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Heroes and Villains in the Cold War Battle for the United Electrical Workers

John Hoerr, Harry, Tom, and Father Rice: Accusation and Betrayal in America’s Cold War (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005), 344 pages, cloth $29.95.

The image still haunts me: a man in his thirties, eyes glassy, blood streaming from a head wound. A foot soldier in the domestic Cold War, this union stalwart had been beaten by anticommunist thugs who imagined that changing unions in the Westinghouse Electric plant in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania would be a blow against Stalin. Mistaking assault on a volunteer organizer for damage to a Soviet leader is just the kind of tragically stupid error one might expect in a period generally befuddled by fear. Fifty-five years later, confusion as to the meaning of these events continues to hang over the era like an early-morning fog | more…

Lost and Found: The Italian-American Radical Experience

Philip V. Cannistraro and Gerald Meyer, eds., The Lost World of Italian-American Radicalism: Politics, Labor, and Culture (Westport, Connecticut: Praeger, 2003), 346 pages, cloth $79.95, paper $29.95.

When, almost ten years ago, I came from Italy to study in New York I was shocked by the discrepancy between Italian-American and Italian politics. To my amazement, I discovered that the left, which has always played, and still plays, an important role in Italian politics, occupies a marginal, if not nonexistent, place in Italian-American political culture. Even worse, I learned that Italian Americans are perceived as a basically conservative group, whose only ties to Italy appear to be the Mafia and food. How did Italian Americans end up identifying themselves, and being identified, with such conservative values and reactionary political forces? Why did their political consciousness diverge so markedly from their Italian counterparts? | more…

Labor, the State, and the Struggle for a Democratic Zimbabwe

When Zimbabwe attained its first independent government in 1980, led by President Robert Mugabe and liberation fighters of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), there were reasons to hope for a bright future. The new country inherited significant infrastructure from the prior Rhodesian settler regime, including relatively modern transportation and communications systems and an impressive set of import substitution industries. The economy had been built with extensive state support and planning (along with capital controls) to evade UN sanctions. By way of reconciliation, Mugabe sought good relations with local and regional capital, while establishing economic ties to China and East Bloc countries that had supported the liberation struggle. Roughly 100,000 white settlers remained in the country, operating the commanding heights of commerce, finance, industry, mining, and large-scale agriculture, as well as domestic small businesses. The 1980s witnessed rapid growth at first, then droughts, with 5 percent GDP growth when rainy seasons were average or better. Thanks to the construction of thousands of new clinics and schools, indices of health and education showed marked improvement | more…

Nepal—An Overview: Introduction to Parvati

Nepal lies on the south side of a five-hundred-mile-long section, east to west, of the Himalayan mountain range. China (Tibet) is its northern neighbor, and on the east, south, and west Nepal is surrounded by India (Sikkim, Bihar, and Uttar Pradesh). Nepal’s width north to south averages about one hundred miles—from the Himalayan ridge and the highest point on earth (Mt. Everest, at 29,035 feet) down to a thin strip of the Gangetic plain (the Terai), where Nepal’s second largest city, Biratnagar, is less than 300 feet above sea level | more…

People’s Power in Nepal

While communications about the military successes of the People’s War in Nepal have been regularly disseminated, little information has been made available at the international level about the achievements of people’s power in the country. This article aims to rectify this situation somewhat by highlighting the emergence of people’s power side-by-side with the progressive dissolution of the old monarchical state (ruling since 1769), with particular reference to achievements made in the Central Command area, which includes the main base area, Rolpa | more…

October 2005 (Volume 57, Number 5)

Notes from the Editors

The much-anticipated split in the AFL-CIO, the labor federation in the United States, took place in Chicago, at the federation’s annual convention. Three unions—the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Teamsters, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW)—left the federation, and more will likely follow. The dissident unions call themselves the Change to Win Coalition, and they have suggested that what they have done parallels the formation of the CIO in 1935, which resulted in the organization of the nation’s mass production industries. They will be holding their inaugural convention in late September | more…

Immokalee Workers Take Down Taco Bell

On March 8, 2005, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) in Immokalee, Florida won a significant victory. In a precedent-setting move, fast-food giant Yum! Brands Inc., the world’s largest restaurant corporation, agreed to all the farm workers’ demands (and more!) if the CIW would end the four-year-old boycott of its subsidiary Taco Bell. (Yum!, a spin off from Pepsi, includes Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, A&W, Long John Silver’s, and Pizza Hut franchises.) As United Farm Workers (UFW) president Arturo Rodriguez commented at the victory celebration, “It is the most significant victory since the successful grape boycott led by the UFW in the 1960s in the fields of California.”  | more…

Alice Thorner (1918–2005)

Alice Thorner’s life was lived in three continents, and her interests lay in studying processes of change in India’s colonial economy and the experience of planned development following decolonisation. She interacted for over six decades with academics and academic-bureaucrats, who were not inconsequential actors in what Gunnar Myrdal had termed the ‘Asian Drama’, and she too played a part in that unfolding drama. It was while visiting England on the eve of the WW11 in 1939 with husband Daniel who was researching his thesis at the India Office library in London, that she first met the group of enthusiastic Indian nationalists which included V. K. Krishna Menon, P.N. Haksar, K.T.Chandy and Feroze Gandhi. Many were to become lifelong friends  | more…

Hugo Chávez on the Failed Coup

This article is excerpted from Understanding the Venezuelan Revolution: Hugo Chávez Talks to Marta Harnecker to be published by Monthly Review Press in September. The book covers a wide range of topics, including Chávez’s political formation, the transformation currently taking place in Venezuela, and its place in the global context. In what follows, Chávez recounts the events of the failed coup d’etat of April 11, 2002.—Eds | more…

Left-Indigenous Struggles in Bolivia: Searching for Revolutionary Democracy

La Paz, the Bolivian capital, rests in a deep valley in the heart of the Andes. The geographical terrain of the city is marked clearly with deep class divisions and the racist legacies of Spanish colonial impositions and ongoing internal colonialism, present since the founding of the republic in 1825. The indigenous peoples-over 60 percent of the population according to the 2001 census-have suffered at the bottom of a wickedly steep social hierarchy that whitens in accordance with class privilege | more…

Can Germany’s Corporatist Labor Movement Survive?

For seven years Germany has been governed by a center-left coalition. This government was elected in 1998 because a majority of the electorate was tired of conservatives promising that fiscal austerity, lower unemployment benefits and social security, and restrained wage growth would bring prosperity and full employment. However, the new government’s program has made that of its predecessor look like neoliberalism with a human face. The new government, led by the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), has launched the most severe attacks on labor and social standards since the establishment of a welfare state after the Second World War. Since, for most of its history, the SPD has presented itself as the main force pushing for expansion of the welfare state, its anti-worker actions have deeply disappointed its followers and surprised its opponents | more…