Editor’s Page

Editor’s Page

It is perhaps a sign of living uneasily in the here and now that we spend so much time looking backward and forward. We find our way in the difficult present by focusing on the past and the future. So, in this issue, Gerda Lerner reflects on the 150th anniversary of the Seneca Falls conference, the founding moment of American feminism, and provides an account of what has been achieved, and what hasn’t, in the years since. Anson Rabinbach describes the fights going on among French intellectuals over how to think about the communist past. Sven Birkerts remembers his own adolescence, growing up in the sixties, when everyone’s personal life had an immediately available political translation. David Lehman writes about the apolitical stance of the “last” avant-garde—the New York poets of the 1950s and 1960s. n We are turned to the future, too, even if, in this post-utopian age, we tend to write skeptically about great-days-to-come. But Seyla Benhabib and Michael Rustin, responding to David Miller’s Euro-skepticism, are enthusiastic or, at least, hopeful about the emerging European Union. And Robin Blackburn suggests that there will be opportunities for an ambitious left politics in the years just ahead—but will democratic left parties have the courage to seize them? In a deliberately more modest vein, Jeffrey Isaac describes the international campaign against land mines as a harbinger of politics to come—a “new social movement,” specifically focused, nonideological, limited in its goals (which doesn’t mean that the goals are easy to attain, only that they are within reach). n Why so many of our writers prefer the past and future is evident in Paul Street’s strong engagement with the present realities of GOP/Clintonite welfare reform. Finding work for people on welfare is no doubt a good thing to do, or try to do. But, as Street’s facts and figures suggest, the effort has to be made by politicians who understand that work is the ultimate welfare benefit, which the market by itself can’t be counted on to provide. n We have received several critical comments on Steve Fraser’s article on union democracy in our last issue, and this will be the focus of the Arguments section in the Winter Dissent. Meanwhile, we continue our ongoing series on union politics with David Glenn’s analytical account of a rare victory for the labor movement—the defeat of the fast-track trade bill a year ago. For this is a battle that will have to be fought again and again; the terms of globalization are going to be at issue for decades. And though many economists write as if labor can only lose in the long run, the end of the long run is not yet determined.
M.W.


Lima