Against the Current, No. 76, September/October 1998

The Signs of Resistance

— The Editors

TWO HIGHLY SIGNIFICANT labor struggles have concluded as this issue of Against the Current was in preparation.  The mobilization of Puerto Rican workers against the privatization of the phone system there-a forty-one-day phone workers' strike highlighted by a two-day island-wide general strike-and the fifty-four-day conflict at two General Motors plants in Flint, which led to the near-total shutdown of the entire GM system in North America, are analyzed by correspondents Rafael Bernabe and Kim Moody in this issue.

Never Be A Soldier

— Eugene Victor Debs (1915)

[This classic, written in 1915, was one of numerous leaflets by Socialist Party leader Debs opposing World War I. His opponents sent co pies of this and other antiwar statements by Debs to the U.S. Attorney General.  See Eugene Debs. Spokesman for Labor and Socialism, by Bernard Brommel (Charles H. Kerr, 1978), 117, and Tim Dayton's review of "We Called Each Other Comrade" in this issue of ATC.]

WORKING MEN ARE forced into war as working women are forced into prostitution.

Puerto Rico's La Huelga del Pueblo

— Rafael Bernabe

AFTER FORTY DAYS on strike, several paros (one-day stoppages) in various government agencies and a two-day general strike, Puerto Rico's telephone workers have returned to work without attaining their objective: forcing the government to break its agreement to sell the state-owned Puerto Rico Telephone Company (PRTC) to a group of investors led by GTE.

At General Motors, "What Means This Strike?"

— Kim Moody

IN HIS FAMOUS address to the striking New Bedford textile workers in 1898, Socialist Labor Party leader Daniel De Leon posed the question, "What Means This Strike?"  De Leon told the workers their strike would be for naught if they didn't see it connected to the broader struggle of their class.

He praised them for their courage and affirmed the socialist belief in the strike weapon, but warned that this strike, the second in recent time, would simply become one of a series of lost struggles if it were not tied to the building of a broader labor and socialist movement.

New York Transit Between Old and New Directions

— Steve Downs

IN ATC 74 ("Transit Workers Try a New Direction"), Marian Swerdlow described the fight taking place in Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) between the entrenched Willie James bureaucracy and the reformers in New Directions.  Local 100 represents New York City's bus and subway workers.  Written earlier this year, Swerdlow's article concluded as the stage was being set for the rerun election ordered when the International TWU was forced to admit that the narrow victory by the incumbents might have been the result of their cheating in last December's election.

Living Wage Campaigns: Part I

— Stephanie Luce

ROBERT KUTTNER WROTE in a recent Washington Post op-ed that living wage campaigns are “the most interesting (and under-reported) grassroots enterprise to emerge since the civil rights movement.”1

Social Security--Why It's Under Attack

— Hayden Perry

A CHILD BORN in a middle-class family in Europe or America today has a fair chance of living to 85.  In one way his/her life will be divided into three periods: First, twenty to twenty-four years growing up and getting educated.  Second, about forty years making a living.  Third, after 65, come twenty years of retirement.

The Rebel Girl: Our Books, Ourselves

— Catherine Sameh

WHEN WE OPENED the doors of In Other Words Women's Books and Resources five years ago, we became part of the rich legacy of the women-in-print movement. For nearly thirty years feminist booksellers, authors and publishers have worked together to sustain, promote and disseminate the ideas and activism springing from feminist, queer and radical movements and culture.

Random Shots: Red Flags Over Motor City

— R.F. Kampfer

THE GOOD NEWS is that there were about a million people waving red flags in the streets of Detroit. The bad news is that it was on account of some hockey game.

Indonesia Update: An Economic Titanic

— Malik Miah

"LIVING IN AN Economic Nightmare" is the headline of Time Asia's cover story on Indonesia (August 3).  In one year's time Indonesia's per capita income dropped from $1300 per capita to less than $300.

In human terms, this has meant unbelievable suffering for an average working person.  According to Indonesian government figures, more than 50 million people have fallen below the poverty line since the country's financial crisis began in July 1997.

Northern Ireland's Marching Season Crisis

— Stuart Ross

IT IS DIFFICULT for those fortunate enough to live in more sophisticated communities to understand and appreciate the deep sense of fear, outrage and humiliation that marks these annual incursions into the little streets of this little town. .  .  .

So begins an editorial which appeared in the Belfast-based Irish News a number of years ago.

The Danish General Strike

— Eric Chester

THE SCANDINAVIAN COUNTRIES have constituted the foremost outposts on the reformist road to socialism. One of them, Denmark, a small country of five million people, has become a flashpoint in the continuing clash between the welfare state and the globalization of capital.

The Politics of South Africa: The Transition to Democracy

— John Hinshaw

OVER THE PAST few years, South Africa has undergone the dramatic political transition from apartheid to non-racial democracy. As one might expect in a country where racial and economic inequality is so stark, dismantling the economic structures of apartheid has proven more difficult.

Reflections in Radical History

Red Ink: The Charles H. Kerr Story

— Tim Dayton

”We Called Each Other Comrade”: Charles H. Kerr and Company, Radical Publishers. by Allen Ruff. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997, 312 pages with index, $49.95 cloth, $19.95 paperback.

Leslie Reagan's "When Abortion Was A Crime"

— Dianne Feeley

When Abortion Was A Crime:
Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973

Leslie J. Reagan
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997),
$29.95 cloth, $17.95 paperback.

ABORTION IN THE United States was not always a crime.  In colonial America women, including slave women, used herbs and roots as abortifacients.  Part of the campaign to criminalize abortion during the second half of the 19th century involved challenging both Common Law and popular belief that, prior to quickening, a woman had a right to abort the fetus and restore her menstruation cycle.

Trotskyism: Wheat and Chaff

— Peter Drucker

Trotskyism in the United States: Historical Essays and Reconsiderations, by George Breitman, Paul Le Blanc, and Alan Wald (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1996) $60 cloth.

Marat: Champion of the Urban Poor

— Morris Slavin

Jean Paul Marat, Scientist and Revolutionary. by Clifford D. Conner. (Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities Press International, 1997) 285 pages + xiii. cloth $55.


On Marxism and Method

— Martin Glaberman

THE ESSAY BY Michael Lowy, “For A Critical Marxism,”provides a useful beginning for discussion. His subtitle, “The Centrality of Self-Emancipation,”is an important departure from the more vanguardist views that used to prevail on the left, though it remains rather ambiguous and amorphous. But I would like to deal with what I see as two weaknesses.

Deeply Re-examining Marxism

— Cyril Smith

HAVING JUST READ Michael Lowy's “The Centrality of Self-emancipation for a Critical Marxism”(in the Against the Current translation, which I received via the Internet), I agree strongly with many of Lowy's remarks about the next steps for those who consider themselves to be followers of Karl Marx, now that the downfall of the Stalinist bureaucracy and its devotees has provided us with a wonderful opportunity for the re-birth of communist ideas.

On Criticizing Marx

— Ernest Haberkern

MICHAEL LOWY'S ARTICLE in ATC 71 was titled “For a Critical Marxism.”This is obviously a misprint. The original title could only have been “Where Marx Went Wrong.”

A Response on "Critical Marxism"

— Michael Löwy

I'M VERY HAPPY that my article provoked debate among readers of Against the Current. Several of the remarks seem to me very relevant and I'll try to answer at least some of them.

Democratic Revolution and Socialist Revolution: A Reply to Malik Miah

— Steve Bloom

IN ATC 75 Malik Miah presents an analysis of events surrounding the fall of Indonesian President Suharto (“Indonesia's Democratic Revolution”). As a descriptive report of what has been happening in that country his effort is valuable to activists. However, as an analytical assessment of what is at stake the article falls short.

Rejoinder: The Dynamics of Revolution

— Malik Miah

ONE COMMON ERROR socialists tend to make when discussing unfolding revolutions in other countries is to offer programmatic analysis that has little to do with the real situation on the ground. Comrade Steve Bloom makes that mistake in regards to “the relationship between the democratic and the socialist revolutions”in Indonesia.