Against the Current, No. 69, July/August 1997

Against the Current, No. 69, July/August 1997

The Republicrats' Phony Budget War

— The Editors

IN JANUARY 1996, Bill Clinton virtually assured himself re-election when he "stood up" to what he termed "right-wing extremist" Republican proposals to balance the budget.  These drastic measures would have financed tax cuts for the rich worth about $200 billion by reducing expenditures for Medicare and Medicaid by about the same amount.

At the same time, presumably to make sure that no one would mistake him for a left-wing extremist, Clinton advanced his own proposal to balance the budget, which called for both tax and Medicare-Medicaid cuts of about half of what the Republicans were demanding.

The Los Angeles Bus Riders Union

— Scott Miller

SEVEN MONTHS AFTER forcing the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to sign a landmark consent decree, in which the agency agreed to stop violating the civil rights of its overwhelmingly low-income and of color ridership, leaders of the LA-based Bus Riders Union now say that the MTA shows no sign of honoring its promises.

The future of the agreement is in jeopardy.  Although BRU members had initially hoped to use the out-of-court settlement as a way to "leverage" future demands, they are now in an urgent struggle to protect even the minimal provisions of the agreement.

The Consumer Price Index "Reform"

— James Petras

WITH THE ADVENT of the Clinton administration and the Republican Congress, the bipartisan establishment has conjured up the danger of Social Security "going bankrupt," in order to lay the groundwork for "privatization."

Such a "reform" would segment beneficiaries into those who can pay and those who cannot; reduce payments; increase the retirement age; and make coverage "optional," meaning that benefits would depend on payees' capacity to contribute....

Britain's "New Labour"

— Harry Brighouse

IT'S A LANDSLIDE: The Labour Party has more seats in parliament and the biggest majority than at any time in history.  The Conservatives (aka Tories) are at their lowest ebb since the Great Reform Act of 1832 extended the franchise to most adult males.  The Liberal Democrats are the largest third party in Parliament since the 1920s, and both the Welsh and Scots Nationalists have doubled their representation.

Woman-Centered, Activist Agendas

— Deborah L. Billings

"Women have the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. The enjoyment of this right is vital to their life and well-being and their ability to participate in all areas of public and private life." -- Section C.89, Beijing Platform for Action

WOMEN'S SEXUAL AND reproductive health is intimately tied to their access to the full range of human rights guaranteed by both national law and international treaties and conventions. In recent years, recognition of this fundamental link has spurred dynamic organizing by women worldwide, particularly since the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. Renowned reproductive rights leaders, Rebecca Cook and Mahmoud Fathalla, assert that ". . . improvements in women's health need more than better science and health care -- they require state action to correct injustices to women."(1) In this vein, activists have begun to utilize human rights tools, including international treaties and conventions, to significantly move debate and action toward changing the structural conditions which shape women's sexual and reproductive health and, ultimately, their ability to fully participate in all realms of personal and public life....

The Remaking of the Congo

— B. Skanthakumar

MOBUTU SESE SEKO's tyranny over Zaire ended with a whimper, not a bang. The forces of the Alliance for the Democratic Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL) swept into Kinshasa on May 17th. They were greeted by chants of "Liberation, Kabila, Congo" from an expectant, if somewhat wary, people.

There was no drawn out siege of the city nor the feared number of deaths, destruction and violence. The Zairean Armed Forces (FAZ) behaved in much the same way as elsewhere in the course of this nine-month armed rebellion: they dropped their weapons and fled.

The Roots of the Rebellion

— B. Skanthakumar

THE REVOLT THAT shook Zaire and ousted its dictator and his regime was sparked in October 1996 in the eastern province of Kivu. The regional governor ordered that one of the largest ethnic communities, the Banyamulenge, be stripped of their Zairean citizenship and"go back" to Rwanda, "within a week." He threatened that those who remained would be "treated as rebels and like rebels . . . . will be exterminated.(1)...

Kabila's Friends

— B. Skanthakumar

BARELY DISGUISED AND often overtly, the AFDL was supported by neighboring regimes in Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Angola as well as by the rebel Sudan Peoples Liberation Army31. In previous revolts Mobutu had been supported by his neighbors, but the upheaval of the last decade put in place governments which had their own grudges against him for past sins and for supporting armed groups in their own countries....

Mobutu's Loot and the Congo's Debt

— B. Skanthakumar

ZAIRE UNDER MOBUTU was synonymous with kleptocracy, or government by theft. He amassed a fortune through bribes, embezzlement and "gifts" from foreign governments and companies. There was no distinction between state and personal expenditures.

Humanitarian Intervention

— B. Skanthakumar

In 1994 IN one of the most horrific events of this century almost one million Rwandans, mainly members of the Batutsi minority, were the victims of a genocide.(1) That blood bath ended not through "humanitarian intervention" but when the advancing forces of the Rwandan Patriotic Front defeated and expelled the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), the Bahutu chauvinist militias (interahamue) and the politicians and intellectuals of Bahutu supremacist ideology....

The AFDL and Its Program

— B. Skanthakumar

The Alliance for the Democratic Liberation of CongoZaire (AFDL) includes four parties, each with their own ideologies. Laurent Kabila, who leads the AFDL, is leader of the People's Revolution Party (PRP), which emerged in 1967 out of the defeat and dispersal of Lumumbist forces....

Mining Congo's Wealth

— B. Skanthakumar

Cobalt, copper, diamonds, oil and zinc are mined in Zaire and historically the mining companies have played an important political role. As early as the 1920s it was predicted that the region would become a more powerful industrial complex than Johannesburg. Instead it has become an archipelago of rusty plants and "hit-and-run" mines.

Pornography, Violence and Women-Hating

— Ann E. Menasche interviews Diana Russell

p>DIANA E.H. RUSSELL, Ph.D is a feminist activist, scholar, researcher, and one of the foremost experts in the world on sexual violence against women and girls.  She is the author of twelve books, most of which are on the subject of violence against women: on rape (including wife rape), incest, femicide (the misogynist murder of women), and pornography.

The Rebel Girl: Looking at the Gender Grid

— Catherine Sameh

I OFTEN HAVE the sense that the crudest forms of assigned gender roles have crumbled. That in the late twentieth century United States, the feminist and queer movements have left such indelible marks, there is no turning back. In the age of gender and sexual ambiguity and fluidity, to witness extreme gender stereotypes produces a short of shock. I experienced such a shock in reading about a local beauty pageant....

Random Shots: Fables of Bill and the Newt

— R.F. Kampfer

NEWT GINGRICH ACTUALLY had the money to pay that fine ($300,000 for ethics violations); but it was in his wife's name and she didn't think he was good for it.

Bill Clinton's plan to discourage illegal immigration: Create an environment that nobody wants to escape to.

Exploitation and Upsurge

Global Sweatshops' Media Spin Doctors

— Charles Fairchild

RECENTLY, TWO NEWS items briefly pierced the deafening silence surrounding the issue of cheap labor in poor countries.

* The first was a February 27th story presented on the Pacifica Network News, which reported that labor activists in Haiti continue to be routinely fired by their employer, a Disney subcontractor, for the mere threat of a work slowdown and the slightest whiff of union organizing. While the firings violated Disney's "rules" on subcontracting, the company has shown little tangible concern for their indirect employees....

Socialism or Nike

— Bill Resnick

GLOBETROTTING FOR THE cheapest workers, capital manifest in all its imperial trajectory, Nike exemplifies the new economic order and the world it is making.

Nike produces through "subcontractors" forced into the most ruthless labor practices.  It cooperates in state repression of popular movements.  With other transnationals it is reshaping the world system, intensifying income polarization and environmental exploitation.

Indonesia's New Social Upsurge

— Togi Simanjuntak

[This article continues our coverage of the ongoing Indonesian crisis. In our previous issue (ATC 68), correspondent Carolus Irawan Saptono reported on the preparations for the fraudulent and repression-ridden election. This was subsequently "won" as predicted by the Suharto regime's Golkar party, with over 70% of the proclaimed vote. The deaths of over 250 people in protests against the rigged election, however, came as an embarrassment to the regime and signal of a weakening dictatorship....

Fellow Workers, Fight On!

— interview with Muchtar Pakpahan

THIS INTERVIEW WAS conducted in early May, while Muchtar Pakpahan was being treated at a private hospital in Jakarta. Also present were Soenarti, SBSI Secretary General, Acting Chairman Tohap Simanungkalit and SBSI activist Rekson Silaban. The responses were first discussed among the SBSI leaders.

Togi Simanjuntak: You are accused of involvement in the 27 July incident. Many observers argue that the pro-democracy movement has been immobilized since the event. How do you see the prospects of workers' struggle, and particularly the SBSI, given the objective conditions facing the movement?...


Asian American Incorporation or Insurgency?

— Tim Libretti

The Asian American Movement
By William Wei
Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993.

The State of Asian America:
Activism and Resistance in the 1990s
Edited by Karin Aguilar-San Juan
Boston: South End Press, 1994

WILLIAM WEI'S THE Asian American Movement is an historical study, while Karin Aguilar-San Juan's volume The State of Asian America: Activism and Resistance in the 1990s presents a series of essays by various scholars and activists assessing the movement historically and evaluating its legacy in contemporary activism.


A Response to Reviewers

— Nelson Lichtenstein

AGAINST THE CURRENT has published two reviews of my recent biography of Walter Reuther. The first, by Jane Slaughter (ATC 64), is generally appreciative; the second, by Michael Goldfield (ATC 67) is an attack, emphasizing what he considers my apologia for Reuther's persistent and systemic racism....

In Memoriam

Albert Shanker, Image and Reality

— Marian Swerdlow and Kit Adam Wainer

THE DEATH OF Albert Shanker on February 22, 1997 provoked a flurry of eulogistic praise both inside and outside the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).  Presidents, think tank experts and AFL-CIO leaders held in high regard the man who had presided over the national teachers' union for twenty-three years.

Although the AFT is less than half the size of its rival, the National Education Association, Shanker had become the most widely known figure in teacher unionism.