Against the Current, No. 55, March/April 1995

Against the Current, No. 55, March/April 1995

Defending Women's Lives

— The Editors

TODAY WOMEN, ALONG with immigrants and the poor, are sitting ducks in the shooting gallery of American politics. Begin with the one “reform” that will dominate Washington this year: slashing welfare. The new Republican congressional majority led by Newt Gingrich and the New Democrats led by President Clinton disagree only over how to make assistance harder for poor women and their children to obtain.

The assault began two years ago with Clinton's campaign promise to “end welfare as we have known it” -- not by creating full employment at decent wages or guaranteeing child care and universal health care, but by reducing the rolls....

Resisting Proposition 187

— an interview with Angel Cervantes

Angel Cervantes is an activist with the Four Winds Student Movement. Darrell Moellendorf, a member of Solidarity in Riverside, California, interviewed Cervantes about the student movement opposing Proposition 187 and the prospects for ongoing resistance in support of immigrant rights.

Against the Current: What was the scope of the student walk-outs leading up to the November elections? Where were they heaviest? How many students walked out altogether?

Angel Cervantes: Most of the organizing in California was based in Los Angeles....

Orange County: Who Pays the Price?

— Mike Davis

WITH FINANCIAL WRECKAGE strewn across 187 municipalities and school districts, the collapse of Orange County's mad investment pyramid may yet prove to be the most socially destabilizing of Southern California's recent chain of human and natural disasters. Yet the bond debacle -- now estimated at $3 billion (or 40% of the principal) -- might have been averted if county and federal officials had paid heed to earlier warnings from local Latino leaders.

According to Art Montez -- state director of urban affairs for the League of United Latin-American Citizens (LULAC) -- his organization had alerted the Orange County Grand Jury in early 1993 to sweeping abuses by the Board of Supervisors....

Media, Politics and the Left

— Robert McChesney interviews Noam Chomsky

THE CONVERSATION BEGAN by my acknowledging that this was my first effort at doing journalism in a long time, although I had written a great deal about it. “I have a great deal of respect for journalism,” I told Chomsky.

“So do I,” he replied. “You would be surprised to know how many journalists stay in touch with me, and how many agree with me, although they can't say so publicly.”

I commented that I sensed that the huge cutbacks in editorial budgets in the past decade had made the conflicts between journalism and profit-driven media corporations more stark than they might have been earlier,...

Yeltsin's War of Genocide

— Boris Kagarlitsky

IF SOME RECKLESS analyst had suggested a year ago that admirers of free-market liberal Yegor Gaidar would be joining on Pushkin Square with followers of extreme nationalist Viktor Anpilov to shout “Put the Yeltsin gang on trial!” he or she would have been dismissed as delirious. But Russian life is stranger than any kind of delirium.

Beginning on December 11, columns of Russian tanks and forty thousand troops burst onto the territory of the mutinous Chechen Republic, along the way shooting up peaceful villages and killing the health minister of neighboring Ingushetia. Aircraft and artillery dumped tons of bombs and shells on the Chechen capital, Grozny....

Russia's New and Old System

— John Marot interviews Boris Kagarlitsky

John Marot, a history teacher and a member of Solidarity in Los Angeles, conducted this interview with Boris Kagarlitsky in Moscow in August, 1994.

Marot: What are the historical origins of the present crisis? What was Gorbachev trying to accomplish?

Kagarlitsky: Gorbachev and the elite wanted to consolidate the system, to make it more manageable and more attuned to new technologies, to new developments in the world, capable of absorbing some new elements, sociologically, economically, politically. This was the first goal....

Russia's New Fascists

— Kirill Buketov

ON THE STREETS of Russian cities, it is not hard to find stalls trading in fascist literature and insignia. Here one can buy Hitler's Mein Kampf, tape cassettes of Nazi marches, swastika flags, and publications of the present-day fascist press.

The best-known fascist newspaper, Russkiy Poryadok (“Russian Order”), is distributed free of charge in the very center of Moscow -- free, however, only to “people of non-Jewish appearance.” Members of the group Russian National Unity, well-built young men with bulging torsos, hand out the paper as reverently as if distributing keys to the kingdom of heaven....

Brazil After the Elections

— Antonio Martins

This article first appeared in English in the November, 1994 issue of International Viewpoint, translated from a Brazilian publication Brasil Agora. It is abridged here for space. This was part of a set of articles published by IV, analyzing the reasons for the electoral results in Brazil and documenting the sharp post-election debates inside the PT.

THE NEW PRESIDENT, Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC), will try to ensure that no one remembers what he has said in the past. Politicians will make speeches, and the conservative press will publish articles on a daily basis, exhorting the left either to join its efforts to those of the government or to exercise”moderate opposition.”

Problems in History & Theory: The End of "American Trotskyism"? -- Part 3

— Alan Wald

This is the last part of Alan Wald's article, the earlier parts of which appeared in ATC 53 and 54. The essay, based on a presentation given to the 1993 summer school of Solidarity, will appear in a volume co-authored by Alan Wald, Paul Le Blanc and George Breitman, Trotskyism in the United States: Historical Essays and Reconsiderations, to be published in 1995 by Humanities Press.

III. Method and Political Action

THERE ARE METHODOLOGICAL aspects of Trotskyism that the twenty-five years since the height of “The Sixties” have shown to be still necessary and valid.,,,

Radical Rhythms: Jazz Currents in Conflict

— Kim Hunter

IF YOU DIDN'T know saxophonist James Carter, and you saw his young face beaming confidently, almost smugly, from the cover of his album, “J.C. on the Set” (DIW-Columbia, 1994), you might be inclined to believe he is yet another “young lion” hype of a faceless technician mouthing endless homilies to Charlie Parker's dirty drawers, playing music that was new fifty years ago while bringing nothing of his own voice to the instrument.

You would be wrong. We in Detroit have known for over a decade that there is something special in James Carter....

The Rebel Girl: Breast Cancer -- No Accident?

— Catherine Sameh

“WOMEN DO THIS every day.” --Lillian Allen

Barbara Kruger, political artist and activist, created a work that the abortion rights movement has taken as its motto. Across a woman's face are the words, “Your Body is a Battle Ground,” all in stark black, white and red colors....

Random Shots: Politically (Un)Kosher Recipes

— R.F. Kampfer

IN RESPONSE TO requests -- well, expected requests -- pouring in after that teasing biographical note inserted by the editor in our previous column, Random Shots presents the official recipe for Kampferian Pate du Bambi:...

For International Women's Day

Gender, Race & Class in Zora Neale Hurston's Politics

— Susan Meisenhelder

SINCE HER “REDISCOVERY,” due in large part to Alice Walker's discussion in In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens, Zora Neale Hurston has been both widely read and embraced as a major foremother of contemporary Black women writers. Despite this rescue from obscurity and her canonization amongst Black women writers, Hurston still suffers from the political image of a flamboyant naif or embarrassing conservative -- a view, in fact, no different from the reputation she was saddled with during her life.

The simplistic view of Hurston as “a character” was most starkly sketched perhaps by Langston Hughes in his autobiography, The Big Sea....

Frances E.W. Harper & the Evolution of Radical Culture

— Melba Joyce Boyd

ON DECEMBER 31, 1994 I was invited to speak at a Kwanzaa celebration at a church in the city of Detroit. In particular, I was asked to speak on the principle, “Kuumba,” which means creativity. Being removed from certain cultural practices not grounded in some real historical experience, I sensed a kind of holiness being conveyed with the lighting of the candles, and it felt more like religion than ideology....

Bury Me in A Free Land

— Frances E.W. Harper

Make me a grave where'er you will,
In a lowly plain or a lofty hill;
Make it among earth's humblest graves,
But not in a land where men are slaves....

Aunt Chloe's Politics

— Frances E.W. Harper

Of course, I don't know very much
  About these politics,

But I think that some who run `em
  Do mighty ugly tricks....

A Double Standard

— Frances E.W. Harper

Do you blame me that I loved him!
  If when standing all alone

I cried for bread a careless world
  Pressed to my lips a stone....

Speaking Out for Themselves

— Deborah Billings

“Creators of Theory and Agents of Change”(1)

Compañeras: Voices From the Latin American Women's Movement
Edited by Gaby Küppers
London: Latin America Bureau, 1994,188 pages,$15 paper.

DURING THIS TIME of feminist backlash in the United States, when feminism itself is blamed as a major source of social injustice and discontent and when many women are hesitant to advocate feminism, it is both enlivening and inspiring to read the collection of interviews which Gaby Küppers has compiled in her edited book, Compañeras....

Lesbian & Gay Activism During the Reagan/Bush Era

— Julie R. Enszer

My American History:
Lesbian and Gay Life During the Reagan/Bush Years
By Sarah Schulman
New York: Routledge, 1994, $15.95 paper.

BY ANY MEASURE the Bush/Reagan years were devastating for queer people. While some argue that the late 1980s and early 1990s were the fruition of the gay and lesbian movement, the counterpoint of anti-gay initiatives, increasing hate crimes, and lack of response to HIV/AIDS demonstrate that despite strides in visibility and powerful mobilization by the queer community, the legacy of the Reagan/Bush years is one of hate, violence, discrimination and oppression....

Letters to Against the Current

On the UAW: Death of a Union?

— Peter Downs

TWO READERS HAVE commented to me on errors they thought they found in my article “UAW: Death of a Union?” (ATC 51).

One, a Detroit labor lawyer, says it is not true to say that the UAW did not support Ypsilanti's suit against General Motors to stop that company from closing its Willow Run assembly plant. The UAW International Union, he points out, joined its name to the suit.

The lawyer acknowledges that national UAW officials and staff worked to stop local unions from building any membership movement against the shutdown....

On Dislando

— J. Quinn Brisben

THE OTHERWISE EXCELLENT article by Michael Hoover and Lisa Stokes on “The Disneyfication of Orlando” (ATC 54) failed to mention that the sort of sanitized middle-class playground described there can only be maintained by considerable amounts of police terror.

Any lower-class person wandering into Dislando because the climate suits her or his clothes is likely to be rousted by the police....

Small Inaccuracies on Trotskyism Series

— Frank Fried

I NOTE THREE small inaccuracies in the second installment (ATC 54) of Alan Wald's piece on summing up Trotskyism: 1) The women who left the Chicago branch of the SWP were forced out by a kind of social pressure that reflected the prejudices of the time. They were not actually “expelled.” I think the difference, though not fundamental, is worth mentioning. 2) The year, as I remember it, was 1947, not 1946. 3) I was an active member of the Chicago branch during this time, but was never a “leader” of the branch or the party.

ATC 55, March-April 1995

Broadcast Reform

— Eric Hamell

WHILE RICHARD CAMPBELL's review article (ATC 52) on the broadcast reform movement of the `20s and `30s was fascinating as history, some of his examples of progressivism in current popular programming don't make as strong a case for what individual leftists can accomplish as he seems to think....


IQ, Genes, Race, American Society

— Steve Bloom

MOST READERS OF this magazine have probably already formed strong opinions about The Bell Curve, by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray. (See, for example, the comments of Noam Chomsky, John Vandermeer and Mike O'Neill in the previous issue, ATC 54 -- ed.)

So first a word of caution: Many commentaries tend to present a caricature of the book's arguments. This is easier to refute, of course. When mainstream opinion runs (correctly) contrary to the book it is even possible to get away with such an approach. But it seems to me that a more nuanced response is required....

In Memoriam

Remembering Jerry Rubin

— Robert Fitch

WHEN JERRY RUBIN died in December at 56, after being hit by a car crossing Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica, the obituaries were mostly on the obituary page. Rubin hadn't been a front-page figure for some time.

Nearly thirty years had passed since he led Vietnam Day Committee activists in stopping troop trains bound for the Oakland Army Terminal -- a series of demonstrations that shook Pentagon planners and inspired antiwar protests around the world....