Thursday, December 28, 2006




In the normal course of events I do not give a tinker’s damn about what bourgeois politician, Democratic, Republican or Green, throws his or her hat into the presidential ring. Whether Evan Bayh is out or Bill Frist is out or Hillary “Hawk” or Obama the “Charma” is in or out or John Kerry is in and out takes more time and effort than it is worth. While I do confess to a sporting interest in the odds on such candidacies and will even wager a small bet on such propositions there is more than enough work for this writer to do propagandizing for a workers party that fights for a workers government. However, during the week of December 12th 2006, Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich once again threw his hat into the presidential ring. That interests me, but not for the reasons the reader of these lines might think.

Congressman Kucinich is now an old hand at being the extreme left Democratic Party candidate for President, having made the same run in 2004. With about the same chances. That is, unfortunately, about the same chance as our having a viable workers party candidate for President in 2008. But that is another question for another time. Congressman Kucinich represents, as mentioned about, the most extreme left of the Democratic Party. If we are ever to get a chance for a workers party in this country we will have to peel off those elements of the Democratic Party that the Congressman appeals to. Does anyone really think that our fight today is to peel off those people attracted to Hillary? Or even better, from the Republicans? Grow up, please!

So what are our prospects today? This is the real reason that I am interested in the Congressman. Moreover, I have personal experience with the pressure from the Democratic Party we are up against in our struggle for a workers party. If you will recall the 2004 Democratic Convention was staged here in Boston that summer. Congressman Kucinich did not, for his own personal reasons, withdraw his candidacy until the eve of that Convention so that he was freely accessible at various political functions in the city. At one such function I was able to speak about the need to break with the Democratic Party and develop a programmatic- based party centered on the needs of working people. His response and the response of those around him, not unexpected by me, was that it was necessary to remain ‘viable’ in the Democratic Party if all the good things that working people need are to have any chance of success. I also remember some looks of disbelief as if I was proposing that the Congressman break with the Democrats to lead some revolutionary communist party out in the hills. And that is the rub.

Congressman Kucinich is, as I am, a son of the working class, the dirt-poor part of it, to boot. He is also my near contemporary so that he knows some of the same feelings that I had about being left out of the “American Dream” in the so-called golden days of America in the 1950’s when we were growing up. However, our paths depart at that point. Well, that is politics and such things happen. The point is that if there had been a viable workers party in those days I would not be writing about the Congressman’s marginal Democratic Party campaign today. And in the final analysis that is what this commentary is all about. If we do not fight for a workers party now then the next generation’s Democratic Kucinich will be giving some future workers party advocate the same run around. Let us get serious now.

In the summer of 2006 I wrote a commentary about writing in workers party candidates based on a program for the fall 2006 elections. With the hoopla already starting for the 2008 election cycle I repost that commentary below with that same intention of getting thoughtful leftists to use the 2008 campaign to further our propaganda needs.




All “anti-parliamentarian”, “anti-state”, “non-political” anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist brothers and sisters need read no further. This writer does not want to sully the purity of your politics with the taint of parliamentary electoral politics. Although I might remind you, as we remember the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, that your political forbears in Spain were more than willing to support the state and enter the government when they got the chance- the bourgeois state and the bourgeois government. But, we can fight that issue out later. We will, hopefully, see you on the barricades.

As for other militants- here is my modest proposal. Either recruit fellow labor militants or present yourselves as candidates to run for public office, especially for Congress, during the 2006 election cycle. Why? Even a quick glance at the news of the day is calculated to send the most hardened politico screaming into the night. The quagmire in Iraq, immigration walls, flag-burning amendments, anti same-sex marriage amendments, the threat to separation of church state raised by those who would impose a fundamentalist Christian theocracy on the rest of us, and the attacks on the hard fought gains of the Enlightenment posed by bogus theories such as ‘intelligent design’. And that is just an average day. Therefore, this election cycle provides militants, at a time when the dwindling electorate is focused on politics, a forum to raise our program and our ideas. We use this as a tool, like leaflets, petitions, meetings, demonstrations, etc. to get our message across. Why should the Donkeys, Elephants, and Greens have a monopoly on the public square?

I mentioned in the last paragraph the idea of program. Let us face it if we do not have a program to run on then it makes no sense for militants to run for public office. Given the political climate our task at this time is to fight an exemplary propaganda campaign. Our program is our banner in that fight. The Democrats and Republicans DO NOT RUN on a program. The sum of their campaigns is to promise not to steal from the public treasury (or at least not too much), beat their husbands or wives or grossly compromise themselves in any manner. On second thought, given today’s political climate, they may not promise not to beat their husbands or wives. You get the point. Damn, even the weakest neophyte labor militant can make a better presentation before working people that that. In any case, this writer presents a five point program that labor militants can run on (you knew this was coming, right?). As point five makes clear this is not a ‘minimum’ program but a program based on our need to fight for power.

1. FIGHT FOR THE IMMEDIATE AND UNCONDITIONAL WITHDRAWAL OF U.S. TROOPS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST NOW (OR BETTER YET, YESTERDAY)! U.S. HANDS OFF THE WORLD! VOTE NO ON THE WAR BUDGET! The quagmire in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East (Palestine, Iran) is the fault line of American politics today. Every bourgeois politician has to have his or her feet put to the fire on this one. Not on some flimsy ‘sense of the Congress’ softball motion for withdrawal next, year, in two years, or (my favorite) when the situation is stable. Moreover, on the parliamentary level the only real vote that matters is the vote on the war budget. All the rest is fluff. Militants should make a point of trying to enter Congressional contests where there are so-called anti-war Democrats or Republicans (an oxymoron, I believe) running to make that programmatic contrast vivid.

But, one might argue, that would split the ‘progressive’ forces. Grow up, please! That argument has grown stale since it was first put forth in the ‘popular front’ days of the 1930’s. If you want to end the war in Iraq fight for this position on the war budget. Otherwise the same people (ya, those progressive Democrats) who unanimously voted for the last war budget get a free ride on the cheap. Senator Hillary “Hawk” Clinton desperately needs to be opposed by labor militants. Closet Republican, Democratic Senator Lieberman of Connecticut should not take his richly deserved beating on the war issue from a dissident Democrat. By rights this is our issue. Let us take it back.

2. FIGHT FOR A LIVING WAGE AND WORKING CONDITIONS-UNIVERSAL FREE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL. It is a ‘no-brainer’ that no individual, much less families, can live on the minimum wage of $5/hr. (or proposed $7/hr). What planet do these politicians live on? We need an immediate fight for a living wage, full employment and decent working conditions. We need universal free health care for all. End of story. The organized labor movement must get off its knees and fight to organize Wal-Mart and the South. A boycott of Wal-Mart is not enough. A successful organizing drive will, like in the 1930’s, go a long way to turning the conditions of labor around.

3. FIGHT THE ATTACKS ON THE ENLIGHTENMENT. Down with the Death Penalty! Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants who make it here! Stop the Deportations! For the Separation of Church and State! Defend abortion rights! Down with ant-same sex marriage legislation! Full public funding of education! Stop the ‘war on drugs’, basically a war on blacks and minority youth-decriminalize drugs! Defend political prisoners!

This list of demands hardly exhausts the “culture war” issues we defend. It is hard to believe that in the year 2006 over 200 years after the American Revolution and the French Revolution we are fighting desperately to preserve many of the same principles that militants fought for in those revolutions. But, so be it.

4. FIGHT FOR A WORKERS PARTY. The Donkeys, Elephants and Greens have had their chance. Now is the time to fight for our own party and for the interests of our own class, the working class. Any campaigns by independent labor militants must highlight this point. And any campaigns can also become the nucleus of a workers party network until we get strong enough to form at least a small party. None of these other parties, and I mean none, are working in the interests of working people and their allies. The following great lesson of politic today must be hammered home. Break with the Democrats, Republicans and Greens!

5. FIGHT FOR A WORKERS AND XYZ GOVERNMENT. THIS IS THE DEMAND THAT SEPARATES THE MILITANTS FROM THE FAINT-HEARTED REFORMISTS. We need our own form of government. In the old days the bourgeois republic was a progressive form of government. Not so any more. That form of government ran out of steam about one hundred years ago. We need a Workers Republic. We need a government based on workers councils with a ministry (I do not dare say commissariat in case any stray anarchists are still reading this) responsible to it. Let us face it if we really want to get any of the good and necessary things listed above accomplished we are not going to get it with the current form of government.

Why the XYZ part? What does that mean? No, it is not part of an algebra lesson. What it reflects is that while society is made up mainly of workers (of one sort or another) there are other classes (and parts of classes) in society that we seek as allies and could benefit from a workers government. Examples- small independent contractors, intellectuals, the dwindling number of small farmers, and some professionals like dentists. Ya, I like the idea of a workers and dentists government. The point is you have got to fight for it.

Obviously any campaign based on this program will be an exemplary propaganda campaign for the foreseeable future. But we have to start now. Continuing to support or not challenging the bourgeois parties does us no good now. That is for sure. While bourgeois electoral laws do not favor independent candidacies at this late date write-in campaigns are possible. ROLL UP YOUR SHEEVES! GET THOSE PETITIONS SIGNED! PRINT OUT THE LEAFLETS! PAINT THOSE BANNERS! GET READY TO SHAKE HANDS AND KISS BABIES.


Thursday, December 14, 2006





Yes, the subject is Iraq, again. Yes, I have been something of a Johnny-one note on the subject since last spring. But hear me out. Every time I try to move away from the subject and onto more satisfying matters like a book review on some aspect of revolutionary history something unpleasant happens in Washington to upset my well laid plans. This time it is the apparent ‘victory’ of the “hawks” among the military brass and the neo-cons for the willing ear of George W. Bush over future Iraq War strategy. What we are prepared to get in that direction is not troop withdrawal but troop escalation. Moreover, there is serious talk in military circles of going after Sadr’s Madhi Army.

This by the way is the army that has bloodied the American Army in the past, especially in Fallujah. If the Madhi Army’s backs are again the wall, as projected, who knows what hell is in store. Moreover, as Sadr is a major prop of the current Iraqi government, such as it is, the smell of ‘regime change’ in Iraq is also in the air. Apparently the smell of ‘victory’ has once again gotten the better of rationality in Washington. Christ, will this madness never stop. I have noted, a little sarcastically, more than once before that in the quest for ‘stability’ in Iraq the grandchildren of the troops fighting in Iraq now will be joining grandfather and mother over there. With the current news I may not be that far off the mark.

In the wake of the publication of the Iraq Study Group Report (remember that little 'sure fire' plan) I have been raked over the coals by my liberal friends for being rather mean-spirited about the recommendations, or rather the chances of implementation by the Bush Administration. I have even, half-jokingly, stated that they will probably find President Bush’s copy of this document under some couch in the White House when he leaves office. Well, those liberal friends have had a whole week to savor their victory. Apparently I am not so far off on the eventual fate of that plan. And if one thinks about it why would the Bush Administration render more than lip-service to that report.

First, it was congressionally-mandated and not a doctored job coming from the administration. Second, it came from “Poppy’s" crowd. Third, it makes ugly reading for any President six years into his term who is concerned with his place in history. Fourth, and this is the kicker, this is George W. Bush we are talking about. When he says he wants victory in Iraq, that he wants to ‘stay the course’ that is literally what he means. Moreover, his place in history is already being etched in stone as one of the most dim-witted experiments bourgeois democracy has faced in its long and shady presidential history. However, unlike Lyndon Johnson and the effect of the Vietnam War escalations Bush faces no more elections. So why the hell not throw the dice for ‘victory’. After all they are HIS troops. What good is it being Commander-in-Chief if you can't keep your troops gainfully employed. Anti-war activists better know this and act, and I do mean act, accordingly. The only escalation we support is the increase in number of troop transport drivers, humvee drivers, pilots and sailors it takes to get the troops the hell out of Iraq now.

Below I am reposting a blog, written in the week of September 18, 2006 which more fully addresses the question of troop escalation. I stand by its political thrust today. Believe me I would rather have political victories than fortunetelling clairvoyance.





This writer for a long time has resisted the facile task route of comparing the situation in Iraq today to the Vietnam of some forty years ago. But it is getting harder and harder to do so. On the face of it the differences are obvious. In Vietnam revolutionary leftist forces were attempting to unify into one state that which by international diplomacy abetted by previous bouts of international Stalinist treachery had been artificial split. Furthermore, the defining concept behind the revolutionary forces there to resolve the agrarian question and the fight for what those forces conceived to be the road to socialism. Today in Iraq there are nationalist/sectarian forces which want to take revenge on the results of the European- derived Treaty of Versailles after World War I and divide this artificially created state-gun in hands. The fact that in Kurdish-controlled areas only the Kurdish flag can fly really says it all. Additionally, as far as this writer can tell, from the little known about murky underworld of radical Islamic politics there are no forces fighting for anything like a secular- democratic, much less, socialist solution to the problems there. Rather something like an Islamic Republic under repressive and anti-women Sharia law appears to be the favored political solution.

However, those differences between the domestic forces in Iraq and Vietnam aside the real way Iraq today looks like Vietnam is the similarities in the role of American imperialism on the ground. The latest news this week, the week of September 18, 2006, coming from the central military command is there will be no draw down of troops any time soon. LET ME REPEAT- THERE WILL NOT BE ANY DRAW DOWN ANY TIME SOON. All those who foolishly believed that draw down would occur and did not take the Bush Administration at its word when it declared empathically that troops would not be withdrawn as long as it drew breathe should ponder this. More on this below.

There are starting to be voices heard, dormant for a while, spearheaded by the editors of National Review and other neo-con sources that the lesson to be learned from Iraq is that to really win in Iraq the Americans must sent in more troops. How much such sentiments are worth from these previous supporters of a quick and cheap airpower strategy is beside the point. What is noteworthy is that this premise is not an isolated sentiment and even finds support among alleged opponents of the war. And that, in a nutshell, is where the comparison to Vietnam comes into play. The hubris which led the Bush Administration into the quagmire of Iraq is still very much in play. The notion that in order rectify the original mistake of invasion more mistakes, such as increased troop levels, can solve the problem and bring victory where none is possible is the same mentality that led to all the escalations of the Vietnam era. Against all reason the Bushies of America and the world cannot believe that the situation is lost. Well, hell that is their problem. Militant leftists have other problems like organizing the opposition to worry over.

Additionally, President Bush himself is getting a little testy at the Prime Minister of Iraq. He cannot believe that at this late stage the wholly-owned American puppet government in Iraq hasn’t stepped up to its tasks of creating domestic tranquility. One should remember the names Diem and Thieu from Vietnamese history who got the same kinds of dressing-downs from previous American administrations. With that thought in mind let me ask this question. Is there anyone today on the planet outside the immediate Bush family that believes that the writ of the Iraqi government runs outside the Green Zone (and even that premise might be shaky)? These guys (and they are overwhelmingly men) never led anything, went into exile under Saddam rather than go underground and build a resistance movement and represent no one but themselves.

But, enough of that. The real question is what are we anti-war, anti-imperialist activists going to do about the situation. President Bush has been rightly accused of upping the security alerts during election time to highlight the security question that he has (successfully) used as a trump card to swing the electoral balance in his favor. The lesser well-known fact is that during the fall of election years, including this year, the leaderships of the reformist anti-war movements close down the nationally- centered demonstrations campaign which are the lynchpins of their politics. It is no secret that this is done to help so-called anti-war Democratic politicians or at least not be a source of embarrassment to their weak parliamentary opposition to the war. In a blog written this summer I wrote an open letter to the troops in Iraq. The thrust of the letter was that the conventional politicians, their own military leadership and the anti-war movement had left the troops in Iraq hanging in the wind. As we enter the fall electoral campaign this is truer than ever. I will repeat here what I stated there- if the troops are to withdraw from Iraq it will have to be on their own hook. Start forming the soldiers and sailors committees now. Militant leftists here must support those efforts. Unfortunately today there is no other way to end the war. FORWARD.


Thursday, December 07, 2006




A look at the number of blogs on the subject of Iraq by this writer will convince any reader that I have spent no few words on the question of Iraq. In fact I have been something of a Johnny-one note on the subject. Thus, few words are needed here.

When the neo-con cowboys were riding high in Washington this Iraq Study Group document would have been the work of some under-employed State Department Deputy Secretary for Middle Eastern Affairs and been buried. Or ordered publicly burned at the stake on the Washington Mall. But that was then. Now it is the considered wisdom of the liberal Democratic Party foreign policy establishment and what today passes for the old Yankee Eastern Republican branch of that establishment. I am sure that they will find President Bush's copy under some couch in the White House when he leaves office. In any case it can only be described as a policy wonk’s delight. And should be read, if only as a historical document. The picture it paints of Iraq is grim-but it is already dated. As I write this the civil war rages unabated. This is my reaction, as posted elsewhere, to the work.

“On the subject of the recently released and breathlessly awaited Iraq Study Group it is my considered opinion, arrived at after a painstaking, methodical, reflective, thoughtful and deep analysis that the following conclusion can be drawn from the report. Forget the 79 recommendations. Here is the missing 80th one that the ‘Grandees’ did not have space for-the only one that counts now. IMMEDIATE, UNCONDITIONAL WITHDRAWAL OF ALL UNITED STATES/ALLIED TROOPS FROM IRAQ-START REVVING UP THE TROOP TRANSPORTS NOW! Enough said.”

Tuesday, December 05, 2006



In all the recent hoopla over Iraq Study Group reports, Pentagon Middle East strategy reassessments, Secretary of War Rumford’s resignation, the Robert Gates confirmation hearings for that same post and, to many commentators, the seemingly mythical results of the midterm 2006 elections one should not forget how this disaster got started and who started it. With that thought in mind I would like to recommend Mark Danner’s article IRAQ: THE WAR OF THE IMAGINATION in the December 21, 2006 issue of THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS(starting on page 81).

Mr. Danner is actually reviewing several books about the subject-Bob Woodward's State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III (Simon and Schuster); Ron Suskind's The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11 (Simon and Schuster);and, James Risen's State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration (Free Press). The article is also liberally sprinkled with Mr. Danner's own insights, based on several trips to Iraq and a vast knowledge of the subject, into the situation. None of this reportage is pretty. But it is nevertheless worth the read in case you cannot get to the books under review. Moreover, it may just help, if only a little, a few thoughtful people from obediently giving carte blanche to the next American imperialist adventure with blinkers on.

Christ, as cynical about bourgeosis politics as this writer is, and with good reason, it is hard to believe that a modern bourgeois democracy and the leading military power the world has ever known, to boot, turns out to have been run by guys (and it is mainly guys) who a thoughtful person would not hire to mow the lawn. Never mind let within 1000 yards of a government office. No, as I mentioned in the headline to this commentary and have done for months the resignation of one Donald Rumsfeld is not nearly enough. If there is any justice in this world the American hostage-troops, among many others in Iraq, should get first crack at their old boss’s butt. And move up and down the chain of command from there. Mr. Danner and I disagree about what needs to be done in Iraq. But for right now let Mr. Danner give you some of the details of the why Iraq is a quagmire and in the now fashionable 'state of civil war'.




As mentioned elsewhere in all the recent hoopla over Iraq Study Group reports, Pentagon Middle East strategy reassessments, Secretary of War Rumford’s resignation, the Robert Gates confirmation hearings for that same post and, to many commentators, the seemingly mythical results of the midterm 2006 elections the situation in Afghanistan has received short shrift. That is short-sighted and this writer himself has not written nearly enough about the recurring destruction of that benighted land. He stands chastised. After all this land is where the latest round of American imperialist adventures got its start.

The situation in Afghanistan, moreover, holds importance for anti-war activists in its own right. One of the arguments put forth by many, including leading Democratic Party politicians, is that as a result of the Bush Administration’s bungling of the Iraq occupation the question of troop reinforcement in Afghanistan has fallen through the cracks. Thus, the argument goes, a ‘graceful withdrawal’ from Iraq will free up troops to attempt to salvage the increasingly dire situation in Afghanistan. I, for one, say NO. As unsuccessful as we of the anti-war movement have been in our attempts to get immediate United States withdrawal from Iraq there is no way that those efforts should be used as a screen for troop escalation in Afghanistan.

Even a cursory look at the situation in Afghanistan brings this writer to one conclusion- this is Iraq on a smaller and more drawn out level. In short, another quagmire. The American puppet Karzai government’s writ runs no farther than Kabul, if that. It exists exclusively at the sufferance of the United States government, and no where else. The sectarian fighting among the tribal warlords interspersed with the reemergence of the Taliban makes that quagmire description quite apt. The first time around in Afghanistan the Bush Administration in the aura of the immediate post 9/11 period had tremendous popular support for its revenge invasion. Believe me; one could count the number of publicly demonstrating opponents to that invasion, at least in America, by the handful. This time around let us make no such mistake. As always- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal of U.S./Allied Troops(Are there any left but the British?) from Iraq! But also-U.S./Nato Troops out of Afghanistan!


Monday, December 04, 2006




Over the past several months there has been an incessant drumbeat about the failure of American higher education to produce civically virtuous citizens. We know the usual suspects on the right on this issue. Former Federal Education Czar William Bennett comes easily to mind. Another is David Horowitz who after spending three minutes in the New Left about forty years ago has created a virtual cottage industry out of ‘documenting’ the alleged liberal bias of the American professoriate. The more johnnie-come lately types like Columbia Proessor Todd Gitlin have written whole books about the treason of the liberal intelligentsia for not marching in lockstep to every imperialist adventure any American government decides to engage in. Recently, within the space of one week two separate articles appeared in the weekday OP/Ed pages of the Boston Globe by regular columnist Cathy Young and then by guest commentator Elizabeth Kantor. What gives?

What gives is one of the old themes of the ‘cultural wars’ that have been with us since the first New Leftist of the 1960’s traded in his or her bullhorn and placard from the streets and adjourned to the nearest ivy-covered campus to bask in tenure-insured theoretical contemplation about the dangers of the world and the nasty betrayal of the struggle by the masses. If one really thinks about it the theme has been going on every since they made old Socrates take the hemlock. In any case, the commentators mentioned above believe that the liberal bias of the American professoriate has dulled the senses of patriotism, civic duty and history of today’s crop of students. For proof they rely on recent studies, particularly a University of Connecticut survey, which indicate that most college seniors know less about the world when they leave the leafy campuses then when they arrived.

But are the poor, bedraggled liberal professors with their quirky little theories, their alleged distain for the Western canon, their self-doubts and their penchant for bravely signing petitions for every worthy cause as their “radical’ acts of political awareness really the causal factor behind the apparent decline in civic virtue of the past half century. I think not. While this writer LIKES the Western canon and will freely admit publically for the first time, horror of horrors, that he LIKES John Milton’s poetry it has never hurt anyone to look at other bodies of literature and history from the’ forgotten’ of world history. Moreover, although the liberal ‘fight’ led by the professoriate to create pockets of ‘political correctness’ in the cloistered academy has sometimes set my teeth on edge it hardly is on the scale, of say- an average day of treachery by the Bush Administration and the Congress- in accelerating the decline of civic virtue.

Just to get a feel for what is going on among college students I recently walked around several campuses here in Boston, where you practically stumble over a college student with every turn you make. Here one can find all manner of student from Harvard’ ruling class in training to the lowly struggling junior college student studying hard to keep out of Iraq, and everything in between. That walk has led me to a very different conclusion from those faint-hearted conservative commentators. I witnessed first hand the intersection of 24/7 iPod nation, cell phone nation, and My Space Internet nation. That phenomenon, dear readers, is where the ‘death of civility’ is to be found. While on average today’s youth is probably smarter than previous generations there is just no time to go beyond the hyper-individualized trance necessary to balance all that technology. That long touted ride down that ‘information superhighway’ has taken a greater toll on the body politic than one might think.

Additional note: As an alternate theory to the conclusions from my tour above I offer this. The “enhanced” prospects for increased social life (read-party time) created by campus life and the mania for sports events such as big-time college football and March Madness college basketball should be carefully analyzed as factors in the decline of civic virtue. Hell, wait a minute- how is that so different from the generation of ’68, my generation. We did the same damn things? Let the college students breathe a little, make their mistakes and learn from them. Maybe we will even make a few revolutionaries in the process. Enough said.

Friday, December 01, 2006

*Support The PDC Holiday Appeal-Class- Struggle Defense Work In The U.S. - Building on the Heritage of the International Labor Defense

Markin comment:

The following is an article from an archival issue of Women and Revolution, Winter-Spring, 1996, that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of Women and Revolution during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.


Class- Struggle Defense Work In The U.S. - Building on the Heritage of the International Labor Defense

We print below an edited speech by Deborah Mackson, executive director of the Partisan Defense Committee, prepared for April 7995 regional educationals in New York, Chicago and Oakland as part of a series of meetings and rallies sponsored by the PDC to mobilize support for Mum/a Abu-Jamal and the fight against the racist death penalty.
Mumia Abu-Jamal describes his current conditions of incarceration on death row at the State Correctional Institution at Greene County, Pennsylvania as "high-tech hell." When Governor Tom Ridge assaults all of the working people and minorities of this country by initiating the first execution of a political prisoner in America since the Rosenbergs, he must hear a resounding "No!" from coast to coast. Because Jamal is an articulate voice for the oppressed, this racist and rotting capitalist state wants to silence him forever. He is indeed dangerous. He is indeed a symbol. He is, indeed, innocent. Hear his powerful words, and you will begin to understand the hatred and fear which inspires the vendetta against this courageous fighter:

"Over many long years, over mountains of fears, through rivers of repression, from the depths of the valley of the shadow of death, I survive to greet you, in the continuing spirit of rebellion.... As America's ruling classes rush backwards into a new Dark Age, the weight of repression comes easier with each passing hour. But as repression increases, so too must resistance.... Like our forefathers, our fore-mothers, our kith and kin, we must fight for every inch of ground gained. The repressive wave sweeping this country will not stop by good wishes, but only by a counterwave of committed people firm in their focus."

We of the Partisan Defense Committee, the Spartacist League and the Labor Black Leagues are committed to a campaign to free this former Black Panther, award-winning journalist and supporter of the controversial MOVE organization who was framed for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia policeman. Our aim is to effect an international campaign of protest and publicity like that which ultimately saved the nine Scottsboro Boys, framed for rape in Alabama in 1931, from the electric chair. We must mobilize the working class and all the oppressed in the fight to free this class-war prisoner framed by the government's murderous vendetta.

As Marxists, we are opposed to the death penalty on principle. We say that this state does not have the right to decide who lives and who dies. Capital punishment is part of the vast arsenal of terror at the hands of this state, which exists to defend the capitalist system of exploitation and oppression. America's courts are an instrument of the bourgeoisie's war on the working people and the poor; they are neither neutral nor by any stretch of the imagination "color blind."

To us, the defense of America's class-war prisoners— whatever their individual political views may be—is a responsibility of the revolutionary vanguard party which must champion all causes in the interest of the proletariat. The Partisan Defense Committee was initiated by the Spartacist League in 1974 in the tradition of the working-class defense policies of the International Labor Defense, under its founder and first secretary from 1925 to 1928, James P. Cannon. Today, I want to talk to you about how that tradition was built in this country by the best militants of the past 100 years—the leaders of class-struggle organizations like the pre-World War I Industrial Workers of the World, the early Socialist and Communist parties and the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party.

The Roots of Black Oppression

To forge a future, one has to understand the past. The modern American death penalty is the barbaric inheritance of a barbaric system of production: chattel slavery. Like the capitalists who hold state power today, the slavocracy used the instruments of their power, special bodies of armed men and the "justice" system— the laws, courts and prisons—to control people for profit. Directly descendant from the slavocracy's tradition of property in black people is the death penalty. A trail through history illustrates this truth. The "slave codes" codified a series of offenses for which slaves could be killed but for which whites would receive a lesser sentence. In Virginia, the death penalty was mandatory for both slaves and free blacks for any crime for which a white could be imprisoned for three years or more. In Georgia, a black man convicted of raping a white woman faced the death penalty; a white man got two years for the same crime, and punishment was "discretionary" if the victim was black. Slaves could not own property, bear arms, assemble or testify against whites in courts of law. Marriage between slaves was not recognized; families were sold apart; it was illegal to teach a slave to read and write. Slaves were not second- or third-class citizens—they were not human, but legally "personal, movable property," chattel.

William Styron in The Confessions of Nat Turner has the fictional character T.R. Gray explain the slaveowners' rationale to Turner:

"The point is that you are animate chattel and animate chattel is capable of craft and connivery and wily stealth. You ain't a wagon, Reverend, but chattel that possesses moral choice and spiritual volition. Remember that well. Because that's how come the law provides that animate chattel like you can be tried for a felony, and that's how come you're goin' to be tried next Sattidy. "He paused, then said softly without emotion: 'And hung by the neck until dead'."

While the slave codes were a Southern institution, legal and extralegal terror were never exclusive to the South. As early as 1793, fugitive slave laws were on the federal books. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Law was passed in response to the growing abolitionist influence which had inspired several Northern states to pass "personal liberty laws," giving some protection to slaves who had successfully negotiated the Underground Railroad. The 1850 law, seeking to protect the private property of slaveholders, put the burden of proof on captured blacks, but gave them no legal power to prove their freedom—no right to habeas corpus, no right to a jury trial, no right even to testify on their own behalf.

Many blacks were caught in the clutches of this infamous law, which had no bounds. For example, a man in southern Indiana was arrested and returned to an owner’ who claimed he had run away 79 years before. The law knew no pretense. A magistrate's fee doubled if he judged an unfortunate black before the bench a runaway slave instead of a tree man. And fugitives were pursued with vigor. In Battle Cry of Freedom, historian James McPherson recounts the story of Anthony Burns, a slave who stowed away from Virginia to Boston in 1854. The feds spent the equivalent of $2.3 million in current dollars to return him to his "owner." That is approximately equal to what an average death penalty case costs today.

Any hope that "blind justice" could be sought from the U.S. Supreme Court was dashed with the 1856 Dred Scott decision. Chief Justice Taney wrote that at the time the Constitution was adopted, Negroes "had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior far inferior, that they had no rights which a white man was bound to respect."

While slavery itself was overthrown in the Civil War and Reconstruction, the needs of the American capitalists for compulsory agricultural labor in the South remained. A new, semi-capitalistic mode of agriculture developed, in which the semi-slave condition of the freed blacks was made permanent by the re-establishment of the social relations of slavery: color discrimination buttressed by segregation and race prejudice.

After the Civil War the slave codes became the "black codes," a separate set of rules defining crime and punishment for blacks and limiting their civil rights. They were enforced by the extralegal terror of the Ku Klux Klan; in the last two decades of the 19th century, lynching vastly outnumbered legal executions. As W.E.B. Du Bois said of lynching:

"It is not simply the Klu Klux Klan; it is not simply weak officials; it is not simply inadequate, unenforced law. It is deeper, far deeper than all this: it is the in-grained spirit of mob and murder, the despising of women and the capitalization of children born of 400 years of Negro slavery and 4,000 years of government for private profit."

The promise of Radical Reconstruction, equality, could only be fulfilled by attacking the problem at its very root: private property in the means of production. Neither Northern capitalists nor Southern planters could abide that revolution, so they made a deal, the Compromise of 1877, in their common interest. That's why we call on American workers, black and white, to finish the Civil War—to complete, through socialist revolution, the unfinished tasks of the Second American Revolution!

In the wake of the Compromise of 1877, the U.S. Supreme Court began to dismantle the Civil Rights Acts of the Reconstruction period. One landmark decision was Plessey v. Ferguson in 1896, which permitted "separate but equal" treatment of black and white in public facilities. But separate is never equal. This was simply the legal cover for the transformation of the "black codes" into "Jim Crow"—the "grandfather clause," poll tax, literacy test, all designed to deny blacks the vote, and the institution of separate facilities from schools to cemeteries. This legal and practical segregation, instituted in the South and transported North, was a tool to divide and rule.

America's Racist Death Penalty

The death penalty was applied at will until 1972. From 1930 to 1967 the U.S. averaged 100 or more executions per year. In 1972, following a decade of civil rights protests, the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty was "cruel and unusual punishment" because of its arbitrary and capricious application. But the hiatus lasted only four years.

In 1976-the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty and has been expanding it ever since. In 1986 the court ruled it unconstitutional to execute the insane, but gave no criteria for defining insanity; in 1988 it approved the execution of 16-year-olds; in 1989 it ruled for the execution of retarded persons. Since 1976, 276 people have been executed in this country. Between January and April of 1995, 17 were killed. And innocence is no barrier, as the Supreme Court recently decreed in the case of Jesse Dewayne Jacobs, executed in Texas in January 1995 after the prosecution submitted that he had not committed the crime for which he had been sentenced. The Supreme Court said it didn't matter, he'd had a "fair trial." What an abomination!
Perhaps the most telling case in recent history was the 1987 McCleskey decision. The evidence submitted to the courts illustrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that racism ruled the application of the death penalty. Overall, a black person convicted of killing a white person is 22 times more likely to be sentenced to death than if the victim is black. When the McCleskey case went to court, liberals across the country hoped for a Brown v. Board of Education decision in regard to the death penalty. The evidence of racial bias was clear and overwhelming. But while the Supreme Court accepted the accuracy of the evidence, it said it doesn't matter. The court showed the real intention of the death penalty when it stated that McCleskey's claim "throws into serious question the principles that underlie our entire criminal justice system" and "the validity of capital punishment in our multi-racial society." Or as a Southern planter wrote in defense of the slave codes, "We have to rely more and more on the power of fear.... We are determined to continue masters" (quoted in Kenneth Stampp, The Peculiar Institution).

Let's take a look for a moment at "our multi-racial society." The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world: 344 per 100,000. It is one of the two "advanced" industrial countries left in the world which employs capital punishment. As of January 1995, 2,976 men, women and children occupied America's death rows; 48 are women, 37 are juveniles. According to the latest census, blacks make up 12 percent of the population, yet 51 percent of the people awaiting execution are minorities and 40 percent are black.

Eighty-four percent of all capital cases involve white victims even though 50 percent of murder victims in America are black. Of a total of 75 people executed for interracial murders, three involved a black victim and a white defendant, 72 involved a white victim and a black defendant. The death penalty is truly an impulse to genocide against the black population for whom the ruling class no longer sees any need in its profit-grabbing calculations.

Understanding this and understanding the broader importance of the black question in America, we take up Jamal's case as a concrete task in our struggle for black freedom and for proletarian revolution in the interests of the liberation of all of humanity.

Early History of Class-Struggle Defense

From the beginning of the communist movement, a commitment to those persecuted by the ruling classes, whether "on the inside" or out, has been recognized as an integral part of the class struggle. Marx and Engels spent years defending and supporting the refugees of-the Paris Commune.

As Trotskyists, we feel this responsibility keenly because we inherited some of the finest principles for class-struggle defense from James R Cannon, the founder of American Trotskyism. The traditions which inspired the International Labor Defense (ILD) were forged in hard class struggle, dating back to the rise of the labor movement after the Civil War. One of the first acts of the Republican government following the Compromise of 1877 was to pull its troops from the South and send them to quell the railway strikes that had broken out throughout the Northern states. The federal strikebreakers tipped the scales in the hard-fought battles of the time, many of which escalated into general strikes, and the workers were driven back in defeat. But united struggle against the bosses had been launched, and less than a decade later the workers movement had taken up the fight for an eight-hour day.

In the course of this struggle, workers in Chicago amassed at Haymarket Square in early May of 1886. The protest was just winding down when a bomb went off, likely planted by a provocateur. The cops opened fire on the workers, killing one and wounding many. The government’s response was to frame up eight workers, who were sympathetic to anarchist views, on charges of murder. They were tried and convicted, not for the bombing but for their agitation against the employers. Four were hanged, one committed suicide, three were finally pardoned in 1891.

The period from the turn of the century to America's entry into World War I was one of intense social struggle; militant strikes were more numerous than at any time since. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW—the Wobblies) led union organizing drives, anti-lynching campaigns and a free speech movement. The level of struggle meant more frequent arrests, which gave rise to the need for defense of the class and individuals. The left and most labor currents and organizations rallied to the defense of victims of the class war. Non-sectarian defense was the rule of the day. The Wobbly slogan, "an injury to one is an injury to all," was taken to heart by the vast majority of the workers.

This was Cannon's training ground. One of his heroes was Big Bill Haywood, who conceived the ILD with Cannon in Moscow in 1925. As Cannon said, the history of the ILD is "the story of the projection of Bill Haywood's influence—through me and my associates—into the movement from which he was exiled, an influence for simple honesty and good will and genuine non-partisan solidarity toward all the prisoners of the class war in America."

Big Bill Haywood came from the Western Federation of Miners, one of the most combative unions this country has ever produced. The preamble to their constitution was a series of six points, beginning, "We hold that there is a class struggle in society and that this struggle is caused by economic conditions." It goes on to note, "We hold that the class struggle will continue until the producer is recognized as the sole master of his product," and it asserts that the working class and it alone can and must achieve its own emancipation. It ends, "we, the wage slaves...have associated in the Western Federation of Miners."

Not all labor organizations of the time had this class-struggle perspective. Contrast the tract of Samuel Rompers' American Federation of Labor (AFL), "Labor's Bill of Grievances," which he sent to the president and Congress in 1908:

"We present these grievances to your attention because we have long, patiently and in vain waited for redress.

There is not any matter of which we have complained but for which we nave in an honorable and lawful manner submitted remedies. The remedies for these grievances proposed by labor are in line with fundamental law, and with progress and development made necessary by changed industrial conditions."

The IWW, whose constitution began, "The working class and the employing class have nothing in common," was founded in 1905. Haywood was an initiator and one of its most aggressive and influential organizers. As a result of that and his open socialist beliefs, in 1906 he, along with George Pettibone and Charles Moyer, were arrested for the bombing murder of ex-governor Frank Steunenberg of Idaho (the nemesis of the combative Coeur d'Alene miners). The three were kidnapped from Colorado, put on a military train and taken to Idaho.

The Western Federation of Miners and the IWW launched a tremendous defense movement for the three during the 18 months they were waiting to be tried for their lives. Everyone from the anarchists to the AFL participated. Demonstrations of 50,000 and more were organized all across the country. It was this case that brought James Cannon to political consciousness.

The case was important internationally, too. While they were in jail, Maxim Gorky came to New York and sent a telegram to the three with greetings from the Russian workers. Haywood wired back that their imprisonment was an expression of the class struggle which was the same in America as in Russia and in all other capitalist countries.

On a less friendly note, Teddy Roosevelt, then president of America, publicly declared the three "undesirable citizens." Haywood responded that the laws of the country held they were innocent until proven guilty and that a man in Roosevelt's position should be the last to judge them until the case was decided in court.

The Socialist Party (founded in 1901) also rallied to the defense. While in jail, Haywood was nominated as the party's candidate for governor of Colorado and got 16,000 votes. The leader of the SP, Eugene Debs, wrote his famous "Arouse, Ye Slaves" for the SP's Appeal to Reason:

"If they attempt to murder Moyer, Haywood and their brothers, a million revolutionists, at least, will meet them with guns.... Let them dare to execute their devilish plot and every state in this Union will resound with the tramp of revolution....
"Get ready, comrades, for action!... A special revolutionary convention of the proletariat...would be in order, and, if extreme measures are required, a general strike could be ordered and industry paralyzed as a preliminary to a general uprising."

Haywood's trial began in May of 1907. It was Clarence Darrow for the defense and the infamous Senator William E. Borah for the frame-up (prosecution). That this was a political trial was clear to everybody. The prosecution, for example, introduced into evidence issues of the anarchist journal Alarm from 1886, when Haymarket martyr Albert Parsons was its editor. Haywood thought that Dar-row's summary to the jury in his case was the best effort Darrow ever made in the courtroom. But Haywood also got a bit exasperated with his lawyer. In his autobiography, he tells the story of Darrow coming to jail depressed and worried. The defendants would always try to get him to lighten up. Finally Pettibone got tired of this and told Darrow they knew it would be really hard on him to lose this great case with all its national and international attention, but, hey! he said, "You know it's us fellows that have to be hanged!"

Every day of the trial the defense committee packed the courtroom with what Haywood called "a labor jury of Socialists and union men." This is a practice we proudly follow today. On the stand, Haywood told the story of the Western Federation of Miners and its battles against the bosses, putting them on trial. He refused to be intimidated by Senator Borah. When Borah asked whether Haywood had said that Governor Steunenberg should be exterminated, Haywood replied that to the best of his remembrance, he said he should be "eliminated."

On June 28 Haywood was acquitted. Soon thereafter, so were his comrades. At a Chicago rally organized to greet him upon his release, he told the crowd of 200,000, "We owe our lives to your solidarity." Haywood knew that innocence was not enough. It is that kind of solidarity we are seeking to mobilize today for Mumia Abu-Jamal.

The Labor Movement and World War I

Haywood was elected to the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party in 1908, during its most left-wing period. In 1910, he was one of the party's delegates to the Socialist Congress of the Second International in Copenhagen. Shortly after, the SP moved to the right, and in 1912 (the year Debs polled nearly a million votes in his campaign for president) a number of leftists, including the young Jim Cannon, left the Socialist Party. A year later, when Haywood was purged from the executive board, there was another mass exodus.

The IWW, in which Haywood and Cannon remained active, expanded the scope of its activities. This was the period of the free speech movement and anti-lynching ' campaigns. One Wobbly pamphlet, "Justice for the Negro: How He Can Get It," discusses the question of integrated struggle and how to stop lynchings:

"The workers of every race and nationality must join in one common group against their one common enemy—the employers—so as to be "able to defend themselves and one another. Protection for the working class lies in complete solidarity of the workers, without regard to race, creed, sex or color. 'One Enemy—One Union!' must be their watchword."

They almost got it right: as syndicalists, they didn't understand the need for a vanguard party to fight for a revolutionary program.

With the beginning of World War I and preparations for U.S. involvement, the government declared political war on the IWW and the left. Thousands of Wobblies were imprisoned under "criminal syndicalism" laws—100 in San Quentin and Folsom alone. In response, the IWW adopted the slogan, "Fill the jails." It was a misguided tactic, but unlike many so-called socialists today, the Wobbliest had a principled position where it counted: they'd go to jail before they'd cross a picket line.

1917 was the year of the Russian Revolution. A month after that world-historic event, Haywood was back on trial in Chicago with some 18 other Wobblies. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in Leaven worth prison. In 1919 he was released on bail pending appeal and devoted his time to the IWW's General Defense Committee, launching a campaign to raise bail money for those in prison. When the Red Scare and the Palmer Raids began, Haywood learned that he was a primary target. So, as his appeal went to the Supreme Court, he sailed for the Soviet Union. A student of history, he had no illusions in "blind justice."

Cannon was also heavily influenced by the case of California labor leaders Tom Mooney and Warren Billings. In 1916, as America was preparing to go to war, Mooney and Billings were framed up for a bombing at a Preparedness Day Parade in San Francisco. The Preparedness Movement was a bourgeois movement of "open shop" chamber of commerce, right-wing vigilante groups, who were very serious about getting the U.S. into World War I. They went into Mexico to fight Pancho Villa as practice. The Preparedness Movement was opposed by labor, and in fact two days before the bombing there had been a 5,000-strong labor demonstration in San Francisco.

Mooney and Billings were convicted. Mooney was sentenced to hang, Billings got a life sentence. At first, their case was taken up only by the anarchists. The official AFL labor movement took a hands-off position. But when it became clear that they had been framed with perjured testimony, a "Mooney movement" swept the country.

The Mooney case had a big impact on Russian immigrant workers, among others. Thus the Mooney case was carried back to Russia, and in April of 1917 the Russian anarchists led a Mooney defense demonstration in Petrograd at the American consulate. Worried about Russia pulling out of World War I at that point, Woodrow Wilson personally interceded on behalf of Mooney and Billings. It didn't get them out of jail, but the effect of international pressure was not lost on Cannon.

In the U.S., the cops broke up Mooney defense meetings and arrested those present. The class-struggle nature of the defense movement, involving such actions as one-day strikes, was a felt threat to the ruling class, especially in the face of a war. In a conscious effort to dissipate this movement, the state commuted Mooney's death sentence to life in prison. In combination with the domestic repression following the war, this took the life out of the Mooney movement. Mooney and Billings stayed in prison for 22 years. They were released in 1939, and Mooney spent two and a half of the next three years in the hospital and then-died.

In his eulogy "Good-by Tom Mooney!" Cannon wrote:

"They imprisoned Mooney—as they imprisoned Debs and Haywood and hundreds of others—in order to clear the road of militant labor opposition to the First World War, and they kept him in prison for revenge and for a warning to others."

As World War II began, Cannon would find himself in the same position.

The Tradition of International Labor Defense

The parties of the Second International backed their own ruling classes in World War I, and the Bolsheviks fought for a new international party committed to the Marxist movement's call, "Workers of the World Unite!" In 1919, the leaders of the Russian Revolution founded the Third International, the Comintern, to build revolutionary parties which could take up the struggle against capitalist rule. 1919 was also a year of massive strike activity in the U.S. This wave of class struggle swelled the ranks of the Socialist Party, which then split in September. The most left-wing workers regrouped, giving birth to the American Communist movement, and Cannon was among them.

America in the 1920s was not a nice place to be. Warren Harding was elected in a landslide victory on the slogan of "Return to Normalcy." And "normal" was racist and repressive. His attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer, launched a war on the left inspired by fear of the Russian Revolution, which resulted in massive deportations of leftists and jailing of American radicals. The young Communist Party went underground. 1920 saw more lynchings and anti-black pogroms than any time in recent memory. The Klan grew like wildfire, and the government passed anti-immigration legislation that would give Newt Gingrich and Pete Wilson wet dreams.

When it was clear that the IWW was for all practical purposes broken, many of its jailed members, including Eugene Debs, were pardoned. The Communists, however, remained in jail. The union movement took it on the chops as well, and by the end of the 1920s only 13 percent of the workforce of this country was unionized.

The 1921 Third Congress of the Comintern was held under the watchword "To the Masses." In the U.S., the newly formed party had been underground and could hardly make a turn to the masses. At the Comintern's urging, the Workers (Communist) Party emerged in December of 1921 with Cannon as its first chairman and main public spokesman.

By the time of the Fourth Congress of the Comintern in 1922, the tactic of the united front had been defined; the Fourth Congress detailed its application. The need for the united front grew out of the post-World War I ebbing of the revolutionary tide following the Russian Revolution. The offensive by the capitalists against the proletariat and its parties was forcing even the reformist-led organizations into partial and defensive struggles to save their very lives.

The slogan "march separately, strike together" encapsulated the two aims of the united-front tactic: class unity and the political fight for a communist program. The Comintern sought both to achieve the maximum unity of the working masses in their defensive struggles and to expose in action the hesitancy of the leadership of the reformist organizations of the Second International to act in the interests of the proletariat and the inability of its program to win against the ruling class.

The united front is a tactic we use today. Our call for labor/black mobilizations to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and abolish the racist death penalty has brought together many different organizations and individuals to save Jamal's life. At these rallies and demonstrations, we

have insisted on the right to argue for our program to put an end to racist injustice and capitalist exploitation through socialist revolution.

In line with the policies hashed out at the Third and Fourth Congresses, the Communist International founded an international defense organization, the International Red Aid. These events had a substantial effect on the young American party, and one of the direct results was the foundation in 1925 of the International Labor Defense (ILD).

Cannon's goal was to make the ILD the defense arm of the labor movement. Cannon wrote to Debs on the occasion of his endorsement of the ILD:

"The main problem as I see it is to construct the ILD on the broadest possible basis. To conduct the work in a non-partisan and non-sectarian manner and finally establish the impression by our deeds that the ILD is the defender of every worker persecuted for his activities in the class struggle, without any exceptions and without regard to his affiliations."

From 1925 to 1928, the ILD was pretty successful in achieving that goal. It established principles to which we adhere today:

• United-front defense: The ILD campaigns were organized to allow for the broadest possible participation.

• Class-struggle defense: The ILD sought to mobilize the working class in protest on a national and international scale, relying on the class movement of the workers and
placing no faith in the justice of the capitalist courts, while using every legal avenue open to them.

• Non-sectarian defense: When it was founded, the ILD immediately adopted 106 prisoners, instituting the practice of financially assisting these prisoners and their
families. Many had been jailed as a result of the "criminal syndicalism" laws; some were Wobblies, some were anarchists, some were strike leaders. Not one was a member of the Communist Party. The ILD launched the first Holiday Appeal. Of course, the ILD also vigorously defended its own, understanding the vital importance of the legal rights of the Communist Party to exist and organize.

Social Defense and Union Struggle

The ILD's most well-known case was the defense of Sacco and Vanzetti. The frame-up for murder and robbery of these two immigrant anarchist workers, who were sent to their deaths by the state of Massachusetts in 1927, grew directly out of the "red scare" of the early '20s. The ILD applied with alacrity the main lines of its program: unity of all working-class forces and reliance on the class movement of the workers. Thousands of workers rallied to their cause, and unions around the country contributed to a defense fund set up by Italian workers in the Boston area. But the level of class struggle is key to the outcome of defense cases, and the ILD's exemplary campaign proved insufficient to save the lives of Sacco and Vanzetti.

As the case drew to a close, one of the feints used by the state was to start rumors that Sacco and Vanzetti's death penalty sentence would be commuted to life without parole. This was designed to dissipate the Sacco and Vanzetti movement and prepare their execution. Cannon rang the alarm bells from the pages of the Labor Defender, rallying ILD supporters to mass demonstrations and warning them of the devious and two-faced nature of the bourgeoisie. Cannon had not forgotten the demobilization of the Mooney movement after his sentence had been commuted nor the living death that Mooney and Billings were enduring in their 22 years of internment.

This has significance for us today as we fight against the threatened execution of Jamal. Life in prison is hell. Think about the "life" of Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt), another former Panther, jailed for a quarter of a century for a crime the state knows he did not commit. While some call upon Pennsylvania governor Ridge to convert Jamal's sentence to life without parole, we demand the freedom of both these innocent men.

The ILD also worked in defense of the class as a whole. In 1926, about 16,000 textile workers hit the bricks in Passaic, New Jersey. Their strike was eventually defeated, but it drew sharp lessons on the role of the state and demonstrated for Cannon the absolute necessity for a permanent, organized and always ready non-partisan labor defense organization. Cannon wrote in the Labor Defender:

"Our I.L.D. is on the job at Passaic. Not a single striker went into court without our lawyer to defend him. There was not a single conviction that was not appealed. Nobody had to remain in jail more than a few days for lack of bail.... A great wave of protest spread thru the labor movement and even the most conservative labor leaders were compelled to give expression to it."

In 1928, the Trotskyist Left Opposition (including Cannon) was expelled from the Communist Party. The ILD remained under the control of the Communist Party and thus became subject to the zigzags of Stalinist policies throughout the 1930s, including the perversion of the united front from a tactic for class unity into an instrument for class collaboration and counterrevolution.

In 1929, Stalin declared the "Third Period," an ultraleft shift, the main tactic of which was to smash the Social Democratic and other leftist parties by creating what the Stalinists called "united fronts from below." The Comintern charged the reformists with "social fascism"; the real fascists were to be dealt with secondarily. In Germany, this policy contributed to Adolph Hitler's seizure of power— there was no united fight against fascism by the workers in the mass Communist and Social Democratic parties. This policy had an effect on the U.S. party and its defense work.

Legal Lynching in the American South

One result of the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Depression was that 200,000people made the rails their home as they moved from place to place looking for work. On 25 March 1931, nine black youths, ranging in age from 13 to 20, were riding the Memphis to Chattanooga freight train. Two young white women, fearful of being jailed for hoboing when the train was stopped after reports that there had been a fight with some white boys, accused the blacks of rape. Among the nine were Olen Montgomery—blind in one eye and with 10 percent vision in the other—headed for Memphis hoping to earn enough money to buy a pair of glasses; Willie Roberson, debilitated by years-long untreated syphilis and gonorrhea—which is important if you're going to be talking about a rape case; and Eugene Williams and Roy Wright, both 13 years old.

The group were nearly lynched on the spot. The trial began in Scottsboro, Alabama on April 6. Four days later, despite medical evidence that no rape had occurred—not to mention gross violations of due process—eight were sentenced to death and one of the 13-year-olds to life in prison. The Communist Party issued a statement condemning the trial as a "legal" lynching. That night, the campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys began.

Freedom was a long time coming. A series of trials and appeals all went badly for the defendants. In 1933, one of the alleged victims, Ruby Bates, recanted her testimony, but it wasn't until 1937 that four of the defendants were freed. Three more were paroled in the 1940s, and in 1948 Haywood Patterson escaped from Angola prison to Michigan, where the governor refused to extradite him. The last, Andy Wright, who had had his 1944 parole revoked, was finally released in 1950. The nine had spent 104 years in jail for a "crime" that never happened.

The ILD made the word "Scottsboro" synonymous, nationally and internationally, with Southern racism, repression and injustice. Their campaign was responsible for saving the Scottsboro Boys from the electric chair. As Haywood Patterson's father wrote in a letter to his son, "You will burn sure if you don't let them preachers alone and trust in the International Labor Defense to handle the case."

The CP's publicity was massive and moving. They organized demonstrations in Harlem and across the country, appealing to the masses to put no confidence in the capitalist courts and to see the struggle for the freedom of these youths as part of the larger class struggle. Young Communists in Dresden, Germany marched on the American consulate, and, when officials refused to accept their petition, hurled bottles through windows. Inside each was the note: "Down with American murder and Imperialism. For the brotherhood of black and white young proletarians. An end to the bloody lynching of our Negro co-workers."

In the South, the defense effort faced not only the racist system but the homegrown fascists of the Ku Klux Klan as well, which launched a campaign under the slogan "The Klan Rides Again to Stamp Out Communism."

The ILD's success in rallying the masses to the defense of the Scottsboro Boys happened despite their sectarian "Third Period" tactics. The ILD denounced the NAACP, the ACLU and most of the trade-union movement as "social fascists" and threw the "Trotskyite" likes of Jim Cannon out of Scottsboro defense meetings. But fascism was on the rise in Europe, and, seeking now to make as many allies as he could, in 1935 Stalin' declared the "Third Period" at an end. A Comintern resolution urged the Communist parties to form "popular fronts" with any and all for progressive ends. In the U.S. this meant supporting Roosevelt and abandoning the struggle to link the defense of black people with the fight against the capitalist system. You can imagine the surprise of the NAACP, who were now greeted warmly by the ILD as "comrades"! This comradeship did not extend to the Trotskyists. The Scottsboro Defense Committee was formed, and a lot of the life went out of the movement as the case dragged on.

Cannon and his party, the Communist League of America, supported the efforts of the ILD to free the Scottsboro Boys. The Trotskyists insisted on the importance of an integrated movement to fight in their defense. Cannon pointed out that it was wrong to view the Scottsboro case solely as a "Negro issue" and agitated in the pages of the Militant for the organization of white workers around the case.
When Clarence Darrow refused to work on the case unless the ILD withdrew because he didn't like its agitation methods, Cannon wrote:

"The ILD was absolutely right in rejecting the presumptuous demands of Darrow and Hays, and the Scottsboro prisoners showed wisdom in supporting the stand of their defense organization. Any other course would have signified an end to the fight to organize the protest of the masses against the legal lynching; and with that would have ended any real hope to save the boys and restore their freedom."

Darrow's big argument was: "You can't mix politics with a law case." Cannon replied:

"That is a reactionary lie. It is father to the poisonous doctrine that a labor case is a purely legal relation between the lawyer and client and the court.... It was the influence of this idea over the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee which paralyzed the protest mass movement at every step and thereby contributed to the final tragic outcome. Not to the courts alone, and not primarily there, but to the masses must the appeal of the persecuted of class and race be taken. There is the power and there is the justice."

Communists on Trial
During the time that the Scottsboro Boys were languishing in their Southern jails, World War II began in Europe. The American workers had gone through the experience of one of the biggest union organizing drives in the history of the country, resulting in the formation of the CIO, and many of the new industrial unions had won significant victories. Communists, including the Trotskyists, Jim Cannon and the Socialist Workers Party, had participated in and led many of these struggles. War is great for capitalist economies—the destruction creates constant demand, and if you win, you get new markets to exploit. But to go to war, you have to regiment the population at home, and that begins with the suspension of civil liberties.

On the eve of America's entry into World War II, Congress passed the Smith Act, requiring the fingerprinting and registering of all aliens residing in the United States and making it a crime to advocate or teach the "violent overthrow of the United States government" or to belong to a group advocating or teaching it.

For public consumption, this act was billed as an antifascist measure, but the Socialist Workers Party (successor to the Communist League of America) and Minneapolis Teamsters were the first victims of the Smith Act prosecutions. Why did the head of the Teamsters Union, Daniel J. Tobin, the U.S. attorney general, Francis Biddle, and the president of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, conspire to take away the First Amendment rights of a small Trotskyist party, a party with maybe a couple thousand members and influence in one local of one union?

Part of the answer is that the SWP was effective. The party had led some hard class struggle; it was their comrades who had provided the leadership for the Minneapolis strike of 1934 which led to the formation of Teamsters Local 544. Another part of the answer is politics: the SWP was forthright in its opposition to the coming war. This was a calculated government attack designed to cripple the SWP where it had the most influence in the proletariat as America girded for imperialist war.

In the courtroom, the SWP's goal was to put the capitalist system on trial, a tradition we carry forward in our own cases. On the stand, Cannon pedagogically explained the positions of the SWP on the questions of the day and Marxism in general. But the Minneapolis defendants went to jail for 16 months—sentenced on the same day that Congress voted to enter the war. The ruling class hoped that the party would be leaderless and pass from the stage. But at that time the SWP was still a revolutionary party with a revolutionary program and a collective leadership—so that hope was, in the main, dashed.

A number of CIO unions issued statements in defense of the Minneapolis defendants, as did numerous black organizations. The American Communist Party, however, issued the following statement: "The Communist Party has always exposed, fought against and today joins the fight to exterminate the Trotskyite fifth column from the life of our nation." In line with their support for Roosevelt and the war, the CP aided the government in the Smith Act prosecution of the SWP and aided the FBI in their persecution of the Trotskyists in the trade unions. The CP's disgusting collaboration did not prevent them from being prosecuted under the very same Smith Act, beginning in 1948. The Trotskyists, of course, defended the CP unequivocally against the government prosecution while criticizing the CP's Stalinist politics.

Years later the attorney general, Francis Biddle, apologized for prosecuting the Trotskyists. The bourgeoisie sometimes apologizes when its crisis is safely over. Fifty years after the end of World War II, the U.S. government "apologized" for the wartime roundup and internment of Japanese Americans, offering a token compensation to those whose homes were seized and livelihoods ruined. They say whatever outrageous trampling of civil liberties occurred was an "excess" or "wrong" and of course it will "never happen again." But the Reagan government drew up plans to intern Arab Americans in concentration camps in Louisiana after the bombing of Libya. Those camps are ready and waiting for the next time the bourgeoisie feels its rule is substantially threatened.

Class-Struggle Defense Work

The Partisan Defense Committee was initiated in 1974 by the Spartacist League with the goal of re-establishing in the workers movement united-front, non-sectarian defense principles in the tradition of Cannon's ILD.

This was not anticipated to be, nor has it been, an easy task. Unlike the ILD, which inherited the rich and principled defense traditions of the IWW and the personal authority of mass leaders like Cannon and Haywood, we were the immediate inheritors of a tradition of Stalinist perversion of defense work. In addition, the ILD was founded as a transitional organization, seeking to organize the masses for class-struggle defense work under the leadership of the party. By its second conference, the ILD had 20,000 individual members, a collective, affiliated membership of 75,000, and 156 branches across the country. The PDC attempts to conduct its work in a way that will make the transformation to such an organization possible.

The PDC program of raising money for monthly stipends for class-war prisoners is an example of an ILD practice to which we adhere. We currently send stipends to 17 prisoners, including Jamal, Geronimo ji Jaga and other former supporters of the Black Panther Party, victims of the FBI's murderous COINTELPRO frame-ups; Jerry Dale Lowe, a miner condemned to eleven years in prison for defending his picket line; and members of the MOVE organization locked up because they survived the racist cop assaults on their homes and murder of their family. We also follow the ILD's policy of strict accounting of finances and have modeled our journal, Class-Struggle Defense Notes, on the ILD's Labor Defender.

We take to heart Cannon's point:

"The problem of organization is a very significant one for labor defense as a school for the class struggle. We must not get the idea that we are merely 'defense workers' collecting money for lawyers. That is only a part of what we are doing. We are organizing workers on issues which are directly related to the class struggle. The workers who take part in the work of the ILD are drawn, step by step into the main stream of the class struggle. The workers participating begin to learn the ABC of the labor struggle."
Class-struggle defense is a broad category. We are a small organization and must pick and choose our cases carefully, with an eye to their exemplary nature. The case of Mario Munoz a Chilean miners' leader condemned to death in 1976 by the Argentine military junta, is a good example. This was the PDC's first major defense effort. Co-sponsored with the Committee to Defend Workers and Sailor Prisoners in Chile, the international campaign of protest by unions and civil libertarians won asylum for Munoz and his family in France.

Some of our work has been in defense of the revolutionary party. The Spartacist League takes its legality— the right to exist and organize—very seriously, and has been quick to challenge every libel and legal attack. The party successfully challenged the FBI's slanderous description of the SL as "terrorists" who covertly advocate the violent’ Overthrow of the government. A 1984 settlement forced them to describe the SL as a "Marxist political organization."

The PDC takes up not only the cases but the causes of the whole of the working people. We have initiated labor/black mobilizations against the Klan from San Francisco to Atlanta to Philadelphia to Springfield, Illinois, and mobilized sections of the integrated labor movement to join these efforts to stop the fascists from spewing their race hate.

In 1989, we broadened our thinking about how the PDC could champion causes of the international proletariat and offered to organize an international brigade to Afghanistan to fight alongside the forces of the left-nationalist Kabul regime against the imperialist-backed, anti-woman Islamic fundamentalists on the occasion of the withdrawal of Soviet troops. When our offer of a brigade was declined, we launched a successful campaign to raise money for the victims of the mullah-led assault on Jalalabad. To reflect this, we expanded the definition of the PDC to one of a legal and social defense organization. To carry out this campaign, it was necessary to expand the PDC internationally. Sections of the International Communist League initiated fraternal organizations in Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Currently we focus our efforts on Mumia Abu-Jamal and the fight to abolish the racist death penalty. Our actions in the Jamal case embody many of the principles of our defense work and the integral relationship of that work to the Marxist program of the Spartacist League, in this case particularly in regard to the fight for black liberation, which is key to the American revolution. This is a political death penalty case which illustrates the racism endemic in this country in its crudest, most vicious form and lays bare the essence of the state.

Throughout the very difficult period ahead, we will put all our faith in the mobilization of the working class and none in the capitalist courts. We embark now on exhausting every legal avenue open to Jamal, but we know the result hinges on the class struggle.

We hope you will join us in the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, to abolish the racist death penalty and finish the Civil War. Forward to the third American revolution! •


Click on title to link to Wikipedia's entry for Ho Chi Minh.




By way of an introduction I note that while I was writing a draft of this book review President George W. Bush had just completed participation in an international conference held in Vietnam. In one of the small ironies of history a photograph of the meeting between American and Vietnamese leaders displayed a huge bust of the late Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh hovering over the room. There was a time in the 1950’s and 1960’s when Ho was more than a mere historical reminder in the room. To many youth, particularly in the West, ‘Uncle’ Ho represented the most intransigent opposition to Western imperialism. Today, at a time when heroes for leftists are few and far between and Vietnam’s leadership has taken a distinctly different direction toward the shoals of “market socialism” and away from Ho Chi Minh’s ideas a look at his politically flawed but fascinating life seems in order.

The Russian Bolshevik revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky on more than one occasion noted that the Western labor movement had not produced the kind of hardened, resilient and committed revolutionaries produced in Russian and Eastern Europe. While there were definite historical reasons for that divergence centered on different political conditions it nevertheless remained an abiding different (and does until this day). The life of Ho Chi Minh as presented in the biography under review is yet another example that highlights that difference, this time in early 20th Asia, in revolutionary commitment and intensity. While the fates and the political directions of both Trotsky and the Stalinist Ho diverted shapely the commitment to communism, as they understood it, remained a lifelong commitment, even under inhumanly trying circumstances. Ho’s biographer has done an excellent job of gathering the materials, some only recently accessible from Soviet and other archives, which enable a knowledgeable reader to follow the ups and downs of his political career. That, said, the author does not and cannot really understand the nature of communist commitment and in the end can not draw any serious political conclusions about the life of his subject. His book nevertheless will be used as a definitive study of Ho’s life and influence.

Forty or so years ago the name Ho Chi Minh brought forth either anger or admiration. Anger, from the former colonialist power France for having been forced to abandon Vietnam after its military defeat and from a neo-colonialist American imperialist military force about to get its comeuppance from guerilla and regularly armed forces led by the wily Ho. Admiration, from the youth of the world, particularly the West, that a ‘new’ strategy might be 'aborning' to defeat the various imperialisms of the world and create another road to socialism not based on the Soviet or Chinese-style models.

Ho essentially built up his organization from scratch under very loose Communist International supervision from Moscow. From an American Communist’s point of view the Communist International always seemed to be intervening, for good or evil, in the internal life of its party to insure implementation of the party line. Sometimes the commands were as quickly communicated as the telegram wires would carry them. Such was apparently not the case in remote Vietnam. While Ho was a committed Stalinist he was clearly no self-serving bureaucrat of the Soviet-type revolutionaries have come to loathe. Rather it is his virtually unchanging lifelong political perspective of a variation of the ‘bloc of four classes’ strategy handed down from the Comintern in the lead up to the Chinese Revolution of the mid-1920’s that places him in the Stalinist camp. Previously, I have called such a strategy as applied to places like China and Vietnam as 'Stalinism under the gun'. Apparently the vicissitudes of Vietnamese mountain life and geographical proximity led to more contact with the Chinese revolutionaries. Seemingly Ho was more influenced by them than the Soviets on some aspects of revolutionary rural warfare. However, a look at Ho’s political actions, especially in the post World War II period, shows a pronounced bias toward Soviet leadership in the showdown of between the Soviet Union and China for leadership of the international communist movement. That tilt was not reciprocated by the Soviets as they generally saw the Vietnamese struggle as marginal to their global interests.

One of the most contradictory phenomena that confronted the revolutionary movement in the 20th century was the fact that unlike Karl Marx’s projections the socialist revolution did not start in the Western industrialized society. It started in economically backward Russia and moved East. Moreover, it started with a small although very politicized industrial working class dependent on the good will of a vast peasantry and preceded to areas where the industrial working class was either virtually non-existent or had been militarily or politically decimated. Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam under French colonialism represented just such a development. Hence, from the beginning of the revolutionary struggle in Vietnam it was an alliance between the revolutionary intellectuals and the peasantry that formed the basis for the national liberation front not the traditionally Bolshevik intellectual/worker combination prescribed by Lenin. This is important, because the program which will animated the peasantry, land to the tiller, is very different from the program of workers democracy. And that in a nutshell is the difference between Stalinism and Trotskyism in Vietnam. The difference between ‘socialism in one country’ and permanent revolution’ Ho won that political fight but can anyone today argue that Vietnam is on the road to socialism as either Stalinists or Trotskyists would understand the development.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Let me make one thing clear-as a partisan of Leon Trotsky this writer has many political differences with world Stalinism. Not the least of which the blood line draw over the question of the murder of Vietnamese Trotskyists by Ho‘s forces in the post-World War II uprising against the French during the first phase of the independence struggle. Yes, we then, later during the American phase of the struggle and now defend the Vietnamese revolution against world imperialism and against internal counterrevolution but a political crime of such magnitude cannot be swept under the rug. Some day the memory of the struggles and sacrifice of the Vietnamese Trotskyist liberation fighters will receive their just recognition-in Vietnam and elsewhere.



REDEMPTION: THE LAST BATTLE, NICOLAS LEMANN, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, New York, 2006

The Reconstruction period after the defeat of the South in the American Civil is a much disputed and misunderstood period, and in earlier times dominated by historians sympathetic to the Southern cause. Moreover, many books on the subject tend to center either on the question of the federal government’s ‘benign neglect’ and eventual abandonment of the freed slaves or on the freed slaves (and their white allies, the carpetbaggers and scalawags) incapacity to govern in place of the traditional planter oligarchy of a defeated Southern nation. Mr. Lemann’s book, although correctly paying attention to those issues, takes another tact and addresses the less well-known military actions by defeated white Southerners as a key to the failure of Reconstruction. Although this book will not replace Eric Foner’s now classic Reconstruction:1863-77 as the definitive text on the period it should have a prominent place in the academic controversy over the failures of the Reconstruction period.

If, as I believe, the American Civil War of 1861-65 was a second American Revolution consolidating the gains of the first bourgeois revolution by taking the slavery question and the question of a unitary continent-wide national government off the agenda then the Reconstruction period takes on more than a tragic or ill-advised attempt to reorder the nature of government in the South. Thus, the role of the Klu Klux Klan, White Camelia and other white militia organizations in destroying the basis for universal suffrage and economic equality by military force can be defined as a political counterrevolution, and a successful one. It is the gruesome and deadly story of this fight that plays a central role in Mr. Lemann’s narrative, particularly in the key states of Mississippi and Louisiana.

Without denying the importance of the serious mistakes and ultimate capitulation of the Federal government on the question of black emancipation, without denying the important failure of the Radical Republicans to fight for their program for the South and without denying that the condition of servitude had rendered many blacks not immediately capacity of forming and running local democratic governments one comes away from a reading of this book with the conclusion that the black liberation struggle, and not for the first time, was militarily defeated in this country. What portion this military defeat of the black liberation struggle by white reactionaries played in the overall defeat of Reconstruction the reader can decide. But it played a part. Read on.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006





As of today, November 28, 2006, we can comfortably start calling the situation in Iraq a full-blown civil war. Why? The esteemed mass media, the blessed Fourth Estate led by NBC, has finally come out and call it so. And during the breakfast hour, no less (at least that is where I first heard it spoken that way). They will, however, win no Profiles in Courage awards for this call from this writer. While the media were waiting around for the equivalent of the Battle of Bull Run to occur so they could stroll out to the battlefield in order to signal the start of the civil war in Iraq this writer had several months ago declared this to be the case. Hell, if I really wanted to press the issue the outlines of civil war were apparent to me from the summer of 2003 when the insurgency against the American troops started. If modern war tends toward asymmetric warfare then modern civil wars should be called asymmetric civil war. In either case the results have been nasty.

I have no special knowledge about Iraq but, as noted below in a commentary I wrote in September, the situation had all the earmarks of a classic sectarian civil war that we have become all too familiar with over the last few decades. Since that time the ethnic cleansing and communal violence has only been ratcheted up to the nth degree. However, the point is not to score political points as a Cassandra but to figure out what to do about the situation. I have reposted the September commentary below as I stand by the comments there. Again- Get the Hell out of Iraq Now. Form soldier and sailor solidarity committees because, unfortunately, organizing the troops in Iraq is the key to getting out now.






I am privy to no special insider information on the trials and tribulations of the internal situation in Iraq. I get my information from the mass media just like most citizens. However, as a politico I pay very close attention to the writings of political journalists, especially those who have been to Iraq and have eyewitness observations about the situation. What is amazing in the fall of 2006 is their near unanimous agreement, regardless of political persuasion, that Iraq is in the midst of a sectarian civil war. Yet, virtually none will call the situation there by that name. They are in a classic position of hedging their bets. Why? This writer has not and does not support American foreign policy in general and Iraq in particular. On the other hand the political writers I have read have some kind of fundamental belief in the rightness of general American foreign policy. In short, those writers exhibit, in a different way, that same hubris that animated the Bush Administration to go into Iraq in the first place. That is, it seemed to be the right thing to do at the time and although it did not turn out to be the right thing to do nevertheless we must stay to correct the errors. This the arrogance of power-once removed. Sweet Jesus, under that theory our grandchildren will be fighting in Iraq.

The daily news out of Iraq is uniformly grim. X number of Shia, Sunni or others are daily found handcuffed, shot and dumped on the outskirts of town. Or in a river. The recently augmented American forces sent into Baghdad have seemingly kicked every door in the city down to no real effect, except to recruit for the insurgents or some sectarian militia. There are not enough morgues in Iraq (and maybe the whole Middle East) to hold the victims. Additionally, this week, the week of October 1, 2006, a whole brigade of American trained and financed Iraqi police had to be disbanded for complicity with militias and general ugliness. Dear readers this is civil war pure and simple. Not the prelude to, not a low-level about to be, but a full-blown civil war. A year or so ago the situation was not nearly as clear. However, why are even thoughtful bourgeois journalists and commentators now being so coquettish about calling a thing by its right name? Does it have to look like the first skirmishes of the American Civil War at Bull Run before the situation in Iraq is recognized as such? Well, this out-of-the-loop leftist is not going out on any political limb whatever-Iraq is in a full-blown civil war. End of story.

What to do about it. This writer has long called for immediate withdrawal from Iraq. That position is a no-brainer now. However, for the slow-witted Bush Administration here is a quick and short term solution. And it has the virtue of coming from a late revered member of the Republican Party. Call Iraq a victory and withdraw now. During the Vietnam War Vermont Republican United States Senator George Aikens (I believe) made that comment. For those enthralled by parliamentary solutions this seems reasonable. Let future historians argue and fuss over the truth of that assertion of victory. In the meantime-GET THE HELL OUT OF IRAQ NOW!