Friday, January 08, 2010

*Films To While Away The Class Struggle By- The Revolution Is No Dinner Party, Indeed!- Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 Film “La Chinoise”

Click on the title to link to the "Wikipedia" entry for Jean-Luc Godard's film, "La Chinosie". The synopsis of the plot (and the source from which it is adapted) is good and let's me look at the politics and didactic "play" aspects of the film

DVD Review

Recently I have begun to post entries under the headline- “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”-that will include progressive and labor-oriented songs that might be of general interest to the radical public. I have decided to do the same for some films that may perk that same interest under the title in this entry’s headline. In the future I expect to do the same for books under a similar heading.-Markin

La Chinoise, (in French, English subtitles), starring Jean-Pierre Leard, Juliet Berto, directed by Jean-Luc Godard, 1967

The last time the name of famous (1960s famous) French experimental filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard appeared in this space was in last year’s retro-review of his documentary/didactic montage of The Rolling Stones as they went through their paces in creating the rock classic “Sympathy For The Devil” in 1968. I faulted Godard's efforts there for trying the patience of even the most ardent Stones fan (including this reviewer) with his interspersing of 1960s hard political rhetoric and zany antics with a rather long drawn out exposition on the creative process that it took to create a song lasting a few moments. All the faults there, however, turn into pluses in this 1967look at the trials and tribulation of a small group of ardent radicals trying to make sense of their world (their French world, by the way) during the tumultuous 1960s and during the heat of the struggle to break with, what in France, was the status quo- adherence to the Communist Party that, although having at one time perspective for socialist revolution and the road to a communist society, had seemingly (to them) given up that mantle to Mao, the Chinese Revolution of 1949 and the then burgeoning student Red Guard led-Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.

The story line here is fairly simple, although perhaps rather obscure and didactic to the last couple of generations since the generation of ’68 had its heyday. Fair enough. I need not spent much time on this here however because the plot has its antecedents in, and the script fairly accurately follows, the famous Russian writer Dostoevsky’s novel “The Possessed”. (Dostoevsky, by the way, came within a hairbreadth of the hangman’s noose for his own youthful political activism, something which colors in a perverse way the cautionary tale he tells).

The plot centers on a small group of college students who, during the summer break and with time on their hands, are struggling with ideas about their place in the world, their seeming being left out of the decision-making process of that world, and most importantly, for the “lessons” to be taken from the film what to do about it. That small group which as the plot unfurls turns itself into a political cell, as was the nature of the times, as it turned to revolutionary politics, or what they thought was revolutionary politics in an attempt resolve these conflicts.

In those days that struggle was directed against the placidity of official modern French revolutionary traditions, the Moscow-loyal French Communist Party. Interestingly and probably appropriately, not a thought was given by the group to the program of the French Socialist Party of the time, the party of the tendency in the international workers movement that merely wanted to reform modern capitalist society with a few bandages, if that was acceptable to the bourgeoisie. But neither did they investigate (except for the obligatory Trotsky slanders) the traditions of Trotskyism either, although France, historically, was a strong center for those who followed the teachings of that Russian revolutionary. Thus, the struggle is between the old style Stalinism of the Russian-oriented party, represented here doctrinally by one of the cell members, and the spirit of Mao’s Red Guards (or at least those factions of the Red Guards that Mao favored at the time- the film shows and, one can look up that fact, that at some point all Mao adherents with different perspectives were shouting slogans from the “Red Book” at each other).

Of course, the logic of the Maoist variant of Stalinism in the West, at least before the Chinese deals with American and international imperialism were made in the early 1970s, was based on the Chinese peasant-based guerrilla warfare revolutionary struggles and therefore, in practice, was to forsake the working class and “take up the gun” in heroic individual acts of terror, and what, in fact, turned into rather empty moral gestures. The irony here, or rather the tragedy, is that this search for a revolutionary agency was being worked out in a country where the working class not only had a revolutionary past, unlike in America, but in the next year (1968) would come very close to bring the French state to its knees in a massive general strike.

But that is music for the future. What comes out clearly here, and this is part of Godard’s genius, is that, as ardent or rigid as the students became, and as foolhardy as their endeavors proved to be in the end, their strategies were doomed to failure. There is a very good dialogue, which takes place during a train ride, between the woman student leader (Yvonne) and her philosophy mentor, Francois Jeanson, a recognized, and rightly so, heroic French supporter of the Algerian liberation struggles in the 1950s who seems both perplexed and astonished by the proposals of small group individual heroic acts of terrorism.

This trend in Western leftist student circles at least, however, became somewhat pervasive in the late 1960s when despair over ending the Vietnam War and/or taking political control over one’s own life swamped other more realistic theories of social change. I note, in particular, the Weather Underground in America, a comparable grouping to the one portrayed here. Sadly, Jeanson had the better of the argument as subsequent history bears out, to our sorrow. This fundamental moralistic strategy was so thinly based (and hardly the first time that it had been proposed, the Russian revolutionaries of the 1880s, including Lenin’s brother got caught up in the fever, to speak nothing of the nihilistic characters in “The Possessed”) that after the first few failures to effect change those who advocated the strategy walked away from the whole thing…and went back to school.

The beauty of Godard experimentalism in this film is that, although there is some dialogue it really does not depend on that as much as the visually imaginary that he projects. I mentioned above his use of montage in the Stones film. Here he, seemingly, pored through every known photograph of every known, wannabe or has-been revolutionary up until that time as he adds to his main story. However, that is only part of the brilliant use of film here. I will just point out a couple shots that struck me. Most of the action takes place at cell headquarters, an apartment where the students live, read, smoke many cigarettes, and are lectured to, and at, on Mao Thought. Visually the process of turning the group from bored, if intelligent, students to armchair Red Guards is shown by the depletion of the library from the standards of Western literature until near the end the shelves are almost filled with Red Books.

I have already mentioned the importance of the Jeanson train conversation but that scene too, especially Yvonne’s detached casualness, bears additional mention. Another is the use of lectures in traditional lecture style in the tiny apartment where there are only three or four others present. They took turns at this. The most interesting one was when the pro-Moscow student tried to lecture and was given boos and catcall for his efforts. No one said there was no shortage of infantilism in those days, as the overhead cost of trying to figure out the political universe. There are many other shots like these that give you a fairly realistic picture of that small world, replicated many, many times throughout the world in those days. Well done, Monsieur Godard

Note: I am somewhat under the spell of the gods of ’68 in reviewing this film. Unfortunately one needs to know quite a bit about the struggles within the international left in those pre- “death of communism” days here in the West to appreciate Godard’s take on it. In the end, he was not really sympathetic to those struggles, guerrilla warfare Maoism or any other. Seemingly, he takes his lead from Dostoevsky on that score as well. He did, however, know enough about those controversies to do a believable, and for the most part, accurate job of detailing them in this film.

The real problem is that for today’s audiences, two or more generations removed from the action, this film can only seem “quaint”. Frankly, as we have been gearing up our opposition to Obama’s Afghan War strategy here in America, more than one friend has noted this: today’s students, unlike those portrayed in the film, would have no clue about the action of this film because they do not think, for the most part, about how to change the world fundamentally, how to bring about a classless society. Sadly, I agree. That said though, we will have to get them thinking this way again. Agreed?

*Writer's Corner- From The Pen Of Dostoevsky- "The Possessed"

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for Dostoevsky's novel "The Possessed" that this film under review today, Jean Luc-Godard's " La Chiniose" is based on.

Book Review

The Possessed, Fyodor Dostovesky, Barnes & Noble, New York, 2004


Dostoevsky was a central figure in the great Russian literary revival of the 19th century, spurred on by the clearly foreseen, and necessary coming revolution that was on every radical intellectuals mind. The Russian novel, in a sense, reflected, in one way or another, the propaganda written for that event. This novel, moreover, forms the intellectual backdrop for a review that I have recently done on Jean Luc-Godard's "La Chinoise" from 1967. That film used the story line of the novel as the script for a modern day version of the struggle of a group of young middle class intellectuals driven to despair by the political/cultural/social and existential circumstances of their lives, yet were unable to fight effectively for their vision of the future, mainly due to their devotion to the "circle" spirit and distance from the class struggles of their times.

Thus from different centuries and responding to different sets of circumstances the film and novel come to the same basic conclusion about the futility of struggle against authority, or the fear that the "new order" will be just a rehash of the old led to both director and author to some very unrevolutionary conclusions. Nevertheless, I always liked this novel, despite, or maybe, because of Dostoevsky's past and its service as a cautionary tale of the futility, at best, of fighting against authority. Of course, Dostoevsky came within a ready hangman's noose for his own radical activity so that might color his approach, at least a little. Right? But Godard, who knows.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

*Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits- Honor Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, "The Rebel Girl", In Her IWW Days

Click on the title to link to the "Women And Marxism" Internet Archive's section on the ex-Wobblie (IWW) and later American Communist Party leader, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Leibknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices.

*****

Note on inclusion: As in other series on this site (“Labor’s Untold Story”, “Leaders Of The Bolshevik Revolution”, etc.) this year’s honorees do not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levellers, Jacobins, etc.) whose efforts
contributed to the international struggle. Also, as was true of previous series this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By- Joe Hill's "The Preacher And The Slave"

Click on the title to link to a "YouTube" film clip of a performance of Joe Hill's "The Preacher and the Slave".


In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.

The Preacher And The Slave lyrics-Joe Hill

Long-haired preachers come out every night,
Try to tell you what's wrong and what's right;
But when asked how 'bout something to eat
They will answer in voices so sweet
You will eat, bye and bye,
In that glorious land above the sky;
Work and pray, live on hay,
You'll get pie in the sky when you die
And the Starvation Army they play,
And they sing and they clap and they pray,
Till they get all your coin on the drum,
Then they tell you when you're on the bum
Holy Rollers and Jumpers come out
And they holler, they jump and they shout
Give your money to Jesus, they say,
He will cure all diseases today
If you fight hard for children and wife-
Try to get something good in this life-
You're a sinner and bad man, they tell,
When you die you will sure go to hell.
Workingmen of all countries, unite
Side by side we for freedom will fight
When the world and its wealth we have gained
To the grafters we'll sing this refrain
You will eat, bye and bye,
When you've learned how to cook and how to fry;
Chop some wood, 'twill do you good
Then you'll eat in the sweet bye and bye
The chorus is sung in a call and response pattern.

You will eat [You will eat] bye and bye [bye and bye]
In that glorious land above the sky [Way up high]
Work and pray [Work and pray] live on hay [live on hay]
You'll get pie in the sky when you die [That's a lie!]
Thus the final verse becomes

You will eat [You will eat] bye and bye [bye and bye]
When you've learned how to cook and how to fry [How to fry]
Chop some wood [Chop some wood], 'twill do you good [do you good]
Then you'll eat in the sweet bye and bye [That's no lie]

The fourth verse is not normally sung today, probably because of the reference to "children and wife" not being gender-neutral. Other variations include changing the second line of the chorus to "In that glorious land up in the sky" and the last line of the third verse to "And you will eat on that glorious day." Workingmen is normally changed to working folks, as well. The above lyrics are from the 19th edition of the Little Red Songbook

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By- The IWW's Joe Hill's"The Rebel Girl"

Click on the title to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Hazel Dickens performing "The Rebel Girl" (with some great footage of the young Elizabeth Gurley Flynn)


In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.

Rebel Girl - Lyrics & Chords- Joe Hill

G C G
There are women of many de scriptions
G7 C Cm G
In this queer world as every one knows
C G
Some are living in beautiful mansions
A7 D
And are wearing the finest of clothes.
D7 G C G
There are blue-blooded queens and prin cesses
G7 C B
Who have charms made of diamonds and pearls.
G E7 Am
But the only and Thorough-bred Lady
A7 D7 G
Is the Reb el Girl.

Chorus:

C
That's the Rebel Girl, that's the Rebel Girl,
D D7 G
To the working class she's a precious pearl.
D7
She brings Courage, Pride and Joy
G
To the fighting Rebel Boy
C
We've had girls before, but we need some more
DC B
In the I ndustrial Work ers of the World
E7 Am
For it' s great to figh t for Freedom
C G D7 G
With a Reb el Girl.

Yes, her hands may be hardened from labor
And her dress may not be very fine.
But a heart in her bosom is beating
Warm and true to her class and her kind.
And the grafters in terror are trembling
When her spite and defiance she'll hurl.
For the only and Thorough-bred Lady
Is the Rebel Girl.

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Ralph Chaplin's "Solidarity Forever"

Click on the title to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Pete Seeger performing "Solidarity Forever".


In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.

Solidarity Forever Lyrics- Ralph Chaplin

Solidarity forever!
Solidarity forever!
Solidarity forever!
For the union makes us strong

When the union's inspiration
through the workers' blood shall run,
There can be no power greater
anywhere beneath the sun.
Yet what force on earth is weaker
than the feeble strength of one?
But the union makes us strong.


They have taken untold millions
that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle
not a single wheel can turn.
We can break their haughty power;
gain our freedom when we learn
That the Union makes us strong.


In our hands is placed a power
greater than their hoarded gold;
Greater than the might of armies,
magnified a thousand-fold.
We can bring to birth a new world
from the ashes of the old
For the Union makes us strong.


This labor anthem was written in 1915 by IWW songwriter and union organizer Ralph Chaplin using the music of Julia Ward Howe's Battle Hymn of the Republic. These song lyrics are those sung by Joe Glazer, Educational Director of the United Rubber Workers, from the recording Songs of Work and Freedom, (Washington Records WR460)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

*From The "Green Left Global" Blog- "Rake" By Townes Van Zandt

Click on the title to link to the "Green Left Global News " for a film clip of Townes Van Zandt performing one of his earlier songs, "Rake".

Markin comment:


For those unfamiliar with the work of this great outlaw country artist here is a CD review done last year in this space extolling his virtues.


CD Review

Early Townes

Townes Van Zandt, Townes Van Zandt, Tomato Records,


The main points of this review have been used to review other Townes Van Zandt CDs.


Readers of this space are by now very aware that I am in search of and working my way through various types of American roots music. In shorthand, running through what others have termed "The American Songbook". Thus I have spent no little time going through the work of seemingly every musician who rates space in the august place. From blues giants, folk legends, classic rock `n' roll artists down through the second and third layers of those milieus out in the backwoods and small, hideaway music spots that dot the American musical landscape. I have also given a nod to more R&B, rockabilly and popular song artists then one reasonably need to know about. I have, however, other than the absolutely obligatory passing nods to the likes of Hank Williams and Patsy Cline spent very ink on more traditional Country music, what used to be called the Nashville sound. What gives?

Whatever my personal musical preferences there is no question that the country music work of, for example, the likes of George Jones, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette in earlier times or Garth Brooks and Faith Hill a little later or today Keith Urban and Taylor Swift (I am cheating on these last two since I do not know their work and had to ask someone about them) "speak" to vast audiences out in the heartland. They just, for a number of reasons that need not be gone into here, do not "speak" to me. However, in the interest of "full disclosure" I must admit today that I had a "country music moment" about thirty years ago. That was the time of the "outlaws" of the country music scene. You know, Waylon (Jennings) and Willie (Nelson). Also Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash and Jerry Jeff Walker. Country Outlaws, get it? Guys and gals ( think of Jesse Colter)who broke from the Nashville/ Grand Old Opry mold by drinking hard, smoking plenty of dope and generally raising the kind of hell that the pious guardians of the Country Music Hall Of Fame would have had heart attacks over (at least in public). Oh, and did I say they wrote lyrics that spoke of love and longing, trouble with their "old ladies" (or "old men"), and struggling to get through the day. Just an ordinary day's work in the music world but with their own outlandish twists on it.

All of the above is an extremely round about way to introduce the "max daddy" of my 'country music moment', Townes Van Zandt. For those who the name does not ring a bell perhaps his most famous work does, the much-covered "Pancho And Lefty". In some ways his personal biography exemplified the then "new outlaw" (assuming that Hank Williams and his gang were the original ones). Chronic childhood problems, including a stint in a mental hospital, drugs, drink, and some rather "politically incorrect" sexual attitudes. Nothing really new here, except out of this mix came some of the most haunting lyrics of longing, loneliness, depression, sadness and despair. And that is the "milder" stuff. Not exactly the stuff of Nashville. That is the point. The late Townes Van Zandt "spoke" to me (he died in 1997) in a way that Nashville never could. And, in the end, the other outlaws couldn't either. That, my friends, is the saga of my country moment. Listen up to any of the CDs listed below for the reason why Townes did.

Townes Van Zandt was, due to personal circumstances and the nature of the music industry, honored more highly among his fellow musicians than as an outright star of "outlaw" country music back in the day. That influence was felt through the sincerest form of flattery in the music industry- someone well known covering your song. Many of Townes' pieces, especially since his untimely death in 1997, have been covered by others, most famously Willie Nelson's cover of "Pancho and Lefty". However, Townes, whom I had seen a number of times in person in the late 1970's, was no mean performer of his own darkly compelling songs.

This compilation, “Townes Van Zandt”, gives both the novice a Van Zandt primer and the aficionado a fine array of his core early works in one place Start with “Don’t You Take It Too Bad”, work through the longing felt in “I’ll Be Here In The Morning”, and the pathos of “For The Sake Of The Song” that could serve as a personal Townes anthem. Then on to the sadness of “Columbine” and “Waiting’ Round To Die”. Finally, round things out with the slight hopefulness of “Colorado Girl” and the epic tragedy of “None But The Rain”. My special favorite here, as attested to by an old worn out LP album version of this CD is "(Quicksilver Daydreams of) Maria". For sheer poetic lyrical form I do not think Townes did one better, the thing jumps with many apt metaphors. Many of these songs are not for the faint-hearted but are done from a place that I hope none of us have to go but can relate to nevertheless. This well thought out product is one that will make you too a Townes aficionado. A welcome addition are the copious liner notes that give some sense of his life, his work and his lyrics. Get to it.

*Once More On The Post World War II Chicago Blues Explosion- The Work Of Master Blues Harmonica Player Sonny Boy Williamson

Click on the title to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Sonny Boy Williamson performing "Keep It To Yourself".


CD Review

Sonny Boy Williamson: His Best: 50th Anniversary Chess Edition, Sonny Boy Williamson, Chess Records, 1997


I hope I never get tired of reviewing the various blues greats that I have spent the better part of the last couple of years trying to highlight. And I probably won’t. However, one little problem tends to keep creeping up. Just when I think that I have hit all the blues high-binders that are possible to mention without just running out into the street and reviewing some itinerant street player along comes another one that it would be a sin, a mortal sin, not to mention. That is the case here with the work of Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Carter version, for those who want to get into that controversy over who the real Sonny Boy is, or was), master harmonica player, no, make that harmonica wizard.

One of the things that got added, significantly, when the blues went north to Chicago (and other such environs) and went electric in the post-World War II period was the increased use of the harmonica to drive the beat, or act as counter-point to it, as the case may be on any particular song . We all know, or should know, of the key role that Muddy Walters and his various bands played in this with the emergence of Little Walter and later James Cotton. Note should also be taken of Howlin’ Wolf’s role when he was in his prime, and drove everyone crazy with that voice and THAT harmonica he practically inhaled on things like “How Many More Years”. Well, how do you think these guys learned the tricks of the harmonica trade? One way or another at the feet of Sonny Boy.

And the proof? Well just take about ten out of the twenty selections in this 50th Anniversary of Chess Records edition. Perhaps any ten will do but here are my stick outs. Keep in mind that most of the lyrics are monstrously “politically incorrect” but “Keep It To Yourself,” “Your Funeral And My Trial,” Down Child,” and, the well-known “Help Me” are a good sampler.

Help Me

Sonny Boy Williamson


You got to help me
I can't do it all by myself
You got to help me, baby
I can't do it all by myself
You know if you don't help me darling
I'll have to find myself somebody else

I may have to wash
I may have to sew
I may have to cook
I might mop the floor
But you help me babe
You know if you don't help me darling
I'll find myself somebody else

When I walk, walk with me
When I talk, you talk to me
Oh baby, I can't do it all by myself
You know if you don't help me darling
I'll have to find myself somebody else
Help me, help me darlin'

Bring my nightshirt
Put on your morning gown
Bring my nightshirt
Put on your morning gown
Darlin I know we stripped bare
But I don't feel like lying down

by Willie Dixon


Blues Lyrics - Sonny Boy Williamson II
Your Funeral And My Trial

All rights to lyrics included on these pages belong to the artists and authors of the works.

All lyrics, photographs, soundclips and other material on this website may only be used for private study, scholarship or research.

by
Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller)

The Essential Sonny Boy Williamson (Chess/MCA 9343)


Please come home to your daddy, and explain yourself to me
Because I and you are man and wife, tryin' to start a family
I'm beggin' you baby, cut out that off the wall jive
If you can't treat me no better, it gotta be your funeral and my trial

When I and you first got together, 't was on one Friday night
We spent two lovely hours together, and the world knows alright
I'm just beggin' you baby, please cut out that off the wall jive
You know you gotta treat me better, if you don't it gotta be your funeral and my trial

Alright

The good Lord made the world and everything was in it
The way my baby love is some solid sentiment
She can love to heal the sick and she can love to raise the dead
You think I'm jokin' but you better believe what I say
I'm beggin' you baby, cut out that off the wall jive
Yeah, you gotta treat me better, or it gotta be your funeral and my trial

***The New York Review Of Books" Graphic Artist Extraordinaire David Levine Passes Away

Click on the title to link to a "Daily Beast" obituary for the great graphic artist from "The New York Review Of Books", David Levine.

Markin comment:

Many a smile came around this blogger's face when thumbing through the pages of the "The New York Review" over the years seeing how David Levine skewered the famous, and not so famous. The big question, however, is what will next year's calender look like. I have come to depend on Levine's creations to spruce up my office space.


David Levine, Biting Caricaturist, Dies at 83

His death, at New York Presbyterian Hospital, was caused by prostate cancer and a subsequent combination of illnesses, his wife, Kathy Hayes, said.

Mr. Levine’s drawings never seemed whimsical, like those of Al Hirschfeld. They didn’t celebrate neurotic self-consciousness, like Jules Feiffer’s. He wasn’t attracted to the macabre, the way Edward Gorey was. His work didn’t possess the arch social consciousness of Edward Sorel’s. Nor was he interested, as Roz Chast is, in the humorous absurdity of quotidian modern life. But in both style and mood, Mr. Levine was as distinct an artist and commentator as any of his well-known contemporaries. His work was not only witty but serious, not only biting but deeply informed, and artful in a painterly sense as well as a literate one; he was, in fact, beyond his pen and ink drawings, an accomplished painter. Those qualities led many to suggest that he was the heir of the 19th-century masters of the illustration, HonorĂ© Daumier and Thomas Nast.

Especially in his political work, his portraits betrayed the mind of an artist concerned, worriedly concerned, about the world in which he lived. Among his most famous images were those of President Lyndon B. Johnson pulling up his shirt to reveal that the scar from his gallbladder operation was in the precise shape of the boundaries of Vietnam, and of Henry Kissinger having sex on the couch with a female body whose head was in the shape of a globe, depicting, Mr. Levine explained later, what Mr. Kissinger had done to the world. He drew Richard M. Nixon, his favorite subject, 66 times, depicting him as the Godfather, as Captain Queeg, as a fetus.

With those images and others — Yasir Arafat and Ariel Sharon in a David-and-Goliath parable; or Alan Greenspan, with scales of justice, balancing people and dollar bills, hanging from his downturned lips; or Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. carrying a gavel the size of a sledgehammer — Mr. Levine’s drawings sent out angry distress signals that the world was too much a puppet in the hands of too few puppeteers. “I would say that political satire saved the nation from going to hell,” he said in an interview in 2008, during an exhibit of his work called “American Presidents” at the New York Public Library.

Even when he wasn’t out to make a political point, however, his portraits — often densely inked, heavy in shadows cast by outsize noses on enormous, eccentrically shaped heads, and replete with exaggeratedly bad haircuts, 5 o’clock shadows, ill-conceived mustaches and other grooming foibles — tended to make the famous seem peculiar-looking in order to take them down a peg.

“They were extraordinary drawings with extraordinary perception,” Jules Feiffer said in a recent interview about the work of Mr. Levine, who was his friend. He added: “In the second half of the 20th century he was the most important political caricaturist. When he began, there was very little political caricature, very little literary caricature. He revived the art.”

David Levine was born on Dec. 20, 1926, in Brooklyn, where his father, Harry, ran a small garment shop and his mother, Lena, a nurse, was a political activist with Communist sympathies. A so-called red diaper baby, Mr. Levine leaned politically far to the left throughout his life. His family lived a few blocks from Ebbetts Field, where young David once shook the hand of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who became a hero, as did his wife, Eleanor. Years later, Mr. Levine’s caricature of Mrs. Roosevelt depicted her as a swan.

“I thought of her as beautiful,” he said. “Yet she was very homely.”

As a boy he sketched the stuffed animals in the vitrines at the Brooklyn Museum. He served in the Army just after World War II, then graduated from Temple University in Philadelphia with a degree in education and another degree from Temple’s Tyler School of Art. He also studied painting at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and with the Abstract Expressionist painter and renowned teacher Hans Hofmann.

Indeed, painting was Mr. Levine’s first love; he was a realist, and in 1958 he and Aaron Shikler (whose portrait of John F. Kennedy hangs in the White House) founded the Painting Group, a regular salon of amateurs and professionals who, for half a century, got together for working sessions with a model. A documentary about the group, “Portraits of a Lady,” focusing on their simultaneous portraits of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, was made in 2007; the portraits themselves were exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery.

Mr. Levine’s paintings, mostly watercolors, take as their subjects garment workers — a tribute to his father’s employees, who he said never believed that their lives could be seen as connected to beauty — or the bathers at his beloved Coney Island. In a story he liked to tell, he was painting on the boardwalk when he was approached by a homeless man who demanded to know how much he would charge for the painting. Mr. Levine, nonplussed, said $50.

“For that?” the man said.

The paintings are a sharply surprising contrast to his caricatures: sympathetic portraits of ordinary citizens, fond and respectful renderings of the distinctive seaside architecture, panoramas with people on the beach.

“None of Levine’s hard-edged burlesques prepare you for the sensuous satisfactions of his paintwork: the matte charm of his oil handling and the virtuoso refinement of his watercolors,” the critic Maureen Mullarkey wrote in 2004. “Caustic humor gives way to unexpected gentleness in the paintings.”

Mr. Levine’s successful career as a caricaturist and illustrator took root in the early 1960s, when he started working for Esquire. He began contributing cover portraits and interior illustrations to The New York Review of Books in 1963, its first year of publication, and within its signature blocky design his cerebral, brooding faces quickly became identifiable as, well, the cerebral, brooding face of the publication. He always worked from photographs, reading the accompanying article first to glean ideas.

“I try first to make the face believable, to give another dimension to a flat, linear drawing; then my distortions seem more acceptable,” he said.

From 1963 until 2007, after Mr. Levine received a diagnosis of macular degeneration and his vision deteriorated enough to affect his drawing, he contributed more than 3,800 drawings to The New York Review. Over the years he did 1,000 or so more for Esquire; almost 100 for Time, including a number of covers (one of which, for the 1967 Man of the Year issue, depicted President Johnson as a raging and despairing King Lear); and dozens over all for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone and other publications.

Mr. Levine’s first marriage ended in divorce. Besides Ms. Hayes, his partner for 32 years whom he married in 1996, he is survived by two children, Matthew, of Westport, Conn., and Eve, of Manhattan; two stepchildren, Nancy Rommelmann, of Portland, Ore., and Christopher Rommelmann, of Brooklyn; a grandson, and a stepgranddaughter.

“I might want to be critical, but I don’t wish to be destructive,” Mr. Levine once said, explaining his outlook on both art and life. “Caricature that goes too far simply lowers the viewer’s response to a person as a human being.”

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

*Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits- Honor American Trotskyist Leader James P. Cannon

Click on the title to link to the James P. Cannon Internet Archive's copy of his 1944 chapter on the history of the early American Trotskyist movement, "The Dog Days Of The Left Opposition".

Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Leibknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices.

*****

Note on inclusion: As in other series on this site (“Labor’s Untold Story”, “Leaders Of The Bolshevik Revolution”, etc.) this year’s honorees do not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levellers, Jacobins, etc.) whose efforts contributed to the international struggle. Also, as was true of previous series this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.

Markin comment:

I will stand by my previously stated remarks made in many earlier entries about the place of James P. Cannon in the American revolutionary pantheon- he had, in his prime, the capacity, warts and all, to help lead the American socialist revolution, if the opportunity had ever presented itself. The above-linked article is placed here as evidence of that capacity and to show the current generation that, even though we are in a trough in the class struggle better days are coming, or we had better act like they are.

*Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits- Honor Max Shachtman In His Socialist Workers Party Days

Click on the title to link to the Max Schachtman Internet Archive's copy of his rather prophetic, 1939 article, "Intellectuals In Retreat".

Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Leibknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices.

*****

Note on inclusion: As in other series on this site (“Labor’s Untold Story”, “Leaders Of The Bolshevik Revolution”, etc.) this year’s honorees do not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levellers, Jacobins, etc.) whose efforts contributed to the international struggle. Also, as was true of previous series this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.


Markin comment;

Max Shachtman is exactly the kind of left-wing political figure that I was thinking of when I mentioned above the partial contributions of those who, in the end, became enemies, one way or another, of the struggle for our communist future. Although he eventually joined the ranks of the "State Department" socialists after World War II in his youth he was a boon factional companion of James P. Cannon in the American Communist Party, an editor of the class struggle defense newspaper, "Labor Defender", and founding member of the American Trotskyist organization, the Socialist Workers Party. He is also, I might add, the main source for all those political slanders aimed at his former mentor, Cannon, concerning his alleged high-handed bureaucratic regime.

Monday, January 04, 2010

*Films To While Away The Class Struggle By- The Class Struggle is….”hot running water and a big old bathtub”- "Harlan County, U.S.A."- A Review

Click on the title to link to a "YouTube" film clip of the movie trailer for "Harlan County, U.S.A."

Recently I have begun to post entries under the headline- “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”-that will include progressive and labor-oriented songs that might be of general interest to the radical public. I have decided to do the same for some films that may perk that same interest under the title in this entry’s headline. In the future I expect to do the same for books under a similar heading.-Markin

DVD Review

Harlan County, U.S.A., starring the workers of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) and the women of the Brookside (Kentucky) Women’s Club, directed by Barbara Kopple, 1976


This excellent documentary directed by Barbara Kopple focuses on the long, somewhat isolated, strike 1973 by the new United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) local of Harlan County, Kentucky coal miners fighting for a union contract against the Eastover Mining Company (a subsidiary of the massive Duke Power Company, the modern equivalent of the old villainous Peabody Mining Company well known in labor circles and in coal country songs). That long strike, the ups and downs of the battles for recognition, the changing tactics on both sides over time, the frustrations of the strikers and their wives and other supporters and the lessons to be learned for labor militants today are what make this such a compelling and rewarding documentary to view.

That “hot running water and a big old bathtub” caption in the title may need some explaining in post-industrial America, although perhaps not to as many people as one would think. One of the virtues of this documentary is that the participants in the strike and their wives and loved ones get plenty of air time. Thus, we get to hear and see, up close and personal, them express their views, their frustrations during the strike and their hopes for a successful strike and a new contract that will provide enhanced safety standards (notoriously poor throughout the inherently dangerous history of coal mining underground and a central goal of coal miner unions up to the present day), produce more benefits and place the Eastern Kentucky miners on a equal footing with other UMWA miners.

The most poignant expression of that hope was provided by a poor miner’s wife living in a ramshackle old cabin (company-provided, I believe, which is not unusual in coal country) without hot running water or a proper bathtub to her daughter while the daughter was being bathed in a washtub. That, my friends, is what the class struggle meant down at the base then, and, I daresay, now. We politically-oriented labor militants may express that proposition a little more theoretically concise and in an analytically profuse manner but I dare anyone who fights for a more just society to say they can express the sense of the struggle down at the base better than that.

And what of the lessons to be learned by today’s labor militants, including today’s coal miners who have lost a great deal of the spirit of their militant history in the last almost forty years since the events depicted in this film occurred? Well, as always, the question posed by the sub-theme that drives the spirit of the struggle in this documentary and as eloquently expressed by the writer of the song in the 1930s when there was also a huge wave of class struggle in the coal fields, Florence Reece -“Which Side Are You On?”. After a few minutes of viewing here one should be very clear about that point. Further as the strike drags on that, “picket lines mean don’t cross”, a chronic problem during the strike with scabs being sent into the mines by the company daily- a question that repeatedly comes up these days when labor disputes come up as well. And another lesson is, not surprisingly, do not trust bourgeois politicians, judges, cop, the pro-capitalist union bureaucracy or anyone else that gets in your way. Those will do, for starters.

Moreover, as shown here, a strike committee has to be tactically supple, as the heroic work of the Brookside Women’s Club proved when the miners were enjoined from keeping effective picket lines to keep the scabs out. And… well I could go on and on but the best bet is to actually watch this film, and re-watch it because there is plenty to pick up on there. And plenty to make you glad, glad as hell that you are a labor militant. A retrospective hats off to the 1973 Brookside Women's Club and the Harlan County, Kentucky coal miners, a place very close to this reviewer’s heart.

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By- Billy Edd Wheeler's "Coal Tattoo"

Click on the title to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Kathy Mattea performing the classic coal country song "Coal Tattoo".


In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.

Markin comment:

I can add nothing here to the song, except that the struggle portrayed in the accompanying film review on this date, "Harlan County, U.S.A.", brings that lesson home in a very big way.

"Coal Tattoo"
Billy Edd Wheeler


Travelin' down that coal town road. Listenin' to my rubber tires whine.
Goodbye to Buckeye and white Sycamore. I'm leavin' you behind.
I've been coal miner all of my life. Layin' down track in the hole.
Gotta back like an ironwood, BENT by the wind. Blood veins blue as the coal.
Blood veins blue as the coal.

Somebody said, "That's a strange tattoo you have on the side of your head."
I said, "That's the blueprint left by the coal. A little more and I'd been dead.
Well, I love the rumble and I love the dark. I love the cool of the slate,
It's GOIN' down the new road, lookin' for a job. JUST travelin' AND LOOKIN' I HATE.
JUST travelin' AND LOOKIN' I HATE.

I stood for the union and walked in the line and fought against the company.
I stood for the U. M. W. of A. Now, who's gonna stand for me?
I've got no house and I got no job, just got a worried soul
And THIS blue tattoo on the side of my head left by the number nine coal.
Left by the number nine coal.

Some day when I'm dead and gone to heaven, the land of my dreams.
I won't have to worry on losin' my job, on bad times and big machines.
I ain't gonna pay my money away on dues or hospital plans.
I'm gonna pick coal where the blue heavens roll and sing with the angel band.
Sing with the angel band.

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By- Jean Ritchie's "The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore"

Click on the title to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Jean Ritchie performing the classic coal country song "The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore".


In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.

Markin comment:

I can add nothing here to the song, except that the struggle portrayed in the accompanying film review on this date, "Harlan County, U.S.A.", brings the tale told here home in a very big way.




The L & N Don't Stop Here Anymore
(Jean Ritchie)


When I was a curly headed baby
My daddy sat me down on his knee
He said, "son, go to school and get your letters,
Don't you be a dusty coal miner, boy, like me."

[Chorus:]
I was born and raised at the mouth of hazard hollow
The coal cars rolled and rumbled past my door
But now they stand in a rusty row all empty
Because the l & n don't stop here anymore

I used to think my daddy was a black man
With script enough to buy the company store
But now he goes to town with empty pockets
And his face is white as a February snow

[Chorus]

I never thought I'd learn to love the coal dust
I never thought I'd pray to hear that whistle roar
Oh, god, I wish the grass would turn to money
And those green backs would fill my pockets once more

[Chorus]

Last night I dreamed I went down to the office
To get my pay like a had done before
But them ol' kudzu vines were coverin' the door
And there were leaves and grass growin' right up through the floor

[Chorus]

*Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits- Honor Aunt Molly Jackson

Click on the title to link to the "Aunt Molly Jackson" Web site.

Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Leibknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices.

*****

Note on inclusion: As in other series on this site (“Labor’s Untold Story”, “Leaders Of The Bolshevik Revolution”, etc.) this year’s honorees do not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levellers, Jacobins, etc.) whose efforts
contributed to the international struggle. Also, as was true of previous series this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By- Florence Reece’s “Which Side Are You On?”

Click on the title to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Pete Seeger performing performing the classic coal country song "Which Side Are You On?"


In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.

Markin comment:

I can add nothing here to the song, except that the struggle portrayed in the accompanying film review on this date, "Harlan County, U.S.A.", brings that lesson home in a very big way.


Which Side Are You on?
Florence Reece


(“an American social activist, poet, and folksong writer. Born in Sharps Chapel, Tennessee the daughter and wife of coal miners, she is best known for the song, “Which Side Are You On?“ written in 1931 during a strike by the United Mine Workers of America in which her husband, Sam Reece, was an organizer.”)

Come all of you good workers,
Good news to you I’ll tell,
Of how that good old union
Has come in here to dwell.

cho: Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?

My daddy was a miner,
And I’m a miner’s son,
And I’ll stick with the union,
Till every battle’s won.

They say in Harlan County,
There are no neutrals there.
You’ll either be a union man,
Or a thug for J.H. Blair.

Oh, workers can you stand it?
Oh, tell me how you can.
Will you be a lousy scab,
Or will you be a man ?

Don’t scab for the bosses,
Don’t listen to their lies.
Us poor folks haven’t got a chance,
Unless we organize.

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-"You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive"

Click on the title to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Patty Loveless performing the classic coal country song "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive".


In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.

Markin comment:

I can add nothing here to the song, except that the struggle portrayed in the accompanying film review on this date, "Harlan County, U.S.A.", is a better way to proceed.

Darrell Scott- You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive Lyrics


In the deep dark hills of eastern Kentucky
That's the place where I traced my bloodline
And it's there I read on a hillside gravestone
"You'll never leave Harlan alive"

Oh my grandfather's dad crossed the Cumberland Mountains
Where he took a pretty girl to be his bride
Said "Won't you walk with me out the mouth of this holler
Or we'll never leave Harlan alive"

Where the sun comes up about ten in the mornin'
And the sun goes down about three in the day
And you'll fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you're drinkin'
And you spend your life just thinkin' of how to get away

No one ever knew there was coal in them mountains
Till a man from the northeast arrived
Waving hundred dollar bills
Said "I'll pay you for your minerals"
But he never left Harlan alive

Grandma sold out cheap and they moved out west of Pikeville
To a farm where Big Richaldn River winds
And I bet they danced them a jig
And they laughted and sang a new song
"Who said we'd never leave Harlan alive"

But the times got hard and tobacco wasn't selling
And old grandad knew what he'd do to survive
He went and dug for Harlan coal
And sent the money back to grandma
But he never left Harlan alive

Where the sun comes up about ten in the mornin'
And the sun goes down about three in the day
And you'll fill your cup with whatever bitter brew you're drinkin'
And you spend your life just thinkin' of how to get away

You'll never leave Harlan alive

Sunday, January 03, 2010

*The Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement (BAAM)Newsletter #29 Is Out

Click on the title to link to the latest Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement (BAAM) "Newsletter". (#29)

Markin comment:

As always, I disclaim any political kinship with this newsletter. However, I have many times found interesting articles there. This issue has a good article on the struggle in Greece. And, in any case, it is always good to see what the younger militants are up to.

*From The "Leftwing Criminologist" Blog- On The Question Of The Marxist Attitude Toward The Police- A Guest Commentary

Click on the title to link to the "Leftwing Criminologist" blog for an entry on the question of the Marxist attitude toward the police.


Markin comment:

Every since Karl Marx's defense of the the Paris Commune in "Civil War In France " in 1871 it has been axiomatic in the revolutionary wing of the Marxism movement (is there any other, when the deal goes down?)that when the working class takes state power it will have to create its own institutions, including for the transition period, its own police and army. The notion that, coming from the working class or not, that the police today, as police, are to be converted by gentle persuasion to our side is just a wrong proposition.

Trostky is his "History of the Russian Revolution", noted that the Bolsheviks (and other left-wing organizations) drew a distinction between the soldiers (particularly the rank and file peasant soldiers who made up the bulk of the Tsar's armies) and the hated "Pharaohs", the professional police that had a day to day presence in the neighborhoods. Try to split the army into its class components, by all means, but treat the police as sworn enemies. Cops, from the working class or not, are in the United States and Great Britain, cops of the bourgeois state. Those of us who have had occasion to defend a picket line or take part in and defend a militant demonstration are clear on that distinction, as everyone else should be.

*From The Pen Of James P. Cannon- On The Communist International Leader Gregory Zinoviev

Click on the title to link to the "James P. Cannon Internet Archive" for a comment that Cannon made to historian Theodore Draper about the Russian Bolshevik and early Communist International leader, Gregory Zinoviev.

Markin comment:

Much of what passes for a critique of James P. Cannon's leadership, especially in his leadership of the American Trotskyist movement in the early days, centers on some alleged affinity to the so-called consummate bureaucrat, Gregory Zinoviev. I, like Cannon, believe that Zinoviev, warts and all, was underrated as a revolutionary, when he was a revolutionary. Surely his "strikebreaker" role in the October Revolution and his subsequent bowing down to Stalin and his coterie were hardly the stuff of a stiff-necked revolutionary but he did more than yeoman's service for the cause, and it has not, as Cannon points out here, been recognized. So call me a Zinovievist "window smasher", right? No, a Trotskyist who has a better grasp of what it takes, and with whom, to make revolutions than in his youth.

*From The Pen Of James P. Cannon- The 1923 Struggle Inside The American Communist Party On The Labor Party Question

*From The Pen Of James P. Cannon-

Click on the title to link to the James P. Cannon Internet Archive's copy of his 1956 letter to historian Theodore Draper about key events in the early days of the American communist movement of the 1920s of which he was a central leader.

Markin comment:

This is another important piece of the early struggle to develop an independent workers party that would operate on a communist program based on the centrality of the working class. A one class party (which other oppressed sectors could look to for leadership, as well). That idea and the manuevering behind it, was, as the letter shows, not what was happening in those days and one can tell that many years later Cannon is still red-faced about.

*From The Pen Of James P. Cannon- On The Early Concept Of The Labor Party In The United States

Click on the title to link to the James P. Cannon Internet Archive's copy of his 1956 letter to historian Theodore Draper about key events in the early days of the American communist movement in the 1920s of which he was a central leader.

Markin comment:

This letter is mainly of interest to show the on-going struggle of our communist movement toward the creation of some kind of independent, mass workers party in this country. Of course, in the final analysis a revolutionary labor party committed to a communist program would be the easiest way to go about the problem, but history does not always work out that way.

*From The Pen Of James P. Cannon- On the 1926 Passaic Textile Strike

Click on the title to link to the James P. Cannon Internet Archive's copy of his 1956 letter to historian Theodore Draper about key events in the early days of the American communist movement of the 1920s which he was a central leader.

Markin comment:

The importance of this particular letter concerns Cannon's correct reappraisal of the Communist Party's incorrect caving into the AFL bureaucracy, as the strike wore on and others forces would be needed in order to salvage something from the strike, on the question of throwing strike organizer and leader, Communist Party supporter Albert Weisbord to the dogs. That, indeed, was a serious error, as Cannon acknowledges. Labor militants today should have that lesson etched in their brains.

*From The Steve Lendman Blog- Gaza One Year Later- A Guest Commentary

Click on the title to link to a "Steve Lendman Blog" report/analysis of "Gaza A Year Later". Defend The Palestinian People!

*From The Struggle To End The Seige Of Gaza- A Guest Report

Click on the title to link to a "Boston Indymedia" article/photographs of a Boston First Night demonstration in support of ending the seize of Gaza. Defend the Palestinian People!

*New Years Greetings From The "An Unrepentant Communist" Blog- A Guest Wish List

Click on the title to link to the "An Unrepentant Communist" blog for a New Year's greeting and a progressive wish list.

Markin comment:

I would not have, perhaps, stated the wish list in exactly this way but most of the sentiments that are expressed there would make my wish list as well. I do note one glaring omission, an omission that is rather surprising since it will probably be a subject of major struggle this year. There is nothing on withdrawal of American and other foreign imperial troops from Iraq , Afghanistan and other hot spots in the world. This is, moreover, a very strange omission, as Barack Obama, at least, has staked his presidency on this issue, particularly on Afghanistan. So I will add my own number 11.

11. Obama- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops and Mercenaries From Afghanistan and Iraq!