Against the Current, No. 78, January/February 1999

Against the Current, No. 78, January/February 1999

The Cynicism and the Slaughter

— The Editors

IMPEACHMENT.  BOMBING.  ELECTION.  Impeachment.  Bombing.  Perhaps by now, the scandal-witchhunt-Cruise missile cycle has become so predictable that it's hard to respond with appropriate outrage to the latest round.  We all knew, after all, that it was going to happen.  Yet outrage is absolutely necessary, even at a moment when atrocity follows atrocity and world-class crimes against humanity virtually crowd each other out of attention.

The Labor Party's Pittsburgh Convention

— John Hinshaw

BETWEEN NOVEMBER 13-15 in Pittsburgh, over 1400 delegates from six national unions, over two hundred local unions and thirty-nine chapters of the Labor Party met for its first Constitutional Convention.

These delegates, representing trade union bodies whose memberships total over one million (and some thousands of party members), recommitted the LP to the comprehensive program adopted at the founding convention in Cleveland in 1996.

The Labor Party in the Big Picture

— Jane Slaughter and Rodney Ward

THE LABOR PARTY convention was inspiring.  At the Detroit chapter's report-back meeting, locked-out newspaper workers talked about how good it felt to be in a convention hall where everyone would support you, "unlike the Democrats and Republicans."

Authorizing the possibility of electoral campaigns means that, in the places where those happen, we have the potential to attract a whole different layer of members.

Hurricane Mitch and Disaster Relief: The Politics of Catastrophe

— Anne Schenk

THE LEVEL OF destruction wrought by Hurricane Mitch is hard to overstate. While there is no way to know exactly how many lives were affected by the category-five hurricane that devastated the region between October 26 and November 1, early reports indicated that across Central America 11,000 people are reported dead, 15,000 are missing and at least 2.4 million made homeless.

Remembering Pinochet's Coup: A Taste of Justice for Chile

— Marc Cooper

AS FORMER CHILEAN dictator Augusto Pinochet languished in British custody facing possible extradition to Spain, I have thought often of the democratically elected president he overthrew twenty-five years ago—Salvador Allende. At the time of the September 11, 1973 coup I was living in Chile and a translator for President Allende.

El Salvador's New War: Lesbian/Gay Activism Confronts “Social Cleansing”

— Anne Schenk

QUEER ACTIVISM AND visibility are on the rise in El Salvador and throughout Latin America, coupled with an alarming increase in repression against queers and queer activists.*

In May of this year, Karla, a seventeen-year-old transvestite active in El Salvadors gay rights movement, was abducted off the street and assassinated death-squad style.

The CIA and the "Peace Process"

— Harry Clark interviews Professor Israel Shahak


A CONTROVERSIAL FEATURE of the torturously negotiated and implemented "Wye Plantation Agreement" is the direct, overt role assigned to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in monitoring Palestinian Authority (PA) implementation of the "security provisions."  In fact, as this discussion with Professor Israel Shahak makes clear, the CIA's central involvement has been an accomplished fact ever since the 2993 Oslo Accord, and has been no secret to readers of the Hebrew press in Israel.  Although conducted June 6-7, 1998, nearly half a year before Wye, this interview, we think, still sheds important light on the real dynamics of the "peace process."

The interview was conducted in Jerusalem by Harry Clark, a solidarity activist from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and has been abridged for publication here. A second installment will appear in our next issue.

PA Supreme Court Rejects New Trial for Mumia

— Steve Bloom

THE OCTOBER 29 ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, turning down Mumia Abu-Jamal's appeal for a new trial, is one more proof that the U.S. criminal court system has very little interest in justice.

Justice demands, at the very least, a new trial in this case. The seven judges of Pennsylvania's highest court, however, have clearly demonstrated that they are simply one more cog in a government machine of death which is determined to take Mumia's life—not because he is guilty of any crime, but because he is Black and militantly opposed to the oppression of poor and working people, especially people of color.

An Introduction: Capital's Global Turbulence

— Richard Walker

A JOYLESS IRONY of our time is that just as capitalism seemed all-triumphant and the sirens of neoliberalism had declared history to be at an end, the crisis rolling out of Asia has brought the self-regulating global market to its knees. Add to this that at the same time as Marxism as political doctrine has been declared dead, Marxist economics has never been better argued and empirically defended than today.

Capital's Global Turbulence

— Richard Walker


ROBERT BRENNER'S THE Economics of Global Turbulence, a book-length study published as issue 229 of the Journal New Left Review, has attracted unusual attention for at least two reasons.  Not only is Brenner's factual and theoretical argument formidable in its own terms, but its publication coincided fortuitously with the stock and financial market upheavals triggered by the Asian collapse.

Random Shots: Notes From Starr's Chamber

— R.F. Kampfer

KEN STARR'S FUTURE looks bleak. He can forget about the Supreme Court or any other government job; and who's going to hire a lawyer who spends so much time and money for such paltry results?

Congress has proclaimed that their decisions about what to do with president Clinton will not be influenced by public opinion polls or election results. Now you tell one.

Some of the older congressmen were under the impression that “oral sex” meant talking about it.

One of Clinton's penalties is that...

The Rebel Girl: Barbara Kingsolver's Triumph

— Catherine Sameh

IT IS A distinct pleasure to witness a favorite novelist become an even better storyteller, without losing her politics. Such is the case with Barbara Kingsolver and her new novel The Poisonwood Bible (New York: HarperCollins, 1998), arguably her strongest work yet, the story of the Price family commandeered by the evangelical Reverend Nathan Price.

Radical Rhythms: A Band Whose Time Has Come

— Daniel L. Widener

THE DRUMS ARE first, pushing polyrhythmically forward. Horns and whistles join, building the samba until, finally, the voices respond. The desfile (parade) winds through, the band takes stage. Ya llego Ozomatli. Ozomatli has arrived.

Black History and Today's Struggle

In Honor of Assata Shakur

— Daniel L. Widener

IN 1739, A group of predominantly African-born slaves in South Carolina launched one of North America's largest and costliest revolts. Veterans of the civil wars which proliferated in the wake of the Atlantic Slave trade, fluent in Portuguese and proud Catholics (whose King, as a sovereign voluntary convert, possessed independent relations with Rome), this rebel troop felt powerfully the pull of freedom promised by the Spanish settlement at St. Augustine.

Race and Politics

— Malik Miah

THE MID-TERM NOVEMBER elections brought two surprises according to the pundits: the demise of Newt Gingrich and the likely survival of the Clinton presidency.

A major reason for this striking turn of events had much to do with the Black voter turnout.  It is a sidebar that was briefly commented on before and right after the elections but since has been buried by the impeachment hearings.

Race from the 20th to the 21st Century: Multiculturalism or Emancipation?

— E. San Juan, Jr.

WHEN I WAS first invited here for a talk three years ago, I had no idea what Pullman looked like. For me, as well as for many students of American history, Pullman was associated with Pullman, Illinois, where the great railroad strike of 1894 against the Pullman Company began.

In that strike of the American Railway Union, organized by the now legendary Eugene Debs, he and other union leaders were ultimately arrested and the strike in Chicago suppressed by 14,000 soldiers and police. While chattel slavery is gone, “wage slavery” is still with us.

Review: Moving Beyond Black and White?

— Tim Libretti

Beyond Black and White:Transforming African-American Politics by Manning Marable (New York: Verso, 1995). Paperback, $17.


Labor Organizing in a Lean World: Workers of the World Unite?

— Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval

Workers in A Lean World. Unions in the International Economy by Kim Moody (Verso, 1997). Paperback $20.

The Cocaine-Contra-CIA Complex

— Larry Gabriel

Dark Alliance. The CIA, the Contras and the Crack Cocaine Explosion by Gary Webb (New York: Seven Stories Press, 1998), Hardback $24.95.

Halting British Fascism

— Gerd-Rainer Horn

In Excited Times: The People Against the Blackshirts by Nigel Todd (Whitley Bay: Bewick Press, 1995), 130 pages.

The Struggle For Hearts and Minds: Essays on the Second World War by Raymond Challinor (Whitley Bay: Bewick Press, 1995), 118 pages.

An Experiment in Democracy

— Dan La Botz

Organizing Dissent: Unions, the State, and the Democratic Teachers' Movement in Mexico by Maria Lorena Cook. (University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996). Photographs, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. 359 pages. Hardback: $55, paperback $19.95.

Surrealism Against Racism

— Michael Löwy

THE WELL-KNOWN antiracist journal Race Traitor—whose motto is “Treason to whiteness is loyalty to Humanity”—published in the form of a small book a special issue (number 9, Summer 1998, ISBN # 0-88286-235-T) on the topic “Surrealism: Revolution Against Whiteness.” (Order from Race Traitor, P.O. Box 603, Cambridge, MA 02140-0005, $6 postpaid.)

Capital on CD-Rom, Cat Optional

— Joel R. Finkel

Karl Marx's Multimedia Capital, v.1. Cominsane Press, 1998. Distributed by Monthly Review Press, 1-800-670-9499. $20.


Black Liberation, Working-Class Unity, and the Popular Front: A Reply to Mel Rothenberg

— Michael Goldfield

MEL ROTHENBERG HAS written a generous review of my book The Color of Politics, (Against the Current 75, July/ August 1998), in which he praises and succinctly summarizes certain of my key arguments. For this I am, of course, grateful.

On one issue, however, Rothenberg draws conclusions with which I wish to disassociate myself, conclusions that I believe do not flow from my writing or analysis. The issue concerns his assertion about the importance and salutary effect of popular front approaches to the struggle for African-American equality and liberation, and for the interracial unity of the U.S. working class.

After Stalinism: An Exchange

— Dave Linn and Susan Weissman

I FOUND SUSAN Weissman's piece “The Russian Revolution Revisited” (ATC 75, July/August 1998) a refreshingly readable synopsis of a complex historical problem. While I agree with most of her analysis (with one exception noted below), I do not think her conclusion follows from this analysis.

A Rejoinder: Strategy or Doctrine?

— Mel Rothenberg

MIKE GOLDFIELD HAS presented above a succinct left critique of the popular front line of the Communist Party, both of its principles and of its practice. He echoes the accusations of James P. Cannon that in promoting this line the Communists diverted the working-class movement into the arms of the Democratic Party, thus fundamentally betraying both the class struggle and the Afro-American struggle.

In Memoriam

A Farewell and Tribute: Rose Lesnik, 1924-1998

— Estar Baur

ROSE LESNIK, LIFELONG socialist, activist and humanist, died of pancreatic cancer on August 1, 1998. Rose, born in 1924, grew up in a socialist household.

Her father, Harry Gold, and her brother joined the Trotskyist movement in 1938. Rose followed their example and at the age of 17 joined the Socialist Workers Party. Then in 1953 she became a member of the Socialist Union (publishers of American Socialist).