Against the Current, No. 53, November/December 1994

Against the Current, No. 53, November/December 1994

Clinton's Best-Laid Plans

— The Editors

ONE THING IS clear about Clinton's mission to Haiti: it's not about restoring democracy. If that were the mission, the U.S. military would not have been preoccupied with possible "looting" while demonstrations against the coup government were attacked by the paramilitary, backed by the Haitian military. As Evans Paul, Port-au-Prince's mayor (who had been living underground during the past year), remarked, "People in this country are going to rest only when the military has been smashed to pieces. But it does not seem that is what the Americans want to do." (New York Times, 9/25/94) In fact the Carter plan called for "close cooperation" between U.S. and Haitian military forces....

The Firing of Ben Chavis

— Malik Miah

WHAT EXPLAINS THE firing of Rev. Benjamin Chavis as executive director of the NAACP, the oldest civil rights organization in the country? On the job for less than seventeen months, Chavis was summarily booted out by the NAACP's board of directors on August 20 -- the first time in the NAACP's history that an executive director had been terminated.

Along with Chavis, three of his closest aides were suspended by the board, including Don Rojas, communications director of the NAACP and a former editor of the New York Amsterdam News. (In the early 1980s, Rojas was also press secretary to the murdered prime minister Maurice Bishop of revolutionary Grenada.)...

Decatur Labor Fights On

— C.J. Hawking & Steven Ashby

“CROSS THAT LINE!! Cross that Line!!” the crowd of 5,000 roared as they marched to the West gate of the A. E. Staley corn-processing plant in Decatur, Illinois where 760 workers, members of the United Paperworkers International Union (UPIU/AIW) have been locked-out of their jobs since June 1993.

In an act of non-violent civil disobedience, over 400 people crossed over the Staley yellow property line, shouting “Scabs out! Union in!” The demonstrators, trade unionists and supporters from across the country as well as striking UAW Caterpillar and United Rubber Workers Firestone/Bridgestone workers, were met by a wall of police....

Mexico: Zedillo Wins, the Struggle Continues

— Dan La Botz

MANY ON THE left in Mexico believed that the politically inexperienced and inept Ernesto Zedillo could be defeated, and that Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, leader of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) would win the August 21, 1994 elections. In mid-August the prospective victory seemed palpable, despite the polls, and Mexican radicals were planning to enforce their victory through a national campaign of civil resistance.

Yet when the votes were counted Zedillo had won, and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) could celebrate yet another national election victory, continuing sixty-five years in power since the founding of the party in 1928....

Gays & Lesbians in Chile Fight Back

— Emily Bono

THE OFFICE OF the Movement for Gay and Lesbian Liberation, near downtown Santiago, is inviting. Although always busy, staff take time out to chat with whoever comes in. Meeting rooms, where mainly young people come to hang out, are in the back of the building.

The atmosphere is supportive and comfortable. The violet walls are covered with information on upcoming workshops and events, AIDS prevention, art work and posters about being homosexual: “Be what you want to be, but be yourself,” says one....

Rebel Girl: Family Planning Without Women??

— Catherine Sameh

THE UNITED NATION'S Third International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo has come and gone, and the women of the world are little if any better for it. While women's organizations were promised a role in the play, it was the Clinton administration represented by vice-president Al Gore who stole the show.

From most media coverage of this global event, with participation around the world, you would have thought there were only two constituencies -- religious conservatives embodied in Pope John Paul, and the liberal population control establishment led by Gore -- leaving little room for the voices of those affected most directly by population policies, women of the developing countries....

Random Shots: Family Values for Beginners

— R.F. Kampfer

THE WAY TO teach your children the value of money is to pay them a weekly allowance of forty hours minimum wage, then charge them everything they cost. By the time they graduate high school they'll owe you enough to retire on.

If the Religious Right ever gets into power, the pentacostals, charismatics, evangelicals and fundamentalists will spend most of their time attacking each other over issues none of us knows or cares about....

The Left Reconstructs

The FMLN After El Salvador's Election

— Mike Zielinski

THE SALVADORAN LEFT, like its counterpart in the United States, is struggling to define new directions.

The Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) emerged from elections this past spring as the second largest political force in the country, making the transition from clandestine guerrilla force to legal political party in just over two years. The left gained more than 400,000 votes, displacing the Christian Democrats, the instrument for U.S. counterinsurgency during most of the `80s, as the main opposition to the right-wing ruling party ARENA (Republican National Alliance)....

El Salvador: A Political Scorecard

— Mike Zielinski

Parties referred to in this article include:

* FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front), the party formed to carry on the revolutionary military-political alliance that fought the U.S.-backed Salvadoran regime from 1980-1991. Its five constituent parties are:

Sandinismo's Tenuous Unity

— Midge Quandt

WHEN VIOLENCE ERUPTED in the streets of Managua during last fall's transport strike, the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) Secretary General Daniel Ortega supported the people's right to defend themselves against the Chamorro government. Sergio Ramirez, who heads the Sandinista bench in the National Assembly, responded in the national press that party leaders “are obliged to tell society in no uncertain terms that we repudiate violence.”...

Keeping the Dream Alive

— interview with Miguel D'Escoto

Fr. Miguel D'Escoto is a Sandinista militant who joined in the years of struggle against Somoza, and served as Nicaragua's foreign minister during the years of Sandinista government from 1979-1990. He continues to be active in the “Democratic Left” current in the Sandinista party and directs the Nicaraguan Foundation for Integral Community Development (FUNDECI), an organization committed to empowerment of the poor through neighborhood housing, health, youth, reforestation and economic development programs.

D'Escoto was the featured speaker at the July 16 annual Central America dinner sponsored by the Organization in Solidarity with Central America (OSCA) in Detroit....

Debates on the Philippine Left

— John Gershman

THIS ARTICLE IS an outsider’s view on what is a very emotional (rightly, I believe) set of debates, which are of relevance not only for the Philippines but for the left in general. There are few genuinely objective views on such issues. My sympathies, and most of my friends, are with the dissident factions within the CPP, a fact that is reflected in this analysis. As such, this analysis must be considered only a partial take on the situation, not the whole picture....

The End of American Trotskyism? (Part 1)

— Alan Wald

WHY SHOULD REVOLUTIONARY-SOCIALIST political activists in the 1990s be concerned with the history and theory of U.S. Trotskyism?(1) Radical anticapitalist activists today are feminists, opponents of imperialism and Eurocentrism, militant supporters of gay and lesbian rights, committed to ecological transformation, and, in light of the “bad example” set by so many self-proclaimed “Leninist” organizations, skeptical of self-proclaimed vanguards. Why should they give signal attention to the ideas and experiences of those who identified with Trotskyism in the United States? Why not just put Trotskyism on the shelf next to Debsian socialism, anarchism, Black nationalism, Communism, and a variety of other left-wing experiences from which activists can draw upon as it suits their particular needs?


Massacre in the Guatemalan Jungle

— Dianne Feeley

Massacres in the Jungle Ixcán,
Guatemala, 1975-1982
By Ricardo Falla (with forward and epilogue by Beatriz Manz)
Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993, 224 pages, $15.95 paper.

RICARDO FALLA RECORDED what the witnesses recalled in detail and faithfully reconstructed the truth of the massacres that took place in the Ixcán Grande of northern Quiché, Guatemala in the spring of 1982. This remarkable book spotlights the Guatemalan army's campaign against the people and documents almost 800 killings....

John Beverly's Against Literature

— Tim Brennan

Against Literature
By John Beverly
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1993, $14.95.

IN SPITE OF his title, Beverly is not against literature, only a specific institution of letters launched in the Europe of the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. Himself steeped in books, of course, and madly passionate about their ability to provide “new forms of human liberation and possibility,” Beverly frames the book almost as a confession....

Jack Conroy, Worker-Writer in America

— Carla Cappetti

Worker Writer in America:
Jack Conroy and the Tradition of Midwestern Literary Radicalism, 1898-1990
By Douglas Wixson
University of Illinois Press, 1994, xvi + 678 pages, $34.95.

THE DEBT THAT modern American literature owes to myth and to European modernism has been, since World War II, widely acknowledged. The debt that modern American literature owes to American working-class folklore and to vernacular modernism has been largely ignored....


What Genovese Knew, And When

— Christopher Phelps

IN HIS MOST recent effort to distance himself from the left while preserving an ever more tenuous connection to it, the renowned historian of American slavery Eugene D. Genovese takes to the summer issue of Dissent to pose the following question to his erstwhile comrades about their responsibility for the crimes of Communism: “What did you know and when did you know it?”

Curiously, none of the responses that Dissent solicited from left-wing historians put Genovese's query to the test by applying it to himself....

On the PDS: An Exchange

— Eric Canepa

KEN TODD'S WELL-meaning depiction in his article “Germany Unraveled” (ATC 50) of the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS, formerly the ruling Communist party of East Germany -- ed.) contains some significant misinformation. I believe the source of such misinformation is the set of cultural particularities of some German left circles through which most information on the PDS is channelled.(1)...

On the PDS: A Reply

— Ken Todd

I WOULD LIKE to thank Eric Canepa for the care and detail with which he has responded to the comments I made about the Party of Democratic Socialism in my article on social and political crisis in Germany. I submitted that article to ATC well aware of the limits on my knowledge of German politics, but thoroughly persuaded that the development of the PDS as a potent socialist resistance to the crisis and the attendant ruling-class offensive should be better known here.

While Eric quite rightfully and usefully describes the anti-nationalist and anti-populist bias of much of the German radical left, he errs in imputing this bias to me....(1)

In Memoriam

Peter Dawidowicz, 1943-1994

— Nancy Holmstrom

PETER DAWIDOWICZ DIED of lung cancer on August 10, 1994. He is survived by his wife, Peggy Conte, two children Julia (6) and Joran (2), a sister, a stepsister and a stepbrother.

Peter will be missed not only by his family, but by most everyone who ever knew him. Peter was a committed revolutionary socialist and an exceptional human being, exemplifying in his personal life the political values he espoused: commitment to democracy, genuine care and respect for people....

Clarence Davis, Gulf War Resister

— David Finkel

FOUR YEARS AGO U.S. combat forces poured into the Persian Gulf to prepare the "liberation" of Kuwait. Cruise missiles were being programmed for downtown Baghdad; the "smart bombs" that would incinerate Iraqi women and children in air raid shelters were being loaded; the propaganda arm of the war machine softened up the U.S. public with lies about Iraqis tearing Kuwaiti infants from hospital incubators.

Some of those troops would fall victim to "friendly fire;" hundreds, possibly thousands, required to take experimental drugs of a still-undisclosed nature, would develop the sinister and debilitating symptoms now called Gulf War Syndrome....

Earning the Title

— Clarence Davis

...To be called a Marine,
or to be called a murderer?
Three phases of training, or
three levels of intense hypnotizing?...

Desert on Detroit River (To Laurie)

— Hasan Newash

Ribbons dangle, red and white
and blue, on Gina's blouse
and she says they're worn for you, Laurie!
and White House version is always true....