Against the Current, No. 52, September/October 1994

— The Editors

NEARLY ALONE AMONG the rich nations, the United States has not made even the slightest move toward recognizing health care as a fundamental social right, rather than as a privilege and a commodity to be traded for on the market.

Not coincidentally, the United States has public health statistics (infant mortality, life expectancy, maternal morbidity, inoculation rates, and so on) that are disgracefully bad. From 1970-1989 this country fell from 15th to 19th place internationally in infant mortality. From 1960-1989 it went from 12th to 15th place in life expectancy at birth for females, and from 16th to 19th for males....

“HAVE WE EVER seen a torturer help his victim?” That question is raised by democratic popular activists in Haiti in a document they issued on July 4, opposing both the murderous military dictatorship and U.S. invasion plans.

“The sending of foreign troops to Haiti -- in whatever form or whatever modality -- could not be a healthy or liberating alternative for the country. The intervention, in the current conditions of institutional deterioration...will be the surest way to protect and guarantee the powerful foreign interests against the . . . democratic and popular movement.” (Haiti Info, July 16)....

— Mike Rubin

GIVEN THE ABSENCE of political will in Washington to impose employer mandates and provide universal coverage, the most important event this year in the struggle for real health care reform may take place in California -- where voters this November will have the opportunity to approve a true single-payer plan, the California Health Security Act.

Undoubtedly all players in the health care struggle will be watching closely....

— an interview with Gilbert Cedillo

Gilbert Cedillo is General Manager of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 660 AFL-CIO in Los Angeles. SEIU along with other unions is a major component in a broad coalition against a right-wing, anti-immigrant ballot initiative called>SOS (Save Our State), to be decided by California voters this coming November. Cedillo discussed this fight in the following phone interview with David Finkel of the ATC editorial board.

Against the Current: Please tell us, first, for a non-California readership, what this ballot initiative says and where it comes from.....

— Delia D. Aguilar

ACCORDING TO THE organizing committee for this symposium,* one of the main questions you would like to see addressed is why young women today are not especially eager to identify themselves as feminists. This accords with the assessment of a resident fellow of the American Enterprise Institute that while three-fourths of U.S. women claim they “support efforts to strengthen women's rights,” only one-third accept the label “feminist.”

I want to tell you that it took me a long time before I could call myself a feminist. Let me narrate my coming to feminism and, in the process, point to some of the areas that I believed were troublespots during the early phases of the second wave, and what those troublespots might be today....

— David Finkel

THE STATE OF Pennsylvania hopes to kill Mumia Abu-Jamal. The corporate censors at National Public Radio merely wish to suppress his message.

In mid-May, NPR canceled a planned series of commentaries by Abu-Jamal concerning life in prison and death row, which were to have been broadcast on NPR's “All Things Considered” (indeed!). Immediately following the cancellation, the 60-station Pacifica Radio News network announced it would pick them up....

— Mumia Abu-Jamal

IN EVERY PHASE and facet of national life, there is a war being waged on America's poor.

In social policy, poor mothers are targeted for criminal sanctions for acts that, if committed by mothers of higher economic class, would merit treatment in the Betty Ford Center.

In youth policy, governments hasten to close schools while building boot camps and prisons as their graduate schools....

— Patrick le Tréhondat & Patrick Silberstein

IN THE WAKE of the June 18th elections to the European parliament, the political situation in France appears disconcerting.

Paradoxes #1 and #2

After ten years of “socialist” management of the capitalist crisis, the right rebounded triumphantly in March 1993, and in the space of six months its movement inflicted two major defeats on the Balladur(1)/Pasqua(2)/ Méhaignerie(3) government....

— Branka Magas

THE WAR IN former Yugoslavia, and the particular nature of Western intervention in it, have produced a variety of reactions on the international left. These range from outright support for the Serbian regime -- by way of a position of equidistance from aggressor and victim -- to outright condemnation of Serbian aggression against Bosnia and, less often, also of that against Croatia.

The positions taken involve divergent understandings of the nature of the previous Communist regime, the causes and implications of its demise, the legitimacy of the successor states and the political character of the parties running them....

— Catherine Sameh

ON THE HEELS of Gay Pride celebrations across the country, the twenty-fifth anniversary of Stonewall, the Gay Games, and the lesbian slacker film, “Go Fish,” all the rage, one could say that queer culture and activism are alive and well.

At the same time, anti-gay organizing continues to sweep across the country, particularly in the western states. While organizers in Nevada, Washington, Montana, Arizona, Missouri and Maine failed to gather enough signatures for anti-gay ballot measures, it looks as if Oregon and Idaho will face statewide initiatives that, if they win, could seriously erode civil rights for lesbians and gay men....

— R.F. Kampfer

AN ITALIAN PHYSICS student has invented a musical condom, which plays a selection from Beethoven if it breaks during use. The ominous opening passage of the Vth Symphony, no doubt. Other possibilities might include “Here Comes the Bride,” “Having My Baby” or “Pop Goes the Weasel.”

Speaking of music, Woodstock II went off without a hitch, except for a scare about some bad Prozac going around....

— Richard Campbell
Telecommunications, Mass Media, & Democracy:
The Battle for Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935
By Robert W. McChesney
Oxford University Press, 1993, $45 cloth.

THE CENTRAL STORY of Robert McChesney's remarkable and ambitious history, subtitled “The Battle for the Control of U.S. Broadcasting, 1928-1935,” depicts how commercial and corporate interests wrested control of radio away from noncommercial interests (labor, education, religions, etc.) and effectively limited the shape of mass media for the rest of the century....

— Alan Wald
Marxism in Latin America from 1909 to the Present
Edited by Michael Löwy
Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1992. 296 + lxix pages, $49.95 cloth.
On Changing the World:
Essays in Political Philosophy, from Karl Marx to Walter Benjamin. By Michael Löwy
Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1993. 189 pages, $39.95 cloth.
Redemption and Utopia:
Jewish Libertarian Thought in Central Europe, A Study in Elective Affinity
By Michael Löwy
Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1992. 276 pages, $32.50 cloth....
— Terry Murphy interviews Michael Löwy

Terry Murphy interviewed Michael Löwy for Canada's Socialist Challenge last year in Ann Arbor, when Löwy was lecturing at the University of Michigan. We have abridged their discussion for publiation here.

Terry Murphy: What are your formative intellectual and political experiences?

Michael Löwy: I was born in Sáo Paulo, Brazil in 1938, from Viennese-Jewish parents who had left Austria during the 1930s. I became a socialist on May 1, 1954 by distributing a leaflet on the Haymarket Martyrs. Soon afterwards I took part in the foundation of a small -- very small -- group, called the Independent Socialist League,...

— Tony Smith
Dialectical Investigations
By Bertell Ollman
New York: Routledge, 1993, 191 pages, $14.95 paper.

BERTELL OLLMAN, CREATOR of the wonderful board game Class Struggle, is one of the leading defenders of the importance of dialectical method in Marxism. In the first half of his book Ollman attempts to establish that “dialectics is a way of thinking that brings into focus the full range of changes and interactions that occur in the world.” (10) In the second half a series of papers are collected illustrating dialectics in action....

— Nora Ruth Roberts
Heretics & Hellraisers:
Women Contributors to The Masses, 1911-1917
By Margaret C. Jones
Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1993, $13.85 paper.

WE SOMETIMES FORGET that there was a vibrant, volatile, dynamic women's movement in this country before the 1960s that was not merely pegged to the suffrage campaign. It is Margaret C. Jones' laudable ambition to remind us of an important group of our foremothers who wrote regularly for the pages of The Masses, that most radical of intellectual publications, under the directorship of the young Max Eastman with the help of his feminist sister Crystal....

— Dan Georgakas
Vito Marcantonio:
Radical Politician, 1902-1954
By Gerald Meyer
Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989, 1991,
$49.50 cloth, $16.95 paper.

A BIOGRAPHY OF Vito Marcantonio is long overdue. He was the most electorally successful radical American politician of this century, serving fourteen years in the House of Representatives (1934-36; 1938-50) and leading a modestly successful third party. Gerald Meyer's appreciative but not uncritical biography is especially sensitive to the electoral strategies of Marcantonio and by implication their relevance to contemporary politics....

— John Marot
Trotsky, 1923-1927:
Fighting the Rising Stalinist Bureaucracy
By Tony Cliff
Bookmarks, 265 Seven Sisters Road, London England,
1990, 306 pages, $11.95 paper.

TONY CLIFF'S TROTSKY, 1923-1927: Fighting the Rising Stalinist Bureaucracy, the third volume of his political biography, focuses almost exclusively on Trotsky's efforts between 1923-1927 to curb the bureaucratization of the ruling party and state in the Soviet Union. This period opens with prominent party leaders Kamenev, Zinoviev and Stalin allying against Trotsky. It was followed, in 1925, with a new alignment of forces, where Zinoviev and Kamenev now turned against Stalin and his new ally Bukharin....

— Kim Moody
Trotskyism
By Alex Callinicos
University of Minnesota Press, 1990, 103 pages, $11.95 paper.

IN THIS PROVOCATIVE and stimulating short book, Alex Callinicos summarizes the basis of Tony Cliff's theory of state capitalism. The author is an important Marxist philosopher and a leading intellectual in the British Socialist Workers Party. This review will focus on the theory in the present stage of world capitalism, leaving aside Callinicos' interpretation of the history of the Trotskyist movement, which is obviously of interest in its own right.(1)

— Ann Menasche
Fire With Fire:
the New Female Power and How It Will Change the 21st Century
By Naomi Wolf
New York: Random House, 1993, $21 cloth.

NEWS FLASH: THE backlash against women is over. A “genderquake” represented by the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings and the 1992 elections of Clinton and an increased number of female politicians, has brought us to the brink of the end of patriarchy. Now, all we need to do to make things “increasingly all right” is to “change our self images,” stop “bashing” men, and get over our “fear” of power and money....

— Justin O'Hagan
p>AS A SOCIALIST from Northern Ireland I would like to dispute some of the points raised by Bernadette Devlin McAliskey in her excerpted speech “The Irish Struggle Today,” (Against the Current 49, March-April 1994), and in particular her attempt to diminish the Irish Republican Army's responsibility for its murders, maimings and bombings of the past 25 years.

Devlin McAliskey attempts to provide a “context” in which American people might understand IRA violence....

— Stuart Ross

IN SEPTEMBER OF 1992 the British Boadcasting Corporation (BBC) current affairs program “Nation” aired a piece devoted to the question of political violence. Bernadette McAliskey was part of that program’s studio audience and, as it turned out, her invited comments were later edited, summarized and subtitled before the program was shown.

What supposedly called for such blatant censorship on the part of the BBC was that McAliskey said she understood, but did not justify, republican violence in Ireland....

— Tariq Ali

RALPH MILIBAND WAS a socialist intellectual of great integrity. He belonged to a generation of socialists formed by the Russian Revolution and the Second World War.

His father, a leather craftsman in Warsaw, was a member of the Jewish Bund, an organization of socialist workers. Poland, after the First World War, was beset by chaos, disorder and, ultimately, a military dictatorship. There were large-scale migrations. One of Ralph's uncles had gone eastward and joined the Red Army, then under Trotsky's command. His parents had left Warsaw separately in 1922. They met in Brussels where they had both settled and were married a year later. Ralph was born in 1924....

— Randal L. Hepner

SARAH LOVELL, socialist, unionist, movement activist and a member of Solidarity, died June 14 after a nineteen-month struggle with cancer.

Born in Brooklyn, Sarah was radicalized while still in high school and joined the Young Peoples Socialist League (YPSL-Fourth International) in 1938 at age sixteen. Two years later she became a member of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and remained active in that organization -- serving for a period on its national committee, in its printing and editorial offices, and as dedicated activist and organizer both in Detroit and New York City -- until 1984....

— Bill Breihan

LENORE HOLYON, 47, a leader of the Milwaukee branch of Solidarity and a prominent activist on the Milwaukee left for more than a decade, died July 2. She had been hospitalized for a week following a heart attack suffered in the midst of organizing a Midwest socialist conference.

A lifelong resident of Milwaukee, Lenore began her involvement in the socialist movement in 1983 when she joined the Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Although she hadn't joined an organized socialist group until her mid-'30s, she often half-jokingly spoke of how she'd considered herself a socialist since birth....