Against the Current, No. 46, September/October 1993

Against the Current, No. 46, September/October 1993

Letting Bosnia Die

— The Editors

LET BOSNIA DIE: The great Western democracies had reached that decision long before they made their intentions unmistakably and all but officially clear in the summer of 1993. By July, the endless rounds of meaningless announcements—proclaiming cease-fires that were never implemented, peace conferences that never convened, protection promised (but almost never actually provided for) aid convoys—could no longer hide the ultimate reality of both European and U.S. policy.

That policy was to end the war by simply compelling what remains of the Bosnian resistance to abandon hope of salvaging any vestige of a multi-communal democratic republic. The unspeakable horrors of the starvation of Sarajevo, the systematic destruction of homes, mosques and hospitals, the depopulation of Muslim villages and the creation of vast refugee slums in UN-proclaimed "safe areas" that are really killing grounds for Serb artillery, all played their part in forcing the surrender of that hope....

Haiti: Democracy for Whom?

— an interview with Cecilia Green

Cecilia Green spoke with David Finkel of the ATC editorially shortly after she returned from a delegation to Haiti. She has served as coordinator of the Haiti Solidarity Group in Ann Arbor and will be Visiting Faculty at the Evergreen State College in the 'Political Economy and Social Change" Program for the academic year 1993-94.

Against the Current. You were in Haiti at the time the highly publicized negotiations for "restoring democracy' were being concluded. How do people on the ground in Haiti view the talks on returning Aristide to office?

Cecilia Green: While we were there, the New York Pact was signed on July 17. There are actually two agreements: the Governors' Island Accord between (exiled) President Aristide and (military coup leader) Cedras, and the New York Pact, signed supposedly by representatives of various sectors....

University of California vs. People's Park

— Nancy Delaney and David Linn

WHEN THE UNIVERSITY of California began building volleyball courts(1) of redwood and beach sand in People's Park in July 1991, nobody was surprised that many hundreds of oppositionists took to the streets in outraged spontaneous protest.(2) Both the university and the city were well aware of the parks special value and venerability as a counter-cultural center; they made little secret of the fact that their volleyball project was only the latest in a long line of attempts to gentrify the south-campus community.

The fact that the powers that be expected a spontaneous and militant uprising in the area is amply demonstrated by the fact that many dozens of police units, containing hundreds of officers, were called to the scene from as far away as Los Angeles, before a disturbance occurred.

After two years of low-intensity conflict—....

The Environment & Free Trade

— Chris Gaal

U.S. CORPORATIONS OPERATING plants in Mexico's free trade zone treat the local environment in much the same way that they treat their workers. These corporations cut costs when it comes to wages, and cut costs in the same way when it comes to protecting the local environment Indeed, along with extremely low wages, a major part of the whole attraction that investment in Mexico's zone offers U.S. companies is the ease with which they can ignore environmental laws. Mexico's existing environmental laws, in some cases stricter than those in the United States, are not enforced.

This scenario represents a micro-version of the kind of economics that transnational corporations want to expand to include the whole of North America. If they are successful in promoting their vision, justified by the need to be competitive in the ‘90s, then the stage will be set for undoing environmental protection in all three countries....

Energy, Especially Oil and NAFTA

— Don Fitz

IF WE DIDN'T already know that money was the source of all evil, we might be tempted to say that it was oil. Burning fossil fuels is the largest cause of air pollution, acid rain, and global warming. Oil spills ruin beaches, kill plant and animal life, and destroy livelihoods such as those based on fishing and tourism. Oil makes it easy to transport goods huge distances unnecessarily. This undermines the self-reliance of communities and renders them dependent on multinational corporations.

Oil means people drive instead of walking or riding bikes. Neighborhood stores and restaurants go under. They are replaced by shopping malls, the temples of a vacuous lifestyle based on the profane worship of consumable objects.

But the truly great evil of oil is its derivatives. Petrochemicals form the basis of the disposable society plastics, styrofoam, packaging....

Failing to Bring the State Back In

— Robert Brenner

BILL CLINTON'S FIRST "Hundred Days" were to inaugurate his plan to "rebuild America." In fact, they brought the obliteration of what was an extremely mild, but nonetheless unmistakable, attempt to reverse the Reagan-Bush free market road to industrial oblivion. Clinton wanted little more than to re-establish the state's minimal responsibility for capitalist socioeconomic development, as defined by the nineteenth-century U.S. government and the New Deal. He sought to mildly stimulate demand at a time when the jobless recovery is running out of steam. He wanted to provide public investment on things like roads, bridges, education and vocational training at a time when the U.S. infrastructure and much of its labor force are in an advanced state of decay. The fact that Clinton experienced a humiliating and, for the foreseeable future, irreversible defeat when he attempted to pass through Congress the initial, highly limited, installment of this program, speaks volumes on the current state of the U.S. political economy and on the forces that dominate it....

Stealth Reforms and Its Limits

— Bill Resnick

WHO IS BILL Clinton and how should we understand the new administration? Are they basically technocratic neoliberals committed to rationalizing the U.S. economy for an edge in furious international competition? Are they stealth social democrats (as right wingers hysterically tell their troops) pushing public planning and income redistribution with cunning maneuvers? Or are they virtually exhausted of any political commitment, scrambled by years of compromise and dealing, desperately trying to muddle through and get reelected?

Clinton's early record of cowardice and irresolution suggest the 1atter, it happens to politicians without a real popular base keeping them honest But it's too easy, probably wrong and not useful to see Clinton's failures as matters of conviction or character. We do better and learn more taking Clinton as a real reformer who recognizes that the immiseration of maybe a third of America is very costly and threatens social and economic stability....

Clifford Dann, Shoshone Prisoner of War

— Jennifer Viereck

CLIFFORD DANN IS spending 1993 in a U.S. prison, for "assaulting a federal officer." According to his sister, Carrie Dann, a member of the Western Shoshone National Council, he is a prisoner of war.

On the surface, Dann, 59, appears a simple, humorous, quiet man. He has spent his life outdoors under the wide desert skies near Crescent Valley, Nevada, doing much of the maintenance and heavy labor on the horse and cattle ranch that supports several generations of his Western Shoshone family. He has never seen the ocean. He's not far from it now, in the Lompoc prison in California.

"My brother is not a political prisoner like some people say. He is a prisoner of war!" Carrie told an emotional crowd outside the Federal Court in Reno, NV, following Dann's sentencing on May 17th....

Guatemala: Politics and Possibilities

— Deborah Billings

May 25, 1993: "Today they will criticize me, but tomorrow the people of Guatemala will thank me. —Ex-President Jorge Serrano Elias in a radio and television address announcing the coup. (New York Times, May 26, 1993)

POPULAR MOVEMENT AND trade union members, teachers and students filled the streets of Guatemala City throughout the month of May, vehemently protesting newly-imposed government policies regarding student identification requirements and hikes in electricity rates. Late in the month, student protests spread to towns in the interior of the country and unions staged a nationwide strike.

Predictably, the military command attempted to delegitimize such movements and the mass support which they garnered, as Defense Minister General José Domingo Garcia Samayoa accused Guatemalan insurgency forces, the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unity (URNG),...

Mexico Oil Workers Protest

SINCE 1989, MEXICO's national petroleum company (Pemex) has seen a drastic reduction in its unionized membership. Over 130,000 have been either laid off or transferred into 'confidential' or non-union positions, leaving the once strong oil workers union (STPRM) with now just 70,000 members.

Demanding reinstatement or full severance pay under Mexican Labor Law, nearly 5,000 ex-Pemex workers began marching from the oil-producing states of Guanajuato, Veracruz, Tabasco and Jalisco to Mexico City in late April 1992.

After thirty-nine days' encampment in the city's large central plaza, an agreement was finally reached. Pemex—along with the Pemex Workers' Democratic Front, human rights activists and political party representatives—negotiated full severance payment of nearly $250 million. This amount was to cover former full-time workers,...

The Rebel Girl: The Limits of the Law

— Catherine Sameh

NOT A DAY goes by in Oregon that the battle over lesbian and gay rights isn't making the news. Either the infamous Oregon Citizen's Alliance (OCA) is passing laws against gay rights or fighting pro-gay efforts to end discrimination. Whatever the case, the OCA has not slowed down since Measure 9 was defeated last November, and the likelihood of their organizing dying down is nil.

In fact since Measure 9 the OCA has pushed through anti-gay ordinances throughout the state, with voters in eight counties approving such laws. These "Sons of 9," as they are popularly referred to, have largely been watered down versions of Measure 9, no longer focusing on homosexuality as perverse, but just simply as wrong. This approach has taken the OCA further into the hearts and minds of communities and individuals who are resisting the increasing visibility of lesbian and gays....

Random Shots: The Wars of the World

— R.F. Kampfer

"REGARDLESS OF HOW long they last, the new boundary lines have been drawn across the living bodies of nations that have been lacerated, bled white and exhausted. The Balkan states breathe mutual hatred, and hatred no less acute fills the fragments of nations caught within the separate states. Suspended owing to utter exhaustion, the war will be resumed as soon as fresh blood is flowing in the arteries." —Leon Trotsky, The Balkan Wars (1912)

It seems incredible that those Croats who are collaborating with Serbia by stabbing the Bosnians in the back would not realize that they will be the next victims.

Advertisement: Attention Paint ball Warriors! Tired of your platoon being creamed by younger and more energetic teams? Imagine their surprise when you switch the odds by calling in an air-strike! Picture the looks on their faces when they hear those five-gallon clusters....

A Response on Che, Cuba and Revolution

— Jeanette Habel

“Socialism and Man [sic] ... the risks and the risky splendor of utopia….”—Che Guevara, Socialism and Man

I BASICALLY AGREE with what Christopher Phelps had to say in the May-June 1993 issue of ATC. As he emphasized, trying to navigate between the Scylla of imperialism and the Charybdis of apology" isn't easy when it comes to Cuba. The complexity of the social formation on this island is generally underestimated, as is the specific character of its belated nationalism, imbued with the Jacobin, socialist and ethical conceptions found in the writings of José Marti.

We misunderstand Castroism if we fail to grasp its historic significance for a people who before 1959 suffered unimaginable humiliation and scorn. This island was an ethnic and cultural crucible, a meeting point for all manner of influences....

"Dynamic" vs. "Superior"

— Paul Buhle

LOREN GOLDNER'S "POSTMODERNITY Versus World History" Only-August 1993) is surely one of the most provocative theoretical pieces published in ATC, and the subjects it raises deserve continued discussion. I have only a single point to raise, although I consider it a serious one for Marxist theory and for our entire vision of socialism.

In hoisting a banner against the alltoo-frequent reductivism of the multiculturalist perspective, Goldner insists properly that the 'West' was shaped by the "East' (one should perhaps say the "non-West") as much as the other way around, from historical era to era. He goes too far, or rather off in the wrong direction, when he argues that some cultures are, in the context of world history, at certain moments more dynamic, in fact superior to others," and the "West" the most dynamic and superior in the modern period....


African-American Communist Roots

— Alan Wald

Hammer and Hoe:
Alabama Communists During the Great Depression
By Robin D.C. Kelley
(Chapel Hill, NO University of North Carolina Press, 1990), 369 pages, paper $12.95.

ROBIN KELLEY HAS produced a brilliantly researched and theorized exposition of the appropriation and transformation of U.S. Communist ideology and institutions by the indigenous African-American community of Alabama. This is a book that has the potential for revolutionizing the study in the 1990s of the African-American and broader left through its compelling methodology and the nature of the information disclosed. Moreover, Kelley's conclusions may also be a stimulant to creative thinking about socialist and antiracist activism at the present moment....

Work: Alienating or Transforming?

— Douglas Wixson

Labor into Art:
The Theme of Work in Nineteenth-Century American Literature
by David Sprague Herreshoff
(Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1991) 181 pages, cloth: $24.95.

WHEN EARLY BRITISH settlers came to America, Stephen Innes points out in Work and Labor in Early America, their desire was to gain control over their own labor. It was a necessary condition of their reconstituted existence in a new land to feel and act as free people.

Circumstances were such, however, that by the middle of the nineteenth century most tradespeople were working for someone else, usually in such unwelcome conditions as those provided by textile mills, whaling ships and shoe factories. Most Black people were engaged in forms of oppressive servitude that emancipation scarcely relieved....

The Free Press and Thought Control

— Ethan Casey

Manufacturhig Consent:
Nom Chomsky and the Media, 167 minutes.
Directed by Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick.

AT ONE POINT in "Manufacturing Consent," two Canadian filmmakers' masterful explication of Noam Chomsky's ideas about the insidious symbiosis among state power, corporate interests and the mass media, Chomsky explains why television interview shows place such a premium on sound bites and concision. "The beauty of it is that you can only repeat conventional thoughts," he asserts. There is time only for "regurgitating conventional pieties." That is, if you say on TV that the Ayatollah Khomeini is evil or the Russians invaded Afghanistan, you need say no more. On the other hand, if you say (as Chomsky often does) that the United States invaded South Vietnam or that the defense budget is a ploy to coerce taxpayers into supporting high-tech industry, you'd better come prepared to cite chapter and verse....