This space is dedicated to the proposition that we need to know the history of the struggles on the left and of earlier progressive movements here and world-wide. If we can learn from the mistakes made in the past (as well as what went right) we can move forward in the future to create a more just and equitable society. We will be reviewing books, CDs, and movies we believe everyone needs to read, hear and look at as well as making commentary from time to time. Greg Green, site manager
Saturday, November 09, 2013
President Obama, Pardon Pvt. Manning
Because the public deserves the truth and whistle-blowers deserve protection.
We are military veterans, journalists, educators, homemakers, lawyers, students, and citizens.
We ask you to consider the facts and free US Army Pvt. Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.
As an Intelligence Analyst stationed in Iraq, Pvt. Manning had access to some of America’s dirtiest secrets—crimes such as torture, illegal surveillance, and corruption—often committed in our name.
Manning acted on conscience alone, with selfless courage and conviction, and gave these secrets to us, the public.
“I believed that if the general public had access to the information contained within the[Iraq and Afghan War Logs] this could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy,”
Manning explained to the military court. “I wanted the American public to know that not everyone in Iraq and Afghanistan were targets that needed to be neutralized, but rather people who were struggling to live in the pressure cooker environment of what we call asymmetric warfare.”
Journalists used these documents to uncover many startling truths. We learned:
•Donald Rumsfeld and General Petraeus helped support torture in Iraq.
•Deliberate civilian killings by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan went unpunished.
•Thousands of civilian casualties were never acknowledged publicly.
•Most Guantanamo detainees were innocent.
For service on behalf of an informed democracy, Manning was sentenced by military judge Colonel Denise Lind to a devastating 35 years in prison.
Government secrecy has grown exponentially during the past decade, but more secrecy does not make us safer when it fosters unaccountability.
Pvt. Manning was convicted of Espionage Act charges for providing WikiLeaks with this information, butthe prosecutors noted that they would have done the same had the information been given to The New York Times. Prosecutors did not show that enemies used this information against the US, or that the releases resulted in any casualties.
Pvt. Manning has already been punished, even in violation of military law.
She has been:
•Held in confinement since May 29, 2010.
•Subjected to illegal punishment amounting to torture for nearly nine months at Quantico Marine Base, Virginia, in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), Article 13—facts confirmed by both the United Nation’s lead investigator on torture and military judge Col. Lind.
•Denied a speedy trial in violation of UCMJ, Article 10, having been imprisoned for over three years before trial.
•Denied anything resembling a fair trial when prosecutors were allowed to change the charge sheet to match evidence presented, and enter new evidence, after closing arguments.
Pvt. Manning believed you, Mr. President, when you came into office promising the most transparent administration in history, and that you would protect whistle-blowers. We urge you to start upholding those promises, beginning with this American prisoner of conscience.
We urge you to grant Pvt. Manning’s petition for a Presidential Pardon.
FIRST& LAST NAME _____________________________________________________________
STREET ADDRESS _____________________________________________________________
CITY, STATE & ZIP _____________________________________________________________
Note that this image is PVT Manning’s preferred photo.
The Struggle Continues …
Six Ways To Support Heroic Wikileaks Whistle-Blower Private Manning
*Call (202) 685-2900- Major General Jeffery S. Buchanan is the Convening Authority for Private Manning’s court- martial, which means that he has the authority to decrease the sentence imposed no matter what the judge handed down. Ask General Buchanan to use his authority to reduce the draconian 35 year sentence handed down by Judge Lind.
The Public Affairs Office is required to report up the chain of command the number of calls they receive on a particular issue, so please help us flood the office with support for our heroic whistleblower today!
*Sign the public petition to President Obama – Sign online or print and share PDF petitionPlease sign the petition on the reverse side of this letter, “President Obama, Pardon Pvt. Manning,” and make copies to share with friends and family!
You can also call (Comments”202-456-1111), write The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500, e-mail-(http://www.whitehouse.gov’contact/submitquestions-and comments) to demand that President Obama use his constitutional power under Article II, Section II to pardon Private Manning now.
*Start a stand -out, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, in your town square to publicize the pardon and clemency campaigns. Contact the Private Manning SupportNetwork for help with materials and organizing tips http://www.bradleymanning.org/
*Contribute to the Private Manning Defense Fund- now that the trial has finished funds are urgently needed for pardon campaign and for future military and civilian court appeals. The hard fact of the American legal system, military of civilian, is the more funds available the better the defense, especially in political prisoner cases like Private Manning’s. The government had unlimited financial and personnel resources to prosecute Private Manning at trial. And used them as it will on any future legal proceedings. So help out with whatever you can spare. For link go to http://www.bradleymanning.org/
*Write letters of solidarity to Private Manning while she is serving her sentence. She wishes to be addressed as Chelsea and have feminine pronouns used when referring to her. Private Manning’s mailing address: Bradley E. Manning, 89289, 1300 N. Warehouse Road, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-2304. You must use Bradley on the address envelope.
Private Manning cannot receive stamps or money in any form. Photos must be on copy paper. Along with “contraband,” “inflammatory material” is not allowed. Six page maximum.
Smedley Butler Brigade, Chapter 9, Veterans For Peace-President Obama Pardon Chelsea Manning Now!
Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning in her own words:
"God knows what happens now. Hopefully worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms...
I want people to see the truth... because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public."
The Smedley Butler Brigade of Veterans for Peace proudly stands in solidarity with, and defense of, Private Manning and her fight for freedom from her jailers, the American military.
Private Manning has paid the price for her acts with over three years of pre-trial confinement, including findings of torture during this period, and is now facing 35 years (essentially for her effective life) for simple acts of humanity. For letting the American people know what they perhaps did not want to know but must know- when soldiers, American soldiers, go to war some awful things can and do happen.
For more information about the Private Manning case and what you can do to help or to sign the online petition to President Obama for his release contact:
Send The Following Message (Or Write Your Own) To The President In Support Of A Pardon For Private Manning
To: President Barack Obama White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, D.C. 20500
The draconian 35 years sentence handed down by a military judge, Colonel Lind, on August 21, 2013 to Private Manning (Chelsea formerly known as Bradley) has outraged many citizens including me. Under Article II, Section II of the U.S. Constitution the President of the United States had the authority to grant pardons to those who fall under federal jurisdiction. Some of the reasons for my request include:
*that Private Manning was held for nearly a year in abusive solitary confinement at the Marine base at Quantico, Virginia, which the UN rapporteur in his findings has called “cruel, inhuman, and degrading”
*that the media had been continually blocked from transcripts and documents related to the trial and that it has only been through the efforts of Private Manning’s supporters that any transcripts exist.
*that under the UCMJ a soldier has the right to a speedy trial and that it was unconscionable and unconstitutional to wait 3 years before starting the court martial.
*that absolutely no one was harmed by the release of documents that exposed war crimes, unnecessary secrecy and disturbing foreign policy.
*that Private Manning is a hero who did the right thing when she revealed truth about wars that had been based on lies.
I urge you to use your authority under the Constitution to right the wrongs done to Private Manning – Enough is enough!
We Will Not Leave Our Sister Behind-President Obama Pardon Chelsea Manning Now!
Note that this image is PVT Manning’s preferred photo.
From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin
The headlines of the summer are now still. The verdict, the legal verdict if not the verdict of history, in the case of the United States vs. Private First Class Bradley Manning has been proclaimed, guilty on 20 of 22 counts. The draconian 35 year sentence has been imposed by the cruel pro-government military judge, Colonel Lind. The media pundits and commentators too have had their say, mainly that stern justice had been served by the conviction, a conviction in keeping with their own desire to keep things secret from us and not let some lowly enlisted soldier expose their house of cards. Some, like the ostrich-like New York Times, balked a little at the excessive sentence and then moved on. Others had a momentary titter when Bradley turned into Chelsea to express her real gender and then they too moved on. All is now quiet, the case is yesterday’s news now long outside the 24/7 cycle interest. In their eyes Chelsea Manning has had her fifteen minutes of fame and now she is reduced to just another military prisoner confined to the maximum security barracks out in the prairies of Kansas at Fort Leavenworth to face an uncertain future.
Chelsea Manning now also faces the hard fate that occurs in almost all political prisoner cases, doing the hard time while waiting for the slow cumbersome appeals process to work its way through the military and civilian courts of appeal. Waits in the near term for a possible reduction in sentence by the convening officer of Private Manning’s court-martial who has the authority to do so for the Washington Military District, General Buchanan based at Fort McNair. And waits too, candidly, with fading hopes, for some short way home presidential pardon from a President who wrongfully interjected himself into the case with his comments early on. That pardon campaign took a serious turn for the worst when the post-conviction Amnesty International/ Private Manning Support Network White House on-line petition failed, falling seriously short of gettingthe required 100,000 signatures that would have forced the Obama Administration to address the question posed by the petition.
Chelsea must also face the very real falloff that has already occurred in the fervent public support and activity around her case now that the verdict and sentence are in and the media interest has shut down around the case. There will be fewer periodic public rallies around the world from Afghanistan to the States on her behalf, reflecting a diffusion of focus now that supporters are not riveted to the public presence at trial. The long list of those celebrities and average citizens who have contributed their names, their time, their money and their energies have and will fall off on behalf of our heroic Wikileaks whistle-blower as well. Even strong and committed supporters who have led the Manning efforts here in the Boston have decided to pursue other less public strategies to gain Chelsea’s freedom. To fight that battle for her freedom on other fronts from fund-raising events to contacting any governmental officials who will “grease the way” to the President to give us a hearing on the pardon application.
And that last point is really the crux of the matter. The struggle continues, continues until Chelsea is free. That is where mentioning the support of Veterans for Peace comes in, people who have served in the military, who have gotten “religion” on the right side of the angels on the questions of war and peace and who have stood in solidarity with, and defense of, Manning since the beginning of her incarceration. All of us, whether we served in wars or in “peace-time,”went through the rigors and madness of basic training where hoary old drill sergeants beat us over the head with the notion that you had to take care of your buddy, that your survival, and by this they meant in the heat of battle, depended on us buying into that concept.
Any veteran can tell you many stories about how in the end their involvement with the military came down to just that embedded idea when the deal went done and the dust settled. Not letting down your buddies. Not leaving your buddies behind. Whether most of those drilled-in military concepts we learned are worth anything is hard to judge, fear and recklessness may in fact play a larger role. Nevertheless we can take that "not leaving your buddy behind" concept and apply it here. However we may end up providing support to Chelsea Manning it is with the understanding that she is our buddy. We will not leave our sister behind. Remember that. Remember this as well- President Obama Pardon Chelsea Manning Now!
Massachusetts Houses of Worship Ring Bells for
Bells to ring at 11:00 a.m. on 11/11
BOSTON: The local Boston chapter of
Veterans For Peace (known as the Smedley D. Butler Brigade) is asking houses of
worship across Massachusetts to ring their bells for Armistice Day (Veterans
Day) this November 11.
Patrick Scanlon, Vietnam veteran and
Coordinator of the local VFP chapter, notes that before it became “Veterans Day”
in 1954, November 11 was known as “Armistice Day”. “The first Armistice Day was
after World War I in 1918. That was supposed to be ‘the war to end all wars’,
and it was tradition for churches and houses of worship to ring their bells
every year on November 11 at 11:00 a.m. to remember all the losses from war, and
as a wish to end war and promote peace. Unfortunately, we’ve gotten away from
Rev. Lara Hoke, US Navy veteran and
Secretary of the local VFP chapter as well as the minister of the Unitarian
Universalist Congregation in Andover, is one of those organizing the bell
ringing campaign. “This is our first year of trying to bring houses of worship
back to the great tradition of ringing bells as a prayer for peace. So far,
more than 32 congregations in Massachusetts from eight different faith
traditions have committed to ringing their bells on November 11.They represent more than 23 different towns and cities from the Cape and
Islands, to Boston, to Metro West, to Worcester and out to western
Massachusetts.” Hoke expects far more participants as the Archdiocese of Boston,
the Massachusetts Council of Churches, and the Massachusetts Conference of the
United Church of Christ have just sent invitations to their member congregations
Not every congregation has
traditional bells in a traditional steeple. “For those congregations,” says
Hoke, “we’re encouraging them to ring an alternative bell such as a gong from
their front steps or door.”One congregation without traditional
bells to ring is the Boundless Way Temple, a Zen Buddhist temple in Worcester.
Says resident teacher Melissa Myozen Blacker, Roshi, “We'll ring our Temple bell
at 11 a.m. – it's pretty quiet, but perhaps it will add to a louder sound and
wish for peace.”
Most of the participating
congregations, however, do have the iconic bell or bells in their steeple, which
will be rung on Monday. One such congregation is Grace Episcopal Church in New
Bedford.Says Rev. Christopher Morck, the Priest-in-Charge of
Grace Church, “We are
participating as a celebration of the intention of this day –peace-building, and
the recognition that peace is something toward which we are called to strive
congregation is Eliot Church of Newton (United Church of Christ).Lawrence Schafer, a 93-year-old World War II veteran, is a member of
Eliot Church. “When I was very young, Armistice Day was an important holiday,
but Pearl Harbor changed all that,” says Schafer, noting that World War II
changed the sense that World War I was the “last war”.Schafer
says, “I’m glad that my church is participating in ringing its bells to remind
people that war is still a big problem.”
Church in Boston (Unitarian Universalist) has a 16 bell chime (tuned bells) in
its steeple that will be ringing on Armistice Day.Says Rev.
George Whitehouse, Minister at Large of Arlington Street Church, these bells
“were cast the same year that the church was dedicated as the first public
building in Back Bay Boston. Arlington Street Church has tolled the bells every
year since the beginning of the Armistice Day Declaration. I will be carrying on
the tolling the bells as I have since 1979.”
As in years past Veterans For Peace
will also have their own Armistice / Veterans Day Parade, marching a few hundred
yards behind the first parade sponsored by the American Legion. Scanlon stated,
“We who have dutifully served our country, many in time of war, will proudly
walk behind the first parade. As in years past, VFP will be the largest
contingent of veterans walking the streets of Boston on Armistice / Veterans
At the conclusion of the parade
Veterans For Peace will be hosting their Annual Armistice / Veterans Day for
Peace Event at the Sam Adams Park located at the Faneuil Hall Market Place in
Boston, beginning at 2:30 pm. There will be veterans speaking and music provided
by the Leftist Marching Band.
Veterans for Peace, Chapter 9, Smedley D. Butler
BrigadeP.O. Box 1604, Andover, MA
in the 1950s Crime Noir Night –Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye
The Pen Of Frank Jackman
Long Goodbye, starring Eliot Gould, directed by Robert Altman, MGM, 1971, from
Raymond Chandler’s crime novel of the same name
is a film adaptation of a Raymond Chandler Philip Marlowe crime novel you would
be hard pressed to understand the film character without some background about Chandler,
and about Marlowe.Like I said in
another review he, along with Brother Dashiell Hammett turned the dreary
gentile drawing-room sleuth by-the-numbers crime novels that dominated the
reading market back in the day, back before the 1930s when they made a splash
on the scene, on its head and gave us tough guy blood and guts detectives we
could admire, could get behind, warts and all. Thanks, guys.
the author of The Thin Man, and creator of The Maltese Falcon’s Sam
Spade, maybe the most famous tough guy detective of them all. Sam, who come to
think of it like Marlowe, also had a judgment problem when it came to women,
women wearing that damn perfume that stops a man, even a hard-boiled detective
man cold, although not an assortment of Hollywood women but one, one dame who
had him all twisted up, almost, up north in Frisco town.]
Chandler’s case he drew strength from his startling use of language to describe
Marlowe’s environment much in the way a detective would use his heightened
powers of observation during an investigation, missing nothing. Marlowe was
able to size up, let’s say, a sizzling blonde, as a statuesque, full-bodied and
ravishing dame and then pick her apart as nothing but a low-rent gold-digger. Of
course that never stopped him from taking a run at one or two of them himself
and then sending them off into the night, or to the clink, to fend for
themselves. He also knew how to blow off a small time chiseler, a grifter, as
so much flamboyance and hot air not neglecting to notice that said grifter had
moisture above his upper lip indicating that he stood in fear of something if
only his shadow as he attempted to pull some caper, or tried to pull the wool
over Marlowe’s eyes. Or noticing a frayed collar or a misshapen dress that
indicated that a guy or gal was on cheap street and just maybe not on the
level, maybe scratching like crazy for his or her coffee and cakes.
of such descriptive language goes on and on -sullen bartenders wiping a random
whisky glass, flighty chorus girls arm in arm with wrong gee gangsters,
Hollywood starlet wannabes displaying their wares a little too openly, old time
geezers, toothless, melting away in some thankless no account job, guys working
out of small-time airless no front cheap jack offices in rundown buildings on
the wrong side of town doing, well, doing the best they can. And cops, good
cops, bad cops, all with that cop air about them of seen it all, done it all
blasé, and by the way spill your guts before the billy- club comes down on your
fragile head. (That spill your guts thing, by the way a trait that our Marlowe
seems organically incapable of doing, except when it suited his purposes. No
cop or gangster could force anything out of him, and they tried, believe me
they tried. ) He had come from them, from the cops, from the D.A.s office in
the old days, had worked with them on plenty of cases but generally he tried to
treat them like one might a snake not quite sure whether it is poisonous or
same time Chandler was a master of setting the details of the space Marlowe had
to work in- the high hill mansions and the back alley rooming houses (although
usually not the burgeoning ranchero middle class locales since apparently that
segment of society has not need of his services and therefore no need of a
description of their endless sameness and faux gentility). He had a fix
on the museum-like quality of the big houses, the places like General
Sternwood’s in The Big Sleep or Mrs. Murdock’s in The High Window
reflecting old wealth California. And he has a razor sharp sense of the
arrivisite, the new blood all splash and glitter, all high-ceiling bungalow,
swimming pools, and landscaped gardens.
Chandler made his mark was in his descriptions of the gentile seedy places, the
mansions of old time Los Angeles Bunker Hill turned to rooming houses with that
faint smell of urine, that strong smell of liquor, that loud noise that comes
with people living too close together, too close to breath their simple dreams.
Or the descriptions of the back alley offices in the rundown buildings that had
seen better days populated by the failed dentists, the sly repo men, the penny-
ante insurance brokers, the con artists, the flotsam and jetsam of the losers
in the great American West night just trying to hang on from rent payment to
rent payment. Those denizens of these quarters usually had a walk on role, or
wound up with two slugs to the head, but Chandler knew the type, had the type
Chandler above putting a little social commentary in Marlowe’s mouth.
Reflections on such topics as that very real change after World War II in the
kind of swarms that were heading west to populate the American Western shore
night. The rise of the corner boys hanging, just hanging, around blasted
storefronts, a few breaking off into the cranked up hot rod hell’s highway
night. The restless mobsters for broken back east looking to bake out in the
southern California sun while taking over the vast crime markets. The wannabe
starlets ready to settle for less than stardom for the right price. The old
California money (the gold rush, gold coast, golden era money) befuddled by the
all new waves coming in. And above all a strong sense of the rootlessness, the
living in the moment, the grabbing while the grabbing was good mentality that
offended old Marlowe’s code of honor.
And of course over a series of
books Chandler expanded the Marlowe character, expanded his range of emotions,
detailed his growing world-weariness, his growing wariness, his small
compromises with that code of honor that he had honed back in the 1930s. Yes,
Marlowe the loner, the avenging angel , the righter of wrongs, maybe little
wrongs but wrongs in this wicked old world. The guy who sometimes had to dig
deep in his office desk drawer to grab a shot or six of whiskey to help him
think things through. Marlowe the guy of a thousand punches, the guy of a
hundred knocks on the head, the guy who had taken a more than one slug for the
cause, the guy who was every insurance company’s nightmare and a guy who could
have used some serious Obamacare health insurance no questions asked . Yah,
And so we come to this Robert Altman
film adaption of Chandler’s late crime novel. Of course over several decades
the Marlowe character has been played many ways from the no holds barred tough
guy Humphrey Bogart of The Big Sleep to the more upscale Robert Montgomery of The Lady In The Lake to Eliot Gould
1970s California cool, flippant, sarcastic, witty, seen it all, done it all in
the film under review. But through the various characterizations that “tilting
after windmills,” that sense of honor, that no holds barred sense of getting a
little rough justice in this wicked old world shines through. And while the
film does not follow the novel closely at all that sense pervaded the film.
Here Marlowe is trying to help an
old pal in trouble, Terry Lennox, after he has allegedly brutally murdered his
wife, although that was unknown to him at the time. Marlowe takes Terry south
to Tijuana to figure things out and then all hell breaks loose on poor
Marlowe’s head. He is sent to the slammer by the cops for not co-operating, for
not dropping the dime on Terry, spending three days in the cooler for his
efforts. Then he is just as quickly released. Reason: Lennox has done everybody a favor and committed suicide.
Marlowe isn’t buying, isn’t buying the whole frame story one bit. And then the
plot thickens as Marlowe resumes his sleuthing career moving on to try to help
a distressed wife find her drunken famous writer husband, Roger Wade.
And Marlowe finds Roger and brings
him back his ever-loving wife. End of story, No because Marlowe seems to be a
guy who knows too many fragile guys when old Roger winds up washed out to the
Japan currents, another suicide. Along the way though that Terry disappearance
still bugged him, bugged him even more when a mobster whom Terry worked for as
a mule wanted to know what Marlowe knew about a big wad of dough that Terry had
in his possession. His dough. The mobster eventually got his dough but that
only confirmed that Terry had to still be alive. The bastard. Yes, the bastard,
because Terry actually did brutally kill his wife and guess what that old
writer’s wife and Terry were lovers.
Here is where the rough justice
comes in as Marlowe headed south to dusty old Mexico, found out from the bribed
authorities where Terry was holed up and confronted his old friend. Confronted him
with a hail of slugs. No, Terry and Mrs. Wade will not get to spend old Wade’s
money together and live happily ever after. So yeah Marlowe had his code left
intact, and friend or foe better watch out.
From The Marxist Archives- In Honor Of The 96th Anniversary Of The Russian October Revolution- Winning the Vast Majority Through Proletarian State Power Leon Trotsky On The Lessons Of The Russian Revolution Workers Vanguard No. 968 5 November 2010
In Honor of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution
For New October Revolutions!
(From the Archives of Marxism)
November 7 (October 25 by the calendar used in Russia at the time) marks the 93rd anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Led by the Bolshevik Party of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, the workers’ seizure of power in Russia gave flesh and blood reality to the Marxist understanding of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Despite the subsequent Stalinist degeneration of the Soviet workers state, culminating in its counterrevolutionary destruction in 1991-92, the October Revolution was and is the international proletariat’s greatest victory; its final undoing, a world-historic defeat. The International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) fought to the bitter end in defense of the Soviet Union and the bureaucratically deformed workers states of East Europe, while calling for workers political revolutions to oust the parasitic nationalist Stalinist bureaucracies that ruled these states. This is the same program we uphold today for the remaining workers states of China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba.
Having been expelled from the USSR in 1929 by Stalin, Trotsky spent the remainder of his life in exile. In November 1932, he gave a speech to a Danish social-democratic student group in Copenhagen. He outlined the political conditions and the social forces that drove the Russian Revolution, stressing the decisive role of the Bolshevik Party. Illuminating the worldwide impact of the Russian Revolution and its place in history, Trotsky underlined the necessity of sweeping away the decaying capitalist order and replacing it with a scientifically planned international socialist economy that will lay the material basis for human freedom.
The ICL fights to forge workers parties modeled on Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks to lead the struggle for new October Revolutions around the globe.
* * *
Revolution means a change of the social order. It transfers the power from the hands of a class which has exhausted itself into those of another class, which is on the rise....
Without the armed insurrection of November 7, 1917, the Soviet state would not be in existence. But the insurrection itself did not drop from Heaven. A series of historical prerequisites was necessary for the October revolution.
1. The rotting away of the old ruling classes—the nobility, the monarchy, the bureaucracy.
2. The political weakness of the bourgeoisie, which had no roots in the masses of the people.
3. The revolutionary character of the peasant question.
4. The revolutionary character of the problem of the oppressed nations.
5. The significant social weight of the proletariat.
To these organic pre-conditions we must add certain conjunctural conditions of the highest importance:
6. The Revolution of 1905 was the great school, or in Lenin’s words, the “dress rehearsal” of the Revolution of 1917. The Soviets, as the irreplaceable organizational form of the proletarian united front in the revolution, were created for the first time in the year 1905.
7. The imperialist war sharpened all the contradictions, tore the backward masses out of their immobility and thereby prepared the grandiose scale of the catastrophe.
But all these conditions, which fully sufficed for the outbreak of the Revolution, were insufficient to assure the victory of the proletariat in the Revolution. For this victory one condition more was needed:
8. The Bolshevik Party....
In the year 1883 there arose among the emigres the first Marxist group. In the year 1898, at a secret meeting, the foundation of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party was proclaimed (we all called ourselves Social-Democrats in those days). In the year 1903 occurred the split between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. In the year 1912 the Bolshevist fraction finally became an independent Party.
It learned to recognize the class mechanics of society in struggle, in the grandiose events of twelve years (1905-1917). It educated cadres equally capable of initiative and of subordination. The discipline of its revolutionary action was based on the unity of its doctrine, on the tradition of common struggles and on confidence in its tested leadership.
Thus stood the Party in the year 1917. Despised by the official “public opinion” and the paper thunder of the intelligentsia press, it adapted itself to the movement of the masses. Firmly it kept in hand the control of factories and regiments. More and more the peasant masses turned toward it. If we understand by “nation,” not the privileged heads, but the majority of the people, that is, the workers and peasants, then Bolshevism became in the course of the year 1917 a truly national Russian Party.
In September 1917, Lenin, who was compelled to keep in hiding, gave the signal, “The crisis is ripe, the hour of the insurrection has approached.” He was right. The ruling classes had landed in a blind alley before the problems of the war, the land and national liberation. The bourgeoisie finally lost its head. The democratic parties, the Mensheviks and social-revolutionaries, wasted the remains of the confidence of the masses in them by their support of the imperialist war, by their policy of ineffectual compromise and concession to the bourgeois and feudal property-owners. The awakened army no longer wanted to fight for the alien aims of imperialism. Disregarding democratic advice, the peasantry smoked the landowners out of their estates. The oppressed nationalities at the periphery rose up against the bureaucracy of Petrograd. In the most important workers’ and soldiers’ Soviets the Bolsheviki were dominant. The workers and soldiers demanded action. The ulcer was ripe. It needed a cut of the lancet.
Only under these social and political conditions was the insurrection possible. And thus it also became inevitable. But there is no playing around with the insurrection. Woe to the surgeon who is careless in the use of the lancet! Insurrection is an art. It has its laws and its rules.
The Party carried through the October insurrection with cold calculation and with flaming determination. Thanks to this, it conquered almost without victims. Through the victorious Soviets the Bolsheviki placed themselves at the head of a country which occupies one sixth of the surface of the globe....
Let us now in closing attempt to ascertain the place of the October Revolution, not only in the history of Russia but in the history of the world. During the year 1917, in a period of eight months, two historical curves intersect. The February upheaval—that belated echo of the great struggles which had been carried out in past centuries on the territories of Holland, England, France, almost all of Continental Europe—takes its place in the series of bourgeois revolutions. The October Revolution proclaims and opens the domination of the proletariat. It was world capitalism that suffered its first great defeat on the territory of Russia. The chain broke at its weakest link. But it was the chain that broke, and not only the link.
Capitalism has outlived itself as a world system. It has ceased to fulfill its essential mission, the increase of human power and human wealth. Humanity cannot stand still at the level which it has reached. Only a powerful increase in productive force and a sound, planned, that is, Socialist organization of production and distribution can assure humanity—all humanity—of a decent standard of life and at the same time give it the precious feeling of freedom with respect to its own economy. Freedom in two senses—first of all, man will no longer be compelled to devote the greater part of his life to physical labor. Second, he will no longer be dependent on the laws of the market, that is, on the blind and dark forces which have grown up behind his back. He will build up his economy freely, that is, according to a plan, with compass in hand. This time it is a question of subjecting the anatomy of society to the X-ray through and through, of disclosing all its secrets and subjecting all its functions to the reason and the will of collective humanity. In this sense, Socialism must become a new step in the historical advance of mankind. Before our ancestor, who first armed himself with a stone axe, the whole of nature represented a conspiracy of secret and hostile forces. Since then, the natural sciences, hand in hand with practical technology, have illuminated nature down to its most secret depths. By means of electrical energy, the physicist passes judgment on the nucleus of the atom. The hour is not far when science will easily solve the task of the alchemists, and turn manure into gold and gold into manure. Where the demons and furies of nature once raged, now rules ever more courageously the industrial will of man.
But while he wrestled victoriously with nature, man built up his relations to other men blindly, almost like the bee or the ant. Belatedly and most undecidedly he approached the problems of human society. He began with religion, and passed on to politics. The Reformation represented the first victory of bourgeois individualism and rationalism in a domain which had been ruled by dead tradition. From the church, critical thought went on to the state. Born in the struggle with absolutism and the medieval estates, the doctrine of the sovereignty of the people and of the rights of man and the citizen grew stronger. Thus arose the system of parliamentarism. Critical thought penetrated into the domain of government administration. The political rationalism of democracy was the highest achievement of the revolutionary bourgeoisie.
But between nature and the state stands economic life. Technology liberated man from the tyranny of the old elements—earth, water, fire and air—only to subject him to its own tyranny. Man ceased to be a slave to nature, to become a slave to the machine, and, still worse, a slave to supply and demand. The present world crisis testifies in especially tragic fashion how man, who dives to the bottom of the ocean, who rises up to the stratosphere, who converses on invisible waves with the Antipodes, how this proud and daring ruler of nature remains a slave to the blind forces of his own economy. The historical task of our epoch consists in replacing the uncontrolled play of the market by reasonable planning, in disciplining the forces of production, compelling them to work together in harmony and obediently serve the needs of mankind. Only on this new social basis will man be able to stretch his weary limbs and—every man and every woman, not only a selected few—become a full citizen in the realm of thought.
—“Leon Trotsky Defends the October Revolution” (Militant, 21 January 1933)
Vanguard No. 1003
25 May 2012
Winning the Vast Majority Through Proletarian State Power
(Quote of the Week)
Polemicizing against the Social Democrats of the Second
International, who preached that socialism could be introduced through winning a
majority in bourgeois parliaments, Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin stressed that the
proletariat would win the support of the vast majority of working people through
smashing the bourgeois state and replacing it with a workers state that
expropriates capitalist property. This teaching is of special relevance today in
the U.S., Europe and throughout the capitalist world, where masses of the
population are being ground down by the ongoing economic crisis.
How can state power in the hands of the proletariat become the
instrument of its class struggle for influence over the non-proletarian working
people, of the struggle to draw them to its side, to win them over, to wrest
them from the bourgeoisie?
First, the proletariat achieves this not by putting
into operation the old apparatus of state power, but by smashing
it to pieces, levelling it with the ground (in spite of the howls of frightened
philistines and the threats of saboteurs), and building a new
Secondly, the proletariat can, and must, at once, or at all events
very quickly, win from the bourgeoisie and from petty-bourgeois democrats
“their” masses, i.e., the masses which follow them—win them
by satisfying their most urgent economic needs in a revolutionary way by
expropriating the landowners and the bourgeoisie.
The bourgeoisie cannot do that, no matter how
“mighty” its state power may be.
The proletariat can do that on the very next day
after it has won state power, because for this it has both an apparatus (the
Soviets) and economic means (the expropriation of the landowners and the
The traitors, blockheads and pedants of the Second International
could never understand such dialectics; the proletariat cannot achieve victory
if it does not win the majority of the population to its side. But to limit that
winning to polling a majority of votes in an election under the rule of
the bourgeoisie, or to make it the condition for it, is crass stupidity,
or else sheer deception of the workers. In order to win the majority of the
population to its side the proletariat must, in the first place, overthrow the
bourgeoisie and seize state power; secondly, it must introduce Soviet power and
completely smash the old state apparatus, whereby it immediately undermines the
rule, prestige and influence of the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeois compromisers
over the non-proletarian working people. Thirdly, it must entirely
destroy the influence of the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeois
compromisers over the majority of the non-proletarian masses by
satisfying their economic needs in a revolutionary way at
the expense of the exploiters.
—V.I. Lenin, “The Constituent Assembly Elections and the
Dictatorship of the Proletariat,” December 1919, Collected Works, Vol.
***Ancient dreams, dreamed-Save The Last Dance For Me- Magical Realism 101
tow-headed boy walks, endless forget waiting for erratic Eastern Mass. bus-stop non-stop walks, up named streets, Captain’s Walk (evoking New England Captain Ahab madnesses, a kindred spirit, and land-bound searches for the great blue-pink American west night drive the frenzy instead of holy death-seeking sea drifts, although that is unnamed just now), Snug Harbor Avenue (evoking, well, just evoking home, or the theory of home, or some happy black and white television version of home), and Sextant Circle (like such a useful nautical instrument could guide some lonely, lonesome boy out of the fetid bog-fed marshes and visions of pirates seeking booty, or death). On to Taffrail Road, ah, Taffrail Road evoking ship-wreaked damsels, young, waiting for swashbuckling sailor boys risen from local old tar graveyards to restore their honor, their freedom, or just to share their bed. That last is the rub and that is the heart of the matter along those endless non-stop streets where erratic buses serve as the only way out of those clinched fist streets. That tow-headed boy is enthralled, no better, enraged and engorged with his first stirring of interest in damsel time, thus the time of his time. Yes, clinch those fists very tightly and take the ride.
Unnamed streets abound too, up crooked cheap, low-rent, fifty-year rutted pavement streets, deeply-gouged, one-lane snow-drift hassles streets impassable in winter hard glare and summer sweated heat. A Street cutting off the flow to that old tar cemetery seeking exotic writ names deep-etched in granite slab washed now by birdsong, and dung, rather than damsel sweet smell perfumes. B Street the same, C Street the same, same like some alphabet conspiracy against the boyhood night, against the boyhood dream night when he dreams of manhood, or better feelings of manhood but is clueless, utterly clueless, about what those feelings portent, ominously portent. But what knows he of ominous, or portents for that matter. He confesses, and no church confession either but etched, gravestone old tar etched, no mortal, not even hangmen evil brothers or harassing cousins, boy or girl, should ever have to face the fifth-grade night rudderless, compass-less and with the mark of cain upon his neck.
After walking, endless walking through named and unnamed streets, he heads home, not the home of home but his dream home with her, her house home. After all who in their right mind could curse and rail against the fifth grade-night, and why, if not for budding portentous romance with some green tree-coded she. He dare not speak her name for fear of jinx, or unrequitedness. The year before, that innocent last fourth-grade year, they, the shes of his enflamed imagination, were all just sticks, hardly distinguishable from boys but except perhaps a little smaller, just sticks to be avoided, or ignored, but this year a few, and she among the few, suddenly got interesting and he was stuck, struck really, by that ironic fact, or would have been if he had known what ironic travails he would go through before the end.
But here, watch him from afar, as he crosses for the fifth, or fifteenth time, or fifteen hundredth time past trees are green, coded, coded fifty years coded, endless trees are green secret-coded waiting, waiting against boyish infinite time, infinite first blush of innocent manhood, boyhood times, gone now, for one look, one look, that would elude him, elude him forever such is life in lowly spots, lowly, lowly spots. She some fair Rosamund and he a mere serf, and they knew it, or he knew it although it did not stop him from wanting, or waiting for that one glance, and that dancing blue-eyed smile.
The dance of all damn things, the upcoming one-size-fits-all school dance, parent-approved, headmaster-approved, hell, bishop-approved when you came right down to it, and, hell, blessed too from what he had heard, maybe jesus, blessed, is what has him in a mental whirl. Such tow-headed fifth-grade boy whirls made an existence, a walked streets existence, possible just as well as reds under every bed scare, russkie atomic-bomb-dropping, get out of the stinking projects and get a new shirt at all costs that disturbed his other nights. But, christ, a two bit dance, some later laughable Podunk gym fiesta, crepe-hanging, some surly drafted, imprisoned teacher to “spin platters” from some RCA music box, and her with the dancing blue-eyes and rounding shape. Yes, that thing drove him crazy, or the possibility of it in the fragrant perfume-soap, some girlish bath soap for all he knew or heard from girl cousins, american bandstand night,
And dreams of private dances in dark shadow corners while that silly hung crepe begins to droop above their spot and he first, and then she, laughs about how some fourth-grader must have hung it, their private laugh. And dance too, no Fred Astaire waltz old-time fox trot (except maybe that slow one at the end of the night although that was mere planned dream echo in walked streets), but full-blossomed be-bop wild hands and ass gyrating to some Elvis good night rocking or Chuck driving some car over the cliff for love, or something, something unspoken, or ask the older kids who know, know through their well-tuned grapevine, what “it” is. If they will tell you.
All a dream, a street-walked dream until, and when, really when he got up the nerve, the endless streets walking nerve, to ask her. But no dance floor numbness would slake that footsore walking thirst not then, and no high school confidential dance either (hell elementary school was tough enough, man), handy man, breathless, Jerry Lee freak-out blaring off some truck-bed bandstand. Too improbable for words. So Rosamund fate, young damsel sighted off the sea-side taffrail slid by, and with time the footsoreness turned into dust, or some other psychic pain whirl. But here and now when it counted, at least, no all the rage potato sack stick-turning-into-shape dance with coded name, trees are green, brunette. That will come, that will come. But when?
***The Roots Is The Toots- The Music That Got Them Through The Great Depression And World War II- From Deep In The Songbook-The Inkspots – Street Of Dreams …
…Yeah, we know his hard luck story, ten thousand returning guys hard luck story, know he was privately beside himself with the turn of events once he got off that god-awful troop transport in New York, and headed hopefully north (after a three day drunk just to even things out, although don’t tell her that) and so we pick him up after he got to that north he was headed for. He had not been back a year, most of that year spent sullenly, quietly in a rage, in a rage that having served, served well, had done his duty, had done his job from what his discharge papers said, he was unable to find work, real work, found that in heading north he had avoided no traps, there was no need for coal-miners or a cold-miner’s son in the Olde Saco labor market. Damn, and those recurring nightmares, that feeling that he would always be unclean after what he did overseas, didn’t help either. But he stayed silent (and would like many in his generation remain silent, silent unto the grave, keep his hurts to himself, about went on over there), took the first low-rent job that came along, floor-sweeper in the MacAdams Mills just down the street from their house. Well not really their house, their home such as it was, in the quickly built Olde Saco Veterans Housing Project, built to ease the housing crunch with all the boys coming back home from overseas and hungry to get staretd on their dreams. Took that job, well, because with the baby, and another on the way, he could not do otherwise. And he thought just at that moment, that moment as he swept up the leavings from the mill floor that things had to get better, hadn’t they.
Jesus he knew he was no hell on wheels, no big wheel guy, never expected to be, had expected to dig coal like a couple or three generations of forbears down in those Harlan hills when the war freed him up from all that. Freed him up to see outside the hills and hollows of home, liked what he saw and never looked back. Liked what he saw of a black-haired gal too. He knew he had no skills, no skills except as a crackerjack marksman but what was that worth in civilian life, no skills for the northern market and what with his seventh grade education (all that was necessary to dig coal, hell, his father never went to school at all and his grandfather was illiterate signing his name with a simple X) he didn’t expect to be President. (Ha, that was a joke, he wouldn’t want to.) But didn’t hunger to learn some skill (join the ten thousand other guys, buddy), didn’t his small dream, a little house of his own, a house not a tumbled down shack like back home in the hollows, a few kids and her growing old together figuring out things as they went along. And he still stuck sweeping somebody else’s leavings, stalling his small dream, it wasn’t fair, not fair at all.
Yeah it wasn’t fair at all that he drew a wrong number, came out of those lung-choke coal hills and hollows only to be dropped, dropped quickly once the MacAdams Textile Mills went south, south to cheap labor North Carolina (not far from the Kentuck border) to seek the same poor whites hungry for dough that he had left behind, thought he had left behind. But no way, no way on god’s good green earth, was he going back the way he came. No way, if anybody was asking. And so he, his black-haired gal, and his now brood of four, four growing hungry (regular food hungry as befits kids not that gnawing hunger that ate at him, and her) struggled to get from one week to the next, paying off one bill one week, another the next, never getting even, not close. Living in that so-called temporary veterans housing well after the first crowd that they had come in with had moved to their single family dream cottages on the other side of town. Stuck, stuck bad, stuck to take a man’s pride away. So, no, please do not speak to him of streets of dreams, his small dream, a little house of his own, a house not a tumbled down shack like back home in the hollows, a few kids and her growing old together figuring out things as they went along. Just don’t.
Peter Paul Markin comment on this series:
Whether we liked it or not, whether we even knew what it meant to our parents or not, knew what sacred place it held in their youthful hearts, Benny Goodman with and without Miss (Ms.) Peggy Lee, Harry James with or without the orchestra, Duke Ellington with or without Mr. Johnny Hodges, Tommy Dorsey, Jimmy Dorsey with or without fanfare, Glenn Miller with or without glasses, Miss (Ms.) Billie Holiday with or without the blues, personal blues, Miss Lena Horne with or without stormy weather, Miss (Ms.) Margaret Whiting, Mr. Vaughn Monroe with or without goalposts, Mr. Billy Eckstine, Mr. Frank Sinatra with or without bobbysoxers, The Inkspots with, always with, that spoken refrain, the Andrews Sisters with or without rum in their Coca-Cola, The Dewdrops with or without whatever they were with or without, Mr. Cole Porter with or without the boys, Mr. Irving Berlin with or without the flag, and Mr. George Gershwin with or without his brother, is the music that went wafting through the house of many of those of us who constitute the generation of ‘68.
Yes, the generation of ’68, baby-boomers, decidedly not what Tom Brokaw dubbed rightly or wrongly “ the greatest generation,”decidedly not your parents’or grandparents’ (please, please do not say great-grandparents’ even if it is true) generation. Those of us who came of age, biological, political and social age kicking, screaming and full of the post-war new age teenage angst and alienation in the age of Jack Kennedy’s Camelot. Who were, some of us any way and I like to think the best of us, driven by some makeshift dream, who, in the words of brother Bobby quotingfrom Alfred Lord Tennyson, were “seeking a new world.”Those who took up the call to action and slogged through that decade whether it was in civil rights/black liberation struggle, the anti-Vietnam War struggle or the struggle to find one’s own identity in the counter-culture swirl before the hammer came down. And that hammer came down quickly as the decade ended and the high white note that we searched for, desperately searched, drifted out into the ebbing tide. Gone. But enough about us this series is about our immediate forbears (but please, please not great grandparents) their uphill struggles to make their vision of the newer world, to satisfy their hunger a little, to stop that gnawing want, and the music that in their youthdreamed by on cold winter nights or hot summer days.
This is emphatically the music of the generation that survived the dust bowl all farms blown away, all land worthless, the bankers taking whatever was left and the dusted crowd heading west with whatever was movable, survived empty bowls wondering where the next meal would come from, survived no sugar bowl street urchin hard times of the 1930s Great Depression, the time of the madness, the time of the night-takers, the time of the long knives. Building up those wants, name them, named those hungers on cold nights against riverside fires, down in dusty arroyos, under forsaken bridges. Survived god knows how by taking the nearest freight, some smoke and dreams freight, Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, B&O, Illinois Central, Penn Central, Empire State, Boston and Maine, or one of a million trunk lines to go out and search for, well, search for…
Searching for something that was not triple- decker bodies, three to a room sharing some scraggly blanket, an old worn out pillow for rest, the faint smell of oatmeal, twenty days in a row oatmeal, oatmeal with.., being cooked in the next room meaning no Pa work, meaning one jump, maybe not even that ahead of the rent collector (the landlords do not dare come in person so they hire the task out), meaning the sheriff and the streets are closing in. Bodies, brothers and sisters, enough to lose count, piled high cold-water flat high, that damn cold water splash signifying how low things have gotten, with a common commode for the whole floor and brown-stained sink. Later moving down the scale a rooming house room for the same number of bodies, window looking out onto the air shaft, dark, dark with despair, the very, very faint odor of oatmeal, who knows how many days in a row, from Ma’s make-shift hot plate on its last legs.Hell, call it what it was flop house stinking of perspiration and low-shelf whiskeys and wines. Others had it worse, tumbled down shack, window pane-less, tarpaper siding, roof tiles falling, a lean-to ready to fall to the first wind, the first red wind coming out of the mountains and swooping down the hills and hollows, ready to fall to the first downpour rain, washed away. Yes, get out on the open road and search for the great promised American night that had been tattered by world events, and greed.
Survived the Hoovervilles, the great cardboard, tin can roof, slap-dash jerry-built camp explosions along rivers, down in ravines and under railroad trestles. Tossed, hither and yon, about six million different ways but it all came down to when the banks, yeah, the banks, the usual suspects, robbed people of their shacks, their cottages, their farm houses. Robbed them as an old-time balladeer, a free-wheeling, song-writing red, a commie, in the days when in some quarters sailing under that banner was a badge of honor, said at the time not with a gun but with a fountain pen, but still robbed them.
Survived the soup kitchens hungers, the gnawing can’t wait in the endless waiting line for scrapes, dreaming of some by-gone steak or dish of ice cream, and always that hunger, not the stomach hunger although that was ever present, but the hunger that hurts a man, hurts his pride when he has to stick his hand out, stick it out and not know why. Planning the fruitless day, fruitless since he was born to work, took pride in work, planning around Sally breakfasts don’t be late, six to nine, but with sermon and song attached, mission stuff in heat-soaked rooms, men smelling of unwashed men, and drink. Planning around city hall lunches, peanut butter sandwiches, slapped slap-dash together with an apple, maybe. Worse, worse by far the Saint Vincent DePaul suppers, soup, bread, some canned vegetable, something they called meat but was in dispute, lukewarm coffee, had only, only if you could prove you were truly destitute with a letter from some churchman and, in addition, under some terrible penalty, that you had searched for work that day. A hard dollar, hard dollar indeed.
Jesus, out of work for another day, and with three hungry growing kids to feed, and a wife sickly, sick unto death of the not having he thought, little work waiting for anybody that day, that day when all hell broke loose and the economy tanked, at least that is what it said in the Globe (ditto New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Examiner if anybody was asking), said that there was too much around, too much and he with nothing for those kids, nothing and he was too proud to ask for some damn letter to give to those Vincent DePaul hard-hearts.And that day not him, not him yet, others, others who read more that the Globe (and the dittos)were dreaming of that full head of steam day to come in places like big auto Flint, waterfront Frisco town, rubber Akron, hog butcher to the world prairie Chicago, hell, even in boondock trucker Minneapolis, a day when the score would get evened, evened a little, and a man could hold his head up a little, could at least bring bread to those three hungry growing kids who didn’t understand the finer point of world economics just hunger. Until then though he is left shifting the scroungings of the trash piles of the urban glut, the discard of the haves, the have nots throw nothing away, and on other horizons the brethren curse the rural fallow fields, curse the banks, and curse the weather, but curse most of all having to pack up and head, head anyway, anywhere but the here, and search, search like that brother on that urban glut pile for a way to curbthat gnawinghungry that cried out in the night-want, want that is all.
Survived too the look, the look of those, the what did FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the young, or forgetful) call them, oh yeah, the economic royalists, today’s 1%, the rack-renters, the coupon-clippers, the guys, as one of their number said, who hired one half of the working class to fight the other, who in their fortified towers, their Xanadus, their Dearborns, their Beacon Hills, their Upper East Sides, their Nob Hills, and a few other spots, tittered that not everybody was built to survive to be the fittest. That crowd, and let’s name names, a few anyway, Ford, General Motors, Firestone, U.S. Steel, fought tooth and nail against the little guy trying to break bread. Fought that brother too out pounding the mean streets to proud to ask for a letter, Jesus, a letter for some leftover food, before he got “religion” about what was what in the land of “milk and honey.”Wreaked havoc on that farmer out in the dust bowl not travelling some road, some road west knowing that the East was barred up, egging him on to some hot dusty bracero labor filed picking, maybe “hire” him on as a scab against those uppity city boys. Yes, fought every guy trying to get out from under that cardboard, tar paper, windowless soup kitchen world along with a hell of a lot of comrades, yes, comrades, not Russkie comrades although reds were thick in those battles, took their lumps in Frisco, Flint, Akron and Minneapolis, hell, any place where a righteous people were rising, kindred in the struggle to put that survival of the fittest on the back-burner of human history. To stand up andtake collective action to put things right, hell, made the bosses cry bloody murder when they shut down their factories, shut them down cold until some puny penny justice was eked out. And maybe just maybe make that poor unknowingly mean-street walking city brother and that sweated farm boy thing twice about helping those Mayfair swells.
Survived but took time out too, time out if young perhaps, as if such things were embedded in some secret teen coda, to stretch those legs, to flash those legs, to sway those hips, to flash the new moves not, I repeat, not the ones learned at sixth grade Miss Prissy’s Saturday dance classes but the ones that every mother, every girl mother warned her Susie against, to a new sound coming out of the mist, coming to take the sting out of the want years nights, and the brewing night of the long knives. Coming out of New York, always New York then, Minton’s, Jimmy’s, some other uptown clubs,Chicago, Chicago of the big horns and that stream, that black stream heading north, following the northern star, again, for jobs and to get the hell away from one Mister James Crow, from Detroit, with blessed Detroit Slim and automobile sounds, and Kansas City, the Missouri K.C. okay, the Bird land hatchery, the Prez’s big sexy sax blow home. Jesus no wonder that madman Hitler banned it, along with dreams.
The sound of blessed swing, all big horns, big reeds, big, well big band, replacing the dour Brother, Can You Spare a Dime and its brethren ,no banishing such thoughts, casting them out with soup lines (and that awful Friday Saint Vincent DePaul fish stew that even Jesus would have turned down in favor of bread, wine and a listen to Benny’s Buddha Swings) casting that kind of hunger out for a moment, a magical realistic moment, casting out ill-fitting, out of fashion, threadbare (nice, huh) second-hand clothes (passed down from out- the- doorhobo brothers and sisters tramping this good green earth looking for their place, or at least a job of work and money in their newer threadbare [still nice] clothes), and casting aside from hunger looks, that gaunt look of those who have their wanting habits on and no way to do a thing about it.Banished, all such things banished because after all it did not mean a thing, could not possibly place you anywhere else but in squareville (my term, not theirs), if you did not have that swing. To be as one with jitter-buggery if there was (is) such a word (together, not buggery by itself, not in those days, not in the public vocabulary anyway). And swing as it lost steam with all the boys, all the swing boys, all oversea and the home fire girls tired of dancing two girl dancing, a fade echo of the cool age be-bop that was a-borning, making everybody reach for that high white note floating out of Minton’s, Big Bill’s Jimmie’s, hell, even Olde Saco’s Starlight Ballroom before it breezed out in the ocean air night, crashed into the tepid sea. Yeah.
Survived, as if there was no time to breathe in new fresh airs, new be-bop tunes, new dance moves, to slog through the time of the gun in World War II.A time when the night-takers, those who craved the revenge night of the long knives took giant steps in Europe and Asia trying to make that same little guy, Brit, Frenchie, Chinaman, Filipino, God’s American, and half the races and nationalities on this good green earth cry uncle and buckle under, take it, take their stuff without a squawk. It took a bit, took a little shock, to get those war juices flowing, to forget about the blood-letting that had gone on before when the flower of Europe, when the older brothers and fathers the generation before, had taken their number when they were called.And so after Pearl, after that other shoe dropped on a candid world Johnnie, Jimmie, Paulie, Benny too, all the guys from the old neighborhood, the corner boys, the guys who hung around Doc’s hands in their pockets, guys trying to rub nickels together to play some jitter-buggery thing, guys who had it tough growing up hard in those bad Depression days, took their numbers and fell in line.
Guys too from the wheat fields, Kansas Iowa, you know places where they grow wheat, guys fresh from some Saturday night dance, some country square thing, all shy and with calloused hands, eyeing, eyeing to perdition some virginal Betty or Sue, guys from the coal slags, deep down in hill country, down in the hollows away from public notice, some rumble down shack to rest their heads, full of backwoods home liquor, blackened fingernails, never ever fully clean once the coal got on them, Saturday night front porch fiddlings wound up carrying a M-1 on the shoulder in Europe or the Pacific. Leaving all those Susies, Lauras, Betties, and dark-haired Rebeccas too waiting at home hoping to high heaven that some wayward gun had not carried off sweetheart Johnnie, Jimmy, Paulie, or young Benny.Jesus not young Benny. Not the runt of the corner boy litter, not our Benny. Not carried off that sweet farm fresh boy with the sly grin, not carried off that coal-dust young man with those jet-black eyes, and fingers.
Survived the endless lines of boys heading off East and West, heading off to right some wrongs, at least that is what the guys in charge said, put a big dent in the style of the night-takers, the guys who wanted to cut up the world into two to three pieces, and that was that, cutting the little guy, making the little guys like it, making them take it or else. Some of those little guys, after Pearl for sure, could hardly wait to get to the recruiting office, hardly wait to go mano y mano with the night-takers and their illicit dreams, went gladly from the farms, the factories and the mines, many to never look back, never to farm, to run a production line, or to dig from the earth but make new lives, or lay down their heads in some god forsaken piece of dirt, or some watery abyss. Others, well, others were hanging back waiting to be drafted by their friends and neighbors at the local draft board, hanging back just a little to think things over, to see if maybe they could be better used on the home front, scared okay (as if the quick-step volunteers were not afraid, or should have been) but who gave a good accounting of themselves when their number came up. Still others head over heels they were exempt, 4-F, bad feet, you see. Somebody had to keep the home fires, keeping the womenfolk happy.
All, all except that last crew, the dodgers found in every war,who got to sit a home with Susie, Laura, Betty and even odd-ball Rebecca were constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop, for their ships to sail or their planes to fly. Hanging in some old time corner boy drugstore, Doc’s, Rexall, name your drugstore name, just like when they were kids (a mere few weeks before), talking the talk like they used to do to kill time, maybe sitting two by two (two uniforms, two girls if anybody was asking) at the soda fountain playing that newly installed jukebox until the nickels ran out. Listened to funny banana boat songs, rum and coca cola songs, siting under the apple tree songs, songs to forget about the work abroad, and just some flat-out jitter-bugging stuff, frothy stuff in order to get a minute’s reprieve from thoughts of the journey ahead.
Listened too to dreamy, sentimental songs, Always, I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire, Sentimental Journey, songs that spoke of true love, their true love that would out last the ages, would carrying them through that life together if they could ever keep those damn night-takers at bay, songs about faraway places, We’ll Meet Again, Til Then, songs that spoke of future sorrows, future partings, future returnings (always implying though that maybe there would be no return), future sacrifices, future morale-builders, songs about keeping lamp- lights burning, songs to give meeting to that personal sacrifice, to keep the womenfolk, to keep her from fretting her life away waiting for that dreaded other drop, songs about making a better world out of the fire and brimstone sacrifice before them.
Songs to make the best out of the situation about Johnnie, Jimmie and the gang actually returning, returning whole, and putting a big dent in their dreams, that small white house with the white picket fence (maybe needing a little painting, maybe they could do that together), kids, maybe a new car once in a while you know the stuff that keeps average joes alive in sullen foxholes, sea-sick troop transports, freezing cargo planes, keeps them good and alive. Hell, songs, White Cliffs Of Dover songs, about maybe the damn wars would be over sooner rather than later. Listened, drawing closer, getting all, uh, moony-eyed, and as old Doc, or some woe-begotten soda jerk, some high school kid, wet behind the ears, with that white paper service cap at some obscure angle and now smudged white jacket implying that he was in the service too, told them to leave he was closing up they held out for one last tune. Then, well-fortified with swoony feelings they made for the beach, if near a beach, the pond, if near a pond, the back forty, if near the back forty, the hills, you know, or whatever passed for a lovers’ lane in their locale and with the echo of those songs as background, well, do I have draw you a map, what do you think they did, why do you think they call us baby-boomers.
The music, this survival music, wafted through the air coming from a large console radio, the prized possession amid the squalor of second-hand sofas and woe-begotten stuffed pillows smelling of mothballs, centered in the small square living room of my growing up house. My broken down, needs a new roof, random shingles on the ground as proof, cracked windows stuffed with paper and held with masking tape, no proof needed, overgrown lawn of a shack of a house too small, much too small, for four growing boys and two parents house.
That shack of a house surrounded by other houses, shack houses, too small to fit Irish Catholic- sized families with stony-eyed dreams but which represented in some frankly weird form (but what knew I of such weirdness then I just cried out in some fit of angst) the great good desire of those warriors and their war brides to latch onto a piece of golden age America. And take their struggle survival music with them as if to validate their sweet memory dreams. That radio, as if a lifesaver, literally, tuned to local station WDJA in North Adamsville, the memory station for those World War II warriors and their war brides, those who made it back. Some wizard station manager knowing his, probably his in those days, demographics, spinned those 1940s platters exclusively, as well as aimed the ubiquitous advertisement at that crowd. Cars, sofas, beds, shaving gear, soap, department store sales, all the basics of the growing families spawned (nice, huh) by those warriors and brides.
My harried mother, harried by the prospects of the day with four growing boys, maybe bewildered is a better expression, turning the radio on to start her day, hoping that Paper Dolls, I’ll Get By, or dreamy Tangerine,their songs, their spring youth meeting at some USO dance songs and so embedded, or so it seemed as she hummed away the day, used the music as background on her appointed household rounds. The stuff, that piano/drum-driven stuff with some torch-singer bleeding all over the floor with her loves, her hurts, and her wanderings, her waitings, they should have called it the waiting generation, drove me crazy then, mush stuff at a time when I was craving the big break-out rock and roll sounds I kept hearing every time I went and played the jukebox at Doc’s Drugstore over on Walker Street down near the beach. As far as I know Doc, knowing his demographics as well, did not, I repeat, did not, stock that stuff that, uh, mush for his rock-crazed after school soda fountain crowd, probably stocked nothing, mercifully before about 1955. Funny thing though while I am still a child of rock and roll (blues too) this so-called mushy stuff sounds pretty good to these ears now long after my parents and those who performed this music have passed on. Go figure.