Against the Current, No. 66, January/February 1997

Against the Current, No. 66, January/February 1997

The Center-Center Coalition

— The Editors

"BIPARTISANSHIP" IS A quality highly admired and prized in U.S. politics, and by all indications we're in for a substantial dose of it in the second Clinton-Gingrich term. Bipartisanship enjoys such a high reputation simply because it offers what establishment media commentators and economic elites like best, namely government policy based on no political principles whatever-not even the phantoms of principles that flit through Democratic and Republican party platforms-all the better to directly serve the interests of corporate capital.

The Civic Movement in South Africa: Popular Politics, Then and Now

— Mzwanele Mayekiso

The tradition of democracy within the progressive movement in South Africa remains alive and well, judging not only by the recent, high-profile contestation of ANC provincial elections, but also by grassroots democratic impulses within the civic movement that are not well-documented.

Several South African National Civic Organization (SANCO) regions across the country are in the process of having congresses (in preparation for next year's national conference), and last weekend SANCO Gauteng's congress featured an extremely vigorous democratic process with hotly-contested elections that will be resolved when the congress resumes its work again early next year....

Serbia's Democratic Uprising

— Suzi Weissman interviews Borka Pavicevic

HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST and author Anna Cataldi (Letters from Sarajevo) received a call from Belgrade urging her to join the daily demonstrations for democracy in Serbia.  She marched arm in arm with former French Minister of Culture Jack Lang. Intellectuals from all over Europe are now joining in solidarity with the protesters.

Through Anna's efforts in bringing international understanding and support for the protests, the following interview with Borka Pavicevic was arranged by the Lasiewicz Foundation and KPFK-FM radio.  The host is Suzi Weissman and the interview was broadcast on the December 6, 1996 edition of her program "Beneath the Surface."

—Nalini Lasiewicz (Bosnia Briefings Project, Lasiewicz Foundation)

The U.S. and Canadian Auto Contracts

— Caroline Lund

THE RESULTS OF this year's contract negotiations between the United Auto Workers union and the Big Three auto companies went in the same direction as past contracts: a few more benefits for a shrinking group of relatively highly paid unionized auto workers.

Some auto workers from the Big Three might respond, "What do you mean?  We got our $2,000 first-year bonus, we got two wage increases, for the first time since 1979, we got cost-of-living bonuses for retirees, and we got $1,000 a year toward our kids' tuition! What more could you ask?"

The '96 Nicaraguan Elections: How Aleman "Won"

— Dianne Feeley

SYMPATHIZERS OF THE Nicaraguan revolution were divided in their opinions about the politics of the 1996 election campaign. Did Daniel Ortega's campaign for presidency represent a creative response to the extremely difficult situation the Nicaraguan people face after six years of neoliberalism or did the Sandinista Front (FSLN) abandon the revolutionary project in favor of a glitzy, personalistic and pro-capitalism one? Outside the context of a real discussion of what actually happened during the campaign and on the day of the October 20th election--all of which has been grossly underreported--this is a sterile debate....

Mexico's Deepening Crisis (Part 2)

— Dan La Botz

[In Part I of this article, author Dan La Botz discussed the Peoples Revolutionary Army (EPR) uprising, and analyzed the government's neoliberal economic policy. In this second part, La Botz looks at the impact of neo-liberalism on the Mexican people, and discusses the reaction to the EPR and militarization by various sectors of Mexican society.]

THE ENORMOUS BURDEN of Mexico's foreign debt, its entrance into NAFTA, the December 1994 devaluation of the peso by 50%, and the Mexican stock market crash brought about the worst economic depression in the country's modern history. The years 1995 and 1996 have been worse than the Mexican great depression of 1926-1936....

Introduction to Queer Internationalism

— The Editors

THROUGHOUT THE PAST year, Against the Current has published a number of major explorations of revolutionary and labor history and theory, to mark the tenth anniversary of the new series of the journal. The following essay by Rafael Bernabe, a recapitulation of Lenin's views on the "national question" and their relevance to present-day debates on liberation and "difference," is a particularly salient contribution. We are publishing it not only at the close of our tenth anniversary volume, but also to coincide with Black History Month....

On Queer Internationalism

— Rafael Bernabe

LENIN WROTE SEVERAL works on the "national question." Two, I would argue, are particularly significant: "Critical Remarks on the National Question" (1913) and "The Right of Nations to Self-Determination" (1914). In them he formulated the approach which informs his other texts on this issue. Their destinies have been markedly different: The second work has been widely read around the world, the first is almost unknown....

Radical Rhythms: Hip Hop, Jazz and the Future

— Kim Hunter

AT LEAST TWO factors have hindered the acceptance of jazz as art music in the hearts and minds of many white American academicians, critics and marketers who make "the rules" and sell the music. The most obvious stumbling block is racism: The music's originators, all of its major innovators and the majority of its significant players have been African American.

The other chief factor is a cultural bias that was exploited and promoted by those who marketed European classical music to the upper classes at the start of the century....

A Tribute to Mario Savio and the FSM

— Mike Parker

"There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even tacitly take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears, upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus and you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all.-Mario Savio prior to FSM sit-in, December 2, 1964

The Rebel Girl: Hoops Without Rodman, Anyone?

— Catherine Sameh

IN EARLY OCTOBER the American Basketball League launched its first season of women's professional basketball, thrilling crowds in eight cities across the United States. With crowds in most cities now averaging close to four thousand per game despite minimal news coverage, the future looks good for women's pro ball.

Indeed, it should. If the level of excitement among the spectators could determine the ABL's future, there'd be no question the league would survive and thrive against all odds. This is basketball at its best: The players rely on skill and teamwork, and so far everyone has been modest and even-tempered--likeable enough to win many, many hearts....

Random Shots: The Life of the Party

— R.F. Kampfer

"START THE DAY with a smile, and get it over with." --W.C. Fields

The Supreme Court has ruled that John Hinkley has always been sane. Now if he'd wanted to shoot Jodie Foster and screw Ronald Reagan, then he would have been crazy....

Letter to the Editors

— Martin Glaberman

JANE SLAUGHTER LETS Nelson Lichtenstein get away with fakery in her review (ATC 64, September-October 1996) of his biography of Walter Reuther. The title of his book is The Most Dangerous Man in Detroit, a phrase that Slaughter credits to an auto executive....

Resistance, Culture and African-American Survival

Pittsburgh's Police Brutality and Hot Autumn

— an interview with Dr. Claire Cohen

THE 1995 MURDER of Black motorist Johnny Gammage by white police on October 12, 1995 in the Pittsburgh suburb of Brentwood generated enormous outrage. The trials of three officers involved in the killing have resulted in the acquittal of one, John Vojtas, by an all-white jury imported from Lackawanna County, and a mistrial in the case of two others. The three had been charged only with "involuntary manslaughter," and two other officers not charged at all, despite a corner's jury recommendation that all five face first-degree murder charges for applying a lethal chokehold to the handcuffed and unarmed man....

Robert F. Williams, Modern Abolitionist

— Charles Simmons

THE FIRST TIME I saw Robert and Mabel Williams, they were sitting on a couch chatting with a diplomat from Tanzania and a Mexican student in the lounge at Havana, Cuba's Riviera Hotel one July evening in 1964. "Rob," as everyone called him, was a robust ex-Marine. Beneath his campesino's straw hat, he wore a big smile which belied the FBI "Wanted" posters describing him as "armed and extremely dangerous."

Robert F. Williams had gained national attention in 1959 when, as president of the Union County, North Carolina NAACP, he advocated meeting "violence with violence," urging Blacks to arm themselves against the Ku Klux Klan. The NAACP leadership booted him out, but community supporters re-elected him. From there, his road to Cuba had been circuitous....

Time for A Strategic Agenda

— Anthony Thigpen

Anthony Thigpen was interviewed over the phone by David Finkel of the ATC editorial board early in December, to update the analysis presented in Thigpen's talk in the light of the election results.

Against the Current: California's anti-affirmative action Proposition 209 passed, but by a smaller margin than had been widely anticipated. Was there a noticeable shift in sentiment at the end of the campaign, and did grassroots organizing have a direct impact in this regard?...

Jazz--Its Meaning, Its Future

— Melba Joyce Boyd and Donald Walden

Melba Joyce Boyd and Donald Walden, both long-time Detroit artists, presented these talks at an international conference, "'April in Paris:' African American Music and Europe," organized by the Centre d'Etudes Afro-americaines, Universite de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris III and the W.E.B. DuBois Institute of Harvard University, April 24-27, 1996.  Boyd is a poet, the author of a work on the politics and poetry of Frances E. W. Harper ("Discarded Legacy," Wayne State University Press, 1994) and currently chairs the Africana Studies Department at Wayne State University.  Donald Walden's most recent recording is "A Portrait of You" (Fante-Si Records, Detroit).  The talks have been transcribed and somewhat abridged by "Against the Current".

The Writings of David Roediger

— Roger Horowitz

IN JOHN SAYLES' provocative film, Brother from Another Planet, one of its most humorous scenes concerns two white college students from Chicago who are visiting New York City. Unfamiliar with the peculiarities of the IRT line, they take the wrong subway and end up in Harlem rather than at Columbia University. Visibly nervous at being in a Black community, they scurry into the bar where the Black alien--the "Brother from Another Planet"--has taken refuge amidst a small Black clientele....


Mzwanele Mayekiso's Township Politics

— Julie Klinker

Review of Township Politics:
Civic Struggles for a New South Africa
by Mzwanele Mayekiso
New York: Monthly Review Press, 1996, $30 cloth, $18 paper.

IN APRIL 1994, some on the left cautiously held out hope that with the victorious election of Nelson Mandela and the ANC, South Africa could become an environment for the path to socialism, based on the its long history of mass democratic movements and the reform program defined in the original Reconstruction and Development Program (RDP). The document chiseled out in the early 1990s by the ANC, COSATU and SANCO, was designed to meet the basic needs of the majority of South Africans....

Socialist Reformism and "Evolutionary" Debate

— Michael Löwy

American Socialists and Evolutionary Thought, 1870-1920
by Mark Pittenger
Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press,
1993, 310 pages, $24.95 paper.

THIS REMARKABLE PIECE of committed scholarship is an outstanding contribution to understanding one of the main weaknesses of the early American (and also European!) socialism: the evolutionist fallacy....

Stanley Crouch, Neocon or Ellisonian?

— Greg Robinson

The All-American Skin Game
By Stanly Crouch
New York: Random House, 1995, 304 papes, $12 paper.

STANLEY CROUCH SUFFERS from an advanced case of intellectual Walter Mitty disease. The self-image he created in his first collection of essays, Notes of a Hanging Judge (1989), was that of the "hanging judge," by which he meant a hard-nosed, independent-minded critic bravely bucking the popular tide of opinion on Black American culture and race relations....