Christmas Shopping


ONE OF THE MORE interesting aspects of the holiday season is the way magazines get fat all of a sudden. They each become a kind of corpulent Santa Claus, dressed in bright seasonal colors and laden with advertisements offering more toys than the elves could make if they were to industrialize the North Pole. There's something very attractive about magazine stands, too, in the winter--especially at night when the snow is falling--something that even transcends the commercialism behind them. There are also a few good articles tucked away in some of those magazines that you might look at if you get a chance--maybe over vacation.

Oui magazine is not especially known for its journalistic prowess-although its kind of photojournalism does seem to sell well. But this month, right on the other side of its gauzy, dream-like centerfold, is a fairly good interview with Cuban premier Fidel Castro, conducted last July by Frank Mankiewicz and Kirby Jones, McGovern's presidential campaign manager and press secretary, respectively. The article opens up with a ridiculous description of Castro as having "the build of a cornerback, or maybe an Ivy League tackle," and proceeds to detail his diet, smoking habits, and insane driving abilities, concluding with Castro remarking on Peter Benchley's novel, Jaws. All of this seems kind of a superficial approach to interviewing a revolutionary leader, but then maybe Castro wasn't aware of the kind of magazine he would be appearing in. The interview itself is revealing--for instance, Castro says that the 1972 hijacking agreement was signed because of "a concern for international public opinion," and that he and the Cuban government "think highly of Henry Kissinger. He is an intelligent and realistic man, and truly able. So we are favorably disposed toward him." Castro is a pretty realistic man himself, and sometimes the kind of realism that engenders practical compromise leads to ideological confusion. There's a still more blatant contradiction in the interview involving Castro's support for revolutionaries on one condition: "It is essential that they be fighting." Later he reiterates that "armed struggle is necessary" to effect social change, but in between the two statements the Cuban premier claims that "those countries that do not interfere in our internal matters have our highest respect with regard to their internal affairs." The questions put by the interviewers were all concise and even more important, Mankiewicz and Jones followed up on their questions, tried to fill in the gaps usually left by single question-single answer interviews.

ANOTHER CASTRO is one of the subjects in two articles on the farmworkers' union battle in the December/January issue of Ramparts. David B. Castro is the secretary-treasurer of the Teamsters' farmworkers' union Local 1973 in Salinas, California, and according to George Baker's article, "The Teamster Raid: Stalled in the Vineyards," he is the symbol of the real struggle between the UFW and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Castro is portrayed as a slick image-conscious operator who feels that if his underlings can't "sell me, I'll lose the [possible union] election." Baker avoids the simplistic statistical approach, the numbers game of wages and benefits in terms of hard cash. Instead, he treats the more complicated issues: union enforcenent of contracts, administration problems, eligibility requirements for benefits, equitable treatment of seasonal workers, and most important of all, fair representation of the farm workers in the union, their right to self-determination. His argument against the teamster is both controlled and compelling. And his job as a San Joaquin, California, newsman gives him the kind of long-term familiarity with the issues that many journalists, writing about the farmworkers in absentia, lack. The central issue, according to Baker, is not wages or benefits but the radical nature of Cesar Chayez's union, in contrast to the standard Teamsters' centralized union:

What Chavez built is more than just a trade union. It is a union movement and a social movement (in the broadest sense), of enormous power and consequence, a fresh breeze wafting in the stultified air of stagnant labor movements. His is a movement as concerned with community organization as with sanitary working conditions, as interested in cooperative grocery stores as in medical insurance plans.

In these hard times, it makes sense that most of the Farmworkers reap the immediate cash gains of higher-paying Teamster contracts. But what is at stake in the long run is the Farmworkers' right to decent lives--and no amount of statistics will be able to determine that.


The New Republic (Dec. 7) also features an article on the UFW, called "Chavez Against the Wall," by Peter Barnes. The article is especially good for its fuller discussion of the UFW's tactics.

OTHER NOTEWORTHY articles include a two-part series in the New Yorker (Dec. 2 and Dec. 9) on Multinational Corporations by Richard Barnet and Ronald Miller; an excellent review of Robert Fitzgerald's new translation of the Iliad by D.S. Carne-Ross in the New York Review of Books (Dec. 12); and a fascinating article by Roger Morris in the Columbia Journalism Review (November/December) on the unfair coverage of Allende's Chile in the mass media.