Against the Current, No. 81, July/August 1999

Against the Current, No. 81, July/August 1999

The State's Capital Crimes

— The Editors

WHILE MORE THAN 100 countries have abolished the death penalty by law or practice, after a decade-long banishment, the United States resurrected it in the 1970s.  Its restoration is part of the "get tough on crime" campaign-despite the fact that no study has ever found the death penalty a "deterrent" to crime.

Largest Outpouring Ever for Mumia

— Steve Bloom


THE APRIL 24 "Millions for Mumia" demonstrations in Philadelphia and San Francisco represented, by far, the largest public outpouring around the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal.  Crowd estimates varied, naturally.  The Philadelphia Inquirer reported 10,000, with many observers also saying 10-15,000.  But others, including march organizers, were citing figures in the 25-30,000 range.  All who attended both this year's demonstration in Philadelphia and the 1995 national action-after the first death warrant was signed, previously the biggest mobilization-declared that there were more participants this time./p>

Final Victory for Geronimo

— Karin Baker

SINCE JUNE OF 1997 Geronimo Pratt has been free from prison, but not free from its threat. No longer!

Even Los Angeles District Attorney Gil Garcetti concedes that the former Black Panther, whose 1972 murder conviction was overturned, is now beyond his reach. This past February an appeals court, in a 3-0 ruling, upheld the decision of the judge who threw out Pratt's conviction in June 1997.

Race and Politics: Profiling and DWB

— Malik Miah

IT'S HAPPENED TO most Blacks at least once in our lifetime.  Driving towards home or heading from work on the freeway a cop decides to pull you over for no reason.  You wait in your car (you never get out first), hoping it's nothing.  As you wait, the tension increases throughout your body. You keep your hands visible and crack no smile.  Is it just a ticket?  Or worse?  (You wonder why African Americans have high blood pressure.)

Silvia Baraldini Wins Return Home

— Maria Ornella Marotti

ON JUNE 11 the U.S. government agreed to a longstanding Italian request to allow political prisoner Silvia Baraldini to serve the rest of her term in her native country. The move, announced by U.S. Ambassador to Italy Thomas Foglietta, appeared to be an attempt to appease Italian public opinion about the U.S. army plane that sliced a gondola cable when flying too low and too fast in the Italian Alps on February 3, 1998, killing twenty people. The pilot, Marine Captain Richard Asby, was recently acquitted by a U.S. military tribunal. In that case Italy returned the pilots involved in the Cermis tragedy and allowed them to be tried in their country of origin.

The Sixteenth Puerto Rican Political Prisoner: The Case of José Solís

— Carmelo Ruiz

On FRIDAY, MARCH 12, 1999, a new name was added to the list of fifteen Puerto Rican political prisoners currently held in American jails: José Solís Jordán. That day, a federal jury in Chicago found Solís, a professor at the University of Puerto Rico and father of five, guilty of bombing a U.S. Army recruitment office in that city in 1992. No one was killed or hurt in the bombing.

Stop the Bombing of Puerto Rico!

— Puerto Rico Libre

ON APRIL 19, American F-18 fighter planes, on a routine bombing maneuver over the island of Vieques (a small island of approximately 8,000 inhabitants seven miles off the southeast coast of Puerto Rico belonging to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico), dropped “by mistake” two 500-pound bombs on a guard-post on Camp Garcia, US Navy.

Hurricane Relief and Debt Cancellation for Nicaragua: Visiting the Casa Materna

— Phyllis Ponvert

AS ALWAYS, WHEN I come back to Nicaragua I am acutely aware of the contrasts: breathtakingly beautiful landscapes in a crumbling country, the wealth of her natural resources and the poverty of her people. I keep coming back to visit Nicaraguan friends and family and work with a woman's health project that I have been involved with for eight years.

Stop Sweatshops-Linking Workers' Struggles

— Marion Traub-Werner

NIKE MADE A mistake when it aggressively entered the college market through lucrative licensing contracts and exclusive promotions deals.  In hindsight, it amazes me that the company never considered the potential for scandal when it linked itself to institutions that purport to be moral leaders.

Notes on the Millenium

— Jane Slaughter interviews Daniel Singer

DANIEL SINGER SPECIALIZES in explaining pivotal social movements.  His books on the French worker-student revolt of May 1968 and on Polish workers' rebellion against the party-state bureaucracy showed us the real-life workings of movements from below, and their potential to go farther.  Best known to American socialists as the European correspondent of The Nation, Singer's elegantly written dispatches are notable for avoiding the false trails of various social democratic election victories.

His new book, Whose Millennium?  Theirs or Ours? (soon to be reviewed in Against the Current) seeks to take advantage of the millennium craze the hucksters are using to hype everything from "Best Of" compendiums to cryogenics.  But for the best of reasons: Whose Millennium? is an attempt to help resuscitate a left demoralized by capitalism's worldwide ascendancy and its accompanying ideology that, in Margaret Thatcher's words, "there is no alternative" (TINA).

Trying to Arrest Madeleine Albright

— Stanley Heller

I used to cringe every time I'd be in a demo and hear the chant, "You can't run. You can't hide. We charge you with genocide!"

But in the case of the sanctions against Iraq it really has become genocide: hundreds of thousands of civilians have been deliberately killed through the intentional crippling of Iraqi water treatment system and the sanctions that prevent Iraq from selling enough oil to cover essential civilian needs. Clinton, Albright, and Cohen are-in a very literal sense-war criminals.

The Pittsburgh Reds, 1911-1914: Revolutionary Socialists in Allegheny County

— Mark Hudson

THE SOCIALIST PARTY of America reached the peak of its strength and influence in 1912. In that year, the party could claim 118,000 members, and 879,000 American voters (about 6% of the total) cast their votes for Socialist presidential candidate Eugene Debs. There were some 1,200 Socialist elected officials throughout the United States in 1912, and over 300 Socialist periodicals.

Labor Politics in Action, 1901-1911: The Union Labor Party of San Francisco

— Hayden Perry

IN 1900 SAN Francisco had an organized labor movement that reflected the unique development of this metropolis of the West. San Francisco did not experience the slow and steady growth of Chicago and other cities of the plains, but became a city overnight in 1850 when thousands of gold seekers poured in from the East and every part of Europe, and beyond.

Alexandra Kollontai and Red Love

— Teresa L. Ebert

WHAT IS “RED Love”—and more specifically, what is a socialist, or more complexly, a communist theory of love and sexuality?

As a way of working toward an answer, I want to reread the Russian revolutionary Alexandra Kollontai's ideas about love and sexuality. How we reread Kollontai today raises questions not only about the revolutionary value of her work but also about the historicity of our own reading. To avoid subsuming her revolutionary insights, we need to read dialectically between the current historical situation as well as the one out of which she wrote—turning our critique-al attention to both our own limits and to those in which Kollontai worked.

Radical Rhythms: Ellington and his Centenary

— Kim Hunter

“We should set aside a day. All the musicians should get together and get on their knees to Duke Ellington.”
—Miles Davis

WHERE WOULD THE 20th century be without Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington? Answering that question is just as difficult as assessing his legacy. Nonetheless, assessment is inherent in much of the celebration of Ellington and his legacy in this, the 100th anniversary year of his birth.

Death of a Sacred Place

— Michael Betzold

SPECIAL PLACES ARE disappearing faster than endangered species.  Places that move the heart foster messy attachments.  They're unwieldy.  The global economy prefers its consumers to have portable affections for interchangeable environments.

Random Shots: Balkan Wars, Now and Then

— R.F. Kampfer

AT THE NATO summit, it was decided that the organization would not tolerate genocide if practiced by non-members who did not possess nuclear weapons and were within artillery range of Europe.

It was predicted a few years ago that only nine flags would fly over Europe—eight of them over the former Yugoslavia.

Those Russian threats to provide military aid to Serbia might be more credible if their troops had been able to cope with the Chechens.

The three released U.S. POWs collected six medals each...

The Rebel Girl: For A Celebration Excluding No One

— Catherine Sameh

THERE CAN BE something so queer about queers. Sure, it's hard to tell who's sleeping with whom these days, and in many cities we live so openly every day we're hardly noticed. Assimilation, or integration if you will, has softened our hard edges. But then there's all that hoop-la in June. You know, the annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride celebrations. Tens of thousands of people take to the streets, some in wild outfits, others outfitted minimally or not at all. And that's when it becomes clear how queer we really are.

A Dialogue on NATO's War

Introduction to the Dialogue

— The Editors

IN OUR EDITORIAL "NATO's Road to War/Ruin" (Against the Current 80, May-June 1999), we acknowledged that we expected sharp differences among our readers and friends regarding what we called "the truly agonizing dilemma that faces the peace movement."

In the following pages we present several responses provoked by our editorial. We expect that this discussion will continue in future issues of the magazine....

Along NATO's Road to War/Ruin

— Branka Magas

THE WAR TAKING place in the so-called Federal Republic of Yugoslavia involves three sides: Serbia (not FRY: Montenegro has declared itself neutral!),[see note 1] Kosova [see note 2] and the NATO alliance.  War being an extension of politics, it is what the protagonists are trying to achieve that determines whether their war is just or not.

Against the Holy Alliance

— Daniel Singer

MIGHT IS RIGHT!  On June 3rd, the 72nd day of this horrid though undeclared war, it looked like a deal had been struck or, rather, imposed.  The Russians having been bullied or bribed to align themselves on the NATO positions, Belgrade stood alone and Milosevic had to surrender.

The NATO War and Its Aims

— Mel Rothenberg

A PRINCIPLED LEFT position must contain a strong, clear denunciation both of NATO's imperialist designs and of the brutal national oppression of the Kosovar Albanians by the Yugoslav regime.  The ATC editors' position, "NATO's Road to War/Ruin," does this. However, it does not deal adequately with the arguments of the prowar, pro-NATO left, and it is this aspect I would like to comment on.

A Response on NATO and Kosovo

— Catherine Samary

"Finally, in the military conflict that now dominates the ruins of former Yugoslavia, let's be clear: There is no side to support, neither Milosevic genocidal post-Stalinism nor NATO imperialism.  Neither side is a lesser evil. Freedom for Kosovo! Abolish NATO!" ("A Letter from the Editors," ATC 80)

Whose Stupid War Was This?

— Peter Gowan

THE RAMBOUILLET ACCORD was an ultimatum for a war against Serbia, and the terms of the ultimatum demonstrated that if the Serbian government accepted Rambouillet they would very likely face a crushing attack in the future from NATO forces on Yugoslav soil.

In Memoriam

Eric R. Wolf, Scholar-Activist

— Anthony Marcus

ANTHROPOLOGIST ERIC ROBERT Wolf died March 6, 1999 in his home in Westchester, New York after a nearly two-year bout with cancer. Wolf was an important scholar-activist, educator of the immigrant and minority working-class and anti-imperialist writer, whose death is a great loss to all who struggle to combine a Marxist commitment with a day job in academe.