Saturday, March 09, 2013

In Honor Of Women’s History Month- The 50th Anniversary Of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique-In The Time Of Not Her Time

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman
Delores Reilly had to laugh, chuckle really, with a little sourness around the edges, as she listened to her daily kids at school show on the radio The Sammy Williams Show,the two hour morning talk on the Boston station WMXY. This morning Sammy had a panel, a panel of women, mostly from the sound of it, professional women, who were discussing this latest bombshell book by a woman named Betty Friedan, a book entitled The Feminine Mystique. What Betty had written about was the vast number of women, women from her generation or a little younger, who were now fed up with their little suburban white picket fence manicured lawn ranch house-all spic and span modern appliances- have a martini ready for hubby at five, maybe a roll in the hay later after the kids went to bed, missionary-style- five days a week house-bound routine and weekends not much better, hubby tired after gouging somebody all week-over-educated under-loved, under-appreciated and under-utilized lives. After listening in some disbelief, and in some hidden sorrow, for a while and Delores Reilly (nee Kelly) got a little wistful when she thought about her own life, her own not suburban Valhalla life.

Funny she had been somewhat educated herself, her father the distant old Daniel who nevertheless was practical and insisted that she get more education after high school, to learn a skill, although maybe not like those panel women, not like Betty’s complaining suburbanite women from Wellesley, Sarah Lawrence or Barnard, having gone to Fisher Secretarial School over in Boston and having worked down at the North Adamsville Shipyard before she got married, married to her love, Kenneth Reilly. But that is where the breaks kind of stopped, that marriage point. She had met Kenneth at a USO dance down at the Hingham Naval Depot toward the end of World War II when many soldiers and sailors were being processed for demobilization. Kenneth had been a Marine, had seen some tough battles in the Pacific, including Guadalcanal (although he like many men of his generation did not talk about it, about the hellish war, all that much) and had been stationed at the Depot. He sure looked devilishly handsome in his Marine dress uniform and that was that. They were married shortly after that, moved to the other side of North Adamsville in an apartment her father found for them, and then in quick succession within a little over three they had produced three sons, three hungry sons, as it turned out.

Not an unusual start, certainly not for the generation who had withstood the Great Depression of the 1930s and fought the devils in World War II. However, Kenneth, dear sweet Kenneth, might have been a great Marine, and might too have been a great coalminer down where he came from in Prestonsburg down in coal country Harlan and Hazard, Kentucky before he joined up to fight but he had no skills, no serious money skills that could be used around Boston. So they had lived in that run- down apartment for many years even after the three boys had outgrown the place. Kenny’s work history, last hired usually, first fired always meant too that Delores had to work, not work in her skilled profession but mother’s hours (really any hours she could get, including nights) at Mister Dee’s Donut Shop filling jelly donuts and other assorted menial tasks. And that was that for a number of years.
For a while in the late 1950s Kenny had a steady job, with good pay, and with her filling donuts (the poor kids had many a snack, too many, of day-old left over donuts she would bring home), they were able to purchase a small shack of a house on the wrong side of the tracks, though at least a house of their own. Not a ranch house with a manicured lawn like Betty’s women were complaining of, but a bungalow with a postage stamp- sized lawn filled when they arrived with the flotsam and jetsam of a million years’ worth of junk left by the previous owners. Something out of a Walker Evans photograph like ones she would see in Life magazine now that Jack Kennedy was doing something for her husband’s kindred down in Appalachia. A place with no hook-up for a washing machine and dryer so she had to every week or so trudge down to the local Laundromat to do the family washing. A place with just enough room to fit a table in the kitchen if the kids ate in shifts. A place where, well why go on she thought, those were the breaks and while things had been tough, money tight, other kids making fun of her kids when they were younger and having fights over it, those three boy starting to get old enough to get in some trouble, or close to it, she had her man, she had her stalwart Kenny who never complained about his lack of breaks. Still, still Delores dreamed, wistful dreamed that she had had a few things those women were getting all hot and bothered about being stuck with…

And hence this Women’s History Month commemoration.

From The Pages Of The Communist International- In Honor Of The Anniversary Of The Founding Of The Communist International (1919)

Markin comment from the American Left History blog (2007):



An underlying premise of the Lenin-led Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917 was that success there would be the first episode in a world-wide socialist revolution. While a specific timetable was not placed on the order of the day the early Bolshevik leaders, principally Lenin and Trotsky, both assumed that those events would occur in the immediate post-World War I period, or shortly thereafter. Alas, such was not the case, although not from lack of trying on the part of an internationalist-minded section of the Bolshevik leadership.

Another underlying premise, developed by the Leninists as part of their opposition to the imperialist First World War, was the need for a new revolutionary labor international to replace the compromised and moribund Socialist International (also known as the Second International) which had turned out to be useless as an instrument for revolution or even of opposition to the European war. The Bolsheviks took that step after seizing power and established the Communist International (also known as the Comintern or Third International) in 1919. As part of the process of arming that international with a revolutionary strategy (and practice) Lenin produced this polemic to address certain confusions, some willful, that had arisen in the European left and also attempted to instill some of the hard-learned lessons of the Russian revolutionary experience in them.

The Russian Revolution and after it the Comintern in the early heroic days, for the most part, drew the best and most militant layers of the working class and radical intellectuals to their defense. However, that is not the same as drawing experienced Bolsheviks to that defense. Many militants were anti-parliamentarian or anti-electoral in principle after the sorry experiences with the European social democracy. Others wanted to emulate the old heroic days of the Bolshevik underground party or create a minority, exclusive conspiratorial party.

Still others wanted to abandon the reformist bureaucratically-led trade unions to their then current leaderships, and so on. Lenin’s polemic, and it nothing but a flat-out polemic against all kinds of misconceptions of the Bolshevik experience, cut across these erroneous ideas like a knife. His literary style may not appeal to today’s audience but the political message still has considerable application today. At the time that it was written no less a figure than James P. Cannon, a central leader of the American Communist Party, credited the pamphlet with straightening out that badly confused movement (Indeed, it seems every possible political problem Lenin argued against in that pamphlet had some following in the American Party-in triplicate!). That alone makes it worth a look at.

I would like to highlight one point made by Lenin that has currency for leftists today, particularly American leftists. At the time it was written many (most) of the communist organizations adhering to the Comintern were little more than propaganda groups (including the American Party). Lenin suggested one of the ways to break out of that isolation was a tactic of critical support to the still large and influential social democratic organizations at election time. In his apt expression- to support those organizations "like a rope supports a hanging man".

However, as part of my political experiences in America around election time I have run into any number of‘socialists’ and ‘communists’ who have turned Lenin’s concept on its head. How? By arguing that militants needed to ‘critically support’ the Democratic Party (who else, right?) as an application of the Leninist criterion for critical support. No, a thousand times no. Lenin’s specific example was the reformist British Labor Party, a party at that time (and to a lesser extent today) solidly based on the trade unions- organizations of the working class and no other. The Democratic Party in America was then, is now, and will always be a capitalist party. Yes, the labor bureaucrats and ordinary workers support it, finance it, drool over it but in no way is it a labor party. That is the class difference which even sincere militants have broken their teeth on for at least the last seventy years. And that, dear reader, is another reason why it worthwhile to take a peek at this book.

Friday, March 08, 2013

IWD fist

International Women's Day Potluck and movie showing

Socialist Alternative
Saturday March 9th
45 Mt. Auburn, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138
Celebrate international women's day!

A potluck and movie showing hosted by Socialist Alternative to celebrate International Women's Day.
Every other day of the year, women perform countless hours of unpaid labor. All unpaid labor (cooking, child care, etc.) will be done by men.

This is a public event and all are welcome!
Donations accepted but will not turn away for lack of funds.
We will be showing:

America the Beautiful

In a society where "celebutantes" like Paris Hilton dominate newsstands and models who weigh less than 90 pounds die from malnutrition, female body image is one of the more dire problems facing today's society. "America the Beautiful" illuminates the issue by covering every base. Child models, plastic surgery, celebrity worship, airbrushed advertising, dangerous cosmetics - no rock is left unturned.
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