Against the Current, No. 60, January/February 1996

Against the Current, No. 60, January/February 1996

Budget Wrestlemania

— The Editors

WHILE FRENCH LABOR responded to social security and welfare cuts with a paralyzing public workers' strike--throwing into turmoil not only the Chirac government's plans, but the whole project of a capitalist unified Europe--the U.S. picture could hardly have been more different. Republicans and Democrats engaged in a budget wrestlemania, complete with ritual woofing and barking and hero-versus-villain casting, but ninety percent of it a phony war. Indeed, the whole conflict between Clinton and the Republicans over the 1996 budget should help convince those still hopeful about Clinton that a strategy of supporting Clinton and the Democrats is a loser....

Labor's Wars

— The Editors

AS WE GO to press, U.S. labor has absorbed one of its more bitter defeats since the loss of the Hormel strike. The United Auto Workers returned to work at Caterpillar after seventeen months on strike, with no contract and no redress of the grievances that caused the walkout....

Quebec After the Referendum

— Michel Lafitte

THE NARROW VICTORY of the federalist forces--50.47% to 49.53%--in the October 30 referendum on Quebec sovereignty is seen by all the social movements as one more bitter defeat. For the moment depression prevails, whether in the trade unions, feminist movement, or popular movement in Quebec.

We know very well that this defeat for the spirited forces of our small Quebecois nation of seven million brings the strong risk of opening the floodgate to the neoliberal offensive, something the big Canadian bourgeoisie wants very badly....

Lessons of the Chiapas Uprising

— James Petras and Steve Vieux

THE ZAPATISTA UPRISING in Chiapas has generated hundreds of articles and dozens of books. The lines of argument about the origins and nature of the struggle focus on several themes: According to some it is a revolt by poverty-stricken Indians; for others it is part of the new social movements, distinct from the older class-based movements linked to ideologies. One writer has labeled it a post-modern rebellion.(1)...

Radical Rhythms: Andrew Hill's Blue Note Sessions

— W. Kim Heron

SAXOPHONIST ANTHONY BRAXTON, in a recently published interview, listed jazz composers he'd like to devote recording projects to. One of our most discerning reinterperters of the jazz past, Braxton so far has done Thelonious Monk, Lennie Tristano and Charlie Parker. In the future: Duke Ellington, Dave Brubeck and . . . Andrew Hill....

Rebel Girl: Booksellers--Endangered Species?

— Catherine Sameh

THE HOLIDAYS ARE over, and if you're lucky, someone bought you at least one fantastic book. You open it, delighting in being the first to crack its spine. Its new smell comes wafting up from cream-colored pages. You pore over the details--the cover, the acknowledgements, the bibliography. Then, with great anticipation, you settle into the meat of your new book and begin to devour....

Random Shots: Notes for the Holidays

— R.F. Kampfer

CHRYSLER WILL DISCONTINUE production of the Dodge (Mitsubishi) Stealth this year. Popularity of the pseudo-sports car declined after buyers learned that it was not, alas, invisible to highway patrol radar....

A Symposium on Imperialism Today


— The Editors

IN OUR PREVIOUS issue (ATC 59), we published the first contributions to our symposium on "Imperialism Today and Tomorrow." We present here a second group of responses. Our letter soliciting participants asked them to discuss whether classic theories of imperialism remain relevant and also invited responses to three specific questions:...

Whither Capitalist Militarism?

— Ellen Meiksins Wood

IT'S HARD TO get around the fact that classic Marxist theories of imperialism have, in many important respects, been overtaken by history. Certainly the basic Leninist idea that imperialism represented "the highest stage of capitalism" can hardly now stand up to scrutiny.

Underlying this definition was the assumption that capitalism had reached a stage where the main axis of international conflict and military confrontation would run between imperialist states in competition over (re)division of the world. The more capitalism spread (at uneven rates), the more acute would be the rivalry among the main imperialist powers, while they would also face increasing resistance....

The Not-So-New Imperialism

— Harry Magdoff

A. I DON'T THINK that there has been a significant change in the role of the IMF and World Bank. From their inception, at the time the Second World War was winding down, to this day, their main function has not varied. Their job has been, and continues to be, the strengthening and enlargement of the imperialist network of trade and investment.

There have been three key components to this strategy....

Defining Imperialsim Today

— Mel Rothenberg

"We must give a definition of imperialism that will include the following five of its basic features:

"(1) The concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation on the basis of this 'finance capital,' of a financial oligarchy; (3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; (4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves and (5) the territorial division of the whole world....

The Politics of Anti-Intervention

— Darrel Moellendorf

THERE IS A long and largely admirable tradition of socialist opposition to war. But what might be called "a post-war consensus" among socialists has of late begun to unravel. Signs of fraying were evident during the Gulf War as several longtime socialists supported U.S. intervention. Since then, spectacles of starvation in Somalia, ethnic warfare in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, and dictatorship in Haiti have left socialists divided about U.S. and UN intervention....

African-American History and Politics

Forging Our Political Agenda

— interview with Claire Cohen

DR. CLAIRE COHEN is a member of Solidarity who is active in Pittsburgh with the Campaign for a New Tomorrow (CNT) and with a network of African-American community activists. Their work ranges from independent politics to the issue of police brutality (recently manifested by the police killing of Johnny Gammage, which received national attention only because his cousin Ray Seals plays for the Pittsburgh Steelers). David Finkel of the ATC editorial board interviewed Claire Cohen on local and statewide political initiatives.

Against the Current: You recently attended a conference on the issue of proportional representation (PR)....

Letter to Che

— Melba Joyce Boyd

--In 1492, Columbus uncovered America and captured Cuba.

--In 1959, America recovered herself and freed Cuba.

you receive
these letters
on a curl
of smoke
rising from
your cigar.
it is the
earliest moment
of morning,...

A Word of Introduction

— The Editors

THE DRAMATIC SUCCESS of the Million Man March has brought to the foreground, once again, the self-mobilizing capacity of African Americans. Besides its other dimensions, it surely demonstrated Black workers' potential power--with many Detroit auto plants hard hit, and the Philadelphia school bus system and the entire school system in Camden shut down for the day....

An Historic Turning Point?

— an interview with Ron Daniels

RON DANIELS IS national chairperson of the Campaign for a New Tomorrow and well-known as a proponent of independent progressive political action. Formerly a leading organizer in the Rainbow Coalition, he campaigned as an independent in the 1992 Presidential election. He served as a member of the executive council of the Organizing Committee for the Million Man March.

David Finkel of the ATC editorial board conducted this telephone interview on the dynamics and implications of the March.

Against the Current: Before getting into the main issues we'd like you to discuss--the significance of the March for overall U.S. politics....

Going Beyond Self-Help

— Robin D.G. Kelley

ON OCTOBER 16TH, while hundreds of thousands of African-American men and some women filed into Washington, D.C., to pray, fellowship and listen to inspirational speeches and poems, I was lecturing at New York University on the subject of slave women in the antebellum South.

It just so happened that the Million Man March (MMM) took place during the week my undergraduate class read Deborah Gray White's book, Ain't I a Woman: Female Slaves in the Plantation South and Harriet Jacob's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl....

An Affirmation of Humanity

— James Jennings

ALTHOUGH I COULD not attend the Million Man March on October 16, 1995, I was, and remain, completely supportive of this event as a mobilizing and historical moment for the Black community in the United States.

The March was part of a long historical tradition among Blacks in the United States to convene in order to discuss not only potential political programs, but also to reassess community and group values. Meetings like the Million Man March were held in the ante-bellum period, as well as throughout the latter part of the 19th century, and the 20th century....

Victim Blaming and Patriarchy

— Adolph Reed

ADOLPH REED IS a professor of political science at Northwestern University. He is well-known as a trenchant social and political commentator. David Finkel of the ATC editorial board interviewed him by phone.

Against the Current: What did you see as the impact of the Million Man March, both on people at the event itself and on those in the African-American community who didn't attend but watched on TV?

Adolph Reed: There are a number of possibilities. One is that it won't actually have any effect, at least in terms of mobilizing people to do anything or challenge anything or to organize in a grassroots way....

Potential and Contradiction

— Tim Schermerhorn

THE MILLION MAN March's effect on my job was significant. They had to go to ridiculous stretch runs expanding the running time between trains. There were places in the New York subway system where people waited an hour for trains.

In the afternoon they declared an emergency, which means they can force people to work. After refusing to work overtime I then had to wait fifty minutes for a train to get home....

African-American Resistance to Jim Crow in the South

— Paul Ortiz

IN THE SUMMER of 1964 student activists from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) went to Gadsden County, Florida in an effort to convert the old plantation county in the heart of the Florida panhandle into a bastion of CORE's Southern civil rights crusade.(1) Before the summer ended, the students would be bombed, beaten, and arrested by white authorities and vigilantes. Despite these obstacles, CORE activists helped over 3,500 local residents register to vote and take part in the 1964 presidential campaign.(2)

The Marxism of C.L.R. James

— Paul Le Blanc

Cyril Lionel Robert James (1901-1989) has begun to enjoy a revival among U.S. and European intellectuals which promises to spread his influence more widely in the present and future than was the case at any time during his life. He is best known for his magnificent history of the Haitian revolution, entitled Black Jacobins (first published in 1938 and reprinted often since then), but a growing number of people are becoming increasingly familiar with many other facets of his work.

Perspectives on Environmental Struggle

Two Perspectives

— The Editors

WE OFFER HERE two perspectives on the environmental struggle and the left. Judi Bari presents the case for "biocentrism," associated with the deep ecology movement; Chris Gaal offers an approach to creating an ecological socialist politics. In part these articles arose out of discussions that occurred when Bari spoke in Bloomington, Indiana; both authors consider their work to be part of an unfolding dialogue inside the movement that is far from finished....

Biocentrism and Revolutionary Ecology

— Judi Bari

I WAS A social justice activist for many years before I ever heard of Earth First! So it came as a surprise to me, when I joined Earth First! in the 1980s, to find that the radical environmental movement paid little attention to the social causes of ecological destruction.

Similarly, the social justice movement seems to have a hard time admitting the importance of biological issues in today's schemes of social oppression. Yet in order to effectively respond to the crises of today, I believe we must merge these two issues....

Toward Ecological Socialism

— Chris Gaal

SINCE ITS RISE to public prominence in the 1970s, the United States environmental movement has struggled with the creation of its own ideology. Yet ecological thinking has not spawned a uniform world view regarding the relationship between humans and the natural world. Rather, several conflicting political directions have since emerged.

Among the competing visions are eco-ideologies which mirror political divisions already existing in the world. Examples of these include liberal environmentalism represented by spokespeople such as Vice President Al Gore, as well as right-wing "free market environmentalism" which finds adherents even among some grass-roots organizations....


Noam Chomsky: Classic Libertarian

— Peter Stone

World Orders Old and New
by Noam Chomsky
New York: Columbia University Press, 1994, $24.95.

A GROUP OF free marketeers known as Advocates for Self-Government has created something called the World's Smallest Political Quiz, a brief test designed to measure your libertarian tendencies. As amusing and small as this quiz is, I'd like to propose an even smaller one. To show just how libertarian you really are, just tell me what you think of Noam Chomsky....

Beyond Liberal Multiculturalism

— Tim Libretti

Racial Formations/Critical Transformations:
Articulations of Power in Ethnic and Racial Study in the United States
by E. San Juan, Jr.
New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1992, paperback, $15.

E. SAN JUAN's compelling assessment of institutionalized Ethnic and Racial Studies in the United States constitutes a major contribution to the socialist project of theorizing a Marxism that articulates race with class and gender. Racial Formations/ Critical Transformations welds high theory and grassroots radical practice with a political deftness rarely encountered in academic scholarship....

In Memoriam

Witold Jedlicki, 1929-1995

— Samuel Farber

WITOLD JEDLICKI, a long-time friend of the Third Camp revolutionary socialist tendency, died in Jerusalem last September.

Witold was my personal friend. I first met him thirty years ago at UC Berkeley where he had just recently joined the Sociology Department as a somewhat older doctoral student. He contacted the Independent Socialist Club (ISC) when he came across a rally organized by that group, the predecessor of the International Socialists (IS), to demand the release of imprisoned Soviet dissidents Andrei Sinyavski and Yuli Daniel....

The Unrelenting Genora Dollinger

— Sol Dollinger

GENORA JOHNSON DOLLINGER was called the Joan of Arc of labor for her role in the Flint sitdown strikes of 1937. At the age of 23 she organized the Women's Auxiliary of the United Automobile Workers Union and the women's Emergency Brigade. The latter were armed with clubs in defense of the sitdowners from the hired Pinkerton strikebreakers, the plant police of General Motors and the Flint City Police dominated by the corporation. Her militant actions were the subject of two award-winning documentaries: "The Great Sitdown Strike," made by BBC, and the Academy Award nominated documentary, "Babies and Banners."...