Against the Current, No. 44, May/June 1993

— The Editors

BILL CLINTON'S ECONOMIC package received a favorable reception from the media, euphoric applause from the Democratic leadership, and rather muted criticism from the Republican opposition. In fact, when Bob Dole & company responded that Clinton needed to do more cutting of government programs, it sounded more like a ritual making of the political record than any signal of intent to wage a serious fight against the president's program. As for Clinton's call for higher taxes, rather than triggering a wave of feature articles and televised specials announcing a populist tax revolt, it stimulated opinion polls showing a public willingness to "contribute" to deficit reduction and better government services.

The smooth ride for Clinton's package, at least in the early stages, is easily explained: The program as a whole responds, first and foremost, to the demands of corporate and finance capital....

— Rick Wadsworth

DURING THE LAST few years a considerable movement has sprung up to struggle for a single-payer universal healthcare system in the United States. Beginning with activists in a few unions and a small group of doctors organized as Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), the movement has now produced many grassroots and state groups and recently received some attention as a nationwide force, even from some so-called mainstream media, if only for the purpose of being dismissed out of hand as too liberal?

Health care is generally conceived in one of two ways: either as a basic human right, or as a commodity. Nowadays health care is more or less conceded to be a right in all the advanced industrialized countries, except for the United States and South Africa. Of course, regarding health care as a commodity fits nicely into the dominant neoliberal ideology of the bourgeoisie, and the deification of the market....

— an interview with Susan Steigerwalt

DR. SUSAN STEIGERWALTis a nephrologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and an activist in Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP). She was interviewed by David Finkel of the ATC editorial board.

Against the Current: What is PNHP, and why is there a group of physicians working for a single-payer system?

Susan Steigerwalt: PNHP has been around for about six years, with four to five thousand physicians and other health care providers as members. Most of us are involved because we believe that health care is a right, and that everyone has the right to the same level of care. We're all in the boat together.

Additionally, we believe that consumer should have a choice of who their doctors axe, not be assigned a physician without a choice....

— Maxine Kaufman Nunn

EXPROPRIATION. FOR ME, the word usually conjures up pictures from the history books and newspapers of my American childhood. The holdouts, usually elderly, sitting on the front porch of a modest clapboard house, cradling a rifle, over a caption reading "X swears not to leave his/her land alive." Without the rifles, these pictures and the tragic specter of expropriation were revived for me when I visited Ramyah, a tiny Galilee village whose 100 residents stand fast on their expropriated land in spite of threats from the Israeli Land Administration (ILA) to forcibly remove them.

While the growing disappointment of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories with the Middle East peace talks is hardly surprising, and well documented, too often overlooked is the grossly unequal treatment which even those Palestinians who are citizens of Israel have received in the forty-four years since Israel's founding—as the state of the Jewish people," rather than of its citizens from all backgrounds....

— Christopher Phelps
Che Guevara Economics and Politics in the Transition to Socialism
by Carlos Tablada
New York: Pathfinder, 1989, 286 pp., $11.95, paper.
Cuba: A Journey
by Jacobo Timerman
New York: Vintage, 1992, 130 pp., $9 paper.
Cuba: The Revolution in Peril
by Janette Habel
New York: Verso, 1991, 241 pp., $34.95 cloth.

IN THE 1960s, the Cuban revolution was a hemispheric inspiration, an example of the potential for socialist revolution in the Americas, a demonstration of the ability of a small and impoverished nation....

— Andy Pollack

THE ORIGINS OF mass starvation in Somalia must be sorted out into two categories: the immediate repercussions of the Siad Barre regime (1969-90), and the longer term policies on the continent as a whole of the superpowers, of which Barre was a client throughout his reign —first of Moscow, then of Washington.

The fighting which drove farmers and livestock tenders off their land came in the wake of Barre's fall. This fighting was almost guaranteed by Barre's policies, which crushed all opposition, fueled clan rivalries and militarized society. Barre had also destroyed most of the country's infrastructure in the civil war leading to his fall, bombing cities into rubble.

After the government's collapse the rich were able to protect their investments. Farmers—less able to et firearms or hire guards—were, according to Rakiya Omaar, "ripe for plunder."...

— an interview with Cecilia Green

Cecilia Green is coordinator of the Haiti Solidarity Group in Ann Arbor. A native of Dominica in the West Indies, she currently teaches in the African-American Studies Department at Eastern Michigan University. Her three-part essay on the historiography of women in Caribbean slaver appeared in ATC 4O-41. She spoke with David Finkel of the ATC editorial board regarding the crisis in Haiti and United States policy.

Against the Current: Bill Clinton made one significant human rights promise during his campaign, to end the automatic repatriation of Haitian refugees. Instead he has blockaded Haiti to prevent its people from fleeing, a real world-class crime against humanity. What's your analysis of administration policy?

Cecilia Green: I think that during Clinton's campaign, when he talked about the refugee crisis in Haiti he isolated the refugee issue and couched it in humanitarian terms....

— Ethan Casey

“U.S. BARRICADING HAITI” read the headline across the Miami Herald's page one the morning I flew to Port-au-Prince. Below the headline were a face shot of Clinton, a color map showing the location of the blockade between the Bay of Port-au-Prince and the eastern end of Cuba, and—gratuitous, I thought, but disconcerting nonetheless—color drawings of all the different boats, airplanes and helicopters to be used to prevent Haitians from arriving in Florida en masse in time to rain on Clinton's inaugural parade.

In a coastal village, several hours' tortuous drive from the capital, life and death were going on much as ever. People still rode their donkeys to market, raised chickens, tended gardens and lounged about for want of much else to do. The usual afflictions predominated: stomach complaints, weakness, malnutrition, with a few spectacular cases such as the woman whose breast was visibly almost completely consumed by cancer—and a smattering of AIDS cases....

— Catherine Sameh

FOR THOSE OF us who work in abortion clinics, the murder of Dr. David Gunn in Pensacola, Florida provokes sadness and fear. For too long we've worked with the added job stress of worrying about mail bombs, harassing phone calls, chemical contamination and threat to our lives. We've maintained reason in the face of anti-abortion hysteria, and exhausted ourselves providing comfort to women whose anxiety and fear skyrocketed after being harassed by picketers.

The murder of Dr. Gunn crystallizes our worst fears and magnifies this already charged climate. Although the first fatality caused by the anti-abortion movement, the shooting of Dr. Gunn should be viewed not as an isolated incident but as a sort of grand finale to other forms of right-wing violence against abortion providers—particularly full-time clinic staff, most of whom are female, lay health workers....

— R.F. Kampfer

"REALITY IS WHAT doesn't go away when you stop believing in it.—Phillip K. Dick

"Sex was invented by a clever venereal disease."—David Cronenberg

"Shall I compare thee to a Summer day?”—William Shakespeare. (He could write this because he never worked in a foundry.)

"When two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong.”—Dire Straits

"A socialist group that is serious about reaching the working class will produce its literature in a format that fits inside a lunch box."—R.F. Kampfer...

— Bertell Ollman

REFERRING TO THE social ills brought on by his free market policies, Deng Xiaoping is reported to have said, "When you open the window you should not be surprised if a few flies come in." Well, what about a swarm of locusts?

There can't be many today who would dispute this observation, not just for China but for Russia and all the other countries that have taken the "free market" path. It is also part of popular wisdom, though, that the extreme unpopularity of the centralized and undemocratic planned economies of yesteryear makes a large-scale workers' uprising against the governments and policies in place a virtual impossibility, at least for the near future. Indeed, ask workers in any of these countries and they will probably tell you as much.

Yet there is much happening in Russia, the most important of these countries and the one I want to focus on,...

— Nanette Funk

NOT TOO LONG ago, state socialist bureaucrats and Western feminists were both telling women in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union how good they had it, that they already had what Western women's movements were still fighting for Abortion rights (except for Romania and to some extent Bulgaria), daycare, equality and full employment of women were regularly cited.(1)

What such accounts left out were precisely women's own experiences, the problems Eastern and Central European and Soviet women really faced and still face, and how these problems are both the same and different from those in the West Without understanding this, post-communist women's attitudes toward work, family, feminism and the possibilities and difficulties for the development of a women's movement in post-communism will be misunderstood in the West.

Post-communist women's reputed desire to return home....

— László Andor

HUNGARY STARTED THE year with the prospect of sharpening political battles in the run-up to the elections scheduled for the first half of 1994. While government propaganda does not cease to talk about “the danger from the left,” in order to justify legal measures against the opposition, the real danger arises from a new powerful right wing.

A new bill, clearing a path for reprisals, declares the events of 1956 an international war and the suppressors war criminals, who can be taken to court at any time, regardless of the decades between their alleged crimes and the trial.

For the government, such a law would provide an opportunity to get rid of some leading left politicians, like Gyula Horn, member of parliament and president of the Socialist Party (MSZP)—a party that is growing. Horn played a completely insignificant role in 1956....

— Peter Hudis

THE BREAKUP OF Czechoslovakia into two countries, which took effect on January 1, has helped bring into focus the nature of the economic, political, and ideological crisis afflicting not only that land, but Central and East Europe as a whole. As I was able to observe during a trip to a still-unified Czechoslovakia in Summer 1992, the breakup has its roots in the differing political, social, and cultural developments of the Czech and Slovak nations, which only became a single entity in 1918, but was sealed by the parliamentary elections of last June.

These confirmed the political ascendancy of Vaclav Klaus in the Czech, and Vladimir Meciar in the Slovakian parts of the country. It may appear on the surface that Klaus and Meciar represent diametrically opposed tendencies: Meciar, a former Communist, announced soon after the elections that Slovakia might declare itself sovereign if avowed "free-marketeer" Klaus proceeded with plans for "shock therapy."...

— Ellen Poteet
White on Black:
Blacks in Western Popular Culture
by Jan Nederveen Pieterse
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992, $35.

IN A POST-modem age of shifting, intractable realities, there are certain enduring images. The shelves in my neighborhood grocery store in Ann Arbor, like the shelves in the grocery store I went to as a child in New Orleans, still hold the boxes of Uncle Ben's Converted Rice, of Aunt Jemima's Pancake Mix, of Nabisco Cream of Wheat—with the ever reassuring, ever genial faces of Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, and the (Black) Cream of Wheat chef.

Admittedly the permutations of time continue, if in unexpected form. At some point, missed by me, Aunt Jemima lost about thirty years....

— Paul Buhle
The Meek and the Militant:
Religion and Power Across the World
by Paul N. Siegel
(London: Zed Books, 1987) 209 pages, $15 paper.

RELIGIOUS CONTROVERSY ON the left—and elsewhere—is not what it used to be only a half-dozen years ago. Back in the early to middle 1989s, with Reaganism at its apex, liberation theology appeared to make of us to offer a voice of hope for massive social transformation, world anti-imperialist consciousness-raising, and even an ecological evangel.

In Nicaragua, the People's Church seemingly challenged the Vatican as no insurgent religious body since the Radical Reformation. In the Philippines, the Church threw its energy against Marcos....

— Reggie McNulty

ZOLTON FERENCY was a Michigan conscience, a democratic feminist, socialist and activist all his life. Ostracized by the Democratic Party in 1968 when he spoke out against Lyndon Johnson's continuing war in Vietnam, he was unsuccessful in his several bids for governor, once (1974) on the newly formed Human Rights Party's ticket.

Zolton was nevertheless much loved and respected, especially by his students at Michigan State University where he was professor of criminal justice. Teaching, I once told him after a long campaign, was his forte.

He did indeed cover many miles around his state, talking about democracy and justice and the power that people hold to effect change....