Against the Current, No. 56, May/June 1995

Affirming Affirmative Action

— The Editors

THERE IS EVERY indication that the Republican Party plans a major fight to roll back Affirmative Action, and that the response of the Clinton administration will be characteristically weak-kneed. If so, the U.S. socialist left must act as if an urgent warning bell has been rung; we must also recognize that an extraordinary opportunity lies ahead to play a constructive role.

The warning bell alerts us to the grievous nature of the present political moment....

Smithsonian Exhibit of the Enola Gay: The Incineration of History

— Christopher Phelps

IN MAY, THE Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., planned to unveil a major exhibition entitled “The Last Act: The Atomic Bomb and the End of World War II.”

To commemorate the August, 1945 U.S. decision to drop nuclear weapons on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Smithsonian commissioned a ten-year, $1 million renovation of the Enola Gay -- the B-29 that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima -- which it planned to put on display as part of a 10,000 sq. foot exhibit with a 600-page script....

Was Hiroshima Necessary?

— Christopher Phelps

On August 6, 1945, a U.S. bomber named after its pilot's mother, the Enola Gay, passed over a city the size of Denver, Colorado, and dropped a single atomic bomb.

Alter the initial blinding flash, an expansive mushroom cloud arose, leaving the awesome visual image now rccognized instantly by every schoolchild....

Mobilizing to Save New York State

— Tom Reifer

THE LARGEST RALLY in several years to hit the New York State capital, Albany, assembled on March 27 to demonstrate against massive budget cuts. Desite some mainstream press reports to the contrary, the demonstration drew upwards of 15,000 and -- equally important -- represented the most diverse New York State coalition in decades.

New York's new Republican Governor George Pataki has wasted no time in exploiting the theme of “middle-class tax resistance” to decimate public education, health and welfare....

The Chemical Soup in Your Cup

— Dr. Pauline Furth

FIFTY CITIES PARTICIPATED in a milk-dumping protest, organized by the Pure Food Campaign, the first week in February. The action marked the one-year anniversary of the federal government's approval of the "bovine growth hormone" Prosilac.

How much of the milk you drank today was affected by a biologically altered hormone? A ubiquitous product, milk is found not only in the usual carton but in restaurant food, cheese, butter, cream and babies' food.

Mounting Accidents in Russia

— Renfrey Clarke

WHEN A COUNTRY stops renewing its industry and infrastructure, production does not simply wind down in uneventful fashion. Owners and managers who cannot afford to replace worn-out machinery often cannot afford to shut it down either. Instead, they cross their fingers and keep it going. Sooner or later, it breaks. And when it breaks, it very often kills or maims people.

This is the situation that has now made Russia one of the most accident-prone countries on earth. As a share of Russian gross domestic product, the sums spent on renewing fixed capital were reported recently to have fallen by sixty percent since 1992....

Books for Russia: An Appeal

— Richard Greeman

ALEXANDER BUZGALIN, BORIS Kagarlitsky and I are appealing to you to support a fabulous project: “Books for Struggle.” We need your help in filling a container with Western radical literature and shipping it to the “Victor Serge Labor Library,” the reading room and distribution center we are establishing in Moscow.

Russian activists and left intellectuals suffer from having been cut off from international Marxist and labor traditions for over seventy years. Moreover, it has been very difficult for Russians to learn about actually existing capitalism(s) and the material and ideological struggles that have been carried out against them around the world during the last century....

Constructing the Past in Contemporary India

— Brian K. Smith

SINCE GAINING INDEPENDENCE in 1947, India has constitutionally defined itself as a “sovereign, democratic and secular republic.” With its current population of 850 million people, comprised of an enormous variety of ethnic, linguistic, cultural and religious groups, modern India has been proud of its status as the world's largest functioning (more or less) democracy.

Today, this society is undergoing a traumatic identity crisis, facing a momentous decision as to what kind of nation it thinks it is -- a secular democracy or Hindu theocracy -- and what kind of past it thinks it has....

What Chiapas & Mexico Need: Democracy, Not War!

— Olivia Gall

ON THE MORNING of February 9, central and southeast Chiapanec skies filled once more with military planes and helicopters. Nobody understood what was gong on. Only a few hours later the national television channels announced President Zedillo's unexpected new stance toward the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN).

The Zapatista leaders -- Zedillo declared -- would no longer be considered social fighters with whom the government can negotiate peace, but as dangerous outlaws who must be stopped, arrested and convicted according to law....

Zedillo's Financial Package

MEXICAN PRESIDENT ERNESTO Zedillo has accepted the package of loan guarantees to rescue the peso, organized mainly by the U.S. government. This means that, in exchange for the loan of $51 billion, Zedillo agreed to follow precisely the same policy which led us to this disaster: reduction of the state budget.

It's difficult to imagine reducing the social budget in a country like Mexico, where the private sector is being crushed under too high interest rates and devastated by internal and international debts (which have doubled with the peso's devaluation last December)....

Clinton's Failure & the Politics of U.S. Decline

— Robert Brenner

BOTH THE DEFEAT of Clinton's mild industrial reform program, and the victory of the free market budget-balancing austerity program that took its place, are part and parcel of the rise in the U.S. of what I would call “the politics of decline.” The “politics of decline,” maturing over two decades or more, reflects the newly emergent contours of the American economy and the structure of social forces that the economy now supports.

The Media, Politics & Ourselves (Part 2)

— Robert McChesney interviews Noam Chomsky

THE FIRST PART of this discussion with Noam Chomsky appeared in ATC 55. Robert W. McChesney is the author of Telecommunications, Mass Media, and Democracy: The Battle for the Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935, which was reviewed in Against the Current No. 52 (September-October 1994).

Robert McChesney: Another development of the last five years has been the rise to great prominence of right-wing talk radio.

Noam Chomsky: That's an interesting phenomenon. Have you ever looked into what is causing that? I mean, is it consciously planned?

Reflections on the Life & Work of Derek Jarman

— Bob Nowlan

INDEPENDENT BRITISH FILMMAKER Derek Jarman died of AIDS on February 19, 1994 in London. Jarman is best known as one of the leading directors in "the new queer cinema." Among Jarman's most famous films are "Sebastiane," "Jubilee," "The Tempest," "Angelic Conversation," "Imagining October," "The Last of England," "War Requiem," "The Garden," "Edward II," "Wittgenstein," and "Blue."

Jarman was also an accomplished painter and theater designer; a prolific journalist and essayist; an ubiquitous print, radio, and television interviewee; the author of three book-length collections of autobiographical writings, At Your Own Risk: a Saint's Testament, Dancing Ledge, and Modern Nature; and a dedicated queer and AIDS activist....

Kahlo As Artist, Woman, Rebel

— Mary Motian-Meadows

FRIDA KAHLO (1907-1954) is the most famous Mexican woman artist on the contemporary art scene. In our society, where the media focus is on sex and violence, certain autobiographical elements of Kahlo's life -- her physical handicaps (as a result of an accident when she was eighteen), her marriage with the world famous muralist Diego Rivera, her husband's infidelities, Kahlo's affairs (both with men and women), and her unhappiness at not being able to bear a child -- provoke psychological discussions of her work....

Radical Rhythms: The Merle Haggard Blues

— Terry Lindsey

I remember Daddy praying
For a better way of life,
But I don't recall a change
Of any size.
Just a little loss of courage,
As their age began to show,
And more sadness
In my mama's hungry eyes.
--Merle Haggard, “Mama's Hungry Eyes”

I LIKE COUNTRY music. In radical circles, this isn't always easy to admit. Despite country's huge record sales and radio market share, nobody I know ever says they like country music....

The Rebel Girl: Taking It to the Hoop

— Catherine Sameh

I RECENTLY HAD the pleasure of attending a University of Washington vs. Stanford women's basketball game. It was exhilarating on many levels: the high level of competition, the intensity of both women coaches, the crowd enthusiasm, the acute concentration and team work of the players, the three women officials.

Through the heady wave of sounds, sights and smells, one constant filled the crowded gym: this event was about the skills and accomplishments of women. From the players to the sports announcers, the trainers to the officials, this was a celebration of accomplished and proud women....

Random Shots: Icons of Our Times

— R.F. Kampfer

THE FORMER SOVIET republic of Abkhazia (actually, a separatist province of Georgia) has issued a pair of stamps commemorating Groucho Marx and John Lennon.

Albert Einstein's pipe was recently auctioned off for $20,000 -- and the buyer probably won't even smoke it.

Token OJ item: When you find a trout in the milk, circumstantial evidence can be pretty convincing....


Mapping Solzhenitsyn's Decline

— Alan Wald

The Great Reversal:
Politics and Art in Solzhenitsyn
by Paul N. Siegel
San Francisco, CA: Walnut Publishing Co. 198 pages, $9.95 paperback.

NO WRITER HAS been more intimately associated with the complex fate of the Russian Revolution than Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who returned in late May 1994 to the former Soviet Union after nearly two decades of exile in Vermont....


Perspectives on the ex-Soviet Union

— John Marot

ALEXANDER SOLZHENITSYN uttered the essential truth when, in a speech to the Duma last summer, he declared that the country was still run by Soviet-era “nomenklatura turncoats disguised as democrats.” The turncoats, with Yeltsin at their head, are defending their political supremacy within the prevailing “command administrative” economy, not in opposition to it. The much-touted transition to capitalism coming about as a result of the actions of the bureaucratic rulers themselves has failed to materialize....

Misunderstanding Capitalism

— Alex Callinicos

TRYING TO MAKE sense of the direction in which capitalism is going is often a difficult business. It is easy enough to get things wrong: constructive debate among Marxists can help identify and correct the mistakes we make. Kim Moody's critical comment on my little book, Trotskyism, seems to be written in such a spirit, and I shall try to respond in the same vein [see “The Competition of Capitals,” by Kim Moody ATC 52].

Moody understands that my book was intended, not as a comprehensive, fully rounded history of the Trotskyist movement....

A Reply to Callinicos on the State & Capital

— Kim Moody

ALEX CALLINICOS SAYS that a dialectics deficiency has led me to overlook an historic period in which the needs of capital as a whole “may require the state to invade the domain of private accumulation.” In fact, I have no objection to the idea that the capitalist state invades the domain of private accumulation daily, let alone during certain periods.

I don't even question of the oft-cited fact that the general direction of the first half or more of the twentieth century was toward a deeper intervention by the state into the affairs of the economy or capitalist accumulation....