Against the Current, No. 74, May/June 1998

Against the Current, No. 74, May/June 1998

New Gulf War? Just Say No!

— The Editors

THEY BOMBED IN Columbus, big time. Nonetheless the Clinton administration's wag-the-dog and pony show "Demons of 1998," starring "Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction," continues its theatrical run in the op-ed pages of the elite press.

Keeping the Rich Invisible: How Census Bureau Hides the Super-rich

— Michael Parenti

WHEN A MIDDLE-AGED acquaintance of mine bragged that he weighed the same today as he did in his youth, I reminded him that weight resembles wealth; it's not merely the aggregate accumulation that counts, it's the distribution. And wealth differs from weight in that it tends to accumulate at the top.

English, Vanguard of the Fast-Food University

— Cary Nelson

AS I SIT at my computer thinking about the future of higher education, I have before me samizdat faxes of a collaborative document with its stunned, startled gaze fixed on the past. They are two versions--draft no. 3 and the final version--of the Modern Language Association's (MLA) Report from its Committee on Professional Employment (CPE).

Despite Defeat, CAT Workers "Vote Solidarity"

— Kim Moody

ONLY A MONTH after rejecting a deal backed by both the company and the leaders of the United Auto Workers (UAW) by 58%, union members at Caterpillar ratified the same contract by 54% on March 22--but with one big difference the second time.

Transit Workers Try a "New Direction"

— Marian Swerdlow

THE FUTURE DIRECTION of New York City's most potentially powerful union hangs in the balance as Transport Workers Union Local 100faces its second election within six months. The local, which represents workers who operate and maintain the city's buses and subways, brought New York City to a halt with strikes in 1966 and1980.

In December 1997, New Directions, a rank-and-file slate with a dramatically new vision, nearly defeated incumbents led by President Willie James. The official count showed James a mere 800 votes ahead of insurgent candidate Tim Schermerhorn, out of a total of 18,500 votes cast....

Australia: War on the Docks

— The Editors

AS WE GO to press, Australia faces its greatest labor confrontation in a generation. The struggle exploded April 8, after the Patrick Stevedore firm fired the entire 1400-person union work force and replaced it with scab labor recruited for the purpose.

Dockers and their supporters responded with a blockade of the ports. Emily Citkowski, a Solidarity intern who was visiting Australia for an Indonesia solidarity conference, reported: “With the government's knowledge, Patrick Stevedores was training...

Confronting America's Military Today: A Lethal Behemoth

— Tod Ensign

A VISITOR FROM another planet might look at America's military budget and ask; “Why does it keep growing if the country has no credible opponents?” Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union seven years ago, the U.S. military continues to pursue the strategic goal of “containment.”

The Rebel Girl: Girl Power—The Best, the Worst

— Catherine Sameh

IT'S GOOD TO be a girl these days. Almost everywhere you look—school, family, sports, culture—girls are supported for being strong, smart and independent.

Slogans like “Girls Kick Ass” or “Celebrate Girls” can be found on everything from bumper stickers to hats, posters and shirts. And if sloganeering seems superficial, a new body of literature that seriously explores girls' lives and the issues they face in the world is growing with each passing day.

How do we understand this phenomenon? Is it a girls' movement? The fourth wave? A market trend?

Random Shots: Skating on Thin Ice

— R.F. Kampfer

TOLSTOY TELLS US that the Cossacks strongly objected to Russian troops filling the homes in which they were billeted with tobacco smoke. By the time of the Civil War, some of them were so addicted that they used the family Bibles to roll cigarettes.

Why was Matthew Henson (an African American) the first man to reach the North Pole? Admiral Peary thought the ice looked a little thin.

In case you needed another reason not to go ice fishing, we hear that serious devotees keep their bait warm by storing...

The Crisis in Chiapas

The Context for Autonomy

— Dan La Botz

MORE THAN FOUR years since it began, the Mayan Indian rebellion in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas led by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) seems as intractable a political problem as ever. Why has the Mexican government found it impossible to reach some accommodation with the indigenous people of Chiapas?

Autonomy vs. the Mexican Party-State

— Hector Diaz-Polanco

THE MASSACRE IN the town of Acteal on December 22, carried out by an armed group associated with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), deeply touched the country of Mexico and had a powerful impact on international public opinion.  Forty-five indigenous people were murdered with unknown cruelty, while others were seriously wounded.

A Youth Media Project for Chiapas

— Phyllis Ponvert

ON A RECENT trip to Chiapas, Mexico, I had the opportunity to witness events that are very different than what I see when I turn on the evening news. On February 16 I traveled with the Chiapas Youth Media Project to Chiapas on a one-week trip to deliver video cameras and conduct training workshops in two indigenous communities.  Despite the illegal abduction, jailing and expulsion from Mexico of one of the project's founders, Tom Hansen, we successfully completed the work.

War and Sanctions in the Gulf

Apocalypse Now

— Edward Said

IT WOULD BE a mistake, I think, to reduce what is happening between Iraq and the United States simply to an assertion of Arab will and sovereignty on the one hand versus American imperialism, which undoubtedly plays a central role in all this. However misguided, Saddam Hussein's cleverness is not that he is splitting America from its allies (which he has not really succeeded in doing for any practical purpose), but that he is exploiting the astonishing clumsiness and failures of U.S. foreign policy.

Contradictions of Empire

— David Finkel

WHO WON THE diplomatic battle of Baghdad?  Did the resolute willingness to deploy military power enable the United States government to achieve major strategic objectives without having to actually use it?  Or did a weak President throw away an historic chance to impose U.S. will on adversaries and allies alike?

When the U.S. Rescued Saddam

— Stanley Heller

SADDAM HUSSEIN'S GREATEST crime was the invasion of Iran in 1980. The resulting war left an estimated million dead and 1.7 million wounded.

When the war went badly for Saddam and Iranians drove out his troops and attacked Iraq, the noble nations of the West and the peace-loving monarchies of the Gulf aided Hussein. With weapons and loans they helped the “Butcher of Baghdad” in his hour of need. When the war ended Saddam retained some of the land he had conquered.

The Media, The War, The Bottom Line

— Michael Betzold

IN 1991 I was a reporter at the Detroit Free Press. I watched, appalled, as the city room became a war room and the newspaper a propaganda sheet The headlines, the stories, the pictures all cheered on the generals. Television was presenting the war as great entertainment, a glorified video game, and the Free Press wanted to grab a share of this boom market....

Palestine/Israel: 1948-1998

What About Palestine? A Statement on "Israel At Fifty"

— The Michigan Committee on Jerusalem

This statement is initiated by the Michigan Committee on Jerusalem, an intercultural and interfaith Michigan group concerned with issues of the future of Jerusalem and peace in Palestine/Israel. The Committee is seeking signatures and endorsements from clergy and community leaders. For further information on the struggle around Jerusalem we suggest that readers contact the American Committee on Jerusalem, 4201 Connecticut Avenue, Suite 302, Washington DC 20008, Phone (202) 237-0215.

Reflections of A Daughter of the "'48 Generation"

— Tikva Honig-Parnass

IN 1983, ONE year before she died, as part of putting her things in order--and perhaps as part of her preparations for death--my mother presented me with a large plastic bag in which she kept my letters to my family in Hadera, ever since I left home at the age of 16 in order to study at Beit HaKarem High School in Jerusalem.

On Literature and Resistance

— Betsy Esch and Nancy Coffin Interview Barbara Harlow

BARBARA HARLOW IS a Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin where she is currently at work putting together an archive of imperialism. Professor Harlow is a longtime Palestine solidarity activist and is responsible for the English translation and publication of many works by the Palestinian revolutionary writer Gassan Kanafani.

Nancy Coffin, a graduate student at Columbia University who writes on revolutionary literature, and Betsy Esch, a graduate student at New York University in labor history and an editor of Against the Current, spoke with her following a 1997 conference at Columbia University in honor of Edward Said.


Who Said Detroit Died?

— Eddie Hejka

I LIVE IN a racially-mixed, predominantly African American, community-oriented safe neighborhood. We know all our neighbors. Our children attend good public schools. They participate in neighborhood little league, soccer, art classes and various other activities....

History Does Matter

— Heather Ann Thompson

I AM QUITE taken aback by Eddie Hejka's response to my review of Tom Sugrue's book. Until only last August (when I had to move for a teaching job) I too grew up and lived in that same "racially-mixed, predominantly African American, community-oriented safe neighborhood" that Hejka describes, called Rosedale Park....

Letters to Against the Current

Letters to the Editor: Postmodernism and History; Prison Labor

— Tyrone Williams and Alex Lichtenstein

IS THERE A place for postmodernist cultural values in politically progressive movements? Is there more to postmodernism than its convenience as fodder for the political right, which tags every cultural movement it dislikes (from feminism to multiculturalism) with the dreaded label? Is its dismissal by radicals who see in it yet more proof that academics are irrelevant at best—and obstacles at worst— valid?

I want to argue that postmodernism is, first and foremost, outside the realm of politics...

In Memoriam

Natie Gould, As I Knew Him

— Morris Slavin

NATHAN “NATIE” GOULD, a founder of the Fourth International and a former secretary-organizer of the Socialist Workers Party's youth group, the Spartacus Youth League (SYL), died November 10, 1997. My impressions of him follow.