Against the Current, No. 42, January/February 1993

Against the Current, No. 42, January/February 1993

The New-Old Political Order

— 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....

Imagine The Possibilities

— Samuel Farber

TWO ELECTIONS were held in this country in early November.The first election witnessed the replacement of the head of General Motors. In this case, there was not even the pretense of democracy; a handful of very rich capitalists made the key decisions that we will all have to live with. GM's workers and the consumers of the products manufactured by that corporation had absolutely no say in the matter.

The 1992 general election took place a couple of days later. As it has been said over and over again, the bad state of the economy and the end of the Cold War made it possible for Bill Clinton to win. However, an equally and perhaps more important outcome of the election was that nineteen percent of the electorate decided to "waste" their votes by supporting a third candidate in what turned out to be the largest third party vote since 1912....

The Rebel Girl: Measure 9 Dies; OCA Vampire Lives

— Catherine Sameh

THE BATTLE AROUND Measure 9, Oregon's anti-gay initiative (see "The Rebel Girl," ATC 41) is far from over. Though it went down to defeat state<->wide, Measure 9's defeat by a slim margin of 53%-47% leaves activists considerably less comforted than was anticipated. Moreover, Measure 9's success in 21 of 36 counties makes an already shaky victory bittersweet.

Now pro-gay activists are dealing with the fallout, wondering where to go from here. The Oregon Citizens Alliance already has a plan: Not only will they put a watered-down version of Measure 9 on the ballot within the next two years, but they plan to help anti-gay activists in the states of Washington and Idaho develop similar initiatives. And they won't stop with anti-gay organizing, though this will still be a major focus of their work....

Bill Clinton in the World

— Mike Zielinski

PRESIDENT-ELECT BILL Clinton's first official statement stressed the continuity of U.S. foreign policy. Is this one area where he should be taken at his word? Are Bill Clinton and George Bush foreign policy twins separated at birth, or will a Democratic administration distinguish itself from Republican policies steeped in militarism and interventionism?

The end of the Cold War has left the established political parties with little to differ over when it comes to foreign policy. The Republicans had to travel back twenty years to Clinton's activities opposing the war and side-stepping the draft to launch a foreign policy attack on the Democratic nominee. With everyone desiring a world safe for corporate investment, the differences between Clinton and Bush may be more tactical than strategic in formulating foreign policy....

Slave Women, Family and Property, Part 3

— Cecilia Green

WE HAVE ALREADY identified two tendencies within the slave community, both of critical social significance and impact, but actually involving minorities within the slave community: (a) concubinage with white men, resulting<197>especially in extra-residential or tenuous co-residential situations--in a species of extended matrifocal family (socially elevated by biological and symbolic, even if not social, white fatherhood), and (b) patriarchal, male-headed (extended) families, whose chief principals were elite (and therefore dominant) slave men.

But what does an examination of a full range of family practices, which is mindful of the possibilities of gender and ethnic contestation, have to tell us? What about the majority of slave women, who were neither concubines of white men nor partners in a relatively "formally sanctioned" polygamous set-up? These questions cannot be properly answered here, as such a project would require another paper;...

Revolution and Justice

— Justin Schwartz

ON JANUARY 9, 1905, the workers of St. Petersburg marched peacefully on the palace of the Czar with a petition seeking "justice and protection,"(1) and were met by the fire of the guard regiments of the capitol. After "Bloody Sunday," workers and peasants rose in the first Russian Revolution, and by October had actually created a workers' soviet as an alternative government. The 1905 Russian Revolution was crushed, but it laid the ground for 1917. The workers' petition, and the revolutionary response to its fate, shows the importance of justice for revolution.

If ordinary people accept the justice of the prevailing order they will petition. If they reject its justice they may revolt. Justice therefore plays a central role in the struggle against oppression.

In Critique of the Gotha Program (CGP), however, Marx dismisses justice as an issue for revolutionaries:....

Random Shots: Campaign and Other Leftovers

— R.F. Kampfer

WE DON'T EXPECT to gain anything by Clinton winning, but we enjoyed watching Bush lose. If most politicians deserve to be taken out and shot, Bush and Quayle fall into the category that should be tortured first.

That's President Bozo to you, George.

Mario Cuomo says we need to get back to the time when his immigrant father would "kiss the hands and feet" of anybody who would give him a job digging ditches. Spoken like one who expects to be the kissee this time.

Celebrity Newsshorts/Royal Pains

MADONNA NOW SAYS she didn't really want to pose for those pictures, but her hands were tied....

Perspectives on Environmental Struggle

Report from New Orleans

— Rick Wadsworth

IN HER CLOSING remarks to the Southern Community/Labor Conference for Environmental Justice, Anne Braden, southern civil rights and social justice activist since the 1940s, said  "I feel we are on the verge, or just past the verge of a new movement in the South. The Southern Movement has changed the country in the past,
and can do so again."

The conference, held on the December 4-6 weekend at Xavier University, a primarily African-American campus in New Orleans, exceeded all expectations. Organizers' most optimistic attendance projections were about 700; at the Friday night kickoff rally a New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter estimated the crowd at 2500.

Probably 1500 people participated throughout the weekend, and over 1200 officially registered. Participants were about eighty percent people of color, mostly African American....

What Is Environmental Racism?

— Kathryn Savoie interviews Bunyan Bryant

BUNYAN BRYANT, an associate professor at the University of Michigan in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, was a delegate to the First People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit and a member of its advisory committee. He is the co-editor with Paul Mohai of the newly published Race and the Incidence of Environmental Hazards (Boulder, CO: Westwood Press). He was interviewed for Against the Current by Kathryn Savoie, who attended the Leadership Summit as an observer and is the author of a doctoral thesis on agriculture in Nicaragua.

ATC: Define "environmental racism."

Bunyan Bryant: I define environmental racism as those policies, or decisions, or behaviors that result in the disproportionate impact of environmental insult on people of color. These decisions can be either conscious or unconscious racism, but the net effect is the same....

Retrospective on Rio

— Maby Velez

Maby Velez, a Puertoriquena activist, is a professor at the University of Michigan in the Latina/Latino program, teaching courses on environmental politics and environmental racism. She is a member of Solidarity, an advisory editor of Against the Current, a member of the Puerto Rican organization Taller de Formacion Politica (Workshop for Political Education), and a co-founder of the Puerto Rico Solidarity Organization at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

In June 1992, she travelled to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to attend an alternative environmental conference, held at the same time as the "official" Earth Summit. She described some of her experiences there in a telephone interview with David Finkel of the ATC editorial board.

"I KNEW ABOUT the conference in Rio back in October 1991, when I went to Washington, D.C. to participate in a very big and historic event, the First Summit of People of Color on Environmental Racism and Injustice. ...

Stop the Poisoning of Peru

— Hugo Blanco

METAL MINING ACTIVITIES began in the south of Peru in the 1960s, in copper deposits at Toquepala and the foundry at Ilo. With it began one of the greatest problems of environmental contamination from which our country still suffers. This increased in 1976 with the exploitation of deposits at Cuajone and the enlargement of the smelter at Ilo.

All of this has been carried out by a North American transnational, Southern Peru Copper Corporation Inc. (SPCC), with the complicity of government authorities in spite of denunciations and the laws formulated
over the past thirty years.

Waste Waters

SPCC uses good quality water that comes from Lake Suches and the creeks Honda and Tocalaya (basin of the Locumba River) and also from groundwater....

The Environmentalism of the People

— Hugo Blanco

THE JUNGLE AND cloud forest have been inhabited for thousands of years by people who know how to coexist with, and be part of, their environment.

They know that their crops need to copy nature and that beside an avocado they must have a "pacay," a palm, a gourd growing along with beans. They know when they will need to leave one place and move on to another, and they know much, much more.

In this region the people knew to build terraces to avoid erosion; they knew that the weeds are not bad but must be allowed to grow so as to protect the soil and that later they could be used for fodder. They knew that planting a single crop is bad for the Andean soil and the crops need to be planted along with others for ecological reasons....

Radiation: A New Smallpox Blanket

— Jennifer Viereck

NUCLEAR TESTING has always taken place on indigenous peoples and their traditional lands. The United States first tested on Pacific Islanders, and now tests on the western Shoshone nation of Newe Segobia. Britain has tested on aboriginal Australians, and now joins the United States in Nevada. France tested in Algeria, and then Tahiti. China tests on native Ugyur lands, and the Russians have tested in areas heavily populated by the Kazakhs, and to the north, on Nenet lands. But indigenous people are threatened and endangered not only by testing but by the whole nuclear weapons and energy production cycle.

Ironically, many lands once thought by the U.S. government to be worthless enough to leave in Indian hands are now found to lie on the dry crust of the Grants Mineral Belt, stretching from Saskatchewan to New Mexico and Arizona. Twenty-three native nations hold lands containing one-third of "U.S." coal, two-thirds of its uranium and much of its oil and gas. (This does not even include oil-rich Alaska.)...

Why We Need a Political Ecology

— Chris Gaal

TWENTY-THREE YEARS after the original Earth Day, most environmental problems have not improved, and many have indeed become much worse. There is an increasing awareness in the environmental movement that the tools used so far in the struggle have fallen far short of the task. Among many grassroots activists there now seems to be a genuine interest in searching for the deeper roots of the problem.

Getting to the roots of the problem implies that we examine the social aspects of how we live, and critically analyze them from an ecological perspective. To do this, however, ecological ideas are not enough. If we seek to adequately explain the reasons for the environmental crisis we must clearly understand the dynamics of society that lead to environmental destruction. Political ecology joins both ecological and social theory, providing a more comprehensive understanding, and allowing the environmental movement to be more effective....

Ecology and Radical Economics

— Chris Gaal

THE ENVIRONMENT IS now in a state of general crisis. Why is it that despite the reforms of the past twenty years, things have not improved? Despite the petitions, the demonstrations, and the letters to the editor, the conclusion is now dawning on vast numbers of activists that in fact citizens are nearly powerless in most situations which attempt to regulate the power of corporations. How is it that the corporations behind the plunder, from Westinghouse with their PCB contamination to Georgia-Pacific with their clear-cut logging, continue to get away with these destructive practices despite our best attempts at regulation?

Regardless of what they say on Earth Day, corporations must be interested in one thing above all else--making a profit. Wages are a cost to be minimized so that corporations can maximize their profits. So too, the protection of nature is a cost to be minimized in order to ensure a profit; not just any profit, but the largest profit possible....

The Fiery Furnace of Neb-u-chad-nez-zar

— Don Fitz

1 FOR EIGHT YEARS did reign Mikeeomousus, who wished to fell all Ancient Forests; and, during his reign, impoverishment spread far and wide and there was a great poisoning of all air and land and sea.

2 When the rule of Mikeeomousus was over, Petroliomiah came to power and he yearned to become Lord of all Empires, West and East.

3 In the second year of the reign of Petroliomiah, the People of Mud did go into the Forests of Redwood and Shawnee and there they did rejoice; but the armies of Neb-u-chad-nez-zar, who was a servant of Petroliomiah, did come and take the People of Mud into bondage.

4 It came to pass that Neb-u-chad-nez-zar had a bomb placed in the cart of one of the People of Mud and his guards proclaimed that they had done it unto themselves; and then Neb-u-chad-nez-zar had made an image of gold; and he gathered all priests of the Empire of Babylon....


Who's Got the News?

— E. San Juan, Jr.

Control of the Media in the United States:
An Annotated Bibliography
Edited by James Bennett
New York: Garland Publishing Inc., 1992), xxviii + 819 pp. $125 cloth.

IN MASS COMMUNICATION and American Empire (1969) and The Mind Managers (1973), Herbert I. Schiller, among others, called our attention to the intensifying domination of the mass media and other institutional forms of communication by the corporate state and the power behind it: the emerging complex of transnational corporations. Other critics of the corporate Leviathian, like Ben Bagdikian, Robert Cirino, Noam Chomsky and others, pursued Schiller's lead through the seventies, eighties, and nineties.

Still accumulating parallel to the global expansion....

In Memoriam

Elinor Ferry (1916-1992)

— Nora Ruth Roberts

p>ONE OF THE best bits in John Sayles' story "At the Anarchists' Convention" involves a flock of Barnard students who descend upon the aging anarchists, oral history equipment in hand. Although I had known Elinor Ferry since 1957, it was not until a few years ago that I began taping her life story and, after that, sitting with her over a tub of wine coolers. Even without oral history equipment, I was enthralled.

Headstrong, iconoclastic, indomitable when ultrafemininity prevailed, Elinor determined at the age of eighteen to break from her equally headstrong Irish Catholic working-class family in Atlantic City and later Pittsburgh.

Escaping marriage by a narrow margin, she sold the Hearst press on giving her a job--and not one on the women's page. She wound up as first stringer on the sports pages of the leading Pittsburgh press, reporting on off-the-field lives of prominent sports personalities....