Against the Current No. 22, September/October 1989

Against the Current No. 22, September/October 1989

Defending Women's Lives

— The Editors

IT IS NOT SURPRISING that the right-wing chose abortion as the issue around which to challenge women's liberation. For the right-wing, it is an issue that lends itself to simplistic arguments. It is an issue around which a movement can galvanize, and feel righteous.

Women can't begin to control their own lives until they can control their own bodies. Therefore abortion is fundamental to women's liberation. The right knows that. We know that.

Until Webster v. Reproductive Health Services most women felt their access to abortion was secure. Now many are frightened and angry at the prospect that Roe v. Wade may be reversed and they're ready to defend women's right to abortion....

Editor's Note

— The Editors

THIS ISSUE OF AGAINST THE CURRENT includes a feature on China after the Tiananmen massacre: an interview, several interpretive essays, and brief eyewitness reports. Because of the volume of this material, which we felt was important in view of the significance of the Chinese events for socialists, we have had to hold over Kent Worcester's memorial essay on C.LR. James. It will appear in our next issue.

As this issue was in preparation, we were saddened by the death of Michael Harrington, co-chair and longtime leader of Democratic Socialists of America, and among the best-known spokespersons for socialism in the United States. Regular readers of ATC are undoubtedly aware of very deep differences we have with Harrington's strategy for achieving socialist goals. This does not lessen our respect for his decades of activism and dedicated service to the movement....

Skinheads: The New Nazism

— Christopher Phelps

IN FRANCE, Jean-Marie Le Pen whips up xenophobia, waging campaigns that cut into longtime Communist Party strongholds.

In West Berlin—shortly after street baffles pitting fascist youth gangs against leftists, autonomists and Turkish youth —rum-Nazi Republicans come out of the January elections with a percentage that doubles their previous West German high mark.

Even in the United States, fascist seedlings here and there indicate a movement that could take full root....

LA Teachers Win in the Streets

— Joel Jordan

ON THURSDAY, MAY 25, some 15,000 striking Los Angeles teachers jammed into the downtown Sports Arena to hear the terms of a tentative agreement reached early that morning by negotiators for United Teachers-Los Angeles (UTLA) and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Even before a word was spoken from the podium, it was obvious from the boisterous floor demonstrations erupting throughout the arena that the euphoric teachers felt they had already won a great victory---a victory in the streets.

After waging a grueling and frustrating year-long guerrilla campaign against the District, teachers learned through the solidarity developed during the nine day strike that they could successfully take on a bureaucracy which had so long denied them the respect they felt they deserved. This solidarity was expressed in a mass mobilization and militancy reminiscent of the movements of the 1960s, as teachers marched and demonstrated by the thousands, often joined by students, parents, and other unionists....

The Pitfalls of "Family Policy"

— Stephanie Coontz

THE FAMILY IS ONE of the hottest new topics for political rhetoric, popular concern and faddish prescriptions. Conservatives attack the women's movement and government regulation for robbing families "of the autonomy that was once theirs"; liberals go back and forth between decrying divorce's "feminization of poverty" and celebrating the new "family pluralism" (occasionally sounding as if single-parent families constitute a wonderful growth experience).

Even some feminists and leftists have been sucked into the debate, contending that they are the real champions of "the family." There is thus a temptation to articulate a family policy, endorsing a particular definition of family and making demands on its behalf for state support....

Back in the USSR, Part I

— Susan Weissman

I RECENTLY WENT to Moscow on a delegation representing the families of Leon Trotsky and Victor Serge. Trotsky's grandson Vsevolod Volkow did not accompany us, but Victor Serge's son Vlady Kibalchich, himself a victim of Stalinist repression, was part of the delegation. We carried a letter from Trotsky's grandchild and great-grandchildren to the Soviet leadership calling for the exoneration of Leon Trotsky and the publication of his works in the Soviet Union. We also carried the petition of the Moscow Trials Campaign Committee.

My specific purpose was to continue the search for four manuscripts written by Serge and confiscated by the CPU upon his expulsion from the USSR in 1936.(1) I did not return with the manuscripts, nor had I expected to find them so easily, but I was able to generate interest in Serge, whose revolutionary novel of the purges, The Case of Comrade Tulayev was just serialized in the provincial literary journal, Ural, and traces the history of the stolen manuscripts with a little more precision....

The Soviet Working Class Enters the Stage

— Susan Weissman

THE PREVIOUS ARTICLE, “Back in the USSR, Part I,” was written before the spectacular strike wave of Soviet miners in July 1989. The basic analysis stands. But the class activity of the Soviet workers is now underlining the point that the working class is the decisive factor in perestroika and Soviet society.

The strike, which began in Siberia and spread through Kazakhstan to Ukraine, enveloped mines from the Kuzbass to the Donbass regions. Mine after mine shut down in places like Mezhdurechensk, Kemerovo, Vorkuta, Makeyevka, Rostov on Don, Lvov, Karaganda in Kazakhstan, and Prokopyevsk in the Kuzbas....

China After the Massacre

Brief Chinese Chronology

April 17—Two days after the death of former Communist Party secretary Hu Yaobang, thousands of students demonstrate in Beijing, Shanghai and other Chinese cities. Hu was deposed after the wave of student demonstrations for democracy in December 1986.

April 26—Peoples Daily in Beijing denounces student protesters as “a handful of people with ulterior motives” who “are actually opposed to ... socialist democracy and are trampling both democracy and law.” A huge protest march responds the next day to this attack Beijing students have formed their own independent union and demand dialogue with government....

What the Chinese Students Fought For

— Sungur Savran interviews Jin Xiaochang

Jin Xiaothang is a Marxist historian from the People's Republic of China, who is currently working towards a doctoral degree at the New School for Social Research in New York City. He was born in 1949, the year of the Chinese Revolution. At the beginning of the Cultural Revolution, both his parents were condemned for propagating bourgeois ideas and he himself was not accepted among the ranks of the Red Guards for this reason.

In 1969 he was sent to a remote rural area to do farm work, where he lived and worked with peasants until 1975.Having returned to Shanghai, he took part in the student movement and ran into further trouble for his political activities. Up until 1978, the year of the Democracy Wall movement, he was a supporter of Deng Xiaoping as against the “Gang of Four,” something he regards as ironical today....

Counterrevolution and Crisis

— Nigel Harris

THE EVENT5 SINCE the Sunday morning when the first troops entered Tiananmen Square give all of us on the left that chilled feeling. Jakarta, 1965. Sao Paulo, 1964. Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Dakka in Bangladesh in 1970, Chile in 1973.—an appalling series of savageries when a ruling class struggles once and for all to repress a whole mass of rebellions; to settle its power, its rule and its privileges.

We are tempted, of course, to slide into the feeling that it's an endless series of defeats. Because there have been a lot of defeats. And we must look and say, where is Brazil now, where is Indonesia now, and see that in fact the struggle recovers, does survive what in China can be described as a military coup and the prelude to a very considerable purge....

Teng's Reforms, Neither Market Nor Socialism

— Richard Smith

CHINA'S STUDENT-LED movement for democracy, and its savage suppression, represented an all-too-logical outcome of a decade of economic reforms. The implementation of capitalist methods within China's system of bureaucratic property and bureaucratic class domination is hopelessly contradictory, and led inevitably to the economic crisis that lay behind last spring's Chinese revolt.

By 1976, the year Mao Xedong and Thou Enlai died, the Chinese economy was in shambles. After three decades of "socialist construction" under Mao, the country could barely, and sometimes not quite, feed itself. Industrial productivity and living standards were stagnant, even falling, and the economy was kept in motion only by holding down consumption and pumping ever more back into accumulation. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was heavily discredited and, in the wake of the Cultural Revolution, China's workers were profoundly alienated from Maoism and the party. On Thou's Enlai's death in April 1976—in premonition of things to come--100,000 people demonstrated in Tiananmen Square against the Gang of Four....

Proposals by the Beijing Independent Workers' Union

— Provisional Committee of the Beijing Independent Workers' Union

AN ORGANIZING COMMITTEE for an independent union movement in China announced its existence at the height of the democratic mobilization in May. According to eyewitnesses, the activists of this fledgling movement occupied the front ranks and were among the first to be gunned down by the Peoples Liberation Army in Tiananmen Square.

Proposals of the Beijing Independent Workers' Union

Since the middle of April, in the democratic movement of all the nationalities led by the students, many Chinese workers have shown their desire to participation political life, while recognizing that, until now, they have lacked a truly representative workers' organization to express their opinions. For this reason we believe it necessary to set up an independent organization to speak in the name of the workers and take up the issues that concern them. To this end, we are preparing to organize an independent Workers Union in Beijing and are putting forward the following proposals for a programme:...

The Old in the New--the New Through the Old

— Adolfo Gilly

THE CHINESE STUDENT rebellion of the Spring of 1989 brought into crisis at least four great transformations initiated, determined or provoked by the Chinese revolution and state.

1. The beginnings of the transition from a traditional agrarian society to a modern industrial society and the incipient transformation of a growing sector of the peasantry into a wage labor force in industry, trade, the state bureaucracy and the army....

Letter: Blaming A Victim for Tiananmen?

— Aleksei K. Zolotov, Washington, DC

“CHINA, DEMOCRACY, YES!” (ATC 21, Letter from the Editors) correctly makes the most important point: the left must give complete support to the democracy movement. Unfortunately, the letter is unclear on whether or not the editors join much of the U.S. left in condemning market reforms for generating the Chinese social crisis.

To blame the market reforms is to confuse victim and perpetrator. It was, in fact, a turn by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) away from the market and toward more central political and economic control that set the stage for the spring upheaval. This turn, under way for more than a year, culminated in the definite postponement of further price decontrol announced in early 1989....


The Empire and the Old Mole

— Michael Fischer

Corruptions of Empire
By Alexander Cockburn
London: Verso, 1988,540 pages, $13.95 paper.

DESPITE THE FREQUENTLY upbeat tone of American political discourse, wrote Sacvan Bercovitch in his landmark work The American Jeremiad, its "affirmations betray an underlying desperation—a refusal to confront the present, a fear of the future, an effort to translate 'America' into a vision that works in spirit because it can never be tested in fact." But, of course, the desperation Bercovitch speaks of is evidence enough that the American myth can indeed be tested—and found woefully lacking....

Random Shots: A Kind and Gentler Ollie?

— R.F. Kampfer

OLLIE NORTH'S IDEA of community service in the area of drug abuse would be to call in an air strike on the community.

“I have no particular love for the idealized 'worker' as he appears to the bourgeois Communist's mind, but when I see an actual flesh-and-blood worker in conflict with his natural enemy, the policeman, I do not have to ask myself which side I am on.” —George Orwell....