Against the Current, No. 103, March/April 2003

— The Editors

Whatever weaknesses this emerging antiwar movement has, and there are undoubtedly many, its support of the rights of the Palestinian people must be counted among its greatest strengths—particularly at a time when the fog of war in Iraq might provide the occasion for an escalated ethnic cleansing against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

— an interview with Steve Downs

A LONGTIME MEMBER of the New Directions (ND) caucus in Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100, and currently a supporter of the Rank and File Advocate newspaper produced by concerned members of ND, New York subway train operator Steve Downs was interviewed for Against the Current by Samuel Farber. This interview was completed shortly after the ratification of the new bus and subway union contract.

Against the Current: How well prepared was TWU Local 100 (New York subway and bus local) for the possibility of a strike on December 15, 2002 (the day the contract expired)? Were the members prepared for a strike? Did the local leadership make a serious effort to obtain public support?

— Malik Miah

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IS back as a hot political issue. Of course it never ever left -- but the right wing of mainstream politics was able to hijack the topic and convince liberals and others to bury it in day-to-day political discussions.

Now George W. Bush, a prime beneficiary of legacy affirmative action (he got into Phillips Academy prep school, Yale University and even Harvard because of his family name and connections, not his academic abilities) has made affirmative action a front-page topic.

— a statement by Civil Rights Veterans

MORE THAN 200 veterans of the Southern Civil Rights Movement and survivors of murdered leaders and activists Martin Luther King, Jr., Vernon Dahmer, Herbert Lee, Louis Allen, Mickey Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action in higher education, telling the Court, “Don't reverse the progress we fought and sacrificed for.”

— Paul Le Blanc and Stephanie Luce
— Martin Hart-Landsberg

FEW MAY KNOW it, but the people of the United States owe South Korean activists a big debt of gratitude. The movement they helped build appears, at least temporarily, to have headed off a new war on the Korean peninsula.

While Koreans, north and south, would have suffered the most, Americans would not have escaped its devastating consequences.

— an interview with Gianpaolo Baiocchi

GIANPAOLO BAIOCCHI IS an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh. He has worked with the Workers Party (PT) in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and studies participatory budgeting (a process he explains below) and social movements. He was interviewed by Stephanie Luce for Against the Current in December.

ATC: Of course, the big news from Brazil is the election of Lula. What do you think we can expect to see happen under Lula's presidency?

Baiocchi: I really don't know. If I knew what will happen, I would be living in Brasilia right now, and not here in the United States.

— Francisco T. Sobrino

IN APRIL, 2002 a top army officers' coup ousted President Hugo Chavez. The coup was preceded by the opposition calling a general strike and an impressive rally in Caracas streets, where some 300,000 demonstrators, mainly from middle classes and posh neighborhoods, marched towards Miraflores, the Government House.

The protest march was generously covered by the domestic TV private channels, and broadcast by CNN to the rest of the world. Unknown snipers shot into the crowd, killing fifteen and injuring some 150. Following this provocative outrage, Chavez was dismissed and then arrested.

— James Cockcroft

[This is the first of a two-part report on Argentina. James Cockcroft spent two weeks in Argentina in mid-November, invited to present a lecture on the challenge of imperialism to Latin America at the Popular University of Mothers of May Plaza's first International Congress on Mental Health and Human Rights. An online professor for the State University of New York and a Fellow at the International Institute for Research and Education in Amsterdam, he is the author of thirty-five books, including Mexico's Hope: An Encounter with Politics and History (NY: Monthly Review Press, 1999) and Latin America: History, Politics, and U.S. Policy (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/International Thomson Publishing, Second edition, 1998), both translated into Spanish and published in 2001 by Mexico City's siglo veintiuno editores.]

“WITHOUT WORKERS A factory does not function. But without bosses, yes, it functions -- and very well indeed! With all the other comrades we are going to demonstrate that the nation functions with the hands of working people and not with the thieving hands of the politicians.” -- Raul Godoy, worker at worker-controlled factory Ceramicas Zanon and secretary-general of ceramics workers union.(1)

— Dianne Feeley

ON FEBRUARY 22nd at the historic UAW Local 600 hall in Dearborn, a crowd of more than 200 heard from more than a half dozen labor speakers articulating why the Bush drive to war is not in the interests of working people.

— Michael Letwin

BUSH'S WAR ON Iraq isn't about “weapons of mass destruction” -- the United States can't even prove that Iraq has any. And who has more weapons of mass destruction than the United States?

It isn't for “self-defense” -- Iraq hasn't attacked us. It isn't to support the United Nations -- the U.S. pays Israel billions of dollars each year to violate UN resolutions that guarantee Palestinian rights. And Israel already has nuclear weapons.

— Roger Horowitz

[We present here the first-hand account of Roger Horowitz, a Solidarity member who lives in Delaware and a labor historian who participated in the February 15 antiwar mobilization in New York City. Obviously this report reflects only a fragment of the extraordinary experience in New York, which in turn was one of over 300 demonstrations in cities large and small across the planet. As even the New York Times noted, the world now has “two superpowers:” the United States government, and world opinion. In the coming months all of us will be engaged in the conflict between these forces, not only as analysts but as participants. --The Editors]

I MET JULIAN and his friends from the Hastings on the Hudson High School at 53rd and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan, the epicenter of the confrontations between police and demonstrators during New York City's huge antiwar protest on February 15.

— Arlene Keizer

DON'T UNDERESTIMATE THE white middle-class family these days; if you're entering the movie theater to watch a “family drama,” consider them armed and dangerous.

Vigilante justice -- or the terrible wrath of prehistoric beasts -- wins the day in these films released in the past couple of years. “The Deep End,” “In the Bedroom,” and “Jurassic Park III” all feature middle-class, nuclear families threatened by the transgressive sexualities of mothers or sons.

— R.F. Kampfer

DUBYA'S WALTZ TOWARD war reminds me of a TV Western I saw about fifty years ago. This cowboy is eyeballing the young schoolmarm at the barn-dance. His friend asks: “Are you looking for a reason to go over and talk to her?” The cowboy answers: “I've already got a reason, what I need is an excuse.”

— Dianne Feeley
p>GEORGE W BUSH'S “State of the Union” speech was the closest thing possible to an open declaration of war. For the past twelve years, crippling sanctions against Iraq have had especially devastating effects on the health of women and children -- due to Iraq's inability to restore water infrastructure and import medicines
in particular.

These sanctions resemble a medieval siege in slow motion, reducing the population to unbearable misery, and mirroring Saddam Hussein's expropriation of the Iraqi people's resources for his police-state apparatus.

— Cindy Forster

FOR THE FIRST time in the course of Guatemala's thirty-six-year war, and for the first time in half a century of alternately brazen or veiled military rule, on October 3, 2002 a high-ranking army officer was sentenced to prison for ordering his underlings to plan and carry out the assassination of a civilian. Their target was Myrna Mack Chang, a Guatemalan anthropologist whose work documented the army's massacres of civilians in the Mayan highlands.

— Catherine Sameh

THE NATIONAL GAY and Lesbian Task Force recently came out against the war, after months of refusing to take a stand.

In October 2002, the NGLTF held its annual Creating Change Conference, drawing hundreds of activists from all over the country. When NGLTF refused to take a stand against the war, conference participants mobilized to pressure NGLTF to change its position. That it finally did is a victory for radical queer activists who have been making links between the struggle for queer liberation and antiwar activism.

— Chris Clement
Calling the Shots:
How Washington Dominates the United Nations
Phyllis Bennis, foreword by Erskine Childers
Brooklyn, NY: Olive Branch Press [Interlink Publishing Group, Inc.], 1996), 272 pp. $17.95 paperback.

FOR THE PAST few months, inspections by the United Nations have been an important part of the Bush administration's purported plans to dismantle Iraq's possession of biological, chemical and/or nuclear weapons. Unable to gain immediate authorization from the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the use of force, the Bush administration finally backed UNSC Resolution 1441 that mandated a new round of inspections in Iraq.

— David Finkel
Rethinking Revolution
New Strategies for Democracy and Social Justice
Dan Connell
Lawrenceville, NJ and Asmara, Eritrea: The Red Sea Press, 2001) 459 pp., $24.95 paperback.

BOOKSHELVES THESE DAYS are filled with the literature of ex-revolutionary disillusionment. This is particularly true when it comes to the broken dreams of so many national liberation or “anti-imperialist” struggles: Once viewed on the 1960s and `70s far left as the key to overthrowing world capitalism itself, these are now seen as hopelessly doomed by their own economic backwardness or the overwhelming power of the “Empire.”(1)

— David Finkel

BY THE TIME I first met Archie Lieberman, in a small branch of the International Socialists in New Jersey in 1970, he was already a thirty-year veteran of revolutionary and union struggles. Archie was an authentic rank-and-file leader and, as he remained to the end, an unreconstructed Bolshevik in the Left Opposition and Third Camp traditions.

— Scott McLemee

YOU FEEL OLD when your heroes begin to die. For socialists -- who are, after all, radically egalitarian -- there may be some contradiction involved in speaking of heroism. It's a term freighted with overtones of nobility and authority that go way, way back, maybe to the prehistoric dawn of class society.

— Barry Sheppard

PATRICK QUINN'S REVIEW of Max Elbaum's book Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao and Che, by (ATC 101, November/December 2002) rightfully states that the book is “must reading for all those who consider themselves part of the left today and for future generations of socialists as well.” I want to take up two points of difference with Quinn's review.