Against the Current, No. 33, July/August 1991

Against the Current, No. 33, July/August 1991

Budget Chainsaw Massacres

— The Editors

IN CALIFORNIA, A $2 billion shortfall for education alone was projected for the current budget, with 2100 full-time teachers facing layoff notices, in addition to axing all emergency and probationary teachers. In New York, Massachusetts and dozens of other states, the budget chainsaw massacre is repeated: "Forty percent of all states had to cut their budgets in fiscal 1990," writes Randy Albelda in the October 1990 issue of Dollars and Sense, and the situation continues to deteriorate with the 1990-91 recession.

Why? Obviously the recession is massive factor in worsening these budget crises, but it's not necessarily their major structural cause. State and local governments are broke as the result of political and ideological campaigns that have drastically lightened the tax burdens on corporations and the wealthy, and because the federal government has passed along its deficit from the debt- and military spending-propelled policies of the Reagan years....

Anishinabe Continue Rights Fight

— Oscar F. Hernandez

THE EVENING OF May 2 marked the closing of the 1991 Anishinabe (Chippewa) spring spearfishing season. At the invitation of Anishinabe spearers and their families, the Witness for Nonviolence, a project of the Midwest Treaty Network, has been documenting harassment, threats and violence against the Anishinabe during spring spearfishing for the last four years. This year, hundreds of witnesses from the local area and from all over Wisconsin, as well as Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Canada and Germany, have been present at northern Wisconsin lakes.

Spearing was one of the rights retained by the Lake Superior Anishinabe when they ceded their lands (the northern third of Wisconsin, most of the upper peninsula of Michigan and the northeastern portion of Minnesota) to the United States in treaties of 1837, 1842 and 1854. These treaty rights were reaffirmed in Federal Court in 1974, after the Tribble brothers from the Lac Court Oreilles Reservation in northern Wisconsin were arrested for off-reservation fishing....

The Kurdish Tragedy

— Joseph A. Massad

THE ARAB WORLD is not necessarily as homogeneous as its name may indicate. Like most states of the world, Arab states have their own share of national (and religious) groups who are at times referred to as "minorities" although in some cases they may be a majority. These national groups include Palestinians, Kurds, Saharawis, the non-Arab Sudanese tribes, the non-Arab Mauritanian tribes, and Omani Baluchis, among others.

Despite this long list, most Arab governments and Arab nationalists lend their ideological support (albeit a self-interested one) only to the Palestinians. As for the remaining groups, no Arab states and a very small number of nationalists lend support to their causes....

The Gulf War in the Arab World

— Salah Jaber

I'VE BEEN ASKED to speak about the anti-war movement in the Arab countries. I want to point to two specific features of the movements in these countries. First, it wasn't precisely an antiwar movement, but a movement in solidarity with Iraq in the war, against the U.S. coalition aggression. This involves different political tasks from that of the antiwar movement in Western countries.

Second, in comparison with the Western countries, you had overwhelming mass feeling—with the partial exception of Egypt—in support of Iraq, although the mass feeling didn't materialize in a movement in all countries. There are many countries where it is difficult to have any movement because of the repression, for instance in Syria....

Gulf War: An African-American Perspective

— Elombe Brath

I'D LIKE TO thank Against the Current for this opportunity to share some perspectives of the Patrice Lumumba Coalition, as well as a view within the radical section of the African-American community.

Listening to Salah Jaber, I was thinking how closely the sentiment he describes among Arab people was also reflected in the African community, but hasn't been allowed to be broadly distributed. The concept of class struggle may be abandoned (elsewhere in the world—ed.), but it has sharpened in the African-American community....

Lessons from the Antiwar Struggle

— Leslie Cagan

SOME LESSONS THAT we have to learn from the antiwar struggle during the past seven or nine months really should have been learned many times over already. The unfortunate truth is that we keep needing to learn them.

One problem we've suffered from for quite a number of years is an antiwar movement that really has two wings: the nuclear disarmament movement, which is mostly focused as a lobbying effort around nuclear weapons, nuclear war and disarmament and the anti-intervention movement....

U.S. Strategy After the Gulf War

— Richard Hutchinson

BY AUGUST 1990, a debate had developed in elite circles, and was intensifying in the popular arena, over the role of the United States in the "post-Cold War world.' Paul Kennedy's thesis of "imperial overstretch," outlined in his 1987 book The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, had been replied to by Joseph Nye in his Bound to Lead (which he presented in summary to the 1990 annual meeting of the Trilateral Commission in Washington).

The relation of military power to economic competitiveness was increasingly questioned in the context of expanding Japanese and German spheres of influence, the onset of recession, growing public indignation over the scope of the Savings & Loan and banking bailouts, and the defection of some conservatives, in the wake of the collapse of communism, to isolationism and even populism. Some went so far as to say that both superpowers had been defeated by the Cold War....

Problems of Everyday Life

— Maureen Sheahan

IT'S NOT COURAGE for the big things that's hard. Sustaining the strength for everyday life—that's the problem.

I am speaking today as a rape victim and an activist. The rape was in 1978. He had, up until then, merely been a peeping torn.

It wasn't just me, but my roommate as well. He didn't know she lived there, but she surprised him.

He didn't have his own weapons, only our kitchen knives, the hammer, the lamps and their cords....

Rebel Girl: Our Bodies, Our Jobs

— Catherine Sameh

WOMEN WORKERS WON a major victorylast March when the Supreme Court voted to prohibit employers from adopting "fetal protection" policies. These were designed to keep women of childbearing age from jobs—often among the highest paying—that may be hazardous to their reproductive health or to the potential health of their fetuses. At a time when women's reproductive freedom is under constant fire, even by the same court (as in its May decision allowing the government to further restrict health facilities receiving any fed-end aid), the ruling came as quite a surprise.

The overwhelming focus on the health and well-being of women's extant and potential children obscures the very urgent needs of working and poor women Fetal protection policies have been an ideal way for corporations to neglect women's needs while pretending to defend them....

Free Trade, Promise or Menace?

— Kim Moody

WITH A NORTH American Free Trade Agreement careening down the fast track to completion, the labor movements of Mexico, Canada and the United States face a new situation that requires some hard rethinking. While effective national trade unions in the context of national economies went the way of the Detroit gas guzzler somewhere between Bretton Woods and the Uruguay Round, habits accompanying the past die hard.

Unions in the United States slept through the U.S. Canada free trade negotiations even while their Canadian counterparts and affiliates fought to defeat it. Since George Bush sent a wake-up call with his Initiative for the Americas and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), U.S. unions have thrown their waning weight behind the fight to stop it or amend it. For now, they appear to have lost....

Free Trade, Canadian Style

— Francois Moreau

THE COMMERCIAL, INDUSTRIAL and technological integration of the three North American states—which began several decades ago—has markedly accelerated following Washington's conclusion of a free trade agreement with Ottawa and its impending negotiation of a similar accord with Mexico. This is the continental expression of capital's tendency toward internationalization, which is also expressed in the increasing globalization of production and trade as well as in the formation of economic blocs in Europe and Asia.

But North American continental integration has become a political issue in the three states concerned. The workers' movement must take a position on this process that represents the interests of the continent's working classes and popular masses. Such a position must be developed with a view toward the character of the U.S. and Canadian states....

The New Multinational Proletariat

— Dolores Trevizo

THE END OF the Cold War has brought no peace to the Third World. U.S. troops are being transferred from Europe to the Gulf, while the so-called drug war continues to justify U.S. military actions against peasants all over Latin America.

On the economic level, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has imposed austerity throughout Latin America for over a decade. The so-called modernization of the Mexican economy, demanded by the IMF, has produced massive unemployment both in the cities and the countryside. Many of the political currents that once would have opposed these demands are now more hesitant to speak out against capitalist restructuring. Accepting its inevitability, they primarily seem to be concerned with making sure that it is undertaken in a democratic and "fair" manner....

The Crisis of Mexican Unionism

— Alejandro Toledo Patiño

AN INTELLECFUALLY RICH and critical tradition of research and writing on the history of Mexico began in the United States with the publication of Marjorie Ruth Dark's classic Organized Labor in Mexico in the 1930s. Almost half a century later appear the works of Barry Carr, The Labor Movement and Politics in Mexico: 1910-1929 and James D. Cockcroft's Mexico: Class Formation, Capital Accumulation and the State. Dan La Botz's The Crisis of Mexican Labor (Praeger, New York, 1988, $37.95 hardback) is in this tradition.

La Botz deals with the period from the 1920s—the golden age of "Moronismo”—to the middle of the 1980s—when we witness the decline of “charrismo."(1) The Crisis of Mexican Labor, based on interviews with prominent contemporary labor unionists, contains a substantial bibliography. The author deals particularly with the most important episodes of the workers' struggles and labor politics In looking at the connections between the labor movement and political power, La Botz throws into relief the issue of independence and labor union democracy.(2)...

The Case of the Missing List

— R.F. Kampfer

THE VERY LEAST that the AFL-CIO can do during its upcoming August 31 Solidarity II march on Washington is dismember the Greyhound Terminal, brick by brick.

The prejudices of racism, sexism, Eurocentrism, etc. are most damaging when they are not recognized as such As George Bernard Shaw put it: “The Barbarian thinks that the customs of his tribe are the laws of nature.”...

Rights in a Socialist Society

— Harry Brighouse

TOM SMITH'S UNWILLINGNESS ["Ethics of Socialist Praxis," ATC 32] to engage with the views actually presented in my exchange with Milt Fisk in ATC 29 is disappointing. Dismissing a particular view of rights as “abstract” and a view of human nature as “bourgeois,” as if that is sufficient to demonstrate that it is not worth investigating, does nothing to further the project of developing a political morality for socialism.

Smith carelessly accuses me of claiming that rights theory is a twentieth century phenomenon, and then falsely attributes its development to Kant: In fact, the recent revival of rights-based liberalism bears more resemblance to the seventeenth century theories of Locke and Hobbes than to that of Kant.(1)...

Why Social Context Is Crucial

— Milton Fisk

MY VIEW OF socialist democracy [see ATC 29] was attacked for promoting censorship and undercutting human rights [in two articles in ATC 32]. I hasten to point out that I did no such things, Still, it was convenient to denounce me for what I didn't do, so these authors could avoid coming to grips with the implications of my central claim: While it is necessary for socialists to retrieve liberal values, those values can't be taken over in precisely their liberal form.

Instead, socialists will actually have to think out what the new contours of the retrieved values must be in order for those values to be appropriate within a socialist economic framework. The work of beginning to define these new contours is more challenging than repeating vacuous statements about freedom and respect. One needs rather to ask: In a society with a socialist economy, what do freedom and respect mean concretely?...

The Fate of Iraq's Jews

— Israel Shahak

I WILL NOT discuss all the criticisms raised by Joseph A. Massad against Samir al-Khalil’s Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modem Iraq [reviewed in ATC 31, 36-39]. But Massad’s employment of arguments that have been used to justify anti-Semitic pogroms and persecutions of Jews in Iraq, while also using the most one-sided imaginable sources, calls in my opinion for a rebuttal.

In the first place, regarding the pogrom (farhoud) of 1941: Massad, who accuses al-Khalil throughout his review of giving only partial information, himself forgets that the pogrom was initiated by an Iraqi government that tried to ally itself with the Nazis.(1) Such a government, which also enjoyed great popularity, can be assumed to act from anti-Semitic motives....

A Response to Israel Shahak

— Joseph Massad

THE ONE POINT where I agree with Israel Shahak’s rebuttal of my review is that I failed to cite direct Iraqi Jewish sources on the pogrom. I resorted to secondary sources because I had no access to direct sources. I do welcome Shahak’s recommendations if he has any.

As for the remainder of his rebuttal, Professor Shahak launches a venomous attack(1) on me the likes of which do not benefit someone of his stature and integrity. He begins by stating that in my review I use “arguments that have been used to justify anti-Semitic pogroms and persecutions of Jews in Iraq, while also using the most one-sided imaginable source...”

Roots of Chicano Power

— Alan Wald

Youth, Identity, Power:
The Chicano Movement
By Carlos Muñoz, Jr.
New York Verso, 1989, $17.95 paperback.

CARLOS MUÑOZ’S BOLD and compelling study of the Chicano radical movement is a striking intervention into U.S. political culture in at least three areas. First and foremost, Youth, Identity, Power clarifies the complex interaction between the older Mexican-American struggle for equal rights and the student upsurge of the 1960s.

With careful documentation and theoretical acumen, Muñoz demonstrates how that cross-fertilization advanced the Chicano left to a program of national rights and a unique form of “self-determination” that remain indispensable parts of the socialist agenda....

Forging A Union of Steel

— Dianne Feeley

Forging A Union of Steel:
Philip Murray, SWOC, & the United Steelworkers
edited by Paul F. Clark, Peter Gottlieb & Donald Kennedy, with contributions by David Brody, Melvyn Dubofsky, Ronald Filippelli, Mark McColloch & Ronald W. Schatz
Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 1987, 168 pages, paper $8.95.

FORGING A UNION of Steel consists of five essays by labor historians who attempt to reassess the uniqueness of building the steelworkers’ union in the late 1930s and early ’40s. Perhaps the most intriguing of the articles is David Brody’s discussion of the conservative union bureaucracy’s relationship to the union rank and file.

Many historians and trade unionists have pointed to crucial differences between the grassroots, democratic tradition of organizing the auto or electrical industries and the labor-management strategy of the top-down Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC). Brody tries to show how the reality is far more complex....

Why There Is No Liberalism

— Howard Brick

The Rise and Fall of the New Deal Order, 1930-1980
edited by Steve Fraser and Gary Gerstle
Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1989, 311 pages, $20.

SOME FORTY YEARS ago, American intellectuals still contemplated the question asked by German sociologist Wemer Sombart at the turn of the century: Why is there no Socialism in the United States? In the wake of World War II, the United States had witnessed few challenges to “free enterprise,” while other advanced industrial countries saw the ascendance of Labor and Social-Democratic parties.

Despite the battering of an extraordinarily long and painful depression, U.S capitalism had reached a new level of social stability on the basis of modest liberal reform and wartime industrial expansion. The left remained marginal....

Chronicles of Radicalism

— Michael Steven Smith

Encyclopedia of the American Left
Edited by Marl Jo Buhie, Paul Buhie and Dan Georgakas
Garland Publishing (New York and London), 1990, 928 pages, 95 illustrations, $95.

AS A SOCIALIST and a lawyer since the sixties, I read the Encyclopedia of the American Left with extraordinary pleasure.

When I entered the University of Wisconsin in 1960, finding a book like this would have been a fantasy. There would have been few to read it and fewer to write it. The country was emerging from the political and cultural winter of McCarthyism and the Cold War. Professors critical of current capitalist society could be counted on one hand. The college bookstore in Madison had but two books by revolutionaries, both Europeans....