Against the Current, No. 87, July/August 2000

Against the Current, No. 87, July/August 2000

Bush-Gore 2000: No Thanks!

— The Editors

THE REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL candidate strongly advocates the Effective Death Penalty Act, the World Trade Organization and "free trade" with China; talks environmental protection while being heavily funded by Occidental Petroleum; supports deportations of non-citizens suspected of "terrorist links" based on secret evidence which the accused cannot hear or refute; and openly pandered to the right-wing lobby in Miami in the Elian Gonzalez affair.

The War on the People

— Susan Weissman interviews Christian Parenti

SUZI WEISSMAN, AN editor of Against the Current and host of Beneath the Surface on KPFK radio in Los Angeles, interviewed Christian Parenti for the program broadcast November 15, 1999. We present an edited excerpt here. Louise Cooper reviewed Christian Parenti's Lockdown America in our previous issue (ATC 86).

Suzi Weissman: Why is criminal justice so central to American politics? Why do we beat the European competition when it comes to incarceration, the war on drugs, paramilitary policing, punitive sentencing and even the death penalty? Is the War on Drugs a euphemism for repression of the rebellious and poor?

ATC 87, July-August 2000

Labor Speaks Up for Mumia

— Randy Christensen

IN A HIGHLY significant display of solidarity, the 1100 delegates to the International Convention of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) voted without dissent on May 24, 2000 to demand justice for Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Representing the largest union in the United States with 1.4 million workers, this convention was assembled in the very state where Mumia continues to sit on death row. Meeting in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the assembled delegates voted to support a Moratorium on the Death Penalty and a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Korea's New Revolutionaries

— Barry Sheppard

AGAINST THE BACKGROUND of a rising militant working-class movement, revolutionary socialists in South Korea are undergoing a process of regroupment. An important force in this development are comrades of the Power of the Working Class (PWC) organization, formed in August of last year.

Korea: The Elections and Sexual Violence

— Terry Murphy

IN THE APRIL 13 South Korean parliamentary elections, the closest the Democratic Labor Party came to victory was in the Hyundai company town of Ulsan.

Their candidate was defeated by a small margin (43% to 41.8%) by the Grand National Party, the traditional party of the military dictatorship, anticommunism, and Kyongsang chauvinism (Ulsan is in South Kyongsang Province). The combination of money, regionalism and boss politics still exerts influence in the working class.

Where Is Indonesia Going?

— Malik Miah

For both admirers and critics of Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid, the picture is disturbing: At the presidential palace in Jakarta there are signs of a new “royal court” in the making. Officials converse in Javanese, not the national language Bahasa Indonesia; Wahid himself borrows from mysticism and ancient tracts to plot political strategy; and family and friends are acting as gatekeepers and facilitators, in some cases for businessmen hoping to curry favor. Some analysts describe it as a form of “benign Suhartoism,” a throwback to the disastrous last decade of President's 32-year rule. (John McBeth, March 9, 2000, Far Eastern Economic Review)

Vieques After A Year of Struggle

— César Ayala

THIRTEEN PEACE ENCAMPMENTS prevented the U.S. Navy for thirteen months from using the Puerto Rican island of Vieques for target practice, until they were forcibly cleared by FBI agents and federal marshals on May 4th, 2000.

Crisis and Coup in Ecuador

— Lynn A. Meisch

ON JANUARY 21, 2000, FOR the first time since the Spanish conquest of Ecuador in A.D. 1533-34, indigenous people briefly -- very briefly -- ruled the country as part of a triumvirate.

Frustrated by over a decade of economic problems, corruption and political stalemates over indigenous rights and land disputes, thousands of indigenous protesters and members of popular movements converged on Quito, the country's capital. On the 21st, hundreds of protesters occupied Congress and proclaimed a People's Parliament.

South Africa Windows on Washington

— Patrick Bond

THE WORLD BANK! Haai! Is the Devil! Haai haai!

This was the chant -- accompanied by that South African activist war-dance, the toyi-toyi -- that my comrades Trevor Ngwane and Molly Dhlamini introduced to A-16/17 week gatherings in Washington, D.C., ranging from Direct Action Network spokescouncil meetings to activist sessions, as well as the street protests and on stage at the main rally.

Five Steps from D.C. to Jo'burg

— Trevor Ngwane

1. TAKE WASHINGTON D.C. to Johannesburg. What the youth and other activists in the U.S.A. have done, must be repeated here in South Africa.

Of course, it will not be parrot-like, it will have to take into account our specific situation and circumstances. We must target the World Bank and International Monetary Fund as agents of neoliberal economic policy in our country and our region. We must then find issues around which we can organize the people, for example, water, electricity, jobs, etc.

Time for Reparations Now

— Molly Dhlamini

WE WENT TO Washington to strengthen at least three global campaigns: to cancel the Third World debt, to advance the cause of reparations, and to shut down the IMF and World Bank.

The essential question we pose is this: "Who really owes what to whom?" With this, we remind people of the legacies of slavery, colonialism, apartheid, neocolonialism and neoliberalism.

World Bank: It's the Pits for the Poor

— Patrick Bond

IN EARLY MAY, a National Reparations Conference opened by Njongonkulu Ndungane, the radical Archbishop of Cape Town who succeeded Desmond Tutu, resolved to demand that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund compensate South Africa for apartheid loans long ago repaid. What is the line of argument?

Camera Lucida: Hollywood's Racial Double Standard

— Arlene Keizer

A DOUBLE STANDARD continues to stalk Hollywood when it comes to race and ethnicity, not to mention critical judgments.

Spike Lee can't get a break.  His 1999 release "Summer of Sam" was the year's most underrated film, despite its intense, engaging and somewhat experimental cinematography, complex characters (not usually a strength in Lee's films), and strong dramatic performances, particularly by John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody and Jennifer Esposito.

The Rebel Girl: Lesbian Nation's Landscape

— Catherine Sameh

The Struggle for Happiness:
Stories by Ruthann Robson
(New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000) $22.95.

RUTHANN ROBSON IS a woman of many dimensions: a lawyer, scholar, and consistently wonderful lesbian literary writer of many genres. Best known for her most recent suspense novel, a/k/a, Robson has also mastered poetry, non-fiction and short stories. In her new book of short stories, The Struggle for Happiness, Robson's characters reflect her own multidimensionality and deep knowledge of everything from law and nature to ballet and utopian philosophy.

Random Shots: Stranger Than Cinema

— R.F. Kampfer

LOOKING AT THE Elión Gonzalez case, how many people remember “Popi,” a 1969 movie starring Alan Arkin as a poor Puerto Rican janitor who tries to put his kids on Easy Street by passing them off as Cuban flotsam?

If “Battlefield Earth” loses a bundle, the Scientologists will probably call it an attack on religion. That didn't help the Moonies when “MacArthur” bombed.

Nicaragua Twenty-One Years Later

A Painful Struggle for Renewal

— Dianne Feeley

TWENTY-ONE YEARS after the Sandinista National Liberation Front's triumph of July 1979, and ten years since the FSLN government lost power in an electoral upset, Nicaragua's political and economic picture is generally bleak.

Widespread corruption, natural disasters made more catastrophic by social and environmental mismanagement, and a debilitating political pact between the top levels of the Liberal government (PLC) and the FSLN have sucked much of the life from the once vibrant popular movements. At the base, these movements are struggling for a renewal and reorientation. (For some details, see the accompanying article by FSLN militant Vilma Núñez de Escorcia.)

The Deep Crisis of Sandinismo

— Vilma Núnez de Escorcia

THE STRUGGLE WE waged from the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) to overthrow the Somoza dictatorship and bring about a revolution (in 1979) was also a struggle for human rights.  It has always been very difficult for me to draw the line between being a Sandinista activist and a human rights activist, because I've always considered the struggle for human rights to be a revolution in itself.

Battle in Nicaragua's Maquiladoras

— Dianne Feeley

NICARAGUA HAS ONLY one major "free trade zone," Las Mercedes, and unlike the rest of Central America, half of the workers there have managed to build unions. Recently the zone management and the Labor Ministry are helping employers to implement a variety of union-busting actions:


Fighting China or the WTO?

— Sze Pang Cheung

THE TENSION AMONG groups which protested in Seattle would emerge in April when two marches would proceed within the same week, one [led by the AFL-CIO -ed.] targeting China's entry to the World Trade Organization, another [April 16-17] fighting against the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, just as activists have fought against the Multilateral Agreement on Investment and the WTO.

Students and Labor Together

— Molly McGrath

ON BEHALF OF my fellow campus organizers I would like to thank the AFL-CIO leadership and all of you for this opportunity to speak with you.

I have a new slogan for you: "Whose University?  Our University!!!"

Protectionism or Solidarity? (Part I)

— Kim Moody

"What is called globalization is really another name for the dominant role of the United States." --Henry Kissinger (1999)

AS THE 21ST century opened, U.S. labor seemed more energized and more engaged in grappling with the forces that had so long kept it on the defensive.  Perhaps it was the fact that over a million workers had joined unions in the last two years and new members outnumbered lost ones by over a quarter of a million.  Maybe it was the high-visibility experience of Seattle and the promise of a new coalition of forces.


Abraham Polonsky's The World Above

— Leone Sandra Hankey

The World Above
by Abraham Polonsky
(Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press,
1999) 471 pages, $18.95 paperback.

THE FIRST TIME I glimpsed Abe Polonsky, he was regaling an elegant throng of admirers at an L.A. County Museum of Art reception with salty wit and sparkling stories about his life, his workman's cap planted at a characteristically jaunty angle.