Against the Current, No. 51, July/August 1994

Against the Current, No. 51, July/August 1994

Bill Clinton and Genocide

— The Editors

YOU DON'T NEED to hold any illusions about United States foreign policy, and the interests that govern it, to be outraged and horrified by what the government of our country has perpetrated on the peoples of Bosnia and Haiti. These are the normal, natural emotions of ordinary decent people confronted with the realities, as the electronic infotainment superhighway carries the genocide onto our nightly TV screens.

In the slide toward global chaos, it's often easy for such specific horrors as Haiti and Bosnia to be crowded out of attention by even more massive ones—especially today's overwhelming catastrophe in Rwanda. There are also the banal distractions: a carnival of trivia regarding Clinton's old sexcapades. We focus here on Haiti and Bosnia because of the direct, immediate and ongoing central responsibility of the United States and its major allies in the destruction of these societies and the murder of their peoples....

Geronimo Pratt, Political Prisoner

— Karin Baker

GERONIMO JIJAGA PRATT has been in jail since 1971. Jurors from his trial for murder in 1972 now say Pratt would not have been convicted if critical evidence had not been withheld from them. An ex-FBI agent, who was with the Bureau for twenty-five years, has said, "Pratt was set up." A prison psychologist repeatedly described him as a principled individual, not a danger to society, yet he has been denied parole twelve times. What is the story?

"A Revolutionary Man"

Pratt, a former Black Panther Party (BPP) leader, remains in jail because of his politics. Although convicted of theft and murder, at one of his many parole hearings it was stated that in Pratt "we still have a revolutionary man." He is also undoubtedly being held because those who run the "justice" system can't bring themselves to admit that Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt has been incarcerated for twenty-three years....

The Rebel Girl: Is Population the Problem?

— Catherine Sameh

A DANGEROUS AND misguided notion continues to be expressed in some parts of the environmental movement today that the root cause of environmental problems is population growth. When activists in this movement link population control to the fight for safe and legal abortion, the results are troubling, particularly in the context of a growing anti-abortion and anti-contraception movement worldwide.

As women's health and reproductive rights activists, we must challenge our allies in the environmental movement to reject even the "best" population control analyses and policies as fundamentally racist, sexist, anti-poor and anti-working class. Together we must oppose attempts everywhere in the world that deny women access to abortion and contraception, and at the same time oppose "family planning" schemes that target women's fertility as the cause of poverty and ecological devastation....

WE! Confronting Violence

— Chani Beeman

"AS WOMEN WHO have long worked to end all forms of violence against women, we are enraged by the rape and murder of our sister activist Nancy Lynn Willem. Nancy was murdered while at her workplace on the 4th of February, 1992. Our pain and anger over yet another act of terrorism against women has brought us together as Women Enraged! (WE!)." So begins the WE! Mission statement. WE! Is an activist collective committed to confronting violence against women and transforming ourselves in the process.

Nancy had been deeply involved in the lesbian and gay community, domestic violence and rape crisis counseling, local Central America solidarity groups, as well as in the development of a Women's Resource Center at the University California, Riverside. Her murder unleashed a rage that rocked the lesbian and women's communities Nancy helped create....

"La Causa" on the Road

— Dennis Dunleavy

CESAR CHAVEZ IS gone now, but the United Farm Workers' recent re-enactment of his 1966 march from the fields of Delano to Sacramento paid tribute to the movement he founded. The 320-mile march culminated on April25 at the steps of the State Capitol with as many as 15,000 people waving UFW banners and demanding pretty much the same things they did nearly thirty years ago.

The roots of the UFW movement in the 1960s were enmeshed in the collision of social forces, the economic desperation that came with the end of the bracero program and the determination of a leader who possessed charisma and vision.

During the early years, the UFW spread its message everywhere: "Na Basta!" The backbreaking work in the fields, subhuman wages, inadequate housing and little hope of advancement were confronted under the banner of the farmworkers' black eagle....

Chinatown Lockout Defeated

— John C. Antush

ON MARCH 13 a euphoric crowd of 600 celebrated a victory for the workers and community of Chinatown, New York The thirty-six waiters and dim-sum cart-pushers, members of the independent 318 Restaurant Workers' Union and of the Chinese Staff and Workers' Association (CSWA), who had been locked out of the Silver Palace Restaurant for seven months, defeated management's concessionary demands and would be going back to work Speakers from groups ranging from the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence to the Gay and Lesbian Freedom Project congratulated the workers on their victory. The speakers also voiced their support for the workers' demands that the government enforce labor laws and that slave-like conditions be ended in Chinatown.

How did this small group of immigrants, in a community where labor laws are commonly ignored and mainstream unions seem toothless, win? Why did Chinatown workers feel the need to organize a workers' center and an independent union?...

UAW: Death of a Union?

— Peter Downs

CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS BETWEEN the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the Big Three automakers in 1993 brought the union to a new low. In the months leading up to an agreement, company and union officials barraged UAW members with claims of corporate poverty. Both predicted a titanic struggle over concessions. But behind closed doors negotiators settled terms amicably. The ink was scarcely dry on the concessionary contracts when Ford and Chrysler announced near-record earnings and executive bonuses. Sales figures for all of the Big Three soared upward at a frenzied pace.

The deception shouldn't have been surprising. Companies always try to inspire fear in their workers. They predict the worst so their employees will accept management's "compromise" with relief.

The UAW administration has the resources and know-how to blow away the specter of disaster....

The Future of Socialism

— Daniel Singer

THE TIMES ARE a-changing. Do you remember all the fuss about Francis Fukuyama and the end of history? History, as if offended by such silly pseudo-Hegelian nonsense, quickened pace. And we have had difficulty keeping up with it ever since.

Today nobody will seriously suggest that everything is for the best in the best of all possible capitalist worlds. But "the end of history" was only part of a bigger propaganda package. Helped by the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the message of our establishment proclaimed that socialism was dead and buried. Therefore there was no way out.

A few years earlier our pundits used to preach—remember Jeane Kirkpatrick?—that the Soviet Union,(1) the empire of evil, was a hell from which there was no exit. Now they have cleverly changed their tune....

On the French Students' Demonstrations

— an interview with Daniel Singer

Daniel Singer was interviewed by Susan Weissman for her program on KPFK. She asked about the French student demonstrations last spring. We are printing his response.

IF WE ARE offered in Europe an American future, this was very much a strike against the American future. What was the government hying to do on this occasion? I've said that one of the things it wants to do is have the working poor, like in the United States. Therefore you have to have an attack on the minimum wage.

The policy was announced by Edouard Balladur, a kind of Teflon prime minister, and who now can't put his foot right anywhere. This was a clever move, they thought You take the students who have graduated from a two-year technical college. We'll start them on their first job at minimum wage, minus twenty percent. This was one way of bypassing the minimum wage—you either break the minimum wage,...

Sweden: A Welfare State in Crisis

— Eva Nikell

I GREW UP in a room with rabbits on the walls. My mother painted them on plywood pieces and dressed the room up to her waist with these rabbits.

This was in the very beginning of the '50s, when "everyone" - meaning every conventional Swedish family regardless of class—could afford having a housewife. For those of us who were born in that period it was the absolutely natural state of affairs: daddies working, mummies at home with the kids.

In Sweden the '50s saw the creation and stabilization of the working-class family come true, thus it seemed as a "natural law" to us. Forty years later, "all" women are in the work force. At the same time more Swedish women than ever have children, a figure that among European women is only slightly surpassed by Catholic Ireland....

Random Shots: Cholesterol for the Masses

— R.F. Kampfer

SINCE ITS BEEN revealed that a large tub of "buttered" popcorn contains as much cholesterol as eight Big Macs, think of the good news: You can take six or seven Big Macs to the show and still be ahead of the game.

Most people don't have to be led into temptation, just pointed in the right general direction.

A self-disciplined person is who can pop just one bubble-wrap cell.

Political Commentary

ALEXANDER COCKBURN TELLS us in a recent syndicated column (Detroit Free Press, May 11): "We have been witnessing, over the past three months, one of the most astonishing displays....

Capital, State, Socialism: Lessons of Zimbabwe

— Tom Meisenhelder

THE REPUBLIC OF Zimbabwe was born in 1980 with a stated commitment to build a socialist society. By 1990 it made an "about-face" to an avowedly capitalist model of development. What happened? What do the events in Zimbabwe portend for the possibility of socialism in the periphery?

Zimbabwe’s "Socialism"

Zimbabwe was born after a long and bloody liberation war. The Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), one of two socialist-oriented national liberation movements, won the country's first elections. ZANU has won every election since 1980, becoming the dominant political body in Zimbabwe. And socialism was the professed goal of ZANU.

The main agent of socialist change in Zimbabwe was to be ZANU itself....

South Africa After Apartheid

Introduction to South African Statements

— David Finkel, for The Editors

WE PRESENT HERE, for the information of our readers, two important statements reflecting the thinking of much of the South African working-class movement and left following the electoral victory of the African National Congress (ANC). This speech by Moses Mayekiso—a major union leader saved from possible execution during the 1980s by a massive international solidarity campaign—and the following article on Left Unity by Langa Zita, document the left’s attempts to give long-term progressive strategic content to the ANC's "Reconstruction and Development Program" (RDP).

In ATC 50, Patrick Bond placed the RDP in the context of South Africa's stressed and rightward-drifting political scene. President Mandela's Cabinet appointments to economic policy positions, including the reappointment of the old regime's Finance Minister Derek Keys and Reserve Bank Governor Chris Stals (whose policies our correspondent Bond describes as "sado-.monetarism"), and his promises to reduce the budget deficit, starkly confirm that radical reform will not come from the top. The left's response is the focus of the two contributions presented here, and we look forward to further coverage and additional perspectives.

July-August 1994, ATC 51

Taking RDP to the Streets

— Moses Mayekiso

COMRADES, FOR THE first time, we have had a historic parliamentary session which is representative of the people's wishes. We must congratulate the civic movement for contributing to the destruction of apartheid and for contributing to the new democracy. The new political system was explained by our State President, Comrade Nelson Mandela, as a people-centered democracy in a people-centered society.

We in SANCO must take this further, by ensuring that our slogan 'People-Centered Development" can be fulfilled not only through the new government but also in the streets of our cities, townships and villages. In the society Comrade Mandela described in his state of the nation speech, the theme was the liberation of people--from want, from oppression, from inhumanity. These are also the goals of SANCO. We in SANCO have developed both policies and projects that make these visions concrete and implementable....

Towards Unity of the Left

— Langa Zita

WE HAVE CONSISTENTLY maintained that there is a dialectical relationship between the national liberation struggle and the class struggle. We further maintained that there can be no genuine national liberation without class liberation and vice versa.

The critical word is genuine, because there are any number of postcolonial societies—societies without national oppression—which, however, are far from being class liberated. The interrelations between these two forms of liberation are a historical product, and depend mostly upon the investment which the working class and allied forces put into the transition process.

In fact it has always been our contention that for the liberation to be genuine, the working class should lead this struggle. What does this mean?...


The Malcolmized Moment

— John Woodford

Malcolm X:
In Our Own Image
Edited by Joe Wood
St. Martin's Press, 1992, $18.95 hardcover

"MALCOLM X IS probably the most visible (and vigorous) figure on the African-American political landscape today," reads the publisher's blurb for Malcolm X. In Our Own Image.

It's an ambiguous blurb. It could be a statement that the image of Malcolm X is currently the most displayed and politically potent icon in Afro-American affairs, or that a dead man is not only the most attended to but the most alive player on the stage of Black American politics. Either way you take the comment, it paints a pathetic picture of politics and of publishing....

Recovering Women's Writing

— Constance Coiner

Labor and Desire:
Women's Revolutionary Fiction in Depression America
By Paula Rabinowitz
University of North Carolina Press. $29.95 hardcover, $12.95 paperback.

DURING THE EARLY '30s Michael Gold was probably the most prominent Communist writer and critic; at the 1935 American Writers' Congress he was hailed as "the best loved American revolutionary writer." His autobiographical novel, Jews Without Money (1930), was reprinted eleven times in the first year of publication and twenty-five times between 1930 and 1950; it has been translated into most European languages and into Chinese and Japanese.

When in the pages of New Masses, the Communist Party (CP) literary journal, Gold challenged proletarian writers....