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Clinton Escapes Again


Clarence Lusane

Each

Summer the major civil rights organizations hold their annual gatherings.

Attended by thousands, these events include workshops, plenaries, and major

addresses by civil rights leaders, trade union officials, representatives from

women and youth organizations, and high-level government officials up to and

including the President and Vice President of the United States.

The

NAACP, National Urban League, Progressive National Baptist Convention, and the

National Rainbow Coalition/PUSH have all held such meetings in the last two

months as they have been doing before and since Clinton came into office in

1992. Despite the annual ritualistic and prolific production of agendas,

platforms, covenants, agreements, and resolutions – much of which has been

progressive and sometimes even radical – in the end, the Clinton administration

escapes fundamental criticism.

Given

the political calculations that will dominate in 2000, this year was the last

opportunity for the nation’s civil rights establishment to present a substantive

critique before their membership of what seven years of Clintonism has meant for

the civil rights community. Alas, that opportunity went the way of the

fiasco-laden Republican impeachment hopes.

At

the recent annual conference of the NAACP, titled "90 Years of Making

Democracy Work," the most notable, and certainly the most reported, issue

to emerge was the concern by the organization’s leadership that there will be

very few African Americans on network series television this coming Fall. Vexed

to no end by this erasure of blackness, NAACP president Kweisi Mfume has

demanded meetings with the heads of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox to discuss the

problem. The NAACP, with some legitimately, notes that despite a plethora of new

shows, there will be very few faces of color coming into the homes of Americans

other than the usual diet of gangster rap videos and daily crime stories.

The

convention, of course, also addressed other concerns such as AIDS, aid to

Africa, equal education, and racial violence among others. And, a number of

Clinton’s top ranking officials gave keynote speeches such as Vice President Al

Gore and Secretary of State Madeline Albright.

Meanwhile,

Rev. Jesse Jackson held another of his Rainbow/PUSH Coalition gatherings. These

increasingly frequent meetings are primarily used to highlight Jackson’s insider

role in the Clinton administration. In a quid pro quo deal, heavy hitters from

the administration appear in workshops and at plenaries where they are handled

with kid gloves. Gore, Attorney General Janet Reno, and Secretary of Labor

Alexis Herman spoke at this year’s event. In the end, everyone agreed to agree.

Jackson also hosted and took around the city of Chicago the three hostages he

"freed" from Milosovich’s clutches during the Spring NATO war in the

Balkans.

At

the most recent gathering, "Building Bridges, Building Hope," a

ten-point agenda was fashioned that was signed on to jointly by the Rainbow,

NAACP, and the League of United Latin American Citizens. The agenda called for

quality public education, alternatives to jail, guaranteed health care for all,

affordable housing, environmental preservation, and other progressive demands. .

The

National Urban League also met this Summer. The conference was titled,

"Agenda 2000: Equality and Power for the New Millennium." Completing a

trifecta, Gore also gave a keynote address there. Workshops addressed a wide

range of concerns including community development, affirmative action, home

ownership, black women in business, employment, and police-community relations.

Similar to the NAACP and Rainbow, the NUL also emerged with a plan to attack

these issues and come back next year stronger and more victorious.

Yet,

by the time all the leaves have fallen from the trees and all the conventioneers

have long gone home, another summer of Clinton conciliation will have passed.

Clinton’s civil rights legacy will remain shrouded in a cautious celebration

undergirded by backroom whispers and hushed embarrassments. And in the wings,

there arise invested hopes in "Clinton II – the Sequel" in the form of

Gore.

Don’t

believe the hype. The civil rights leadership continues to fail to construct,

articulate, and initiate a strategy for power. Don’t get me wrong, accommodation

and reform have their political value and their time and place. Certainly the

issues being raised by the civil rights leadership are important and should be

addressed. And it should be noted that in black politics they are not alone in

this strategy deficiency. Neither black nationalists nor black radicals have

shown any greater capacity to elaborate and effectuate a strategy for power

either.

Issue

articulation, however, is not a challenge to power. A chief political obstacle

faced by the civil rights community remains its dependence on the dictates and

largesse of the Democratic Party – its most centrist elements at that.

Minimally, within the realm of electoral politics, a strategy for power would

either develop a focused and determined plan for taking command of the party,

with like-mined allies, or an abandonment of the party for greener pastures.

And, by the way, these are not mutually exclusive strategies. Jackson, the most

prominent black leader inside the DP, long ago surrendered the first option and

never has seriously considered the second. No other black Democrats or group of

black Democrats have stated that their goal is political seiziure of the party,

and the only bolts have been to the scurrilous Republicans. In any case, the

current paradigm of Summer meetings and Fall capitulations ain’t working. The

strategy of accommodation is hollow and, like Clintonism, should be left in the

20th century.

Mozambique

and the Other Side of Globalization I recently returned from an eye-opening,

soul-wrenching, yet profoundly-inspiring visit to northern rural Mozambique. The

other side of the globalization’s integration is its brutal and deadly

marginalization of many parts of the developing world. Isolation and barbaric

poverty, in Mozambique and elsewhere, are the facts of life for tens of

millions.

I

was part of a delegation sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee to

visit 10 of our women-run rural development coop projects. The areas that we

visited are in Manica province and can only be reached by the most serious

4-wheel vehicles and a lot of courage. People in these villages, especially

women, walk an average 10-12 hours a day, through bush and forest, generally

barefoot (it was notable if you saw shoes), and carrying items on their head and

babies on their back. Generally, walking is the only means of transportation to

the market or, more critically, to get water.

At

most of the sites we visited, people in the coops asked us to help them get an

ox. An ox would provide a means of transporting products to market as well as

can be used in digging up the fields. In one village, the entire population had

a goal of saving for the next two years to buy a single ox. The cost of an ox is

2.4 million Meticais (the Mozambican currency). This translates into US$200

because the currency exchange is US$1 to 12,000 Meticais. To get a sense of the

rate of inflation, ten years ago, the rate was US$1 to 800 Meticais. This is in

a country where the annual average per capita income is less than US$150 a year

and in many of the villages less than $50 (for the whole village). The country

has not printed money in years and it is against the law to destroy any bills

because the paper that the money is printed on is worth more than any of the

denominations. Let me also note that in most places people did not ask for an ox

cart since it would be virtually useless at this point given the

"road" conditions.

Many

of these villages did not have wells, which is why people walked miles to get

the smallest amount of water to drink or for other purposes. A well and pump can

cost as much as US $1,000.

There

are also other dangers faced on a daily basis. There are still an estimated

50,000 live landmines in the area. Although a massive demining effort by the

United Nations, non-governmental organizations, and private firms is underway,

at the rate of finding and disarming a mine about once every two days or so, the

curse of landmines is going to be there for a long, long time. At two of the

sites, we only stood at the edges of their vegetable gardens because they warned

us that mines had been discovered there, but they had started a garden anyway

because of the need.

One

arena where the need is great is that of health care services. According to Dr.

Julie Cliff, head of the medical school in Maputo, there are only 450 doctors in

the whole country. This is to serve a population of nearly 20 million. In the

areas that we visited, of about 2-3 million people, there is reportedly one

doctor. There is a determined effort to train tens of thousands of nurses and to

build mobile health clinics, but the resources are limited. Diseases that have

been conquered in other parts of the developing world, such as Malaria, yellow

fever, and cholera, unfortunately, are pretty common.

Ironically,

the devastation of HIV/AIDS has been limited for two reasons. First, following

independence from Portuguese colonialism in 1975, the country was engulfed in a

horrific 16-year war driven by the Mozambique Resistance (RENAMO) group that was

financially and materially-sponsored by right-wing extremists from Zimbabwe,

South Africa, and the United States. The massive dislocations caused by the war

scattered hundreds of thousands and prevented the settlement and containment of

the disease in the country’s highly-populated northern and southern parts. The

war has been over since the mid-1990s and, as people return, the cases of

HIV/AIDS are starting to rise to numbers similar to other countries in the

region. Sadly, the second reason people are not dying of AIDS in big numbers

(yet) is because there are so many other diseases that are quicker killers.

For

many of us on the delegation, the starkness of it all was often overwhelming.

The gap between their lives and the existence we take for granted comprises two

almost incompatible realities EXCEPT that, to a great degree, it is our reality

that is causing theirs.

Despite

these deprivations, there is a reason for some optimism. First, the people of

Mozambique are conscious, hard-working, and resilient. They have not only

weathered storms that most of us never even contemplate, but, in many ways, have

a prevailing spirit that simple will not be defeated. Second, the land is rich

in resources, and if they can be mastered and managed, can provide for needed

development. Third, the country’s presnt leadership appears to have soberly

recognized errors made in the past regarding economic and political decisions

and is committed to rebuilding a democratic society in the interests of all.

Fourth, women are playing a central role in the reconstruction of Mozambique,

and are determined they their families and children will prosper in spite of the

challenges.

 

 

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