Against the Current, No. 75, July/August 1998

The Spirit of Revolution

— The Editors

REVOLUTION, AS ALL readers of the liberal and intellectual press know, is irrelevant now, an outdated dream long abandoned by its former practitioners who have moved on to more mature projects.  Take 1968: Isn't Daniel Cohn-Bendit, "Danny the Red" of the French student uprising, now a prominent proponent of the unified European currency?

Australia's Labor War on the Docks

— Barry Sheppard

THE BATTLE BETWEEN the Australian "wharfies" and the Patrick Stevedore company, backed by the right-wing coalition government of Liberal Prime Minister John Howard, became a test of strength not only with the National Maritime Union (MUA) but with a wide section of the working class.

Cambodia: Labor and the Coup

— Joshua E.S. Phillips and Ian Robinson

IN THE FACE of a repressive and dangerous environment, workers are on the move in Cambodia. Though Americans heard little about it, the emergence of an independent labor movement was one of the most promising developments in Cambodia since the UN imposed democratic institutions “from above” on a society with no prior democratic experience.

Indonesia's Unfolding Democratic Revolution

— Malik Miah

AS WE GO TO PRESS, the pro-democratic forces continue to push their advantage against the weakened army-backed Habibie government.  Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund agreed to soften implementation of its economic austerity package to give Habibie and the military more time to hopefully bring political stability.  In addition, the big Western banks, led by Chase Manhattan, have agreed to reschedule repayment of nearly $80 billion in private debt.

An Update on Indonesian Political Prisoners

— Emily Citkowski

AS INDONESIAN POLITICAL prisoners are released, evidence continues to surface that the United States CIA knew about the "disappearances" and tortures.

In response to the mass protests that forced Suharto to step down, Indonesian trade union leader Muchtar Pakpahan and former Member of Parliament Sri Bintang were released from prison May 25.  The new president Habibie has promised to review the anti-subversion law under which many of the political prisoners-including the Peoples Democratic Party (PRD) prisoners-were jailed.

The Rebel Girl: The Potency Power Pill

— Catherine Sameh

VIAGRA IS SUCH a ridiculously easy target, it seems a waste of time to address it. But it keeps popping up, so to speak, so I have to take it head on (OK, last pun).

My initial reaction to the announcement of Viagra's FDA approval was one of disgust. In a country with multiple health crises—HIV and AIDS, breast cancer and malnutrition to name a few—the frenzy around erectile dysfunction illustrates the skewed priorities of our national health and consumer organizations, and the massive neglect of the health and well-being of women, children and the poor.

Random Shots: In Praise of Viagra Mania

— R.F. Kampfer

AN UNCONFIRMED RUMOR says that Bill Clinton will raise money for his legal bills by endorsing Viagra: “Take the Pill and Be Like Bill.”

A new and improved version of Viagra is being developed that comes in the form of a wafer. Only a total degenerate would think of the fun to be had by substituting these for communion wafers before Sunday Mass.

It's been reported that a side effect of Viagra is to cause eye-strain for some men. Can we do it until we need glasses?

The main problem with Viagra...

Radical Rhythms: Artistry For All of Us

— Kim Hunter

Paul Robeson: "Ballad for Americans," Vanguard VCD 117/18. "Live at Carnegie Hall," Vanguard 72020-2.

IN THE UNITED States it was often said that "The only good commie is a dead commie." Well, Paul Robeson has been dead for over twenty years--so now he's got a Lifetime Achievement Award Grammy.

Reflections in Radical History

The Anti-Nuclear Movement in Review: Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

— Wayne Hall

EVERY NOW AND then Time magazine comes out with front cover screaming something like: “Russian Nukes: Is Anyone in Control?” The idea of a fanatic blowing up New York City with a Russian nuclear weapon hidden in a suitcase fits neatly into the mental slot once reserved for nightmares of Soviet intercontinental missiles raining down on American citizens and the Red Army landing in Miami.

Just as the vision of hell played such an important role in medieval cosmology, the Russian nuclear threat is apparently too integral a part of American culture to be easily dispensed with.

The Russian Revolution Revisited

— Susan Weissman

THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION is dead. The last of its veterans and contemporaries are gone, and the working class of today has little or no connection to the revolutionary movements of the inter-war generation that were inspired by the Russian Revolution.  Revolutionary leftists may still debate the "Russian Question," but the workers and students of the present have little idea what the quarrels are about.

Social Democracy and the Paradox of the Vanguard: Rudolf Hilferding's Odyssey

— William Smaldone

THE NAZI SEIZURE of power in the winter of 1933 marked the total failure of the reformist project of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) and brought about the party's virtual destruction.

From exile in Prague and Paris, the defeated socialist leadership now had to grapple with the implications of this catastrophe for the party's strategy and form of organization. In the face of nazi barbarism, it was clear that the old legal methods would no longer suffice and that new ideas were needed to keep the party functioning both within Germany and abroad.

Michael Goldfield's Color of Politics

— Mel Rothenberg

THE ROLE OF race, specifically the position of African-Americans, within the working class and progressive movements has been the center of an ongoing debate among U.S. socialists since the middle of the nineteenth century. The two poles of the debate are expressed clearly in the contending views of Eugene Debs and W.E.B. DuBois.

Du Bois: A Provocative Homage

— Clarence Lang

W.E.B. DuBois and American Political Thought: Fabianism and the Color Line, by Adolph L. Reed, Jr. Oxford University Press, New York, 1997. 296 pp. $35.00

Jesse Lemisch's Jack Tar vs. John Bull

— Kit Adam Wainer

Lemisch, Jesse. Jack Tar vs. John Bull: The Role of New York's Seamen in Precipitating the Revolution. 1997. New York: Garland Publishing. 180 pps.

In American political history almost everyone has found some use for the American Revolution. Conservatives, liberals, and radicals have all identified their heroes. Each has interpreted those stormy events so shrouded in sanctity to subtly justify modern agendas.

Pessimism of the Spirit and Contemporary Socialism: Recovering Louis Fraina's Time

— James D. Young

Dreamer's Paradise Lost: Louis C. Fraina/Lewis Corey (1892-1953) and the Decline of Radicalism in the United States(Humanities Press, New Jersey, 1995), 192 pages.

The Dance of Pragmatism and Marxism

— Michael Denning

Young Sidney Hook: Pragmatist and Marxist. by Christopher Phelps. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997. 257 pp. $35.

Left Out: Pragmatism, Exceptionalism, and the Poverty of American Marxism, 1890-1922. by Brian Lloyd. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. 472 pp. $45.

The Selling of Culture, and Our Souls: From Pears' Soap to Bud-Weis-Er

— Jack Weston

Selling Culture: Magazines, Markets, and Class at the Turn of the Century by Richard Ohmann (London, New York: Verso, 1996), 411 pp. $23.95 cloth.

WILLIAM MORRIS IN his own words "hated modern civilization," and said so with increasing emphasis as he became convinced that a better society was practically possible. Now a century later, in a civilization grown much more alienating, deadly, and ugly, Richard Ohmann's book here under review explains in convincing detail how the abomination of our modern world was produced for capital.

In Memoriam

Frank Lovell, Socialist and Labor Activist

— Paul Le Blanc

FRANK LOVELL, A long-time labor and socialist activist, died at his home in New York City May 1 of a heart attack at the age of 84.

Attracted to a revolutionary and democratic socialism often associated with the Socialist Party of Eugene V. Debs and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the idealism of the early Communist movement, Lovell became part of the small international movement led by Leon Trotsky known as the Fourth International.