Against the Current, No. 39, July/August 1992

Against the Current, No. 39, July/August 1992

...No Peace!

— The Editors

THE FIRST AND ESSENTIAL response to the explosion in Los Angeles must be: This rebellion was justified, as was the 1965 uprising in Watts and those in between. There is a limit to the daily humiliation and outrage that can be inflicted on people, individually and collectively, before they strike back. Analysis, perspective, political directions for a movement--these too are critical, but only after we have taken our stand with the people of South Central, against the ruling class looters of the economy and their hired political elites and police goons.

In the wake of the uprising, the African-American and Latino communities themselves are beginning to articulate their own programs. Against the Bush-Kemp-Clinton "enterprise zone" fraud, for example, they are formulating the idea of "cooperative zones" that would create employment and resources to remain in their communities. The question isn't whether their struggles will continue--they will, for they have no other choice--but whether they will have allies in a broader movement....

Race, Class and Rage

— Dolores Trevizo

TO UNDERSTAND THE Los Angeles rebellion we need to focus not only on the intersection of race and class, but on those aspects in which the two are relatively autonomous. While it is very difficult to separate race from class effects, because Blacks and Latinos are over-represented in the super-poor sections of the working class, it is necessary to recognize the specific character of each.

The desperate situation that economic restructuring produced in the last twenty years, especially in the Black working class, was a necessary but insufficient condition for producing the rebellion of 1992. The primary cause was political: A sense of racial injustice poured over a community that has felt like the collective Rodney King at the hands of an ever more belligerent state....

Crips and Bloods Speak for Themselves

— Voices from South Central

Ahmed Nassef: How do you feel about the overwhelming police and military presence in your community?

Baby Nerve (Watergate Crips-blue): Yes, Black people are out there looting, yes Black people burnt down buildings. It might have been Koreans and white people that burnt down their own buildings just to get money from insurance. People need to figure out how the government works, how the system is, before they come and try to pass judgement and call us these different names such as gangsters, looters, Bloods, Crips, thugs and thieves.

We are Black people, we are Mexican, we are Japanese and we are even dirty little white people--you know what I'm saying. You all got to figure out who you are, where you come from, and what's your foundation in life. As of today's society, we're accepting the white man's way of living, we're not living by our own ways....

Korean Perspectives

— an interview with Roy Hong

"Korean Immigrant Workers Association (KIWA) IS THE only organization of its kind in the country that deals with immigrant Korean workers and their rights. We help workers who have suffered wage and hours violations, injuries on the job, etc. We hope to become a liaison with labor unions as well.

"There are approximately half a million Koreans living in southern California, mostly recent immigrants--since 1965 when U.S. immigration law changed. The bulk came from the mid-'70s to the early 1980s.

"It's estimated that our community contains 60-70% small business owners. The rest are employees. Only about 30% own businesses such as a liquor store or dry cleaner. The other "businesses" are really self-employed workers who are signed up with the city as a business. For example, a janitor or gardener or painter working as a subcontractor....

A Diversity of Viewpoints and Generations

— an interview with Julie Noh

"EVERYONE SEEMS TO be asking both the Black and Korean communities, is a racial conflict? I would say that among my generation, the 1.5 generation Korean Americans (there are some sharp differences among generations), we are feeling confused and trying to sift through the different issues.

"For myself, I don't see it as a sharp racial conflict as the mass media have portrayed it. The reasons for what happened stem a lot from the social and economic conditions in South Central LA, Compton, Inglewood and other areas. If you look it's largely--to me--a class issue, where people who don't have social services or a jobs base in their community are speaking out and trying to gain access to political power.

"Where the Koreans have come in is that, for economic reasons within our community,...

Koreans Weren't Special Targets

— an interview with Kyung Kyu Lim

"I BELIEVE THAT it wasn't a purely racially motivated conflict. There was an expression of social and economic frustration that had accumulated for many years. And one can see the degree of poverty and oppression in the urban area of Los Angeles--especially South Central--and the Rodney King verdict triggered a great deal of frustration that resulted in an outright expression of anger and violence through Los Angeles.

"I feel saddened that Koreans, Latinos and African Americans have incurred damages. I don't think it targeted certain ethnic groups. I believe the reason for the destruction in Koreatown is that Koreans have the closest proximity with the people who were showing anger. We were in the path of the violence. We feel many people were more interested in taking goods from stores, and less interested in the ethnicity of the owners....

Without Larger Programs, There Are No Solutions

— an interview with Kye Young Park

"I AM CRITICAL of the way media repressed all other factors with the `Black-Korean tension' discourse.

"The deteriorating quality of life in South Central LA wasn't caused by the Koreans. But Korean merchants are seen as representing the interests of the establishment. To the people of South Central it's hard to think of the life style of (a wealthy district like) Bel Air, but they can see the merchants, who ring the cash register and seem to be prospering.

"Whether Koreans acknowledge it or not, they are affected by these same conditions. Willing or not, they are going to go back to South Central, even though some say they would rather die than go back. When they do go back I think they will conduct business differently.

"The Korean community has been working hard to improve relations....

Police Riot in San Francisco

— Cheryl Christensen

I ATTENDED THE demonstration held Friday, May 8, which began at Dolores Park in the Mission District. We were to march about a mile to Duboce Park.

At the Dolores Park rally we were surrounded by police, lined up all over the place and in the adjoining streets. They kept announcing the parade route in English and Spanish, saying that anybody deviating from it would be arrested.

There was no looting, no business was harmed. About a block from Duboce Park the police blocked the route. Some demonstrators may have tried to break through, but couldn't.

The police by then were lined up on either side. Everybody turned and headed back the way we'd come. But a quarter block later, at Market and Church streets (a major intersection),...

Realities of the Rebellion

— Mike Davis

p>I WANT TO TALK a bit today about the social forces that have provoked this uprising in Los Angeles. But first I have to deal with what is called in high-falutin' language its "epistemology": How do we know what we think we know about what happened in this city?

Here's a copy of the Kerner Commission report, a real collector's item, repressed in the collective memory of America. One of the interesting things about its study of the inner city insurrections in 1967 was that it totally threw out the explanations advanced by almost all the other reports, including the Los Angeles McCone Commission (study of 1965 Watts rebellion--ed.), as having any analytic value at all.

The Kerner Commission cautioned the readers of its report that what the media and most of the country were dismissing as race riots were, in its own words, "far more irregular, complex and absolutely unpredictable."...

Class and the Glass Fortress

— Don Sherman

City Of Quartz:
Excavating the Future in Los Angeles
By Mike Davis; Photographs by Robert Morrow
New York: Verso, 1990, 440 pages, includes notes, indexed.

WELCOME TO MODERN Los Angeles, where urban planners once envisioned parks and city pavements as a way to effectively mingle classes in order to soften class antagonisms, where now privatization of public space is a city goal.

The most prominent Marxist urban planning theorist in the United States, David Harvey, wrote that any general theory of a city must "somehow relate the social processes in the city to the spatial form which the city assumes." Conceptualizing cities is manifestly complicated, and only a writer with imagination and clarity of vision can begin to bring a city to life....

Time for a New Party

— Ron Daniels

GOOD EVENING TO everyone. It's a little hot in the room. I hope it isn't any hotter when I'm finished.

We profoundly appreciate the invitation from the Community Labor Forum to be here this evening. It is indeed a real privilege to share this podium with folks who are building a new political movement in this country.

Terry Bouricius is here from Vermont. I was hosted by representatives from the Vermont Progressive Alliance as we made a quick one and a half-day sweep through the very beautiful state of Vermont--beautiful not only in terms of its physical environment but also because the politics are so righteous up there.

And to Daniel Sheehan, representing the 21st Century Party, and Tony Mazzocchi from Labor Party Advocates....

Beyond '92: For a Labor Party

— Tony Mazzocchi

IT'S A PLEASURE to share the platform with other speakers who represent symbols of a growing expression for independent political action, which is one of the hopeful signs that are emerging toward a political force in this country to represent the interests of working Americans, the overwhelming majority of our people.

Labor Party Advocates is a culmination of an expression, not only of the rank and file from my own union but of other unions. About three years ago, as secretary-treasurer of my union in charge of political activity, I reviewed a resolution passed by our convention in 1981, which essentially said: We've been talking about the political parties and their failure to do what should be done, but we've never consulted our rank and file to see what they feel.

I thought this was a worthy resolution, and that the time had come to talk to our own rank and file....

UAW and the "Cat" Defeat

— Earl Silber and Steven Ashby

"IT'S FAR FROM OVER," declared AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland of the five-month Caterpillar strike as 12,600 United Auto Workers (UAW) members walked into the plants without a contract. Kirkland's rosy optimism is off the mark. The United Auto Workers union at Caterpillar suffered a harsh defeat, one which will reverberate throughout the American labor movement and beyond. Kirkland's statement doesn't reflect militancy from the labor officialdom, but "put on a happy face" PR designed to cover their failure to act.

The Cat strike could have been won, yet the UAW top leadership sent the strikers back with a major defeat. The pain is being felt today by the returned strikers. Like waves from a stone dropped into a pond, the pain will spread. Perhaps we can learn from this defeat....

UAW Announces In-Plant Strategy

THE UAW IS encouraging Cat workers 'to be damn sure they are turning out good parts. No defects. No scrap or accidents. This company is vicious. They'll fire you for any reason. We have to protect our people. Of course we cannot promote a slowdown,' said Terry Omdorff, UAW president, Local 786 (York, PA) (Chicago Sun Times 65/92) On the other hand, the Detroit Free Press reports that "[Owen] Bieber [UAW international president] and other officials promise to snarl production with shop-floor slow downs. They hint they'll walk out again as soon as the economy picks up" (6/13#92).

The in-plant strategy, long promoted by the New Directions caucus, an opposition caucus in the UAW, is designed to organize the workers, pressure the company, build the workers' morale. How is it actually working?...

Women in the ex-USSR Today

— Anastasia Posadskaya

PERESTROIKA, WHICH STARTED back in 1985, has brought crucial changes not only to the former USSR but to the whole world. Currently we are living in a different economic, political and cultural environment. But it seems correct to say that the period of Perestroika was finished in December 1991, when its main initiator, Mikhail Gorbachev, resigned as president and its object--the USSR--ceased to exist.

However, the move from a totalitarian political regime to democracy, from a rigid centralized planned economy to the market, from cultural stagnation to a diversity of perspectives, has been combined, if we speak of gender relations, with the move from one form of patriarchy to another. While the deterioration in the position of women was anticipated by a few feminist-oriented researchers, its actual scope during the beginning processes of marketization seems unprecedented....

Bernard Chidzero: Portrait of a Comprador

— Patrick Bond and Tendai Biti

"We talk about ideologies without doing much about it." --Bernard Chidzero, Zimbabwean Finance Minister

"THERE EXISTS AMONG the membership of the new ZANU(PF) a minority, but very powerful bourgeois group which champions the cause of international finance and national private capital, whose interests thus stand opposed to the development and growth of a socialist and egalitarian society in Zimbabwe."

These were the words of none other than Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe, in 1989, a year after the merger of the bitter rival parties ZANU and ZAPU. (See box for brief background--ed.) Many asked, hopefully, whether political unity might bring to this nation of ten million (mainly poor) blacks and 100,000 (generally wealthy) whites a renewal of the 1970s struggle for social justice....

Background on Zimbabwe

— David Finkel

UNDER BRITISH COLONIAL rule, Zimbabwe was called "Southern Rhodesia" and part of "Federation of Northern and Southern Rhodesia and Nyasaland" (now Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi).

In 1965, the whites in Southern Rhodesia issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence for white-ruled state called Rhodesia. It was led by Prime Minister Ian Smith's Rhodesian Front party from 1965-79, in defiance of United Nations declarations and despite (widely busted) international sanctions.

The national liberation movement in Zimbabwe consisted mainly of two armed movements, Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) led by Robert Mugabe and Zimbabwe African Peoples Union (ZAPU) led by Joshua Nkomo. ZANU enjoyed support from the majority Shona tribes, presented a more radical program and gained some support from China, while ZAPU was based among the Ndebele peoples,...

The Rebel Girl: Fitness or Exploitation?

— Catherine Sameh

IT'S AMAZING HOW the basic elements of sexism--things we learned when we first became feminists--surface again as immense and insurmountable barriers to real liberation for women. Like the objectification of women's bodies, power differentials in relationships with men, and who does the housework.

Sure, the older, more crass displays of sexism have eroded. But newer, subtler ones keep popping up in this period in women's lives that we don't seem to know what to call. I know too many young, feminist activists to believe we are in a post-feminist vacuum. And while a backlash does seem to be upon us, it is precisely because the women's movement has markedly disfigured the precious face of patriarchy.

Within this contradictory context, phenomena like the fitness craze take root and thrive. You know those amazing ads. Nike, Reebok, Jansport--the list goes on--take a little feminist jargon,...

Random Shots: In the Year of the Perot

— R.F. Kampfer

ROSS PEROT'S MAIN advantage is the perception that he's too rich to steal.

Because the Japanese work load leaves so little time for family life, the emotionally deprived can now hire surrogates to fill their needs. The Japan Effectiveness Headquarters provides retirees with professional grandchildren, at $1130 plus costs for a three-hour visit. One can also hire recent actors to impersonate servants, business subordinates or lovers. Recently there have been requests for surrogate grandparents to provide soup and sympathy to lonely youngsters.

Worst thing about working the 6 am shift: The kids get to stay up later than you, and there's plenty of time when you get home to cook dinner and do housework.

Shamu, how could you: Some California whale watchers....


The Austin Hormel Strike Revisited

— Roger Horowitz

IT HAS BEEN more than five years since United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local P-9 in Austin, Minnesota, lost its struggle against George A. Hormel & Co. Yet, this strike by less than two thousand workers remains controversial.

The union's dramatic resistance to contract concessions attracted support from workers across the country who identified with P-9's struggle against "corporate greed" and the rapid erosion of the middle class standard of living for America's industrial workers. Dramatic plant gate confrontations, as well as sharp public disagreements between leaders of the international union and Local P-9, attracted considerable media attention, unlike many union struggles.

The struggle to define the lessons and legacy of the P-9 strike is well underway. The awarding of the 1991 Best Documentary Film award to "American Dream" (directed by Barbara Kopple)....

Movements of the Unemployed

— Dianne Feeley

Impatient Armies of the Poor:
The Story of Collective Action by the Unemployed, 1808-1942
By Franklin Folsom
University Press of Colorado, 1990), cloth $35.

FRANKLIN FOLSOM'S BOOK is an historical overview of the U.S. unemployed movement from the nineteenth century until World War II. Roughly half the book describes the lessons and experiences of unemployed people up to the point of the Great Depression; the other half details the national actions, demands and local organizing of the three political tendencies that led the unemployed movement.

The snapshots that capture the early struggle also capture many early demands of the unemployed movement:

* the obligation of the government to help people....

In Memoriam

Celia Stodola Wald 1946-1992

— Patrick M. Quinn

CELIA STODOLA WALD, a founding member of Solidarity, died at the age of 45 on May 7, 1992 in Torrence, California following a twelve-year battle with scleroderma, a debilitating and painful disease.

Born in East Orange, New Jersey in 1946, Celia graduated from high school in Fargo, North Dakota and entered Antioch College in 1964 where she first became active in radical politics. Influenced by her father, who had been incarcerated in a camp for conscientious objectors during World War II, Celia joined the Students for a Democratic Society and later the Student Mobilization Committee at Antioch, where she became a leader of the antiwar movement on the campus.

The winter of 1966 found her in Cleveland where, as a member of SDS's Economic Research and Education Project, she was an actress in a storefront radical theater. Her political views continued to evolve further to the left,...