Against the Current, No. 64, September/October 1996

Against the Current, No. 64, September/October 1996

Who Gets To Choose?

— The Editors

EIGHTY-TWO PERCENT of people surveyed by a recent Harris Poll respond that "the government works for the few and not the majority of people."  More than 80% think the economy is "inherently unfair," 70% that business has too much power over public life, and 95% that corporations should sacrifice some profits to benefit workers and communities.  As Elizabeth Chamberlain of the "Cleveland Free Times" comments in her report on the Labor Party founding convention, "You'd have to ask people if they believe in gravity to get as high a poll number as that."

Nicaragua: The Mischief of Senator Helms

— Chuck Kaufman and Lisa Zimmerman

WHILE THE HELMS-Burton Cuba embargo law has been widely criticized for granting retroactive U.S. citizenship rights to former Cubans (allowing them to sue for property lost 35 years ago--ed.), a little known but dangerous precedent already exists.

Retroactive citizenship rights were to Latin Americans by the passage of the HelmsGonzalez amendment to the 1994 Foreign Assistance Act.  That amendment was intended to force Nicaragua to return properties to former owners confiscated by the Sandinista government in the 1980s. That amendment now threatens resolution of Nicaragua's vexing property problem....

Ralph Nader and the Greens

— Walt Contreras Sheasby

"STEALTH CANDIDATE POSES a Threat," the New York Times announced on July 11. For many others, however, it poses a promise of hope.

Ralph Nader's presidential candidacy has now officially qualified for the ballot in 12 states (concentrated in the West) with a total of 127 electoral votes: Hawaii (4), Alaska (3), Washington (11), Oregon (7), California (54), Nevada (4), Utah (5), Colorado (8), New Mexico (5), Iowa (7), Maine (4), and New Jersey (15)....

New Teamsters vs. The Old Guard

— Martha Gruelle

THE BATTLE FOR leadership of the Teamsters is not just about cleaning up the union, though one side is clearly more tolerant of certain unsavory officials: "I vote we just let these guys run their locals like they want to!" shouted an old-guard supporter as the Teamsters convention was considering appeals of officers who'd been kicked out for wrong-doing. "They were elected by their members!"

More importantly, the Teamsters election this fall will present union members with the clearest choice in recent memory between two opposing views of union power that are under debate in the fading labor movement....

The End of the Hogan Family Dynasty

— Martha Gruelle

A CHICAGO TEAMSTERS Local 714 staffer blocked representatives of the International at the union hall door on August 7. The International reps had come to place the local in trusteeship, based on the recommendation of the Teamsters Independent Review Board; it has been Carey's practice to move quickly on such recommendations, in part to prevent a government trusteeship of the local in question.

Inside may have been a rather unhappy Hogan family gathering. The Hogans have "owned" Local 714 for about 70 years although much of their family wealth comes from ownership of companies that do business with Teamster employers....

How Oakland Teachers Fought Back

— Bill Balderston

THE RECORD IN recent years of public-sector union battles, especially strikes, has largely been one of defensive actions. This is not so much due to anti-union propaganda, which labels such job actions as an attack on the 'public interest,' but because of the overall austerity programs.

Despite the fact that the level of unionization in the state sector is far higher than in the private sector, such unions, including teacher organizations, have, for the most part, not been able to go on the offensive. Instead they have been portrayed as being greedy just for attempting to defend the status quo....

The Black Panthers Reconsidered

— Samuel Farber

THE WIDELY REVIEWED autobiographies of two key leaders of the Black Panther Party, a major study of that political organization, a movie by Melvin and Mario Van Peebles, and most recently the publication of the autobiography of William Lee Brent, an important Panther activist exiled in Cuba, have renewed interest in the Black Panthers, more than two decades after this political group played an important role in American society.

More movies and books by former Panther leaders Bobby Seale and Kathleen Cleaver, and a reader edited by Charles E. Jones for Black Classic Press are expected in the future....

The Rebel Girl: Is There Life After Olympics?

— Catherine Sameh

IF YOU'RE NOT a sports fan, and thus fairly well-adjusted, you're probably still basking in the quiet relief from Olympic hysteria. But if you're a fellow fanatic you won't mind obsessing about it with me just a bit more. How can I indulge you? Let me count the ways.

For weeks before the Games, numerous popular publications proclaimed this The Year of the Woman in sports. Indeed it really was, and continues to be....

Random Shots: Kampfer's Kreative Krossword

— R.F. Kampfer

FIRST PERSON TO solve the crossword puzzle wins a date with the Editorial Board member of your choice. You need to get out of the house more often.

Clinton's political behavior suggests that if he ever went to the track, he'd be betting a few dollars on every horse in the race....

Labor and Socialist Strategy

New York's Latino Workers Center

— David Levin

KIM MOODY WRITES in ATC 58 that "Today, in much of the industrialized and semi-industrialized world, many active workers are groping for new kinds of organizations or trying to change old ones to meet the present challenges posed by capital...  The search for organizations appropriate to this phase of capitalism is a global conversation..."

Promoting Unity and Solidarity

— Milton Fisk

IN A PERIOD that is frequently called post-industrial, or even post-capitalist, it is refreshing to read Moody's account, in "ATC" 58, of how important the private industrial sector still is. He points out that the U.S. industrial working class in the private sector, though only 29% of the private productive workforce, generates 44% of the Gross Domestic Product, which is 1.4% more than it generated thirty years ago when it was half the workforce.  After establishing the importance of the industrial workforce to the U.S. economy, he goes on to claim that, in view of its importance to the economy, it will have a "central role as `gravedigger' of the old society and organizer of the new."

Unity Begins Somewhere

— Kim Moody

INSOFAR AS MY article "Why the Industrial Working Class Still Matters (ATC 58) actually proposed a strategy it was a multi-organizational one similar, in fact, to what Milton Fisk advocates: Specifically, I proposed the "Latin American" or Brazilian multi-organizational model.

This idea was spelled out in more detail in a Solidarity discussion paper entitled "Pulled Apart, Pushed Together," which was published in severely edited form in Cross Roads late in 1994. That article included a discussion of workers' centers as one of the key elements of an overall approach to working class organizing in this period....


The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit

— Jane Slaughter

The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit:
Walter Reuther and the Fate of American Labor
By Nelson Lichtenstein
Basic Books, 575 pages, $35.

IN THE LAST paragraph of this biography of Walter Reuther, long-time president of the United Auto Workers, Nelson Lichtenstein maintains that if Reuther were alive today, he would oppose the union's labor-management partnership schemes, such as the famous love-in at the Saturn factory....

A Note on the Mainstream Reviews

— Jane Slaughter

MAINSTREAM REVIEWS OF Nelson Lichtenstein's new biography of Walter Reuther say as much about the boundaries of permissible ideas in the opinion-making media as they do about either the book or Reuther himself. To demonstrate its impartiality between labor and management, the Washington Post solicited the thoughts of Jeffrey E. Garten, dean of the Yale School of Management. The Boston Globe selected a particularly scornful staff writer; only the L.A. Times chose a leftist labor journalist....

From Marx to Gramsci: A Reader

— Lisa Frank

From Marx to Gramsci: A Reader in Revolutionary Marxist Politics
Historical Overview and Selection by Paul Le Blanc
Humanities Press, 1996, 22.50 paper

FOR MANY YEARS I worked for a small, poor, left-wing publishing firm. After several rounds of hard market discipline, we developed what we called the Reader Rule: no season with more than one anthology and no two back-to-back....

Always Running, Never A Radical

— Christopher Phelps

First in His Class
by David Maraniss
New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995, $14 paper.

THE STRANGELY AGITATED and mercurial public mood under the presidency of Bill Clinton derives, curiously enough, not from Clinton's own attributes (bland and unimpressive in isolation) but from his policies' failures and the extraordinary depth of hatred for him on the right....

Yugoslavia Dismembered

— Kit Adam Wainer

Yogoslavia Dismembered
Catherine Samary
Translated by Peter Drucker
New York: Monthly Review Press, 1995
192 papges, $30 cloth, $16 paper.

FOR THE LAST five years, two U.S. presidents have tried to sell the public an extraordinary bill of goods about the former Yugoslavia.

Newspaper and television reports have also bombarded us with a montage of Slavic names, unfamiliar places, and hitherto obscure rivalries so dizzying as to leave otherwise thoughtful individuals with an impression of the Balkans as a confused mess, seething with irrational hatreds.  From such an emotional impression flow the seemingly more analytical formulas which reason that the various Balkan nationalities have always hated each other, that they have been at each other's throats for centuries, that any project of peaceful cohabitation is hopelessly utopian.

Building Working-Cass Opposition to Stalin's Dictatorship?

— John Marot

Trotsky, 1927-1940:
The Darker the Night the Brighter the Star
by Tony Cliff
Bookmarks, 265 Seven Sisters Road, London, England, 1993, 427 pages, $11.95 paper.

TONY CLIFF'S TROTSKY, 1927-1940: The Darker the Night the Brighter the Star, is the fourth and final volume of this political biography. It may be divided into two parts.  In the first, part Cliff chronicles Stalin's collectivization of agriculture and forced-draft industrialization in the Soviet Union, between 1927 and 1933....

Evidence from the Archives

— John Marot

SINCE THIS REVIEW was written, new evidence from the archives directly confirms that the Trotskyist leadership unalterably opposed all working class political struggles against Stalinism that might result in or require the formation of a second party....