Saturday, November 08, 2014


As The 100th Anniversary Of The First Year Of World War I (Remember The War To End All Wars) Continues ... Some Remembrances-Poets’ Corner  

In say 1912, 1913, hell, even the beginning of 1914 before the war clouds got a full head of steam in the summer they all profusely professed, artists who saw the disjointedness of modern industrial society and put the pieces to paint, sculptors who put twisted pieces of metal juxtaposed to each other, writers of serious history books proving that, according to their Whiggish theory of progress,  humankind had moved beyond war as an instrument of policy, writers of not so serious novels drenched in platitudes and hidden gabezo love affairs put paid to that notion in their sweet nothing words that man and woman had too much to do to denigrate themselves by crying the warrior’s cry and the maidens strewing flowers on the bloodlust streets, musicians whose muse spoke of delicate tempos and sweet muted violin concertos, and poets, ah, those constricted poets who bleed the moon of its amber swearing, swearing on a stack of seven sealed bibles, that they would go to the hells before touching the hair of another man, that come the war drums they would resist the siren call, would stick to their Whiggish, Futurist, Constructionist, Cubist, world and blast the war-makers to hell in quotes, words, chords, clanged metal, and pretty pastels.

And then the war drums intensified and they, they made of ordinary human clay as it turned out, poets, artists, sculptors, writers, serious and not, musicians went to the trenches to die deathless deaths in their thousands for….            

THE KAISER AND BELGIUM


He said: "Thou petty people, let me pass.
  What canst thou do but bow to me and kneel?"
But sudden a dry land caught fire like grass,
  And answer hurtled but from shell and steel.

He looked for silence, but a thunder came
  Upon him, from Li├Ęge a leaden hail.
All Belgium flew up at his throat in flame
  Till at her gates amazed his legions quail.

Take heed, for now on haunted ground they tread;
  There bowed a mightier war lord to his fall:
Fear! lest that very green grass again grow red
  With blood of German now as then with Gaul.

If him whom God destroys He maddens first,
Then thy destruction slake thy madman's thirst.

_Stephen Phillips_
Four Ways To Support Freedom For Chelsea Manning- President Obama Pardon Chelsea Manning Now!

 
 Note that this image is PVT Manning's preferred photo.
 
Note that this image is PVT Manning’s preferred photo.

C_Manning_Finish (1)


The Struggle Continues …

Four  Ways To Support Heroic Wikileaks Whistle-Blower Chelsea  Manning

*Sign the public petition to President Obama – Sign online http://www.amnesty.org/en/appeals-for-action/chelseamanning  “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: Chelsea E. Manning, 89289, 1300 N. Warehouse Road, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas 66027-2304.

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.

*Call: (913) 758-3600-Write to:Col. Sioban Ledwith, Commander U.S. Detention Barracks 1301 N Warehouse Rd
Ft. Leavenworth KS 66027-Tell them: “Transgender rights are human rights! Respect Private Manning’s identity by acknowledging the name ‘Chelsea Manning’ whenever possible, including in mail addressed to her, and by allowing her access to appropriate medical treatment for gender dysphoria, including hormone replacement therapy (HRT).” (for more details-http://markinbookreview.blogspot.com/2013/11/respecting-chelseas-identity-is-this.html#!/2013/11/respecting-chelseas-identity-is-this.html

******

Markin comment   

There is no question that now that her trial, if one can called what took place down in Fort Meade a trial in the summer of 2013 rather than a travesty, that a year after her conviction on twenty plus counts and having received an outrageous thirty-five year sentence essentially for telling us the truth about American atrocities and  nefarious actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever else the American government can stick its nose that Chelsea Manning's case has dropped from view. Although she occasionally gets an Op/Ed opportunity and has several legal moves going from action to get the  necessary hormonal treatments reflecting her real sexual identity to now preparing the first appeal of her conviction to another military tribunal the popular uproar against her imprisonment has become a hush. While the appeals process may produce some results, perhaps a reduction in sentence, the short way home for her is a presidential pardon right now. I urge everybody to sign on to the Amnesty International petition above to put the pressure on President Barack Obama for clemency.          

I attended some of the sessions of Chelsea Manning’s court-martial in the summer of 2013 and am often asked about what she could expect from the various procedures going forward to try to “spring” her from the clutches of the American government, or as I say whenever I get the chance to not leave “our buddy behind” in the time-honored military parlance. I have usually answered depending on what stage her post-conviction case is in that her sentence was draconian by all standards for someone who did not, although they tried to pin this on her, “aid the enemy.” Certainly Judge Lind though she was being lenient with thirty-five years when the government wanted sixty (and originally more before some of the counts were consolidated). The next step was to appeal, really now that I think about it, a pro forma appeal to the commanding general of the Washington, D.C. military district where the trial was held. There were plenty of grounds to reduce the sentence but General Buchanan backed up his trial judge in the winter of 2014. Leaving Chelsea supporters right now with only the prospect of a presidential pardon to fight for as the court appeals are put together which will take some time.


No question since her trial, conviction, and draconian sentence of thirty-five years imposed by a vindictive American government heroic Wiki-leaks whistle-blower Chelsea Manning’s has fallen off the radar. The incessant news cycle which has a short life cycle covered her case sporadically, covered the verdict, covered the sentencing and with some snickers cover her announcement directly after the sentencing that she wanted to live as her true self, a woman. (A fact that her supporters were aware of prior to the announcement but agreed that the issue of her sexual identity should not get mixed up with her heroic actions.) Since then despite occasional public rallies and actions her case had tended, as most political prisoner cases do, to get caught up in the appeals process and that keeps it out of the limelight.             

On Sunday October 12th Chelsea Manning was honored and remembered by the Veterans For Peace, Smedley Butler Brigade with a banner calling for her freedom as they marched in the annual Honk parade which goes through Somerville, Ma into Harvard Square for the Octoberfest. The banner drew applause and return shouts of “Free Chelsea.” The Smedley Butler Brigade continues to stand behind our sister. We will not leave her behind. We also urge everybody to sign the Amnesty International on-line petition calling on President Obama to use his constitutional authority to pardon Chelsea Manning

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/usa-one-year-after-her-conviction-chelsea-manning-must-be-released-2014-07-30   


 
From The Marxist Archives- In Honor Of The 97th Anniversary Of The Russian October Revolution- 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)

 

In Defense Of The October Russian Revolution Of 1917- Comrade Markham’s Tale-Take One
 

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman 


Comrade Markham had been born a “red diaper baby.” I will explain what that means in a minute but first to that Comrade Markham moniker. That name is the only name I have known him by ever since I ran into him at an anti-war planning session over in Cambridge a couple of years back, back in the fall of 2012, when we were trying, people like Comrade Markham, the guys from Veterans for Peace, guys and gals from some socialist groups and the usual Quakers, traditional peace activists who always sign on to these efforts, to organize against the latest governmental war cries. Although the previous decade or so had seen anti-war mobilizations, great and small, mainly small, this session was planning a rally to oppose President Obama’s then latest attempt to intervene in the civil war in Syria. Comrade Markham, then eighty-seven years old and still trying to change this wicked old world for the better rather than sitting in some assisted living hellhole wasting away, had introduced himself to the group under that moniker and although I had not seen him around before, had no sense of his history then, others greeted and addressed him by that name without a snicker.

 

Of course as I found out later that moniker was not his real name but had been the one that he had used in his long-time membership in the old American Communist Party, not the current version which is kind of out in limbo, but the one that we who came of age in the 1960s had cut our teeth on as the great “red menace,” who were taking “Moscow gold,” taking Stalin and his progeny’s gold,  in order to undermine the American way of life and so we had to be ever vigilant in the red scare Cold War night. He had used the name so long that he knew no other to be called and in my associations with him as he told me his story that is what I always called him. Someday I suppose we will find out his real name but his story, an unusual American story, is what matters and what will be forever his memorial.

 

But back to that “red diaper baby” designation I promised to tell you about. Now I had heard that designation before, back in the late 1960s when Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was cutting a big swath through the political landscape, especially among students. A fair number of the emerging leaders had had parents who belonged to the Communist Party or some other left-wing organization and were not like many of us the first generation of radicals in our families. Thus the red diaper baby designation which in some cases gave those who had grown up in that political milieu an unwarranted standing based on some usually long past affiliation by their now bourgeois parents. What made Comrade Markham unique in my experience is that he was a red diaper baby from parents who had helped establish the Communist Party in America back around 1920 (or one of the two but that story of the hows and whys of two are beyond what I want to tell you about here except in passing).

 

That thread of history intrigued me, his whole story intrigued me as I pieced it together, and so after a couple of those planning sessions I asked him to sit down with me wherever he liked and tell me his story. We did so in several sessions most of them held in the Boston Public Library where he liked go and check out books, magazines and newspapers about the old days, about the time of his activist political prime. What I did not expect to get was an almost chemically pure defense of the Soviet Union, of the Soviet experience, through thick and thin until the end in 1990 or so. That is why his story appears here as a running personal commentary on this 97th anniversary year of the Russian October Revolution of 1917.

 

It is probably hard today at least three generations removed from the time of the great Russian October Revolution of 1917 to understand, to understand in depth the strong pro-revolutionary feeling that that event brought forth in the world- the first fitful workers’ state, a state for the international working-class to call its own, to defend against all the international reaction. Of course that strong pro-revolutionary response also has its opposite effect on the international bourgeoisie which was ready to move might and main to break the back of the revolution and did so, actively, one way or another, supporting one native anti-revolutionary faction or another, or intervening directly. (The international bourgeoisie had as its allies as well some of the reformist leaderships and better off segments of the Western working class who were as fearful of revolution as any bourgeois). This was the heady atmosphere in which Comrade Markham’s parents, known in the party as Comrade Curtis and Comrade Rosa (after the late martyred Polish revolutionary liked after the failed Spartacist uprising in Germany in late 1918, Rosa Luxemburg, the rose of the revolution), moved in the early days of the party formed here in America.         

 

See Curtis and Rosa had a long socialist past, had grown up respectively in a Kansas farm belt and a Chicago steel belt, had worked individually to build the pre-World War I Socialist Party in their respective places of birth and had met in Chicago when Curtis moved there to work on the 1912 presidential campaign for the revered Eugene V. Debs (who amassed over one million votes that years, a watershed year for socialist votes, gathered in large part by activists like Curtis and Rosa who worked overtime for his election). They had been aligned with the left-wing of the party in most of its internal debates and votes, especially as President Woodrow Wilson and his administration started beating the war drums to go to the aid of the Allies in the utterly stalemated World War I as the flower of the European youth had laid down their heads for no apparent reason, and segments of the party wanted to support those efforts or to “duck” the issue. So they were strongly for him and his supporters when Debs decided to outright oppose the war entry publicly in 1917. Naturally they were rounded up and went to jail for a time (at this time they also got married in order to be able to visit whichever one was in jail at any given time) and became more closely associated with the left-wing that was forming to defiantly oppose American entry into the war but also a myriad of policies that the right-wing leadership (socialist right-wing not generic right-wing) had imposed on the party.  

Friday, November 07, 2014


As The 100th Anniversary Of The First Year Of World War I (Remember The War To End All Wars) Continues ... Some Remembrances-Poets’ Corner  

In say 1912, 1913, hell, even the beginning of 1914 before the war clouds got a full head of steam in the summer they all profusely professed, artists who saw the disjointedness of modern industrial society and put the pieces to paint, sculptors who put twisted pieces of metal juxtaposed to each other, writers of serious history books proving that, according to their Whiggish theory of progress,  humankind had moved beyond war as an instrument of policy, writers of not so serious novels drenched in platitudes and hidden gabezo love affairs put paid to that notion in their sweet nothing words that man and woman had too much to do to denigrate themselves by crying the warrior’s cry and the maidens strewing flowers on the bloodlust streets, musicians whose muse spoke of delicate tempos and sweet muted violin concertos, and poets, ah, those constricted poets who bleed the moon of its amber swearing, swearing on a stack of seven sealed bibles, that they would go to the hells before touching the hair of another man, that come the war drums they would resist the siren call, would stick to their Whiggish, Futurist, Constructionist, Cubist, world and blast the war-makers to hell in quotes, words, chords, clanged metal, and pretty pastels.

And then the war drums intensified and they, they made of ordinary human clay as it turned out, poets, artists, sculptors, writers, serious and not, musicians went to the trenches to die deathless deaths in their thousands for….            

CANADIANS


With arrows on their quarters and with numbers on their hoofs,
With the trampling sound of twenty that re-echoes in the roofs,
Low of crest and dull of coat, wan and wild of eye,
Through our English village the Canadians go by.

Shying at a passing cart, swerving from a car,
Tossing up an anxious head to flaunt a snowy star,
Racking at a Yankee gait, reaching at the rein,
Twenty raw Canadians are tasting life again!

Hollow-necked and hollow-flanked, lean of rib and hip,
Strained and sick and weary with the wallow of the ship,
Glad to smell the turf again, hear the robin's call,
Tread again the country road they lost at Montreal!

Fate may bring them dule and woe; better steeds than they
Sleep beside the English guns a hundred leagues away;
But till war hath need of them, lightly lie their reins,
Softly fall the feet of them along the English lanes.

_Will H. Ogilvie_



Markin comment   

There is no question that now that her trial, if one can called what took place down in Fort Meade a trial in the summer of 2013 rather than a travesty, that a year after her conviction on twenty plus counts and having received an outrageous thirty-five year sentence essentially for telling us the truth about American atrocities and  nefarious actions in Iraq, Afghanistan and wherever else the American government can stick its nose that Chelsea Manning's case has dropped from view. Although she occasionally gets an Op/Ed opportunity and has several legal moves going from action to get the  necessary hormonal treatments reflecting her real sexual identity to now preparing the first appeal of her conviction to another military tribunal the popular uproar against her imprisonment has become a hush. While the appeals process may produce some results, perhaps a reduction in sentence, the short way home for her is a presidential pardon right now. I urge everybody to sign on to the Amnesty International petition above to put the pressure on President Barack Obama for clemency.                   

 

I attended some of the sessions of Chelsea Manning’s court-martial in the summer of 2013 and am often asked about what she could expect from the various procedures going forward to try to “spring” her from the clutches of the American government, or as I say whenever I get the chance to not leave “our buddy behind” in the time-honored military parlance. I have usually answered depending on what stage her post-conviction case is in that her sentence was draconian by all standards for someone who did not, although they tried to pin this on her, “aid the enemy.” Certainly Judge Lind though she was being lenient with thirty-five years when the government wanted sixty (and originally more before some of the counts were consolidated). The next step was to appeal, really now that I think about it, a pro forma appeal to the commanding general of the Washington, D.C. military district where the trial was held. There were plenty of grounds to reduce the sentence but General Buchanan backed up his trial judge in the winter of 2014. Leaving Chelsea supporters right now with only the prospect of a presidential pardon to fight for as the court appeals are put together which will take some time.
The Class Struggle Continues...In Boston 

Desperately Seeking Revolutionary Intellectuals-Then, And Now

 
 
 
 
From The Pen Of Frank Jackman

Several years ago, I guess about three years now, in the aftermath of the demise of the Occupy movement with the shutting down of its campsites across the country (and the world) I wrote a short piece centered on the need for revolutionary intellectuals to take their rightful place on the left, on the people’s side, and to stop sitting on the academic sidelines (or wherever they were hiding out). One of the reasons for that piece was that in the aftermath of the demise of the Occupy movement a certain stock-taking was in order. A stock-taking at first centered on those young radical and revolutionaries that I ran into in the various campsites and on the flash mob marches who were disoriented and discouraged when their utopian dreams went up in smoke without a murmur of regret from the masses. Now a few years later it is apparent that they have, mostly, moved back to the traditional political ways of operating or have not quite finished licking their wounds.

Although I initially addressed my remarks to the activists still busy I also had in mind those intellectuals who had a radical streak but who then hovered on the sidelines and were not sure what to make of the whole experiment although some things seemed very positive like the initial camp comradery. In short, those who would come by on Sunday and take a lot of photographs and write a couple of lines but held back. Now in 2014 it is clear as day that the old economic order (capitalism if you were not quite sure what to name it) that we were fitfully protesting against (especially the banks who led the way downhill) has survived another threat to its dominance. The old political order, the way of doing political business now clearly being defended by one Barack Obama with might and main is still intact. The needs of working people although now widely discussed (the increasing gap between the rich, really the very rich, and the poor, endlessly lamented and then forgotten, the student debt death trap, and the lingering sense that most of us will never get very far ahead in this wicked old world especially compared to previous generations) have not been ameliorated. All of this calls for intellectuals with any activist spark to come forth and help analyze and plan how the masses are to survive, how a new social order can be brought forth. Nobody said, or says, that it will be easy but this is the plea. I have reposted the original piece with some editing to bring it up to date.          

*******

No, this is not a Personals section ad, although it qualifies as a Help Wanted ad in a sense. On a number of occasions over past several years, in reviewing books especially those by James P. Cannon, a founding member of the American Communist Party and the founder of the Socialist Workers Party in America, I have mentioned that building off of the work of the classical Marxists, including that of Marx and Engels themselves, and later that of Lenin and Trotsky the critical problem before the international working class in the early part of the 20th century was the question of creating a revolutionary leadership to lead imminent uprisings. Armed with Lenin’s work on the theory of the imperialist nature of the epoch and the party question and Trotsky’s on the questions of permanent revolution and revolutionary timing the tasks for revolutionaries were more than adequately defined. A century later with some tweaking, unfortunately, those same theories and the same need for organization are still on the agenda although, as Trotsky once said, the conditions are overripe for the overthrow of capitalism as it has long ago outlived its progressive character in leading humankind forward.   

The conclusion that I originally drew from that observation was that the revolutionary socialist movement was not as desperately in need of theoreticians and intellectuals as previously (although having them, and plenty of them, especially those who can write, is always a good thing). It needed leaders steeped in those theories and with a capacity to lead revolutions. We needed a few good day-to-day practical leaders, guys like Cannon, like Debs from the old Socialist Party, like Ruthenberg from the early Communist Party, to lead the fight for state power.

In that regard I have always held up, for the early part of the 20th century, the name Karl Liebknecht the martyred German Communist co-leader (along with Rosa Luxemburg) of the aborted Spartacist uprising of 1919 as such an example. He led the anti-war movement in Germany by refusing to vote for the Kaiser’s war budgets, found himself in jail as a result, but also had tremendous authority among the left-wing German workers when that mattered. In contrast the subsequent leadership of the German Communists in the 1920’s Paul Levi, Henrich Brandler and Ernest Thaelmann did not meet those qualifications. For later periods I have, as mentioned previously, held up the name James P. Cannon, founder of the American Socialist Workers Party (to name only the organization that he was most closely associated with), as a model. Not so Communist Party leaders like William Z. Foster and Earl Browder (to speak nothing of Gus Hall from our generation) or Max Shachtman in his later years after he broke with Cannon and the SWP. That basically carries us to somewhere around the middle of the 20th century. Since I have spent a fair amount of time lately going back to try to draw the lessons of our movement I have also had occasion to think, or rather to rethink my original argument on the need for revolutionary intellectuals. I find that position stands in need of some amendment now.

Let’s be clear here about our needs. The traditional Marxist idea that in order to break the logjam impeding humankind’s development the international working class must rule is still on the historic agenda. The Leninist notions that, since the early part of the 20th century, we have been in the imperialist era and that a ‘hard’ cadre revolutionary party is necessary to lead the struggle to take state power are also in play. Moreover, the Trotskyist understanding that in countries of belated development the working class is the only agency objectively capable of leading those societies to the tasks traditionally associated with the bourgeois revolution continues to hold true. That said, rather than some tweaking, we are seriously in need of revolutionary intellectuals who can bring these understandings into the 21st century.

It is almost a political truism that each generation will find its own ways to cope with the political tasks that confront it. The international working class movement is no exception in that regard. Moreover, although the general outlines of Marxist theory mentioned above hold true such tasks as the updating of the theory of imperialism to take into account the qualitative leap in its globalization is necessary (as is, as an adjunct to that, the significance of the gigantic increases in the size of the ‘third world’ proletariat). Also in need of freshening up is work on the contours of revolutionary political organization in the age of high speed communications, the increased weight that non-working class specific questions play in world politics (the national question which if anything has had a dramatic uptick since the demise of the Soviet Union), religion (the almost universal trend for the extremes of religious expression to rear their ugly heads which needs to be combated), special racial and gender oppressions, and various other tasks that earlier generations had taken for granted or had not needed to consider. All this moreover has to be done in a political environment that sees Marxism, communism, even garden variety reform socialism as failed experiments. To address all the foregoing issues is where my call for a new crop of revolutionary intellectuals comes from.

Since the mid- 20th century we have had no lack of practical revolutionary leaders of one sort or another - one thinks of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and even Mao in his less rabid moments. We have witnessed any number of national liberation struggles, a few attempts at political revolution against Stalinism, a few military victories against imperialism, notably the Vietnamese struggle. But mainly this has been an epoch of defeats for the international working class. Moreover, we have not even come close to developing theoretical leaders of the statue of Lenin or Trotsky.

As a case in point, recently I made some commentary about the theory of student power in the 1960’s and its eventual refutation by the May 1968 General Strike lead by the working class in France. One of the leading lights for the idea that students were the “new” working class or a “new” vanguard was one Ernest Mandel. Mandel held himself out to be an orthodox Marxist (and Trotskyist, to boot) but that did not stop him from, periodically, perhaps daily, changing the focus of his work away from the idea of the centrality of the working class in social struggle an idea that goes back to the days of Marx himself.

And Mandel, a brilliant well-spoken erudite scholar probably was not the worst of the lot. The problem is that he was the problem with his impressionistic theories based on, frankly, opportunistic impulses. Another example, from that same period, was the idea of Professor Regis Debray (in the service of Fidel at the time ) that guerrilla foci out in the hills were the way forward ( a codification of the experience of the Cuban Revolution for which many subjective revolutionary paid dearly with their lives). Or the anti-Marxist Maoist notion that the countryside would defeat the cities that flamed the imagination of many Western radicals in the late 1960s. I could go on with more examples but they only lead to one conclusion- we are, among other things, in a theoretical trough. The late Mandel’s students from the 1960s have long gone on to academia and the professions (and not an inconsiderable few in governmental harness-how the righteous have fallen). Debray’s guerilla foci have long ago buried their dead and gone back to the cities. The “cities” of the world now including to a great extent China had broken the third world countryside. This, my friends, is why today I have my Help Wanted sign out. Any takers?

 

The Class Struggle Continues...In Boston 

From The Marxist Archives- In Honor Of The 97th Anniversary Of The Russian October Revolution- 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)

 **********
In Defense Of The October Russian Revolution Of 1917- Comrade Markham’s Tale-Take One

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman  




 
Comrade Markham had been born a “red diaper baby.” I will explain what that means in a minute but first to that Comrade Markham moniker. That name is the only name I have known him by ever since I ran into him at an anti-war planning session over in Cambridge a couple of years back, back in the fall of 2012, when we were trying, people like Comrade Markham, the guys from Veterans for Peace, guys and gals from some socialist groups and the usual Quakers, traditional peace activists who always sign on to these efforts, to organize against the latest governmental war cries. Although the previous decade or so had seen anti-war mobilizations, great and small, mainly small, this session was planning a rally to oppose President Obama’s then latest attempt to intervene in the civil war in Syria. Comrade Markham, then eighty-seven years old and still trying to change this wicked old world for the better rather than sitting in some assisted living hellhole wasting away, had introduced himself to the group under that moniker and although I had not seen him around before, had no sense of his history then, others greeted and addressed him by that name without a snicker.

 

Of course as I found out later that moniker was not his real name but had been the one that he had used in his long-time membership in the old American Communist Party, not the current version which is kind of out in limbo, but the one that we who came of age in the 1960s had cut our teeth on as the great “red menace,” who were taking “Moscow gold,” taking Stalin and his progeny’s gold,  in order to undermine the American way of life and so we had to be ever vigilant in the red scare Cold War night. He had used the name so long that he knew no other to be called and in my associations with him as he told me his story that is what I always called him. Someday I suppose we will find out his real name but his story, an unusual American story, is what matters and what will be forever his memorial.

 

But back to that “red diaper baby” designation I promised to tell you about. Now I had heard that designation before, back in the late 1960s when Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was cutting a big swath through the political landscape, especially among students. A fair number of the emerging leaders had had parents who belonged to the Communist Party or some other left-wing organization and were not like many of us the first generation of radicals in our families. Thus the red diaper baby designation which in some cases gave those who had grown up in that political milieu an unwarranted standing based on some usually long past affiliation by their now bourgeois parents. What made Comrade Markham unique in my experience is that he was a red diaper baby from parents who had helped establish the Communist Party in America back around 1920 (or one of the two but that story of the hows and whys of two are beyond what I want to tell you about here except in passing).

 

That thread of history intrigued me, his whole story intrigued me as I pieced it together, and so after a couple of those planning sessions I asked him to sit down with me wherever he liked and tell me his story. We did so in several sessions most of them held in the Boston Public Library where he liked go and check out books, magazines and newspapers about the old days, about the time of his activist political prime. What I did not expect to get was an almost chemically pure defense of the Soviet Union, of the Soviet experience, through thick and thin until the end in 1990 or so. That is why his story appears here as a running personal commentary on this 97th anniversary year of the Russian October Revolution of 1917.