Against the Current, No. 88, September/ October 2000

Against the Current, No. 88, September/ October 2000

To the Spoilers the Victory?

— The Editors

THE REPUBLICAN AND Democratic conventions came and went, with meticulous stage-management inside and riot police and pepper spray for those outside-and more or less the reverse at the sideshow convention(s) of the Reform Party.  Now the so-called "real" election season begins, with the outcome of the ever-so-exciting Bush-Gore presidential race to be decided (so the pollsters tell us) by whether as much as half the eligible voters care enough to turn up.

Race and Class: The Wealth Gap

— Malik Miah

POLITICIANS AND GOVERNMENT officials point to the historic low unemployment level in the Black community as signs of a strong economy and a future where whites and African Americans will finally have an opportunity for an equal share of the American dream.

While it is true that long-term unemployment for the African-American population is in the single digits for the first time, the wealth gap between white and Black families continues to widen. According to government statistics Black households' wealth average one-twelfth that of white households.

Courts Back Detroit Scab Papers

— Ellis Boal

In July a federal court of appeals dealt a crushing blow to the Detroit newspaper strikers, holding management was bargaining in good faith at the time they walked out in 1995.  This means replaced workers—of whom there are still several hundred—have no rights to displace scabs and over a thousand more will get no backpay.

Why Detroit Needs Justice and CPR

— Charles Simmons

IF ANYONE DOUBTS that the modern American City has become the center of all forms of oppression, consider the list of injustices that Detroit residents confront everyday in a city governed by African Americans.

Although Brush Park residents were granted funds for renovation some five years ago, the city has taken the money from the senior citizens and transferred it to the big developers and city attorneys to help evict the seniors.

IPPN Standing Strong in the Storm

— José Manuel Sentmanat

IF I WERE asked to name the one virtue that best describes the political left in America, I would say “perseverance.” As we know all too well, the long history of the left in our country is a history of frustration, betrayal and defeat, yet also of hope, vigor and determination despite many setbacks and our repeated failure to win any real political power.

How appropriate, then, that the fifth annual Independent Progressive Politics Summit, which took place in Madison, Wisconsin from June 1-4, was in many ways an example of the left's remarkable ability to overcome adversity.

Ralph Nader and the Legacy of Revolt

— Walt Contreras Sheasby

RALPH NADER, ANNOUNCING his presidential candidacy in Washington, D.C. on February 21, 2000, said, “The struggle between the forces of democracy and plutocracy has ebbed and flowed throughout our history ... The earlier nineteenth-century democratic struggles by abolitionists against slavery, by farmers against large oppressive railroads and banks, and later by new trade unionists against the brutal workplace conditions of the early industrial and mining era helped mightily to make America and its middle class what it is today. They demanded that economic power subside or be shared.”

Global Capital and Economic Nationalism (Part 2)

— Kim Moody

A NUMBER OF aspects of global capitalism changed rapidly at the end of the 1980s.  The most obvious was the collapse of most of the Communist states and the initiation of their integration into the world capitalist system.  While the impact of this has yet to be fully felt in the West, it is in effect a giant "enclosure" (privatization) movement on a scale and at a speed never before seen in the transition to capitalism anywhere.[See note 1]

The New Movement for Global Justice

— Dan La Botz

Viewpoint: Transnationals After Seattle

— Loren Goldner

MASS POLITICS IN the streets disappeared in the United States between 1970 and 1973. In retrospect, it is clear that the years 1964 to 1970 were not a “pre-revolutionary situation,” but anyone who lived through those years as an activist can be forgiven for thinking it was. Any number of people in the ruling circles shared the same error of judgment.

Rebel Girl: Feminism vs. the Evil Lessers

— Catherine Sameh

I'LL BE VOTING for Ralph Nader this presidential election, and I hope my feminist friends will join me. It's not that I think Nader is the best thing since unsliced bread.  Far from perfect, Nader has enormous limits as a representative of left and progressive movements.

Random Shots: People and Other Animals

— R.F. Kampfer

PEOPLE FOR THE Ethical Treatment of Animals has taken out an ad urging college students to drink beer instead of milk, to avoid exploiting cows. Sounds like a good excuse to me.

What would those self-righteous Boy Scout leaders think of Troop 74's version of the Scout Oath: “On my honor, I'll do my best to help the Girl Scouts get undressed.”

Mexico's Transition and Struggle

From PRI to Foxismo

— Guillermo Almeyra

MEXICO ON JULY 2 experienced an alternation of parties in power at the national level. But the more fundamental shift away from the one-party state had begun already with the Salinas administration (1988-1994), when he tried to replace the ruling PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) with his own political and patronage apparatus, “Solidarity.”

The Great Strike at UNAM

— Christian Castillo

THE GREAT STRIKE of the Mexican National Autonomous University (UNAM), which for more than nine months was occupied by students organized in the Strike General Committee (CGH), started on April 20, 1999 and lasted until February 6, 2000. On that date 2500 federal police, following orders given by President Zedillo, evicted hundreds of students from the campus and arrested them.

Although the focus is now on the implications of Vicente Fox's victory in the presidential election, it is worth reviewing a conflict from which workers and students in many countries can draw important lessons.

How Ultraleftism Divided UNAM Strike

— Phil Hearse

[The following article is excerpted from “Mexican Students' Epic Struggle in Danger,” which first appeared in the November 3, 1999 issue of the Australian socialist paper Green Left Weekly, three months prior to the ultimate repression of the strike. The full text was also posted on the news list of the Black Radical Congress. The author, Phil Hearse, is a veteran socialist journalist and observer of Mexican social movements. We are publishing his account here, along with the preceding article by Christian Castillo, to offer our readers a sense of the diversity of viewpoints on the strategy and tactics employed by leading currents in this important struggle.]

Viewpoints on Trade, WTO, and China

The Protectionist Trap

— Caroline Lund

IN JULY, THE United Nations and some fifty large corporations came to an agreement that the companies would all respect workers' rights and protect the environment in their investments around the world. Anyone who believes that this will actually happen is maybe in the market for a certain bridge as well.

Lessons of an Ambiguous Struggle

— Mel Rothenberg

THE CONFLICT AROUND Congress' granting China Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) signals the opening of important new terrain of political struggle. With the background of the two major mass demonstrations against neoliberalism in Seattle and Washington D.C., perhaps the most significant and interesting political development is the leadership role of the AFL-CIO in mobilizing against the most important policy initiative of the waning Clinton administration.


Varda Burstyn's The Rites of Men

— Barbara L. Tischler

The Rights of Men: Manhood, Politics and the Culture of Sport by Varda Burstyn (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999) 388 pages, $24.95 paperback.

THE SCENE IS replicated thousands of times on playing fields across the country.  Teams square off against each other in something far more serious than mock combat.  The stakes are high for players, parents and coaches.  Even if the victory means little in terms of trophies or advancement, in this scenario the followers of famed football coach Vince Lombardi are right—"winning is not the main thing, it's the only thing."

James D Young's The World of C.L.R. James

— David Camfield

The World of CLR James: The Unfragmented Vision
by James D. Young,
(Glasgow: Clydeside Press, 37 High Street,
Glasgow G11LX, Scotland), 1999, 392 pages, $25.

C.L.R. JAMES (1901-1989) was born into the Black middle class of colonial Trinidad. A writer who earned a living as a teacher, he moved to Britain in 1932. As he later observed, “I arrived in England intending to make my way as a writer of fiction, but the world went political and I went with it.” (31)

In Memoriam: Tony Cliff 1917-2000

Tony Cliff, 1917-2000

— David McNally

THE 1930s SAW a number of truly outstanding young revolutionaries rally to Trotsky's alternative to the Stalinism that dominated the international left: CLR James, Raya Dunayevskaya, Ernest Mandel, Hal Draper, to name some of the most important. Tony Cliff, who died on April 10 of this year at age 82, ranks among this impressive group.

Memories of Tony Cliff

— R.F. Kampfer

IT'S BEEN ABOUT 30 years since I met Tony Cliff, the leader of what was then called the International Socialism group in Britain, back before I borrowed a Party name from the rotefrontkampferbund.  I was recently out of the Army, and touring the Socialist Youth groups of Europe.  A note signed by Kim Moody, identifying me as a member of the Independent Socialists, was good anywhere for potluck, a couch, and a long political discussion.