Against the Current, No. 37, March/April 1992

Against the Current, No. 37, March/April 1992

Democrats: Road to Nowhere

— The Editors

AFFIRMATiVE ACTION FOR the rich and gimmicks for everyone else: Though his media consultants billed it as a crucial turning point and defining moment of his presidency, neither George Bush's State of the Union address nor his 1993 budget proposals offered any significant deviation from the gospel he inherited from Reagan.

Bush once again is proposing dramatic cuts in the capital gains tax. At the same time he wants to slash $5 billion from 246 domestic programs—home heating insurance, housing for the elderly and disabled, Amtrak, aid to Appalachia. Yet even with the Cold War over, Bush wants an increase in this year's Star Wars budget from $4.1 to $5.4 billion. His proposed military budget—a whopping $291 billion, just $12 billion less than the 1992 figure—involves more monies than those proposed for unemployment compensation, housing and food aid, child welfare and education benefits, and education combined....

Politics of Health Care Reform: Market Magic, Bad Medicine

— Colin Gordon

THE DEBATE OVER health care reform is a lot like the U.S. health care system itself Both encourage limited participation and both generate far more paper than results.

In late 1990, business anxiety over health care costs and a panoply of Congressional studies generated a flurry of interest in national health care reform, even national health insurance. While the prospects for real reform soon faltered (apolitical casualty of Operation Desert Storm), Harris Wofford's startling run in Pennsylvania seems to have revived the debate Don't hold your breath.

In the past year, the politics of health care reform have narrowed considerably. Employers have focussed on concessions rather than legislation. The administration has cluttered the debate with cosmetic reform and "cost containment."...

Funding the Right: Rhetoric Vs. Reality in Nicaragua

— Midge Quandt

"NED [Ihe National Endowment for Democracy] wants to do civic education ... and teach the Nicaraguan people to be members of a democratic society...." —interview with Diane Ponasik, Nicaragua Desk officer, U.S. Agency for International Development, May 16, 1991

"There has been a great decadence in values ... Nicaraguan youth need a moral and Christian orientation.—interview with Pablo Avendaño, Director of Programs, Center for Youth Formation, Managua, June 26, 1991

IN POST-SANDINISTA Nicaragua, the United States is funding a set of projects "to strengthen the Nicaraguan people's understanding of democratic processes and institutions." Officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development (AID), the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the pass-through organizations that administer the grants, use the language of North America liberalism to describe their goals: citizen participation;...

Politicization in the Nicaraguan Schools

— Michael Friedman interviews Mario Quintana

Mario Quintana is the General Secretary of the Nicaraguan Teachers Union ANDEN and member of the Sandinista Assembly, a governing body of the FSLN. He was interviewed July 221991 in Managua by Michael Friedman, a bilingual high school science teacher in New York. Friedman worked in the FSLN's paper Barricada Internacional and the Nicaraguan Fisheries Institute from 1982-1987. The transcript has been excerpted by ATC.

Michael Friedman: How has the change in government affected teachers? Mario Quintana First, the government has the idea that those teachers who worked during the ten or eleven years of Sandinista government were causes of student politicization. This has meant that many teachers who occupied positions of responsibility in the Ministry of Education (MED), or simply taught class, have had various contradictions with the Ministry of Education....

Carlos Menem & the Peronists: From Populism to Neoliberalism

— James Petras and Pablo Pozzi

FROM PETERSBURG TO Pretoria to San Salvador, we are informed by the ideologues of the economic elites, privatization and the free market are the wave of the future In this essay James Pctras and Pablo Pow take a closer look at the Argentine success story. Petras, profressor of sociology at SUNY Binghamton, a frequent contributor to ATC and author of numerous works on Third World economics and politics, is working on a new book on U.S. global power and domestic decay. Pozzi is a professor of history at the University of Buenos Aires, the author of a major study of the Argentine working class and editor of a bock on the U.S. working class (both in Spanish).

This article was written prior to the Fall 1991 elections in Argentina, in which Menem's Peronist party was relatively successful, despite the overall economic crisis. This success may be attributed to the regime's one success: reducing monthly inflation to single-digit rates. The electoral result, combined with the continued power of an intact union bureaucracy, has enabled the Menem....

The New Teamsters

— Phil Kwik

IN HIS DECEMBER 13 victory speech, the new General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (1FF), Ron Carey, said: "Good-bye to the Mafia .... This union has been won back by its members."

The stunning victory of the reform slate in the first-ever, one-member, one-vote election in the 13 million-member union represents just that a victory by the union's rank and file. Officers in fewer than thirty of the union's 638 locals supported the Carey slate. None of the Joint Council—the middle level of the union—supported Carey. None of the International vice presidents—the union's executive board—supported Carey.

Most striking is the victory's breadth. The Carey slate won in every region of the union, except Canada, swept all sixteen seats it contested, and won 483% of the vote. In two regions, the South and the West, reformers won an absolute majority against the combined forces of two incumbent slates....

Rank-and-File Strategy Is Vindicated

— Dan La Botz

THE ELECTION OF Ron Carey to the office of General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IB1) with the support of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (FDU) is not only a victory for the Teamster reform movement, but also for a particular strategy for reform and revitalization of the labor movement the rank-and-file stratey.

At this point it is only a qualified vindication, in the sense that it remains to be seen what Carey and there-form forces in the Teamsters will accomplish in the next few years. Yet the mere election of Carey, ending decades of Mafia control, is a remarkable achievement that holds hope of reform not only in the Teamsters, but in the labor movement and in society. That achievement was in large measure a result of fifteen years of hard work by TDU.

As an editorial in the Nation observed, "Change would not have come so swiftly without government intervention, but neither would Carey now....

Who Reformed the Teamsters?

— Kim Moody

"Reform candidate Ron Carey yesterday appeared headed for a stunning victory in the first direct election of a Teamster union president, completing a historic three-year government effort to transform the union into one of the most democratic in the nation." (emphasis added) —Frank Swoboda, Washington Post, December 12, 1991

Mr. Carey, president of a Teamsters local in Queens, is the insurgent victor in an election that the Federal Courts are supervising in a settlement of an anti-racketeering suit the Justice Department brought against the Teamsters three years ago. (emphasis added) —Peter T. Kilborn, New York Times, December 13, 1991....

Political Economy and "P.C."

— Christopher Phelps

A NATIONAL DEBATE over higher education has raged in the past year over the charge that tenured leftists are dominating the campuses, pushing a "politically correct" agenda down the throats of their unsuspecting students and moderate colleagues. This caricature, an open and vicious attack on multiculturalism and the scholarly left, is still being widely disseminated, but it is increasingly overshadowed on campus by the material crisis of the university.

Three trends have converged upon the university, each threatening to impress upon it a more elitist political and class character the p.c. debate, an attempt by the organized political right to roll back multiculturalism and the academic left; retrenchment, the cutbacks brought about by state and federal fiscal austerity and restructuring, the reorganization of the university around private financing, meaning greater subservience in research to corporate priorities.

These three trends portend diminished quality and restricted access....

For International Women's Day

A Feminist Views New Reproductive Technologies

— an interview with Varda Burstyn

VARDA BURSTYN, A writer and activist in Toronto, is co-chair (with Sunera Thobani) of the Health and Reproductive Technologies Subcommittee of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC). She spoke with Dianne Feeley and David Finkel of the ATC editorial board regarding the issue of reproductive and genetic technologies.

ATC: Please tell us about the background of the reproductive technologies debate and the brief that NAC submitted to the Royal Commission (government-appointed investigatory committee) on this issue.

Varda Burstyn: Since the late 1970s when Louise Brown, the first "test-tube baby" was conceived in a petri dish, feminists have been looking at the new reproductive, especially "procreative" technologies, with some concern. With the increasing development of genetic technology and proliferation of procreative technology - procedures such as in vitro fertilization, ova stimulation,...

Random Shots: Goodbye Old World Order

— R.F. Kampfer

"THE OFFICIAL CHANGE of name from 'Union of Soviet Socialist Republies' to Commonwealth of Freedom loving People' (or 'Free Commonwealth' for short) ... was decreed by the Marshall of Peace in the early nineteen fifties?"—Arthur Koestler, The Age of Longing (1950)

Deja Vu All Oveer Again

"President Nixon threw up on the steps of the Kremlin today. He was heard to mutter something about borscht, and was suddenly on his knees. Before his bodyguards couldassist him, several peasants of undetermined origin stuck small protest signs on the President with scotch tape."—Revolting, by Con- gress of Wonders (1972)

After Bush threatened to do it again, Toho Studios agreed to purchase ten thousand American cars for their next movie....

The Rebel Girl: Implants, Identities and Death

— Catherine Sameh

IN EARLY JANUARY, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called for a moratorium on the sale and use of silicone breast implants while new data on their safety is reviewed. The FDA move comes in response to thousands of complaints made by women who have the implants, and to newly published internal memos from the country's largest manufacturer of silicone gel implants, Dow Corning Wright, which raise concerns about their safety.

Until now the implants have not been regulated by the FDA. Now evidence is mounting that a variety of health risks may be associated with the implants. The FDA has received over 3000 complaints so far,

Reports from rheumatologists submitted to the FDA indicate that increasing numbers of women with the silicone implants are experiencing autoimmune disorders, which may be caused when the gel leaks and migrates to other parts of the body....

For International Women's Day

A Notes on Reproductive Technology Terms

— Varda Burstyn

A BRIEF LIST of some of the medical terms in this interview, and their meanings, is as follows.

Petri dish—A standard item of scientific equipment, a shallow glass dish where artificial fertilization takes place.

In Vitro Fertilization (M)--Specifically, a fertilization process in which sperm and egg are brought together in a petri dish More generally, a cluster of technologies in "medically aided procreation (MAP)." These involve procedure sat all stages, including drug-induced ovulation induction, egg retrieval, artificial fertilization, sperm selection and washing, and embryo transfer.

Ova stimulation—pharmaceutical endocrinological (Le. hormonal) bombardment of the ovaries in order to pm-duce multiple eggs....

Indigenous Women 1992

— Ingrid Washinawatok

AS THE NEW YEAR begins we, as Indigenous women, hope 1992 begins a new era in history. The Quincentenary has occupied more of our thoughts the past few years. Preparation for 1992 has involved strategy for the proposed celebrations, gearing public relations toward positive views of our people; slogans such as Five Hundred Years of Resistance have been coined, conferences planned, organized and realized; projects such as rewriting the falsehoods into truth have begun and are near completion.

Along with the Quincentenary work, daily life as we know it continues, little has changed and some victories have occurred.

We continue to organize against toxic waste sites on our land/reservations, and we continue to speak out for alternative energy and appropriate technoIogy. We are delivering babies, we are having babies, writing songs, walking our children to school or the bus stop and picking them up at 300....

Latina Garment Workers Organizing on the Border

— Pam Galpern

LA MUJER OBRERA is an organization of Hispanic Women garment workers. Its principal objective is for workers to obtain genuine economic, social and political power--a goal that is far from being realized in this country.

The structure of the organization is a set of concentric circles. The board of directors are six women workers, as are three of the six women on staff. The organizing committee is made up of representatives from the various factories, who are using a workers' rights manual to organize in their respective factories.

The membership is also drawn from the garment factories in El Paso. We also work to build alliances with other social sectors on both the local and national level—with church people, political officials, union people, lawyers, etc....

Campuses Out of the Closet

— Peter Drucker interview Felice Yeskel

FELICE YESKEL IS director of the Program for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Concerns at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is also a long-time activist and holds a doctoral degree in organizational development. She spoke with Against the Current editors Peter Drucker and David Finkel about her work and the history of organizing around these issues on campus.

ATC: Please begin by telling us about how you began working at U-Mass Amherst, and what activist background you brought.

Felice Yeskel: I came to the university around 1982, when I took a position as a residence hall director. One thing that attracted me was the antidiscriminatory policy statement in the application, which included "sexual orientation."...


Surrealist Arsenal

— Michael Löwy

Arsenal Surrealist Subversion 4
Edited by Franklin Rosemont
Black Swan Press (1726 West Jarvas Avenue, Chicago, IL 60626), 1989, 224 pages.

THERE HAS ALWAYS been a deep "elective affinity' between Surrealism and revolutionary politics, since the early days of the movement in Paris during the 1920s, Andre Breton's meeting with Trotsky in Mexico (1938) and their common document on Art and Revolution was one of the highest moments of this spiritual fusion.

ARSENAL Surrealist Subversion, the surrealist journal published in Chicago belongs to this radical tradition. Edited by Franklin Rosemont, its fourth issue is still available....

Sisterhood and Solidarity

— Marian Swerdlow

Sisterhood and Solidarity
Feminism and Labor in Modern Times
Boston: South End Press, 1987, 248 pages, $35 cloth, $9 paper.

IN THE RENEWAL of the pro-choice movement, class-conscious feminists have been concerned with the disproportionately small numbers of working-class women, including women of color, among its leaders and activists. There has been discussion of possible explanations and solutions for this isolation and the limitations it imposes on the movement.

Diane Balser's recent book, Sisterhood and Solidarity: Feminism and Labor in Modern Times, sheds important light on these questions through its examination of three historical attempts by women to organize themselves as women and as workers at the same time. For today's organizers, this book offers insights into the conditions under which working women's organizations arise,...


The Rise & Fall of Soviet Democracy

— David Mandel

IN BEFORE STALINISM, author Samuel Farber sets out to show that the demise of soviet democracy, which began so soon after the October Revolution, was not due merely to unfavorable "objective circumstances,' the economic collapse, Civil War and foreign intervention. He argues that "mainstream Bolshevik ideology" was characterized by an insensitivity to the importance of the institutional underpinnings of a working democracy and, to a degree, by outright authoritarian tendencies.

These "ideological elements," so often ignored or denied by the left, played a crucial role in how the new regime responded to the unfavorable "objective conditions? Were it not for them, the revolution might well have led to a different outcome—if not a democracy, then at least a less authoritarian regime. Stalinism, as the extreme, "pathological" form of bureaucratic rule, would almost certainly have been prevented from developing....

On "Leninism" and Reformism

— Ernest Haberkern

TIM WOHLFORTH begins his article "The Grip of Leninism" (ATC 36) with an appeal to socialists to rethink their position as a result of recent events beginning with the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is always a good idea to re-examine one's views in the light of new facts. Unfortunately, Woh1frth's new fails to do that.

Instead, he repeats the attacks on the Bolshevik Revolution and "Leninism" that have been standard for seventy years. There is no new information, no presentation of previously unknown or untranslated documents, no new, or even slightly different, theoretical approach The only new material is in the references to other writers who do not agree with him—and whom he misquotes.

As someone who collaborated with Hal Draper on some of the material WohIforth misuses I feel I have a responsibility to comment on the references....


C.L.R. James' Collected Works

— Martin Glaberman

ROBERT A. HILL, the literary executor of C.LR. James, has arranged for what amounts to James' collected works to be published by Blackwell Publishers. Among the first books to be published will be the prospectus for a book on American Civilization, written in 1950 (referred to by Kent Worcester in ATC 35) and a later, more finished draft done in 1956.

Some of James' writings from the period 1940-1953, which have appeared only in mimeographed form, should eventually appear in this series. Some of James' works are available from Bewick Editions, P0. Box 14140, Detroit MI 48214.

March-April 1992, ATC 37