Against the Current, No. 72, January/February 1998

Against the Current, No. 72, January/February 1998

The Gulf Crisis, Again and Again

— The Editors

THE GULF WAR, it turns out, solved nothing.  That's the main lesson from the recent resurgence of the "crisis" over United Nations weapons inspections in Iraq, which then receded and which will surely rise and recede and arise again.  Operation Desert Storm produced a slaughter of a hundred thousand Iraqi conscript soldiers and civilians; the exposure of many tens if not hundreds of thousands of U.S. and allied military personnel to chemical and biological toxins, resulting in Gulf War Syndrome and the subsequent Pentagon coverup; sanctions that have reduced Iraq's people to misery without touching the power of Saddam Hussein's dynasty and police state.

Teamster Rank and Filers Look Forward

— Henry Phillips

FOR THE PAST twenty-two years, rank-and-file Teamsters have gathered at the annual convention of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) to debate the course their movement should take. Through these two decades TDU members have seen plenty of tumultuous times, but nothing like this.

A View of the Teamster Tragedy

— Robert Brenner, Samuel Farber, Christopher Phelps and Susan Weissman

JUDGE KENNETH CONBOY'S disqualification of Ron Carey as candidate for reelection to the presidency of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) is a devastating blow to the Teamsters' membership and U.S. labor generally.

Carey has had an outstanding career as a labor leader.  As a local Teamsters official on Long Island, he established a reputation for honesty and militancy, leading strike after local strike.  As president of the Teamsters, he offered the membership a quality of leadership at the national level that they had not known for decades, if ever.

Carol Miller for Congress: New Mexico Greens Play for Keeps

— Rick Lass, Tammy Davis & Cris Moore

ON MAY 13, 1997 New Mexico Green Carol Miller received 17% in a special election for the U.S. House of Representatives. This was a record for a U.S. Green in a federal race (surpassing Hawai'i Green Party U.S. Senate candidate Linda Martin's 14% in 1992), and contributed to favored Democrat Eric Serna (40%) losing the election to conservative Republican Bill Redmond (42%).

The Rebel Girl: Choice, Access and Our Lives

— Catherine Sameh

JANUARY 22, 1998 marks the 25th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Like many victories of the feminist “second wave,” the formal legal right to safe abortion remains essentially intact.

Repression and Revival: Revolutionary Prospects for Indonesia, Part 2

— Malik Miah

THERE ARE MANY former 1965 political prisoners still alive. Some are still in prison (Col. Latief, one of the main leaders of the 30 September Movement) and many are under house arrest. Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesia's most famous novelist, continues to defy the regime by refusing to visit the police once a month as all hard-core ex-prisoners are supposed to do.

Why Southeast Asia Burned

— Dianne Feeley

SATELLITE IMAGES SHOW that almost one million hectares have been affected by the forest fires that were deliberately set last July in the lowland tropical rainforests of Sumatra and Kalimantan. Some of the area includes peat forests, where fires can burn deep underground and are almost impossible to control on a large scale.

Random Shots: Kampfer's Armageddon Now

— R.F. Kampfer

TO AVOID SCREWING up all the computers, the year 2000 has been temporarily postponed. We will go from 1999 to 1999a, 1999b, etc. until they get it right, at which point we will go directly to 2003 or whatever. Sorry for any inconvenience caused.

Who could forget the millennium-eve talk-show exchange in “Strange Days”? Caller: “Jesus is coming back at midnight.” Host: “Will that be West Coast, Eastern Standard or Greenwich Meridian time?”...

Letters to the Editors

— Justin O'Hagan, Markar Melkonian, Laurence G. Wolf and Paul Lowinger, M.D.

IN HIS OTHERWISE accurate account of the state of politics in post-election Britain, Harry Brighouse underestimated the support given to the Socialist Labour Party (SLP) when he stated that it polled “nowhere . . . more than a few hundred votes.” (“Britain's Clinton Comes to Power,” ATC 69)

The SLP ran only 64 candidates in the general election, of whom 13 received more than one thousand votes. It received 52,000 votes in total; the combined non-Labour socialist...

Symposium: The 150th Anniversary of the Communist Manifesto

Revisiting the Communist Manifesto

— Christopher Phelps

THE EXPERIENCE OF reading the Communist Manifesto is to Marxists what the experience of watching "Casablanca" is for movie buffs.  Let us call it the surprise of the familiar.

Politics and the Communist Manifesto--Part 1

— Ellen Meiksins Wood

"Every class struggle is a political struggle."

"The executive committee of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie."

I'VE BEEN ASKED to comment on two quotations from the Manifesto: "Every class struggle is a political struggle"; and "The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie."  The particular question I've been asked about these famous aphorisms is "Was Marx's class theory of politics reductionist"?

Politics of the Communist Manifesto--Part 2

— Johanna Brenner and Bill Resnick

"The communists fight for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, they also represent and take care of the future of that movement."

MASS REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENTS burst into history often in mysterious ways, surprising even revolutionaries by their sudden strength. But they don't materialize from thin air and don't get built in a day. In looking back we see they incubate in reform struggles, in everyday resistance to exploitation and oppression.

Politics and the Communist Manifesto--Part 3

— David Finkel

"In what relation do the communists stand to the proletarians as a whole?  The communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties.  They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.  They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mold the proletarian movement."

WHEN MARX AND Engels agreed to write the Manifesto of the Communist League, they imposed an important condition: The Manifesto must be an openly revolutionary document, addressed to the broad working class and radical public, which would present a program for achieving proletarian power through the furthermost extension of the struggle for democracy.

Politics and the Communist Manifesto--Part 4

— Nancy Holmstrom

The first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of the ruling class, to win the battle of democracy."

TWENTY-FIVE YEARS AFTER the publication of the Manifesto, Engels declared that its general principles remained as correct as ever, though parts were already antiquated.  The passage above is certainly one of those basic principles which-given the history of the past 150 years-is more important than ever before to clarify and reaffirm.  Part of the reason revolutions made in the name of socialism have resulted in bureaucratic tyranny is that Marx's basic conception of socialism has been misunderstood or rejected.

History, Culture & the Communist Manifesto--Part 1

— Staughton Lynd

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

THIS IS A very sweeping statement (the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles). The ATC editors [in correspondence with contributors to this symposium--ed.] have offered a paraphrase: "Class struggle is the central feature of social history."

History, Culture and the Communist Manifesto--Part 2

— Eleni Varikas

"All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind."

THE OPTIMISTIC UNDERTONES in which Marx alluded to the disenchantment (i.e. de-mystification) of the world were but a pale anticipation of the candid faith in the emancipating dynamics of modern secularized society, a faith which was to undermine the subversive potential and universalist promises of socialist and other radical traditions for more than a century after the Communist Manifesto.

History, Culture and the Communist Manifesto--Part 3

— Howard Brick

"What else does the history of ideas prove, than that intellectual production changes in character in proportion as material production is changed? The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class."

AT THE UNIVERSITY of Chicago, where Economics is taught according to Milton Friedman, students used to wear t-shirts declaring "Markets work, it's people who screw up"--a compelling example of "deology" in Marx's sense, at a time when the fetish of market efficiency dominates public discourse.

Economics and the Communist Manifesto--Part 1

— Anwar Shaikh

"In these crises there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity--the epidemic of overproduction. Society suddenly finds itself put back into a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation had cut off the supply of every means of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilization, too much means of subsistence, too much industry, too much commerce."

Economics and the Communist Manifesto--Part 2

— Jane Slaughter

"The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society."

THE WORD "REVOLUTIONIZING" was not as irritating in Engels' and Marx's time, before we were saturated with ads for revolutionary new car waxes and scouring powders. I'm searching my computer's thesaurus for a way to say "makes big changes in but does not turn completely on its head," the latter being my understanding of "revolution." At the end of the twentieth century as in the middle of the nineteenth, it's obvious that capitalists indeed constantly seek innovations both in the instruments of production (the machines they use) and in their relationship to their workers. Computers and "lean production" have overhauled the way people work; they have altered, but not revolutionized, the balance of power between worker and manager.

Gender and the Communist Manifesto

— Stephanie Coontz

"On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain. . . . The bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course when its complement vanishes, and both will vanish with the vanishing of capital."

IF MARX AND Engels had bequeathed a set of cut-and-dried answers to theorists and activists rather than a set of useful questions, their writings on the family would be of little interest today. Working with scanty anthropological data and bound by the assumptions of their time, Marx and Engels compressed the complexity of family history, including the range of families normally found within any particular society, into a three-stage evolutionary schema of group marriage, followed by pairing marriage and then by monogamy.

Nature and the Communist Manifesto

— John Bellamy Foster

"The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceeding generations together. Subjection of Nature's forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam-navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization of rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground--what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labor?"

Race and the Communist Manifesto

— Robin D.G. Kelley

"The bourgeoisie . . . has created enormous cities, has greatly increased the urban population as compared with the rural, and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilized ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West."

Reviews on Racism and the African-American Struggle

Convict Labor in America

— Paul Ortiz

Alex Lichtenstein, Twice the Work of Free Labor: The Political Economy of Convict Labor in the New South (London and New York: Verso, 1996).

Matthew J. Mancini, One Dies, Get Another: Convict Leasing in the American South, 1866-1928 (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press, 1996).

David M. Oshinsky 'Worse than Slavery': Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice (New York: The Free Press, 1996).

W.E.B. DU BOIS said, in 1935: "The lawlessness in the South since the Civil War, has varied in its phases....

Before the White Race Was Invented

— Jonathan Scott

Theodore W. Allen
The Invention of the White Race
Volume One: Racial Oppression and Social Control
Volume Two: The Origin of Racial Oppression in Anglo-America
(London and New York: Verso, 1994 and 1997).

THERE ARE FOUR main theses advanced by Theodore Allen in his two-volume history of racial oppression, The Invention of the White Race. The burden of his study is to show....

Remembering C.L.R. James

— Martin Glaberman

C.L.R. James, A Political Biography
by Kent Worcester
Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996.

C.L.R. JAMES DID not make it easy for a biographer. To track down all his activities, and to have the intellectual and political background to deal with Marxist theory, revolutionary history, classical and popular culture, national independence movements and the like, is quite a task....

On Dudley Randall, The Black Unicorn

— Bill Mullen

The Black Unicorn: Dudley Randall and The Broadside Press.
Documentary video, VHS, color, 54 minutes.
Written, produced and directed by Melba Boyd.
Distributed by the National Black Programming Consortium
761 Oak Street, Suite A, Columbus, OH 43205, phone 614-229-4399.

THE BLACK UNICORN begins its narrative of the life of Detroit-based poet, publisher and cultural worker Dudley Randall with the voice of the author reading "Ballad of Birmingham," Randall's mournful commemoration of the September 15, 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church that killed four young Black girls....

In Memoriam

Ernie Goodman, Fighter for Justice

— Elissa Karg

AT 90 YEARS old, attorney Ernest Goodman died an untimely death. He was a vibrant man who went to his office every day until a recent illness. He died on March 26, 1997.