hiatus was not created simply by the decline in feminism between 1920 and 1970, but by an active reinterpretation of child sexual abuse. I shudder when I think about what this meant: not only because of the incest victims rendered invisible and mute, but also because of its threat to us today, the threat that great achievements in consciousness-raising can be rolled back by powerful ideological tanks. My motives in writing a history of family violence were then far from disinterested....

Random Shots: Wisdom of Solomon

— R.S. Kampfer

THERE ARE LOTS of jobs available in the prosperous suburbs. There are lots of people looking for jobs in the inner cities. There is no good public transportation system to connect them. That's capitalism.

On the one hand, Washington is delighted that China and the Soviet Union are turning toward capitalism. On the other hand, U.S. capitalism is terrified by the prospect of more low-wage competition in the world market Orwell identified this phenomenon as "doublethink.”...

Capital Restructures, Labor Struggles

Free Trade . . . for Big Business

— Francois Moreau

"FREE-TRADE PRESSURE is on Canada's unions," said The Globe and Mail, Canada's largest daily business paper, the day after the free-trade agreement between the United States and Canada went into force on January 1, 1989. After more than a year of stormy debate and political confrontation, this came as a sweet victory for Canada's ruling class, which had spent millions of dollars campaigning for free trade against massive opposition.

Free trade was the main issue at stake in the Canadian federal elections held November 21, 1988. Most opinion polls indicated that a majority of the population opposed the free-trade proposals of Bryan Mulroney's outgoing Conservative government. But despite the fall of its popular vote to 43percent from 52 percent in 1984, Mulroney's government was able to retain a comfortable majority of seats in the House of Commons, thanks to the vagaries of the parliamentary system acquired under British imperial tutelage....

Management's "Ideal" Concept

— Mike Parker and Jane Slaughter

THE CORPORATE BUZZWORD of the 1980s is "competitiveness." Toward that end, companies in industries ranging from auto to telecommunications to papermaking are adopting new strategies to increase labor productivity. Employers have always looked for ways to introduce speedup. The difference today is that they claim their new production system, sometimes called the "team concept," increases workers' skills, imbues them with dignity and even implements worker control of the shop floor.

Another difference from speedup campaigns of the past is that many top union leaders defend the new methods ideologically, echoing the employers' claims. "We have more in common than we have in conflict," is the cooperating unionist's new motto. In a December 25, 1988 article in the New York Times, which attacks Mike Parker and Jane Slaughter's book on the new methods, Choosing Sides: Unions and the Team Concept (Boston: South End Press, 1988), United Auto Workers (UAW) board member Bruce Lee even claims there has been "a revolution on the shop floor." And because of this worker control rhetoric, many intellectuals who are socialists and allies of the labor movement have become defenders of the team concept, without examining what really goes on in the plants....

Other Points of View

— Mike Parker and Jane Slaughter

THE MANAGEMENT ARTICLE paints an unlovely picture of life in a management-by-stress plant. It contradicts most of what is said in the media's glowing accounts of the team concept. Where do those accounts come from?

Many stories are based on interviews with company officials, union officers or consultants who have some vested interest in the programs. Some reports are based on testimony by workers specially selected by the company. Some descriptions are based on interviews at the time the plant was starting up.(1) But the working conditions and the role of teams during the start-up period are transformed by the time the lines reach full production speed....

U.S. Labor & Foreign Competition

— Milton Fisk

PROTECTIONIST PRESSURES are testing the open-market outlook dominant in the United States since World War II.

The U.S. labor leadership has taken a solidly protectionist stance toward the crisis brought on by foreign competition. Union leaders treat protectionism as the only alternative to the so-called free-trade stance of the multinationals and of successive U.S. governments. The struggle is so far a one-sided one, however, with the power of the multinational industries and banks overwhelming that of the leadership of a union movement in retreat....

Review: Class Struggles in Japan Since 1945

— James Rytting

Class Struggle and Technological Innovation in Japan Since 1945
by Muto Ichiyo
Amsterdam: International Institute for Research and Education, 1987, $4.

IN RESPONSE TO the burgeoning trade imbalance with Japan, U.S. business leaders have proclaimed Japan's competitive advantage to be the more cooperative relationship between capital and labor found in that country. To hear it from management, this cooperativeness is a cultural product that promotes efficiency by permitting production to proceed uninterrupted either by strikes at worst or slowdowns. The number of work days lost through industrial disputes per 1,000 employees during 1975-80 was: U.S. = 369 days; Japan = 69 (but West Germany = 41)....

Trinidad: Toward a Party of the Workers

— David Finkel & Joanna Misnik interview David Abdulah

David Abdulah is treasurer of the Oil Fields Workers Trade Union in Trinidad and Tobago and has served on the union's national executive since 1982. He has been employed by the union for eleven years as an education and research officer.

He is also the convener of the Committee for Labour Solidarity (CLS), a political group that describes itself as “a collective of trade unionists, political and community activists whose basic commitment is to build the solidarity of the working people as a class, which is the pre-condition for the working people to carry out their historical mission to transform the existing economic and political system into a new order."...

A Brief Glossary of Abbreviations for Caribbean Parties

— David Finkel

In the course of the interview with David Abdulah on the workers movement in Trinidad, there is reference to a number of Caribbean parties and movements outside Trinidad. The following is a brief explanation of these.

CLC (Caribbean Labor Congress) -- An effort to unite Caribbean workers in the aftermath of the anti-colonial revolts of the late 1930s and early 1940s. Broken up by U.S. trade-union manipulation in the Cold War atmosphere of the 1950s....


Reclaiming Our Traditions

— Tim Wohlforth

IT PLEASES ME that my reminiscences of the Shachtman movement (ATC 14 & 15) have produced responses of the caliber of Samuel Farber's and Stan Weir's (ATC 17). It was my hope in writing the auto­ biography, which included this material, to stimulate others to think about the entire Trotskyist experience. Stan Weir has added to my account his own memories of earlier and healthier periods of Shachtmanite history, while Sam Farber recalls a later period in Chicago which had some vitality.

These experiences, as well as those of other readers of ATC, should certainly be viewed as Weir suggests "as part of a large panoramic experiment" in building a truly radical, socialist, democratic and moral political movement....

A Comment on Afghanistan

— David Finkel

IN READING Val Moghadam's very informative “Retrospect and Prospect: Afghanistan at the Crossroads'” (ATC 17), I am struck by two ways in which her experiences of the debate in the left differ from mine, and perhaps from those of most ATC readers in the United States.

The first paint is her observation that “surprisingly, many on the international left continue to support the [Islamic fundamentalist] Mujahedeen. Left-wing support for the Mujahedeen has been surprising strong in Europe, where activists from London to Stockholm have defended the putative national liberation struggle.” (p.9)

Our experience in the U.S. left has been strikingly different Because the 1980s saw the final disintegration of Maoism and a certain rehabilitation....

Socialism from Below, Not the PDPA

— Dan La Botz

IN HIS COMMENTS on Val Moghadam's article on Afghanistan in ATC, David Finkel argues that the left should have supported neither side in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and occupation, and that once the Soviet Union has evacuated, the left should support the Afghan Communists of the PDPA (the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan).

Finkel says he believes in a “socialism from below," a "Third Camp Socialism” yet his conclusions lead him to neutrality in the face of imperial aggression and then to political support for a bureaucratic ruling group once the imperial invaders have withdrawn, moreover support for a quisling regime that turned over the country to foreign powers when rejected by its own people.

Such a position is not consistent with the Third Camp or the socialism-from-below politics that Finkel espouses....

Islam, Feminism and the Left

— Christy Brown

VAL MOGHADAM and R.F. Kampfer's analyses of Afghanistan are representative of minority and majority left positions typified by the recent exchange between Alexander Cockburn and Tariq Ali in The Nation (Dec. 19, 1988). But while Moghadam, a committed feminist, makes a balanced, detailed, and well-documented case for not supporting the Mujahedeen, Kampfer's position vis-a-vis the Mujahedeen is less clear.

He does, however, make some disturbing statements regarding the position of women. They sound like a justification for ignoring the reactionary nature of the Mujahedeen and the potential for setbacks in the area of women's rights were they to take power, not to mention the relegation of feminism to the back burner of the left agenda....

A Brief Rejoinder

— R.F. Kampfer

WHILE I UNCONDITIONALLY support the movement for women's liberation, one cannot view this, or any other struggle, in isolation. Christy Brown has pointed out some of the factors that complicate the equation in the Middle East, and I would like to underline a few more.

In the first place it should be clear that by inviting or accepting the Soviet invasion (an event she fails to mention); the PDPA forfeited any hope of gaining the allegiance of the Afghan people, regardless of its program....

In Memoriam

In Honor of Max Geldman

— Leslie Evans

I FIRST MET Max at the end of the summer of 1961. L had just joined the Young Socialist Alliance (YSA) at Los Angeles City College, and that fall l was transferring to UCLA. The only other YSA member at UCLA at that time was Michael Geldman, Max's son from his first marriage.

Michael and l tried to take on the campus in a big way for an organization of two: we started a weekly on-campus forum series, launched a chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and eventually started a printed biweekly newsletter that got us into more than one fist fight with the campus right wingers....