Against the Current, No. 108, January/February 2004

— The Editors

THE MAJOR POLICE riot in Miami around the November 19-21 Free Trade of the Americas Ministerial Summit was an operation undoubtedly as thoroughly planned as it was obscene. This was a deliberate, bare-knuckled threat: Assemble in 2004 against war, “free trade,” the Republican Convention or roundup of immigrants under the police-state monstrosity known as Homeland Security, and this is what you'll get.

— Malik Miah

MOST AFRICAN AMERICANS will continue to vote for the presidential ticket of the Democratic Party in 2004.

This isn't because the Democrats will defend the best interests of Blacks. The reason is much simpler: George W. Bush and the Republican Party politics are covertly if not openly undermining Black people's interests. The issue of the war in Iraq and hostility to the views of Third World countries, especially those in Africa, is a factor but only in passing.

— interview with Tariq Ali

Suzi Weissman: We turn now to an extended conversation with Tariq Ali, who has just published Bush in Babylon: The Recolonization of Iraq, a compelling corrective to many of the current pot-boilers hitting the bookstores. Rather than engage in simplicities, Tariq Ali looks back in history and pays homage to the poets who reflect cultural memory and history in the powerful and passionate language of resistance.

— James Cockcroft

WHEN I RETURNED to Chile for the first time in 32 years to attend a week-long seminar called “Thirty Years -- Allende Lives! Popular Alternatives and the Socialist Perspective in Latin America,” I found myself entering the chilling atmosphere of the world's first laboratory for militarily imposed economic neoliberalsm.

This model had been introduced after the September 11, 1973 U.S.-assisted military coup d'tat against President Salvador Allende, a democratically elected parliamentary socialist. Engineered by the free-market “Chicago Boys” (economists from the University of Chicago), the Chilean neoliberal model has been enforced ever since by state-imposed and institutionalized terror.

— Hassan Varash & Hamid Naderi

INTEREST IN THE political situation in Iran has grown noticeably in recent months. In large part, this is due to the far more aggressive policies of the current U.S. administration, which has used the attacks of September 11 as the excuse to intervene directly in the region and bring about “regime change” in accordance with its own longstanding interests.

While the overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Baathist regime in Iraq were important steps in assertion of direct American imperialist rule in the region, U.S. strategists fully recognize that “stability” cannot be truly secured without regime change in Iran.

— Veronica Lake
“Water is a critical and necessary ingredient to the daily life of every human being, and it is an equally powerful ingredient for profitable manufacturing companies.” --Mike Stark, senior executive at US Filter, a Vivendi subsidiary
“The aim of modern science is to reach an understanding of the world, not merely for purely aesthetic reasons, but that it may be ordered to our purpose.” --Gerard J. Milburn, theoretical physicist
— Rich Lesnik

PERHAPS THE LABEL "upstart" isn't quite appropriate for Matt Gonzalez, who was narrowly defeated by a Democratic Party artillery/bombing campaign late in the campaign for Mayor of San Francisco.

Gonzalez, the son of Mexican immigrant parents from Texas, became a member of the Green Party some three years ago when campaigning for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors (SF's name for city council). He'd become increasingly fed up with the ineptness and lack of will of Democrats to confront the increasing blight of corporate power in the nation's cities, and around the world.

— Loren Goldner

THE DEPARTMENT OF Commerce announced on October 30 that the U.S. economy had grown at a 7.2% annual rate in the third quarter of 2003. Since these statistics are constantly being revised, one wonders what they really mean. (Recall that the "productivity
miracle" of the second half of the 1990's almost disappeared in retrospective downward revisions after the March 2000 dot.com crash).

Whatever the case, it is clear that the Bush administration is pulling all stops in its re-election strategy for 2004. One does not have to believe in a "political business cycle" to recognize that the U.S. government has sufficient tools to pump up the economy going into an election year.

— David Finkel

IN JANUARY 2004, Palestinian activist Amer Jubran will leave the United States, where he has lived for most of the past 15 years. He will return to Jordan, where he grew up in a family already exiled once from their homeland.

Amer Jubran's “voluntary departure” concludes a two-and-a-half-year struggle during which the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), local police in Boston and Brookline, Massachusetts and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) targeted not only Amer -- who had the support of a well-organized defense committee -- but the most vulnerable people in his life, including his ex-wife, her family, and members of the Arab and Muslim immigrant communities.

— Jim Morgan

FIRST, HUMANS HAVE the capacity for love, solidarity, compassion AND the capacity for great aggression and cruelty. Which capacity dominates depends on certain geographic and social conditions.

In "primitive" pre-literate clans where there is virtually no economic surplus, there is always sharing of land, resources, products, labor. By necessity (for the clan could not survive with a dog-eat-dog outlook and practice) the capacity for love and solidarity is dominant within the clan -- a family of extended families.

— R.F. Kampfer

A LOT OF people may be very nervous indeed about what Saddam Hussein might reveal at trial about his long connections with former U.S. (not to mention British, French, German and Russian) governments. And speaking of trials: If Saddam is getting one, there can be no excuse for denying them to his underlings by calling them “illegal enemy combatants.”

— Joel Jordan

“A strike of one day, one month or even one year will not cause the offer to improve” --Larree Renda, Safeway Vice President, in a video shown to Von's (Safeway) workers in early October 2003.

“We want to throw this question out there, How do we win this strike? Because we can't lose it.” --Greg Denier, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Communications Director, December 2003.

AS THE STRIKE/LOCKOUT of 70,000 grocery and food workers throughout Southern and Central California stretches into its third month, union workers in and out of the food industry understand how pivotal it is.

— Corey Mattison

ON OCTOBER 21, 1800 clerical workers of AFSCME Local 3800 made statewide news by going on strike against the University of Minnesota. At the heart of the AFSCME clerical workers' struggle was a strong determination to stand up for their dignity and respect.

Contract negotiations between the union and the university broke down earlier in the month when, in the midst of a Republican-initiated state budget crisis and spiraling health care costs, the university administration was trying to impose a wage freeze, shift health care costs to workers, and eliminate step pay increases.

— Dan La Botz

THE CLEANING WORKERS, kitchen workers, and maintenance workers at Miami University of Ohio -- the people who make this place work because they work -- voted on Wednesday, October 8 to end their strike and return to their jobs.

Management made an offer of a very small increase in wages in the first year, and the workers organized in AFSCME Local 209 voted to accept that offer, and return to fight another day.

— Ron Lare & Judy Wraight

ON SEPTEMBER 19, 2003, the New York Times said the United Auto Workers (UAW) had concluded negotiations, “granting its most significant concessions in two decades.” Of the many concessions -- including those implicitly “in progress” -- in the Big 3 auto contracts, we'll focus primarily on health care.

We will focus on two aspects of the contract struggle and their political implications. These are, first, health care as one example of the UAW's qualitative leap backward in agreeing to concessions; second, the role of U.S. nationalism in the bureaucracy's ratification campaign.

— Alan Wald

SCHOLARSHIP ABOUT THE African American Left, a hearty subject area for many decades, has taken a quantum leap forward with Barbara Ransby's Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University
of North Carolina Press, 2003).

— Staughton Lynd

LATELY THERE HAS been renewed interest in the Mississippi Freedom Schools. People are thinking about reviving "freedom schooling." They invoke what happened in the summer of 1964 as hoped-for authority.

I was the director or coordinator of those Mississippi Freedom Schools. Since there were 41 Freedom Schools(1) and more than 2,000 students, of course I can't know all that went on.

— Nicola Pizzolato
Whose Detroit?
Politics, Labor, and Race in a Modern American City
Heather Ann Thompson
Ithaca & London: Cornell University Press, 2001, $19.95 paper.

ON JULY 15, 1970, James Johnson Jr., a Black autoworker at Chrysler Eldon Avenue Plant in Detroit, shot and killed two foremen and a fellow worker. Forty-five minutes into the shift he had been reassigned to the ovens, where the heat that day was more than 120 degrees.

— Allen Ruff
A Hubert Harrison Reader
ed. Jeffrey B. Perry
(Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2001) $24.95 paper.

FOR TOO LONG, much of the contemporary U.S. Left has remained uninformed of its predecessors, especially those African-American activists who demarcated an alternative to a mainstream leadership -- whether that leadership was of accommodationist, moderately integrationist or separatist and nationalist character.

— Lillian Pollak

Girl in Movement
Eva Kollisch
Vermont, Glad Day, 2000, 262 pages, $16.95 paperback.

MEMOIRS BY WOMEN, such as Girl Interrupted and Life Inside, describing the author's unique experiences in her youth, have recently become popular.

Eva Kollisch's book -- Girl in Movement -- another in this genre, recounts the problems of her     “coming-of-age” period, but purports, as well, to describe four years she spent in a revolutionary movement, the Workers Party.

— George Fish

RECORDING PIONEER SAM Phillips died July 31, 2003, at age 80. Philips is best known for discovering and first recording Elvis Presley, but his contributions to the founding and development of rock `n' roll go far beyond just that.

Phillips was the founder and head of Sun Records, whose recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee was also declared a National Historical Site on July 31. Sun 45s, with their distinctive yellow label and mocha-brown rising sun logo, were a mainstay of Southern-based rock `n'...

— Patrick M. Quinn

JACK BARISONZI, LIFELONG socialist and activist and for many years a member of Solidarity, died in an auto accident 20 miles west of Madison, Wisconsin on November 8, 2003, his 70th birthday.

Jack was born in St. Paul, Minnesota on November 8, 1933. He joined the Socialist Workers Party as a teenager in the Twin Cities. In 1950 as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota he was expelled from the University for being a “Trotskyist.” During the pernicious McCarthy era other students were expelled from universities for being “Communists,” but Jack was the only one expelled for being a “Trotskyist.”