Against the Current, No. 58, September/October 1995

Against the Current, No. 58, September/October 1995

Save Mumia Abu-Jamal

— The Editors

THE LIFE OF Mumia Abu-Jamal hung in the balance as this issue of Against the Current is in preparation (mid-July 1995). At the beginning of June, governor Thomas Ridge signed the death warrant for this African-American journalist and revolutionary activist, setting the date of execution for August 17. Ten days prior to his scheduled dath by lethal injection, Mumia received a stay; pending exhaustion of all his appeals. Such a stay, of course, should have been automatic—but in fact it was a tremendous victory won by immense international pressure and outrage over the case....

The Right's New Dynamism

— Christopher Phelps

NOT LONG AGO, scandal upon scandal seemed sure to destroy the political fortunes of the religious right. One after another, the great evangelical ministries of the eighties--Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, Jerry Falwell--fell victim to temptation. After Pat Robertson's 1988 presidential campaign fell flat, the wind seemed to have left the sails of the religious right.

In 1989, however, Robertson used the names gathered during his campaign to create an organization of the faithful focused at the level of local politics and mobilized from on high by executive director Ralph Reed, a young, savvy political operative....

The Pseudo-Science: Creationism

— Christopher Phelps

THOSE WHO THINK the credibility of creationism was forever destroyed by the Scopes "monkey trial" of the 1920s are in for an unpleasant surprise. Evolution, the organizing principle of modern biology, is again under assault.

Fundamentalist schools have special biology textbooks that teach evolution only to refute it. More insidiously, evangelical Christians, who now control several thousand school boards, have begun to reinsert creationism into public school biology classrooms under the doctrine of "equal time."...

The Gulf War Syndrome Mystery

— Pauline Furth, M.D.

THERE ARE EIGHTEEN pages in Dorland's Medical Dictionary defining the word "Syndrome." Simply put, it is a group or cluster of similar symptoms, complaints, and afflictions forming a common bond. It describes an illness or pathology of which much is yet unknown. (Medically speaking, an exact opposite would be Tuberculosis or "Strep Throat," where the etiology and treatment are well-known and defined.)...

Britain: Conservatives Collapse & Labor Lurches Right

— Harry Brighouse

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER John Major's decision to resign as leader of the Conservative Party and stand in the consequent contest was no great surprise. Certain that a challenge to his leadership would otherwise come at the autumn party conference he sought to preempt it and fight at a time of his own choosing.

His victory, though not as decisive as he would have liked, probably represents the best chance that the Conservatives had of winning the next British election. His challenger, John Redwood, a rightwing mastermind of the Thatcher privatization programs of the 1980's, won just 89 votes....

Can Bosnia Resist?

— Attila Hoare

THREE FACTORS ARE staving off a Serbian defeat in the Bosnian war. The international arms embargo has prevented the Army of the Republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina (ARBiH) from acquiring the offensive fire power needed to win. Radovan Karadzic's forces possess around ten times the tanks and five times the artillery of the ARBiH; this is itself only a fraction of the equipment of Serbia proper.

The imbalance could be reduced, were it not for the ambivalent attitude of President Tudman's Croatia towards Bosnian military victory. Zagreb has been evading the arms embargo while blocking the acquisition of heavy weapons by the ARBiH....

Radical Rhythms: "Dancing on John Wayne's Head"

— John Greenbaum

SEVERAL YEARS AFTER emigrating to Canada from Jamaica, Pat Andrade made an almost surreal journey to the most isolated Indian reservation in the U.S. -- Supai, Arizona. After descending eleven miles down the steep canyon cliffs by mule, he made his way through the village, reggae music emanating from every building.

During his stay, Andrade participated in a sweatlodge purification ceremony, played music, talked and savored the beauty of Supai and the warmth of its people. The Havasupai have incorporated patois into their language and frequently wear red, green and gold. Andrade's dreadlocks were the object of admiration and fascination....

Rebel Girl: Murder, the Double Standard

— Catherine Sameh

THERE IS NO doubt the memory of Nicole Brown Simpson will never be enshrined in quite the same way as that of Michael and Alex Smith. So accustomed to the extinction of women's lives at the hands of men, and simultaneously so hesitant to hold men accountable for their crimes, we have extended O.J. Simpson an extraordinary degree of empathy.

As for Susan Smith, a mother who killed her children in a society that idealizes motherhood and children, any complexity of analysis of her motives or shred of compassion for her has either been expressed through fundamentally narrow and patronizing categories, or completely eclipsed by the intense emotion surrounded the death of the boys....

Random Shots: Kampfer, Eat Like Him

— R.F. Kampfer

BEING JEWISH BRINGS its share of hassles, but lox for breakfast goes a long way to compensate. This expensive delicacy is surprisingly east yo make home. All it takes is patience and time, but that's all that Kutuzov needed to defeat Napoleon....

Labor in the War Zone

June 25th in Decatur

— Steve Ashby

THEST ARE TUMULTUOUS times for the besieged and divided AFL-CIO. The 81union, 13.3 millionmember labor federation is at a crossroads. A June 25th march and rally in Decatur, Illinois symbolized the strengths and weaknesses of labor in the 1990s. It was the best of rallies. It was the worst of rallies....

Staley Workers Vote to Fight On

— Steve Ashby

FIVE DAYS AFTER the rally Staley workers were presented with management's contract. As expected, it was a slave labor, unionbusting "offer," worse than their "last and final" contract that was overwhelmingly turned down by the workers three years ago. It calls for a nearly 50% cut to 349 union jobs (and only 210 in eighteen months), the rest to be subcontracted out; 12hour shifts rotating every six days; seniority gutted; scabs to work alongside union workers and "retrain" them for four months; and immediate discharge if unionists speak their minds to scabs....

Why the Industrial Working Class Still Matters

— Kim Moody

DURING THE 1980s the theorists of post-industrialism, post-modernism and/or flexible specialization dismissed the industrial working class from the stage of history.  No one was more dismissive than the dean of post-industrialists, Peter Drucker, who wrote, "No class in history has ever risen faster than the blue-collar worker.  And no class in history has ever fallen faster."  (Drucker, 1994)

The New American Workplace

— Jane Slaughter

LESS THAN FOUR years ago a very different conference took place in this room. It was the AFL-CIO convention; Brother Lane Kirkland was unanimously reelected to lead the federation. Now Brother Kirkland appears to be a lame duck--maybe a sitting duck. And this conference is going to be very different from that AFL-CIO convention.

Last year the AFL-CIO endorsed a concept they called "a new American workplace." That's one name for it. A lot of academics call it "high performance work systems." AT&T calls it the Workplace of the Future....

Review: Working Smart

— Laura McClure

Working Smart:
A Union Guide to Participation Program and Reengineering
by Mike Parker and Jane Slaughter
Detroit: Labor Notes, 1995, $20 paper.

IF YOU BELIEVE AFL-CIO president Lane Kirkland, all of labor's problems come from the outside: worker-hostile courts, Republicans, anti-labor laws. Don't expect him to point out that labor is also being devoured from within. It's gotten so bad that some union leaders can't decide whether their job is to advance workers' interests or promote corporate profitability....

Review: The CIO 1935-1955

— Dan La Botz

The CIO: 1935-1955
by Robert H. Zieger
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995, 476 pages, 45.

ROBERT H. ZIEGER'S The CIO: 1935-1955 will take its place on the labor history shelves next to Philip Taft's history of the American Federation of Labor, and near the works of John R. Commons and Selig Perlman. Zieger's work will be for many years the standard work and definitive history of the Congress of Industrial Organizations....

Post Apartheid South Africa

A Note of Introduction

— The Editors

THE FIRST YEAR of post-apartheid South Africa has presented a powerful paradox. The greatest popular movement in history, filled with revolutionary expectations, has produced at the moment of its victory one of the most "moderate" governments to emerge from a liberation struggle. Indeed, its policies can barely be described even as social-democratic. (See "The Uncertain Shape of Post-Apartheid South Africa," by Patrick Bond, ATC 50, for a discussion of the ANC government's economic policies immediately following the historic 1994 election.)

Year One of the Transition

— John Pape

"The fact of the matter is South Africa after one year has become the symbol of hope for reconciliation and democracy worldwide." --Editorial, Sowetan newspaper, April 27 1995

"Our ship is on course." --Nelson Mandela, April 23, 1995

"Ordinary people like me have not experienced any change." --Vincent Maphala, Squatter camp resident, April 1995

ON MAY 10TH South Africa celebrated the first anniversary of democratic rule. The first post-apartheid year has surprised many people....

What's Left of the Grassroots Left?

— Dan Connell

THE SOUTH AFRICAN left is going through a profound transition from an underground resistance movement to an open political party. At this point, it has one foot in the new Government of National Unity and the other in a restive popular base that is increasingly impatient for structural economic and social change. Some critics argue that the left has so muted its politics in the protracted transition to democracy that it has lost its identity as a revolutionary force. Others say the left is on track to complete the main tasks of the National Democratic Revolution and to position itself for the struggle for socialism. The truth, as usual, is more complex than these alternatives suggest....


Serbia's Flawed Liberal Opposition

— Attila Hoare

Yugoslavia’s Ethnic Nightmare—The Inside Story of Europe’s Unfolding Ordeal
Edited by Jasminka Udovicki and James Rideway
New York: Lawrence Hill Books, 1995, 252 pages.

BEFORE THE BREAKUP of Yugoslavia in the period 1987-91, no adequate explanation of the national question in the country under Communist rule had been provided by any historian in any language....

Dialogue on American Trotskyism

A Reply to Alan Wald

— Steve Bloom

ALAN WALD HAS contributed a great deal to our knowledge of the American Trotskyist movement over the years. It was particularly disappointing, then, to read "The End of `American Trotskyism,'" (ATC 53-55).

Wald asserts: American Trotskyism's "achievements, though insufficient as a foundation condemning any movement to continuing isolation if made its centerpiece, can be powerful contributions to some larger project." "Trotskyism in the United States has been proven too often to be an insufficient worldview."...

Our Legacy: A Reply to Critics

— Alan Wald

THE TITLE OF my essay, "The End of 'American Trotskyism'?", is in the form of a question that might be posed by a young activist of the 1990s who is justifiably skeptical of Trotskyism's future, in light of its present organizational state.

The body of the essay answers that question in the negative; that is, we are NOT at the end of "American Trotskyism," although the legacy must be carefully rethought. The last pages conclude with an affirmation of the core ideas of Trotskyist theory, and an admiring perspective on much of Trotskyism's legacy....

Letters to Against the Current

On "Closing the Courthouse Doors"

— Barbara Zeluck

MICHAEL STEVEN SMITH's "Closing the Courthouse Doors" (ATC 57) identifies the assault on the U.S. civil justice system's provision for compensation of personal injuries with the Contract on America. True, the Gingrichians are aiming a broadside with the aim of protecting not just large corporations and their insurance companies, but petty swindlers and drunk drivers as well. But they aren't the first. To those who looking to personal injury (tort) lawsuits as one means of raising workplace safety standardsas an auxiliary to the class struggleit's been evident that this attack has been building for some time....