Against the Current, No. 41, November/December 1992

Against the Current, No. 41, November/December 1992

In Defense of Bosnia

— The Editors

THE NEW POLITICAL dispensation following the November 1992 election marks, in the first place, the end of an era, and good riddance to it. Not only is the Reagan-Bush administration "history," but--at least temporarily--the ascendance of the fanatical religious right in political influence and social policy has been checked. It is perfectly understandable that, at the moment of the electoral result, so much of the country and particularly the left felt that a gigantic weight had been removed from our necks.

Some on the left, to be sure, were more euphoric than others, as evidenced by the prominent left-wing social-democratic weekly paper which festooned the cover of its "sixteenth anniversary issue" with banners of Bill Clinton. Yet even for those clearer-headed socialists and radicals for whom "relief" is not and never was spelled c-l-i-n-t-o-n, the passage of Bush & Co. into political oblivion is cause for celebration....

Rebellion in "La Colonia"

— Joaquín Solano & César Ayala

JOSE GARCIA, A young Dominican man, was killed on July 3 by police officer Michael O'Keefe from the 34th precinct in upper Manhattan. Officer O'Keefe claims that Garcia was a drug dealer and that he was armed with a .38-caliber revolver. Residents from the Washington Heights area who witnessed the killing of Garcia insist that he was unarmed and that the .38-caliber gun said to have been taken from him was planted.

During the protests that erupted in the Washington Heights area of upper Manhattan following the death of Garcia, according to Dominican witnesses, on July 5th police lieutenant Roger Parrino pushed Dagoberto Pichardo, another young Dominican man, from the sixth floor rooftop of a tenement building located on 172nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue. The police version, however, maintains that Pichardo "fell" by himself while being chased by the officer.

"Family Values--For Real?

— Stephanie Coontz

IN SOME WAYS, of course, the "family values" polemics of the recent election campaign were ludicrous, as one might expect from a debate over competing television images--Murphy Brown vs. Ozzie and Harriet, the Waltons vs. the Simpsons. The pitiful level of the discussion illustrates historian Alan Dawley's comment that when Americans say "that's history," what they really mean is, "You can forget it."

While liberals gleefully responded to the Republican offensive by ridiculing Dan Quayle, leftists too often dismissed the subject as a distraction, or nothing more than an attack on working women. But this response underestimates the issue's appeal to people of good will.

You don't have to be anti-feminist to worry about the effects on children of being in day care ten hours a day. It's not just religious fundamentalists who find fault with a no-deposit no-return approach to interpersonal relationships....

NAFTA: Storm Warning for Labor

— Mary McGinn

WHEN TOM LANEY, Recording Secretary for United Auto Workers 879 Ford Local in St. Paul, Minnesota heard about the death of a Mexican Ford worker in a union struggle for democracy and full profit-sharing, he invited a Mexican Ford worker to speak at his local. Later, with other members of his local, Laney travelled to Mexico and together with Mexican and Canadian auto workers, decided to organize a tri-national commemorative event for Cleto Nigmo on the anniversary of his death.

On January 8, Ford workers from Canada, the United States and Mexico wore black armbands in their plants, in front of Ford Motor Company headquarters, and in a commemorative mass with fellow workers and family. Canadian and U.S. workers also participated in stockholders' meetings protesting the violation of human rights, wrote to the Mexican and Ford Company presidents, and visited the Ford-Cuautitlan plant to show direct solidarity....

Background on "Free Trade"

— The Editors

ESSENTIAL BACKGROUND for understanding the new North American Free Trade Agreement and the real effects of hemispheric economic integration on workers' rights, working conditions, wage levels and environmental protection is found in Unions and Free Trade: Solidarity vs. Competition, by Kim Moody and Mary McGinn. This book is published in Detroit by Labor Notes and can be ordered for $7 plus $2 postage from Labor Notes, 7435 Michigan Avenue, Detroit MI 48210.

Against the Current 33 (July-August 1991) included a feature on the political economy of Free Trade, with articles by Kim Moody, Francois Moreau, Dolores Trevizo, Nigel Harris and Alejandro Toledo on the process of economic integration and its effect in reshaping working class struggles in North America and globally.

November-December 1992, ATC 41

A Party for the 21st Century

— Dianne Feeley

LAST SUMMER, JUST as the nation was recovering from the hoopla of the Republican convention, two progressive conventions challenged the long-held strategy of working inside the Democratic Party in order to provide an electoral arena for soda! change. Although the two conferences were different in constituency and scope, both the Progressive People's Convention, held in Ypsilanti, Michigan August 21-23, and the founding convention of the 21st Century Party, held in Washington, D.C. August 29-30, were working meetings in which participants hammered out a draft program and initial structure.

Is It A Women's Party?

Over the last three years the media have portrayed the discussions in the National Organization for Women (NOW) around launching a party with a progressive agenda as a proposal for a women's party? It is clear that was never NOW's intention. The 21st Century Party has been given....

The Dissolution of Yugoslavia

— Manuela Dobos

A WAVE OF NATIONALIST hatred, mass killing and warlordism has washed into the space left by Stalinism and has engulfed Yugoslavia. The war raging among Serbs and Croats and (as yet only) Bosnian-Herzegovinian Moslems is fifteen months old and already has proven to be the most rapacious violence Europe has seen since World War II. There are already 2.5 million refugees.

Leaving aside for the moment the deeper reasons for its outbreak, it should be clear from the conduct of this war that the immediate cause is Serb militarist aggression. The nationalist leadership of the Republic of Serbia under Slobodan Milosevic, the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) and allied, semi-autonomous Serb militias and warlords are the aggressors against the non-Serb populations. The war will only be stopped when they are....

NYC Transit Workers' Fight: "No Contract--No Peace!"

— Steve Downs

EARLY THIS YEAR for a few months it looked like the pattern of concessions and retreat, followed by more concessions, which had been the lot of public sector workers in New York City, would be broken. Subway and bus workers represented by Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) rejected, by a two-to-one margin, a contract that their local officers had urged them to accept.

But they did more than just vote down a poor contract offer. Transit workers mobilized independently of their officers: Through demonstrations in the street and slowdowns on the job, they began to prepare for an all-out confrontation with their bosses and union officers to win a good contract.

Ultimately, however, the rank and file of Local 100 was not able to break the union bureaucracy's control over the bargaining process....

The Contest of Class and Patriarchy, Part II

— Cecilia Green

IT MAY BE NOTED that the only thing "natural" about family is mating (and that may take homosexual as well as heterosexual form), conception, and childbearing. Family forms, and all attendant institutional accretions, are derived from cultural selections within a particular techno-economic base and mode of re/production. Of course, family form is subject to class and gender (and sexual-identity) contestation, but there are certain limits and conditions which shape the options available and the room to be had for maneuvering.

The relatively intimate relationship between class/patriarchal relations of production and property and the family form of the "subaltern classes" acquires particularly acute dimensions in the conditions of coercion and erasure (the so-called "tabula rasa") upon which plantation slave society was constructed. At the same time, the completely different and far-flung ethnic progenitures of the contending classes,...

The Rebel Girl: Love & Hate in Time of War

— Catherine Sameh

OREGON IS IN the national spotlight these days for right-wing activity, thanks to the Oregon Citizens Alliance. These are the proud sponsors of Measure 9, which would amend the Oregon constitution, taking rights away from homosexuals.

Measure 9 has the following requirements: The state cannot "recognize" phrases such as sexual orientation; state and local governments cannot "promote, encourage or facilitate" homosexuality; public schools, colleges and universities must teach that homosexuality is "abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse" and should be "discouraged and avoided."

It would have tremendous consequences for government programs and facilities, schools and universities, not to mention the obvious terror it would instill in gay men and lesbians--closeted or not....

Random Shots: Some Thoughts to Live By

— R.F. Kampfer

ONE REPUBLICAN enthusiast characterized the North American Free Trade Agreement as "the greatest source of jobs since World War II." Always nice to look on the bright side.

If you want to know what the Republicans really mean by "family values," check out the Godfather movies.

Haven't the media been a lot softer on Pat Robertson, who sees demons lurking everywhere, than they were on Shirley McLaine?

If people could pick out their own relatives, how many would stick with the ones they have?

The victims of Hurricane Andrew can at least be very grateful that they got hit during an election campaign....

Notes to Our Readers

— The Editors

"Who will screw the people?" As this issue went to press three weeks before Election Day 1992, a Clinton victory seemed highly probable, barring any eleventh-hour war, scandal or collapse. It appears, then, that the twelve year Reagan-Bush era of right-wing Republican rule is over, to be replaced by a new dawn of Democratic neoliberal austerity. Our next issue will attempt to look ahead to the new political dispensation.

News from the left: Solidarity, the socialist organization that sponsors this magazine, has welcomed into membership comrades from the former Fourth Internationalist Tendency, which voted at its Eighth National Conference in September to dissolve F.I.T. and accept the offer to join Solidarity extended by that organization's national convention at the end of July. The editors salute this success for revolutionary socialist unity....

Reflections on Socialism After the USSR

Perspectives on Revolution

— The Editors

The following two articles by Joanna Misnik and Manuel Aguilar Mora are edited transcripts of talks on "Lessons of Twentieth Century Revolutions" presented at the opening session of the 1992 Solidarity summer school. Joanna Misnik is a member of the national committee of Solidarity and an editor of Against the Current. Manuel Aguilar Mora is a leader of the Mexican Revolutionary Workers Party (PRT) and author of several works on Mexican politics and economy. A third talk from this panel, by Robert Brenner, will appear in ATC 43.

Thanks to Betsy Esch for transcribing.

November-December 1992, ATC 41

Opening of a New Century

— Joanna Misnik

THE POLITICAL CENTURY we are passing from opened in the Balkans in 1914, with World War I and with the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. It is closing, in the 1989-1992 period, with the collapse of the Soviet system (the aftermath of the Russian Revolution), and with a slaughter in the Balkans. It is almost as though the circle of history has come around and closed on us. I think this is interesting to note, because there are some similarities, and some differences, between the situations at the beginning and end of the cycle.

Similarities include the fact that the century opened with capitalism dominant, ascendant and going through a period of profound restructuring, transformation, creation of the industrial proletariat, the factory system and formation of the modern nation state. Today, we are in a situation where capitalism is dominant, is going through a period of profound restructuring and the development of the global workforce and reorganization of its nation-state formations.,,,

Lessons from Latin America

— Manuel Aguilar Mora

I WANT TO emphasize the lessons of the Twentieth Century Revolution--a title that the organizers of the summer school invented to overwhelm us. I want to limit myself to some lessons we can draw from the Latin American experience. Of course this is a very difficult task, but it is indispensable to draw the lessons of this incredible century that is going to finish soon.

Apparently Edmund Burke, the conservative Englishman who confronted the French Revolution in his time two centuries ago, said "The French Revolution is the most important that humanity has known in this epoch." We can now say, likewise, that the twentieth century of the Russian Revolution and all the subsequent events is the most important century that humanity has lived since its beginning. Of course this difficult task will go on in the next years as we live through tremendous changes.,,,

Before Stalinism: A Response to Critics

— Samuel Farber

THE SYMPOSIUM CONDUCTED by Against the Current on my book Before Stalinism (Verso, 1990) brought up serious issues in the Marxist revolutionary socialist tradition that are not limited to the question of when and why the Russian Revolution began to degenerate. For my part, I first want to restate some of the key theses and arguments put forward in that work.

Without questioning that there were major qualitative differences between Stalin's and Lenin's rule in Russia, Before Stalinism shows that by the time Stalin came to power, soviet democracy had already disappeared. Basing myself on the abundant and mostly recent scholarship on the early revolutionary period, I show how by 1921, and certainly by 1923 when Lenin ceased to function as the leader of revolutionary Russia, soviet democracy no longer existed. I provide extensive documentation to support this claim not only in relation to the soviets in the strict sense of the term, but also in regard to the press,...


Working America: Going Backwards

— William Meadows

The State of Working America, 1990-91 Edition
By Lawrence Mishel and David M. Frankel
Economic Policy Institute, M.E. Sharpe, Inc., $29.95 cloth.

THE STATE OF Working America is a publication of The Economic Policy Institute, which was founded in 1986 with a network of economists and other scholars interested in encouraging public debate about policies to achieve economic growth and prosperity for the majority of citizens, not just the privileged few.

The research data in this volume show that the economic policies of the Carter/Reagan/Bush administrations further widened the gap between rich and poor. The trends shown in carefully analyzed data, primarily from government sources, reveal nothing less than the beginning of the end of the American standard of living so long exalted as the highest in the world. The American System is clearly not working for most....

In Memoriam

A Memory of George Novack

— Michael Steven Smith

I WORKED WITH George Novack (who died July 30) at Pathfinder Press, the publishing arm of the Socialist Workers Party, in the early 1970s at the party's building on West Street in Greenwich Village. He was one of the editors, along with George Weissman and George Breitman--the "three Georges" we called them.

Weissman, like Novack, was from Boston and had too, like Novack, been educated at Harvard. George Breitman was a self-taught working class intellectual from Newark. The three Georges were a great team, presiding at Pathfinder during its salad days when there was money to publish books and pamphlets, and a newly radicalized movement to read tens of thousands of copies of our titles.

We published more topical pamphlets than anyone except the government. Ernest Mandel's Introduction to Marxist Economic Theory was an annual "best seller."...