Against the Current, No. 21, July/August 1989

Against the Current, No. 21, July/August 1989

Twenty Years After Stonewall

— The Editors

AS THIS ISSUE OF Against the Current goes to press thousands of people will be marching in lesbian/gay pride marches in cities from Maine to Missouri to California. Lesbian/Gay Freedom Day IS becoming a national civic festival, complete with politicians and hucksters. But the day does not belong to them. Lesbian/Gay Freedom Day - especially this Lesbian/Gay Freedom Day - is a day for lesbian/gay radicals, past and present.

Twenty years ago this June drag queens at the Stonewall Inn in New York's Greenwich Village who fought back against a police raid sparked the angriest, most spontaneous gay action there had ever been and gave birth to today's lesbian/gay movement....

China: Democracy Yes!

— The Editors

THE CATACLYSMIC EVENTS in China continue to unfold as Against the Current goes to press. There will be time later for careful analysis and reflection on their meaning. But in the immediate wake of the June 3 massacre in Beijing, the first response must be outrage and solidarity.

The deliberate gunning down of thousands of unarmed student and worker democratic activists proves that there is no “peoples' liberation army” in China. Instead, the army (whatever its internal divisions at the height of the upsurge) acted as “a special body of armed men” (Engels' phrase) similar to that of any state based on economic privilege and monopoly of political power....

Tierra Amarllla Update: The Land Struggle Continues

— Alan Wald

IN "'LAND OR DEAlH'" in New Mexico: Struggling Against the heft of Communal Lands (ATC 19),I reported on the historical and legal background to the current struggle of the Flores family and their supporters to prevent the theft of communal land by corporations in Northern New Mexico.

That article was based on first-hand research and interviews during December 1988 with lawyers for the Flores family and activists in the land occupation. However, at that time I was not able to get up to the mountains, which is where the contested land is located....

The Politics of Neo-Colonialism: The Case of the Puerto Rican 15

— Ivette Perfecto and John Vandermeer

IN THE PREDAWN hours of August 30, 1985, three hundred heavily armed FBI agents, supported by military units, descended upon the homes of thirty-six Puma Rican independistas.

Though billed as a raid against “terrorists” in the independence organization, Los Macheteros, the FBI's targeting of intellectuals and artists such as the painter Antonio Martorell and the poet Coqui Stantaliz, as well as the eventual arrest of community organizers like Ivonne Melendez Carrion and Teachers Federation organizer Elias Castro Ramos - none of whom claim membership in Los Macheteros - implies that the raid's actual motive was to discredit all sectors of the Puma Rican independence movement by associating them with one of its most controversial ones.....

Life in a Greenhouse

— Mike Wunsch

AS THE SUMMER of 1988 sweltered on, it was hard not to think about the greenhouse effect. Crops lay dying in the fields. Transportation on the Mississippi River stopped when water levels dropped too low for shipping. Cities began rationing water. Air pollution levels soared. And water-starved states turned greedy eyes to the Great Lakes. "The Greenhouse Effect" became the major media event of the summer of 1988.

Scientists continue to debate whether the drought as caused by the greenhouse effect. Yet it dramatically illustrated what global warming could bring. Coming after a decade including the four hottest years of the last century,(1) the drought forced industry and government to take notice.”...

A Comment: Environmental Politics for Socialists

— Bill Resnick

THE ENVIRONMENTAL CRISIS is fundamental; it will shake current capitalism to the roots and involve increasing numbers of people, with the working class and the poor most affected. So Mike Wunsch's article is timely, indeed overdue in Against the Current. It's appropriate that we think about the politics of the struggles and the role of socialists.

Mike ends his essay “socialism or extinction,” a play on “socialism or barbarism.” In movement work leftists can help their fellow Americans appreciate the kernel of truth in both, but neither offers a politics for1oday....

A Comment on Reproductive Rights: Whose Right To Choose?

— Dianne Feeley

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, IN his article opposing abortion (The Nation, April 24, 1989) performs a tightrope act, as he precariously attempts to strike a balance between supporters of women's rights and the right wing. He cries out, “Let's have a historic compromise” between women’s rights and fetuses...-forgetting that Roe v. Wade is exactly that historic compromise.

Fashioned fifteen years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court, the decision is not based on the fundamental principle of the pro-choice struggle: a woman's right to control her own body and to make the moral choices that responsibility entails. Instead, under the right to privacy, the Court severely limited the state's capacity to restrict women's access to abortion, particularly during the first six months of pregnancy....

Random Shots: Make Them Drink the Water

— R.F. Kampfer

LEN DEIGHION's latest spy series has been running for six years through five thick books. There are two more scheduled, with no guarantee that we will learn which side Fiona Samson is really working for when they are finally published. One needs a touch of masochism to get involved in this conspiracy from the beginning. Let's hope that Deighton has left us the answers to the mystery in his will, in case something happens to him before he finishes writing.

The only good thing about losing a game, a war, or an election, is that it shows who your real friends are...

Palestine in Transition

Intifada: Women Organizing

— Samira Haj

CONTRARY TO THE WESTERN image of the passive “Arab.” or Moslem woman immured at home for reproduction, the role of women has been a central force in sustaining the Palestinian Intifada. It is important to stress that their contribution has not just been through the actions of active middle class or urban women, but more so through the activities of ordinary, “traditional” women, rural and urban, young and old-from all classes and backgrounds....

The Legitimacy of Solidarity

— David Finkel and David Kohns interview Michel Warshawski

MICHEL WARSHAWSKI is on trial in an Israeli court for his activities as director of the Alternative Information Centre in Jerusalem. He faces a potential prison sentence of twenty-three years. The protracted legal proceedings, now more than two-years’ old, began in February 1987 when police raided the Centre and seized its equipment after inviting television to film the event.

Although the six-month ban against the Alternative Information Centre expired in summer 1987, its equipment remains confiscated as “material evidence.” Its director, Michel Warshawski, is accused of “providing typesetting services to a prohibited organization” and “possessing materials belonging to a prohibited organization.”...

An Assessment of the Intifada

— Michel Warshawski

THE PALESTINIAN UPRISING in the occupied territories constitutes a historical turning point, and not merely in relation to the populations’ struggle against occupation. It is also a turning point in the overall relationship between Israel on the one hand, and the Palestinian people and its national liberation movement on the other.

Even now, the uprising can claim to be of even greater significance in its long-term ramifications than in its immediate impact. The uprising in the occupied territories has altered the balance of power between the state of Israel and the national struggle of the Palestinian Arab people....

International Analysis

Struggling for Survival: Workers in Revolutionary Nicaragua

— Gary Ruchwarger

TEN YEARS AFTER the revolution, the revolutionary workers' movement in Nicaragua faces deep economic difficulties. All the government attempts to manage an economy burdened by the ravaging effects of the contra war, workers' social wage, as well as their real incomes, are under siege by inflationary forces.

Beginning in February 1988, the Sandinista government undertook a series of economic reforms designed to control inflation and protect workers. In June of that year, Daniel Ortega announced new free-market policies including a 30% increase and a more flexible national salary system that allowed companies to base their wage policies on their financial situation....

Workplace Relations and Conflict

— Johanna Brenner interviews Gary Ruchwarger

Johanna Brenner: Is the incentive system controversial or do workers accept a highly differentiated wage system that pays according to how well people work rather than according to their family needs?

Guy Ruchwarger:-Yes, I would say that there is some controversy. First of all, it's always been true that the less agile, slower workers definitely have some resentment about the norms when they can't meet them. When I did interviews, most people were meeting or surpassing them, so most people supported them....

Zimbabwe's Decade of Independence

— John Pape

IN 1980 THE two liberation movements of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU), ended a fourteen-year liberation war by signing the Lancaster House accords.

This agreement, orchestrated largely by Britain but seriously backed by the Frontline states [Mozambique, Angola and Zambia] enshrined racism in the Zimbabwe government. Twenty parliamentary seats out of a hundred were to be reserved for the 2percent of the population that is white. Even more crucial were numerous clauses that guarded holdings of transnationals and white farms from nationalization....

Contemporary Polish Voices: The Problem of Medical Care

— edited by Aleksei K. Zolotov

NOTE: THIS WAS to have been a half-hour taped discussion of various areas of putative material advantaged by East Bloc citizens as partial compensation for the absence of political liberties. On each of these points the participants considered their situation to be far less satisfactory than is generally believed by Western radicals. As it turned out, the discussion of medical care alone took some forty-five taped minutes, and many more minute “off the record.” The names have been changed, and I have rearranged some items and smoothed the translation.--AKZ)

Klara: To understand the degree to which free medical care really does constitute a right enjoyed by the citizens of the socialist state, we need to look at the details of how it works out in practice. It's very far from the ideal that is described officially....


Speaking Truth to Power

— David Finkel

Prepared for the Worst
Selected Essays and Minority Reports
by Christopher Hitchens
New York: Hill and Wang, 1988, $19.95.

READERS OF THE Nation are familiar with Christopher Hitchens' “Minority Report” column alternating with Alexander Cockburn's “Beat the Devil.” The newly published collection Prepared For The Worst includes many of these columns together with selections from other newspapers and essays from Grand Street, Harper's and elsewhere....

The Meaning of Welfare

— Camille Colatosti

Regulating the Lives of Women:
Social Welfare Policy from Colonial Times to the Present
Boston: South End Press, 406 pages, $15.

“TO BE EFFECTIVE,” argues Mimi Abramovitz in her informative and well-written study, Regulating the Lives of Women, "welfare reform must look past the current AFDC (Aid for Families with Dependent Children] program to the entire social welfare system and the wider political economy and must reframe the issue from one focused on welfare dependency to the true underlying problem - female poverty."

Marx and Hegel Revisited

— Tony Smith

Dialectics of Labour:
Marx and His Relation to Hegel
By C.J. Arthur
New York: Basil Blackwell, 1986, $39.95.

MARX'S 1844 MANUSCRIPTS have been known in the West for over half a century and few Marxist theorists have ignored them. One might think that little new remained to be said. One would be wrong. C.J. Arthur’s major study of the Manuscripts deepens our understanding of them considerably. In doing so it also illuminates in precise terms Marx's shifting relationship to his predecessors in the course of his early development....

Rambo Comes to Paterson

— Charlie Post and Kit Adam Wainer

PRINCIPAL JOE CLARK of Eastside High School dominates the silver screen in “Lean on Me.” His mission is to save benighted poor and minority students from the very real plague of drugs; he will not yield lo petty considerations like the rights of students, teachers or parents.

The enemies are clear: liberal administrators, venal parent activists and lazy, uncaring teachers. Armed with a bull horn and a baseball bat, Joe Clark single-handedly succeeds in transforming the Paterson, New Jersey, high school from a typical inner city school to a model of order and learning. Rambo resolves the crisis of urban education....