Against the Current, No. 29, November/December 1990

Against the Current, No. 29, November/December 1990

Oil Wars--The Empire Strikes Back

— The Editors

AT THE BEGINNING of the Summer of 1990, the Cold War was over. Global tensions were receding. The "Soviet Menace" was history; peace talks were underway from El Salvador to South Africa; there was talk of a peace dividend, or at least what would be left over after clearing out the savings and loan cesspool.

Before the summer was out, the largest United States military mobilization since Vietnam—and the most rapid in history—was in place in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula. Public opinion pollsters spoke of an expectation of war and a positive attitude toward it (anticipating a short and victorious conflict)....

Capital Gains Cut: Your Loss

— Erik Melander

LOOKING FOR A SOLUTION to the federal budget deficit? Just look in the mirror, because the government thinks it has one: you.

You—meaning the poor, the working class and the middle class. You—despite a decrease in the incomes of the poor of almost 10% in the last decade, the decline of real factory wages to their 1960 level and a one-third increase in the incomes of the rich. In comparison with 1979, the average individual is now paying more taxes while the rich have enjoyed a 25% tax cut....

Is Operation Rescue Over?

— Marie Laberge

PRO-CHOICE MOBILIZATIONS have successfully held off several efforts to pass repressive legislation and forced politicians running for re-elections to moderate their rhetoric. One Catholic anti-choice magazine, Minneapolis' Catholic Twin Citric (July 22, 1990; 19), lamented that "an estimated thirty previously pro-life congressmen have jumped ship, afraid that opposition to abortion might cost them their elected jobs."

Ironically, the relative success of Operation Rescue's mass mobilizations, arrests and clinic blockades across the country may have led to its decline as a organization Facing several lawsuits, fines and declining numbers, Operation Rescue has run out of steam. Even founder Randall Terry has acknowledged, "We are in a lull ... .Rescuers are tired and battle-weary. The cost in many areas has gone up." (New York Times, June 11, 1990)...

Nefarious Aggression

— Noam Chomsky

ON AUGUST 2, Iraq invaded Kuwait installing a puppet government, later annexing it outright after international sanctions were imposed. Any Middle East crisis at once assumes ominous international proportions because of the incomparable energy reserves of the region, primarily in the Arabian peninsula, which the State Department described in the 1940s as "a stupendous source of strategic power, and one of the greatest material prizes in world history," and "probably the richest economic prize in the world in the field of foreign investment."

After the war, U.S. corporations gained the leading role in Middle East oil production, while dominating the Western hemisphere, which remained the major producer until 196& The United States did not then need Middle East oil for itself. Rather, the goal was to dominate the world system, ensuring that Europe and Japan would not strike an independent course. Control over energy is a lever for global dominance; cheap oil is a policy instrument, not an end in itself....

Statement on the Gulf Crisis

— Palestine Solidarity Committee

THE MIDDLE EAST drift toward war has suddenly arrived at a rapidly escalating military conflict In response t Iraq's August 2nd invasion of Kuwait, the United States has sent air and ground forces to the region in a massive display of force and threatened intervention that can only serve to further escalate the conflict The danger of open conflict is now grave.

Iraq's use of military force, across an international border, to resolve what was fundamentally an economic dispute over oil and oil prices, is indefensible. The dangerous consequence of Saddam Hussein's action is to open the door wide for both U.S. intervention and Israeli aggression....

The Peace Movement Responds

— Peter Drucker

THE IRAQI INVASION of Kuwait has handed George Bush the best opportunity in years to lay the "Vietnam syndrome" to rest and make the U.S. people love Third World wars. Bush has seized the opportunity with both hands. He means to make the United States the world's unrivaled military superpower, with license to invade anywhere anytime.

Bush, however, will face determined resistance: potentially a movement comparable to the movement against the Vietnam War.

The peace movement's initial response was hampered by its traditional August lull, anti-Arab racism, widespread ignorance about Iraq and Kuwait, and justified anger about Iraq's invasion. But despite the 7080% of the population polled who supported Bush's deployment, only a fraction of those are willing to see U.S. soldiers die in an Arabian war....

A Palestinian Perspective

— an interview with Anan Ameri

Anan Anzeri is the national president of the Palestine Aid Society, an organization working to support Palestinian national institutions, particularly women's committees in the Occupied Territories and vocational centers in Lebanon. She is also the author of a doctoral dissertation (Wayne State University) on the Jordanian economy. David Finkel of the ATC editorial beard interviewed her in late August.

ATC: To begin from the Palestinian perspective, how do you see this crisis as it's unfolded so fir affecting the Palestinian struggle for independence and human rights?

Anan Amen: I think it's really bad, for a number of reasons. First, as you know, people had been discussing the necessity for Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories and were beginning to see Israel as the source of instability in the region. Now, the Palestinian issue seems very minor; and who knows how long this situation will last....

Ba'ath Regime's Bloody Background

— an interview with Samira Haj

Samira Haj, a Palestinian activist and feminist living in the United States, isa student of the history of modern Iraq. David Finkel interviewed her for Against the Current at the beginning of September.

ATC: Since you've studied contemporary Iraq, can you start by explaining the origins of the present regime and what it represents, especially since Saddam Hussein has suddenly popped up as the new embodiment of evil in the American ideological system?

Sandra Haj: In 1958 there was a nationalist revolution in Iraq, representing a united front of various national groups including the Ba'ath Party [an attempt at a pan-Arab secular nationalist movement, with verbal socialist trappings.—ed.]. This revolution was to destroy the Hashemite kingdom that was installed by British imperialism in 1914; it inaugurates the post-colonial era....

Anti-communism Reaps the Islamic Whirlwind

— Shahrzad Azad

WE ARE TOLD that the Cold War is all but over, that the drug war in the United States has replaced the war on communism, and that communism in Eastern Europe has passed away. If the cold war and anticommunism are now "history' as far as East-West relations go, U.S. relations with the Third World are not softening, as the invasion of Panama demonstrated. The United States continues to "confront the Third World.(1)

At the same time, the crisis of the Middle East—a multi-faceted cultural, political and economic crisis—continues to preoccupy Middle Eastern scholars, especially left-wing and secular writers.(2) The rise of political Islam in Iran, the emergence of fundamentalist movements in Egypt, Lebanon, and Tunisia, and the electoral victory in June 1990 of fundamentalists in A1eria's first democratic elections pose a threat to secularists, socialists, and feminists in the region. Even the Palestinian movement is now infused with Islamism, while in Lebanon in 1986 a respected Communist leader was assassinated by Islamist militants.

Introduction to Socialism and Individual Rights

— The Editors

DOES SOCIALISM expand individual rights—and why? An assumption common to all socialist thought is that the meaning of individual rights and freedom is harshly constrained, under capitalism, by a system in which many must work to provide the good life for the few. This leaves open, however, the question of what importance socialism—conceived as a society without exploitation, organized democratically for the common good—will attach to individual rights as a part of that common good.

Both of the following essays, arguing from different standpoints, agree that individual rights are indeed of great significance for socialism. The first presents the claim that such rights are of central and intrinsic value, and should be so recognized within the socialist project. The second argues against conceiving these rights “timelessly,” or apart from the context in which they are to be exercised, but rather that a socialist conception of individual rights flows from their importance to the “common good” as socialists see it....

Socialism, Justice and Rights

— Harry Brighouse

RECENT EVENTS HAVE made it impossible for even the most optimistic to deny that socialism is in crisis. Gloating pro-capitalist ideologues cite the introduction of market reforms in the Eastern bloc countries as evidence that the historic failure of socialism has at last been recognized even by its proponents. The collapse of the Eastern European Communist parties was greeted joyfully by the Western media. Mrs. Thatcher recently said, "Communism has crumbled. It has lost all credibility even among nominal believers." Her declared ambition to banish socialism from Britain's political culture is shared by many other Western leaders.

Meanwhile Western social democrats are dropping socialist rhetoric from their manifestos and speeches, yet have increasing difficulty winning office.(1) As the distance between them and both the possibility of power and their old working-class bases grows, the rhetoric and practical politics of social democracy and Eurocommunism now emphasize "lifestylism" and consumerism. A phrase—"designer socialism"—has been coined to describe these developments and has even been embraced by some of their proponents....

Is Democracy Enough?

— Milton Fisk

THERE ARE NOW many aspects of socialism in need of rethinking. But a high priority has to be assigned to the matters of democracy and human rights. Bureaucratic society ("actually existing socialism") has been notorious for its abuses of democracy and human rights, and there is a tendency to attribute these abuses to deficiencies; in socialist theory itself.(1)

Given a chance, peoples in the East moved rapidly in a democratic direction. In Prague they carried forward the human rights work of Charter 77 by demanding an end to communist rule and a democratic beginning. In Moscow the democratic movement, with its roots in the samizdat period, marched against Article 6 of the Soviet constitution that protected the one-party system. In East Germany (DDR), Neues Forum and other opposition groups set up both local Round Tables and a national Round Table, which functioned as a quasi-legislative body while the Communist government was collapsing....

The Sandinistas: What Next?

— Midge Quandt

AFTER THEIR DEFEAT in Nicaragua's February 1990 election, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) had to face some unpleasant truths about the erosion of their popular support and the surge of criticism within the party and the mass organizations (large grassroots citizens' groups).

Although many of the 55 percent who voted for the United Nicaraguan Opposition (UNO) did so not out of political sympathy, but in hopes of ending the war and the economic crisis, it soon became clear that the Sandinistas had alienated some of the popular sectors. In addition, grassroots organizations believed that their goals had for too long been subordinated to those of the FSLN....

Organizing in the Face of Murder

— an interview with Julio Garcia Prieto

JULIO GARCIA PRIETO, General Secretary of the Union of the Coffee Industry of El Salvador (SICAFE), recently toured the United States talking to churches, labor unions, and other groups about the difficulties faced by the members of his union as they try to organize in the face of severe repression, including many murders When the tour came to Cincinnati on June 16, writer Dan La Botz had an opportunity to interview Garcia for Against the Current. The interview was conducted in Spanish and has been translated and edited by La Botz.

A note of explanation on coffee processing: Agricultural workers who actually pick the coffee (they say "cut" the coffee) are mostly housewives and students and are not legally permitted to organize unions and do not have labor unions. These workers go to the fields to cut the cafe uva (grape coffee) from the palo de cafe (or the coffee tree) for about three months each year....

Medicine for Democracy

— an interview with Benito Vivar

DR. BENITO VIVAR, 47, graduated from medical school in his native El Salvador in the early 1970s. A decade later, he left a lucrative private practice to take organizing responsibilities for clinics and field hospitals to serve the popular and revolutionary movements in El Salvador's civil war.

Because medical facilities and health care workers are special targets of the Salvadoran government and military, maintahiing these facilities in the areas controlled by the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and in "zones of dispute" is higbly difficult and dangerous, as well as expensive, work....

Quebec: the Mohawks' Revolt

— Richard Poulin, translated by Joanna Misnik

The following account was written for Against the Current immediately after the end of the confrontation between Mohawk natives and the Canadian armed finves at Kanahuske and Kanesatake, Quebec.—The Editors

ORDER HAS BEEN restored. The army and the police now control all of Mohawk territory.

Last to be subdued were some 20 Warriors and about 30 women and children cornered on a little strip of territory around 50 meters wide and 800 meters long. They surrendered on September 26 after three weeks of resisting a psychological war waged by the army...

The Politics of Terminology

— Richard Poulin

THE TERM "MOHAWK" is an Algonquin word that the French and British adopted to refer to the Agniers. They conferred on it the meaning “man-eaters.” Today this term is synonymous with Agnier and is more in use than the name the Agniers gave themselves.

Throughout the crisis, the French-language press used only English words to describe the key players and institutions of the Mohawks, except for territories where Indian names had been in use. So the Societe de Guerriers was dubbed “the Warriors,” la Maison longue, “the Longhouse,” and so on, as though the Agniers were a small group of English speakers defying prerogatives of the Quebec government and thus posing a challenge to Quebecois national aspirations....

Radical Feminism's Birth

— Joan Cocks

Dsring to be Bad:
Radical Feminism in America 1967-1975
By Alice Echols
Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1989.

ANY FEMINIST who, like myself, is used to leading and writing about theoretical questions should find Alice Echols' Dsring to be Bad: Radical Feminism in America 1967-1975 a refreshing break from the intellectual routine. Certainly the reservations that the theoretically minded always have about historical analysis will surface here, and certainly, too, there will be that momentary doubt about what, in the face of a single historical work, it is possible critically to say....

Random Shots: The Great Gulf Oil War Follies

— R.F. Kampfer

KAMPFER'S OLD 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, better known as the Third Herd, Mox Nix Regiment, or Hippy Bunch, has been sent to Saudi Arabia. Quite a change from the snow-covered hills of Grafenwohr. By now they have probably discovered a way to make beer out of dates.

After the First World War, it was estimated that 763,000 Germans died of starvation due to the British blockade. That figure does not include non-German civilians in occupied territories. Bush's naval blockade of Iraq ignores the fact that soldiers—-and politicians--are always the last to starve....

Letter to the Editors

— Peter Drucker

BILL RESNICK'S comment on "Socialist Politics and the Peace Dividend” (ATC28) gives an upside-down picture of how revolutionary politics develop. He says that in the 1930s and 1960s "for many millions of people bourgeois rule was “discredited.” True: by the late 1930s and the late 1960s there were millions of anti-capitalists in the United States.

But of the people who went out on strike in 1934 marched against the Vietnam War in 1%5, only a small minority had conscious revolutionary politics....