Against the Current, No. 121, March/April 2006

Against the Current, No. 121, March/April 2006

A Fine Imperial Mess

— The Editors

IF YOU'VE BEEN getting tired—and who hasn't? —of the stream of disasters and atrocities coming from the Bush gang's imperial adventure in Iraq, it's not too early to get ready for the next patch of this administration's Road Map to hell for the Middle East and the world: the coming war with Iran, a new catastrophic war for oil and empire.

New York Transit Activists' Account: The Strike and Beyond

— ATC interviews Josh Fraidstern and Jaime Veve

THE TRANSIT STRIKE that shut down New York City for three days in December dramatically showed the power of labor, yet ended after three days by order of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 leadership.  This was followed by a rank and file rejection of the proposed contract, to universal amazement—with the result that the critical issues of the strike remain unresolved.

New Strategy and Tactics for Labor in the Airlines: Beyond Bankruptcy

— Malik Miah

THE AIRLINES HAVE been leading the way in the transformation of labor-management relations.  The goal of the owners is the radical restructuring of labor costs and working conditions, to provide the maximum payout to executives and value to major shareholders.

Wal-Mart's Real Cost

— Meleiza Figueroa

THE LONG-BREWING STRUGGLE between retail giant Wal-Mart and those concerned with reforming its corporate practices burst onto the mainstream consciousness of the American public this past November. An unprecedented convergence of labor, small business owners, environmentalists, activists and communities of faith blossomed into a full-scale movement to change the world’s largest retail company.

China's Worker Protests: A Second Wave of Labor Unrest?

— Wong Kam Yan

THERE HAS BEEN a 30% rise in collective riots in China in recent years.  Whereas in 1993, there were 10,000 reported cases with 700,000 participants, in 2003 it jumped to 60,000 with 3 million participants.  Among these examples, labor unrest has been quite outstanding, though it is difficult to get official statistics.

Evidence and Evolution: A Controversial Theory

— Rob Bartlett

THE IMPORTANCE OF evolutionary theory for biology can hardly be overstated.  An oft-quoted remark by the geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky captures this: "Nothing in Biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."  The applications of genetics—the foundation of evolutionary theory—are widespread and profound in technology as well as basic biology.

25 Years After the Gdansk Uprising

— Suzi Weissman interviews David Ost

THE OCCUPATION OF the Gdansk shipyard by Polish workers in 1980, demanding recognition of their independent trade union Solidarnosc, rocked the Eastern bloc and inspired the world. A quarter century later, Communist rule is only a bad memory but the present realities for the Polish working class are a grim choice between neoliberalism and reactionary psedo-populism. The following interview with David Ost, conducted by Suzi Weissman November 28, 2005 for her radio program “Beneath the Surface” on KPFK in Los Angeles (90.7 FM), explores what’s happened to post-Solidarity Poland. It has been edited for publication here.

Palestinian Democracy

— Michael Warschawski

FEW ELECTIONS THROUGHOUT the world have been perceived by the local population, as well as international observers, as democratic and transparent as the Palestinian ones. At first glance, Palestine seems to be the perfect example of the “democratization of the Middle East” that President George W. Bush and his administration are fighting for.

Museums, Art and the Rackets

— Paula Rabinowitz

IN THE LATE 1990s when it appeared that the laws of capitalism had been suspended temporarily and wealth could be accrued purely on speculation, the New York Times began an annual full-section report on museums, those once fusty and staid zones of quiet suddenly become hot public draws. Its 21 April, 1999, issue extols the role museums play in rebuilding urban economies worldwide. The Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, and new wings of the Metropolitan in New York have been instrumental in fostering urban pride and capital flows.

A Slice of Socialist History

— Frank Fried and Lester Rodney

[THE FOLLOWING CORRESPONDENCE sheds light on a lesser-known period in U.S. socialist history during the 1950s. Frank Fried was a member of the Socialist Union, led by Bert Cochran, following the “Cochran Faction” expulsion from the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in 1953. He wrote this letter in response to a query from Hal Smith, a student engaged in research in the history of the Trotskyist movement. The subsequent comment by Lester Rodney, the longtime journalist who waged a long campaign in the 1930s and ’40s to break the “color line” in Major League Baseball, offers further perspective on the politics of the Communist Party in the period. Both are retired and living in California.]

Women in Struggle

Engendered Surgery: Women Surgeons Reveal their Experiences

— Patrizia Longo and Cliff J. Straehley

IN HER TALK at Harvard in April 2005, the feminist scientist Evelyn Fox Keller pointed to a distinction she was and is careful to make between garden variety discrimination and what she sees as the larger underlying issue: the way society constructs ideas of masculinity, femininity and science, and how these ideas overlap—or don't.

Romance Novels, Class and Abu Ghraib

— Teresa L. Ebert

THE ROMANCE NOVEL The Ruby (1995) is ostensibly a tale of love, intimacy and caring. Yet the author, Ann Maxwell, directly addresses its heroine and its implied reader in a dramatic scene, and instructs them “to stop thinking like a good little civilian.....The law is for little old ladies who worry about burglars or for salary slaves whose flashy cars get stolen. You’re in a different world now, a world where it’s power against power, and law has got sweet fuck all to do with it.” (125)

State-Sponsored Violence Against Women

— Julia Pérez Cervera

p>THE WORDS OF Latin American women continue to have no value to those who legislate, govern and administer justice. The permissiveness and omissions of state laws, institutions and functionaries in response to the violation of women’s rights are part of gender violence. The advances have been minimal and the need to dismantle this theater of illusions is urgent.


For the Love of Country?

— Jennifer Jopp

to the flag
The Unlikely History of the Pledge of Allegiance
By Richard J. Ellis
University Press of Kansas, 2005
297 pages, $29.95 Cloth.

VISITED ONCE AGAIN by the vultures of patriotism and gnawing anxieties about the nature of our republic, we are falling into a renewed debate about our peculiar brand of patriotism. Investing symbols and rituals with meaning others find puzzling, we adorn our automobiles with yellow decals, sport flag lapel pins, and require school children to daily swear allegiance to the state.

A Record of Resistance

— Dianne Feeley

Our Culture Is Our Resistance
Repression, Refuge, and Healing in Guatemala
Preface by Rigoberta Menchú Tum
Essays by Ricardo Falla, Francisco, Goldman and Susanne Jonas
Photographs by Jonathan Moller
powerHouse Books ( Lee Scott, “Letter from Lee Scott,” <http://
Spanish edition Large format,
208 pages, 147 tritone photographs, $45 hardcover.

HERE IS A stunning book, filled with photographs that record the suffering and strength of the indigenous population in the Guatemalan countryside over the past 15 years....

In Memoriam

A Movement's Loss

— K.R. Avilés-Vázquez

PUERTO RICO IS neither a state of the union, nor an independent nation-state. Its residents are U.S. citizens, go to war, have one representative in Congress who cannot vote or even present a motion, pay no taxes and do not vote for president, have no influence or say in federal law, yet are held to all federal standards. Thanks to this legal limbo, for years the island and its people have been used as testing ground for chemicals (e.g. the pill), war agents (e.g. Agent Orange), and even Monsanto is reaping profits now from transgenic crops (Puerto Rico has the highest proportion of Genetic Modification experiments per land area in the world).

A Transformed Force

— Felix Cordova Iterregui

The following essay is a translated and edited version of a recent op-ed piece by Félix Córdova Iturregui, a veteran socialist activist, member of the Taller de Formación Política and the Frente Socialista de Puerto Rico, and ex-President of the Association of University Professors of the University of Puerto Rico. In this essay, he argues that the massive popular demonstrations after the assassination of Machetero (Popular Puerto Rican Army) leader, Filiberto Ojeda Ríos, occurred in a context where U.S. institutions, particularly the FBI and the U.S. military, are in a rapid period of deterioration, which is being particularly felt in its colony, Puerto Rico.

The mass movement against neoliberal privatizations in Puerto Rico, the widespread opposition that stopped the U.S. Navy’s live fire trainings in Vieques, the popular support that forced the freeing of a number of political prisoners, and the solidarity expressed at the killing of a militant independence leader like Filiberto are, therefore, part of the increasing collapse of U.S. imperialism’s hegemony. In this context the death of Filiberto has helped to galvanize the various anti-colonial and anti-imperialist movements in Puerto Rico. —Saulo Colon

THE SOCIAL RESONANCE of Filiberto Ojeda’s death has been sufficiently strong to consider it an extraordinary event. The FBI operation against Filiberto Ojeda was intended to send a message to Puerto Rican society, but instead they have received a surprising response. While we can hardly exhaust all that has arisen in relation to the FBI operation, it is worth at least underlining some of what has taken place.