Against the Current, No. 59, November/December 1995

Against the Current, No. 59, November/December 1995

Labor Wars, from Top to Bottom

— The Editors

AMERICA'S NEW LABOR WARS, from Staley and Caterpillar in Decatur to the Detroit newspapers, have become more frequent and visible—on the streets of Los Angeles and the construction sites of southern California; in the mining hills of rural western Virginia, on the streets of New York and in southern Illinois; and now in Detroit, industrial unionism's hometown, and at Boeing in Seattle, all struggles of workers who thought a piece of the "American Dream" was theirs.

The Detroit Newspaper Labor War

— David Finkel

Sunday, September 10, 4:15 am, at the "Detroit News" printing plant in suburban Sterling Heights: For the past eight hours, several hundred picketers have held the line against trucks leaving the plant carrying the Sunday edition.  At Gate 1, most picketers are facing away from the plant, awaiting an apparently imminent police charge, when a convoy of trucks inside the plant barrels toward them at high speed.  Five are injured as picketers dive for safety; several are pulled away by friends just instants before they would have been crushed under truck wheels.  One truck turns onto Mound Road at such a high speed that it careens on two wheels and nearly turns over.

Potrait of a Strikebreaker

— Roger Horowitz

I'LL CALL HIM John, though I never got his name: A chance meeting on a van to the airport brought me face to face with one of legions of strikebreakers being used by the Gannett Company to break the Detroit newspaper strike.

Talkative and self-confident, John readily told me the story of how he was flying from Delaware to Detroit to help break the strike, along with Gannett employees from around the nation.

Bosnia's Triumph and Western Treachery

— Attila Hoare

IN LATE 1944, a bloody battle was waged over a small town in the mountains of northern Dalmatia.

Defending the town was the German 264th Division, backed up by a combined force of Croats and Serbs.  The Croats were Ustashe, nominal rulers of the whole of Croatia; but the Ustashe had never established their control over this particular town. The Serbs were Chetniks; this town had been their stronghold since the start of the War in 1941.

Radical Rhythms: World Music--What in the World Is It?

— Kim Hunter

WHEN MY COMRADE Ismael Ahmed was asked years ago why we played hip-hop and jazz in the context of the “world music” radio program we did together, he replied: “It's music and it's in the world. So, it's world music.” While only half serious, this reply illustrates the difficulties with the term and the genre.

Like “exotic,” “world music” is a very relative term that depends on who you are, where you are and where you are coming from. So the central question with defining world music becomes: Whose world and whose music are we talking about?...

Letter to the Editor--and Reply

— Michael Funke; Archie Lieberman

[Editors' note: The following exchange between Michael Funke and Archie Lieberman touches on issues of U.S. labor history, and the role played by contending political forces, which are not only highly controversial but indeed are likely new to many of our readers. It illustrates very sharp differences within today's left on how important parts of union history should be viewed. In future issues of Against the Current we intend to publish several essays exploring the role of Communist, left-socialist and revolutionary activists in the rise of the CIO and the Flint autoworkers' sitdown strike, which we hope will encourage readers to develop and extend the dialogue begun here.]...

The Rebel Girl: The Complexities of Inclusion

— Catherine Sameh

THE OUTCOME OF the O.J. Simpson trial has generated a national discussion of immense importance and complexity about divisions across race, class and gender--about dilemmas and compromises.

It's a discussion worth having, despite the sensationalist climate in which it's occurring. The strange conversion of Norma McCorvey, better known as Jane Roe, raises similar albeit less charged questions....

Random Shots: Bad Cop! No Donut!

— R.F. Kampfer

FAVORITE CHANT DIRECTED by picketers at the police in Sterling Heights, the suburb of Detroit where the Detroit News and Free Press are printed: “Bad Cop! No Donut!”

And a new chant began when police messed with picketers at a distribution center, the Saturday night after the O.J. Simpson verdict: “Fuhrman! Fuhrman!” At another center, the picketers chanted, “L.A.P.D.! L.A.P.D.!”...

A Symposium on Imperialism Today


— The Editors

EARLIER THIS YEAR the editors of Against the Current solicited comments from a spectrum of writers and activists on the left on problems raised for anti-imperialist struggle in a post-Cold War world. We posed a few questions to assist the discussion, while making it clear that contributors were free to ignore them or pose other questions to address....

The Shape of Today's Imperialism

— Kim Moody

FOR NEARLY eighty years the marxist left has taken Lenin's Imperialism as its theoretical guide to the motor forces and contours of the domination of the world by the ruling classes of a tiny number of "great" powers. In the entire period only a handful of serious theoretical critiques have been attempted (discounting those who have simply tried to jettison the whole unpleasant idea of imperialism); e.g. Michael Kidron's in the 1960s and Anwar Shaikh's in the 1980s....

Myths of "Humanitarian" Intervention

— Michael Parenti

CONTRARY TO POPULAR belief, U.S. leaders are no different from those of most other countries in that they have a dismal humanitarian record.

True, many nations including this one have sent relief abroad in response to particular disasters.But these sporadic actions are limited in scope, do not represent an essential policy commitment, and obscure the many occasions when governments choose to do absolutely nothing for other peoples in dire straits....

Imperialism with a Human Face?

— Paul Le Blanc

A REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALIST analysis of imperialism today begins with the insights of Rosa Luxemburg and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, which are remarkably fresh and relevant despite the passage of decades. Modern imperialism involves the expansion of capitalist enterprise beyond state boundaries. Luxemburg described it this way:

“Capitalist desire for imperialist expansion, as the expression of its highest maturity in the last period of its life, has the economic tendency to change the whole world into capitalistically producing nations, to sweep away all superannuated, precapitalistic methods of production and society, to subjugate all the riches of the earth and all means of production to capital,...

Organizing in the Americas

Haiti: The Elections and After

— Dianne Feeley

MOST OF THE U.S. movement in solidarity with Haiti opposed the U.S. occupation a year ago, noting that all Washington had to do to bring down the coup regime was to sever its official and unofficial ties.

Following the U.S./United Nations occupation, however, two differing evaluations have emerged. The first pinpoints Aristide`s decision to accept military intervention--and his agreement to implement a Structural Adjustment Program--as proof that he has definitely broken with his commitment to justice....

Chile: The Human Rights Challenge

— Emily Bono

THE CALL “LA alegra ya viene” – “Joy is coming!” -- rallied the opposition against Chile's military government under General Augusto Pinochet. But since civilian government took office again, Chileans have had to face more pain: uncovering the truth about human rights violations committed during sixteen years of dictatorship.

Establishing at least a partial truth about past events is an important first step in stopping repression and impunity, and returning dignity to the victims. How can Chilean society recover its painful history, then turn the page so that the state will never again be able to make war on its people?...

Land Occupation and Struggle in Brazil

— Michael Shellenberger

IT'S 5:30 A.M. as I'm jarred out of sleep by the country music that Gilmar, my 20 year-old Brazilian host, is blasting from the other side of a very thin wall. Early rises to musica sertaneja--country music Brazilian-style--are the most painful aspect of fieldwork in peasant communities, in contrast to Rio de Janeiro where people sleep in late and funk music rules the day.

It is my fourth morning in Nova Fronteira, a peasant community in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. In Gilmar's front room I sit near the wood stove and munch on homemade bread and coffee. He passes me a gourd of chimarrão, the hot tea drink ubiquitous in southern Brazil, and my mood begins to improve....

Amazon Peasant Massacred

— Michael Shellenberger

AT DAWN, AUGUST 9, 1995, 200 Military Police rushed a land occupation of 300 peasant families in the Amazonian state of Rondônia. In the fray that ensued, two Military Police and ten of the occupiers were killed.

Though the camp was subdued almost immediately, the PM sought revenge for their two comrades and commenced a killing spree where twenty-five peasants were shot or tortured, ten others were executed (beaten or shot to death) and nineteen are disappeared (likely dead). It was Brazil's worst peasant massacre in thirty years....

Forced Labor in Brazil: An interview with James Cavallaro

— Marcelo Irajá de Araújo Hoffman

JAMES CAVALLARO IS Brazil representative of Human Rights Watch/Americas and the Center for International Law and Justice. In this interview, he discusses forced labor in Brazil and the position of Human Rights Watch regarding this practice. Marcelo Iraja de Araujo Hoffman is a graduate student at the American University School of International Service and active in Brazil solidarity work.

Hoffman: According to the Pastoral Land Commission (Comissao Pastoral da Terra (CPT), a Catholic organization which monitors human rights abuses in Brazil's countryside, cases of slave labor involved over 25,000 people in 1994. To the best of my knowledge, this is the highest figure registered by the CPT. Why is slave labor expanding so rapidly?...

Indigenous Organizing in Colombia and Ecuador

— Jorge León and Joanne Rappaport

FROM MEXICO TO Bolivia, the most prominent social movements in the 1990s are indigenous organizations. Composed of broad memberships whose demands have been ignored until recently by the state and rejected by groups on the left, in the past decade native organizations have been propelled into the national spotlight, creating new scenarios for popular protest and forcing all Latin Americans to rethink the meaning of nationality and of the state....


Uncracking Crack Coverage

— Janice Peck

Cracked Coverage:
Television News, The Anti-Cocaine Crusade, And the Reagan Legacy
by Jimmie L. Reeves and Richard Campbel
Duke University Press, 1994, 330 pages, $19.95.

IN MODERN SOCIETY, Stuart Hall argues, the mass media play a decisive role in constructing social knowledge. By “ruling in and ruling out certain realities,” the media provide frameworks of intelligibility, helping us “not simply to know more about the world, but to make sense of it,” and drawing the line “between preferred and excluded explanations and rationales, between permitted and deviant behaviors,...

In Memoriam

Ernest Mandel: A Passionate Optimistic Marxist

— Anwar Shaikh

ERNEST MANDEL WAS an extraordinary man in an extraordinary age. We are here to honor him for his passionate espousal of marxism, for his deep and abiding concern with struggles against oppression, for the breadth of his knowledge, for the rigor of his intellect, and for his ability to acknowledge the world that is while continuing to fight for the world that could be.

No life is free of mistakes and heartaches. But some remind us that a life can be lived with ideals, passions, and actions fully connected to each other. We are here to celebrate a man who lived such a life....

Ernest Mandel: Internationalist and Dear Comrade

— Rosario Ibarra de Piedra

SEVERAL ACTIVITIES PREVENT me from being with you to pay homage to our beloved Ernest. I shall be in the northern state of Chihuahua, to commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of one of the first modern Mexican political-military movements, which under the leadership of Arturo Gamiz stormed the military headquarters of Madera.

In the 1970s, when my political activity started, in search of dozens of companeros detained/disappeared by the repressive organs of the Mexican state, many democratic and leftist political currents lent a hand to our group of mothers, wives and sisters united by the pain of the bsence of our children, husbands and brothers....

In Tribute to Ernest Mandel

— Andre Gunder Frank

WE HAVE LOST not only a most humane human being, but the world's greatest optimist. I don't know which is the greater loss. Moreover, Ernest was also a great democrat: He not only fought for it; he also practiced it as few others have done.

My relation with Ernest was professional, political, and above all personal. It began with his professional/political published praise of my early work on Latin America and my request to him for help with my work on dependence, to which he acceded logistically by receiving me in the Hague, taking me back to Brussels in his car, and lodging me at his home in or about 1969....

Ernest Mandel: Revolutionary of the 20th Century

— Manuel Aguilar Mora

ONE OF THE most important revolutionaries of this century, by itself full of revolutionary personages, died of heart failure in Belgium on the morning of July 20th.

It is impossible to capture Ernest's rich personality with only a few essential features. Running all the risks, I would dare to define our comrade as an optimist about life and its potentials, with an inviolable faith in human beings and their capacity, together with nature, to transform this planet, from the hell it is today, into an authentic place for humanity....

Ernest Mandel: A Revolutionary Heroic Life

— Jacob Moneta

IN 1946--HE was only 23--Ernest Mandel wrote a stirring introduction to the Marxist Interpretation of the Jewish Question of Abram Leon, his friend and mentor.

Ernest's closest friends and comrades, leading members of the Trotskyist movement under the Nazi occupation in Europe, had been killed: Marcel Hic in France; Martin Monat (his pseudonym was Widelin), in charge of the movement's propaganda among German soldiers, arrested by the French militia which collaborated with the German Gestapo, tortured and killed; Abram Leon, who tried to resume contact with the Belgian miners of Charleroi, the first ones who dared to strike in spite of the Nazi occupation, arrested, transferred to Auschwitz and gassed....

Hedda Garza, 1929-1995

— Patrick M. Quinn

WE WERE SADDENED to learn of the death August 23 of longtime socialist activist Hedda Garza. Hedda died of cancer at the age of 66 in Glen Falls Hospital near her home in Friends Lake, New York.

Born Hedda Axelrod on July 24, 1929, she began her long political life while a teenager in New York's Washington Heights neighborhood during World War II by joining the Communist Party's youth group, the Labor Youth League. In l958, in the wake of the Hungarian Revolution and the Khrushchev revelations she joined the Socialist Workers Party and quickly became a well-known, dynamic, and charismatic activist in the New York branch of the SWP....

William Kunstler, 1919-1995

— Michael Steven Smith

A MONTH BEFORE he died, Bill Kunstler did a stand up routine at Caroline's Comedy Club in Manhattan.

I wasn't surprised to see the ad for his appearance in the New York Times. He was entertaining and extremely funny. He had recently cracked up a bunch of us outside my office door with a terrific Groucho Marx imitation. His high spirits and irreverence, even about himself, rubbed off on people, making them feel good about themselves. Even though he was 76, he said he would never retire but instead envisioned himself checking out while delivering a summation to a jury, sinking to the courtroom floor, clutching his notes....