Facing Up To Real Issues
THE SUMMER OF 1976 brings with it the Democratic and Republican national conventions, and the subsequent choice between three moderate-to-extreme conservative candidates: Carter, Ford or Reagan. Along with stupid bicentennial hijinks a sinister amnesia seems to dominate American's thoughts about politics. None of our prospective presidents opposed the war against Viet Nam, while two of them backed it enthusiastically from start to finish. Political discussion this year is revolving mainly around fantasy issues: can we hold the Panama Canal? Who will do the most to trim bureaucratic fat? And the raising of the "personal honesty" issue by candidates trying to avoid making substantive proposals.
Of course, events of the last decade have shown what the issues facing this country really are: Viet Nam, Chile and other deplorable emanations of American foreign policy should have taught that the U.S. government cannot attempt to enforce its international "vision" on other countries; Watergate and related crimes probably should have pointed up the dangers of the concentration of power in small corporate and political circles; the depression of 1973-75 crisis should have indicated the necessity of a national planning which is geared to full employment and an expansion of democratic decision-making in the economy; and the proliferation of violence in Boston during the past years over the issue of busing should have been sufficient proof of the fact that racism remains a toxic influence on American life.
Foreign Policy in Crisis
AMERICAN FOREIGN policy is in a state of crisis. Before Vietnam, American power reigned unchallenged in much of the world; American policy makers felt justified in and compelled to intervene in other countries wherever U.S. hegemony was threatened. But the events of the last year--the victory of the PRG-DRV in Vietnam, the victory of the MPLA in Angola, the disclosure of CIA covert operations abroad, and the imminent rise to power of Communist governments in Western Europe--make this policy orientation increasingly untenable.
The CIA has been one of the most important weapons of American intervention abroad. The bulk of its covert operations and funds have been directed toward interfering with free elections all over the world and toward providing military and financial support for dissident groups favored by American policy makers, such as the neo-fascist Italian general Miceli. The responsibility for these abuses--interfering with elections, directing coups and assassinations, training foreign secret police in torture techniques--lies with the administrations that have directed foreign policy, and particularly with Kissinger during his tenure as National Security Advisor. Hence the CIA cannot be reformed merely by bringing it under firm executive control, as the half-hearted Congressional investigations have suggested. To prevent the recurrence of covert actions, it is necessary to change the whole basis on which foreign policy has been conducted under Kissinger.
AMERICAN ATTITUDES toward the participation of Communist parties in Western European governments have been among the most conspicuous and counterproductive examples of the ideological rigidity of American policy. Kissinger's intense opposition to governmental participation by Italy's Communist party--based on the increasingly anachronistic assumption that European Communist parties are part of a monolithic bloc under Soviet domination--is both shortsighted in terms of American interests and insensitive to the needs of the Italian people. The PCI's rise is the product of long-term changes in Italian society, economy and politics--changes which are unlikely to be reversed. American interference is unlikely to prevent an eventual PCI victory; it will only antagonize the electorate. Furthermore, a compromise between the Christian Democratic and Communist parties is the development most likely to provide a broad popular base for a viable government; such a coalition is the only force capable of regenerating Italy's stagnant economy. Americans cannot continue to view such a development as dangerous: it would legitimize diversity within European Communism, and so increase the ability of Eastern European countries to explore alternative socialist models to that of the Soviet Union. America must resolutely refrain from interfering in Italy's government.
SIMILARLY, THE U.S. should grant aid without strings to the Portugese Socialist government, which should form a coalition with the Communists as a way out of its present impasse. The economic crisis in Portugal can only be resolved through attracting foreign capital and through some measure of sacrifice--in terms of wage gains--by Portugese workers. But most Western capital, particularly American loans and credit channelled through the World Bank and other agencies, has strings attached: the 'stabilization' of the nation, meaning an end to strikes, enforced wage cuts, and higher prices making revenues for a revived private industrial sector. Aid under such terms would destroy any hope for Portugese socialism, while workers would be recalcitrant and possibly violent if sacrifices were forced on them in the name of U.S. and other capitalist nations' investment policies.
Nor can the U.S. continue to view the world as polarized between America and the Soviet Union as when it intervened in the Angolan civil war. In the face of the defeat of Angolan factions supported by the U.S. and South Africa, and the collapsing position of Rhodesia's white minority government, Kissinger has issued policy statements renouncing intervention against national liberation movements in Southern Africa. But if Third World nations--particularly the black African states--are to view the United States's support for rapid transition to majority rule in Rhodesia as more than a tactical maneuver in the face of a collapsing minority government, the U.S. must fully repudiate the apartheid regime of South Africa. Unless the U.S. exerts pressure on its corporations to comply with international embargoes on trade with the two embattled minority regimes, and on the South African government to abandon its rule in the immediate future, black nations will know the U.S. retains its generally racist and opportunistic perspective toward Africa and toward the Third World as a whole.
THE U.S. MUST ABANDON the cold war and imperial perspectives on international politics which have forced it to intervene all over the world in support of anti-democratic governments, in opposition to popularly-based movements. Otherwise, America will continue to founder without a viable foreign policy, finding itself constantly on the verge of reactionary interventions abroad which the American people do not support--like that in Vietnam and Angola; and the rest of the world will continue to regard its policies with justifiable suspicion.
The University vs. District 65...
THE UNIVERSITY BEGINS THE SUMMER ridden with labor troubles. The past academic year began with the University's successful countering of the most serious on-campus organizing drive in recent memory and ended with a deteriorating situation in the University kitchens.
The University has proven itself a staunch opponent of its own workers and unions at virtually every turn this year.
Harvard has, by and large, succeeded in blocking a drive by District 65 of the Distributive Workers of America to unionize clerical and technical workers both on the main campus and at the Medical Area. The drive, which began in 1974 in the Med Area, has met with near-complete success there, but the failure of the University to recognize the area as an appropriate unit for collective bargaining has resulted in a fiasco whose end still seems more than a year off.
The case was divided into two parts, juggled about in the hearing rooms of the regional National Labor Relations Board for nearly a year, and was finally decided--against the union. The decision was especially difficult for the union organizers to stomach in light of a seemingly contradictory decision rendered by the Washington board on a similar case at Columbia University on the same day that regional director Robert Fuchs handed down his ruling against District 65 at Harvard.
The union's case took one small turn for the better last month when the Washington board accepted it for review. The University should by now realize that its continued opposition to a Med Area union is both futile and counterproductive; Harvard must abandon its position against the union and District 65.
...Faulty Grievance Mechanisms...
HARVARD AGAIN ACTED UNWISELY in the case of Sherman Holcombe, a kitchen worker and union shop steward who was suspended in February after an altercation with his supervisor. Holcombe's treatment in the wake of his suspension was lamentable; the entire case pointed up glaring flaws--as yet not rectified--in the University's internal grievance mechanism. Holcombe's case proved that a worker cannot receive a fair hearing if his immediate supervisor--who is often a party to the dispute--is also called upon to conduct the investigation into the case.
Harvard has repeatedly offered to refer cases of this nature to binding external arbitration, knowing full well that by doing so it would place the cases even further away from final resolution. The University prides itself on its internal grievance mechanism, but has repeatedly failed to clarify, or indeed, to rectify it.
The University's anti-union attitude and the breakdown of the grievance process claimed another victim when Paul Trudel, a Central Copy Services worker, was fired in February, allegedly for unionizing activity. The whitewash which followed the Trudel firing was near-complete, and totally successful--Trudel, unemployed for several months and awaiting a ruling on his case, decided to drop his charges against the University. Still, many questions remain unanswered, and the University has, as usual not been forthcoming with the answers.
...Problems in the Kitchens
THE HOLCOMBE CASE was a harbinger of greater troubles in the Harvard kitchens. Frustrated by the racist policies of dining hall manager Buford Simpson, a restrictive summer hiring policy and the intimidation of shop stewards by Simpson and others, nearly 100 workers walked off their jobs during a lunch hour several weeks ago. The repercussions of the walkout were predictable--all the workers who participated were punished with warning slips on their records, and three shop stewards were suspended. No effort was made to initiate a dialogue between the University and the workers to resolve the problems which led to the walkout. Instead, with the union's contract negotiations set to begin on the same day on which the suspensions were announced, the University resorted to the very "confrontation" politics which it so often accuses the union of employing.
The University should abandon its anti-union policies now. The workers, for their part, must press unceasingly for a change in University labor policy and practice, and must continue their drive to revise the internal grievance and investigatory processes. Student initiatives to support the workers should continue and intensify. Anti-unionism and policies which are inherently opposed to the workers' best interests should be doggedly opposed by a student-worker coalition, and should ultimately be discontinued.
THE BEST NEWS about affirmative action this past year was not that Harvard has met or is close to meeting its far too modest hiring goals for minorities and women, but that a group of students decided to band together to show the uglier side of the University's program. In forming the Task Force for Affirmative Action, twelve student groups took upon themselves a job they felt Harvard and the Boston Office of Civil Rights were performing inadequately--ending Harvard's discriminatory practices and setting the University on a path of better faith and more liberal hiring projections.
Harvard has made far from impressive progress in increasing its representation of women and minorities. The tenured faculty here is still 92 per cent white and male, and minorities and women are still represented in greatest proportion in the lowest paying jobs.
So while the University is publicly patting itself on the back, issuing favorable statements, as the Faculty has recently, about the progress made, a tremendous amount remains to be done. Beneath the University's liberal facade, administrators are doing the minimum rather than going out of their way--as affirmative action demands they do--to act in better faith.
No student group, however, should take on this responsibility alone. Lacking funds, student support and student interest, the task force has had to move slowly toward its goal. And the real tragedy lies in the fact that this ought not to be the task of students at all. The University must push itself toward more willing and fuller compliance by changing its attitude toward increasing minority and female representation. And if Harvard continues to refuse to make this change, it is the responsibility of the Office of Civil Rights to force compliance with federal guidelines.
The task force is to be applauded for its efforts, and the University and the government officers seriously criticized for forcing students to assume their mandated responsibilities.