Against the Current, No. 50, May/June 1994

Against the Current, No. 50, May/June 1994

Stonewall at Twenty-Five

— The Editors

Stonewall symbolizes the transformation of the gay and lesbian liberation movements into an open and public reality. On June 27, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Sheridan Square, New York City, the patrons fought back against a police raid. The response -- from gays and lesbians who had taken endless harassment from both the Mafia and the cops -- sparked three days of rioting.

Stonewall's twenty-fifth anniversary will be celebrated on Sunday, June 26 in an international march on the United Nations to affirm the human rights of lesbians and gay people, demanding implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights....

Updating the Health Care Fight

— Rick Wadsworth

Ever since the Clinton inauguration, or even before, the various consumer groups, physicians, unions, senior organizations and others who support the single-payer, or Canadian-style health care plan, have been seeking different ways to orient toward the Clinton plan for health care reform. Before William Clinton's inauguration it had been made clear that the “pay or play” plan (in which employers must either pay for health insurance or pay a tax to support a public plan) put forward by Congressional Democrats and supported by the more conservative members of the AFL-CIO Executive Council was out, and the “managed competition” scheme of the Jackson Hole Group (policy wonks mainly in the employ of insurance companies) was in....

Understanding the AIDS Crisis

— Corey S. Dubin

Twelve years into the AIDS crisis and what has changed? People are still quietly dying and the federal government continues to drag its feet to ensure access to care and treatment for those most in need. In communities of color across this country the virus continues to spread, devastating the lives of individuals and families who lack access to the most basic medical care. For the most part, quality HIV medical treatment is only available for those who can afford it.

Poor women are especially hard hit as the medical establishment and the government continue to ignore how the HIV disease impacts uniquely on women....

Racism, Bigotry and the Origin of AIDS

— Corey S. Dubin

The actual origin(s) of AIDS remains an open question. Yet many gay publications, while so effectively opposing bigotry and homophobia, have accepted unquestionably the “African origin of AIDS” theory put forth by so-called medical researchers in the United States and Europe.

In AIDS, Africa and Racism (Columbia University Press, 1988), Richard and Rosalind Chiramuuta examine the racist preconceptions that have guided the collection of “evidence” regarding AIDS' origin in Africa....

Lesbians Fight Against Attack in Mississippi

— Ann E. Menasche

Ever since last November, Brenda and Wanda Henson, a lesbian couple in Ovett, Mississippi, have been victims of a campaign of harassment and violence aimed at shutting down the feminist educational and cultural retreat that they are building. Rather than close Camp Sister Spirit and leave the state, the Hensons have decided to lead a campaign of their own to defend their civil rights.

The Hensons purchased 120 acres in Ovett in July 1993. They wanted to use the land as a site for the Gulf Coast Women's Festival as well as making it available to like-minded organizations that are working on such issues as racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, domestic abuse and violence....

Exxon Mine Menaces Wisconsin

— Al Gedicks and Zoltan Grossman

IN 1975, Texas-based Exxon Minerals Co. discovered one of the world's largest zinc-copper sulphide deposits (with traces of lead, silver and gold), adjacent to the Mole Lake Indian Reservation near Crandon, Wisconsin. Situated at the headwaters of the Wolf River in Forest County, the underground shaft mine would produce ore for 20-25 years.

After a decade of strong local opposition, Exxon withdrew from the project in 1986, but returned in February 1994 to announce its intention to mine with a new partner -- Canada-based Rio Algom -- in their new “Crandon Mining Co.”...

Workers in Haiti's Holocaust

— Cecilia Green interviews Cajuste Lexiuste & Porcenel Joachim

IN 1984 THE “Baby Doc” Duvalier government of Haiti cynically recognized some trade union rights so that Haiti could become eligible for certain benefits under the Caribbean Basin Initiative program -- granting preferential access to the U.S. market. In reality, these “rights” were entirely restricted to the formal recognition of the Federation of Unionized Workers (FOS), which was formed with the assistance of the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD). Other unions continued their organizing underground and were important in contributing to the anti-Duvalier uprising of late 1985-early 1986....

Lessons of the Hebron Massacre

— Editors of Challenge

The horrendous massacre of Palestinians in Hebron at a moment of prayer in the holy month of Ramadan is not only a crime against humanity and a horrible tragedy; it represents a historic turning point in the relations between the Palestinian people and Israel.

The massacre brought the conflict between the Palestinians and Israeli settlers to a climax. The settlements have been at the heart of Israeli occupation policy. In 1968, a year after occupation, a Labor government had already sanctioned the first settlement deep in the West Bank -- Kiryat Arba....

A German Socialist Feminist's Agenda

— Mary Janzen interviews Petra Blaess

Petra Blaess became a member of the Federal Parliament in 1990, at age 26. She had gone to work as an editor in German television after completing graduate studies in German literature at Humboldt University in Berlin. She was interviewed by Mary E. Janzen in Chicago last year, when she was in the country on a speaking tour.

Against the Current: How did you become the political representative of the PDS from Berlin?

Petra Blaess: It's not typical for a young woman to be a member of the German parliament. The reasons can be traced back to the Spring of 1989 when possibilities opened up for all people, including young people and women....

Abortion Rights in Unified Germany

— Mary Janzen

For nearly twenty years the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) provided free abortion on demand until fetal viability (set at twenty-two weeks). In the Federal Republic (West Germany), clause 218 of the penal code criminalizes abortion unless a woman can prove that bringing the pregnancy to term would cause her extreme "distress." Although West German women organized to change the law in the 1970s, they were never able to reverse the ban....

United Germany Disunited

— Ken Todd

Crisis grips Germany in 1994 as national elections approach. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the global recession have led to major social and political victories for the governing Christian Democrat Union (CDU) and have cost workers, women and immigrants heavily. The extreme right has gained serious influence.

Popular opposition to rapidly imposed austerity and to accelerated attacks on legal rights has remained limited. The principal political opposition has come from the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), the reformed and renamed former East German governing party....

The Uncertain Shape of Post-Apartheid South Africa

— Patrick Bond

South Africa’s first democratic election, shortly after this magazine goes to press, will have produced an ANC-led government of national unity. Yet the overriding sense of harmony and reconciliation between the liberation movement and its National Party oppressor is extremely misleading. The threat to stability is not primarily from far-right white Nazis and Inkatha impis (warriors) who, it is feared, can physically destabilize a region which they have had two decades of practice ruining. Deep down even more divisive ideological currents are grinding against each other....

The March 28 Battle of Johannesburg

— Langa Zita

Exactly a month before the elections, on Monday, 28 March, the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) engaged in an act of political adventurism that revealed many aspects of the difficult transition we are experiencing. The IFP brought the whole of central Johannesburg to a frightened halt, leaving more than fifty people dead, including many of their own members. The event involved a shootout at the ANC head office (Shell House), and seemed an attempt to threaten, in broad daylight, the lives of the leadership....

After Chiapas and Colosio, Mexico's Difficult Futures

— Olivia Gall

“In today's world, we have learned to live in a way where the rhythm of events is almost ruled by Olympic marks which bypass one another at great speed,” declared Don Samuel Ruiz García, Bishop of San Cristóbal and mediator in the Chiapas conflict, in a press conference last January 24.

Summarizing the events, he added: “a ten days' record time for a war in the country, such a short delay of time that we haven't even been able to obtain either the true nor even an approximate number of victims ...; a national political turning point on the eleventh day of the conflict; then again, the unexpected and very swift cease fire;...

Impressions from A Photojournalist

— Dennis Dunleavy

A village priest in Ocosingo told a story that illustrates the conflict well. This is the same city, you may recall, that made Time magazine with a picture of five Zapatistas lined up on the ground, shoulder to shoulder -- four of them had been shot at close range in the head. This is the same town that had eleven bloody and decomposing bodies exhumed from a single grave weeks after the conflict began.

On the third day of fighting, said the priest, a Mexican army colonel came to visit him. The officer found the priest and his religious sisters hiding in the basement of the convent....

The AFL-CIO's Mission to Moscow

— Renfrey Clarke

Few in the international labor movement would deny that trade unions in rich countries have an obligation to help their counterparts in poorer nations, or in countries where labor organizations are having to be rebuilt after periods of dictatorship. On this score, the major US trade union body, the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) might seem to be playing an exemplary role in Russia today.

For several years now the AFL-CIO has maintained an office and a team of organizers in Moscow....

The Refounding of Russian Labour Review

— Renfrey Clarke

Moscow -- Many people in the international left and labor movements were impressed last year to see and read a new English-language publication from Moscow -- Russian Labour Review (RLR). Sponsored by the Labour Information Centre KAS-KOR, >Russian Labour Review was published by an editorial group that included both Russians and foreigners. Two issues appeared during 1993, with a long series of articles examining the Russian labor scene from a democratic left perspective....

The Rebel Girl: Not the Hallmark Version

— Catherine Sameh

Like most holidays celebrated in the United States, the commercialization of Mother's Day arouses our deepest mythic conceptions and hides the reality of daily life, in this case, for most mothers today. Though feminist activism and scholarship has done much to reveal the truth behind the June Cleaver facade, cultural attachments to a vision of the ideal mother remain, making us all vulnerable, to some degree, to Hallmark's version of how things should be....

Random Shots: Springtime in Michigan

— R.F. Kampfer

It was so cold in Michigan this past winter that Governor John Engler had his hands in his own pockets.

To support the auto industry, Engler plans to salt the roads all year round, so that cars will rust out faster and need to be replaced.

Chrysler is offering cars without ashtrays this year, but probably won't sell many. Non-smokers use them for parking meter change....


Cornel West's Race Matters

— Malik Miah

CORNEL WEST ARGUES that the main obstacle to harmonious race relations in the United States is “nihilism” -- the sense of worthlessness that exists among most Blacks. In his profound book, Race Matters, written in early 1993, West explains his philosophy and calls on Blacks, and whites, to understand that racism and race are woven in American history and can never be eradicated without understanding that “race matters” in everything we consider “American.”

 I agree with West's basic assumption: that “race” does “matter.” Our society has been and remains tainted by race divisions....

New Studies of U.S. Communism

— Robbie Lieberman

The new history of U.S. Communism has demonstrated the importance of going beyond the research centered on Communist party leaders, documents and directives that characterized the “old” history. In the past decade the “new” historians have succeeded in broadening the focus considerably -- concentrating on the movement, which attracted millions, rather than the party, which peaked at about 100,000; exploring the nature and extent of Communist influence -- positive and negative --....


Generational Conflicts

— Ernie Haberkern

Justin Schwartz complains, in his otherwise favorable review of Socialism from Below, (Against the Current, 48), that the author, Hal Draper, like Marx, fails to outline “in more detail what we should be for.” He recognizes, of course, that his position is close to that of those socialists ridiculed by Marx as authors of “recipes for the cookshops of the future.” Then, however, he drops the issue.* Involved is a fundamental question of method....

The Final Goal and the Movements

— Justin Schwartz

Ernest Haberkern chides me for forgetting that socialism can only be the culmination of successful working-class struggles against capitalism, and not the product of some middle-class radical intellectuals' schemes.(1) In fact I agree with him, as far as that goes. But I am frankly puzzled by his insistence that this means that theoretical analysis of proposed socialist institutions is out of bounds and that struggles to realize these must hold themselves apart from movements for civil rights, feminism and the like....