Against the Current, No. 40, September/October 1992

Against the Current, No. 40, September/October 1992

No More Compromise!

— The Editors

THE SUPREME COURT RULED June 29 on the Pennsylvania Abortion Act--and both pro- and anti-choice activists, in an unusual version of the spin game, rushed to declare defeat. For the right wing, the hope had been that the Court would reverse Roe v. Wade. The decision fell short of that. The Court did uphold three provisions of the Pennsylvania law: parental consent, "informed consent" and a mandatory waiting period. A fourth provision was struck down--spousal notification--and Roe was not overturned.

While Randall Terry bitterly denounced Justice Souter on the steps of the Supreme Court, for the pro-choice movement to declare total defeat might seem puzzling. Pro-choice spokespeople seemed to agree with Chief Justice Rehnquist, who wrote: "While purporting to adhere to precedent, the joint opinion instead revises it. Roe continues to exist, but only in the way a storefront on a western movie set exists; a mere facade to give the illusion of reality."...

The Great Lesser-Evil Illusion

— Justin Schwartz

EVERY FOUR YEARS, progressives in the United States drop whatever they are doing and rush to support the least disgusting Democratic candidate in the primaries—this year Tom Harkin or Jerry Brown—then in the general election they reluctantly back Clinton or Dukakis or Mondale.

They do not do this because they like Democrats. Progressives say rather that the Democrats are the lesser evil. That they are evil is not denied. But; it is said, the Republicans are even more evil. The reliable support offered to Democrats by the Democratic Socialists of America and the Communist Party USA, shows that even socialists are not immune to this folly.

Because it is folly: The Democratic alternative is no alternative at all for people who care about peace and justice whether or not they support socialism. The real alternative is independent political action,...

Ross Perot for ...? Never Mind

— Steven Ashby

THE ENIGMA OF H. Ross Perot had everyone talking. The Bush and Clinton campaigns were running scared. The political pundits, and the left with them, shook their heads and wondered, how does he get away with it? The billionaire who claims to side with the "little guy," the ignored working class American; the corporate head who effectively lobbied for government contracts that made him super-wealthy, who now attacks corporate lobbyists and bought-off politicians; the self-avowed people's candidate so rich he proclaims he can't be bought; the oligarch who kicked in $200,000 to Nixon's 1972 campaign and hundreds of thousands of dollars to (mostly Republican) Congressional campaigns and has been a master of the business-politics game for three decades, who runs as a Washington outsider; the anti-candidate who attacks sound-bites but who is a genius at that national political pastime.

Perot's projected candidacy matched an insurgent, grassroots sentiment with unlimited funds....

Committee of Correspondence Looking Ahead

— Joanna Misnik

IN ITS PROCESS of rethinking, the Committees of Correspondence (CofC) has already made a contribution to the rebuilding of a socialist movement in the U.S that will benefit all participating in its reconstruction.

Their contribution is measured by much more than the impressive number of participants--over 1,400--at the July 17-19 national conference in Berkeley, California, initiated by the CofC. It lies in the inspirational honesty with which this grouping of former Communist Party (CPUSA) members, numbering around 1,000 prior to the July conference, set out to rejoin socialism with democracy, inclusiveness with organization-building, humility with determination, and Marxism with living reality.

The conference on "Perspectives for Democracy and Socialism in the 90s" was open to the entire socialist left, not just those who had walked out of the Communist Party....

LA After the Explosion: Rebellion and Beyond

— Joe Hicks, Antonio Villaralgosa & Angela Oh

THE FOLLOWING EXCERPTS are taken from talks at an American Civil Liberties Union forum in Los Angeles after the rebellion. The session was taped by KPFK radio, which supplied it to ATC. We have substantially abridged them for space. Our previous issue (ATC 39) carried substantial coverage of the rebellion.

Joe Hicks is executive director of the southern California Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Antonio Villaraigosa is vice-president of the ACLU Board of Directors, a business agent for United Teachers of Los Angeles and a long-time activist in southern California; Angela Oh is a trial lawyer, ACLU board member and president of the Korean-American Bar Association.

Joe Hicks:

[AFTER THE 1965 Watts uprising and the Civil Rights Movement] there was a lot of hope in the air, people felt they were going somewhere. In fact, people participating in the Watts uprising....

Gender & Re/Production in British West Indian Slave Societies, Part I

— Cecilia Green

IN 1776, ADAM Smith (1978: 451) wrote, in an authoritative and proprietary voice: "Among our slaves in the West Indies there is no such thing as a lasting union. The female slaves are all prostitutes, and suffer no degradation by it." Thus, and in a multitude of other ways, as I point out later in this three-part essay, did the alleged "culture" of the oppressed come to constitute a subterranean cesspool in which ruling whites disposed of and concealed their refuse of culpability, conferring it instead upon their victims as the latter's "native" heritage.

Two centuries after Adam Smith recorded his beliefs about Caribbean slave women, Black, Caribbean-born historical sociologist Orlando Patterson (1982: 141) writes that "Slaves [in the West Indies] mated promiscuously and sometimes in outright prostitution; in sporadic unions; in relatively stable unions; in quasi-polygamous unions; and rarely, in marriage ... Promiscuity was common, especially among the women ..." (emphasis mine)....

Greece Under the Conservatives

— James Petras and Chronis Polychroniou

SINCE COMING TO power in April 1990, the conservative government of New Democracy (ND) in Greece has proceeded, under the leadership of Constantine Mitsotakis, to implement a series of economic policies designed to stabilize the Greek economy and make it competitive in the European market.

In reality, the policies of ND have exacerbated the weaknesses of the Greek economy. Declining living standards, educational and health budgets, and mass unemployment are the principal results of the neoliberal policies. Foreign influence over the economy is growing rapidly and Greece is being reduced to a low-wage service economy for northern Europeans.

Increasingly Greece resembles a Caribbean tourist island. At the top a small number of private firms are gaining control over the essential sectors of the economy,...

Panama: Crackdown Follows Anti-Bush Protests

— The Empowerment Project

WITNESSES IN PANAMA say that the protests during George Bush's visit to Panama on June 11, during which he was tear-gassed and rushed off the stage of Panama City's Parque Porras, involved an estimated 1,000 to 2,000 Panamanians from various walks of life, equaling the number of Bush supporters.

This contradicts official reports that only a small group of "leftists" accounted for the disruption. In addition, 100 Panamanians were arrested during the demonstrations, and some Panamanian human rights workers and opposition leaders have been threatened or forced into hiding to avoid arrest and political persecution.

These include Isabel Corro, a leading advocate for the victims of the 1989 U.S. invasion, during which her fatther was killed. She heads the group "Familias de los Caidos del 20 de Diciembre" ("Families of the Dead of December 20th," which, among other things, has led the fight....

Israeli Elections: Who Won?

— Marcello Wechsler

THE "UPSET"--AS the results of the elections to the thirteenth Knesset are being called--brought an end to the Likud's fifteen-year rule and made it possible for Labor Party chair, Yitzak Rabin, to be called upon to form the next government. The gap between the number of seats won by the Likud and Labor, almost nonexistent in 1988 (39 for Labor versus 40 for the Likud), grew this time to twelve (44 for Labor versus 32 for the Likud).

But the same cannot be said for the gap between the extreme right-wing parties and the left: the advantage which the left and Arab parties held in 1988 over the extreme right (four seats) has now shrunk to nothing....

Palestine: Of War and Shadows

— Josie Wallenius

ONE OF THE WOMEN at work always wears a golden cross and chain around her neck and she is one of the kindest people I know; and she said to me as I set out for East Jerusalem and a tour of the occupied territories of Palestine with the "Grandmothers For Peace" of the United States:

"I will pray for you."

And I answered:

"Don't be daft, don't pray for me. Pray for the children of Palestine."

Another middle-aged woman said, "Be careful of the terrorists."

And I answered: "You mean the Israelis?"...

Gender in the Revolution

— Ann Ferguson

THE FIRST CENTRAL American Women's Movement Encuentro took place March 23-27, 1992 at Montelimar, dictator Somoza's former villa and now a luxury beach resort on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. The idea of an "encuentro," or "encounter" of women working for social change is not new in Latin America: There have been five international Latin American feminist encuentros since 1981. What was new was to hold such an event in Central America, far from the ordinary sites of international conferences in or near large cities.

Since the area has many strong movements for national liberation and social justice well represented by the delegates, the event became a hopeful sign that there is still a vision and political practices that can frame new possibilities of a democratic socialist and feminist world order to contrast the nightmarish "end of history" based on the unjust, imperialist and patriarchal new world order of George Bush and General Norman Schwartzkopf....

The Rebel Girl: The Pussy's Revenge

— Catherine Sameh

IMAGINE MY SURPRISE to find that Batman Returns is a film as much about corporate greed, urban decay and the oppressed getting revenge as it Is about the glorified violence of superheroes. Much of the focus in this sequel to Batman is on Catwoman, and in spite of all the press about Michell Pfleffer's sex appeal, I want to draw attention to the femmist aspects of the film.

Catwoman emerges when Selina Kyle, a working-class secretary, is murdered by her boss, a rich factory owner who dumps toxic waste into the sewers of Gotham City. She has tried repeatedly to get respect from this male-dominated workplace, but instead has been constantly patronized and humiliated. When she discovers extremely compromising information about her boss's pet project, he pushes her out his twenty-story building. Moments later, as cats swarm around her dad body, Selina comes back to life—as Catwoman....

A Brief Historical Background

— Stan Weir

TROTSKYISM CAME INTO being in countries around the world eleven years after the Russian Revolution of 1917. The Communist Party leaders ordered the expulsion of James P. Cannon, Max Shachtman and Martin Abern in 1928, for reading a banned document, written by Leon Trotsky, which Cannon had recently obtained while in Russia.

Cannon, Shachtman and Abern had all been party officials. These "three generals without an army," as they were humorously called, were given public forum especially by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the Italian anarchists then led by Carlo Tresca. A series of public meetings were held in New York under their protection. The Communist Party members sent to break up the meetings were made to sit and listen. From among their number were recruited the members of the first Trotskyist party, or CLA (Communist League of America, Left Opposition), from which a Fourth International organization was built in twenty-three other countries....

1956: The Fading Revolution

— Stan Weir

THE VOICE OF A foreign correspondent came from my car radio with a report from Hungary via Paris. He announced that thousands of chanting high school and university students had taken over a radio station in Budapest. Minutes later came the story of how the head of the Hungarian Writers Union had climbed atop a statue in a Budapest square to tell 50,000 demonstrators that their revolution would fail without the full support of industrial workers.(1)

For his humorous closing the correspondent chuckled as he told a human interest story phoned to him earlier by an Austrian correspondent. It seemed the workers at a Budapest bicycle factory had met during their lunch hour and voted to join the general strike that was just beginning. But they also voted not to cease working until every one of them had a bicycle on which to make the trip home....(2)

Poverty Amidst Plenty in 1992

— Robert Hornstein and Daniel Atkins

HIGHWAYS 13 AND 113 cut a narrow north-south swath through Delaware, connecting America's most popular corporate domicile,(1) Wilmington, with the fashionable seaside resort, Rehoboth Beach. Just a few steps beyond the shadows of Wilmington's office towers and a short distance from the Delaware gold coast that runs from Rehoboth Beach to the Maryland state line, there exists another Delaware(2) that has not shared in the state's celebrated decade long economic harvest of plenty.(3)

It is likely that most people today think only of Delaware as a summer vacation destination or as corporate America's adopted home, but not as home to poverty that bears all the ugly markings of despair, deprivation and neglect. To look at Delaware beyond its boardrooms today is to witness the contradictions and consequences of an economy--state and national--fueled by the promise that what would be good....

Oh for the Good Old Days

— R.F. Kampfer

UNDER STALINISM, Cossacks were suspected of czarist sympathies. Now some of them are allying with the Stalinists in the anti-ethnic-separatist bloc.

The Tatars would tenderize and season their meat by keeping it under their saddles during the day's ride. How the quality of life has deteriorated in modern times!

Remember how indignant we were when cigarette papers went up to thirty-five cents for a pack of 100?

Civil War buffs will be struck by the similarities between United Auto Workers president Owen Beiber and General George B. McClellan, whose verbal boldness was matched only by his timidity in action....


The Sixties Remembered

— Patrick M. Quinn

Notebook of a Sixties Lawyer
by Michael Steven Smith
New York: Smyrna Press, 1992. 230 pages, cloth $19.95, paper $9.95.

DURING PERIODS OF lulls in the tempo of radical struggle such as the one that grips the moment, it is increasingly difficult--and correspondingly necessary--to maintain continuity between previous waves of radicalism and those to come.

The history of the left and labor movements in the United States tells us that veterans of the Knights of Labor carried a tradition and culture of struggle into the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), while militants who had been active in the IWW and the pre-World War I Socialist Party provided much of the yeast for the rise of the Communist and Trotskyist movements formed by the great social upheaval....

Women of the Klan

— David Futrelle

Women of the Klan:
Racism and Gender in the 1920s
by Kathleen M. Blee
University of California Press, 1991, 248 pages, $24.95.

IT'S EASY TO imagine our enemies as alien, demonic Others. When historian Kathleen Blee set out to interview women who had been active in the Indiana Klan during its heyday in the 1920s, she was startled to find that she shared a disturbing degree of rapport with her informants, who were in many cases just like her--intelligent, aware, and in many cases vaguely feminist.

Yet these elderly women--however genial--still unapologetically held the same set of prejudices that had led them to the Klan in the first place. They regarded their Klan activism fondly as a "good fight" against the immoral forces of Catholics, Blacks and Jews....

Reform and Revolution

— Samuel Farber

Socialism Unbound
by Stephen Eric Bronner
New York: Routledge, Chapman and Hall, 1990. 241 pages. $49.95 cloth, $16.95 paper.

FOR SEVERAL YEARS, Stephen Eric Bronner has been an able exponent and analyst of the thought of Rosa Luxemburg. His Rosa Luxemburg. A Revolutionary for Our Times (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987) is one of the best short expositions of Rosa's political thought and career.

Socialism Unbound is a much more ambitious project than Bronner's previous works on Luxemburg. Besides rediscussing Rosa's political trajectory, this volume also analyzes other major socialist figures such as Karl Kautsky, Eduard Bernstein and V.I. Lenin, and effectively demonstrates that these socialist leaders developed a serious....

In Memoriam

Phil Clark, 1921-1992

— Patrick M. Quinn

PHIL CLARK, a former member of the Chicago branch of Solidarity, died May 18 in Chicago following a decade-long affliction with Parkinson's disease. Born in St. Cloud, Minnesota on May 27, 1921, Phil joined the Socialist Workers Party during the late 1930s while an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota.

Phil left the SWP after World War II when the organization requested a number of its gay members to resign. He spent ten years as a journalist and gardener in Mexico before moving to Boston to edit the journal Horticulture. He then worked for the New York Botanical Gardens, moving to Chicago in the '60s to join the staff of the Field Museum of Natural History. He later organized and led botanical, horticultural and ecological tours to numerous countries.

After he left the SWP Phil remained an ardent and committed socialist and, acting on his convictions,...