Against the Current, No. 54, January/February 1995

— The Editors

THE 1994 ELECTION offered a striking combination. It was the most ideological election in recent national history -- which, in itself, ought to be a positive rather than negative thing -- yet at the same time, presented the least substantive choice and probably the greatest level of personal viciousness of all time. The reason, simply enough, is that the entire left side of the ideological "debate" was missing.

It is not surprising that the more coherently right-wing party, which had the further advantage of pretending to run "against Washington," succeeded in bringing its voter base to the polls....

— Michael Hoover and Lisa Stokes

ONCE UPON A time, in a land far away, Orlando, Florida city limits signs read “Orlando: The City Beautiful.” More recently, the signs described Orlando as a “water conscious community.” In 1992, the signs were changed again to proclaim, “Orlando: America's First City of Light.”(1)

In a 1991 visit to Walt Disney World, George Bush issued a challenge for communities to become “points of light.” Orlando accepted the challenge....

— Peter Downs

THE STRIKE BY members of United Auto Workers (UAW) at the Buick City complex of the giant General Motors Corporation  attracted worldwide attention in late September. The stunning victory after only five days on the picket lines could be a turning point for labor.

The strike at the complex of twenty-five factories in Flint was unusual because the main issues were the amount of work and work time. Pay, the central issue in contract campaigns in the '60s and most of the '70s, was not a concern. Job security, the main union concern in the concessionary bargaining of the last sixteen years, was not an issue either....

— Olivia Gall

“FRAUD IS NO defeat, fraud is fraud. The country will not live through six more years of illegitimacy, and the peace of the nation cannot be any longer at risk,” proclaimed opposition presidential candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas in Mexico City's central plaza, the Zocalo, on August 23, two days after the election.

In the article “Mexico's Difficult Futures” that I wrote for Against the Current (ATC 50), which analyzed events in Chiapas and on the national level between January-April 1994, I concluded: “The alternative facing Chiapas and the country today is the choice between an authoritarian state and a state based on rights.”...

— Mike Zielinski

THE ZAPATISTA-LED uprising in Chiapas was not the beginning, nor will it be the end. The climax of the Cold War leads not to the establishment of a Pax Americana, but to intensified economic and political conflict between the North and South.

The Central America solidarity movement in the United States has a vital role to play in confronting the new economic order, but must adapt to changed political realities. Activists no longer take to the streets spurred on by the urgency of stopping U.S.-financed wars. If the U.S. no longer directs a brutal counterinsurgency campaign in El Salvador or trains a surrogate army in Nicaragua, U.S.-dictated structural adjustment programs continue to take a deadly toll in Latin America....

— James Petras

LAST SUMMER'S TERRORIST bombing of the Jewish community center, which killed 100 people and maimed and injured dozens more, is the latest and most horrendous of a series of unsolved terrorist crimes in Argentina.

There are two hypotheses about the failures of the Argentine police and intelligence agencies. One argues that they are incompetent and inefficient, thus the need to send the FBI and MOSSAD to help solve the crimes. The other is that the lack of progress in the investigation as well as the ease with which terrorist incidents are carried out is due to the complicity, tacit or overt of sectors of the intelligence and police apparatus....

— David Finkel interviews Nada Selimovic

NADA SELIMOVIC, BORN in 1952, graduated from secondary medical school and the Department of Political Studies at the University of Sarajevo. In 1978 she was elected to the parliament of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, becoming its youngest member. Her political activities obstructed because of her democratic opinions, she worked as the organizer and head of a health care center.

In 1991 Selimovic was one of the founders of the independent, non-governmental Center for Antiwar Activities....

— Dianne Feeley

HAITI -- THE JEWEL in the crown of the French empire just 200 years ago, providing its sugar and coffee -- is today the poorest country in the Americas:

* 93% of the countryside is deforested.

* The rate of infant mortality stands at 114 out of every 1,000 babies.

* 80% of the population is illiterate.

* 70% of the population are peasants, yet the country imports twice as much food as it exports....

— Terry Lindsey

WHILE IN THE Czech Republic in January 1994, Bill Clinton visited a Prague nightclub with Vaclav Havel. Havel, a fan of the late Frank Zappa, presented Clinton with a gift saxophone. Clinton climbed on stage and jammed with the band, running through the standards “Summertime” and “My Funny Valentine.”

This Czech jam session was released on CD as The Pres Blows. How's it sound?...

— Alan Wald

II. Trotskyism in Perspective

IN MY VIEW, there are many important elements of the historical experiences of the Trotskyist movement that warrant retention, but the over-riding issue is how to theorize them. For example, the 1930s experiences of Minneapolis, and the 1960s experience of the anti-war movement, are the most memorable. But there are also other recuperable episodes such as James P. Cannon's World War II political strategy,(1) the Workers Party's fight against the No Strike Pledge, the theoretical work of C. L. R. James and George Breitman on Black nationalism,...

— Catherine Sameh

IN THE WAKE of the elections, queer activists find ourselves toasting to victory. But our drink is bittersweet: Ballot Measure 13, Oregon's anti-gay initiative, went down to defeat by 52-48%, a margin too slim to give much comfort. Queer activists and their supporters find ourselves propelled backwards to 1992, when Measure 9 went down by an equally appalling mere percentage points.

Perhaps it has become enough to simply keep the Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA) at bay, to defeat them time and again by whatever means necessary....

— R.F. Kampfer

THANKS TO MARTY Glaberman for bringing to our attention, in the wake of the recent election, the following timely commentary from a nineteenth century political pundit on the U.S. two-party system. In a passage discussing how the organs of state power “transformed themselves from the servants of society into the masters of society,” this author remarked:

“This can be seen, for example, not only in the hereditary monarchy, but equally so in the democratic republic....

— Tim Marshall and Rachel Quinn

IN A CAMPAIGN against the civil and human rights of California's immigrant population, Proposition 187 targeted California's large, diverse and yet politically weak immigrants' communities as scapegoats for the state's continuing economic decline. Proponents sought the passage of statewide legislation denying the human rights of education, health care, and safe communities to undocumented, or so-called “illegal” immigrants.

Despite a mass movement to defeat the proposition, in which literally hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest, educate, and campaign against it, this misnamed “Save Our State” initiative won with 59% of the vote....

— Jim Lauderdale

PROPOSITION 187 PASSED, but one thing remains certain: The voice of those whom the right wing and the neoliberals sought to make marginal, invisible and silent will continue to speak with power, clarity and conviction.

The campaign gave the lie to any myth that those most affected by 187's draconian provisions had any intention of being silenced. On October 16 a demonstration of 100,000 people, mostly immigrant workers and supporters, filled the streets in front of Los Angeles City Hall in opposition to Proposition 187....

— Angel R. Cervantes

THIS YEAR 1994 shall be remembered in the annals of history as the infamous year which gave birth to Proposition 187 and rebirth to Governor Pete Wilson. This year shall also be remembered for the tumultuous political mobilizations which pricked the conscience of a generation of youth and ignited a statewide student movement.

I have written this piece as both a participant and an observer in hopes that my experiences in the student movement can answer questions, clear up misconceptions and refute criticisms that have been levied upon our movement....

— Alan Hanger

IN A YEAR when most working people continued their boycott of the electoral system by not voting, the single-payer initiative in California was buried in the November polls by the anger of those who voted against the government and crooked politicians of both parties. In a one-sided battle of media ads, the insurance companies decisively defeated Proposition 186 by 73.4% in opposition to 26.6% in favor of the single-payer plan.

Over 400 organizations, ninety-two unions, twenty-seven elected officials, and 640 businesses endorsed the single-payer initiative, and over thirty-five groups served on the steering committee....

— John Bellamy Foster

RECENT HISTORY IS dotted with examples -- among whom Margaret Thatcher and George Bush are undoubtedly the best known cases -- of politicians who have sought to pass themselves off as environmentally concerned, while actually representing quite different interests. What distinguished the Clinton administration (if not Clinton himself) in its first days, however, was that its commitment to the environment appeared serious.

Suddenly leading enviros were elevated to high office in the executive branch....

— Johanna Brenner

THE MYTHS, STEREOTYPES and just plain lies that circulate around “welfare reform” are so outrageous; yet they seem to be impervious to reasoned argument. The only politics that comes close to welfare reform in its level of irrational myth-making is the politics of crime. They are of course linked -- through the fundamentally racist and sexist organizing concept that teen mothers raise criminal sons, and more specifically that young African-American mothers (and their irresponsible male lovers) are the main cause of poverty and violence....

— James Jennings
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore<197>
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over<197>
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
“-- Harlem,” Langston Hughes

THE “URBAN CRISIS” is a shorthand way of combining a number of interconnected factors....

— Chris Phelps interviews Ron Daniels

Ron Daniels, a longtime activist in the Black liberation movement, has for several years been an outspoken advocate and practitioner of independent political action through his leadership of the Campaign for a New Tomorrow (P.O. Box 520103, Flushing, NY 11352), which was the vehicle for his 1992 presidential campaign. A former executive director of the Rainbow Coalition, Daniels is currently executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City....

— A.J. Julius and Harry Brighouse

TWO PARADOXES CONCERN major-media observers of the Clinton disaster. They wonder, first, why Democratic control of the White House and Congress could not ensure legislative success -- why, despite congressional majorities, executive prerogative, and the “mandate” of 1992, this administration came up so short so often.

Their second cause for perplexity is given by November's returns: Why did a party, propelled to office by popular demands for fairness and change, pay in buckets of votes for the trouncing of those hopes, with the glory redounding to the Republican “obstructionists” seemingly at fault in the collapse of those hopes?...

— Harry Brighouse

The stirrings of independent political action that began in the Bush years have gathered force. Labor Party Advocates has grown and is projecting a national conference in late 1995. The New Party has run its own candidates with some success in local races, and the New Progressive Party has a statewide presence with ballot status in Wisconsin.

The Green Party has had a substantial electoral presence in a number of the smaller states. The Green candidate for governor of New Mexico, Robert Mondragon, won 10% of the November vote....

— John Vandermeer

THE RECENT FANFARE associated with the publication of Herrnstein and Murray's The Bell Curve is surprising, given the lack of anything new in the book. It recycles two basic ideas. One is trivially obvious, the other is at best dubious.

The obvious point is that people who tend to score well on IQ tests tend to do well in our society. It is also true that people born wealthy tend to live wealthy and people born poor tend to live poor, but I doubt I will go on the talk show circuit for having made that observation....

— Robert McChesney interviews Noam Chomsky

Robert McChesney, a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, interviewed Noam Chomsky on November 1, 1994. That interview will appear in a forthcoming issue of Against the Current here we present the brief excerpt in which Chomsky comments on the controversy over The Bell Curve.

Robert McChesney: The New York Times Sunday Magazine in October published a cover story on Charles Murray, discussing his IQ theories that suggest social stratifications along the lines of race and class are due to genetics, not social factors....

— Buzz Alexander
Latin American Popular Theatre
By Judith A. Weiss with Leslie Damasceno, Donald Frischmann, Claudia Kaiser-Lenoir, Marina Pianca & Beatriz J. Rizk
The University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1993,
269 pages, hardcover $42.50, paper $22.50.

I HAVE WATCHED Death and his Diseases race through the streets of a dusty Peruvian shantytown, drawing children to a street crossing to witness a play ending in a karate fight between Death and Supervan (Van = vacunacion anual nacional). I watched Death limp off swearing he'll be back in the spring with Diarrhea,...

— Mike O'Neill

SINCE THE APPEARANCE of The Bell Curve, mainstream commentators have scrambled to differentiate themselves from Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. No reasonable liberal wants to be associated with the idea that African-Americans are at the bottom of U.S. society because they are actually inferior.

The problem is that The Bell Curve disturbs those of the center and center-left precisely because most -- whites, at least -- have trouble finding something to disagree with....

— Eric Hamell

YOUR EDITORIAL “BILL Clinton and Genocide” (ATC 51) was by and large excellent. You laid out a clear line of solidarity with the Haitian people through support for economic sanctions while opposing military intervention, and solidarity with Bosnia through the call to lift the arms embargo....

— The Editors

COMRADE HAMELL IS half right. We make no call on the United States or other western imperialist states to “arm Bosnia,” knowing full well that they don't even want Bosnia to win....