Against the Current, No. 68, May/June 1997

Against the Current, No. 68, May/June 1997

Mobilize for Action! Motown

— The Editors

ALMOST TWO YEARS after the Detroit newspaper strike began, the AFL-CIO has called for a two-day Action! Motown `97 on June 20-21.  Will it change the balance of power in Detroit's newspaper labor war?  Probably not. But even if all it can do is turn out thousands of unionists, students and community activists to stand in solidarity with the 2,000 strikers-now locked-out workers-and their families and community supporters, it will be significant.

The Detroit Newspaper Strike

How Our Lives Have Been Changed

— an interview with Kate DeSmet

KATE DeSMET IS a locked-out and fired Detroit News writer.  At the time of the strike she was the paper's higher education writer and was formerly the religion writer.  She has been a leading strike activist and an organizer of both ACOSS and Shut Down Motown `97.  She was interviewed by phone by Dianne Feeley and David Finkel of the "ATC" editorial board.

ATC: We're hoping you can talk about how people's lives and outlooks have changed in this strike.  Can you explain how the strikers have been able to hold out so long?  And what has been the high point, for you, in this struggle?

A Critical Stage in Mumia Abu-Jamal's Case

— Steve Bloom

WHILE MUMIA ABU-JAMAL sits on death row the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is considering his application for a new trial. And his defense team is turning up more and more evidence that Mumia's original conviction for the 1981 murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner was the result of a police frameup....

The Detroit Newspaper Strike

Violence and the Newspaper Strike

— Thomas Bernick

AS A NEWSPAPER worker, I always find it disturbing when someone says, "I kind of support you guys, but I'm against all that violence."  My response is, "How do you feel about the violent attacks directed at the union members?" At this point I am usually greeted with a blank, uncomprehending stare.

Throughout the Detroit newspaper strike and subsequent lockout, the greatest success of the "News" and "Free Press" management has been its ability to prevent such information from reaching the public and to discredit it unjustly when it does. It is a task often simplified by a tendency among some people to dismiss accusations of criminal wrongdoing against the dailies as mere union rhetoric.

Freedom Coming for Geronimo Pratt?

— Karin Baker

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO, geronimo ji Jaga (Geronimo Pratt) was convicted of murder, and he's been in prison ever since. According to the verdict, in 1968 he fatally shot a woman and injured her husband on a Santa Monica tennis court, after robbing the couple of eighteen dollars....

The Detroit Newspaper Strike

The War Goes On

— Daymon Hartley

GOOD AFTERNOON, FELLOW locked-out workers and supporters.

Let me remind you: This is a war. And in this war we've suffered many casualties.

More than seventy strikers have suffered serious injuries, including brain damage.  Three strikers died prematurely-undoubtedly from the stress of our struggle: Sister Sue Wozniak, Brother Art Robbins, Brother Gerald Janish.

We're tired.  We're frustrated.  We've faced so many crises.  And the good ole American Dream has become a nightmare.  But we are a relentless group.  And we refuse to let the sacrifices our brothers and sisters have made be in vain.

The Pentagon's Secrecy Syndrome

— Pauline Furth, M.D.

THE ELUSIVE GULF War Syndrome story reads like an Agatha Christie novel, revealing bits and pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, with government agencies admitting facts only after they have already been established.

After six years of duplicity, denial, and cover-up the Pentagon has had to admit that U.S. troops suffered exposure to chemicals and gases following the Iraqi war. Yet even in the face of TV coverage (including "60 Minutes"), Congressional hearing and countless personal stories by veterans, the stonewalling continues....

The Detroit Newspaper Strike

On Strike Without A Strategy

— an interview with a union organizer

AGAINST THE CURRENT spoke with a union organizer, closely involved in the Detroit newspaper strike and lockout, who offers the following observations.

ATC: Where do things stand now with the lockout situation?

A.: By the end of April, the company will have called back around 150 or 200 workers, of more than 2000 who have stayed out. They made it clear that they're in no rush to call back any of the Teamsters, who are by far the largest group of strikers.

Indonesia's Tainted Election

— Carolus Irawan Saptono

SRI BINTANG PAMUNGKAS, former member of parliament for the United Development Party (PPP), one of the three officially-recognized parties in Indonesia, was arrested in early March for advocating a boycott of the 29 May general elections.

Along with two other leaders of the Indonesian United Democratic Party, a party not recognized by the government, he could face the death penalty for the boycott campaign. In Jakarta and Bandung (the capital city of the province of West Java) a number of students were detained for distributing leaflets urging the same thing....

The Detroit Newspaper Strike

Rank-and-File Initiatives

— Neil Chacker

IF THE DETROIT newspaper strike/lockout ever ends, there will be no shortage of debate over who won or lost it. This article will concentrate on a unique aspect of how the strike was fought: My own feelings are that the most significant thing is the way the strike has been waged from the bottom up, in contrast to the criminal apathy at the top.

UAW strikes are mostly scripted like professional wrestling bouts, and tightly controlled from above.  But even those most critical of Solidarity House's timid and collaborationist leadership expect them to have at least a strategy for conducting a strike.

Random Shots: The Truth About Scientology

— R.F. Kampfer

IN REGARD TO the long Internal Revenue Service investigation of Scientology, a lawyer for the cult states: "This is a church organization that has been subjected to more harassment and more attacks certainly than any religion in this century and probably any religion ever." Some perspective, please: We must have missed it when they threw L. Ron Hubbard to the lions....

The Rebel Girl: Snapshots About the Sex Debate

— Catherine Sameh

A FUNNY THING happened to the feminist sex debates of the 1980s: They resurfaced in the 1990s.  Not that funny, really, when you consider this a war with a long, bloody history.  If we frame the debate with antipornography feminists on one side and sex radical feminists on the other, it's safe to say the sex radicals have won. Susie Bright is a nationally recognized sexpert; movies about strippers as ordinary and dignified workers are popular; lesbian strip clubs are in; anticensorship campaigns are growing.

The late 1990s are sex-positive, and that's a good thing.  A very good thing.

Radical Rhythms: In Praise of "Honor"

— Kim D. Hunter

Indian boy takes a drink of everything that killed
his brother . . .
-- Small World

INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF North America continue to seek justice and self-determination, trying to save themselves and their land. One of the latest efforts comes in the form of "Honor," a two-CD multiple artists compilation on Daemon Records. Sales of the recording benefit the Honor the Earth Campaign, an effort of Seventh Generation Fund, The Indigenous Women's Network and the Indigenous Environmental Network.

The Relevance of Marxism Today

Introduction: Towards Understanding Sidney Hook

THIS ARTICLE IS adapted from the forthcoming book Young Sidney Hook by Christopher Phelps, to be published by Cornell University Press in Fall 1997. Copyright (c) 1997 by Cornell University. Used by permission of the publisher.

Ten years ago, Alan Wald's widely reviewed The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s (1987) reignited discussion of the American Marxist intellectual tradition in a revolutionary socialist and anti-Stalinist vein. The ATC editorial board believes the impending 1997 publication of Christopher Phelps' Young Sidney Hook will be an important advance in that discussion....

Towards an Understanding of Sidney Hook

— Christopher Phelps

AS HIS CONFLICTS with the dominant forces within the Communist movement mounted, Sidney Hook put the finishing touches on Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx: A Revolutionary Interpretation (1933), a masterful examination that even today remains one of the most compelling guides to Marx's thought. The book took germinal form in some of Hook's writings and talks of the late 1920s. It was, in finished form, his greatest accomplishment of the early 1930s....

Renewing Historical Materialism

— Nancy Holmstrom

Democracy Against Capitalism
By Ellen Meiksins Wood
Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995, 300 pages, $18.95 paperback.

ELLEN MEIKSINS WOOD'S Democracy Against Capitalism is a terrific book that deserves to become a classic of our political tendency -- what Hal Draper called "socialism-from-below." Wood provides a brilliant explication and defense of the key theoretical concepts relevant to socialism, understood to be the most radical social and economic democracy....


Gays and the Left

— Peter Drucker

The Early Homosexual Rights Movement (1864-1935)
by John Lauritsen and David Thorstad
Novato, CA: Times Change Press, 1995,
revised edition, $9.95 paper.

Gay Men and the Sexual History of the Political Left
edited by Gert Hekma, Harry Oosterhuis and James Steakley
Binghamton, NY: Harrington Park Press, 1995, $24.95 paper.

THE CONTEMPORARY MOVEMENT for lesbian/gay liberation was born out of the ferment of the New Left. Its leftist roots were openly acknowledged.  Theorists such as Dennis Altman, John D'Emilio, David Fernbach and Mario Mieli all identified with one socialist or communist current or another.  They all acknowledged their debt to Marxism as well as feminism and psychoanalysis.


On the Labor Bureaucracy

— Charlie Post

THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN Ernie Haberkern and myself on issues of labor history and trade union politics flow from our different conceptions of the trade union bureaucracy. Following Hal Draper, Haberkern rejects my analysis of the labor officialdom as a distinct social layer, with material interests opposed to those of rank-and-file workers.  Instead, like Draper, Haberkern equates trade union bureaucracy with trade union leadership, no more and no less....

On the CP-USA and the Unions

— Ernie Haberkern

LIKE MOST OF the New Left "revisionist" historians of the American Communist Party his article refers to, Charlie Post in his essay "The Popular Front: Rethinking CPUSA History" (ATC #63, July-August 1996) fails to address the most serious criticism of that experience.

Most of the "revisionists" concentrate their attention on the important, but secondary, issue of the party's dependence on the Soviet Union: Was it merely an "agent" of the Soviet Union or was it a genuine expression of American radicalism whose top leadership's reliance on Moscow frustrated the work of the rankandfil?...