Against the Current, No. 45, July/August 1993

— The Editors

WITH AMAZING SPEED, the euphoria of Bill Clinton's January inauguration turned to slush. Clearly President Clinton is already on the defensive. His most stinging defeat came on April21, when Republicans in the U.S. Senate crushed his weak stimulus package through a filibuster. But Clinton could not—or did not—organize his Democratic forces in Congress for a decisive confrontation; the $16 billion plan became a mere $4 billion extension of benefits to the long-term unemployed.

Many observers, including ourselves in our previous editorial (ATC 44), had expected Clinton's initial economic package to be enacted without much Congressional resistance, given the weak-to-absent recovery. Instead, perceived as weak, Clinton has been unable to get Democrats to accept his leadership and operate in a disciplined manner. Unable to defend his own, woefully inadequate stimulus package from the frenzied worshippers of the golden calf of deficit reduction,...

— David Simcha

ALLIED INDUSTRIAL WORKERS Local 837 of Decatur, IL has declared war on the decline of the labor movement. The determination to fight came after their employer, the A.E. Staley Manufacturing Co., attacked the union. Staley, a subsidiary of British sugar conglomerate Tate & Lyle, demands concessions, of course, but they also took on new employees.

First, they retained Seyfarth, Shaw Fairweather & Geraldson, a union-busting Chicago law firm. Second, they hired a new labor relations director, best known for permanently replacing 1,200 striking paperworkers in Jay, Maine. Finally, Harmony Construction Company replaced previously used union contractors; their claim to fame is supplying replacement workers in case of a strike.

In negotiations Tate & Lyle sought "greater flexibility," attacking the local's seniority, job security and grievance procedure....

— Catherine Sameh

RU-486, COMMONLY KNOWN as the French abortion pill, is now in the hands of a few select U.S. physicians. Over the next few months, protocols will be established to administer the drug to patients under a controlled study.

The pending widespread availability Of RU-486 in this country, though potentially exciting, raises many hard questions for reproductive rights activists and health care workers.

First, it is crucial that a common misconception about the "privacy" of RU-486 be corrected. Under the French protocol, women make a total of four visits to their physicians. The first visit is to confirm pregnancy of five to seven weeks, the second to receive the RU-486, the third to take a prostaglandin booster and the fourth to confirm complete miscarriage. At the third visit, two days after the RU-486 is taken, women are monitored....

— Langa Zita

WITHIN THE SPACE of two weeks in April, the liberation movement here lost two towering figures, Chris Hani and Oliver Tambo, one by an assassin's bullet and the other in the after-effects of that bullet The elderly Tambo stayed up all night in the cold air of the Haiti funeral, and passed away a few days later. Two men, who represented in their different ways the synthesis of what is best in the revolutionary tradition of the ANC, were taken at the most trying time in the movement's history.

If it was under Tambo's wings that the ANC-SACP alliance flourished, then it was certainly under Haiti's lead that the dynamic project of socialist renewal was developing within the SACP. The question that is now foremost in the broad liberation movement and in its socialist camp is what Chris Haiti's death means for the left What, in particular, does this loss mean for the South African Communist Party (SACP) in its current phase of ideological soul searching?...

— Searchlight South Africa editorial

(The following editorial statement appears in the latest issue of Searchlight South Africa issue 10; April 1993), an independent Marxist journal of South African studies, published in London and edited by Baruch Hirson and Paul Trewhala. This journal has previously published extensive material on the events in the ANC camps surrounding the 1984 mutiny (issue 5; July 1990).

AS THIS ISSUE was being prepared for the printer, a news flash announced the murder of Chris Hani. This was an act of terror which we abominate. Throughout our existence, the editors of SearchIight South Africa have condemned as contemptible the assassination of leading resistance politicians in South Africa. Despite our opposition to their politics we do not stay silent when their lives are threatened. The threats and the killing must stop.

Nonetheless, we will not retract our criticisms of Hani....

— Gonzalo Santos

THE UNTIMELY DEATH of United Farm Workers (UFW) organizer and Chicano civil rights leader Cesar Chavez brought an enormous outpouring of grief from the Chicano and Mexicano communities, and calls for redoubling efforts in "la causa campesina." Spanish-language radio stations were flooded—especially the UFW-affiliated "Radio Campesina"—with so many calls that they operated for several days in the open-line talk show fashion with no signs of slowing down.

It was very impressive: Most calls came from farmworkers and their families, calling from all over the San Joaquin Valley, reading poems, eulogies, condolences to Chavez's family, recalling the movement's history and anecdotes. It was as if the entire farm-worker class in the Valley was holding an electronic open meeting, with constant calls to the station to inform people of who was doing what and where, mainly the mobilization of people to attend Cesar's wake, funeral....

— Dianne Feeley

THE ERUPTION OF a political crisis in Guatemala came just a week after peaceful marchers were gunned down in the streets of El Salvador's capital city. Central America may have faded to black in the newsrooms of the television networks, but confrontations between popular movements and the military-backed regimes continue.

Guatemalan President Jorge Serrano Elias attempted a "self-coup," in the manner of Peruvian President Fujimori, without checking first with the U.S. embassy—which proved to be a fatal political mistake. Washington immediately suspended all military aid and most economic support, totaling about $50 million this year alone, and the European community (primarily Germany) froze $100 million.

Guatemala has the oldest guerrilla movement (URNG), the worst human rights record on the continent, the most unjust distribution of land (70% of the land is owned by 2% of the population),...

— an interview with Christine Halvorson

AMANAKA'A IS A US.-based environmental organization which acts in solidarity with and as a liaison for indigenous peoples and workers who live in the Amazon rainforest of Brazil. They seek to communicate the proposals and express the concerns of the Amazon forest peoples to the rest of the world, and build awareness of their struggle to keep traditional ways of living and working in harmony with the forest.

Amanaka'a also seeks to build support for the peoples of the forest in their efforts to implement a self-sustainable development agenda for the Amazon. It calls fora new kind of environmental ethic in which social justice and ecology are inseparable.

Amanaka'a Projects Coordinator Christine Halvorson spoke with Solidarity member Chris Gaal about her work while she was in Bloomington, Indiana for a public speaking engagement at the end of March....

LULA (LUIS INACIO da Silva) of the Brazilian Workers Party thinks that the Brazilian government should immediately prohibit large-scale burning and deforestation in the Amazon until scientific research can survey the region's existing ecological richness.

"Our position is one of strict defense of the forest,' he says, 'but one that does not rule out the possibility of a politics of Amazonian development compatible with environmental conservation. And this will include a politics of agrarian reform, the creation of small properties, the concession of vast extractive reserves to the rubber tappers where they might harvest natural forest products," and, he adds, 'the demarcation of indigenous lands."

Lula also feels that it is necessary....

— Branka Magas

CONTRARY TO WHAT some on the Western left believe, the Western states, including Germany, all initially  favored Yugoslavia's unity, which they saw as a stabilizing factor in the Balkans and—in the eyes of France and Great Britain, at least—a barrier to German expansionism.

They continued to insist on Yugoslavia's territorial integrity, indeed, even when it had become quite clear that this could be maintained only by force of Serbian arms: i.e. by federal Yugoslavia becoming transformed into a Greater Serbia. The Western powers consequently showed little enthusiasm for the Slovenian-Croatian proposal in 1990 for a confederal Yugoslavia, and paid even less attention to the results of subsequent plebiscites in Slovenia and Croatia which showed that their populations did not choose to live in a Greater Serbia....

— Kit Adam Wainer
The Fall of Yugoslavia:
The Third Balkan War
By Misha Glenny
New York: Penguin Books, 1992, 184 pages.
The Destruction of Yugoslavia:
Tracking the Break-Up, 1980-92
By Branka Magas
London: Verso, 1993, 359 pages.
The Fragmentation of Yugoslavia:
An Overview
By Catherine Samary
Amsterdam: International Institute for Research and Education, Notebooks for Study and Research, 1993, 46 pages.

THE TWENTIETH CENTURY may close much the same way it opened: with a Balkan tragedy of unthinkable proportions.,,,

— Ronald Suny

MOUNTAINOUS KARABAGH IS remote even from the Armenian capital of Erevan. What began in the time of Gorbachev as peaceful demonstrations for the merger of the region with the neighboring Armenian republic, has widened into a four-sided war between the newly-independent republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the self-proclaimed states of Karabagh and Nakhichevan.

Beyond the borders of former Soviet Transcaucasia, Turkey sits anxiously watching as the Turkic people of Azerbaijan take on those who have been constituted as a "traditional enemy," the Armenians. And Iran attempts to mediate for fear that Azerbaijanis within its borders, who outnumber their compatriots north of the border two-to-one, will be aroused by the pan-Azerbaijani passions. The intense conflict has cost at least three thousand lives, hundreds of thousands of displaced people and threatens to bring in other powers and further destabilize an already volatile region....

— Tony Smith

THE TERM "POSTMODERNIST" has been used to describe everything from contemporary paintings and music videos to amusement parks and information technologies. Things remain confusing even if we restrict our attention to postmodernist theory. A great variety of perspectives have been lumped under this heading.

Nonetheless, there are a number of theses that are closely associated with leading postmodern theorists such as Foucault, Lyotard, Rorty and Baudrillard.(1) For those who have not had the opportunity to read the works of these postmodernist authors and their critics, a brief account of some of the main points of debate may be useful. By and large the leading theoreticians of the postmodernist movement accept 1) the politics of particularity; 2) perspectivism and social constructionism; and 3) the claim that we have entered a radically new epoch....

— Loren Goldner
p>MULTICULTURALISM, POSTMODERNISM, post-structuralism and Identity politics" are, in 1993, overlapping but not identical phenomena. And in 1993, despite some cracks in their general indifference to a good old-fashioned economic crisis, they remain dominant.

This article will not attempt to deal with multiculturalism as such, as the term is understood in current debates about textbook revision, educational curriculum and the definition of cultural literacy. The subject will rather be the ideology of postmodernism as it is currently debated in the international intelligentsia and in academia, and which makes itself felt in "identity politics" of race, gender and sexual preference.

Eurocentrists and Their Mirror Image

For a number of years America, and necessarily the American left,...

— R.F. Kampfer

ONE CAN NOW get a new Chinese Tolkarev pistol for $120, or spend $500 for a prototype Navy SEAL switchblade. And we used to carry knives because we couldn't afford handguns.

The insurance companies are worried about the increasing use of air-bags in cars. Seems a lot of crash victims who would have been killed without them are surviving, to run up big medical bills.

The big division in industry is between those who assume that everything will work right, and worry about how to maximize production, and those who know that something always goes wrong, and worry about how to minimize the damage.

Pagers are declining in popularity among teenagers as they realize they can be reached by their parents, too....

— Samuel Farber
Cuba: The Revolution in Peril
By Janette Habel
Verso, 1991, $34.95, cloth.

SINCE THE COLLAPSE of Stalinism important elements of the U.S. radical and socialist left have reconsidered their previous support for the one-party Stalinist-type states that prevailed for many years in Eastern Europe. Given this, it is astonishing that hardly any U.S. left group or well-known leftist writers and activists who supported the Castro regime before 1989 have called for a revision of that support since then.

Most continue to provide a rather uncritical support to the Cuban regime, often accompanied by a high degree of ignorance of the history and character of Cuba's social and economic structure....

— Mauricio Tuesta
Peru: Caught in the Crossfire
By Aldo Panfichi and Jo-Marie Burt
Jefferson City, Missouri: Peru Peace Network-USA, 1992, 66 pages, $6.

AN IMPORTANT RESOURCE for human rights advocates published by the Peru Peace Network-USA, Peru’s Caught in the Crossfire puts Peru's complex social and political problems in historical context. It has been published with the intention of educating the North American public on the Peruvian reality and the causes of the violence endemic in this country of 22 million people.

The work covers the rise of the organizations that have taken up arms against the government, the political violence that has been unleashed, the economic and political role of coca and the relation of the drug trade to the insurgency....

— Mark Pittenger
Three American Radicals:
John Swinton, Crusading Editor; Charles P. Steinmetz, Scientist and Socialist;
William Dean Howells and the Haymarket Era
By Sender Garlin
Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991.

LABOR JOURNALIST Sender Garlin has chronicled the history of American labor and radicalism from the front lines since the end of World War I, when at age fifteen he began editing the Glens Falls Socialist Advocate in his upstate New York home town. Later a student of radical educator Scott Nearing at the Rand School of Social Science, and then a reporter, columnist and editor associated with the Western Worker and the Daily Worker, Garlin today heads the Social Issues Forum at the University of Colorado and lectures frequently on labor and political topics.

In Three American Radicals, Garlin restores to visibility....

— Tod Ensign

CARL FEINGOLD, A lifelong revolutionary socialist and a cofounder of Against the Current, died following a battle with esophageal cancer in New York City on April 6, 1993. He was sixty-four years old. Against the Current and New York Solidarity organized a memorial meeting. Carl is survived by two daughters, Karie Durgin and Jackie Feingold.

The son of Jewish immigrants, Carl was raised in Los Angeles where his father, an expert cutter, led garment workers on labor actions. Carl led his first political movement while still in high school. He helped organize what became a city-wide protest among high school students against allowing proto-fascist Gerald L. K. Smith to conduct rallies in the city's school auditoriums. This culminated in thousands of students surrounding the Board of Education headquarters.

Carl joined the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) as a strike wave, which eventually involved two and a half million workers, swept the country....

THE EDITORS OF Against the Current learned with great sorrow of the death of Kendra Alexander, a National Co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence. A veteran of the civil rights and antiwar movements, Alexander was a principal spokesperson of the defense committee for her sister Angela Davis in the 1970s. She was a leading member of the Communist Party from 1965 until her resignation in 1991.

Kendra Alexander will be greatly missed, not only by her comrades in the Committees of Correspondence but by all of those engaged in the difficult struggle for a socialist, democratic and antiracist recomposition of the left in the United States.

July-August 1993, ATC 45