Against the Current, No. 71, November/December 1997

Against the Current, No. 71, November/December 1997

The UPS Victory and Beyond

— The Editors

THE TEAMSTERS UNION victory over United Parcel Service in August, 1997 represents the biggest strike and the most important labor union victory in the United States in the last twenty-five years.  The media's subsequent attempts to downplay the UPS strike's significance-and the uncertainty that now surrounds the Teamsters' election rerun-cannot conceal its impact.

Puerto Rico's Strike Against Privatization

— Rafael Bernabe

A MASSIVE ONE-DAY Paro (work stoppage) against privatization shook Puerto Rico October 1.  The Paro Nacional completely closed down several government agencies—including most public schools and the University of Puerto Rico—while provoking mass absenteeism in many others.

Some individually-owned private businesses closed in solidarity with the Paro, and almost all activity in some of San Juan's major avenues was completely paralyzed due to the endless caravans of cars and trucks transporting people to the march from Miramar to the Capitol building in San Juan.

The Post-Oslo Malaise

— John Dixon

The following report from John Dixon, a U.S. citizen living in Ramallah, Palestine, illuminates some underreported realities of the moribund "peace process."  An understanding of these realities will put in perspective the daily unfolding of events: suicide bombings in Jerusalem, an Israeli hit squad captured in Amman, the further expansion of Israeli settlements.

Revolutionary Prospects for Indonesia

— Malik Miah

THE NEW YORK TIMES Foreign Affairs correspondent Thomas L. Friedman wrote an interesting recent column (July 24, 1997) on Indonesia, titled "The Globalutionaries."  When I saw that headline I thought to myself, "Even the august New York Times sees fundamental change coming to the fourth most populous country on the planet."

Human Rights in Serbia Today

— Suzi Weissman interviews Nicola Barovic

I CONDUCTED THE following interview for Pacifica radio KPFK's "Beneath the Surface" on August 22, 1997 with Nicola Barovic, who is married to Borka Pavicevic, the Serb democracy activist whose account of the movement against the Milosevic regime appeared in ATC 66. Both have continued to be very active, and he has now been targeted, and beaten. Nicola ended up with broken ribs, a concussion, and apparently needed surgery for the wounds. The transcript has been edited and abridged for publication, as a snapshot on the continuing turmoil and repression in Serbia. --Suzi Weissman

For a Critical Marxism

— Michael Löwy

This essay first appeared in "Marx Apres les Marximes.  Tome I: Marx a la question" (Paris and Montreal: L'Harmattan, Inc.), an anthology edited by Michel Vakaloulis and Jean-Marie Vincent.  It was translated for "Against the Current" by John Marot, and slightly edited by ATC. Michael Löwy is the author of many works on Marxist theory and philosophy, as well as liberation theology, most recently "War of the Gods" (Verso, 1996).

Random Shots: A Festival of Bad Taste

— R.F. Kampfer

"TASTES JUST LIKE chicken." --Mike Tyson

When the bubonic plague was ravaging Europe, one of the few places it didn't strike was in the prisons. There were no rats to serve as a vector for the disease-bearing fleas--the prisoners having eaten them all....

The Rebel Girl: Nike's Global Swooshploitation

— Catherine Sameh

NIKE'S ANNUAL SHAREHOLDER meeting on September 22 was less than celebratory. According to a front page Oregonian article the next day, the company appeared on the defensive, spending "much of the meeting dealing with renewed allegations that the company is exploiting and abusing factory workers in Asia."...

Radical Rhythms

— A Hell Raiser and A Choir Boy

FELA ANIKULAPO RANSOME KUTI and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan: In a little over a week we lost two major musicians on the international or "world" music scene.

Both died young of infectious diseases that are currently ravaging the developing world and the Third World that resides in the United States. Fela, from Nigeria, died at age 58 from complications of AIDS. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan contracted hepatitis from dialysis undertaken in his native Pakistan. He was 48....

Challenging the Lean, Mean University

Lessons of the York University Strike

— David McNally

FOR TWO MONTHS last spring, the faculty union at York University in Toronto waged Canada's longest-ever strike at an English-speaking university. In the process, members of the York University Faculty Association (YUFA) discovered the deeply transforming power of collective action and rebuilt their union as a progressive and activist part of the labor movement. While the YUFA strike might be seen as a fairly small case, it nevertheless offers some lessons in how unions can organize effectively in a climate of downsizing and work restructuring.

Grad Union Demands Recognition at U-Illinois

— Dennis Grammenos

OVER THE PAST few years, graduate employees at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign have been organizing ourselves into a union-the Graduate Employees' Organization (GEO).  Sporadic efforts to unionize can be traced back to the early 1970s, although it would appear that each campaign dissipated as the university would stall and wait out the hopeful unionists that never quite managed to affiliate themselves with a union.

McUC Riverside on the Move

— Mark Brenner

IF YOU BELIEVE the press releases, Riverside--that "sleepy" campus known for its citrus experiment station, smog and not much else--is poised to become the next jewel in the crown of the University of California system.

With demographic pressures mounting, and size and space concerns at its flagship campuses in Berkeley and Los Angeles virtually precluding any serious future expansion, the UC system is desperately searching for ways to fulfill its mandate of providing admission to the top 12.5% of California's high school graduates....

The Abolition of Affirmative Action at UC Berkeley

— Harmony Goldberg

ON JULY 20, 1995, the Board of Regents of the University of California passed SP-1 and SP-2, decisions eliminating affirmative action programs in admissions, hiring and contracting within the University of California system.

In November 1996, the California electorate passed Proposition 209, the initiative that eliminated affirmative action programs in all public institutions in the state. This fall the California State Supreme Court allowed Prop 209 to take effect....

High-Tech Damnation at RIT

— A.S. Zaidi

"RIT SHOULD STAND for 'really in touch' with the real world," said Carl Kohrt, executive vice president of Kodak, in his keynote address during the Nov. 14, 1996 installation of the cornerstone for the 157,000 square foot Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies (CIMS). The building was financed at a cost of $21 million, $11.25 million of which was provided by the federal government and $9.25 million by the state of New York....(1)

The Value of Faculty and Tenure

— Susan Weissman interviews Mary Burgan

MARY BURGAN IS the secretary-general of the American Association of University Professors. She is on leave from her job as professor of English at the University of Indiana at Bloomington. Her book Illness, Gender and Writing: The Case of Katherine Mansfield was published in 1994 by Johns Hopkins University Press).

The long-standing institution of academic tenure for university faculty is currently under widespread assault. Suzi Weissman spoke with Mary Burgan about this issue and "The University Under Attack" for her radio program "Beneath the Surface" on KPFK in Los Angeles, August 1, 1997. For space reasons we have excerpted her remarks....


Learning for the Revolution

— Michael D. James

Schooling for "Good Rebels."
Socialist Education for Children in the United States, 1900-1920.
by Kenneth Teitelbaum
Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1993, 258 pages.

WHO WERE THE good rebels, boys and girls of the Red Flag, little rebel folks, future revolutionists, kiddie socialists, red rebels, and the comrades-in-embryo? They were the children of the Socialist Sunday Schools.

Raymond Williams and the Moral Project of the New Left

— Terry Murphy

Views Beyond the Border Country:
Raymond Williams and Cultural Politics
edited by Dennis L. Dworkin and Leslie C. Roman
(New York and London: Routledge, 1993), $17.95 paperback.

DENNIS L. DWORKIN, in the introduction to Views Beyond the Border Country, suggests that this volume "honors the life and thought of Raymond Williams, one of the most important socialist thinkers of the postwar era,"(1) yet concludes his own contribution with the extraordinarily harsh judgement that "though [Williams] has only been dead for less than five years, he is already part of a different political age."(54)

Remembering Edith and Milton Zaslow

A Lifetime for Socialism

— Karin Baker and Patrick M. Quinn

MILT ZASLOW, A comrade who devoted his life to socialist activism, died July 8 at the age of 79. He was a founding member of Solidarity, although a generation or two older than most of us. Milt was also associated with Against the Current (first series) from its first issue in 1981.

Milt's history of activism goes back to the thirties.  Over the years he was involved in many historic struggles, and with his death we lose someone with a wealth of experience and the insight that comes with it.

Remembering Milt Zaslow

— Mike Davis

I FIRST MET Milt Zaslow in 1969, when we were pitted against one another in a debate on "Mao's Marxism" at a left coffeehouse called the Haymarket, across from L.A. City College. I had just been expelled from the Communist Party as part of an "ultra-left" group that identified with both the Cuban Tricontinental movement and the Chinese Cultural Revolution....

In Memoriam

Myra Tanner Weiss (1917-1997)

— Theodore Edwards

MYRA TANNER WEISS was a 'premature' feminist, so-to-speak. The last five years of this veteran Trotskyist woman leader's life were perhaps the most frustrating period of her life. After a devastating stroke, she all but lost the power of speech even though her mind remained alert and receptive, and she looke forward to death as a release from an impossible situation....