Against the Current, No. 89, November/December 2000

— The Editors

THE EXPLOSION IN Jerusalem, occupied Palestine and the state of Israel is horrific to contemplate—but not at all difficult to understand.  Underneath what appeared to begin as rioting over "holy places," the real issue is this: Tens of thousands of Palestinians are risking their lives in the face of live ammunition in defense of their basic human dignity.  And in that act, they have posed the greatest challenge to the "stability" of imperialist control of the Middle East that we have witnessed since the 1973 war.

— Jane Slaughter

FIVE YEARS AGO John Sweeney's New Voice slate won a majority of union presidents' votes with promises to transform the AFL-CIO.  Today the AFL-CIO leadership continues to demonstrate the ambiguities that are inevitable when leaders want to increase the size and power of the labor movement—by their own definition—yet remain committed to both the methods and the ideology of business unionism.

— Rachel Douglas

ON AUGUST 6 87,000 members of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) struck Verizon Communications in twelve states from Maine to Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

At the heart of the strike was the unions' attempt to maintain wall to wall unionization in an industry which is rapidly changing, to strengthen job security for workers in the wake of a national merger, and to fight the spread of lean production. The three-year contract we won represents a major victory on all of these issues.

— Kurt Biddle

IN COMPLETE BETRAYAL of the student-led Reformasi (reform) movement, the ruling judge in the Suharto corruption trial dropped the case after hearing a report by a twenty-three member team of court appointed doctors that the former Indonesian dictator was physically and mentally unfit to stand trial.

— Kurt Biddle and Rivani Noor

READING LEFT BOOKS has become somewhat of a trend in Indonesia. Although the struggle for democracy is far from won, overthrowing the dictator Suharto in 1998 has brought a lot of positive changes for people. One of the most important changes is the ability to openly explore political ideas and the access to information.

Several publishers have appeared on the scene recently to fill the demand. They are, in many cases, activists who see these books as important to the struggle in Indonesia. One of these publishers is Teplok Press, a small publisher with an interesting history.

— Anan Ameri

[Editors' Note: The following commentary was written in May, 1994 and not previously published.  While issues of cultural appropriation may not seem to be the highest priority at a time of daily massacres, we present this personal account here because we believe it helps to convey what Jerusalem means, not as a shrine but as an actual city in daily life and living memory, to its people.]

— Daniel Bensaïd, Marcel-Francis Kahn, Stanislas Tomkiewicz & Pierre Vidal-Naquet

THE FOLLOWING TEXT (abridged here) was published in the French daily Le Monde of October 18, 2000 accompanied by the signatures of fifty French people of Jewish origin, several of them well-known political or intellectual figures.

CITIZENS OF THE countries in which we live and citizens of the planet, we do not habitually express ourselves as Jews.

We combat racism and anti-Semitism in all its forms. We condemn the attacks on synagogues and Jewish religious schools in France which take as their target a community as such and its places of worship ...

— Alan Sears

THE QUEER MOVEMENT has made impressive gains in the thirty-one years since the Gay Liberation Front emerged out of the Stonewall Riots in New York City. It is now possible for many lesbians and gay men to live relatively open lives in fairly supportive environments with access to real community resources.

— Donna Cartwright

THE CRITICAL ACCLAIM for Kimberly Peirce's film "Boys Don't Cry," and Hilary Swank's Academy Award-winning performance in it as Brandon Teena, have focused public attention on a real-life hate crime that both galvanized the nascent transgender activist movement in the mid-1990s and highlighted tensions between that movement and other parts of the queer community.

— Maitree

MAITREE IS A West Bengal-based network of forty-two women's organizations, NGOs and individual women activists concerned with women's rights.

Maitree supports the struggle of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) and of the people of the Narmada valley for their right to survive in a manner of their own choosing.  Consequently, we express our grave concern at the recent Supreme Court judgment [to permit construction of the Sardar Sarovar dam to proceed], which ignores the problems of rehabilitation and environmental degradation.

— Carina Bandhauer

AMIDST ALL THE turmoil of the Reform Party this summer, Pat Buchanan named Ezola Foster as his running mate for his third bid at the presidency. For a man who has openly questioned the holocaust, and battled to save white America, choosing a Black woman is a little puzzling.

And for that matter, why does a Black woman from Watts want to associate with a white man who called for a “culture war” against her people? Strange bedfellows?

— Walt Contreras Sheasby

OUR ELECTORAL DILEMMA today derives from a political realignment a hundred years ago, when a faction of populists joined in fusion with William Jennings Bryan and the “Free Silver” Democratic Party. After 1896 the two major parties evolved into what they have remained, electoral machines organized from the top down, from elites to ward heelers and courthouse gangs, as vote-catching operations for factions of big business.

— Catherine Sameh

THIS ELECTION SEASON, Oregonians vote on 26(!) ballot initiatives, many of them right-wing driven. (This column is being written a week before the vote; by the time you read it, you'll know the outcome.)

Ballot Measure 9, if passed, would “prohibit public school instruction encouraging, promoting, or sanctioning homosexual and bisexual behaviors.” Polls show that there is about as much support for the measure as there is opposition to it.

— R.F. Kampfer

ACTIVISTS ARE ATTEMPTING to end the practice of terminating racing greyhounds that run out of the money. The dog-racing industry will retort that that's going to make it harder to motivate the ones that are running. (You don't think they're fooled by that mechanical rabbit, do you?)

Babies are fun if you can hand them back to their mothers when they cry. Fathers used to be able to get away with that. Now you have to be a grandparent.

— Peter Olson

EVEN BEFORE THE clouds of teargas over Prague had dissipated, the mainstream media were eager to declare the September 26 demonstration against the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank a failure.  According to the New York Times, the international gathering of up to 20,000 protesters had tried "desperately .  .  .  and ultimately unsuccessfully, to shut down a global finance meeting."

— B. Skanthakumar

OVER 15 000 PEOPLE from all corners of Australia and farther afield blockaded the Asia-Pacific summit of the World Economic Forum (W.E.F.) in Melbourne between September 11 and 13 in the latest expression of the mood of anti-capitalist action around the world.

The annual meeting between Fortune 500 company CEOs and senior executives and politicians along with their academic and journalist hangers-on was held in the Crown Casino, a thrusting skyscraper beside the Yarra river, and a fitting venue for the faceless few who daily gamble with the futures and lives of billions of people.

— Louise Cooper

MORE THAN 10,000 activists gathered in LA for the Democratic convention protests August 5-18.  The main protest held Monday, August 12 drew around 10,000 activists. Three thousand had gathered for the Mumia march held the previous day.  

An impressive number of smaller mobilizations came together throughout the week, delivering a strong message to the Democrats on numerous environmental, racial and economic justice issues.  Overall, this was a positive showing (large by LA standards, and the strongest evidence of independent organizing outside the Democratic Party in more than 30 years.

— U.S. activists interview Cuban student

IN JULY, SOLIDARITY supporters Tim Marshall, Rachel Quinn and Sara Abraham had the opportunity to take classes at the University of Havana as a part of the Language and Culture program sponsored by Global Exchange. We met many people willing to share their opinions on the political and economic situation of the country. Everyone talked about how difficult the "special period" (early 1990s) was but felt that Cuba was emerging from this critical time.

The emergence, especially the legalization of the dollar economy, is full of contradictions, but one thing seemed perfectly clear: Things had changed in Cuba from when it depended on the Soviet Union, and this change would continue.

— Guillermo Almeyra

THE NATIONALIST ANTI-IMPERIALIST revolution of the long beards has lasted forty-one years. It was never a socialist revolution. The Moncada combatants were not socialists, neither were those in the Sierra Maestra (with few exceptions), nor the Cuban people who one morning woke up to hear the news through the radio and from the mouth of Fidel Castro, that in response to the imperialist attacks, the island had become "socialist."

— Stanley Heller

Iraq Under Siege.  The Deadly Impact of Sanctions and War edited by Anthony Arnove (Cambridge: South End Press, 2000) 216pages, $16 paperback.

THE GERMAN NAZIS killed two million Jewish children.  The Bush-Clinton sanctions on Iraq have killed over 500,000 Iraqi children with thousands more being added monthly.  As a crime against humanity, the scale of death, misery and environmental destruction visited on Iraq this past decade now rivals what the United States did to Vietnam from 1962-1975.

— Malik Miah
The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, by Randall Robinson (NY: Dutton, 2000) 262 pages, $23.95 hardcover.

“Beneath the eye and around the rim of the Capitol dome stretches a gray frieze depicting in sequenced scenes America's history from the years of early exploration to the dawn of aviation .... Although the practice of slavery lay heavily athwart the new country for most of the depicted age, the frieze presents nothing at all from this long, scarring period. No Douglass. No Tubman. No slavery. No blacks, period.” (Introduction, page 2)

— Varda Burstyn

THANKS TO AGAINST the Current for reviewing my book, The Rites of Men (ATC 88, September-October 1999). And sincere thanks to Barbara Tischler for a thoughtful summary, within that review, of many of the book's main ideas.

Ms. Tischler approved of a number of these, but implied that they were not “new.” I found that surprising. For while I generously used the work of other writers, scholars and athletes to illustrate or support my main theses, there are several ideas of political import with respect to the culture of sport that I had not seen expounded anywhere else. It is certainly possible that I've missed something. In which case, apologies.

— Edmund Kovacs

DESPITE HIS ADVANCED years, Hayden Perry was the most activist member of the Oakland-Bay Area branch of Solidarity for the past six years.  After his wife Esther died several years ago, he lived very modestly on his social security pension of $750 a month in an old-age facility in Berkeley, using his bicycle for transportation and signing up for the meeting hall in the home for the branch to use.