Click on title to link to an article about what radicals and revolutionaries should be have been doing when the American war machine was being rolled out to level Afghanistan and then Iraq. It was not, and is not pretty.
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
LAST ROUNDUP FOR MIDTERM ELECTIONS- 2006
NOTES ON THE FINAL ELECTORAL ODDS, REPUBLICAN ZANIES, DEMOCRATIC HYPOCRISY AND ONE LAST DESPERATE MESSAGE FOR DOCTOR HUNTER THOMPSON-CALL ME
Forget elephants, donkeys and greens-BUILD A WORKERS PARTY!
With about one week to go in the 2006 electoral cycle I am prepared to make my breathlessly awaited final line on the Congressional contests. Fortunately, as noted in an early October blog (see October 2006 archives, dated October 1), as an anti-capitalist militant I am able to keep a long, a very long, distance between myself and the fate of these parties and therefore am able to make a considered, in fact a most considered judgment, on the results. Unfortunately, the real loser in this years elections is the working class who along with its allies have for the umpteenth time taken a beating by being confronted with choices of elephants, donkeys and Greens whose programs do not come close articulating its historic needs. Hell, those parties do not even come close to meeting its immediate needs- which is a party of its own- a workers party based on a working class program. Forget the Left Liberals, Forget the Greens- accept no substitutes.
Despite all the hoopla over the expected Democratic resurgence, especially in the House of Representatives, the number of races that count have been dramatically overblown in the media. Given Republican gerrymandering, base-building and a flat out cash flow advantage the real number of seats “in play”, as the conventional political pundits put it, is still in the 25 to 30 range that I indicated were up for grabs in early October. That and a certain narrowing of the numbers toward the Republicans down the final stretch leads me to one conclusion- even, take your pick. I will take all the action I can get on that proposition and feel it is a wise investment. Of course, in early October I was considering my bets as money found on the ground. Well, even disinterested leftists are capable of getting caught up in the moment. As for the Senate races I think the Democratic pundits have been smoking “something”. I will be damned if I can see their numbers. 3/2 Republicans retain the Senate.
These numbers point to the underlying problem that the Democrats have faced all year. Despite a willfully ignorant President (who capacity for screwing up everything he touches, by the way, should make the Trustees of the Yale Corporation blush that they gave up a seat to a meritorious student in favor of the ‘tribe’s’ George W.), a barrelful of scandals that would make Boss Tweed blush and other assorted antics the Democrats have maintained a political position which they have carried over from the 2004 election campaign-Republican-lite. So be it. That is their problem, our problems lie elsewhere. Below are a few final observations that make this writer very glad that he stands outside the bourgeois political parties.
* Last spring Anne Coulter made a splash on the political scene by trashing widows in her latest book of political trivia. Now hot off the “de-tox” trail one Rush Limbaugh has aimed his blunted barbs at actor Michael J. Fox, a sufferer from Parkinson’s disease, who has been supporting the fight to increase stem-cell research. Apparently ever since last year’s obscene flap in the Terry Schrivo case every half-baked zany with access to a microphone is now capable of a tele-diagnosis of the ailments of the world. Seemingly this is the Republican prescription in lieu of a universal health care program.
Last spring I also mentioned that the Republicans should nominate, unopposed, Ms. Coulter as their nominee for President in 2008, as she represents the “soul” of that party. Now I have found her Vice Presidential running mate. At one time bourgeois politicians nurtured widows and orphans, the afflicted, the waifs of the world – even if they were not going to do anything about their plight. Now the “survival of the fittest” code of political warfare has rendered that point moot. In the year 2006 is it really necessary in the “interest of full and frank democratic discourse” to have these zanies running the mainstream political circus (or perhaps, asylum is a better choice of words).
* Make no mistake racism is a fact of life in American life, particularly of political life, in 2006 as always. Make all the paeans to racial integration that you want but the hard reality is down in the mud the “race card” is the coin of the realm. Cases in point. In Tennessee, black Democratic Senatorial candidate Harold Ford was the subject of a vicious television ad depicting a willowy white blonde woman coming on to him. Despite all the disclaimers his Republican opponent’s numbers jumped up after the hoopla over that ad died down. Some commentators have noted that the blatant aims of the ad- to fuel the fires over the taboo subjects of interracial sex and its adjunct the “preservation of the purity of the white race” evokes the memory of Emmett Till (see October 2006 archives for an article on Till’s case). True enough, but the really interesting thing about the ad is not so much a certain assumption about a black man’s sexuality as much as that a white woman is coming on to a black man- now that is the nut of the whole racial cultural battle which drives the ‘gentile’ whites crazy with anxiety.
In Massachusetts black Democratic candidate for Governor Deval Patrick has also been attacked with a racially charged television ad that he is “soft” on rapists. Jesus, how low can these bourgeois politicians go just to get elected to a two-bit office? Even those hardened politicians, the late Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon, who were capable of the most gross political shenanigans to get into office would be blushing here.
* Recently Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, who is slated to take over the House Finanical Services Committee chairmanship if the Democrats sweep into the majority there, gave a revealing interview that epitomizes the limits of the Democratic Party as a vehicle that working people can rely on. Now Congressman Frank is an intelligent, witting and knowledgeable politician, far from the worst of the lot- in fact probably one of the most liberal in bourgeois politics. Here is what he had to say. After paying the obligatory homage to the “free market” system Frank noted that this system contains an inherent inequality but that was essentially the overhead price one must pay for the system to function. The role of government is to regulate that inequality so that it does not become too oppressive. That, dear readers, in a nutshell is exactly what is wrong with capitalism and its defenders. The role of government should be to end government over the citizenry- to let every cook be a commissar, to end exploitation of humankind by humankind and let the devil take the hinder post. Even the best liberal politician has a tin ear on this question.
* As we wind down on this bummer of a campaign season and begin the gear up to the real action-the presidential campaign of 2008 I refer back to an article written last summer when I first started to pay attention to the national political campaign (see July 2006 archives). This was an open letter to the late Doctor Hunter J. Thompson, political writer of blessed memory, to come back and give me some goddamn help. He liked this stuff. He liked to get down in the mud with this crowd. Thompson was a pro and took this weirdness in stride. Hunter-call me, please. Enough said.
Monday, October 30, 2006
Click on title to link to an important pre-9/11 article about the Taliban in Afghanistan. My question still stands- Is any thoughtful leftist (or liberal, for that matter)ready to think through their position on the 1979 Soviet intervention on behalf of the then pro-Western, pro-Soviet secular (aspiring to, anyway) government? A Soviet victory there might have changed the course of history more in our favor.In any case, all honor to the Soviet soldiers who fell there doing their internationalist duty.
Friday, October 27, 2006
Thursday, October 26, 2006
IN THE TIME OF THE AMERICAN INQUISITION-THE RED SCARE OF THE 1950'S
RED SCARE-MEMORIES OF THER AMERICAN INQUISITION, GRIFFIN FARIELLO, W.W. NORTON, NEW YORK, 1995
“WASN’T IT A TIME TO TRY MEN’S (AND WOMEN’S) SOULS”
I have always been intrigued by the American Communist Party’s ability up until the period of the “red scare” of the late 1940’s and the 1950’s to draw in and recruit a relatively large number of free-lance intellectuals and cultural workers. The apparent inability of the party to keep them is a separate question. However, if one was to draw up a Who’s Who of those members of the American intelligentsia who passed through the party’s orbit during the first half of the 20th century one would find numbers far greater than would be indicated by the party’s actual influence in American politics. The Red Scare obliterated that connection between the intellectuals and the working class and that connection has never been put back together in any radical form up to the present day. Left-wing political life in particular and political life in general has suffered as a result. Here’s the story, in their own voices, of a cross-section of those who got crushed by the juggernaut-and it ain’t pretty.
At the time of publication the book under review Mr. Fariello simply believed that he was unearthing a period in American history, the Red Scare of the late 1940’s and 1959’s, that had either been conveniently forgotten, dismissed as an important but episodic blemish on American democracy or had been reduced to the ‘ sound bite’ ravings of one man-Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy. Reading this book in the midst of the post 9/11 anti- Islamic, anti-immigrant, anti-foreigner frenzy in America made me realize that the author had rendered much more than a historical narrative of a particularly disturbing period. He has presented, in the form of interviews of the participants on both sides of the issue, a collectively compelling story that parallels the anxieties and fears of contemporary America. Despite differences of time, place and target it is hard to argue against the proposition that there is something endemic in the American experience that exhibits both a xenophobic and cruel streak that the rest of the world has come to fear. Make no mistake- it can and did happen here and it can happen again.
The author, painstakingly and systematically, interviewed whomever of the survivors of the red scare of the late 1940’s and the 1950’s, which in effect was the modern day American version of the Spanish Inquisition, he could round up. This compilation is a grim reminder of effective liquidation of the left-wing of the American working class and its allies in late 1940’s and the 1950’s. What clearly comes through after reading the interviews on both sides of the issue is that after the end of the World War II there was a serious class war going on not only in the Cold War internationally but also domestically in America – and the working class and its allies took a terrible beating. Why?
One can at least understand the motives of those who cleared out of the left–wing movement in order to duck away when the heat came down. One can even understand, while at the same time condemning, those who sold out their friends and relatives under the relentless governmental pressure. One can further understand the actions of the various Roy Cohn-types looking to make a name for himself or herself or just plain make cash over the bodies of their political opponents. This wicked old world has created plenty of those types who appear when THEIR opportunity calls. What is not understandable is the great mass of people who were not directly affected and who volunteered information to the government, who shunned former friends, who formed vigilante squads to root out their friends and neighbors. Their numbers were legion. As that generation, my parents’ generation, the ones who survived the Depression and fought World War II, dies out much ink has been spilled declaring that generation the ‘greatest generation’. No, a thousand times no. That generation sold its heritage out for a mess of pottage. For the most part, if they were not actively involved in the destruction of democratic rights when some people actually tried to use them, they looked away while the nefarious deeds were being done. And for what? To make the world safe for capitalism and capitalists? Read this book to find out what happened to their victims.
Monday, October 23, 2006
*Unfinished Business Of The Black Liberation Struggle
HONOR THE MEMORY OF EMMETT TILL
The following is an appreciation of the life the martyred civil rights figure Emmett Till. It was originally printed in Workers Vanguard, newspaper of the Spartacist League of the United States and reprinted in their Black History series. The beginnings of my personal awareness of the central role of the black liberation struggle in any fight for fundamental change did not stem from the Till tragedy but rather a little latter from the attempts to integrate the schools of Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. The main political point of the article- the centrality of the black liberation struggle to the overall revolutionary struggle against American imperialism and for a socialist solution to the problems of modern society is also my own position on that question. Although the particular case of what happened to Emmett Till may be resolved before that solution occurs it will take such black liberation in order to do proper justice to his name.
Workers Vanguard No. 852 5 August 2005
The Lynching of Emmett Till and the Fight for Black Liberation
50 Years Later
"Before Emmett Till's murder, I had known the fear of hunger, hell, and the Devil. But now there was a new fear known to me—the fear of being killed just because I was black. This was the worst of my fears.... I didn't know what one had to do or not do as a Negro not to be killed. Probably just being a Negro period was enough, I thought."
—Anne Moody, Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee Organizer, 14 years old in 1955, in Coming of Age in Mississippi (1968)
Fifty years ago this month the name Emmett Eouis Till became synonymous with the brutal American tradition of lynching. Till was only 14 years old that summer when he left his home in Chicago to join his cousin on a trip to stay with relatives in Mississippi. Within days of his arrival, young Emmett was kidnapped, tortured and brutally murdered for allegedly whistling at a white woman. Till's gruesome murder, and his mother's courageous campaign to ensure that the world saw at first hand the stark reality of race-terror by displaying her son's mutilated body at his funeral, provoked horror and outrage against racist oppression in America. The lynching of Emmett Till, along with Rosa Parks' defiant stand in Montgomery, Alabama in December of that same year, were key in galvanizing many thousands to join the burgeoning civil rights movement.
Today, a half-century later, black people still sit in the cross hairs of this bloody capitalist ruling class. The explosive struggles of the civil rights movement smashed Jim Crow segregation in the South and broke the back of the anti-Communist McCarthy era. But the social reality remains—black oppression is the cornerstone of capitalist class rule in America. Contrary to assertions that the worst abuses against black people are a thing of the past, a quick survey of the massive prison population, unemployment, miserable ghetto conditions, poverty, deteriorating health care and increasingly segregated schools proves the opposite, not only in the South but throughout the country.
The current federal investigation of the Emmett Till atrocity is one of a handful of decades-old cases reopened beginning with the 1994 conviction of Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 assassination of Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers. One reason these cases are being opened is to polish the tarnished image of the South. But union-busting "right to work" laws, attacks on black voting rights, Ku Klux Klan terror like the cross-burnings in Durham, North Carolina this May along with Confederate flags, monuments and Dixie anthems still mark the landscape of the "New South." Meanwhile, Northern ghettos trap black people into holding pens, and kill-crazy cops stalk the streets.
Bush's Republican regime pushes ahead to wipe out the remaining gains of the civil rights movement that had been under attack by Democratic as well as Republican administrations for the last three decades. On the heels of the government launching a vindictive IRS tax investigation of the NAACP, the chairman of the Republican National Committee cynically professed at the NAACP's convention in July, which Bush refused to attend, that the Republican Party's decades-long campaign of courting the racist Southern vote away from the Democrats by opposing civil rights legislation, the "Southern Strategy," was "wrong."
The re-opening of Till's case was largely sparked by the determined nine-year effort of a young filmmaker, Keith Beauchamp, and his 2002 documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till. The Feds recently exhumed Till's body to seek forensic evidence, additionally claiming it is necessary to verify that it was indeed Till in the grave. The only people who ever cast doubt on this question were the defenders of the lynchers. For America's capitalist rulers, such re-investigations are nothing more than hypocritical attempts to foster the illusion that today's FBI and Department of Justice are different from the very same state institutions that worked hand in hand with the Klan in the South. By the mid 1960s, nearly 20 percent of Klan members were FBI "informants" serving as loyal double agents of both organizations. Even when the Senate passed a meaningless resolution this June apologizing for never passing anti-lynching legislation, several senators, including the two from Mississippi, refused to sponsor the bill.
Capitalism is a system based on exploitation of labor, and, in the U.S., a unique and critical mainstay continues to be the subjugation of the black population at the bottom of society. American Trotskyist Richard Fraser wrote in the same year that Emmett Till was murdered: "The dual nature of the Negro struggle arises from the fact that a whole people regardless of class distinction are the victims of discrimination. This problem of a whole people can be solved only through the proletarian revolution, under the leadership of the working class" ("For the Materialist Conception of the Negro Struggle," January 1955). We of the Spartacist League base our program for black liberation upon Eraser's perspective of revolutionary integrationism, premised on the understanding that black freedom requires smashing the capitalist system and constructing an egalitarian socialist society. One of our founding documents written at the time of the ghetto upheavals of the 1960s states:
"The Negro people arc an oppressed race-color caste, in the main comprising the most exploited layer of the American working class. Because of the generations of exceptional oppression, degradation and humiliation, Black people as a group have special needs and problems necessitating additional and special forms of struggle. It is this part of the struggle which has begun today, and from which the most active and militant sections of Black people will gain a deep education and experience in the lessons of struggle. Because of their position as both the most oppressed and also the most conscious and experienced section, revolutionary black workers are slated to play an exceptional role in the coming American revolution."
—"Black and Red—Class Struggle Road to Negro Freedom," 1967, Marxist Bulletin No. 9
The Lynching of Emmett Till
By all accounts Emmett Till was an amazing kid. He was bright, fun-loving and considerate. His mother, Mamie Till-Mobley (earlier known as Mamie Till Bradley), and her family had migrated from Mississippi along with hundreds of thousands of other black farmers and sharecroppers fleeing the Jim Crow South in hopes of finding a better life in the "Promised Land" known as Chicago. She knew firsthand the strict social and racial codes of the South that literally spelled life or death if not followed to the letter. So, when she reluctantly allowed Emmett to accompany his cousin Wheeler to Mississippi, she did her best to instill some sense of the dangers and she recounted that she held "the talk that every black parent had with every child sent down South back then" (Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime That Changed America by Mamie Till-Mobley and Christopher Benson, 2003).
By the summer of 1955, white racists in Mississippi were seething in bitterness in the aftermath of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling, which opened the door for integrating schools, albeit hedged with limitations and the reservation of "deliberate speed." The Supreme Court decision to allow school integration was a reflection of a growing movement for black civil rights, for the right to vote and for integration. Black men fought on the front lines in World War II, a war proclaimed to make the world "safe for democracy." Black women migrated to the cities to toil in defense plants. When the soldiers returned, they were determined to have a better life. The end of the war ushered in the beginning of the Cold War against the Soviet Union, the preparation for new imperialist wars to "roll back Communism" everywhere on the planet. Most black people were concerned about the "cotton curtain," the iron grip of the racist Southern police state here at home, and were less likely to buy into or embrace the American bourgeoisie's propaganda about an "Iron Curtain" Soviet threat.
The response of the racist Southern Democrats (the Dixiecrats) to the Brown ruling was one of organized terror and defiance from the highest-ranking officials on down. Francis M. Wilhoit described the role of the Democratic Party in The Politics of Massive Resistance'.
"For it was, after all, the region's political parties—particularly the dominant Democrats—that bore the chief responsibility for politicizing the segregationist masses and getting them to the polls on election day to vote for anti-integration candidates. Furthermore, since membership in Southern parties overlapped with membership in the Klan, the Councils, and other resistance groups, it appeared for a time that the segregationists would get a stranglehold on policy making in the racial area, and prevent even tokenism."
White Citizens' Councils, the suit-and-tie incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan, formed to terrorize blacks through vigilante violence and uphold Jim Crow segregation, flourished throughout Mississippi. These councils, claiming a membership of 60,000, were headquartered in the very county that Emmett was preparing to visit. In May that year in Belzoni, Mississippi, Reverend George Lee, local NAACP organizer, was shot to death from a passing car. Just days prior to Till's arrival, WW II veteran Lamar Smith was gunned down in broad daylight on a crowded courthouse lawn in Brookhaven, Mississippi for urging black people to vote. This was the murderous atmosphere that a lively, self-confident teenager from the North journeyed into that fateful August.
On August 24, after picking cotton all morning, Emmett, his cousins and some friends drove into Money, Mississippi to purchase some candy and sodas at the local grocery store that serviced the black population. The white owner, Roy Bryant, was out of town and his young wife, Carolyn, was tending the store. There are conflicting stories of what happened at the store. Did he whistle? Was he trying to control his stutter? Did he speak up? The only thing that happened that day at the store for sure is that Emmett Till was seen as having "stepped out of line," ignoring "the customs of the South" in the presence of a white woman where this was punishable by death. On August 28, Roy Bryant and his half brother, J. W. Mi lam, came looking for Emmett at his relatives' home, kidnapping him in the dead of night. Three days later the hideously battered corpse of Emmett Till was found in the Tallahatchie River with a 75-pound cotton gin fan tied around his neck with barbed wire. Mose Wright, Emmett's great uncle, was able to identify his body only by a ring belonging to his lather that the child wore on his finger.
For the vast majority of unnamed lynch mob victims that have filled American history, the story would end here and would have also for Emmett Till if not for the courage and determination of his mother and family. Mamie Till-Mobley immediately alerted the press upon hearing that her son was missing. She fought to have her son's body returned to Chicago after the local sheriff hastily tried to bury the evidence—literally. She defied the Mississippi authorities by opening the padlocked and sealed casket. Most courageously, she insisted that the casket be displayed openly for the world to see, and ensured that graphic photos circulated internationally. An estimated 100,000-250,000 people waited in line for hours at Chicago's Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ to view the open casket. So shocking was Emmett's horrifically mutilated body that an estimated one out of every five individuals needed assistance out of the building. Emmett's death was transformed from "just another lynching" into an internationally known scandal. Although there had been thousands of Southern black men, women and children that met such horrible deaths, this was one that would spark a generation into action.
Mamie Till-Mobley set the tone by immediately demanding an investigation and publicizing the case. Although President Eisenhower and FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover stonewalled her requests for an investigation, she persisted in bringing national attention to her son's lynching. Till-Mobley, her father and her cousin Rayfield Mooty, an Inland Steel worker, traveled to Sumner, Mississippi for the trial of Emmett's murderers and braved a gauntlet of white racists each morning as they entered the courthouse. Her uncle, Mose Wright, who had pleaded with Bryant and Milam not to take his nephew, did what virtually no black man in Mississippi had dared to do for nearly a century. He stood up in court and identified the two white men as the kidnappers. According to Wright's son, Simeon, who was in the same bed when Emmett was dragged away, Mose Wright was determined to testify. Knowing full well that he was risking the same fate as Emmett, he told his family that he didn't know if he would live or die, but he knew for sure that he was going to testify. Before Wright testified, the rest of his family had to be spirited away to Chicago. He joined them immediately following his testimony. Similarly an 18-year-old field hand, Willie Reed, came forward as a surprise witness for the prosecution to testify that he had heard Emmett's screams coming from Milam's barn. As soon as Reed stepped off the stand, he went directly to the train station and left for Chicago, rightly fearing for his life. He suffered a nervous breakdown upon arriving in Illinois. It took a tremendous amount of courage for these black witnesses to stand up to white racists in Mississippi, knowing they might not live to see another day, knowing that the only way to save themselves from the lynch rope was to leave everything behind and escape North. Their actions were not unlike slaves fleeing on the Underground Railroad nearly one hundred years earlier.
At this time, Medgar Evers, a Mississippi NAACP organizer, gained national attention. Evers understood that the only way a case would be built against Bryant and Milam was if he took it into his own hands and mobilized his forces. The NAACP recruited volunteers to dress as sharecroppers and sent them out to gather information. These brave individuals knew full well what lay in store for them should they be detected. Civil rights lawyer Conrad Lynn worked on the case and identified others involved in the killing, but they were never prosecuted. Dr. T. R. M. Howard, leader of the all-black town of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, helped organize and contributed to pay the costs of the investigation and relocation of the witnesses. He also was eventually forced to flee North. He made speaking tours of the country to expose the reign of terror in Mississippi. For the smallest shred of hope that justice might be served, these people put their lives on the line.
But that smallest shred was really no shred at all in the mid '50s in the Mississippi Delta. The ensuing murder trial of Bryant and Milam was exactly what one would expect. All five lawyers in the county joined the defense team so that none could be appointed special prosecutor in the case. Neither of the defendants denied kidnapping Emmett. The jury came back with a verdict of not guilty in just over an hour. It took them "that long" because they stopped to get a soda, hoping to stretch the time for appearance's sake. The jury came up with the lie that the bloated, rotting body that was dragged out of the Tallahatchie River might not be Emmett at all, but a body planted by his mother and the NAACP. Emmett was supposedly alive and well in Detroit, according to the Southern racists. A grand jury would not even indict them on kidnapping charges. Then, just months after the acquittal, Look magazine published a confession by Bryant and Milam boasting of their lynching of Till.
A campaign orchestrated by plantation owner, arch-segregationist Mississippi Senator, James O. Eastland, tried to smear Emmett Till and his dead father Louis as rapists. The U.S. army had executed Louis Till in 1945. While serving in Italy, he was charged with raping two white women and killing another, charges that many who served with him stated were lies. The same man, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who as a general signed the execution order of the elder Till, sat as U.S. president and refused to investigate the lynching of the son. When Eastland managed to secure the army death records of Louis Till—the same records that Mamie Till-Mobley had been denied—and leaked them to the press, the
NAACP took a step back from the case, concerned to maintain their image of "respectability."
Louis Till was not the only man to be executed or "disappear" under such dubious circumstances during World War II. In her autobiography, Mamie Till-Mobley spoke to the chilling stories she heard from other black soldiers and friends of Louis Till of the "problem that followed them overseas from the United States." She described 3 a.m. line-ups of black soldiers by racist white officers and Military Police. A woman would be brought in to identify one of the soldiers and the "black soldiers who got pointed out at three in the morning were always taken away. They were not brought back." As Mamie Till-Mobley astutely pointed out,
"It seemed that the army really didn't need much more proof than a late-night identification to take black soldiers out. But based on what Louis's friends told me, it seemed the real offense wasn't always against white women. Often, it was really against white men. A number of women in those late-night lineups, it seems, were only identifying the men who slept with them, not men they were accusing of rape.... But for many of the white officers and soldiers from the South, there also was a custom about that sort of thing.... Louis died before he could see what would happen to his son. Bo [Emmett's nickname] died before he could learn about what had happened to his father. Yet they were connected in ways that ran as deep as their heritage, as long as their bloodline.... Maybe Emmett did wind up like his father, an echo of what had happened ten years earlier. Maybe they were both lynched."
Lynching—"As American as Baseball and Church Suppers"
In 1924, a young Communist from Indochina named Nguyen Ai Quoc—later known as Ho Chi Minh—wrote:
"It is well known that the Black race is the most oppressed and the most exploited of the human family. It is well known that the spread of capitalism and the discovery of the New World had as an immediate result the rebirth of slavery, which was for centuries a scourge of the Negroes and a bitter disgrace for mankind. What everyone does not perhaps know is that after sixty-five years of so-called emancipation, American Negroes still endure atrocious moral and material sufferings, of which the most cruel and horrible is the custom of lynching."
The story of Emmett Till lays bare the harsh reality of black life in a country built on human bondage. The fight for genuine black equality remains an unfinished task of the American Civil War. The 200,000 ex-slaves and Northern blacks who fought in that war helped turn the tide of the war in favor of the Union Army, but the victorious Northern capitalists betrayed the promise of equality. Radical Reconstruction was the most democratic period in U.S. history. But the Northern capitalists looked at the devastated South and saw opportunity—not for building radical democracy, but for profitably exploiting Southern resources and the freedmen. With the "Compromise of 1877," the last of the Northern troops were pulled from the South and Reconstruction came to an end. Freed blacks were disenfranchised, politically expropriated and kept segregated at the bottom of society. The institution of Jim Crow segregation began to take shape, marked by strict racial codes, returning the black population to a position of complete subservience, enforced by violence. How or when to address whites, where to live, eat, sit, shop, wash your hands, or take a drink of water were all strictly regulated and backed up through a system of race terror—the omnipresent threat of the lynch rope.
In the period following Reconstruction, in the late 19th century, lynching reached its height. Lynching is rightfully equated with the summary torture and execution of black people. But this was not always the case. The term "lynch law" is believed to have come from Judge Charles Lynch, a patriot in the American Revolutionary War. Upon discovery of a Tory conspiracy in 1780, Lynch was said to have presided over an extralegal court that meted out summary punishment to the pro-British Loyalists. Such methods were given free rein in a burgeoning young country with a vast frontier and a roughly established legal system. The evolution of lynching into an act of race terror is organically linked to the history of black chattel slavery. Lynching became a form of sadistic black subjugation in reaction to the rise of the anti-slavery abolition movement, developing into a widespread social phenomenon in the wake of the defeat of Reconstruction. By the end of the 19th century, "lynch law" had a specific meaning. At its height in the 1880s and 1890s, as many as two to three black people were lynched per week. Sociologist John Dollard wrote in 1937: "Every Negro in the South knows that he is under a kind of sentence of death; he does not know when his turn will come, it may never come, but it may also be any time."
American historian Leon F. Litwack has found that of the thousands of recorded lynchings, about 640 involved "accusations of a sexual nature"—the most notorious and hysteria-inducing accusation. The targets of the race terrorists were often those who owned competitive businesses and farms, the man who managed to acquire some property and was deemed by the racists to not have enough humility, the man who challenged the system, the man who was educated and/or prosperous. W. E. B. Dubois put it this way: "There was one thing that the white South feared more than Negro dishonesty, ignorance and incompetency, and that was Negro honesty, knowledge, and efficiency" (Leon F. Litwack, Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow ).
In many cases, lynchings were not spontaneous mob violence but planned and advertised events bringing trainloads of spectators from near and far. These were ordinary, "church-going, upstanding" citizens, drawn together in a grotesque racist ritual. The "pillars of the community" were often directly involved or had prior knowledge, and they always approved afterward. "Lynching was an undeniable part of daily life, as distinctly American as baseball and church suppers. Men brought their wives and children along to the events, posed for commemorative photographs, and purchased souvenirs of the occasion as if they had been at a company picnic" (Philip Dray, At The Hands of Persons Unknown ). Celebratory postcards of mutilated and charred bodies were sent through the U.S. mail to friends and relatives. James Baldwin noted on seeing the red clay hills of Georgia for the first time, "I could not suppress the thought that this earth had acquired its color from the blood that had dripped down from these trees."
The Civil Rights Movement
As Mamie Till-Mobley remarked in a TV documentary, "When people saw what had happened to my son, men stood up who had never stood up before. People became vocal who had never vocalized before. Emmett's death was the opening of the civil rights movement." Ten thousand people rallied in Harlem the Sunday following the acquittal. Thousands packed meeting halls and overflowed into the streets to hear Mamie speak around the country. Labor rallies and demonstrations were held to protest the lynching of Emmett Till and race-terror in Mississippi. The CIO Steelworkers Union to which Fill's grandfather belonged wired the Mississippi governor demanding justice.
In the convulsive years that followed, social protest exploded into the civil rights movement. Eventually, Jim Crow, the poll taxes and sham rules that prevented black people from voting were abolished, and segregated schools and other public facilities were formally opened up. However, the civil rights movement was stopped cold when it came North and confronted the hardened economic foundations of black oppression, rooted in American capitalism. The heroic struggles of many thousands of black and white activists were betrayed by the liberal perspective of the leadership of the civil rights movement. Much as the organizers of the demonstrations against Till's murder appealed to Eisenhower, the strategy of the liberal-led civil rights movement was based on appeals to a section of the American bourgeoisie to right the historic wrongs done against black people, as though black freedom could be attained under the capitalist system.
There were important exceptions to this, exemplified by militant black leaders such as Robert F. Williams, the head of the NAACP branch in Monroe, North Carolina, which heavily recruited from the black working class of the area. Williams, who was denounced by liberal civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, put forward a program of armed self-defense to fight race-terror as opposed to reliance on the capitalist state and its politicians. This earned him the enmity of the liberal NAACP, which disowned him, as the FBI hounded him out of the country. Williams found refuge in Cuba in 1961 and then China, before returning to the U.S. in 1969. In 1965, the Louisiana-based Deacons for Defense and Justice organized patrols to protect blacks and civil rights workers. At about the same time, in Gulfport, Mississippi, the black longshoremen's union threatened to close the port down if civil rights activists were injured or arrested.
But despite determined struggle to fulfill the unfinished promise of the Civil War—the promise of black freedom— the civil rights movement could only go so far. The Democratic Party co-opted many of the black leaders into their ranks. They and their political heirs today sit on Capitol Hill, in the statehouses and city halls, administering this system which is based on racial injustice and class oppression, while posing as defenders of black and working people.
For Black Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!
The lynching of Emmett Till was not an aberration. Such inhuman acts of violence were part of the fabric of the American Jim Crow South—a system that could only be enforced through violence. Nor did the smashing of Jim Crow mark the end of racial oppression in the U.S., in the North or the South. The laws enforcing segregation may be abolished, but segregation and inequality remain as facts. The death penalty represents the lynch rope as the ultimate form of institutionalized state terror, backed in the streets by racist cops who carry out their own summary executions. The continued oppression of black people some 40 years after the inauguration of formal, legal equality demonstrates that black oppression is an intrinsic component of the capitalist order in the U.S.
The capitalist rulers promote the poison of racism to keep the working class divided—to pit white workers against black workers—in order to more easily maintain their rule. But black people are not simply victims. Black workers represent a large component of the organized labor movement. The way forward lies in multiracial class struggle. A key obstacle to this perspective is the pro-capitalist trade-union bureaucracy, which ties the working class to its exploiters, particularly by promoting illusions in the Democratic Party as a "friend" of labor and blacks.
The road to black freedom lies in the struggle to shatter this racist capitalist system through proletarian socialist revolution, and the power to do that lies with the working class. But this power cannot and will not be realized unless a class-struggle labor movement actively champions the cause of black liberation. The key to unlocking the chains that shackle labor to its exploiters is the political struggle to build a revolutionary internationalist leadership of the working class.
At the time of the Civil War, Karl Marx, the founder of modern communism, captured a fundamental truth of American society in his statement that "labor cannot emancipate itself in the white skin where in the black it is branded." The Spartacist League fights to build a multiracial revolutionary workers party that will wrest the tremendous productive resources of this country out of the hands of the capitalist owners and put these resources into the hands of the working class, those who produce the wealth of this society. Only then will racial oppression be a thing of the past. Finish the Civil War! For black liberation through socialist revolution!
Click on title to link to blog detailing information about the film, "Winstanley", about the leader of the diggers and their trials and tribulations in 1650.
THE LAW OF FREEDOM IN A PLATFORM, GERRARD WINSTANLEY, EDITED BY ROBERT W. KENNY,SCHOCKEN BOOKS, NEW YORK, 1941, 1973
The time of the English Revolution in the 1640's, Oliver Cromwell's time, as in all revolutionary times saw a profusion of ideas from all kinds of sources- religious, secular, the arcane, the fanciful and the merely misbegotten. A few of those ideas however, as here, bear study by modern militants. As the film under review amplifies, True Leveler Gerrard Winstanley's agrarian socialist utopian tracts from the 1640's, the notion of a socialist solution to the problems of humankind has a long, heroic and storied history. The solutions presented by Winstanley had and, in a limited sense, still do represent rudimentary ways to solve the problem of social and economic distribution of the social surplus produced by society. Without overextending the analogy Winstanley's tract represented for his time, the 1600's, what the Communist Manifesto represented for Marx's time-and ours-the first clarion call for the new more equitable world order. And those with property hated both men, with the same venom, in their respective times.
One of the great advances Marx had over Winstanley was that he did not place his reliance on an agrarian solution to the crisis of society as Winstanley, by the state of economic development of his times, was forced to do. Marx, moreover, unlike Winstanley, did not concentrate on the question of distribution but rather on who controlled the means of production a point that all previous theorists had either failed to account for, dismissed out of hand or did not know about. Thus, all pre-Marxist theory is bound up with a strategy of moral as well as political persuasion as a means of changing human lifestyles. Marx posed the question differently by centering on the creation of social surplus so that under conditions of plenty the struggle for daily survival would be taken off the human agenda and other more lofty goals put in its place. Still, with all the True Levelers' weaknesses of program and their improbabilities of success in the 1640's militants today still doff our hats to Winstanley's vision.
The following is a short history of the True Levelers, commonly called the Diggers who formed the extreme left of the democratic movment in the English Revolution. They, in short, formed the "vanguard" of the vanguard party of the English Revolution. This material is culled from a Digger Internet site.
The Diggers were a group of agrarian communists who flourished in England in 1649-50 and were led by Gerrard Winstanley and William Everard. The Diggers believed that since the English Civil War had been fought against the King and the landowners, and with Charles I executed, land should then be made available to the poor to cultivate. In April 1649 a group of about 20 men assembled at St. George's Hill, Surrey, and began to cultivate the common land.
The Diggers' activities alarmed the Commonwealth government and roused the hostility of local landowners, who were rival claimants to the common lands. On 16 April 1649 Henry Sanders sent an alarming letter to the Council of State reporting that several individuals had begun to plant vegetables on St. George's Hill in Surrey. Sanders reported they, the Diggers, had invited "all to come in and help them, and promise them meat, drink, and clothes." and that the Diggers claimed that their number would be several thousand within ten days. "It is feared they have some design in hand." The Council of State sent the letter to Lord Fairfax, lord general of the army, along with a dispatch stating:
By the narrative enclosed your Lordship will be informed of what hath been made to this Council of a disorderly and tumultuous sort of people assembling themselves together not far from Oatlands, at a place called St. George's Hill; and although the pretence of their being there by them avowed may seem very ridiculous, yet that conflux of people may be a beginning whence things of a greater and more dangerous consequence may grow.
Fairfax was then ordered to disperse the group and prevent a repetition of the event.
The Diggers were harassed by legal actions and mob violence, and by the end of March 1650 their members were driven off the St. George's Hill. Despite this setback they continued their work on a nearby heath in Cobham. colony was dispersed. In April the Digger movement collapsed when a Parson Platt, the lord of the manor, and several others destroyed the Diggers' houses, burned their furniture, and scattered their belongings. Platt threatened the Diggers with death if they continued their activity and hired several guards to prevent their return to the heath. Winstanley recorded these events as well as a final defense of the Digger movement.
THE FOLLOWING IS A SONG BASED ON THE DIGGER EXPERIENCE IN 1650
If John Milton was the literary muse of the English Revolution then the Diggers and their leader, Gerrard Winstanley, were the political muses.
The World Turned Upside Down
We will not worship the God they serve, a God of greed who feeds the rich while poor folk starve.
In 1649 to St. George's Hill
A ragged band they called the Diggers came to show the people's
They defied the landlords, they defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs.
We come in peace, they said, to dig and sow
We come to work the lands in common and make the waste
This earth divided we will make whole
So it may be a common treasury for all "**
The sin of property we do disdain
No man has any right to buy or sell the earth for private gain
By theft and murder they took the land
Now everywhere the walls spring up at their command
They make the laws to chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven, or they damn us into hell
We will not worship the God they serve,
a God of greed who feeds the rich while poor folk starve
We work and eat together, we need no swords
We will not bow to masters, nor pay rent to the lords
Still we are free, though we are poor
Ye Diggers all, stand up for glory, stand up now!
From the men of property the orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers to wipe out the Diggers'
Tear down their cottages, destroy their corn
They were dispersed - only the vision lingers on
Ye poor take courage, ye rich take care
This earth was made a common treasury for everyone to share
All things in common, all people one
They came in peace - the order came to cut them down
WORDS AND MUSIC BY LEON ROSSELSON, 1981
Friday, October 20, 2006
HONOR THE MEMORY OF THE HUNGARIAN WORKERS UPRISING- 1956- HONOR PAL MALETER
HONOR THE 5OTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FIGHT AGAINST STALINISM AND FOR SOCIALISM-HONOR THE MEMORY OF THE HEROIC PAL MALETER-MILITANT FIGHTER FOR SOCIALISM
In June of 2006 I wrote a blog concerning the meaning of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 after United States President George W. Bush on a tour of Eastern Europe falsely claimed the valiant efforts of the Hungarian workers in 1956 to create a workers democracy there on behalf of Western imperialism. (See June 2006 archive, dated June 22). Now, as we approach the 50th anniversary of that uprising I am paying honor to that event at its proper time. I stand by the ideas expressed in the above-mentioned blog. Especially so, as I have read more about the extraordinary Pal Maleter. Forget Imre Nagy, who has received far more notice and acclaim- Defense Minister Maleter was the real, if flawed, thing in a world of stodgy Stalinist bureaucrats. The world Stalinist movement produced few such leaders. It produced many more rank and file subjective revolutionary militants. We could have used them then and we sure as hell could use more subjective revolutionaries now.
The world Communist movement would be in a very different place if there had been more militants like Maleter (and “Che” Guevara as well, to name another, for lack of a better term, Left Stalinist ). These were not our people- but they were our people. I would also include an additional point to that June posting mentioned above.
The official Stalinist Hungarian Communist Party in 1956 splintered under the impact of working class pressure from below. In that case, the mass of lower and middle (and in a few cases, such as Maleter's, leadership) cadre went over to the side of the working class revolutionaries. That fracture of the official party and state bureaucracies was observed more fully in the demise of Stalinism in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union in the 1989-1992 period. The difference between the two periods, however, was in the latter case the Stalinist bureaucracy was by then a house of cards easily blown away in the wind. The Stalinist bureaucrats were no longer interested in saving socialism (as they perceived it) but in saving their hides. Such is the contrary nature of Stalinism. Why the use of the word is instead of was in the last sentence? Events within the Stalinist Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese state bureaucracy are heading slowly toward such a crisis as occurred during both the above-mentioned events . One would have to assume that the same fracture in the Stalinist bureaucracy of the party and the state will occur there as well. Which way will the bureaucracies go? Hungary-1956 or the Soviet Union/ Eastern Europe 1989-1992? More later.
ON A LEFT-WING MILITANT'S HEDGING OF BETS
SHAME-FACED CONFESSION OF A POLITICAL JUNKIE
As part of a series of collective commentaries in a previous blog (see October 2006 archive, dated October 1) this writer was rash enough to project that the Republicans would hold on to both Houses of Congress in the upcoming November elections. And I put my money where my mouth was. I offering 3/2 odds on that proposition, desperately looking for takers. I then assumed it was like finding money on the ground. In the interest of full disclosure please refer to that blog. What I have to say here is that I am, as it were, in the processing of refining my position on that prediction (how do you like them weasel words?). In short, the odds of a Democratic takeover of either House in my book have gone to even-take your pick. However, the same political landscape that made me so rash as to bet on the Republicans is still intact. A Democratic win in November of one or both the Houses would still not represent a sea-change in the nature of capitalist political options such as occurred in let us say 1932 or 1960. So what gives?
The long and short of it is the Republicans are so incompetent and scandal-ridden on such wide-ranging subjects as sex and the matter of “personal” finances that the Democrats just by staying in place and not stealing as much as the Republicans look good by comparison. Add Iraq and it takes no pyschic to predict the results. Prime evidence for this is the fate of Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut. He was pistol-whipped by upstart anti-war candidate Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary in August. He thereafter decided to run as an "independent". The latest polls show him with a commanding lead over Lamont. That case has been repeated elsewhere where marginally anti-war Democrats are leading Iraq-scarred Republicans. Let antiwar activists, however, face an extremely hard reality- the Democrats have no more of an idea of an immediate withdrawal from Iraq than the Bush Administration does. Although I do not relish playing the role of Cassandra those who wish for a Democratic victory next month will soon enough see what I have been saying for the past several months comes to pass. Stay tune for the final line on the elections. Meanwhile, I eat my pie humbly.
ADDED NOTES: October 22, 2006. Christ, even the Republicans are distancing themselves from the Bush fiasco in Iraq. First it was Senators Warner and Hagel arguing for more options and tactical flexibility (except, of course the obvious one of immediate withdrawal). Now 'ole Texas gal'- Republican Senator Kay Bailey Richardson has stated that had she known then what she knows today she would have not voted to give the green light for war in Iraq. Hell, these guys ( and gals) had far more access to 'intelligence' about Iraq than the average citizen would ever had. These people WANTED to go to war assuming that it would be a walkover. When they got walked over they started deserting that ship like fleeing rats. I have been saying for months, jokingly, that only the immediate Bush entourage was still committed to this misadventure. Now it looks like this may be almost literally true. Let me repeat the message I have been hammering home all election season-GET THE HELL OUT OF IRAQ NOW!
Apparently, however, not every pro-war activist is ready to call 'uncle'. Despite the fact that even the editors of National Review are starting to buckle and call Iraq a mistake Boston Globe Op-Ed columnist Jeff Jacoby, last heard from preaching moral relativism to the poor Amish (see October 2006 archives, HANDS OFF THE AMISH, dated October 10), had a commentary in the October 22, 2006 edition drawing every possible historical analogy at his command in order to justify "staying the course" in Iraq. He drew on analogies to the American War of 1812, the Battle of the Bulge in World War II and that last refuge of every rascal-the American Civil War to buttress his argument to show one never knows what the outcome will be once one starts down a particular slippery slope. Damn, you know your position is very, very shaky when you have to bring out this kind of historical ammunition for a war that was consciously fudged from the start. Hopefully, some future administration will not be "staying" that course in Iraq when Mr. Jacoby's young son comes of military age.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
*"Red" Writer's Corner- Howard Fast -The Way They Were- An American Communist Party Cadre's Story Of The 1950s Red Scare
Click on title to link to the "Guardian" (U.K.) literary/political obituary of writer Howard Fast by Eric Homberger.
BEING RED, HOWARD FAST, M.E. SHAPE, NEW YORK, 1994
I have always been intrigued by the American Communist Party’s ability up until the period of the “red scare” of the late 1940’s and the 1950’s to draw to itself and recruit a relatively large number of free-lance intellectuals and cultural workers. Whether the party could keep them once recruited and how effective they were are separate questions. Nevertheless, if one draws up a Who’s Who of those members of the American intelligentsia who passed through the party’s orbit during the first half of the 20th century one would find numbers far greater than would be indicated by the party’s actual influence in American politics. The novelist Howard Fast in his memoir of his decade long membership in the American Communist Party is highly representative of that trend. Or, at least of the those in that trend who could rationally explain their experience in the Party without either foaming at the mouth or running to the nearest government law enforcement agency.
The tale Mr. Fast has to tell about his trek to the party is informative and, except for the utterly extreme poverty of his childhood and the early loss of his mother, not atypical of the urban children of immigrants in general and New York Jewish youth in particular who came of age between World War I and II and joined the party. The key events that drove many into the party’s orbit were the Depression, the rise of Nazism in Europe and the hope that Soviet Union could provide a model for a socialist future. Those events also drove many youth into the Social Democratic and Trotskyist movements during this period as well.
What is interesting to me about Mr. Fast’s story is that he joined the party at the tail end of the Communist Party’s Popular Front period (excepts a short hiatus for the support of Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939-41, oops). That period was exemplified by Party Chairman Earl Browder’s declaration that “Communism is 20th century Americanism” and Mr. Fast and those recruited during the period really believed that this was the road to socialism. In short, the belief that some form of parliamentary road to socialism was possible. Unfortunately for them, Browder and those recruits including Mr. Fast got caught between the hammer of the American ruling class’s Cold War strategy and the Soviet’s “left” turn to seeming anti-capitalist militancy in the immediate post-World War II period that for a long time effectively ended the harmonious relationships provided during the Popular Front period.
Mr. Fast is somewhat exceptional in that rather than quietly leaving the party, selling out to the government or selling out his friends to the government as many did during the “red scare” he dug in his heels, stuck it out and did his duty. That is to his credit. The curious thing about this honorable position is that from what this reviewer was able to read between the lines of his book Mr. Fast seems instinctively much closer to a Social Democratic or pacifist view of the world than a Communist view of the world during this period. But such are the vagaries of the human personality.
As Mr. Fast unfolds his story he has many reminiscences to relate concerning the background to events such as the confusion in the party during the last part of World War II about the nature of the post-war period, the “red scare” as seen down at the local level by those who lacked adequate resources to defend themselves, the ominous beginnings of the Cold War, the start of the Korean War, and the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg as "atomic spies". Some of the information presented here I knew previously but much is new and interesting. One should be glad that an old ex-Stalinist decided to write about his experiences. Maybe future generations can learn from those mistakes made by the American Stalinists but at the same time also take courage from the courage of such political opponents as Mr. Fast who stood up to government repression while others, too many others, ducked. Read on.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Click on title to link to the Leon Trotsky Internet Archive copy of his classic 1934pamphlet "A Program Of Action For France". Some of it reads like it was written today, or could have been.
THE CRISIS IN THE FRENCH SECTION (1935-1936), LEON TROTSKY, PATHFINDER PRESS, NEW YORK, 1977
At first blush one would not think that a book about the trials and tribulations of creating a revolutionary workers party along Trotskyist lines in France in the mid-1930’s , other than being of some small historical interest, would be relevant to today’s militants as they fight to build their revolutionary workers parties. And this reviewer will admit, unlike other books he has reviewed, that it may be a strecth here. But, not much. Hear me out.
Aside from the obvious difference in the times, immediate tasks and the milieu worked in there are some lessons to be learned from the experiences of the disheveled French Trotskyist movement of that time. At that time there were two large mass working class parties-the Socialist and Communist Parties. Additionally, the writer of the book under review, exiled Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky, whose authority among leftist anti-Stalinist elements was strong and whose moral authority was well recognized actually resided in France for much of this period and therefore could directly intervene in the struggle even if, of necessity, surruptiously. Nevertheless the task that Trotsky’s followers faced in transforming themselves from a ‘circle’ mentality of small propaganda groups to the creation of a small mass party which could challenge the authority of the Stalinists and Social Democrats is analogous to the type of task we face today.
Despite Trotsky’s great authority as a man who had actually led a revolution and defended that revolution through the creation of a Red Army among leftist anti-Stalinists, or maybe because of it, he had many problems trying to coalesce a cadre who could form the nucleus of a new international and new national revolutionary communist parties after the Nazi takeover in Germany in 1933 had forced him to a change of strategy toward the Stalinist organizations. This was particularly true in France where, despite a long and heroic tradition of revolutionary struggle, the leftist elements were in disarray and feuding over personal and petty differences. In short, this is an early example of the infamous “star” system of leadership that has plagued the France left to this day. And not only the French left as the American New Left of the 1960's amply demonstrated.
The notion that Trotsky tried tirelessly to pound home about the virtues and necessity of an authoritative collective leadership in a national section was then, as now, almost inconceivable to those headstrong militants. Nevertheless, Trotsky was forced to try to work with the cadre material at hand. Lenin was the consummate master of this skill. Trotsky, despite his many other talents, never reached Lenin’s level of skill on the party organization question. To our sorrow. Moreover, the 1930’s were a time of tremendous defeats and a downward curve in the revolutionary process. Despite these problems, as the book painfully details, Trotsky patiently tried to construct such an organization. And those eventually futile efforts, which I will leave for the reader to consider, form the bulk of the book.
There is, however, one political issue that stands out during this period which because it is operative for today’s militants I wish to note. That is the question of the entry of the French Trotskyists into the Socialist Party in order to gain influence and enlarge the organization. In the history of the Trotskyist movement this has been called appropriately the “French turn”. There are various ways to create a revolutionary organization- by splits of other organizations through the united front tactic, entries in larger left-moving organizations to break off a militant section and regroupment of separate organizations which are politically similar. I have criticized Trotsky’s tactic, which was taken up by virtually all sections of the International Left Opposition, for the American party-the Socialist Workers Party. I have argued elsewhere that, given the circumstances of the time, the type of recruit that came from the American Socialist Party and the troubles it caused to the organization later when the integrity of the organization was on the line that the proper tactic to intersect the left-ward anti-Stalinist movement of a section of the American working was with that of the “united front”.
This "united front" tactic may have been more appropriate in the small American milieu. Not so for the French" party. Under the circumstances of a rapid leftward movement of the French working class an entry policy made sense. In fact, it would have been unconscionable not to try it. The trouble, as always with new turns, was a debilitating fight in the organizations over opposition to this tactic. And in one of the small ironies of history when the entry maneuver had been tried and then had finally run its course those who had initially opposed entry did not want to leave the ‘comfy’ confines of the Socialist Party. Thus, the reader should pay careful attention to the arguments over this issue and the more substantial issue of how to create a revolutionary organization by a process of regroupment with other left-wing forces that are approaching political agreement. That, dear readers, is the one of the tasks before us today.
Click on title to link to the Lynne Stewart Defense Committee site.
WE NEED LAWYERS WHO ARE FUSS-
MAKERS NOT RAINMAKERS
FREE CO-DEFENDANTS YOUSRY AND SATTAR
Well, the Bush Administration has finally got New York Attorney Lynne Stewart (DESPITE HER DISBARMENT I WILL CONTINUE TO CALL HER ATTORNEY) where they want her. Ms. Stewart had previously been indicted on the vague and flimsy charge of "materially" aiding terrorism by essentially, on the record presented by the government at the trial, providing zealous advocacy for her client, Sheik Rahman, who had been convicted in various terrorist schemes including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. At a trial in Federal District Court in New York City where the prosecution used every scare tactic in the post- 9/11 “War on Terror” playbook she was convicted. On October 16, 2006 she was finally sentenced on the charges. The federal judge in the case noting the severity of the crime but also the invaluable service that Ms. Stewart had rendered to the voiceless and downtrodden sentence her to 28 months.
This sentence has been described as victory of sorts by Attorney Stewart and other commentators. The ever upbeat Ms. Stewart is quoted as stating that she, like some of her clients, could do that time “standing on her head”. Well, that may be, but the fact of the matter is that Ms. Stewart should not have been indicted, should not have been convicted and most definitely not sentenced for her actions on behalf of her client. Only the fact that the judge did not totally surrender to the government’s blatant appeals to “national security” issues and sentence her to the thirty years that they requested makes this any kind of “victory”. That joy over any lesser sentence could be considered as such is a telling reminder of the times we live in.
This case and the publicity surrounding it has dramatically warned any attorney who is committed to zealous defense of an unpopular or voiceless client to back off or face the consequences. The chilling effect on such advocacy, in some cases the only possible way to truly defend a client in this overheated reactionary atmosphere, is obvious. Moreover, the whole question of “material” aid to terrorism is a Pandora’s box for any political activist or even a merely interested non-political participant in any organization on the government’s “hit” list.
The government has the possibility of appealing the sentence to the Federal Court of Appeals so as of today October 18, 2006 the travails of Ms. Stewart are not over. Moreover, her conviction is still on appeal. From what I can gather in any reasonably quiet appeals court some of more blatant actions by the prosecution at trial would warrant, at minimum, a new trial if not the overturning of the conviction. Again, in these times such confidence may be unwarranted. In short, the “people’s lawyer” Lynne Stewart needs financial help to wage these new battles. Please consider sending a donation to the Lynne Stewart Defense Fund or to the organization I support- the Partisan Defense Committee- which will forward the donation. You can google either organization for addresses.
REVISED: NOVEMBER 2, 2006
ADDED NOTE: IN ANOTHER TELLING TALE OF THE TIMES THE INFORMATION THAT I RECEIVED FROM THE MASS MEDIA "NEGLECTED" TO INFORM THAT MS. STEWART'S ARAB TRANSLATOR , MOHAMED YOUSRY RECEIVED A 20 MONTH SENTENCE AND PARALEGAL ABDEL SATTAR RECEIVED 24 YEARS- NO THAT IS NOT A MISPRINT-24 YEARS. I MAKE UP OF THAT EGREGIOUS MISTAKE HERE. NEED LESS TO SAY- FREE STEWART, YOUSRY AND SATTAR.
Monday, October 16, 2006
Click on the title to link to an article about the relationship between Langston Hughes' forbears and Captain John Brown, late of Kansas on the anniversary of the Harpers Ferry raid.
October 16-Langston Hughes
You will remember
Who took his gun,
Took twenty-one companions
White and black,
Went to shoot your way to freedom
Where two rivers meet
And the hills of the
And the hills of the
Look slow at one another-
For your sake.
Now that you are
Many years free,
And the echo of the Civil War
Has passed away,
And Brown himself
Has long been tried at law,
Hanged by the neck,
And buried in the ground-
Since Harpers Ferry
Is alive with ghost today,
Come again to town-
You will recall
Click on the title to link to "Wikipedia"'s entry for the 19th American poet Edwin Arlington Robinson.
Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935). Collected Poems. 1921.
VII. The Three Taverns
11. John Brown
THOUGH for your sake I would not have you now
So near to me tonight as now you are,
God knows how much a stranger to my heart
Was any cold word that I may have written;
And you, poor woman that I made my wife, 5
You have had more of loneliness, I fear,
Than I—though I have been the most alone,
Even when the most attended. So it was
God set the mark of his inscrutable
Necessity on one that was to grope, 10
And serve, and suffer, and withal be glad
For what was his, and is, and is to be,
When his old bones, that are a burden now,
Are saying what the man who carried them
Had not the power to say. Bones in a grave, 15
Cover them as they will with choking earth,
May shout the truth to men who put them there,
More than all orators. And so, my dear,
Since you have cheated wisdom for the sake
Of sorrow, let your sorrow be for you, 20
This last of nights before the last of days,
The lying ghost of what there is of me
That is the most alive. There is no death
For me in what they do. Their death it is
They should heed most when the sun comes again 25
To make them solemn. There are some I know
Whose eyes will hardly see their occupation,
For tears in them—and all for one old man;
For some of them will pity this old man,
Who took upon himself the work of God 30
Because he pitied millions. That will be
For them, I fancy, their compassionate
Best way of saying what is best in them
To say; for they can say no more than that,
And they can do no more than what the dawn 35
Of one more day shall give them light enough
To do. But there are many days to be,
And there are many men to give their blood,
As I gave mine for them. May they come soon!
May they come soon, I say. And when they come, 40
May all that I have said unheard be heard,
Proving at last, or maybe not—no matter—
What sort of madness was the part of me
That made me strike, whether I found the mark
Or missed it. Meanwhile, I’ve a strange content, 45
A patience, and a vast indifference
To what men say of me and what men fear
To say. There was a work to be begun,
And when the Voice, that I have heard so long,
Announced as in a thousand silences 50
An end of preparation, I began
The coming work of death which is to be,
That life may be. There is no other way
Than the old way of war for a new land
That will not know itself and is tonight 55
A stranger to itself, and to the world
A more prodigious upstart among states
Than I was among men, and so shall be
Till they are told and told, and told again;
For men are children, waiting to be told, 60
And most of them are children all their lives.
The good God in his wisdom had them so,
That now and then a madman or a seer
May shake them out of their complacency
And shame them into deeds. The major file 65
See only what their fathers may have seen,
Or may have said they saw when they saw nothing.
I do not say it matters what they saw.
Now and again to some lone soul or other
God speaks, and there is hanging to be done,— 70
As once there was a burning of our bodies
Alive, albeit our souls were sorry fuel.
But now the fires are few, and we are poised
Accordingly, for the state’s benefit,
A few still minutes between heaven and earth. 75
The purpose is, when they have seen enough
Of what it is that they are not to see,
To pluck me as an unripe fruit of treason,
And then to fling me back to the same earth
Of which they are, as I suppose, the flower— 80
Not given to know the riper fruit that waits
For a more comprehensive harvesting.
Yes, may they come, and soon. Again I say,
May they come soon!—before too many of them
Shall be the bloody cost of our defection. 85
When hell waits on the dawn of a new state,
Better it were that hell should not wait long,—
Or so it is I see it who should see
As far or farther into time tonight
Than they who talk and tremble for me now, 90
Or wish me to those everlasting fires
That are for me no fear. Too many fires
Have sought me out and seared me to the bone—
Thereby, for all I know, to temper me
For what was mine to do. If I did ill 95
What I did well, let men say I was mad;
Or let my name for ever be a question
That will not sleep in history. What men say
I was will cool no cannon, dull no sword,
Invalidate no truth. Meanwhile, I was; 100
And the long train is lighted that shall burn,
Though floods of wrath may drench it, and hot feet
May stamp it for a slight time into smoke
That shall blaze up again with growing speed,
Until at last a fiery crash will come 105
To cleanse and shake a wounded hemisphere,
And heal it of a long malignity
That angry time discredits and disowns.
Tonight there are men saying many things;
And some who see life in the last of me 110
Will answer first the coming call to death;
For death is what is coming, and then life.
I do not say again for the dull sake
Of speech what you have heard me say before,
But rather for the sake of all I am, 115
And all God made of me. A man to die
As I do must have done some other work
Than man’s alone. I was not after glory,
But there was glory with me, like a friend,
Throughout those crippling years when friends were few, 120
And fearful to be known by their own names
When mine was vilified for their approval.
Yet friends they are, and they did what was given
Their will to do; they could have done no more.
I was the one man mad enough, it seems, 125
To do my work; and now my work is over.
And you, my dear, are not to mourn for me,
Or for your sons, more than a soul should mourn
In Paradise, done with evil and with earth.
There is not much of earth in what remains 130
For you; and what there may be left of it
For your endurance you shall have at last
In peace, without the twinge of any fear
For my condition; for I shall be done
With plans and actions that have heretofore 135
Made your days long and your nights ominous
With darkness and the many distances
That were between us. When the silence comes,
I shall in faith be nearer to you then
Than I am now in fact. What you see now 140
Is only the outside of an old man,
Older than years have made him. Let him die,
And let him be a thing for little grief.
There was a time for service and he served;
And there is no more time for anything 145
But a short gratefulness to those who gave
Their scared allegiance to an enterprise
That has the name of treason—which will serve
As well as any other for the present.
There are some deeds of men that have no names, 150
And mine may like as not be one of them.
I am not looking far for names tonight.
The King of Glory was without a name
Until men gave Him one; yet there He was,
Before we found Him and affronted Him 155
With numerous ingenuities of evil,
Of which one, with His aid, is to be swept
And washed out of the world with fire and blood.
Once I believed it might have come to pass
With a small cost of blood; but I was dreaming— 160
Dreaming that I believed. The Voice I heard
When I left you behind me in the north,—
To wait there and to wonder and grow old
Of loneliness,—told only what was best,
And with a saving vagueness, I should know 165
Till I knew more. And had I known even then—
After grim years of search and suffering,
So many of them to end as they began—
After my sickening doubts and estimations
Of plans abandoned and of new plans vain— 170
After a weary delving everywhere
For men with every virtue but the Vision—
Could I have known, I say, before I left you
That summer morning, all there was to know—
Even unto the last consuming word 175
That would have blasted every mortal answer
As lightning would annihilate a leaf,
I might have trembled on that summer morning;
I might have wavered; and I might have failed.
And there are many among men today 180
To say of me that I had best have wavered.
So has it been, so shall it always be,
For those of us who give ourselves to die
Before we are so parcelled and approved
As to be slaughtered by authority. 185
We do not make so much of what they say
As they of what our folly says of us;
They give us hardly time enough for that,
And thereby we gain much by losing little.
Few are alive to-day with less to lose. 190
Than I who tell you this, or more to gain;
And whether I speak as one to be destroyed
For no good end outside his own destruction,
Time shall have more to say than men shall hear
Between now and the coming of that harvest 195
Which is to come. Before it comes, I go—
By the short road that mystery makes long
For man’s endurance of accomplishment.
I shall have more to say when I am dead.
SOFT-CORE SELL OF A STALINIST HENCHMAN
KHRUSHCHEV, ROY MEDVEDEV, ANCHOR PRESS, NEW YORK, 1983
At one time in the seemingly distant pass the name Roy Medvedev was associated very closely with the left-wing elements of the opposition movements into the former Soviet Union at the time of Khrushchev’s leadership. One would hardly know from reading this biography that the two were, at least formally, political opponents. Mr. Medvedev has produced a biography that beyond acting as catalogue of Mr. Khrushchev’s travels and activities as leader of the former Soviet Union is little more than a soft-core sell of an old Stalinist henchman. This tact on the part of the author may be due to the fact that book was published in 1983 when the Soviet Union was in the early process of going to hell in a hand basket and so the Khrushchev period appeared, in retrospect, to be a Golden Age of Stalinism-without Stalin. Nevertheless if one is looking for a more profound analysis of a key personality of the immediate post-Stalin period one will have to look elsewhere.
That said, Mr. Medvedev cannot be faulted for his general factual presentation. He dutifully, if superficially, goes through Mr. Khrushchev’s rise to the top layer of the Stalin entourage, the struggle for power after Stalin’s death in 1953, the monumental revelations of the crimes of Stalin at the 20th and later the 22nd Russian Communist Party Congresses, the various domestic crises particularly the continuing problems in agriculture that years later would contribute to the downfall of the Soviet Union, the international disputes within the world Communist movement, the at times very heated struggle with the West during various episodes of the Cold War and his eventual downfall from power in 1964.
The reviewer grew up in America at the time of the rise and fall of the Khrushchev regime and it was useful to be reminded of those events, their importance in the history of that period and as a refreshing of my memory of my reaction to the events at the time. For those who have forgotten or do not know of the key events such as the attempts at nuclear disarmament, the crisis in Berlin and the Cuban Missile Crisis this book provide a competent review of those events.
The stumbling block to any further credit to Mr. Medvedev’s book is his rather fawning attitude over Mr. Khrushchev’s achievements in the post-Stalin period. Yes, Mr. Khrushchev performed an important, if not adequate, service to the international communist movement by his revelations of Stalin’s crimes. But any leftist critic of Stalinism has the right to ask- Mr. Khrushchev what were you doing at the time of all these acknowledged crimes while a henchman of Mr. Stalin? It is not enough to argue that there was little one could do. The history and fate of the Left Opposition in the Russian Communist Party and that of other oppositionists in the wastes of Russia testify to other routes for those who considered themselves Bolsheviks. No, this gloss-over will not do.
Mr. Khrushchev, Mr. Medvedev and I shared one thing in common. At one time we all stood for the defense of the Soviet Union against attack by world imperialism and internal counterrevolution. Beyond that we part ways. I note that all through this paean to the intrepid Mr. Khrushchev there is very little sense that in the Khrushchev era, despite some obvious thawing of the internal political environment, that workers and farmers councils could have been a more appropriate way out of the impasse of Soviet society than just playing musical chairs with the top levels of the Soviet bureaucracy. The gap between that Leninist understanding of the road to socialism and Mr. Khrushchev’ s top-down operation certainly did its part to weaken the Soviet Union and cause its ultimate collapse. Stalinism certainly represented the political expropriation of the working class, the labor camps, the judicial murders, the bureaucratic perks and all of that. However, in the final analysis the Stalin regime also meant the practice of "socialism in one country" which placed natural limits on the internal developments of the Soviet Union. Stalin liked it that way. Nothing in the book indicated that Khrushchev saw the world any differently.
SOME OF THE BOOKS REVIEWED HERE MAY NOT BE READILY AVAILABLE AT LOCAL LIBRARIES OR BOOKSTORES. CHECK AMAZON.COM FOR AVAILABILITY THERE, BOTH NEW AND USED. YOU CAN ALSO GOOGLE THE MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVES.
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Click on the headline to link to a Workers Vanguard article U.S. Imperialism Hands Off North Korea!, dated January 17, 2003.
AMERICAN IMPERIALISM- WHEN YOU LET THE GENIE OUT OF THE BOTTLE –WATCH OUT-AND DON’T CRY ABOUT IT
In a recent blog commenting on Massachusetts Senator John Forbes Kerry’s emerging presidential campaign for the elections of 2008 (see October 2006 archives, dated October 13th) this writer commented on Mr. Kerry’s hue and cry over the fact that North Korea had recently detonated some small nuclear devise and his call for America to take ‘appropriate action’ including, presumably a preemptive first strike against that country. That position has also been echoed by others in the liberal and Democratic Party establishments. At that time I wrote that I would have further comments later. Here goes.
The hard realities of international politics and military policy in the year 2006 are that any “third world” countries that are in the crosshairs of the American imperialists(or other imperialists) need nuclear weapons in order to survive. I warned from the start this commentary would not be pretty. The two destructive wars in Iraq over the past 15 years, where a marginally harmful figure to imperialists interests like Saddam Hussein was dealt severe conventional military blows, when the West even had a tiny thought that he had the potential (in some distant future) to produce such weaponry dramatically brings that point home. In the current one-superpower world dominated overwhelmingly by a far-flung American military presence this fact cannot have been lost on any leader of a small nation-least of all Kim Jung Il of North Korea.
Western imperialism’s hypocrisy over the occurrence of the blast and the media’s treatment of it, replete with vintage film footage reminiscent of old Soviet May Day parades, like some central event of the presumably long past Cold War seems strikingly irrational in the context of current American military capabilities.
Let me cite the standard leftist comments on such hypocrisy. While such comments might seem tired and reflect an old Cold War reality they nevertheless should underline any leftist response to the international situation today. Hell, for all practical purposes it is starting to look like that kind of world again. To begin- America, after all, let the genie out of the bottle when it first developed the atomic bomb for use in the waning days of World War II. Those who let the genie out of the bottle should not cry- over 60 years later- when some upstarts come along, use the simplification of that technology to develop their own weaponry and want to play in the same sandbox.
Commentators , in defending American leadership of an exclusive nuclear club, have placed great emphasis on the deterrent effect, based on mutually assured destruction, of the then escalating nuclear arms race during most parts of the Cold War which ended with the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991-92. Two comments should disabuse the reader of the notion of firm stewardship by American imperialism over that time. One, the Americans ruling class did in fact use nuclear weapons on essentially defenseless and defeated people in Japan. And has been the only power in history to do so. Two, the American imperialists today have several thousand serious nuclear weapons with the capacity to launch them anytime, anywhere and if history is any judge with little compunction to use them. “Third World” tin-pot dictators, quasi-socialist bureaucrats and other assorted rulers are not the only ones that should be worried by such facts. Damn, I am worried too.
Among the first political activities that I engaged in as a youth was the fight for unilateral nuclear disarmament. I admired the struggles of the British Labor Party to make Great Britain a nuclear-free zone during the height of the Cold War. As an advocate today for a socialist world that youthful dream still holds sway in the back of my mind- but now with a much better understanding of the nature of world politics and far less naiveté about the nature and intentions of the American capitalist system. Iraq today is only the most graphic example of the ruthlessness of that system. However, unlike such groups as the hard-line Stalinist Workers World Party which apparently wants the North Korean U.S. political franchise (for what it is worth) I do not see Kim Jung Il as one of nature’s noblemen. Nor is North Korea a “workers paradise” by any stretch of the imagination. However it is up to the workers and peasants of North Korea (along with their brethren in the South) to take care of that question of "regime change" and move forward to a socialist society. That task cannot be outsourced under the bloody dictates of international imperialism and its hangers-on. Until that future socialist time , however, make no mistake I join others, including the Workers World Party, in demanding- HANDS OFF NORTH KOREA!
Revised October 20, 2006
*On Revolutionaries and Mortality
THE DUTY OF A REVOLUTIONARY IS TO MAKE THE REVOLUTION-OR FALL TRYING
FORGET DONKEYS, ELEPHANTS AND GREENS- BUILD A WORKERS PARTY
I was recently asked by a young militant leftist of vague socialist sympathies why an old militant like myself was still trying to put up what apparently appears to be a forlorn task in my lifetime- the ‘good fight’ for socialism. My short answer to her was that I was doing it for her. It is true that each political generation will come to terms with the socialist tasks of its era in its own way. However, it would be a serious mistake on the part of young socialist militants to ignore the lessons of the past.
The lessons:the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Paris Commune, the early history of the American Communist Party and later the Socialist Workers Party now seemingly in the historic mist of time to today’s young militants need examination. Old militants may not be able to immediately bring about the socialist vision that animated their youth but we sure as hell can pass on the torch to the next generation. Moreover, the links to that past by death, attrition and abandonment of politics by earlier cadre have become extremely attenuated, particularly here in the heartland of world imperialism, and the relatively few of us who still remember that past and who are still fighting that ‘good fight’ are duty bound to pass on what we know.
Now for a little longer answer to that young militant’s question. I came of political age in the 1960’s, a time of much political ferment and many political mistakes on the part of the young leftists of my generation, what I have euphemistically called elsewhere the generation of ’68. Personally, I came, kicking and screaming, relatively late to the Marxist worldview after abandoning left liberal and then 'soft' socialist political positions. I can, however, state with some pride that the lateness of my conversion probably helped to keep my convictions that much more solid.Certainly nothing politically over the past 30 plus years has changed my basis view of the necessity of socialism and the probability that a knock down, drag out fight against the imperialists will be necessary to achieve it. If nothing else that is the example I wish to set by my writings and political actions.
Truth to tell, nobody ever said that individual revolutionaries would live to see the socialist society in their life time. If any thought so they bought the wrong ticket. While it is certainly true that individual activists make their own judgments about the extend of their commitment to their political goals, especially something as seemingly esoteric as the hard fight for socialism, this wicked world holds too many surprises to base one’s political calculations on the dream of actually being a commissar in a soviet society. Our models, moreover, should be Marx who after 1848 never came close to seeing the society that he predicted but still fought savagely for his worldview until his death. And Lenin, who only saw a partial and a much distorted completion of his world view before his untimely death. And Trotsky who fought to save the Russian Revolution and later in exile fought to create a new revolutionary international died at his post with his work still uncompleted. Can we do less?
Finally, let me give a specific example that has sustained me throughout the years. As part of my early Marxist political activity I did a massive amount of political reading, especially about the American socialist movement. In that reading I was drawn to the struggle of the American Trotskyists in the 1930’s who as followers of Trotsky’s Left International were trying to create a new revolutionary communist party in opposition to the Stalinized American Communist Party. As part of that process they tried to regroup with other active left wing anti-Stalinist organizations.
One such successful regroupment was with the Workers Party that had led the famous Toledo Auto-Lite strike in 1934 and which along with other later regroupments formed the Socialist Workers Party. One of the leaders of the Workers Party was New York University Professor, James Burnham. Burnham was a high-powered intellectual who could write very persuasively and wrote many articles and pamphlets that militants today can still profitably read. In 1940 he led a major split from the SWP over the question of defense of the Soviet Union. He in turn split from Marxism and later would end up a die-hard anti-Communist in league with conservative William Buckley’s National Review. Such are vagaries of politics, but that is not the main point here. In his heyday in the Socialist Workers Party Burnham was asked by fellow leader James P. Cannon to take a more central and active role in the leadership of the organization. In response Burnham stated that he personally could or would not do so as he was uncertain whether the socialist goals of the organization were attainable in his life time. That, fellow militants, is exactly the bad example that I have been fighting against most of my political life. I remain at my post.
Friday, October 13, 2006
WHO IS SENATOR JOHN FORBES KERRY AND WHY IS HE BLEEDING ALL OVER THE RUG?
KERRY’S MEA CULPA IS NOT ENOUGH-WE NEED A WORKERS PARTY CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT
FORGET ELEPHANTS, DONKEYS AND GREENS- BUILD A WORKERS PARTY!!
No one can fault Massachusetts United Senator John Forbes Kerry for lacking in commemorative spirit. Last spring he wooed an audience at Fanueil Hall with a speech observing the 35th Annivesary of his testimony before a Senate Committee investigating the Vietnam War (Do people in the real world, outside of politics, really observe such anniversaries?). This week, the week of October 8, 2006, he again is on the stump celebrating the 4th Anniversary of his ill-fated vote to authorize President Bush to go to war in Iraq. The highlight of the speech apparently was his ‘heartfelt’ admission that he was wrong to give such approval. As a matter of elemenatry politic hygiene one would think with Kerry ‘s gyrations that he would be hiding out alone somewhere in the hills of New Hampshire not shouting about it from the rooftops. But such is the nature of capitalist politics- when you really have the 'fire in the belly' to be president there is nothing you will not do to abase yourself to get that ‘job’. Ask Bill Clinton (and maybe, ask Hillary). Ask the master- Hubert Horatio Humphrey. Need I say more.
Let us go through the numbers on the question of opposition to the Iraq war one more time. On the national parliamentary level the only real action that counts in opposition to the war in Iraq is not some belated mea culpa on an authorization vote but the vote on the war budget. You know, the way the damn war gets funded. Senator Kerry voted with both hands (and probably both feet) for that one. Democrats and Republicans LIKE to vote for the war budgets. It is now worst than useless to think otherwise. A new set of worker party candidates or other independents with a socialist program must be put forth to vote against the war budget (among other things). But that is the music of the future. As bad as Kerry’ position is THAT women, punitive ( I do not mean putative) Democratic presidential candidate New York Senator Hillary “Hawk”Clinton’s is even worst. While making some very tentative anti-war sounds she continues to stand by her 2002 vote. And like Kerry in 2004 she will probably be anointed the ‘anti-war’ candidate in 2008 agains the Republicans. Well, let the liberal anti-war activists twist in the wind on that one.
One other point about Senator Kerry deserves mentioning here lest one think that he is the reincarnation of the pacifist Indian leader Gandhi. This week North Korea exploded some small nuclear devise which raised all kinds of hypocritical outcries of 'foul' from the exclusive international nuclear club headed by American imperialism. Senator Kerry went out of his way to comment on this so-called outrage and argued for ‘appropriate’ action to stem the North Koreans. For those who need it spelled out that means preemptive military strikes, if necessary. Kerry represents the real position of the Iraqi defeatist wing of the capitalist class. To President Bush they say- It’s Iran, stupid, It’s North Korea, stupid. No one in the establishment, least of all Kerry, is turning swords into plowshares here, they just want another target. After two destructive wars in Iraq the hard reality of international politics in the case of small ‘third world’ nations in the crosshairs of American (or other) imperialist guns is you damn well better have nuclear weapons or you will not survive. More on this latter.