Chronology Part Five: 1981-1992

Chronology Part Five, 1981-1992


January 18: U.S.-Iran agreement ends the hostage crisis. (Almanac)

January: M.I.N.P.-El Comité splits into M.I.N.P.-EC and the Summation Collective, which becomes the Revolutionary Left Movement (MINP; MINP-2)

January: U.S. military aid – restored in the final days of Jimmy Carter’s presidency, and temporarily suspended after the murder of the four church women – helps the Salvadoran junta beat back an overly ambitious FMLN “final offensive.” Shortly thereafter new President Reagan announces that the U.S. is “drawing the line” in El Salvador and sends military advisers. El Salvador over the next decade became the site of the largest U.S. counterinsurgency war since Vietnam. The next month the new administration takes the first concrete step to launch a “covert” military operation against Nicaragua, and the CIA is given the go-ahead to begin organizing in Honduras, Miami and elsewhere for a contra army under the banner of the Nicaraguan Democratic Front (FDN). Publicly, the U.S. suspends aid to the Nicaraguan government alleging that Cuban arms are passing through Nicaragua to the rebels in El Salvador. (CISPES; Intervention; Central America)

March: The Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MRL) publishes The New Communist Movement: An Obituary pamphlet, written by though not credited to Al Szymanski. The pamphlet reflects a much wider sense among many party building veterans that the NCM has reached exhaustion. This particular pamphlet calls for some kind of loose national federation of left activists, “regroupment” becomes the most common term for this or some other kind of “left-unity-across-previous-lines-of-demarcation” strategy, which gathers support from different directions in the wake of the NCM’s decline. Besides MRL and other spin-offs from the OCIC (including a bit later Theoretical Review), different factions of the collapsing CP(ML) advocate this approach (B.L. paper in BNCM-6); IS’s magazine Changes (Dec. 1982, after several internal papers, in Solid-IS History) publicly advocates “unity on the left”; Sojourner Truth takes some steps in this direction (see February 1982 below); the Guardian, which moved away from a specifically party building strategy quickly after its split with the Clubs in January 1979, gives favorable signals but as yet takes no initiative. While not calling for regroupment, PUL publishes (in 1982) What Went Wrong? which, from a very different angle than Obituary, analyzes the “open crisis” of the NCM. From a somewhat different ideological perspective the book Beyond the Fragments: Feminism and the Making of Socialism by Sheila Rowbotham, Lynn Segal and Hilary Wainwright – published in England in 1979 and then an expanded edition published in the U.S. in 1981 – looks at the fading of the most influential British party building groups of the late 1960s and ‘70s, though in Britain these are Trotskyist rather than Maoist. Meanwhile those few party building organizations which are intact or even growing (LRS, CWP, Line of March) attribute the NCM’s disarray to the errors of others and intensify their party building efforts. (Obit; NCM-MS; Fragments; Sarkis; various materials in D-3)

April: Founding meeting of the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights. (Torres)

April: Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine holds Fourth National Congress (though documents aren’t published in English until 1986) Third Congress was in March 1972. The meeting focuses on transformation of Front into a Marxist-Leninist organization and assessing the emergence and development of the Camp David process. Includes a denunciation of the policies of the Chinese Communist Party (“revisionism”) and self-criticism for having long held a very positive attitude toward the CPC; also a sharp critique of Eurocommunism. (PFLP)

May 3: 100,000 demonstrate in Washington, D.C. against the U.S. war in El Salvador and domestic attacks on living standards in particular those of communities of color. The successful march sets a pattern for the large antiwar nationwide mobilizations of the 1980s. It is organized by the Peoples Anti-War Mobilization (PAM) initiated by the Workers World Party, which holds tight to the reins thus leading many other forces to leave following the demonstration. The same pattern takes shape as Workers World and PAM follow up by building for a large gathering to found the All-Peoples Congress (APC). The Congress takes place in Detroit October 16-18 and draws several thousand, but APC never recaptures this initial momentum and, like PAM, gradually narrows to a Workers World Party front. (packet in BNCM-5)

May 22-25: Line of March-initiated National Conference on Racism and National Oppression, including a major section on the OCIC’s “Campaign Against White Chauvinism” (conference papers in BLM-5)

Spring: Second Congress of CP (ML), last gasp before full collapse of the organization. (Davidson; Forward No. 5; NCM-MS)

June 1: Murder of Filipino labor activists Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo in the office of Alaska Cannery Workers Local 27 ILWU in Seattle by gang members later proved to have been hired by the Marcos regime. Viernes, Local 37 dispatcher, and Domingo, secretary-treasurer, were also members of KDP and (less publicly) Line of March; a month earlier Viernes – returning from a trip to the Philippines – and Domingo had been instrumental in pressing the ILWU to pass an anti-Marcos resolution at its international convention in Hawaii; ILWU membership in Hawaii is largely Filipino. A major “Justice for Domingo and Viernes Campaign” ultimately successful, follows the murders. (Toribio; CJDV)

June: First national conference sponsored by Labor Notes, a new publication initiated by members of International Socialists (IS), draws 500 trade union activists to Detroit. The second Labor Notes conference, November 12-14, 1982, is titled “Organizing Against Concessions” and draws 700. (Solid-Is History; Labor Report)

Summer: National Labor Committee in Support of Democracy and Human Rights in El Salvador is formed with presidents of UAW, IAM and ACTWU as formal co-chairs and backing from AFSCME, OCAW, UFW, Molders, IUE, bakery workers, and NEA. The NLC’s formation at this stage of the Salvadoran conflict, with such broad support within labor, is in marked contrast to the role of labor during the Vietnam War.  (Dyson in CrossRoads No. 40)

August 4: PATCO strike begins; Reagan fires all the strikers and fills their jobs with “permanent replacements.” (Almanac; Davis in NLR #149/Jan-Feb 1985)

September 19: Solidarity Day rally called by AFL-CIO leadership, huge turnout of 400,000 (Organizer October 1981; Workers World September 25, 1981 in BNCM-5)

Fall: Mass peace movement begins to swell in Western Europe, as mobilization begins against the initial decisions of NATO and European governments to accept the U.S. Euromissiles, and in the context of new U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s warlike rhetoric. “Five million people demonstrated in the capitals of Western Europe in the autumn of 1981 and again in the autumn of 1983.” (Changes in Solid-Is History; Magri in NLR #131/Jan-Feb 1982; Kaldor in NLR #180/March-April 1990)

October 20: Robbery of a Brink’s truck in Rockland County New York goes awry, a guard and then two police officers in Nyack are killed. Kathy Boudin, David Gilbert, Judy Clark and BLA member Sam (Brother Sol) Brown are arrested at or near the scene, other activists allegedly involved are arrested later. Kuwasi Balagoon, Clark and Gilbert are convicted in one trial; Boudin is also convicted; Sekou Odinga (Nathaniel Burns), Silvia Baraldini and others are convicted as well in the first trial to use racketeering-conspiracy charges against activists. (Weather; material in BREV-3 including NYT article February 16, 1982; Paterson; Gitlin)

October: October issue of PWOC’s newspaper, the Organizer, admits the “near-collapse” of the OCIC with functioning local areas reduced from 18 to 6 and 80% of the membership resigned. Once-central OCIC leaders Dave Forrest and Tyree Scott issue a paper with others in October criticizing the “Campaign Against White Chauvinism” as ultra-left and proposing a direction for those still holding the “fusion” party building line, which does not come to anything. PWOC is also in near-collapse with 80% of its membership resigned, and the next issue of the Organizer (Vol. 7, No. 10, December 1981/January 1982) is its last (need to check this; there may have been one or two more) (Organizer, October 1981 and December 1981/January 1982; Forrest et al in BTr-2).

November: First Seminar on the Situation of the Black, Chicano, Native American, Puerto Rican, Caribbean and Asian Communities in the U.S. held in Havana (might not have been the exact title of this gathering), bringing together progressive intellectuals from the U.S., especially from the people of color communities, with Cubans. A second similar Seminar is held December 4-6 1984. (Black Scholar January-February 1985; Line of March No. 18)

December 9: Journalist and activist Mumia Abu-Jamal, long a target of Philadelphia police for his exposures of racism, is arrested and beaten by Philadelphia police and  charged with the murder of an officer that night; he is convicted on July 3, 1982 and sentenced to death. (Death Row)

December: PUWP crackdown on Solidarity in Poland: declaration of martial law, arrest of many Solidarity leaders, etc. Following the crackdown, a December 29 Resolution of the Executive Committee of the Italian Communist Party declares in regard to the USSR that “this phase in the development of socialism, that began with the October Revolution, has exhausted its driving force, as was the case of the phase that followed the rise and development of the socialist parties of the trade unions close to the Second International. The world has gone on….” Following that statement, the PCI and engages a sharp, open polemic with the CPSU.  (Line of March No. 10 & 11; Problems September-October 1988; PCI)

Winter 1981: Agreement between Nine to Five (9 to 5) and other independent feminist organizations of clerical and white collar workers and the SEIU on a collaborative unionization campaign, the first such partnership. (Aronowitz in SR #67)


AIDS – the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – is first identified, and AIDS rapidly becomes a major health and political issue in the country. By fall 1986, 28,000 people had been diagnosed with AIDS, half of whom had died (and many more are HIV-positive). The Reagan administration takes a do-nothing and fund-little approach to the crisis, homophobia surges forward, Haitians are scapegoated, the racial disproportion in who is affected (which will rise through the decade) begins to be seen, big political fights are waged over discrimination, confidentiality in testing, suggestions of quarantine, etc. The gay community especially organizes to provide services and fight back. (AIDS)

Formation of Black Workers for Justice in Rocky Mount, North Carolina (BWFJ brochure in DCR-3)

The SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP), which becomes in key force in the fight against environmental racism, is founded in Albuquerque. (Chicano)

Bernie Sanders running as an independent socialist is elected mayor of Burlington Vermont by 10 votes and goes on to serve four terms before leaving to run for higher office. (MR May 1986; CrossRoads No. 25)

Publication of CPC’s Resolution “Some Questions Concerning the History of Our Party” with re-evaluation of Mao Zedong: “mistakes in his later years [meaning the Cultural Revolution].”

Socialist Francois Mitterand wins the presidency of France with the support of the PCF on an ambitious left program; after an initial period of intense reformist action, by spring 1983 the government retreats to an austerity/centrist policy, the PCF withdraws from the government, and the last experiment in aggressive social democratic radical reformism is over. (NLR #171)

Andreas Papandreou and PASOK win governmental power in Greece with 47% of the vote; altogether almost 60% vote for left-wing parties. (NLR #131/Jan-Feb 1982)

Publication of Protest and Survive, essays edited by E.P. Thompson and Dan Smith (Monthly Review Press, New York), including Daniel Ellsberg’s “Call to Mutiny” – reflection of the rise of the new anti-nuclear war movement; The Road to Gdansk, by Daniel Singer (Monthly Review Press, New York); Beyond the ‘Vietnam Syndrome’: U.S. Interventionism in the 1980s, by Michael T. Klare (Institute for Policy Studies); Soviet Policy in the Arc of Crisis, by Fred Halliday (Institute for Policy Studies); Beyond the Fragments: Feminism and the Making of Socialism, by Sheila Rowbotham, Lynne Segal and Hilary Wainwright (Alyson Publications, Boston; British edition was published in 1979); African Socialism or Socialist Africa? by A.M. Babu, (Zed Press, London); Clayborne Carson, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s. (Cambridge, Harvard University Press); David J. Garrow, The FBI and Martin Luther King, Jr.: From Solo to Memphis (New York, W.W. Norton and Company); The Forward March of Labor Halted?, edited by Eric Hobsbawm – his own lecture of the same title from 1978 is included (Verso/Marxism Today, London) – Hobsbawm’s alleged “farewell to the proletariat” often lumped together with other “farewells” from Andre Gorz, Rudolf Bahro, Laclau & Mouffe, among others; Women, Race and Class, by Angela Y. Davis (Random House, New York); Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, by bell hooks (South End Press, Boston); This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, edited by Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga (New York, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press – founded after a 1980 conversation between Barbara Smith and Audre Lorde, see Guardian June 5, 1991; also cited as published by Persephone Press, Watertown, Massachusetts) – this anthology includes “A Black Feminist Statement,” an influential 1977 position paper from the Combahee River Collective;  Andrea Dworkin, Pornography: Men Possessing Women (New York, Perigee Books)



            February 28: Small meeting in New York called by Sojourner Truth Organization and North Star Socialist Organization to attempt a left regroupment; invited were TR-New York and the Guardian and Workers Power among others. The meeting did produce any new left alignments, and did not result in any broader sponsorship of what became the “No Easy Answers” conference sponsored in 1983 by STO – see below. (report from the meeting in BNCM-5)

March 20: DSOC and NAM officially complete a more-than-two-year-long merger process and found the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) at a joint convention in Detroit. A faction of NAM -resisting the shift from the organization’s earlier revolutionary stance to DSOC-style social democracy – had split off before the merger (before the 1981 convention – see NAM 1981 Convention Resolutions in D-8) to form the short-lived group “Solidarity – A Socialist-Feminist Network.” By 1980 DSOC had 5,000 members, by 1981 NAM had 1,500. By the time of the merger, DSA represented the largest and arguably most influential tendency on the socialist left. (Democratic Left April 1982 in SDHx; Solid-IS History; Davis in NLR #155; Aronowitz in SR #67; Moving On September-October 1980, September-October 1981 & March 1982)

April 2-June 15: Britain defeats Argentina in the Falklands/Malvinas War, the first war after World War II between an advanced capitalist country and an anticommunist Third World state. (Almanac; Second Cold War).

April: Four senior members of the U.S. foreign policy establishment – McGeorge Bundy, Robert McNamara, George Kennan and Gerard Smith – call for the U.S. to proclaim a “no-first-use” of nuclear weapons policy in the article “Nuclear Weapons and the Atlantic Alliance” in Foreign Affairs. They acquire the nickname the “Gang of Four” for their open opposition to Reagan administration policy, and add fuel to the growing mass anti-nuclear movement. (Second Cold War)

June 4: Israel invades Lebanon, long siege of Beirut, Sabra and Shatillah massacre on September 15, huge demonstrations within Israel against the invasion and massacres. (Almanac)

June 12: Huge (750,000-1,000,000) demonstration for disarmament in New York City, at the U.N Special Session on Disarmament, with radical presence in the form of the Third World and Progressive People’s Coalition (TWPPC). The demonstration is a highlight of the Nuclear Freeze and general anti-nuclear/disarmament movement of the early Reagan years. It accompanies the huge mass peace movement that has been taking off in West Europe (see fall 1981 entry above). (Changes in Solid-Is History; Magri in NLR #131/Jan-Feb 1982; Kaldor in NLR #180/March-April 1990; Black Scholar Jan-Feb 1986)

June 18: Vincent Chin is beaten to death by two unemployed white Detroit autoworkers who “think he is Japanese.” Amid widespread anti-Japanese sentiment as Japan is blamed for the decline of the U.S. auto industry, the two killers are allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter and are sentenced to probation and a $3,000 fine. A major campaign is conducted to demand federal charges against the killers for denying Chin his civil rights. (Frontline, August 8, 1983; Wei says June 19)

June: Khmer Rouge (amid statement disavowing communism and locating themselves “on the side of the West”) join with two other factions, one led by Sihanouk in the “Democratic Kampuchea” coalition, with Sihanouk as President, which is recognized by the U.N. as Cambodia’s government and supported by Thailand, China and the U.S. (SF Chron June 14, 1997 in BMOV-5; Revolution Rescued)

June-July: Soviet government cracks down on the Group for Establishing Trust Between the USSR and USA, an eleven-member unofficial body. (Second Cold War)

August 13: Mexico announces that it cannot make interest payments on its obligations, essentially going into default. This is the period (1982-87) of the intense “Debt Crisis” or “Third World Debt Crisis” during which major Latin American countries especially (Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Peru) which had borrowed heavily during the 1970s were in constant danger of default. Between 1978 and 1982 debt service for the Third World grew at an average rate of 23.3%. Illustrating how seriously the crisis is taken, on November 2 the Wall Street Journal prints on its front page a fictitious scenario of international financial panic and collapse, which it says “could happen.” There is talk of forming a “debtors cartel” and jointly refusing to pay the debt, many negotiations between the Third World debtor countries, the IMF and World Bank, and governments of the advanced capitalist countries. In fall 1984 Mexico reaches an agreement with international bankers to reschedule its debt; in 1984-85 Fidel travels throughout Latin America pressing for an indefinite moratorium on debt payments; U.S. Roman Catholic Bishops also argue for a moratorium, and there are various plans by U.S. ruling circles to manage the crisis, especially the “Baker Plan” (Treasury Secretary James Baker) presented in October 1985. Through ‘85-‘88 the crisis (though not the debt’s burden on the Third World) begins to ease. (MR February & March 1985, February 1987; Seventh Summit; NLR #145; Second Cold War)

September 14-17: Ferdinand Marcos “state visit” with Ronald Reagan greeted by major protests (AK October 1982)

September: U.S. opens a Space Command Center as part of extending its military programs into outer space. (Second Cold War)

September: Twelfth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. In foreign policy, the CPC is unhappy with the Reagan administration’s upped support for Taiwan and once again condemns U.S. “superpower” policies and formally criticizes Washington as well as Moscow as a threat to peace. There is a slight thaw in relations with the USSR, and ideologically since 1980 China has stopped calling the USSR either capitalist or social-imperialist, only “hegemonist.” China also tacitly endorsed the 1981 crackdown on Solidarity in Poland. Domestically, the new Constitution promulgated for China in 1982 removed the right to strike from its provisions. (Second Cold War)

November: The Nuclear Freeze proposal is on the ballot in nine states and passes in eight of them. (Second Cold War)

November 10: Leonid Brezhnev dies; Yuri Andropov chosen his successor as General Secretary of the CPSU on November 15. (Almanac)


Congress passes the “Boland Amendment” prohibiting U.S. aid to groups trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government, systematically violated by the Reagan administration. ((Intervention)

Bobby Rush, former second in command of the Illinois Black Panther Party, is elected to the Chicago City Council; he is later elected to Congress. (Boyd)

Battle waged by the African American community in Warren County, North Carolina “widely recognized as the watershed event in the environmental justice movement.” More than 500 residents are arrested blocking trucks carrying the toxic chemical PCB to a landfill in their community and receive support from national civil rights leaders. (CrossRoads No. 15)

Conferences of “Red Diaper Babies” to discuss their experiences are held this year and in 1983. (RA, Vol. 19, No. 5)

Publication of Exterminism and Cold War, with selections by E. P. Thompson, Raymond Williams, Roy and Zhores Medvedev et al, edited by New Left Review (London, Verso); The Fate of the Earth, by Jonathan Schell (New York, Knopf); Farewell to the Working Class, Andre Gorz, (London and Boston); The New Class War: Reagan’s Attack on the Welfare State and Its Consequences, Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward (New York, Pantheon Books); Wini Breines, Community and Organization in the New Left, 1962-1968: The Great Refusal (New York: Praeger Publishers; also cited as Hadley, Massachusetts, J.F. Bergin Publishers); Maurice Isserman, Which Side Were You On? The American Communist Party During the Second World War (Wesleyan University Press)



            Early January: The heads of state of Mexico, Venezuela, Panama and Columbia meet on a Panama resort island and initiate the Contadora process for peace in Central America. (Frontline, February 3, 1986)

January: Final issue of Theoretical Review, with assessment that a substantial anti-dogmatist/renovationist trend in U.S. communism no longer existed. (Theoretical Review No. 30 in BTr-1)

February 22: Harold Washington, running on a progressive program and mobilizing the grassroots of Chicago’s Black community, scores a dramatic victory over Jane Byrne and Richard M. Daley (son of the late mayor) in the Democratic primary. (Line of March No. 15; Marable)

Winter-spring: First major offensive against Nicaragua by the contras, who now number over 4,000 troops in Honduras plus 3,000 Misura Indian troops on the Atlantic Coast. By summer the attack is a dismal failure, the contras fail in their objective of holding sufficient ground to form a provisional government. But hit-and-run raids take a terrible toll on the Nicaraguan economy. In late spring renegade Commander Eden Pastora opens up a southern front on the Costa Rican border. Meanwhile Honduras is steadily more militarized; and the FMLN is displaying increasing military sophistication, especially in its four-month offensive begun in October 1982 which inflicts many defeats on the Salvadoran Army and captures many weapons, including the FMLN’s first artillery. (Intervention; Central America)

March: Greens cross the 5% hurdle and win representation in West Germany’s national parliament for the first time. (NLR #152/July-August 1985)

April 1-3: “No Easy Answers Left” conference in New York sponsored by Sojourner Truth Organization, about the last initiative from the group that I can locate so far. (self-published conference material in D-9)

April 11: Pilot issue of Frontline newspaper issued by the Line of March. First regular issue appears on June 27. (Frontline April 11 and June 27, 1983)

April 12: Harold Washington is elected mayor of Chicago over Bernard Epton in a close and racially polarized context, a milestone in the upsurge in electoral activism in the Black community. This same year, Mel King, supported by the Boston Rainbow Coalition, came in first in the Boston mayoral primary October 11, though he lost in the runoff to Raymond Flynn on November 15. These campaigns, especially Washington’s, paved the way for Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow campaigns of 1984 and 1988. This Rainbow electoral motion anchored in the Black community – along with the movement against U.S. intervention in Central America and the movement against U.S. backing for apartheid – are the main poles of popular resistance to Reaganism in the 1980s. (Marable; Line of March No. 15; Glick; Frontline October 31, 1983)

May 19-22: RCP-sponsored conference in New York on the “The Soviet Union: Socialist or Social-Imperialist?” there is a debate at the conference between Raymond Lotta of RCP and Al Szymanski, moderated by Anwar Shaikh. Conference is well-attended (1,000-plus). RCP publishes two volumes of material for the conference, one before and one after. (self-published material in D-10)

June 8: Rudy Lozano, Mexican community leader, trade union organizer and a key figure in the Harold Washington Coalition, is assassinated in his home in Chicago. (Marable; Frontline, June 27, 1983)

June: The Communist Party USA(ML) (CPUSA-ML) dissolves itself at its Second Congress. (self-published material in BNCM-2)

July 4 weekend: Alliance Against Women’s Oppression holds its first national congress. (Frontline, July 25, 1983)

July 1: Workers, largely Mexican, go on strike against Phelps-Dodge copper mining company in Arizona in one of the main labor fights of the early ‘80s. The strike is hard-fought but lost in 1986. (Chicano; Frontline various issues 1983-1986)

August 9: French troops arrive in Chad to bolster the government against Libyan-backed rebels in the north. (Frontline, August 22, 1983)

August 21: Benigno Aquino slain at Manila airport upon his return to the Philippines; sets off new wave of mass protest. Period (off and on since 1978, and through 1987) is also characterized by debate over strategy and even international line in the CPP. (Rocamora; Toribio; Almanac)

August 27: 350,000 turn out for a March on the 20th Anniversary of the August 1963 March on Washington in D.C. 40,000 more march in S.F. and Seattle. The theme is “Jobs, Peace and Freedom,” and the “peace” aspect in particular causes some more conservative figures (Bayard Rustin) and the AFL-CIO to stonewall the effort. The sponsoring group is the broad-based “Coalition of Conscience.” Jesse Jackson receives the warmest response from the crowd and is greeted with chants of “Run, Jesse, Run!” (Marable; Frontline, September 19, 1983)

August 30/September 1: Soviets shoot down KAL 007 (Almanac; Frontline September 19, 1983)

Summer: DWP founds USOCA (U.S. Out of Central America) which plays a controversial role in the Central America solidarity movement. For the first time DWP also tries to expand its activities beyond the San Francisco Bay Area. By the end of the year the DWP is moving away from Marxism-Leninism and adopting the view that no revolutionary practice other than solidarity or anti-militarist work is possible in the conditions prevailing in the U.S. (DWP History; DWP Dissolution; self-published material in BNCM-3 & BNCM-4)

September 5: Labor Day is “Solidarity Day III” and over 400,000 unionists and supporters gather at “Across America – We Will Be Heard” marches and rallies across the U.S., including 200,000 turning out in New York City. (Frontline, September 19, 1983)

September 27: Wilfred Burchett dies at age 72 (Frontline, October 17, 1983)

Fall: AFL-CIO (and the NEA) gives an “early endorsement” to Walter Mondale in an effort to regain labor influence within the Democratic Party (against forces both to its right – John Glenn –  and its left – Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow constituencies). The move pulls some of the more progressive unions back into the COPE fold, and labor does increase its clout at the 1984 convention and on the National Committee. And labor’s role is crucial in Mondale squeaking through several primaries. (Davis in NLR #155; Frontline September 19 & October 3, 1983, March 19 & July 23, 1984)

October 22: Over two million people – Kaldor says five million – take to the streets in Europe to protest the imminent deployment of 572 new U.S. cruise and Pershing “Euromissiles” in West Europe scheduled to begin in December – one of the largest protests in world history. The protests fail to swing any West European government into refusing the deployment, although many are shaken, and the deployment takes place on schedule, marking a major escalation in “Cold War II” and, along with Reagan’s growing campaign for the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI/Star Wars) is a clear indication of the U.S. desire to break parity and seek nuclear strategic superiority. (Frontline, October 31, 1983; Kaldor in NLR #180/March-April 1990)

October 23: Suicide bomb attack kills 247 U.S. marines in Lebanon who are there as part of an effort to shore up the Phalangist regime of Amin Gemayel. In February Gemayel’s army is ousted from West Beirut by progressive nationalist forces, Washington and Tel Aviv’s strategy in the country fails, Syrian troops remain in the country and U.S. forces withdraw. (Frontline, November 14, 1983 and February 20, 1984; Almanac)

October 25: U.S. invades Grenada, taking advantage of the crisis involving the split in the New Jewel Movement and assassination of Maurice Bishop on October 19. Widespread but not massive protests in the U.S. greet the invasion. (Frontline, November 14, 1983; Black Scholar March/April 1987)

October: Elections replace the “dirty war” military regime in Argentina, which had to go in the wake of the failed Falklands/Malvinas war. (MR February 1984)

November 3: Jesse Jackson officially announces that he will be a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 1984, before 3,000 supporters in D.C.. (Frontline, November 14, 1983; NLR #149/Jan-Feb 1985)

November 10: Federal Judge vacates the 1942 conviction of Fred Korematsu for challenging the executive order that mandated the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, reversing a 1943 Supreme Court decision and marking a major victory in the long struggle of the National Committee for Redress formed by the JACL in 1978, the National Coalition for Redress/Reparations, a broad coalition founded in 1978, the National Council for Japanese American Redress (founded May 1979) and other groups for vindication and reparations for those interned. An official Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians held hearings in 1981 and 1982 and concluded that the Executive Order was not justified and recommended an official apology to the former evacuees and a payment of  $20,000 to each. Congress eventually acts and a reparations bill is signed into law August 10, 1988 – see entry of that date. (Frontline, November 29, 1983; Resolution from the Fall 1991 Convention of the Northern California District of the  CPUSA in D-7; San Francisco Chronicle August 9, 1998 in BMOV-2; Wei)


Annual Socialist Scholars Conferences, a few of which were held in the 1960s, are revived by DSA-linked folks at the Graduate Center of CUNY (MR May 1985)

Seventh Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in New Delhi, the occasion for Fidel Castro’s widely distributed report, The World Economic and Social Crisis: Its Impact on the Underdeveloped Countries, Its Somber Prospects, and the Need to Struggle If We Are To Survive, Report to the Seventh Summit Conference on Non-Aligned Countries, (Seventh Summit; Frontline, December 7, 1987; CM No. 7)

Roundtable Cavtat ’83, the International Conference on Socialism in the World, held in Yugoslavia, latest in an almost-decade-long annual series, draws 140 intellectuals including representatives of the Soviet and Chinese CP’s, West European social democratic groups, Third World revolutionary groups, Perry Anderson from New Left Review, the DWP from the U.S. The topic is “Is There a Crisis of Marxism.” (CM No. 9).

Publication of Maurice Bishop Speaks: The Grenada Revolution 1979-83, by Bruce Marcus and Michael Taber (Pathfinder Press, New York); The Making of the Second Cold War, by Fred Halliday (Verso, London); The World Economic and Social Crisis: Its Impact on the Underdeveloped Countries, Its Somber Prospects, and the Need to Struggle If We Are To Survive, Report to the Seventh Summit Conference on Non-Aligned Countries, by Fidel Castro (Havana, Publishing Office of the Council of State); In the Tracks of Historical Materialism, by Perry Anderson (London, Verso) – a defense of Marxism mainly against the rising tide of French post-structuralism, soon to flower with the rise of post-modernism – see Aronson in NLR #152/July-August 1985); The Economics of Feasible Socialism, by Alec Nove (Allen & Unwin, London); How Capitalism Underdeveloped Black America: Problems in Race, Political Economy and Society, by Manning Marable (South End Press, Boston); In the Spirit of Crazy Horse: The Story of Leonard Peltier and the FBI’s War on the American Indian Movement, by Peter Matthiessen (The Viking Press); Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970, by John D’Emilio (University of Chicago Press); Communists in Harlem During the Depression, by Mark Naison (University of Illinois Press); Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, edited by Barbara Smith (New York, Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press); Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History (The Viking Press, New York)

Release of Wild Style, directed by Charlie Ahearn, and Flashdance, directed by Franca Pasut (see note on Hip Hop 1979 above); and also The Big Chill, directed by Lawrence Kasdan.



            January 9-12: Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang is given the red carpet treatment in a state visit to Washington; the U.S.-China alliance has cooled a bit since its height in 1977-1981, but is still operative, held together mainly by common opposition to the USSR. (Frontline January 23, 1984)

January 11: Kissinger Commission report on Central America is released, it targets “Soviet meddling” and aims to forge a bipartisan consensus behind U.S. intervention, AFL-/CIO head Lane Kirkland is on the Commission and his role provokes some criticism within the labor movement. (Frontline January 23 & March 5, 1984)

January 13-15: Split in Spanish Eurocommunist Party, a new party is formed with the blessings of the Soviets. (Frontline, February 6, 1984)

February 9: Yuri Andropov, CPSU general secretary dies; Konstantin Chernenko is chosen new general secretary. (Frontline, February 20, 1984)

February 11-12: Initiated by the handful of folks who had continued the Coalition for a Peoples Alternative, and amid the momentum of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow campaign, the founding conference of the National Committee for Independent Political Action (NCIPA) (which succeeds CAPA) at Howard University draws 200 activists. (Glick)

February 28: Supreme Court rules in Grove City College v. Bell that federal assistance to colleges that discriminate is okay as long as the money doesn’t go to the specific programs that discriminate, reversing many years of practice. This ruling gives rise to the Civil Rights Restoration Act which is stalled in Congress in 1985 and 1986. This is also the period of a major government attack on Black voting rights activists in Alabama and the South. (Black Scholar May-June 1986)

            February-June: Jesse Jackson’s first Rainbow presidential campaign galvanizes the Black community and progressives across the country. It is the main reference point for the left (though not the entire left supports it) up to the Democratic Convention in summer 1984. (Marable; Frontline, issues throughout spring 1984; NLR #149/Jan-Feb 1985)

March 1: Announcement by the British Coal Board that it is closing the Cortonwood Colliery sets off year-long national miners’ strike which ends a year later in a major defeat for the miners and a bitter debate and rifts in the British left. (SR #93/96 May-August 1987; Frontline March 18, 1985)

March: U.S. continues escalation in Central America. The biggest contra offensive to date is launched against Nicaragua, 8,000 troops invade from Honduras. CIA role in mining Nicaragua’s harbors becomes public and causes substantial outcry, even among some Reagan administration supporters. Meanwhile U.S. escalation continues in El Salvador in the wake of rigged elections, first round March 25, second round won by Jose Napoleon Duarte in April. (Frontline, April 16, April 30, & May 28, 1984)

April 3: Jackson’s best showing yet in the New York primary: 26% of the vote statewide, 34% in New York City, 87% of the Black vote. (Frontline, April 16, 1984)

April: First issue of Socialist Politics magazine, oriented toward a “third space” on the left. (self-published material in D-9)

April 11: Guardian Opinion & Analysis column carries significant piece by Harry Haywood: “China and Its Supporters Were Wrong About USSR.” Haywood dies less than a year later, on January 4, 1985. (Haywood Opinion; Frontline January 21, 1985)

May 1: Maoist group, in the orbit of the RCP but not members, which began as RADACADS and changed its name to Revolutionary Internationalist Movement (RIM) in 1983, changes its name to and founds the Maoist Internationalist Movement (MIM). (MIM Website)

May 28: Vietnamese solidarity leader Nguyen Van Luy and his wife Pham Thi Luu gunned down in front of their San Francisco home, she is killed and he is seriously wounded. A group calling itself the Vietnamese Organization for the Extermination of Communists and the Restoration of the Nation claims responsibility. (Frontline, June 25, 1984)

May: Salvadoran president-elect Duarte’s visit to U.S. sparks large-scale protests, with CISPES anchoring them. (Frontline, June 25, 1984)

June 12: Supreme Court 6-3 decision in the Memphis Firefighters case declares that affirmative action in layoffs – superseniority – violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. (Frontline, June 25, 1984)

June 23-29: Jesse Jackson travels to Panama, El Salvador, Cuba and Nicaragua denouncing U.S. policy in the region. (Frontline, July 9, 1984)

July 13-16: Democratic National Convention in San Francisco nominates Mondale and Ferraro, Jackson delegates inside the convention press unsuccessfully for several minority planks, major “Vote Peace in ‘84” rally outside the hall draws 30-40,000-plus on July 16, Lesbian/Gay Rights march draws 40,000-plus on July 15, Labor March draws 25,000 the same day. Jackson’s nationally televised speech July 17 is the convention’s high point. (Frontline August 6, 1984; Jackson; NLR #149/Jan-Feb 1985; Wei)

October 13: Edward Cooperman, founder and chair of the U.S. Committee for Scientific Cooperation with Vietnam, is murdered in his office at California State University-Fullerton. (Frontline, October 29, 1984)

October 31: Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated amid sectarian Hindu-Sikh strife. (Frontline, November 19, 1984)

November 6: Reagan easily wins re-election over Walter Mondale. The electorate is racially split: whites vote for Reagan 66-34%, while Blacks oppose him 90-10% and Latinos (even including the Cuban-American community) oppose him 65-35%. But he has short coat-tails; the Democrats lose only 14 seats in the House and retain a 70-seat majority, and they gain two seats in the Senate. (Frontline November 19, 1984)

November 6: Administration officials “leak” a report that advanced MIG fighter jets are on their way to Nicaragua, which is reported amid U.S. election night tallying. Washington’s provocative charges – quickly proven false – are meant to heighten tensions, and undermine the Nicaraguan election held November 4, won by the FSLN with 68% of the vote over right and left wing rivals, and in the face of a U.S.-sponsored boycott strategy implemented by Arturo Cruz and the CDN. (Frontline, November 19, 1984)

November 21 (Thanksgiving eve): In response to heightened mass struggle inside South Africa, a campaign against apartheid and U.S. policy toward South Africa is launched with arrests of prominent individuals at the South African Embassy in Washington, D.C. The Free South Africa Movement (FSAM) is formed. A wave of anti-apartheid protests lasting several years begins. (CrossRoads No. 50; Black Scholar Nov-Dec 1985)

November 25: Under mass pressure, the Uruguayan military permits elections and a civilian, Julia Sanguinetti, assumes the presidency, with the military ending its rule in March 1985. Political prisoners, including members of the Tupamaros and the Broad Front of the late 1960s and early 1970s, are released and begin to resume political activity. (Frontline March 18, 1985; NACLA Nov-Dec 1984 & Sept-Dec 1986)

November 26: World Court, in a 15-1 vote, rejects Washington’s claim that it has no jurisdiction to hear Nicaragua’s suit against the U.S. and reaffirms its preliminary injunction against the U.S., issued in May, to halt efforts to mine or blockade Nicaragua’s ports and cease military attacks. Meanwhile the Contadora group (Mexico, Venezuela, Columbia, Panama) continues to work toward a detailed proposal for peace, while Managua endorses the Contadora process and Washington works to undermine the Contadora process. On January 18, 1985 the Reagan administration declares it will boycott proceedings in the World Court suit and that it is ending any further direct negotiations with Managua. (Frontline, December 17, 1984 & February 4, 1985)

December 3: Thousands killed and hundreds of thousands injured by a lethal gas leak at the Union Carbide chemical plant in Bhopal, India. (Frontline, December 31, 1984)

December 8-9: North Star Network holds national founding convention in San Francisco after starting as a mainly Bay Area network in summer 1983. It draws 100 activists. This reflects regroupment motion from activists with roots in both Maoism and Trotskyism; central to the new group are activists from the Bay Area Socialist Organizing Committee, with roots mainly among New Communist Movement activists, and a circle of ex-members of the SWP. In 1985 the Network initiates publication of The North Star magazine. (self-published material in D-9)

December 17-18: A hundred-plus selected activists meet under Jesse Jackson’s leadership in Chicago to begin formalizing a structure for the National Rainbow Coalition, Inc. (Frontline, December 31, 1984)

December 22: Bernhard Goetz shoots four Black teenagers on a New York subway alleges he was being threatened; his racist vigilantism polarizes the city and country. He is acquitted on all but one minor charge on June 16, 1987. (Frontline, July 6, 1987)

December 24: Jesse Carpenter, a decorated World War II veteran and homeless person, dies of exposure in Washington, DC on Christmas eve. His death follows a long fast by the Community for Creative Non-Violence demanding funds for shelters. Over the last several years homelessness has exploded as a nationwide problem, a direct product of the austerity policies of the Reagan administration. (Frontline, January 21, 1985)


First internal papers outlining CWP’s transformation into the non-Leninist New Democratic Movement; formal name and program change takes place the next year. (self-published material in BNCM-6; Frontline, October 28, 1985)

Publication of the Vatican’s counterattack on liberation theology under Pope John Paul II: Instruction on Certain Aspects of the ‘Theology of Liberation’ (Dublin, Veritas Publications); also, Shenfan: The Continuing Revolution in a Chinese Village, by William Hinton (Vintage Books, New York); Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, by Audre Lorde (Trumansburg, New York; Crossing Press); Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Indians of The Americas (New York, Praeger); Sayres, Sohnya (Editor), along with Anders Stephenson, Stanley Aronowitz and Fredric Jameson, ‘60s Without Apology (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis; corresponds to double issue of Social Text, Vol. 3 No. 3 and Vol. 4 No. 1, Spring-Summer 1984); The Sixties Papers: Documents of a Rebellious Decade, edited by Judith Clavir Albert and Stewart Edward Albert (Praeger, New York-Westport-London)

Release of Beat Street directed by Stan Lathan and Breakin’ directed by Joel Silberg (see note on Hip Hop 1979 above);



January: LRS Publishes Forward No. 4 “after an absence of five years.” Interview with Bill Gallegos states “we are now the only intact, functioning anti-revisionist communist organization in the U.S. today.” It is now a “Journal of Socialist Thought” and not officially an organ of LRS, as opposed to the earlier version which was a “journal of Marxism-Leninism-Mao-ZeDong Thought.” (Forward No. 4)

January 19: Sandy Pollack, director of international solidarity for the U.S. Peace Council, is killed in the crash of a plane flight from Havana to Managua. (Black Scholar, January-February 1985)

January 23-26: First national conference of sanctuary church representatives and activists; the faith-based movement to give sanctuary to refugees from U.S.-sponsored wars in Central America is a major component of opposition to Reagan administration policy. (Frontline, February 4, 1985)

February 4: New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange announces that his government will not permit a U.S. naval vessel to make a port call because the U.S. refuses to declare that the ship is not carrying nuclear weapons. (Frontline, March 4, 1985)

February: Democratic Leadership Council, dedicated to moving the party to the right and which becomes the springboard for Bill Clinton’s ascendance, is founded. (Davis in NLR #155; Frontline, April 15, 1985)

February: AFL-CIO executive council issues “The Changing Situation of Workers and Their Unions” after two and a half years work on the report; the report acknowledges labor’s membership decline and reflects a slight shift leftwards by the top leadership. (Frontline, April 1, 1985)

March 3: Year-long British miners’ strike ends in defeat for the miners with bitter debates and rifts in the British left. (SR #93/96 May-August 1987; Frontline March 18, 1985).

March 10: Author and New Communist Movement activist Al Szymanski commits suicide at age 44. (Frontline, April 1, 1985)

March 11: Mikhail Gorbachev chosen General Secretary of CPSU one day after the death of Konstantin Chernenko, beginning of perestroika and glasnost. (Frontline, April 1, 1985; Almanac)

March 17: Washington Post Magazine carries an essay by David Horowitz and Peter Collier titled “Goodbye to All That” in which they repudiate their radical pasts and declare themselves Reaganites. Horowitz and Collier then organize a “Second Thoughts” movement among former radicals, which draws only limited support. (Wald)

March: “The Soviet Union is a socialist country and now we can say so,” says Chinese Vice-Premier Li Peng after meeting with Gorbachev in Moscow, where he attended Konstantin Chernenko’s funeral. Further signs of a thaw in Sino-Soviet relations come in July with a new trade agreement. The Chinese send a letter to the Hungarian ruling party addressed “Dear comrades,” and references to the USSR as a socialist country have become commonplace. (FEER/Revisionism; Frontline, August 5, 1985)

April 14: Alan Garcia’s social democratic APRA party wins Peruvian election (48%), the Left Unity coalition behind the Marxist Mayor of Lima Alfonso Barrantes does not do as well as expected (23%), the conservative ruling party is badly beaten (5%). The call of the Maoist Shining Path guerrillas – who are becoming notorious for violence against left activists as well as the regime – receives little response. (Frontline, April 29, 1985)

April 20: Demonstrations for peace, jobs and justice focusing especially on opposition to U.S. policies in Central America (the upcoming contra aid vote) and South Africa. Broad coalition sponsorship turns out 50,000 turn out in D.C. where Jesse Jackson is the key speaker; 20,000 turn out in San Francisco and smaller numbers in Los Angeles and Houston. (Frontline, April 29, 1985)

April 24: Congress narrowly rejects Reagan’s request for contra aid; but on May 1 Reagan announces a trade embargo against Nicaragua. April 24 is also National Anti-Apartheid Protest Day on campuses, and actions for divestment and against apartheid are held at over 100 colleges and universities. (Frontline, May 13, 1985)

April: First Green Party candidate elected to office in the U.S., Frank Koehn wins a seat on the Bayfield County Board in northern Wisconsin. Green organizing on a local basis had been underway for several years by this time; they first form as a national network in the “Committees of Correspondence,” then “Green Committees of Correspondence,” then as “The Greens/Green Party USA.” (CrossRoads No. 20)

April: “We Are the World” single benefiting African famine relief is on top of the Billboard records charts, the “USA for Africa” album including the single went gold within 48 hours of its April 1 release. Later in the year the “Sun City” anti-apartheid single,  album and video, much more political and hard-hitting, makes a splash. (Frontline, April 15, October 14, & November 25, 1985)

May 3-5: National Stop the Arms Race in Space (STARS) convention mobilizes 400 delegates from 50 peace organizations to heightened activity against Reagan’s Star Wars program. (Frontline, May 27, 1985)

May 5: At Helmut Kohl’s urging, Ronald Reagan on a trip to Germany visits Bitburg military cemetery which includes graves of Nazi SS men arousing widespread protest. (Radical America Vol. 19, No. 5)

May 13: Philadelphia police drop a bomb on the MOVE Compound during a siege of the group, killing at least 11 people inside and burning down 61 houses and an entire city block. (Frontline, May 27, 1985; Nationalism)

May 17: Democratic National Committee, making rules changes following the party’s 1984 defeat, votes to end the official status of the Asian Pacific Caucus, the Gay and Lesbian Caucus and some other caucuses in a shift to the right. (Wei)

May 25-27: CISPES first national convention with over 500 present consolidates the group as a cohesive nationwide organization (CISPES; Frontline June 24, 1985)

May: CWP holds a congress to transform itself into the non-Leninist New Democratic Movement. (self-published material in BNCM-6; Frontline, October 28, 1985)

June-July: In various measures, the House authorizes funding for Reagan’s “low-intensity warfare” programs in Nicaragua (June 12), Kampuchea and Afghanistan, and also repeals the 10-year old Clark Amendment banning aid to UNITA & other contras in Angola. (Reed in Black Scholar Jan-Feb 1986; Frontline, June 24 & August 19, 1985)

July 6: First deadline for Navajos (Diné) to leave their land at Big Mountain; large-scale resistance to the government order for years both before and after the deadline. (Frontline May 27, 1985)

July 15-26: U.N. Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the U.N. Decade for Women and accompanying NGO gathering (July 10-19) meets in Nairobi. Maureen Reagan heads an extremely right-wing U.S. official delegation that is largely isolated at the conference, though explicit condemnation of Zionism is avoided and the conference document “Forward Looking Strategies” is passed unanimously. (Frontline, June 24 & August 19,1985)

July: Saturn plant agreement between GM and UAW is a milestone in instituting worker-management cooperation on the shop floor, threatening “Saturnization” of the labor movement widely protested on the left. (Frontline, October 13, 1986)

August 6: On the Anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, the Soviet Union begins a six-month (and then frequently extended) unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing, a cornerstone of the new Gorbachev-led Soviet peace offensive. The step responds to an initiative of six nations (Argentina, Mexico, India, Tanzania, Sweden and Greece – the “Delhi Six”) who had met in New Delhi earlier in the year. (Black Scholar March-April 1987 & Jan-Feb 1986)

August 17: UFCW Local P-9 in Austin, Minnesota goes on strike against Hormel, kicking off one of the longest and most hard-fought labor battles of the 1980s; the UFCW international is not behind the strike, and controversies over the strike fill the labor movement and the left. (Frontline, February 17,  March 3, March 17, April 28, 1986)

September 16: Business Week runs a cover story entitled “The Casino Society” which focuses on the explosion of the U.S. financial system, which in October 1987 becomes visible to all with the “Bloody Monday” stock market crash. (MR December 1985)

September: Cannery workers, mainly Mexican women, strike in Watsonville, California and win a contract with medical benefits after an 18-month battle. (Chicano; various issues of Frontline)

October 11: Alex Odeh, Southern California Regional Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is assassinated by a bomb blast at the ADC office. The same week U.S. planes intercept and force down an Egyptian airliner carrying the hijackers of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro with the death of a 69-year-old wheelchair bound U.S. Jew; after a standoff with the Italians, the hijackers remain in Italy. (Frontline, October 28, 1985)

October 28-31: First AFL-CIO convention in decades to hold an open debate on foreign policy – re: Central America – and resolution approved in mildly critical of Reagan’s emphasis on a military solution. (Black Scholar Jan-Feb 1986; Frontline November 11, 1985)

October: Meeting of remaining members of the DWP dissolve the organization and expel general secretary Marlene Dixon. (Lalich; Frontline, August 3, 1987)

November 19-21:  Reagan-Gorbachev Summit in Geneva, first meeting of Soviet and American top leaders in six years. Jesse Jackson takes nuclear freeze petitions signed by 1.5 million in U.S. to Summit, gets a meeting with Gorbachev but not with Reagan. (Black Scholar Jan-Feb 1986; Frontline, December 9, 1985)

December 6-8: Conference on Socialism and Activism in New York draws 1,000, sponsors are the Guardian, the Nation, the Progressive and WBAI Radio, with the Guardian playing the key role. The Guardian is generally playing a larger role in promoting left unity/regroupment efforts, after recovering from its party building phase, which ended in 1979-80. See the special supplement “Building a Movement” published in spring 1985 and the John Trinkl series in the Guardian a few months earlier – August & September 1985 –  “Where Have All the Party Builders Gone?” (Guardian series in D-3; North Star No. 4; Frontline, December 23, 1985)


Freedom Road Socialist Organization is formed via merger of PUL and RWH and holds first Congress. The Organization of Revolutionary Unity (ORU), itself a merger of a number of smaller collectives on the West Coast, is the third group involved in forming FRSO, but it appears to have joined in 1986 rather than at the 1985 congress. (Self-published material of the groups in D-10 & BNCM-1)

West European nations, concerned about losing economic ground to the U.S. and an especially vibrant Japan, adopt the Single European Act to strengthen the European Community (EC) and form a “single internal market” by December 31, 1992. (Frontline, July 17, 1989)

Publication (see March 17 above) of David Horowitz and Peter Collier’s essay “Goodbye to All That” in the Washington Post Magazine.

Rise of “left  (and not-so-left) post-modernism” and its critique of Marxism & socialism: Publication of Hegemony and Socialist Strategy: Towards a Radical Democratic Politics by Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe (Verso, London, 1985), articulating main elements of the critique, especially denial of the revolutionary role of the working class. Laclau and Mouffe had been putting forward these ideas in briefer forms for several years; see, for example, their interview in Socialist Review No. 66, Nov-Dec 1982 (reprinted in Unfinished). The works of Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida and Jean-Francois Lyotard and the “post-structuralists” also gain in prominence. The Marxism-post-modernism debate is hot through the  mid-80s and into the ‘90s, with Marxism steadily losing ground especially in the academic left. Among the works that became important in the U.S. that grappled with the discussion from the Marxist end (to varying degrees) were Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism (Duke University Press, 1991); David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (Blackwell 1990); Ellen Meiksins Wood, The Retreat from Class: A New “True” Socialism (Verso, London, 1986) – also a response to folks like Hobsbawm and Gorz who are not in the post-modernist camp; Alex Callincos, Against Postmodernism (St. Martins Press, 1990). More from the post-modern side are Steven Best and Douglas Kellner, Postmodern Theory published in 1991; Barry Smart, Modern Conditions, Postmodern Controversies (London, Routledge) in 1992; and Ernesto Laclau, New Reflections on the Revolution of Our Time (London, Verso) in 1990. (Sources: Costello, Rothenberg and Epstein in CrossRoads Nos. 36, 37 and 40; also, Postmodern Age)

Also published in 1985: Communists in Harlem During the Depression, by Mark Naison (Grove Press, New York); The Rise and Fall of an American Army: U.S. Ground Forces in Vietnam 1965-1973, Shelby L. Stanton (Presidio Novato, California; Presidio Press); Black American Politics: From the Washington Marches to Jesse Jackson, by Manning Marable (Verso, London)

Release of The Killing Fields, directed by Roland Joffe. This is the year Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo is a box office smash, but this is also the year of Haskell Wexler’s anti-contra film, Latino.



January 20: Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday is celebrated as a national holiday for the first time; it had taken a 15-year fight in Congress to pass the bill, and under pressure Ronald Reagan signed it. (Frontline, February 3, 1986)

January-February: “New” Against the Current launched (Solid-IS History)

January-February: Ugandan National Resistance Army led by Yoweri Museveni takes Kampala and assumes power in Uganda; Museveni had worked with FRELIMO in Mozambique and had been fighting the Amin and Obote regimes on an anti-imperialist basis since the early 1970s. (NLR #156)

Early February: Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier is flown out of Haiti on a U.S. Air Force jet in the wake of rising popular protests; he is replaced by a six-person junta hand-picked by the U.S. in an attempt to put a cap on further popular revolt. But mass actions continue against “Duvalierism without Duvalier.” (Frontline, February 17 & April 14, 1986)

February 7: “Snap” election in the Philippines, Marcos claims victory but massive upsurge and then desertion of military leaders Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel Ramos and withdrawal of U.S. backing leads to the fall of the regime and ascension to the presidency of Cory Aquino. CPP had boycotted the election and was sidelined in the upsurge; period of (tactical) self-criticism and some re-evaluation afterwards, shut down (temporarily) by a return to orthodoxy in mid-1987. (Rocamora; Frontline, February 17, March 3, March 17, & July 7, 1986)

February 28: Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme assassinated by unknown assailants. Palme had come to prominence in the U.S. when he marched with the Vietnamese to protest the U.S. war in Vietnam while prime minister during the 1960s. Ousted from power in 1976, he led the Social Democratic party back to government in 1982, and continued to take strong peace and anti-U.S. positions in world affairs. (Frontline, January 30, 1989; Almanac)

March 9: NOW-initiated March for Women’s Lives to defend abortion rights which are under heavy attack from the Reagan administration and the right draws 100,000 to DC and, on March 16, 30,000 in Los Angeles. (Frontline, March 31, 1986)

March 20: Reagan fails to win House approval of his proposal to aid the Nicaraguan contras with $100 million, the vote is 222-210 after a major political struggle. Still, part of Reagan’s defeat is that a later compromise was promised by anti-contra congresspeople in which Reagan will get much of what he wanted under other guises. (Frontline March 31, 1986)

March 21: Agreement signed in Beijing to send Soviet technicians to China. (FEER/Revisionism)

March: Solidarity founded, from Workers Power (publishers of Against the Current), International Socialists (publishers of Changes) and Socialist Unity, a split-off from SWP which briefly passed through the Socialist Action group. A result of the “regroupment” motion within a variant of Trotskyism. (self-published material, especially Solid-IS History, in D-6)

March: Spanish referendum on NATO affiliation passes by a narrow margin, after the governing Socialist Party reversed position to back Spain’s membership. (NLR #156)

April 9-13: Italian Communist Party’s 17th Congress, by this time Luciana Castellina and Lucio Magri and others from the once-expelled Manifesto group are back in the PCI. (NLR #158)

April 14-15: U.S. bombs Libya in an (unsuccessful) attempt to kill Moammar Khadafy, which does kill two of his young children. There is widespread criticism of the attack in Western Europe, and the assault is also criticized by former President Jimmy Carter.  During this period “from 1983 through 1985 and 1986, ‘terrorism’ claimed public attention on a scale hitherto unknown.. the Secretary of State elevated terrorism to the status of ‘number one’ foreign policy problem…”; the discourse of labeling all opposition movements terrorism is spearheaded by the U.S. and Israel. (NLR #171; Frontline April 28 & May 12, 1986; Almanac)

April 17-19: “Founding Convention” of the Rainbow Coalition in Washington, DC draws 850 delegates and observers from 43 states. The gathering is mostly Black but including large contingents from other communities of color, numbers of white farmers and white progressives and the presidents of three major unions. (Frontline, April 14 & April 28, 1986)

April 26: Nuclear disaster at Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear reactor accident to date. According to Kagarlitsky, this event also has a large impact on the process of perestroika and the political battles within the USSR. (MR June 1988; Kagarlitsky in NLR #169/May-June 1988; Medvedev in NLR #157; Frontline, May 12, 1986)

Spring: Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) is formed in New York City. (Wei)

May 2-4: New Directions conference of liberal and progressive Democrats, with heavy labor representation and Jesse Jackson invited to give one of the keynote speeches,  trying to check the party’s rightward drift; Michael Harrington and DSA are the initiating force. (Frontline, May 26, 1986)

May 8: UFCW president William Wynn announces that he is putting striking Local P-9 in trusteeship; the strike and nationwide support work, including a boycott of Hormel, continues. (Frontline, May 26, July 21, 1986)

May 27: Reagan administration announces it will no longer honor the SALT II Treaty, immediately coming under fire from European allies as well as the Soviets and the peace movement. The Soviets continue their new “peace offensive”; on August 18, Gorbachev announces that the USSR is extending its year-long unilateral moratorium on nuclear tests until the end of 1986 and again calls on the U.S. to join in. (Frontline, June 9 & September 1, 1986)

June 3: CPUSA launches the People’s Daily World, which appears five times a week, combining the Daily World and the West Coast-based weekly People’s World. (Frontline, July 7, 1986)

June 16: ANC-led Freedom Movement, with the above-ground United Democratic Front (UDF) in the forefront, shuts down South Africa in a one-day strike in the face of massive repression on the 10th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising. The movement has unalterably seized the political initiative in the country. (Frontline, July 7, 1986)

June 27: Stephen Bingham is acquitted of charges of supplying the gun for an alleged escape attempt from San Quentin in 1971 in which George Jackson was killed. Bingham had had authorities in 1971 and turned himself in to face trial in 1984. (Frontline, July 7, 1986)

June 30: Supreme Court upholds state “anti-sodomy” laws as constitutional in Georgia case Bowers v. Hardwick by a 5-4 vote, “the Dred Scott case for the gay rights movement.” The Georgia Supreme Court ruled this same law unconstitutional 12 years later, November 23, 1998. (Frontline, July 21, 1986; B.A.R. November 26, 1998 in BMOV-1)

July 25-27: West Coast Conference on Socialism and Activism, a follow up to last December’s Conference in New York, draws 750 in Berkeley. (North Star No. 4; Frontline, August 18, 1986)

July: In the wake of changed circumstances caused by the overthrow of the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines, the KDP is dissolved, with some members playing a more active role in the new round of debates within the Philippine revolutionary movement and others, largely through the Line of March Filipino Commission, focusing their work within the Filipino community in the U.S. The Ang Katipunan newspaper is reorganized, renamed Katipunan and issued as an independent publication beginning in September-October 1987, and continues publishing until October 1991 when financial pressures force its closure. (Toribio)

August: China’s first securities exchange with a national reach set up by the Shenyang Trust Investment Company. Shareholding had begun in 1982 but selling shares outside a firm itself did not begin until 1984 when equity markets were first opened. Following the Shenyang Company’s step, Shanghai, Beijing and other cities set up fixed sites for the transfer of shares and bonds. The “marketization” of China’s economy is well underway. (Problems January-February 1989; “The Chinese Road to Capitalism” from New Left Review #199, PNT #188 in D-1; Frontline, November 10, 1986)

September 1-8: Eighth Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Harare, Zimbabwe, on the 25th Anniversary of the Movement. 101 nations participate; the location is chosen to statement of solidarity with the “Frontline States” and liberation movement in South Africa amid heightened confrontation with the apartheid regime. (Black Scholar March-April 1987 &  Nov-Dec 1987; Frontline, September 29, 1986)

September: Striking and employed workers at Hormel’s plant at Austin approve a new contract effectively ending the long and bitter strike there. The core of activists from P-9 term the contract a sell-out, especially since many strikers do not regain their jobs, and they form a new union, the North American Meatpackers Union, to try to continue the struggle. (Frontline, September 29 & October 27, 1986)

September: Article by Gordon Chang – ideologically linked to LRS – in the September issue of Monthly Review “Perspectives on Marxism in China Today”: Says there is a revival of theoretical work and is mostly an interview with the head of the Institute of Marxism, Leninism, Mao ZeDong Thought, who says: “Lenin’s theory of the inevitability of wars between imperialist countries is no longer valid”;  “in the past we once said that the Soviet Union had restored capitalism, but now we think that was wrong” and “Revisionism is a special terminology designating only Eduard Bernstein.” (Chang)

October 2: Congress hands Ronald Reagan a major foreign policy defeat by overriding his veto of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 imposing limited sanctions against South Africa. (CrossRoads No. 50; Frontline, October 13, 1986)

October 5: Sandinistas shoot down a CIA plane over Nicaragua and capture one crew member, Eugene Hasenfus; the incident dramatizes the extent of U.S. support for the contras sidestepping restrictions passed by Congress. (Frontline, October 27, 1986)

October 11-12: Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev meet in Reykjavik, Iceland for their second Summit. Sweeping disarmament proposals from the Soviets put Reagan on the defensive, Star Wars/SDI is the main block to a wide-ranging arms control agreement, which is almost reached to ban all nuclear weapons over 10 years, tantalizing the world. Fred Halliday has argued that the Second Cold War ended with “the Iceland Summit of 1986,” and Eric Hobsbawm writes that “for practical purposes, the Cold War ended at the two summits of Reykjavik 1986 and Washington 1987.” (Frontline, October 13, October 27 & November 10, 1986; Halliday in NLR #180/March-April 1990; Hobsbawm)

October 19: Samora Machel, first president of the People’s Republic of Mozambique, dies in a suspicious plane crash in South Africa, his plane was en route from Zimbabwe to Maputo. (Black Scholar March-April 1987; Frontline, November 10, 1986)

Fall: First issue of Rethinking Schools, a periodical mainly produced by public school teacher-activists dedicated to radical educational reform, is published. (Schools)

November 2: The Lebanese magazine Al-Shiraa breaks the story of secret U.S. arms sales to Iran. On November 13 Reagan acknowledges on national television that such sales have gone on for the past 18 months but denies they are an “arms-for-hostages” trade off. On November 25 Attorney General Ed Meese reveals that profits from the arms sales were illegally diverted to the Nicaraguan contras. Further facts about the covert network run by Colonel Oliver North out of the White house basement come to light. All this kicks off the long-running Iran-Contra/Contragate scandal. Over the next few months, facing a vigorous Soviet peace offensive, strong popular struggles in Central America and South Africa, and increasing protest at home, it (temporarily) appears to many that the Reagan offensive has reached its limits. Meanwhile, in hearing the next spring and early summer Oliver North becomes a hero of the right and Congress refrains from seriously pressing its inquiry or taking steps against administration officials. (Frontline, November 24, December 8 and December 22, 1986, April 27, July 20, August 3 & November 23, 1987)

November 4: Democrats regain control of the Senate – largely on the strength of Black votes for conservative Democrats in the South – and keep control of the House in mid-term elections. Chief Justice Rose Bird is ousted in California after a right-wing campaign against her rulings condemning the death penalty. (Frontline, November 24, 1986)

November 6: Reagan signs the anti-immigrant Simpson/Rodino Act (formerly Simpson/Mazzoli, and officially the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, or IRCA) after it was passed in the final moments of the congressional session. Passage followed a long battle (since 1982) which saw nationwide mobilizations of a growing immigrant rights movement. The centerpiece of the law is upped border control and  employer sanctions; included also are “legalization” provisions for undocumented immigrants now in the U.S. and watered down anti-discrimination provisions. Protests continue when the law goes into effect the following May. (Frontline, October 27 and November 24, 1986, May 25, 1987)

December 5-7: Nuclear Weapons Campaign Freeze Campaign convention approves a merger with the Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy (SANE); the new organization, SANE/Freeze, which is formally founded at a Congress November 20-22, 1987 attended by 1,000 activists, is by far the largest peace organization in the U.S. (Frontline, December 22, 1986 & December 7, 1987)

December 13: Henry Winston, chairman of the CPUSA, dies at age 75. (Frontline, January 19, 1987)

December 16: In a personal phone call to Andrei Sakharov, Mikhail Gorbachev tells the banished Soviet physicist he is free to return to Moscow, indicating the extent of Soviet reforms. (Frontline, January 19, 1987)

December 20: Murder of 23-year-old Michael Griffith in Howard Beach by a racist mob – following the highly publicized killings of Eleanor Bumpers and Michael Stewart – sets off a period of anti-racist protests in New York. (Frontline, January 19, 1987)

December: Sixth Congress of the Vietnam Communist Party targets major economic problems, criticizes one-sided focus on big industrial efforts, overcentralization, etc., and initiates period of “renovation” with greater utilization of market mechanisms, the private sector, foreign investment, etc. (Frontline, March 14, 1988)


First edition of The Year Left from Verso, titled “An American Notebook” (NLR 175/May-June 1989)

Former New Left activist Michael Lerner launches Tikkun: A Quarterly Jewish Critique of Politics, Culture and Society. (Frontline, September 1, 1986)

Publication of Intervention. How America Became Involved in Vietnam, by George McT. Kahin (Alfred A. Knopf); Mike Davis, Prisoners of the American Dream (Verso)

Oliver Stone’s film Platoon wins Academy Awards for best picture and best director



            March: ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) is formed and its first action is civil disobedience on Wall Street. (Bay Area Reporter, March 13, 1997; clip in BMOV-1)

March 31: The FMLN displays its continuing strength, political and military, with a devastating surprise attack on the supposedly impregnable El Paraíso garrison. (Frontline, April 13, 1987)

April 7: Harold Washington wins re-election as Chicago mayor, beating Ed Vrdolyak who ran on the “Solidarity Party” ticket; he had earlier defeated Jane Byrne in the February 24 Democratic primary. And the Washington coalition wins a firm council majority as well. (Frontline, March 16 & April 27, 1987)

April 25: March and Rally for Peace and Justice in Central America and Southern Africa, with central initiative from the Coalition for a New Foreign Policy and the National Labor Committee. More than 100,000 turn out in D.C., including 35,000 trade unionists. The AFL-CIO top leadership had (unsuccessfully) attempted to coerce many union presidents into withdrawing their support or participation. The same day 30,000 demonstrate in San Francisco. (Dyson in CrossRoads No. 40; Frontline, April 13, April 27 & May 11, 1987)

June 11: Thatcher and the Tories win third straight general election victory in Britain. (NLR #164)

June 23: Jobs with Justice campaign is launched by leaders of several unions, to be coordinated by the AFL-CIO’s Industrial Union Department, projected as a coalition of religious, civil rights, women’s, consumer and community groups led by trade unions. (PA January 1988)

August 7: Presidents of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua sign Central America peace agreement in Esquipulas, Guatemala, witnessed by representatives of the Contadora nations (Mexico, Panama, Columbia and Venezuela) and the four-nation Contadora Support Group (Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Peru). Costa Rican president Oscar Arias is a key player. There are still many hurdles to overcome before any kind of peace is reached, but the historic accord badly undercuts Reagan administration policy in the region and Washington sets out immediately to undermine it. (Frontline, August 17, August 31 & September 28, 1987)

August: Miners strike in South Africa shakes the regime. (Frontline, August 31, 1987)

September: Line of March enters period of crisis and re-evaluation, formulated a few months later as “Re-examination, Re-direction and Democratization/RRD” (self-published material in BLM-3)

October 9-11: First regular convention of the Rainbow Coalition draws over 1,200 delegates and observers from 38 states, puts the Coalition on a seemingly firm organizational and political foundation. And in contrast to 1984 there is a significantly broadened “white stripe” in the Rainbow. On Saturday evening October 10 Jesse Jackson makes his formal announcement that he is running for President in 1988. Ron Daniels, a long-time activist prominent in the National Black Assembly, NBIPP and other groups, is the Rainbow Executive Director, having been chosen for that post in the spring.(Frontline, September 28, October 12 & October 26, 1987)

October 11: National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights is one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in history, with perhaps half a million attending. The Names Quilt, displayed for the first time on the Mall, is a dramatic symbol of the toll AIDS has taken. (Frontline, October 26, 1987; CrossRoads No. 30)

October: In the wake of the National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights, Boricua Gay and Lesbian Forum, the Puerto Rican (as opposed to Latino) gay and lesbian organization is formed in New York City. (Torres)

October 19: “Bloody Monday” stock market crash; Dow-Jones loses 508 points, largest single-day drop in history. Anticipated for some time, the “crash” marks a new period of financial instability. (Frontline November 9, 1987; MR June 1987)

October 26-29: AFL-CIO readmits the Teamsters at its 17th biennial convention. (Frontline, November 9, 1987)

October: Beginning of battle of Cuito Carnavale in Angola, which lasts until June 1988. In the “fiercest conventional battles on African soil since Erwin Rommel was defeated at El Alamein,” the Angolans, Cubans, SWAPO and ANC defeat the South Africans and UNITA backed by the U.S. The victory is decisive in winning the agreement providing for Namibian independence signed December 22, 1988 (see below). (MR April 1989; Brittain in NLR #172/Nov-Dec 1988)

October: Boris Yeltsin comes to prominence after causing an uproar with a speech criticizing the leadership’s approach to perestroika at a CPSU central committee meeting. The next month is removed from his posts as head of the Moscow CP and member of the Politburo. He began to appeal to the population by advocating an end to special perquisites for leading officials and more rapid democratization. (Kotz/Weir)

Late October: Nomination of Robert Bork to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court fails to win approval in the Senate, as the mobilization against it brings a very broad  civil rights/anti-Reagan coalition. (Frontline, August 31, September 28, October 26 & November 9, 1987)

November 4-5: “Meeting of Representatives of the Parties and Movements Participating in the Celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution” in Moscow, an unprecedented gathering of 178 delegations with speeches by socialist and social democratic parties as well as communist and national-liberation parties; the event marks Gorbachev’s effort as a new “culture of mutual relations” among progressive forces. (Meeting)

November 24: Tawana Brawley is abducted from her home in upstate New York and is found four days later, setting off a long political, legal and racial battle. (Frontline, March 28, 1988)

November 25: Chicago Mayor Harold Washington dies of a heart attack; the Washington coalition breaks up in the aftermath as several council members go back over to the machine. (Frontline, December 7 & December 21 1987)

Winter (end of the year): First issue of North Star Review, a merger of Socialist Politics and The North Star. (self-published material in D-9; Frontline, February 1, 1988)

December 8: Gorbachev and Reagan sign the INF Treaty eliminating medium and shorter-range nuclear missiles on first day of their third Summit in Washington, DC; Hobsbawm among others identify this (and the previous Summit in Reykjavik in 1986) as “for practical purposes” marking the end of the Cold War (MR July 1988; Hobsbawm; Halliday in NLR #180/March-April 1990; NLR #168/March-April 1988; Frontline, September 28, November 9 and December 21, 1987)

December 9: Four Palestinians are killed in Gaza when an Israeli tractor-trailer collides with their vehicle. mass protests and repression follows, the protests spread to the West Bank, a general strike December 21 shuts down the Occupied Territories and Arabs within the pre-1967 borders of Israel join the strike. Though protests had been escalating since September, these events mark the beginning of the Palestinian uprising – the intifada – whose virtually continuous mass protests for the next two years energize and unite the Palestinian movement (Frontline, January 18, 1988)


Publication of Perestroika: New Thinking for Our Country and the World, by Mikhail Gorbachev (New York, Harper & Row)

The Commission for Racial Justice of the United Church of Christ releases its landmark report Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States, a spur for the environmental justice movement. (CrossRoads No. 51)

Publication also of the major volleys promoting the “good [early] sixties, bad [late] sixties” school of thought: Todd Gitlin’s The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage (New York, Bantam); James Miller, “Democracy Is in The Streets”: From Port Huron to the Siege of Chicago (New York, Simon & Schuster). An earlier less promoted volley was Wini Breines, Community and Organization in the New Left, 1962-1968: The Great Refusal. in 1982 – see above. And more generally, the upcoming 20th anniversary of “1968” means a large number of books about the ‘60s appears. Besides Gitlin and Miller, 1987 also sees the publication of Maurice Isserman, If I Had a Hammer: The Death of the Old Left and the Birth of the New Left (Basic Books, New York); Mary King’s book about the Civil Rights Movement, Freedom Song (William Morrow and Company, New York); George Katsiaficas, The Imagination of the New Left: A Global Analysis of 1968 (South End Press, Boston); Tariq Ali, Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties (William Collins Sons & Co., London); and (including the ‘60s and more), Paul Buhle, Marxism in the United States: Remapping the History of the American Left (London, Verso). The next year, 1988, David Caute’s The Year of the Barricades: A Journey Through 1968 appears (Harper & Row, New York); Reunion: A Memoir, by Tom Hayden (Random House, New York); 1968: A Student Generation in Revolt, an international oral history edited by Ronald Fraser (Pantheon Books, New York); and A. Belden Fields, Trotskyism and Maoism, Theory and Practice in France and the United States (Autonomedia, Brooklyn). Meanwhile Michael Harrington looks back at his role in the antagonism between the New Left and social democracy (more specifically, SDS and the LID) in “Between Generations” in a symposium on the 25th anniversary of the Port Huron Statement in  Socialist Review 93/94, May-August 1987. And this is also the year of a frontal ideological assault on the New Left and its legacy by the neoconservatives: publication of Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students, foreword by Saul Bellow (New York, Simon & Schuster) – it’s on the New York Times best-seller list for more than 38 weeks. (see NLR #169); and from a somewhat different direction but in a way contributing to the assault, Russell Jacoby, The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe (New York)

Also in 1987: Cause at Heart: A Former Communist Remembers, by Junius Irving Scales and Richard Nickson (Athens, Georgia; the University of Georgia Press); The New York Intellectuals: The Rise and Decline of the Anti-Stalinist Left from the 1930s to the 1980s, by Alan Wald (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press); Prisoners of the American Dream: Politics and Economy in the History of the U.S. Working Class, by Mike Davis (Verso);  And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic, by Randy Shilts (St. Martin’s Press); Taking on General Motors: A Case Study of the UAW Campaign to Keep GM Van Nuys Open, by Eric Mann (UCLA Institute of Industrial Relations) – the Los Angeles Labor/Community Strategy Center, which plays an important role in ‘90s progressive activism in L.A., had its roots in organizing covered in this book. (Frontline, May 9, 1988)

Broadcast of PBS award-winning series Eyes on the Prize, on the civil rights movement; and publication of the accompanying book by Juan Williams, Eyes on the Prize:  America in the Civil Rights Years, 1954-63 (Viking Penguin, New York). (Black Scholar Jan-Feb 1988; Prize); Release of Richard Attenborough’s film Cry Freedom.



            January 1: Gorbachev’s perestroika is at a turning point as new laws take effect that are intended to shift the economy to a new form of planning and decentralized management. Over the next few years perestroika’s economic reforms will fail to bear fruit even as Soviet society opens up with glasnost and democratization. (Perestroika)

January: Files indicating the extent of FBI infiltration of and spying against CISPES are made public. (CISPES)

January: First issue of Z Magazine, sponsored by South End Press. (Frontline, February 15, 1988)

January-June: Jesse Jackson’s second presidential campaign gets seven million votes, the highest ever for a non-nominee, and galvanizes the Black community and progressive movement. The AFL-CIO does not endorse any Democratic candidate (as in its early endorsement of Mondale in 1984) and there is a strong Labor for Jackson movement and he wins the endorsement of many unions. (Black Scholar January-February 1989; Frontline spring 1988 issues)

January-November: The New Alliance Party runs Lenora Fulani for president, conducting much of its operation through a “Rainbow Lobby” often misrepresented as part of or “the real” Rainbow Coalition. Many exposes of NAP and its history are circulated on the left, including a statement by NAP’s 1984 presidential candidate Black labor activist Dennis Serrette who denounces NAP as a manipulative cult. (Berlet; Frontline April 11, 1988; Serrette statement in BMIS-1)

February 3: The House narrowly (219-211) votes down a $63 million contra aid package. (Frontline, February 15, 1988)

February 8: In his latest initiative on withdrawal from Afghanistan, Gorbachev offers a Soviet troop pullout date beginning May 15 and to be completed in 10 months. (Frontline, February 29, 1988)

February 24: In the most sweeping restrictions enacted since the early 1960s, the South African government bans the United Democratic Front (UDF), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and 15 other organizations, implementing the repressive side of its repression/cooptation  strategy to preserve apartheid. (Frontline, March 14, 1988)

February: Large student activist conference at Rutgers draws 700 from 130 campuses, which Abbie Hoffman played a prominent role in pulling together. He had been arrested with Amy Carter protesting CIA recruitment on campuses November 24, 1986. The conference is racially and politically divided; a follow-up meeting during the summer at Chapel Hill in North Carolina forms the Student Action Union. (Jezer; Wohlforth in NLR #178/Nov-Dec 1989))

March 8: “Super Tuesday” with 20 states holding primaries or caucuses, originally the brainchild of conservative Democrats to front-load the primary schedule with conservative, mostly southern states, backfires with Jesse Jackson’s strong performances. Jackson wins 5 states and finishes a strong second in 11 other primaries or caucuses; his 27% of the popular vote puts him slightly ahead of Democratic insider favorite Michael Dukakis and remaining major candidate Al Gore. In delegate totals Jackson is virtually neck and neck with Dukakis. (Frontline, February 1 & March 14 & March 28, 1988)

March 10-13: Annual Convention of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, held as the intifada gathers steam and unites previously divided Palestinian factions draws 2,000 to Washington, DC. Through the intifada, Arab American protests and the Jackson campaign, the Palestinian and Arab causes are gaining a first ever serious (if later proven temporary) foothold in U.S. political life. (Frontline, March 28, 1988)

March 23: Agreement signed by the Nicaraguan government and the contra leadership for a cease-fire, in a key step in implementation of the Esquipulas Central America Peace Agreement signed the previous August. (Frontline, April 11, 1988)

Spring: First issue of the new magazine Rethinking Marxism, “especially committed to a non-determinist Marxism.”  (Intro to Postmodern Age)

Spring: Supporters of the Morning Star newspaper in Britain form a new party, the Communist Party of Britain, organizationally consolidating the years-in-the-making split with the Communist Party of Great Britain leadership, who are identified with the concept of “New Times” and publishing the magazine Marxism Today. (Frontline, October 10, 1988)

April 14: U.S., USSR, Afghanistan and Pakistan sign agreement in Geneva, providing for Soviet troop withdrawal to begin May 15 and be complete before the end of the year; the U.S. pledges to cut off aid to the Afghan contras only when the Soviets cut off aid to the Afghan government. (Frontline, April 25, 1988)

April 19: Dukakis wins the New York primary, Jesse is second and Gore, a poor third despite aggressive support by New York City mayor Ed Koch, suspends campaigning. Dukakis also wins Pennsylvania on April 19 and with upped support from party insiders is now considered the “inevitable” nominee. George Bush is meanwhile locking up the Republican nomination. (Frontline, May 9, 1988)

June 11: 100,000 demonstrate in New York City at the U.N.’s Third Special Session on Disarmament. (Frontline, June 20, 1988)

June 28-July 1: Extraordinary 19th All-Union Conference of the CPSU meets in Moscow and focuses on political reform. The unprecedented contested election of delegates to the conference and the open proceedings are a high point of glasnost the democratization efforts. But the conference contains warning signals that perestroika – economic restructuring – is being “smothered.” (Frontline, July 18 & August 29, 1988)

July 6: Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, National Democratic Front candidate backed by almost the entire Mexican left, breaks open the long period of one-party-PRI rule in Mexico with a dramatic showing the presidential election; he almost certainly wins, but the election is stolen through fraud and the PRI’s Carlos Salinas de Gortari takes office. The candidate of the rightist National Action Party (PAN) also garners many votes. In the months following the election, most of the progressive and left forces in Mexico move to unite in a new party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), officially launched in February 1989. (Frontline, July 18 & December 5, 1988)

July 19: Jesse Jackson’s nationally televised speech, “A Call to Common Ground,” is the high point of the Democratic National Convention, which selects Lloyd Bentsen as Dukakis’ running mate angering many Jackson/Rainbow supporters. (Black Scholar January-February 1989)

August 10: Congress has acted on the recommendation of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians that the government apologize to the people of Japanese descent interned during World War 2 and pay each evacuee $20,000; on this day Reagan signs the reparations bill into law and payments began October 1, 1990. (Resolution from the Fall 1991 Convention of the Northern California District of the  CPUSA in D-7; San Francisco Chronicle August 9, 1998 in BMOV-2)

August 17: Pakistani dictator General Zia-ul Haq dies in a plane crash. (Frontline, September 26, 1988)

August 20: Cease-fire ends the Iraq-Iran war. (Almanac)

September 17: UFW Vice-President Dolores Huerta is beaten by police at an anti-Bush demonstration in San Francisco, her spleen is ruptured. (Frontline, September 26, 1988)

September 30: Following up on the CPSU’s 19th Conference, the Central Committee conducts a sweeping political shake up to try to break the log-jam obstructing perestroika reforms, amid a growing sense of alarm among the populace that Gorbachev’s program is not producing results. The next day Gorbachev is elected president by the USSR, a post which will acquire more authority under the political reforms mandated by the 19th Extraordinary Conference. Soviets continue to take initiatives in their “new thinking” foreign policy attempt to settle regional conflicts. (Frontline, October 24, 1988; various issues in late 1988-89)

October 21: James Aronson, one of the three founders of the National Guardian in 1948, dies at 73, just a few hours after he, and other founders Cedric Belfrage and the late John McManus were honored in absentia by the current staff of the Guardian at the paper’s 40th anniversary dinner in New York City. (Frontline, November 21, 1988; MR February 1989)

November 8: After a lackluster campaign in which the Dukakis camp gives Jesse Jackson only a minimal role until very late in the effort, and in which Bush plays the racist “Willie Horton” card, Bush beats Dukakis in the presidential election  (Frontline, October 10, October 24, November 7 & November 21, 1988)

November 11: 1,200 activists and academics attend a conference entitled “Anticommunism and the U.S.: History and Consequences” at Harvard, sponsored by the Institute for Media Analysis. (Frontline, December 5, 1988)

November 15: Speaking at the 19th “Intifada Session” of the Palestine National Council in Algiers, PLO chair Yasir Arafat reads a Palestinian Declaration of Independence and declares Statehood. Arafat is invited to speak to the U.N. General Assembly but the U.S. denies him a visa and the Assembly moves to Geneva for a one-day session. But then on December 14, Secretary of State George Shultz announces that the U.S. will open talks with the PLO, a major shift in U.S. policy resulting from the intifada and (technically) the PLO’s recognition of U.N. Resolution 242 accepting the existence of the state of Israel and calling for a “two-state” solution. (Frontline, December 5, 1988 & January 16, 1989; Shots)

December 22: Agreement signed by Angola, Cuba and South Africa providing for elections and independence in Namibia, withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola. (MR April 1989)

December 22: Francisco “Chico” Mendes, a rubber tapper, union organizer and defender of the Amazon rainforest, is murdered in Brazil, setting off an international outcry and underscoring the threat to the Amazon Basin; this is the year Time named “our fragile environment” Man of the Year. (Frontline, January 30, 1989)


Formation of the Student Environmental Action Coalition-SEAC. SEAC’s first national conference, “Threshold,” in October 1989 drew 1,700 and its second, “Catalyst” in 1990 at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana attracted 7,600, the largest student activist gathering in U.S. history. The 1991 SEAC conference drew 2,000. (CrossRoads No. 20)

National Toxics Campaign is formed as the grassroots organizing partner of the National Toxics Campaign Fund, whose roots go back to a 1984 campaign against toxics hazards in New Hampshire. For the next few years NTC and NTCF are very prominent in the environmental movement but the organization is torn apart in a major struggle over racism and also sexism in 1992-93. (NTC)

Publication of A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam, by Neil Sheehan (Random House, New York); Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63 (Simon and Schuster, New York) – a Pulitzer Prize Winner; Richard Flacks, Making History: The American Left and the American Mind (Columbia University Press, New York); Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, Agents of Repression: The FBI’s Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and American Indian Movement (Boston: South End Press – “corrected edition” published 1990)



            February 4: Ayatollah Khomeini condemns author Salman Rushdie for “spiritual treason” and pronounces a death sentence upon him for authorship of The Satanic Verses, a book insulting Islam that becomes the center of a global-cultural controversy. (Black Scholar March-April 1989)

February: P.W. Botha resigns as head of South Africa’s ruling National Party and is replaced by F.W. de Klerk. The effort to repress the freedom movement has failed. Government representatives begin to meet openly with representatives of the ANC. (CrossRoads No. 50)

March 3: The National Rainbow Coalition Board of Directors adopt a set of  changes in the Rainbow’s by-laws that concentrate authority in the center and diminish the power of activist members, on the grounds that this will make the organization broader and more inclusive and will limit the ability of “small groups of people” to have undue influence. The changes are highly controversial and, for many activists, mark the beginning of the erosion of the Rainbow as a vehicle for grassroots progressive activism. (Frontline, March 27 & April 24, 1989)

March 25: Worst oil spill in U.S. history when the Exxon Valdez pours 12 million gallons of crude into Prince William Sound in Alaska. (Frontline, May 8, 1989)

March: First contested elections in the USSR in decades as 89.8% of Soviet voters go to the polls to choose a new 2,250-memberCongress of People’s Deputies, which in turn would select a 500-550-member Supreme Soviet from within its ranks. The results were a major setback for the CPSU establishment as many officially backed candidates were defeated. Boris Yeltsin makes his comeback, he is elected to the new Soviet and becomes a leader of the rapidly coalescing opposition movement. (Kotz/Weir)

April 4: Richard M. Daley wins special mayoral election in Chicago, defeating Timothy Evans of the Harold Washington Party, recapturing city hall for his family and the traditional power structure and decisively ending the progressive years of the Washington Coalition. (Frontline, April 24, 1989)

April 9: Half a million or more march in Washington in the NOW-sponsored March for Women’s Equality/Women’s Lives, as a major Supreme Court decision on abortion looms. (Frontline, April 24, 1989)

April 12: Abbie Hoffman commits suicide. (Jezer; Frontline, May 8, 1989)

April 25: Lawyer and activist Ken Cockrell, one of the leading figures in the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in the late 1960s, dies at age 50 of a heart attack. (Frontline, May 22, 1989)

April 28: Dennis Rivera wins the presidency of New York’s Hospital and Health Care Workers Local 1199, which will soon close the books on eight years of bitter internal struggle within the union; over the past two years the Local has re-emerged as a leading force in the area’s labor and progressive movements. (Frontline, May 22, 1989)

April-June: Upheaval in China and the Tienanmen Square massacre: April 15 Hu YaoBang, former General Secretary 1982-1987 purged for being too sympathetic to liberalization, dies; 2 days later students take to the streets; May 16-19, one million protest in Beijing; May 20 martial law declared; June 3,4 troops clear Tienanmen Square killing an undetermined number. Zhao Ziyang, who succeeded Hu Yaobang as Deng’s apparent successor, falls from power for apparently being too sympathetic to the students. Massive publicity in the West about the use of force against demonstrators. During the upheaval in China, from May 15-18, Mikhail Gorbachev is in Beijing for his scheduled summit with Deng, where Sino-Soviet relations are officially “normalized”. Part of the background to the summit is that the Chinese view of the shape of global politics has changed: “By early 1989, Chinese statements began to argue that ‘peace and development have replaced war and revolution as the main themes in the contemporary world.’” (Problems September-October 1989; Frontline, June 19, 1989)

May 31: C.L.R James dies at 88. (James)

June 18: I.F. Stone dies of a heart attack at age 81. (Frontline, July 3, 1989)

July 3: Supreme Court – the new “Rehnquist/Reagan Court” – upholds sharply restrictive Missouri abortion law in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, though it stops short of reversing Roe v. Wade. The ruling sparks a new round of activism in defense of abortion rights. (Frontline, July 17 & October 30, 1989)

July: Wave of strikes by Soviet coal miners – the first episode of mass labor unrest in the USSR since the 1920s. There is another one-day strike in October, and a second major strike wave in March-April 1991. The miners’ leadership gradually move into an alliance with Yeltsin against the CPSU and Gorbachev during 1990-91. (Kotz/Weir)

July 31: Michael Harrington, founder of DSOC, chair of DSA, author and activist, perhaps the most well-known “out” socialist in the country, dies of cancer at 61. (Frontline, August 28, 1989; Left Encyclopedia)

August 22: Huey Newton, founder of the Black Panther Party, is murdered in Oakland. (Clips in D-3; Frontline, September 25, 1989)

September 12: David Dinkins defeats Ed Koch in the New York City Democratic primary to end his 12-year grip on city hall; Dinkins goes on to beat Republican Rudolph Giuliani in the general election November 7 to become the first African American mayor of the nation’s largest city. (Frontline, September 25 & November 27, 1989)

September 17: Coal miners in Carbo, Virginia seize and occupy a production plant for three days during their bitter strike with Pittston Coal. The strike is the focus of a nationwide solidarity campaign. On October 4, the Mineworkers and AFL-CIO announce that the UMW is reaffiliating after 42 years outside the federation. (Frontline, October 9 & October 30, 1989; CrossRoads No. 1)

September 26: Last Vietnamese troops leave Cambodia , though a comprehensive international peace agreement for the country is not signed and the Cambodian government still faces the Khmer Rouge armed insurgency. (Frontline, October 30, 1989)

October 7-9: Line of March disbands at first delegated conference, reorganizing as the short-lived Frontline Political Organization; votes to initiate the process that leads to the launching of CrossRoads in spring 1990. (self-published material in BLM-3; Frontline, October 30, 1989)

October 8: 100,000 people march on Washington for “Housing Now,” to end homelessness and provide affordable housing. (Frontline, November 13, 1989)

November 9: East Germany’s ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) announces an end to travel restrictions and people flock to the Berlin Wall, which comes down (sources giving the exact date as November 9, 10 or 11); this is the most dramatic event in the rapid collapse of communist rule in Eastern Europe this fall. “Between August 1989 and the end of that year, communist power abdicated or ceased to exist in Poland [on August 17 President Jaruzelski invited Solidarity to form and head a new cabinet], Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and the GDR – without so much as a shot being fired, except in Romania. Shortly thereafter, the two Balkan states which were not Soviet satellites, Yugoslavia and Albania, also ceased to be communist regimes.”  (Hobsbawm; Almanac; MR April 1992; Frontline, August 28, October 30, November 13, & November 27, 1989). The Soviet Union is also in economic turmoil and inter-ethnic/inter-nationality strife within the USSR is rising. Hobsbawm also argues this is the “point of no return” for the collapse of the USSR: “The economic breakdown [in the USSR] became irreversible in the course of a few crucial months between October 1989 and May 1990.” (Hobsbawm; Frontline, September 25, 1989)

November 11: Tet-like offensive by the FMLN in El Salvador begins, after an ARENA government had come to power in fraudulent elections, rejected FMLN peace proposals and stepped up death squad activity, especially against the Salvadoran labor movement. The FMLN occupied parts of San Salvador for weeks, the Salvadoran military bombed working class neighborhoods and massacred 6 Jesuit priests and their 2 housekeepers. In the U.S., protest against the killings and the U.S. role turned out 50,000 in over 100 cities. Evident stalemate in the war leads eventually to peace agreement signed in 1992 (which see). (CISPES; Frontline, November 27, 1989; CrossRoads No. 40)

December 8: Special Congress of the Socialist Unity Party in East Germany transforms the party into the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and picks a new, reform leader Gregor Gysi. Over the next two years the PDS stabilizes itself as a substantial political force in the former GDR. (CrossRoads No. 18)

December 15: Uprising in Romania overthrows the regime; Nicolai Ceausescu and his wife are killed on December 25. (Almanac)

December 20: After a long political campaign that began in July 1987, whose aim was to install a Panamanian government that would allow Washington to keep effective control of the Panama Canal despite the Panama Canal Treaty, U.S. troops invade Panama. Resistance collapses on the 24th, Gen. Manuel Noriega surrenders on January 3, 1990. (Almanac; Frontline, March 28, 1988)

December: After a lengthy campaign which had convicted Marcos agents along the way, Ferdinand Marcos was found guilty of ordering the murder of anti-martial law activists Gene Viernes and Silme Domingo in Seattle June 1, 1981 and ordered to pay $15 million to the families of the victims. (Toribio; Frontline, November 27, 1989; CrossRoads/Frontline Sustainer Notes January-February 1990, in DCR-2)


In the first direct presidential election in Brazil in three decades, Lula of the PT comes very close to winning, getting 47 percent in the runoff against Fernando Collor de Mello. The stunning campaign followed years of slow growth for the PT and big victories in 1988 in the mayoral races in three state capitals, including Sao Paulo. (MR April 1993)

Publication of Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History?, originally a RAND paper, then published first in the periodical The National Interest in summer, then as a book – The End of History and the Last Man (London; Hamish Hamilton); in a similar vein, but from a very different source, Robert Heilbroner’s “The Triumph of Capitalism” in the January 23, 1989 New Yorker. Such articles flood the mainstream media in this period.

Publication also of The Thinking Reed: Intellectuals and the Soviet State from 1917 to the Present, by Boris Kagarlitsky (London, Verso); Revolution from Above: Where Is the Soviet Union Going?, by Tariq Ali (London, Hutchison); Voices of Glasnost: Interviews with Gorbachev’s Reformers, by Stephen Cohen and Katrina vanden Heuvel (W.W. Norton & Company, New York, London); An Injury to All: The Decline of American Unionism, by Kim Moody (London, Verso); Oxford University Socialist Discussion Group (Editors), Out of Apathy: Voices of the New Left 30 Years On (Verso, London-New York); Dennis King, Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism (Doubleday, New York); Alice Echols, Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America 1967-1975 (University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis); Richard Flacks and Jack Whalen, Beyond the Barricades: The Sixties Generation Grows Up (Temple University Press, Philadelphia)

Release of Spike Lee’s film Do The Right Thing.



January: After Levi Strauss & Co. closes a plant in San Antonio with 92% Latina, 86% female workers; the workers launch Fuerza Unida (United Force) to fight the layoffs and it becomes a militant, ongoing organization. (CrossRoads No. 29; Chicano)

February 11: Nelson Mandela is freed after 27-and-a-half years in prison. (CrossRoads No. 50)

February 25: Sandinistas are defeated in the presidential election in Nicaragua after an intense U.S. effort culminating a decade of “low-intensity warfare.” “This counter-revolution was distinct from those in Chile, Guatemala and Indonesia, not because it was peaceful, but because the massacres occurred before, not after, the overthrow of the revolutionary regime. (Halliday in NLR #180/March-April 1990; Frontline, July 17, 1989 & March 1990-transition issue #2)

March 18: Proposal for rapid reunification with West Germany wins in elections in the GDR; the GDR ceases to exist on October 3 when it is absorbed into the FRG. (MR April 1992; CrossRoads No. 18)

March 21: Namibia becomes an independent state under SWAPO government. (Almanac)

March: Extraordinary Congress of the Italian Communist Party (1.4 million members) votes to initiate discussions leading to an assembly and the founding of a “new” organization, resulting in the majority (700,000) forming the Party of the Democratic Left (PDS) and a minority launching the much smaller Communist Refoundation (150,000), with many former members joining neither. (Castellina in Future; Magri)

April: “People of Color Regional Dialogue Activist Dialogue for Environmental Justice,” initiated by the SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP) and held in Albuquerque, forms the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice. The step follows January and March open letters from activists of color to the “Group of Ten” mainstream environmental organizations criticizing them for racist and anti-working class policies. (CrossRoads No. 1)

April: The first Queer Nation group, in New York City, is founded. Generally this period sees the rise of a queer politics and queer identity, intended to both to defuse the pejorative meaning of the word queer and to defy classifications and embrace all sexual persuasions, lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, etc. Most Queer Nation groups lose momentum as organizations by the end of 1991 though the term and identity “queer” continues to gain influence. (ATC No. 43)

May 23: Republic of Yemen established by merger of North and South Yemen, North and pro-Western forces soon become dominant, among other things via winning 1994 civil war. (Almanac; for background see Frontline, February 3, 1986)

May 24: Bomb explodes in the car of Earth First! activists Darryl Cherney and Judi Bari. The FBI tries to frame the activists for “bombing themselves inadvertently” though evidence points to timber companies who target these activists for trying to build links between the environmental movement and labor, especially for the upcoming summer 1990 “Redwood Summer” which brings several thousand people to northern California. (CrossRoads No. 4)

May 29: Yeltsin continues his rise: he is elected chair of the Russian Republic parliament despite Gorbachev’s warning that he was abandoning socialism. He is aligned with, but not a member of, the Democratic Russia bloc organized by sectors of the intelligentsia and becoming a dominant force in Moscow and Leningrad. Two months later, in July, Yeltsin dramatically resigns from the CPSU. (Kotz/Weir)

June 15: LAPD beats and arrests scores of janitors and supporters engaged in a peaceful protest for a contract. The beatings are broadcast by the national media and the contract is won. The SEIU’s Justice for Janitors efforts, underway since the mid-1980s, is one of the more dynamic union campaigns of the period, especially mobilizing immigrant workers, and organizing 20,000 janitors by 1994. (CrossRoads Nos. 33 & 43)

June: CrossRoads magazine is launched; core of the effort is a merger of Frontline newspaper and North Star Review magazine. (CrossRoads Nos. 1 & 62)

June: World Marxist Review, Prague-based publication of the World Communist Movement, which had become interesting reading in the Gorbachev era, folds. (MR January 1993)

June: During an 11-day, 7-city trip to the U.S., Nelson Mandela becomes only the fourth private citizen in U.S. history to address both houses of Congress (CrossRoads No. 50)

July 7: “Socialist Upheaval and the U.S. Left” conference draws 800 in Berkeley; one of many well-attended “left dialogue” conferences this year and next, see below for further entries. (CrossRoads No. 62; & CrossRoads pamphlet with proceedings)

July 31: The leadership of Mozambique’s ruling FRELIMO Party announce they abandoning the one-party state in favor of a multi-party system. (Guardian, August 15, 1990)

July: Foro de Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo Forum), initiated by the Brazil Workers Party (PT), brings together left parties and organizations from throughout Latin American for dialogue and cooperation. The Declaration approved by the meeting promised “to renovate the left’s thinking and socialism, reaffirm its emancipating nature, correct erroneous conceptions, overcome all types of bureaucratism and the absence of truly social and mass democracy.” The Foro becomes on ongoing institution, meeting in 1991 in Mexico, in 1992 in Nicaragua, and planning its 1993 meeting for Cuba. (CrossRoads No. 25)

July: “First Continental Meeting of Indigenous Peoples-500 Years of Indian Resistance” gathering in Quito, Ecuador brings together indigenous peoples from throughout the hemisphere to plan activities for a 1992 “Year of the World’s Indigenous Peoples” to counter celebrations like the U.S. official Quincentenary Jubilee Celebration.” (CrossRoads No. 3; Chicano)

July: 28th Congress of the CPSU, major steps are taken to separate party and state functions. Officially, Article 6 of the Soviet Constitution mandating the CPSU’s leading role had been repealed four months earlier, in March. “Hard-liners sharply criticize Gorbachev and Foreign Minister Shevardnadze but when it comes to voting, their standard-bearer Yegor Ligachev is defeated by Gorbachev’s favored candidate for Deputy General Secretary. (CrossRoads No. 2)

August 2: Iraqi troops invade Kuwait setting off Gulf Crisis. By August 7 Bush has sabotaged efforts for an Arab solution to the crisis and manipulated an “invitation” from Saudi Arabia to send U.S. military forces. He also goes to the U.N. and uses every bit of U.S. muscle there to win international backing for his tough approach. An antiwar movement begins to take shape within the U.S. (Storm; CrossRoads No. 9)

August 25: Thousands march through Los Angeles for the 20th anniversary of the Chicano Moratorium. (Chicano)

September 8: LRS disbands. (LRS Dissolution)

September: New Liberation News Service (NLNS) begins publishing newspackets every three to four week, serving progressive campus and community newspapers. (CrossRoads No. 34)

October: “The International Conference on the Future of Socialism,” sponsored by Monthly Review and the New York Marxist School, draws 800 people in New York. (In a related effort, Monthly Review Press publishes The Future of Socialism: Perspectives from the Left edited by William K. Tabb.) That same month, the first Midwest Radical Scholars and Activists Conference draws over 1,000 in Chicago. (Crisis/Rethinking)

November 1-4: International Conference on Malcolm X: Radical Tradition and a Legacy of Struggle draws 2,000-plus to New York City; initiated by the Malcolm X Work Group; this is the 65th anniversary of Malcolm’s birth and the 25th anniversary of his assassination. The Conference is part of a general resurgence of interest, scholarly and popular, in Malcolm. Earlier in the year – May 19-25 – the symposium Malcolm X Speaks in the ‘90s is held in Havana. In 1992, Spike Lee releases his film Malcolm X. (Legacy; SalesJr; CrossRoads Sustainer Notes July/August 1990; CrossRoads No. 28; Crisis/Rethinking)

November 6: Democrats make modest gains in House, Senate and state elections. The threat of U.S. military action in the Gulf is not made an issue in the balloting by either party. Bernie Sanders wins election to the House of Representatives from Vermont as the first independent socialist elected to Congress in over 40 years. (CrossRoads Nos. 5 & 9)

November 8: Two days after the mid-term elections Bush announced that he was sending 200,000 more troops to the Gulf making military action imminent. This sparks major debate within the U.S. establishment and the growth of grassroots antiwar actions. (CrossRoads No. 9)

December 9: Lech Walesa elected president of Poland in run-off election (Almanac)

December 17: Jean Bertrand Aristide elected President of Haiti in the first democratic election in the country’s history (Almanac)


Four conferences highlight the new contours of 1990s student activism: The D.C. Student Coalition Against Apartheid and Racism (DC-SCAR) National Days of Racism Awareness and Anti-Racist Action Conference during Black History Month; the Jackson/State Kent Commemorative Conference marking 20 years since the killings at those colleges; the Student Call to Washington June 17 with a march on Washington; and the SEAC Catalyst conference – see 1988 note on SEAC above. (CrossRoads No. 21)

Publication of The Great Reversal: The Privatization of China 1978-1989, by William Hinton (Monthly Review Press); The Encyclopedia of the American Left, edited by Mari Jo Buhle, Paul Buhle and Dan Georgakas (Garland Publishing, New York); The Future of Socialism: Perspectives from the Left edited by William K. Tabb. (Monthly Review Press, New York); Yearning: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics, by bell hooks (South End Press, Boston); City of Quartz: Social Struggle in Postmodern Los Angeles, by Mike Davis (Verso); Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, The COINTELPRO Papers: Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Domestic Dissent (Boston, South End Press); Has Socialism Failed?, pamphlet by Joe Slovo of the SACP



            January-February: The Gulf War: Congressional resolution authorizing use of force against Iraq is passed January 12; The “deadline” passes midnight January 15 and George Bush’s shooting war starts with the bombing of Baghdad on the 16th; the ground war is launched on February 23, Baghdad radio announces unconditional Iraqi surrender on the 25th and U.S. air power is conducting a virtual massacre of fleeing Iraqi soldiers but Bush waits until midnight on the 27th to declare a cease-fire in effect. There are major antiwar actions in the U.S., at least in the early stages of the war, sponsored by two different coalitions, The Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East, initiated mainly by the Workers World Party, and the National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East. On January 19 over 150,000 people turned out in San Francisco, D.C., L.A. and other cities in the action called by the Coalition; on January 26, some 300,000 demonstrated with close to 200,000 in D.C. in the demonstrations anchored by the Campaign. (Storm; CrossRoads No. 9)

February 25: Warsaw Pact military alliance is dissolved; the full Pact is dissolved on July 1. (Almanac)

April 26-28: “Toward a New Majority for Justice and Peace: A Conference for Activists of Color” draws 300 in the Bay Area (CrossRoads No. 11)

May 17: SWP paper the Militant announces that the SWP has disaffiliated from the Fourth International and states that they no longer consider themselves Trotskyists. (Inside the SWP)

May: Eritrean People’s Liberation Front drive Ethiopian troops out of the country winning independence; the same week, Ethiopian leader Mengistu Haile Mariam flees the country and the capital Addis Ababa falls to troops of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, anchored by the Tigrean People’s Liberation Front whose leader, Secretary-General Meles Zenawi, becomes head of the interim Ethiopian government. (Guardian, June 26, 1991)

May 31: Formal end to the long war in Angola with an agreement signed between President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and UNITA head Jonas Savimibi. The pact calls for multi-party elections in fall 1992; but fighting continues. (Guardian, June 12, 1991)

June 4: Albanian communist government resigns. (Almanac)

June 4: Jiang Qing (Chiang Ching), Mao’s widow and central figure in the Gang of Four, commits suicide (Almanac).

June 5: Apartheid laws repealed in South Africa (Almanac)

June: Yeltsin is elected president of the Russian Republic winning 57.3% of the popular votes; his running mate is popular military figure and veteran of the Afghan war Alexandr Rutskoi. Leaders of Democratic Russia win the mayoral races in Moscow and Leningrad. A situation of dual power has essentially developed in Russia. (Kotz/Weir)

Summer: Large-scale fighting between Croatians and Serbs mostly in Croatia, promoted by leaders of both governments, Slobodan Milosevic (who had assumed Yugoslav/Serbian presidency in 1988, and Franco Tudjman, who had become president of Croatia in 1990. (Yugoslavia)

Summer: Riot Grrrl, a movement/organization combining women’s issues with the punk movement, begins in Washington, D.C. (CrossRoads No. 49)

August 19: Coup by in an “Emergency Committee” in the USSR, one day before a new Union Treaty was to be signed putting the USSR on a different, more federated basis. Besides the Union Treaty, another spur to the coup may have been a looming special congress of the CPSU in the fall, where a new party program proposed by Gorbachev and departing in numerous ways from communist tradition was to be debated and voted upon.  At the start of the coup Gorbachev was placed under house arrest. Opposition to the coup is centered by Yeltsin and the forces around him who gather in front of the Russian Parliament building. The coup soon collapses and Yeltsin, in what amounted to an equally illegal but successful counter-coup, effectively takes power from Gorbachev, who resigns as General Secretary of the CPSU on August 24 while proposing that the Central Committee dissolve and transferring the party’s property to the USSR Supreme Soviet. The Baltic Republics declare their independence August 25. (CrossRoads Nos. 13 & 14; Kotz/Weir; Almanac)

September 30: Military coup in Haiti overthrows President Aristide. (CrossRoads No. 15)

October 16: Clarence Thomas is confirmed as Supreme Court Justice by the Senate 52-48 after the “Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas” hearings put the issues of sex, race, sexual harassment, and what are the Black and women’s agendas in front of the media spotlight. A statement of 1,603 Black women opposing the Thomas confirmation and denouncing the Senate’s treatment of Anita Hill, “African American Women in Defense of Ourselves,” appears in Black newspapers throughout the country and, on November 18, the New York Times.  (CrossRoads Nos. 16 & 28; Powerful)

October 27-30: National People of Color Environmental Summit held in D.C., a milestone in the growing environmental justice movement/movement against environmental racism. (CrossRoads No. 20)

Fall: Dissent magazine’s fall issue publishes a sort of manifesto: “Democratic Vistas: A Statement for the Democratic Left,” as an attempt to articulating a social democratic vision for the left. Solidarity tries to get broad support for an alternative statement that would be “democratic, revolutionary and visionary” but cannot get enough support beyond its close supporters so the effort is abandoned. (Solid-Is History)

December 6-8: CPUSA’s 25th National Convention: the culmination of a bitter internal clash that had been brewing for some years, with differences especially sharp over Gorbachev’s role and perestroika, democracy within the CPUSA, and the party’s stance toward the Jackson campaigns, the Rainbow Coalition and the Black Liberation struggle. Dissidents who are excluded from all leadership posts by the grouping around chair Gus Hall announce the initial formation of the Committees of Correspondence. (Crossroads No. 17; self-published material in D-2 and D-7)

December 13: Ron Carey, supported by TDU, wins the Teamster presidency and his slate wins all 16 leadership positions it had contested in the first ever one-member, one-vote balloting in the union’s history; a stunning victory for the reform movement. (ATC No. 43; Guardian December 25, 1991)

December 25-31: Formal break-up of the Soviet Union. Following many steps by Yeltsin since August to dismantle the structure of the Soviet state, Gorbachev resigns as Soviet President December 25 and the USSR officially ceases to exist as of December 31. The U.S. and other countries recognize the newly formed and very loose “Commonwealth of Independent States” set up by Yeltsin and his allies in other Republics. (CrossRoads No. 18; Kotz/Weir; Almanac; Guardian December 25, 1991)

December: European Community (EC) member nations – looking beyond the end of 1992 when all trade barriers between them are to be eliminated in a “single internal market” – sign the Maastricht Agreement providing for a single currency by 1999 and delegating more power to the European Parliament; the treaty also has a Social Charter attached as a protocol with some concessions to labor. (Guardian, December 25, 1991)


Founding of the University Conversion Project to promote peace activism and investigative journalism on campus; UCP is soon transformed into the Center for Campus Organizing (CCO) which acts as a clearinghouse and resource center for campus activism in the ‘90s; it publishes Infusion bulletin. (self-published material in DCR-3)

PC-bashing – attacks on so-called “political correctness” allegedly dominating the universities, which have been gathering steam since the late 1980s – reaches a peak with George Bush’s attack on PC at his spring commencement address at the University of Michigan, ads in campus and other newspapers across the country by the National Association of Scholars, major scare articles in Time, Newsweek and other popular media, and the publication of Illiberal Education: The Politics of Race and Sex on Campus, by Dinesh D’Souza (New York, Free Press). (ATC No. 35; CrossRoads No. 21)

Formation of the New Zealand Alliance, comprising NewLabour, the Greens, the Democrats and Mana Motuhake; the new formation prepares to contend for governmental power in elections. (Links No. 2)

Peace agreement signed by all factions in Cambodia, leads to 1993 elections and a government including the Sihanouk and People’s Party forces; the Khmer Rouge quickly goes back into opposition and continues armed struggle against the government. (SF Chronicle June 14, 1997 in BMOV-5)

Publication of David R. Roediger, The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class (Verso, New York); Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools (New York, Crown Publishers); Robert B. Reich, The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism (Alfred A. Knopf, New York); Stalin: Triumph and Tragedy, by Dmitri Volkogonov (Grove-Weidenfeld Press, New York); Unfinished Business, 20 Years of Socialist Review, edited by the Socialist Review Collectives  (Verso, London, New York); The Global City: New York, London, Tokyo, by Saskia Sassen (Princeton, Princeton University Press)


1992- (through mid-August)

            January: Accords between the FMLN and Salvadoran government ending the long civil war are signed. (CISPES)

January: Release of the first draft of “Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Rectify the Errors” by Armando Liwanag (Joma Sison/Amado Guerrero); the document sets in motion a purge and upheaval in the CPP that by 1993 has resulted in an effective split. (Rocamora)

January 15: European Community recognizes Croatian independence (it had recognized Slovenian independence earlier). Then on April 6 the EC and U.S. announce recognition of Bosnia-Herzegovinia, which had become an armed camp, and large-scale fighting begins there, with Serbian and Croatian forces working to carve up the country and the Muslim-led Bosnian government fighting (at least nominally) to preserve a “democratic, multi-ethnic” state. (Yugoslavia)

            February 1: George Bush and Boris Yeltsin proclaim a formal end to the Cold War (Almanac)

April 29: Acquittal of four officers in the Rodney King case sets off massive outpouring of popular anger from the Black and Latino communities. The uprising is met by harsh police repression: 55 people are killed, 18,000 arrested. There is $770 million in property damage. Many Asian American owned businesses are a target and Black-Korean tensions are especially sharp. An immediate contributing factor was African American anger over the sentencing of Korean store owner to probation (just ten days before April 29) for shooting and killing Black teenager Latasha Harlins and being convicted of second degree murder. (CrossRoads No. 22)

April 30-May 2: Founding Convention of the Asian Pacific Labor Alliance brings together 500 Asian Pacific labor activists in Washington, DC (CrossRoads No. 24)

April: The “New Party,” for which activists had been laying the groundwork for two years or so, is now “the beginnings of reality,” setting up a national office, incorporating as a party, organizing in about a dozen cities and states. Other third party efforts are at various stages of development as well. Labor Party Advocates, initiated by Tony Mazzochi formally in 1990-91, is organizing unionists to support the future formation of a Labor Party. Ron Daniels is taking steps toward an independent run for President in 1992 with the Project New Tomorrow – later Campaign for a New Tomorrow – as his core support. NOW activists are working toward a founding convention for the 21st Century Party to be held August 29-30, 1992 (the convention is held with 150 people but the organization never gets off the ground). The Boston Initiative, convened by Nobel Laureate George Wald, holds its second meeting May 2-3 (the first was in 1991) attempting to unite pro-third Party groups. A larger such effort is anchored by Daniels working closely with organizers from NCIPA: the National Progressive People’s Convention, which will draw 300 and found the National Progressive People’s Network (NPPN; later the Independent Progressive Politics Network/IPPN), is slated for August 21-23 in Ypsilanti, Michigan. (New Party folder in D-9; IPA folder in DCR-3; CrossRoads No. 25; BIDOM No. 92; NCIPA Bulletin Nos. 8 & 9)

June 3-14: “Earth Summit” in Rio de Janeiro, the Bush administration is isolated for its stance on the main items: a biodiversity treaty (refusing to sign) and a pact on global warming (refusing to agree to effective timetables and targets). The Global Forum environmental conference organized by NGO’s alongside the official conference draws up to 20,000 activists. (Guardian June 10, 17 & 24, 1992 & ATC No. 42)

July 1: Bill Clinton, key leader of the Democratic Leadership Council, after defeating Al Gore, Jerry Brown and other candidates in the primaries, wins the Democratic presidential nomination at the party’s national convention. (CrossRoads No. 27; Almanac)

July 17-19: First National Conference of the Committees of Correspondence draws 1,300 to Berkeley to discuss “Perspectives for Democracy and Socialism in the ‘90s.” The event is from one angle the largest and broadest organizational culmination of “regroupment” efforts stretching back to early 1980s; from another, related, angled, the result of the reform effort, upheaval and then collapse in Eastern Europe and the USSR 1985-1991 and its particular impact within the CPUSA. (CrossRoads No. 22; self-published material in D-2)

July: Meeting of 11 parties united “in defense of Marxism-Leninism and Mao ZeDong Thought,” anchored by the Sison-led CPP, including the PAC and 9 other very small groupings (Rocamora)

August 12-19: Final issue of the Guardian, Volume 44, Number 39; first domestic news story, placed on page 3, is coverage of the Committees of Correspondence first national conference. (Guardian August 12/19 in D-9)


Asian Immigrant Women Advocates (AIWA) – one of a number of immigrant worker organizations launched in the ‘80s including the Chinese Staff and Workers Organization in New York, Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates in Los Angeles, and La Mujer Obrera in El Paso – launches a “Garment Workers Justice Campaign” that becomes a nationwide boycott of Jessica McClintock, Inc. after a subcontractor of McClintock failed to pay money owed employees. (CrossRoads Nos. 29 & 56; Chicano)

Lesbian Avengers are launched in New York City. (CrossRoads No. 49)

Audre Lorde dies after a long battle with breast cancer at 58. (CrossRoads No. 28)

The Women of Color Reproductive Health Rights Coalition is founded by the National Black Women’s Health Project, National Latina Health Organization, Native American Women’s Health Education Resource Center, National Asian Women’s Health Organization, National Coalition of 100 Black Women and International Coalition of Women Physicians. (CrossRoads No. 39)

Publication of Elaine Brown, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story (New York, Pantheon Books); America: What Went Wrong? by Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele (Andrews and McMeel, Kansas City) – expanded version of a 9-part series which had appeared during October 1991 in the Philadelphia Inquirer; Hardcover version of Two Nations, Black and White, Separate, Hostile, Unequal, by Andrew Hacker (Charles Scribners Sons); Reconstructing Marxism (another major effort in the analytical Marxism school) by Erik Olin Wright, Elliot Sover and Andrew Levine (London); Rads: The 1970 Bombing of the Army Mathematics Research Center at the University of Wisconsin and Its Aftermath, by Tom Bates (HarperCollins, New York); Marty Jezer, Abbie Hoffman: An American Rebel (Rutgers University Press, New Brunswick)

Release of Malcolm X, directed by Spike Lee.

The growth of poverty and the rising polarization between wealth and poverty: In 1960, 22% of all persons were below the poverty level; by 1973, this dropped to 11%, but by 1992 it is back up to 15%: in absolute numbers this is 37 million people, more than in 1960. The 1992 poverty rate for children in 1992 is 22%. There is a stark racial inequality in poverty as well: one-third of all Black persons are below the poverty level in 1992, and 29% of Latinos. More than half of all poor families are headed by women. In 1973, the fifth of households making the least income received 4.2% of total income, but in 1992 the figure had fallen to 3.8%. Meanwhile the fifth of households making the highest income now made 45% of the total, compared to 41% in 1992. On a global scale, the extent of poverty and the gap between the wealthy few and the poverty-stricken many is even worse. (CrossRoads No. 50)


End of Part Five