Saturday, November 29, 2014

Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night, Christ The Heart Of Any Night-The Songs of Tom Waits-Take Five

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin

A YouTube film clip of Tom Waits performing Looking For The Heart Of Saturday Night

If you, as I do, every once in a while, every once in a while when the norms of the today’s bourgeois-driven push, you know grab goods, grab the dough, grab some shelter from the storm, the storm that these days comes down like a hard rain falling, to get ahead in this wicked old world have to step back and take stock, maybe listen to some words of wisdom, or words that help explain how you got into that mess then you have come to the right address. Okay, okay on that bourgeois-driven today thing  maybe going back further to Calvinist Puritan avenging angels times with John Winthrop and the Mayflower boys but you best ask Max Weber about that since he tried to hook the boys to the wheel of the capitalist profit, profit for you at the expense of me, system with the new dispensation coming out like hellfire from Geneva and points east and west. But you get the point.

If all that to-ing and fro-ing (nice touch, right) leaves you wondering where you fell off the edge, that edge city (edge city where you danced around with all the conventions of the days, danced around the get ahead world with blinkers on) where big cloud outrageous youthful dreams were dreamt and you took risks, damn did you take risks, thought nothing of that fact either, landed on your ass more than a few time but just picked yourself up and dusted your knees off and done stick around and listen up. Yeah, so if you are wondering,  have been pushed off your saintly wheels, yeah, pushed you off your sainted wheels, and gotten yourself  into some angst-ridden despair about where you went off that angel-driven dream of your youth, now faded, tattered, and half- forgotten(but only half, only half, the wisp of the dream, the eternal peace dream, the figuring out how to contain that fire, that wanting habits fire in your belly dream sisters and brothers), and need some solace (need some way to stop the fret counting the coffee cups that while away your life), need to reach back to roots (reach back to roots that the 1950s golden age of America kicked the ass out of to make us crave oneness, to forget about those old immigrant customs, made us forget that simple country blues, mountain breeze songs, cowboy ballads, Tex-Mex, Cajun Saturday night that make the people feel good times), reach back to the primeval forest maybe, put the headphones on some Tom Waits platter (oops, CD, YouTube selection, etc.- “platter” refers to a, ah, record, vinyl, put on a record player, hell, look it up in Wikipedia, okay) and remember what it was like when men and women sang just to sing the truth of what they saw and heard.


If the norms of don’t rock the boat (not in these uncertain times like any times in human existence were certain, damn, there was always something coming up from the first man-eating beast to the human race-eating nuclear bombs), the norms of keep your head down (that’s right brother, that’s right sister keep looking down, no left or rights for your placid world), keeping your head down being an art form now with appropriate ritual (that ritual looking more and more like the firing squad that took old Juan Romero’s life when he did bad those days out in Utah country), and excuses, because, well, because you don’t want to wind up like them (and fill in the blank of the “them,” usually dark, very dark like some deathless, starless night disturbing your sleep, begging, I swear, begging you to put that gun in full view on the table,   speaking some unknown language, maybe A-rab, maybe gibberish for all you know, moving furtively and stealthily against your good night) drive you crazy and you need, desperately need, to listen to those ancient drum beats, those primeval forest leave droppings maybe, that old time embedded DNA coda long lost to, oh yes, civilization, to some civilizing mission (think of that Mayflower gang or ask Max Weber), that spoke of the better angels of your nature when those angel dreams, half-forgotten but only half remember, ruled your days. Turn up the volume up another notch or two on that Tom Waits selection, maybe Jersey Girl or Brother, Can You Spare A Dime (can you?), Hold On, or Gunn Street Girl.


If you need to hear things, just to sort things out, just to recapture that angel-edge, recapture the time when you did no fear, you and everybody else’s sisters and brothers, that thing you build and from which you now should run, recapture that child-like wonder that made you come alive, made you think about from whence you came and how a turn, a slight turn this way or that, could have landed you on the wrong side. And I have the list of brothers and sisters who took that wrong road, when he wound up face down in some dusty back road arroyo down Sonora way when the deal went bust or when she, maybe a little kinky for all I know, decided that she would try a needle and a spoon, I swear, or she swore just for kicks and she wound up in Madame LaRue’s whorehouse working that bed to perdition, hey, sweet dreams baby I tried to tell you when you play with fire, watch out.

So if you need to sort things out about boozers (and about titanic booze-crazed struggles in barrooms, on beaches, in the back seats of cars, lost in the mist of time down some crazed midnight, hell, four in the morning, penniless, cab fare-less night), losers (those who have lost their way, gotten it taken away from them like some maiden virginity), those who never had anything but lost, not those who never had a way to be lost, dopesters inhaling, in solitary hotel rooms among junkie brethren, gathering a needle and spoon in some subterranean dank cellar, down in dark alleys jack-rolling some poor drunk stiff out of his room rent for kicks (how uncool to drink low-shelf whiskeys or rotgut wines hell the guy deserved to be rolled, should feel lucky he got away with just a flipped wallet), out in nighttime canyons flame blaring off the walls, the seven seas of chemical dust, mainly blotter, maybe peyote (the sweet dreams of ten million years of ghost warriors working the canyon walls flickering against the campfire flames) if that earth angel connection comes through (Aunt Sally, always, some Aunt Sally coming up the stairs to ease the pain, to make one feel, no, not feel, better than any AMA doctor without a prescription pad), creating visions of long lost tribes trying, trying like hell, to get “connected,” connected in the campfire shadow night, hipsters (all dressed in black, mary mack dressed in black, speeding, speaking be-bop this and be-bop that to stay in fashion, hustling, always hustle, maybe pimping some street urchin, maybe cracking some guy’s head to create a “new world order” of the malignant, always moving), fallen sisters (sisters of mercy, sisters who need mercy, sisters who were mercifully made fallen in some mad dash night, merciful sister feed me, feed me good), midnight sifters (lifting in no particular order hubcaps, tires, wrenches, jacks, an occasional gem, some cheap jewelry in wrong neighborhoods, some paintings or whatever is not saleable left in some sneak back alley, it is the sifting that counts), grifters (hey, buddy watch this, now you see it, now you don’t, now you don’t see your long gone John dough, and Mister three card Monte long gone too ), drifters (here today gone tomorrow with or without dough, to Winnemucca, Ogden, Fresno, Frisco town, name your town, name your poison and the great big blue seas washing you clean out into the Japans ), the drift-less (cramped into one room hovels, shelters, seedy rooming houses afraid to stay in-doors or to go outside, afraid of the “them” too, afraid to be washed clean, angel clean), and small-time grafters (the ten-percent guys, failed insurance men, repo artists, bounty hunters, press agents, personal trainers, need I go on). You know where to look, right.

If you need to be refreshed on the subject of hoboes, bums, tramps (and remind me sometime to draw the distinction, the very real and acknowledged distinction between those three afore –mentioned classes of brethren once told to me by a forlorn grand master hobo, a guy down on his luck moving downward to bum), out in the railroad jungles in some Los Angeles ravine, some Gallup, New Mexico Southern Pacific  trestle (the old SP the only way to travel out west if you want to get west), some Hoboken broken down pier (ha, shades of the last page of Jack Kerouac’s classic), the fallen (fallen outside the gates of Eden, or, hell, inside too), those who want to fall (and let god figure out who made who fall, okay), Spanish Johnnies (slicked back black hair, tee shirt, shiv, cigarette butt hanging from a parted lip, belt buckle ready for action, leering, leering at that girl over there, some gringa for a change of pace, maybe your girl but watch out for that shiv, the bastard), stale cigarette butts (from Spanish Johnnie and all the johnnies, Camels, Luckies, no filters, no way), whiskey-soaked barroom floors (and whiskey-soaked drunks to mop the damn place up, for drinks and donuts, maybe just for the drinks), loners (jesus, books, big academic books with great pedigrees could be written on that subject so let’s just pass by), the lonely (ditto loners), sad sacks (kindred, one hundred times kindred to the loners and the lonely but not worthy of study, academic study anyway), the sad (encompassing all of the above) and others at the margins of society, the whole fellahin world, then Tom Waits is your stop.

Tom Waits is, frankly, an acquired taste, one listen will not do, one song will not do, but listen to a whole record (CD okay) and you won’t want to turn the thing off, high praise in anyone’s book, so a taste well worth acquiring as he storms heaven in words, in thought-out words, in cribbed, cramped, crumbled words, to express the pain, angst and anguish of modern living, yes, modern living, looking for busted black-hearted angels (who left him short one night in some unnamed, maybe nameless, gin mill), for girls with Monroe hips (swaying wickedly in the dead air night, and flaming desire, hell lust, getting kicked out of proper small town hells (by descendants of those aforementioned Mayflower boys promising the world for one forbidden night), get real, and left for dead with cigar wrapping rings, for the desperate out in forsaken woods who need to hold on to something, and for all the misbegotten. 

Tom Waits gives voice in song, a big task, to the kind of characters that peopled Nelson Algren’s novels (The Last Carousel, Neon Wilderness, Walk on the Wild Side, and The Man with the Golden Arm). The, frankly, white trash Dove Linkhorns of the world, genetically broken before they begin, broken before they hit these shores (their forbears thrown out of Europe for venal crimes and lusts, damn them, the master-less men and women, ask old Max about them too), having been chased out, cast out of Europe, or some such place. In short, the people who do not make revolutions, those revolutions we keep hearing and reading about, the wretched of the earth and their kin, far from it, but those who surely, and desperately could use one. If, additionally, you need a primordial grizzled gravelly voice to attune your ear and occasional dissonant instrumentation to round out the picture go no further. Finally, if you need someone who “feels your pain” for his characters you are home. Keep looking for the heart of Saturday night, Brother, keep looking.


The Promise of a Socialist Society

(Quote of the Week)

Workers Vanguard No. 1025
31 May 2013


The Promise of a Socialist Society
(Quote of the Week)
In the selection below, Friedrich Engels makes plain how proletarian revolution opens the road to an emancipated future in which the productive powers of humanity are unleashed for the benefit of all mankind.

Their political and intellectual bankruptcy is scarcely any longer a secret to the bourgeoisie themselves. Their economic bankruptcy recurs regularly every ten years. In every crisis, society is suffocated beneath the weight of its own productive forces and products, which it cannot use, and stands helpless face to face with the absurd contradiction that the producers have nothing to consume, because consumers are wanting. The expansive force of the means of production bursts the bonds that the capitalist mode of production had imposed upon them.

Their deliverance from these bonds is the one precondition for an unbroken, constantly accelerated development of the productive forces, and therewith for a practically unlimited increase of production itself....

With the seizing of the means of production by society, production of commodities is done away with, and, simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer. Anarchy in social production is replaced by systematic, definite organisation. The struggle for individual existence disappears.... Man’s own social organisation, hitherto confronting him as a necessity imposed by nature and history, now becomes the result of his own free action. The extraneous objective forces that have hitherto governed history pass under the control of man himself. Only from that time will man himself, with full consciousness, make his own history—only from that time will the social causes set in movement by him have, in the main and in a constantly growing measure, the results intended by him. It is humanity’s leap from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.

To accomplish this act of universal emancipation is the historical mission of the modern proletariat. To thoroughly comprehend the historical conditions and thus the very nature of this act, to impart to the now oppressed class a full knowledge of the conditions and of the meaning of the momentous act it is called upon to accomplish, this is the task of the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement, scientific socialism.

—Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring (1878)
As Isaac Deutscher said in his speech “On Socialist Man” (1966):
“We do not maintain that socialism is going to solve all predicaments of the human race. We are struggling in the first instance with the predicaments that are of man’s making and that man can resolve. May I remind you that Trotsky, for instance, speaks of three basic tragedies—hunger, sex and death—besetting man. Hunger is the enemy that Marxism and the modern labour movement have taken on.... Yes, socialist man will still be pursued by sex and death; but we are convinced that he will be better equipped than we are to cope even with these.” 
Emblazon on our red banner-Labor and the oppressed must rule!

Birthday Vigil for Chelsea Manning

November 17, 2014 by Chelsea Manning Support Network

On Chelsea Manning’s 27th birthday, this December 17th 2014, the Payday Men’s Network and Queer Strike are organizing vigils in her honor. Currently, actions are planned for London, San Francisco, Berlin, and Philadelphia.

Supporters are encouraged to also organize an event in their area, and Payday Men’s Network and Queer Strike will publicize it.  Write to for more information and to share details of your event.

London vigil details:

2:30-4:00 PM Tuesday, December 17
On the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields
Trafalgar Square, WC2N 4JJ Charing Cross

(St. Martin’s request that vigils on the steps are silent)
Details on other locations TBA – Check back for more info.

From Payday Men’s Network & Queer Strike on the vigils:
Imprisoned in 2010 and held for months under torturous conditions, Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in August 2013. If this stands, she’ll be out in 2045. We cannot let this happen

Peace & Planet
No Nukes! No Wars! No Warming!

Boston Area Organizing Meeting

Tuesday, Dec. 2, 7:00 pm
Encuentro 5

9A Hamilton Place, Boston
Across from Park Street T
Joseph Gerson, American Friends Service Committee
Elaine Scarry, Harvard University, author, Thermonuclear Monarchy

YOU can make a difference!

The United States, U.K., Russia, China and France long ago signed onto a commitment to negotiate the elimination of their nuclear weapons, but after 44 years this group has yet to hold its first meeting.

April 27, 2015 is when the nations of the world meet at the UN to determine what -- if anything -- can be done to compel the U.S. and other nuclear weapons states to adhere to their commitments.

Between now and May, U.S. and international advocates urging the elimination of nuclear weapons by the U.S. and the other nuclear weapons states will be building a campaign of mass participation in events related to the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.

A world free of the threat of nuclear devastation starts with elimination of the U.S. and other nuclear arsenals.

April 24-26, 2015
New York City

• An international peace, justice and environmental conference – April 24 & 25
• A major international rally, march to the United Nations and peace festival – April 26

Will you help us make it happen by joining us in New York City to press the U.S. and other nuclear states to start negotiating?  Sign up today!

Questions? Comments?Contact me at Massachusetts Peace Action,, 617-354-2169!

Guntram Mueller Yours for peace,
Guntram Mueller
Nuclear Abolition Chair 

Join Massachusetts Peace Action - or renew your membership today!  
Dues are $40/year for an individual, $65 for a family, or $10 for student/unemployed/low income.  Members vote for leadership and endorsements, receive newsletters and discounts on event admissions.  Donate now and you will be a member in good standing through December 2015!  Your financial support makes this work possible!

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Massachusetts Peace Action, 11 Garden St., Cambridge, MA 02138
The Wars Abroad, the Wars at Home

Martin Luther King: “The bombs that are falling [overseas] are exploding in our cities”
DPPer Denise Zwahlen attended the Boston Ferguson protest this week and shared the following:
Who knows exactly how many of us gathered at Dudley Square to protest the verdict, 2000 or so. Very diverse crowd but with Young Black people in great part setting the tone. We arrived late at the event and first saw a crowd in the dark and total silence, 4 and a half minutes, in recognition of Mike Brown. Amazing sight and feeling.
What I thought was most meaningful and powerful about the event was the March and the Stand Out in front of South Bay House of Correction. There was a long exchange of messages without words from the part of the detainees, just switching lights off and on, raising their arms and waving and chanting of "Let them out" from the part of the crowd. For many young Black men, they don't face immediate death like Mike Brown, but a slow one at the hand of the Criminal Justice System.


MICHELLE ALEXANDER: Telling My Son About Ferguson

For the past few years, I have traveled from coast to coast speaking to just about anyone who will listen about the horrors of our criminal injustice system. I have written and lectured extensively about the wars that have been declared on poor communities of color — the “war on crime” and the “war on drugs” — the militarization of our police forces, the school-to-prison pipeline, the millions stripped of basic civil and human rights, a penal system unprecedented in world history. Yet here I am, on Monday evening, before the announcement about the grand jury’s decision has been made, speechless… As a civil rights lawyer, I know all too well that Officer Wilson will not be going to trial or to jail. The system is legally rigged so that poor people guilty of relatively minor crimes are regularly sentenced to decades behind bars while police officers who kill unarmed black men almost never get charged, much less serve time in prison.  More


Rev. JESSE JACKSON: From Dred Scott to Michael Brown

The issue is not the protests that will follow. The issue is the lack of Federal uplift of the community. The issue is the lack of Federal enforcement of the law. The issue is that Ferguson’s police & fire departments do not represent the people, yet they receive Federal funds. Ferguson’s police department, fire department and contracts issued are all subsidized by the Federal government – including the equipment that will be used to put down the protests – yet there is not enforcement of the law. Ferguson and St. Louis are under military occupation & martial law.  More


Race inequality between US Whites and African-Americans by the Numbers

With regard to employment, African-Americans got hit harder by the Bush Depression than did whites, and jobs have not come back for them at nearly the same rate… This vast difference between Euro-American and African-American rates of employment holds true regardless of educational level; college-educated African-Americans are also twice as likely to be unemployed as whites with the same level of education…  On the other hand, although African-Americans are disproportionately likely to be poor, they are only a quarter of Americans living in poverty; whites make up about 41% of the poor.   More


Think riots have never caused change in America? Think again

In a number of cases, the crisis caused by riots and property destruction has had a significant role in forcing authorities to respond to demands for political change. And even some of America’s most iconic “nonviolent” movements included moments of destruction and chaos not unlike that which occurred in Ferguson following the grand jury decision…  While Dr. King never advocated violent and destructive behavior, he also said it would be “morally irresponsible” to condemn riots “without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society.”  “These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention,” King said in a 1968 speech. “And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard.”    More

*   *   *   * A Native American View

Since that initial sharing, Native American food has spread around the world. Nearly 70 percent of all crops grown today were originally cultivated by Native American peoples. I sometimes wonder what they ate in Europe before they met us. Spaghetti without tomatoes? Meat and potatoes without potatoes? And at the "first Thanksgiving" the Wampanoags provided most of the food -- and signed a treaty granting Pilgrims the right to the land at Plymouth, the real reason for the first Thanksgiving. What did the Europeans give in return? Within 20 years European disease and treachery had decimated the Wampanoags… when I give thanks this Thursday and I cook my native food, I will be thinking of this hidden heart and how my ancestors survived the evil it caused. Because if we can survive, with our ability to share and to give intact, then the evil and the good will that met that Thanksgiving day in the land of the Wampanoag will have come full circle.And the healing can begin.   More


The disinformation process about the first Thanksgiving (and the successor long weekend that follows every fourth Thursday of November in the U.S.) has been designed to absolve our ancestors of guilt for the cruel bloodbaths that were perpetrated in their names by obedient soldiers against the militarily weaker aboriginals, a pattern that has been repeated against many weaker nations all around the world throughout our history.   More

From The Marxist Archives- In Honor Of The 97th Anniversary Of The Russian October Revolution- V. I. Lenin On The Lessons Of The Russian Revolution (1917)




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.

Lessons of the Revolution

Written: The article was written at the end of July, the Afterword on September 6 (19), 1917
Published: The article was published on September 12 and 13 (August 30 and 31), 1917, in the newspaper Rabochy Nos. 8 and 9. The Afterword was published in 1917 in the pamphlet: N. Lenin, Lessons of the Revolution, Priboi Publishers. Signed: N–kov in No. 8 and N. Lenin in No. 9.
Source: Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1977, Moscow, Volume 25, pages 227-243.
Transcription\Markup: D. Walters and C. Farrell
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive.   2000 You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work, as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.
Other Formats:   TextREADME

Every revolution means a sharp turn in the lives of a vast number of people. Unless the time is ripe for such a turn, no real revolution can take place. And just as any turn in the life of an individual teaches him a great deal and brings rich experience and great emotional stress, so a revolution teaches an entire people very rich and valuable lessons in a short space of time.

During a revolution, millions and tens of millions of people learn in a week more than they do in a year of ordinary, somnolent life. For at the time of a sharp turn in the life of an entire people it becomes particularly clear what aims the various classes of the people are pursuing, what strength they possess, and what methods they use.

Every class-conscious worker, soldier and peasant should ponder thoroughly over the lessons of the Russian revolution, especially now, at the end of July, when it is clear that the first phase of our revolution has failed.


Let us see, in fact, what the workers and peasants were striving for when they made the revolution. What did they expect of the revolution? As we know, they expected liberty, peace, bread and land.

But what do we see now?

Instead of liberty, the old tyranny is coming back. The death penalty is being introduced for the soldiers at the front.[2] Peasants are prosecuted for the unauthorised seizure of landed estates. Printing presses of workers’ newspapers are wrecked. Workers’ newspapers are closed down without trial. Bolsheviks are arrested, often without any charge or upon blatantly trumped-up charges.

It may be argued that the persecution of Bolsheviks does not constitute a violation of freedom, for only certain individuals are being prosecuted and on certain charges. Such an argument, however, would be a deliberate and obvious lie; for how can anyone wreck printing presses and close down newspapers for the crimes of individuals, even if these charges were proved and established by a court of law? It would be a different thing if the government had legally declared the whole party of the Bolsheviks, their very trend and views, to be criminal. But everybody knows that the government of free Russia could not, and did not, do anything of the kind.

What chiefly exposes the libelous character of the charges against the Bolsheviks is that the newspapers of the landowners and capitalists furiously abused the Bolsheviks for their struggle against the war and against the landowners and capitalists, and openly demanded the arrest and prosecution of the Bolsheviks even when not a single charge against a single Bolshevik had been trumped up.

The people want peace. Yet the revolutionary government of free Russia has resumed the war of conquest on the basis of those very same secret treaties which ex-Tsar Nicholas II concluded with the British and French capitalists so that the Russian capitalists might plunder other nations. Those secret treaties remain unpublished. The government of free Russia resorted to subterfuges, and to this day has not proposed a just peace to all nations.

There is no bread. Famine is again drawing near. Everybody sees that the capitalists and the rich are unscrupulously cheating the treasury on war deliveries (the war is now costing the nation fifty million rubles daily), that they are raking in fabulous profits through high prices, while nothing whatsoever has been done to establish effective control by the workers over the production and distribution of goods. The capitalists are becoming more brazen every day; they are throwing workers out into the street, and this at a time when the people are suffering from shortages.

A vast majority of the peasants, at congress after congress, have loudly and clearly declared that landed proprietorship is an injustice and robbery. Meanwhile, a   government which calls itself revolutionary and democratic has been leading peasants by the nose for months and deceiving them by promises and delays. For months the capitalists did not allow Minister Chernov to issue a law prohibiting the purchase and sale of land. And when this law was finally passed, the capitalists started a foul slander campaign against Chernov, which they are still continuing. The government has become so brazen in its defense of the landowners that it is beginning to bring peasants to trial for “unauthorised” seizures of land.

They are leading the peasants by the nose, telling them to wait for the Constituent Assembly. The convocation of the Assembly, however, is being steadily postponed by the capitalists. Now that owing to Bolshevik pressure it has been set for September 30, the capitalists are openly clamouring about this being “impossibly” short notice, and are demanding the Constituent Assembly’s postponement. The most influential members of the capitalist and landowner party, the “Cadet”, or "people’s freedom", Party, such as Panina, are openly urging that the convocation of the Constituent Assembly be delayed until after the war.

As to land, wait until the Constituent Assembly. As to the Constituent Assembly, wait until the end of the war. As to the end of the war, wait until complete victory. That is what it comes to. The capitalists and landowners, having a majority in the government, are plainly mocking at the peasants.


But how could this happen in a free country, after the overthrow of the tsarist regime?

In a non-free country, the people are ruled by a tsar and a handful of landowners, capitalists and bureaucrats who are not elected by anybody.

In a free country, the people are ruled only by those who have been elected for that purpose by the people themselves. At the elections the people divide themselves into parties, and as a rule each class of the population forms its own party; for instance, the landowners, the capitalists, the peasants and the workers all form separate parties. In free countries, therefore, the people are ruled through an   open struggle between parties and by free agreement between these parties.

For about four months after the overthrow of the tsarist regime on February 27, 1917, Russia was ruled as a free country, i.e., through an open struggle between freely formed parties and by free agreement between them. To understand the development of the Russian revolution, therefore, it is above all necessary to study the chief parties, the class interests they defended, and the relations among them all.


After the overthrow of the tsarist regime state power passed into the hands of the first Provisional Government, consisting of representatives of the bourgeoisie, i.e., the capitalists, who were joined by the landowners. The “Cadet” Party, the chief capitalist party, held pride of place as the ruling and government party of the bourgeoisie.

It was no accident this party secured power, although it was not the capitalists, of course, but the workers and peasants, the soldiers and sailors, who fought the tsarist troops and shed their blood for liberty. Power was secured by the capitalist party because the capitalist class possessed the power of wealth, organisation and knowledge. Since 1905, and particularly during the war, the class of the capitalists, and the landowners associated with them, have made in Russia the greatest progress in organising.

The Cadet Party has always been monarchist, both in 1905 and from 1905 to 1917. After the people’s victory over tsarist tyranny it proclaimed itself a republican party. The experience of history shows that whenever the people triumphed over a monarchy, capitalist parties were willing to become republican as long as they could uphold the privileges of the capitalists and their unlimited power over the people.

The Cadet Party pays lip-service to "people’s freedom". But actually it stands for the capitalists, and it was immediately backed by all the landowners, monarchists and Black Hundreds. The press and the elections are proof of this. After the revolution, all the bourgeois papers and the whole Black Hundred press began to sing in unison with the   Cadets. Not daring to come out openly, all the monarchist parties supported the Cadet Party at the elections, as, for example, in Petrograd.

Having obtained state power, the Cadets made every effort to continue the predatory war of conquest begun by Tsar Nicholas II, who had concluded secret predatory treaties with the British and French capitalists. Under these treaties, the Russian capitalists were promised, in the event of victory, the seizure of Constantinople, Galicia, Armenia, etc. As to the people, the government of the Cadets put them off with empty subterfuges and promises, deferring the decision of all matters of vital and essential importance to the workers and peasants until the Constituent Assembly met, without appointing the date of its convocation.

Making use of liberty, the people began to organise independently. The chief organisation of the workers and peasants, who form the overwhelming majority of the population of Russia, was the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies. These Soviets already began to be formed during the February Revolution, and within a few weeks all class-conscious and advanced workers and peasants were united in Soviets in most of the larger cities of Russia and in many rural districts.

The Soviets were elected in an absolutely free way. They were genuine organisations of the people, of the workers and peasants. They were genuine organisations of the vast majority of the people. The workers and peasants in soldiers’ uniforms were armed.

It goes without saying that the Soviets could and should have taken over state power in full. Pending the convocation of the Constituent Assembly there should have been no other power in the state but the Soviets. Only then would our revolution have become a truly popular and truly democratic revolution. Only then could the working people, who are really striving for peace, and who really have no interest in a war of conquest, have begun firmly and resolutely to carry out a policy which would have ended the war of conquest and led to peace. Only then could the workers and peasants have curbed the capitalists, who are making fabulous profits “from the war" and who have reduced the   country to a state of ruin and starvation. But in the Soviets only a minority of the deputies were on the side of the revolutionary workers’ party, the Bolshevik Social Democrats, who demanded that all state power should be transferred to the Soviets. The majority of the deputies to the Soviets were on the side of the parties of the Menshevik Social-Democrats and the Socialist-Revolutionaries, who were opposed to the transfer of power to the Soviets. Instead of removing the bourgeois government and replacing it by a government of the Soviets, these parties insisted on supporting the bourgeois government, compromising with it and forming a coalition government with it. This policy of compromise with the bourgeoisie pursued by the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties, who enjoyed the confidence of the majority of the people, is the main content of the entire course of development of the revolution during the five months since it began.


Let us first see how this compromising of the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks with the bourgeoisie proceeded, and then let us try to explain why the majority of the people trusted them.


The Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries have compromised with the capitalists in one way or another at every stage of the Russian revolution.

At the very close of February 1917, as soon as the people had triumphed and the tsarist regime had been overthrown, the capitalist Provisional Government admitted Kerensky as a “socialist”. As a matter of fact, Kerensky has never been a socialist; he was only a Trudovik,[3] and he enlisted himself with the “Socialist-Revolutionaries” only in March 1917, when it was already safe and quite profitable to do so. Through Kerensky, as Deputy Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet, the capitalist Provisional Government immediately set about gaining control of and taming the Soviet. The Soviet, i.e., the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks who predominated in it, allowed itself to be   tamed, agreeing immediately after the formation of the capitalist Provisional Government to "support it" – "to the extent" that it carried out its promises.

The Soviet regarded itself as a body verifying and exercising control over the activities of the Provisional Government. The leaders of the Soviet established what was known as a Contact Commission to keep in touch with the government.[4] Within that Contact Commission, the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik leaders of the Soviet held continuous negotiations with the capitalist government, holding, properly speaking, the status of Ministers without portfolio or unofficial Ministers.

This state of affairs lasted throughout March and almost the whole of April. Seeking to gain time, the capitalists resorted to delays and subterfuges. Not a single step of any importance to further the revolution was taken by the capitalist government during this period. It did absolutely nothing even to further its direct and immediate task, the convocation of the Constituent Assembly; it did not submit the question to the localities or even set up a central commission to handle the preparations. The government was concerned with only one thing, namely, surreptitiously renewing the predatory international treaties concluded by the tsar with the capitalists of Britain and France, thwarting the revolution as cautiously and quietly as possible, and promising everything without fulfilling any of its promises. The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks in the Contact Commission acted like simpletons who were fed on fancy phrases, promises, and more promises. Like the crow in the fable, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks succumbed to flattery and listened with pleasure to the assurances of the capitalists that they valued the Soviets highly and did not take a single step without them.

But time passed and the capitalist government did absolutely nothing for the revolution. On the contrary, during this period it managed, to the detriment of the revolution, to renew the secret predatory treaties, or, rather, to reaffirm them and “vitalise” them by supplementary and no less secret negotiations with Anglo-French imperialist diplomats. During this period it managed, to the detriment of the revolution, to lay the foundations of a counter-revolutionary   organisation of (or at least of a rapprochement among) the generals and officers in the army in the field. To the detriment of the revolution it managed to start the organisation of industrialists, of factory-owners, who, under the onslaught of the workers, were compelled to make concession after concession, but who at the same time began to sabotage (damage) production and prepare to bring it to a standstill when the opportunity came.

However, the organisation of the advanced workers and peasants in the Soviets made steady progress. The foremost representatives of the oppressed classes felt that, in spite of the agreement between the government and the Petrograd Soviet, in spite of Kerensky’s pompous talk, in spite of the "Contact Commission", the government remained an enemy of the people, an enemy of the revolution. The people felt that unless the resistance of the capitalists was broken, the cause of peace, liberty and the revolution, would inevitably be lost. The impatience and bitterness of the people kept on growing.


It burst out on April 20–21. The movement flared up spontaneously; nobody had cleared the ground for it. The movement was so markedly directed against the government that one regiment even appeared fully armed at the Marinsky Palace to arrest the ministers. It became perfectly obvious to everybody that the government could not retain power. The Soviets could (and should) have taken over power with out meeting the least resistance from any quarter. Instead, the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks supported the collapsing capitalist government, entangled themselves even further in compromises with it and took steps that were even more fatal to the revolution, that tended to lead to its doom.

Revolution enlightens all classes with a rapidity and thoroughness unknown in normal, peaceful times. The capitalists, better organised and more experienced than anybody else in matters of class struggle and politics, learnt their lesson quicker than the others. Realising that the government’s position was hopeless, they resorted to a method which for many decades, ever since 1848, has been practised   by the capitalists of other countries in order to fool, divide and weaken the workers. This method is known as a “coalition” government, i.e., a joint cabinet formed of members of the bourgeoisie and turncoats from socialism.

In countries where freedom and democracy have long existed side by side with a revolutionary labour movement, in Britain and France, the capitalists have repeatedly and very successfully resorted to this method. When the “socialist” leaders entered a bourgeois cabinet, they invariably proved to be figureheads, puppets, screens for the capitalists, instruments for deceiving the workers. The "democratic and republican" capitalists of Russia resorted to this very method. The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks let themselves be fooled at once, and the “coalition” cabinet, joined by Chernov, Tsereteli and Co., became a fact on May 6.

The simpletons of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties were jubilant and fatuously bathed in the rays of the ministerial glory of their leaders. The capitalists gleefully rubbed their hands at having found helpers against the people in the persons of the "leaders of the Soviets" and at having secured their promise to support "offensive operations at the front", i.e., a resumption of the imperialist predatory war, which had come to a standstill for a while. The capitalists were well aware of the puffed-up impotence of these leaders, they knew that the promises of the bourgeoisie – regarding control over production, and even the organisation of production, regarding a peace policy, and so forth – would never be fulfilled.

And so it turned out. The second phase in the development of the revolution, May 6 to June 9, or June 18, fully corroborated the expectations of the capitalists as to the ease with which the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks could be fooled.

While Peshekhonov and Skobelev were deceiving themselves and the people with florid speeches to the effect that one hundred per cent of the profits of the capitalists would be taken away from them, that their "resistance was broken", and so forth, the capitalists continued to consolidate their position. Nothing, absolutely nothing, was undertaken during this period to curb the capitalists. The ministerial turncoats from socialism proved to be mere talking machines   for distracting the attention of the oppressed classes, while the entire apparatus of state administration actually remained in the hands of the bureaucracy (the officialdom) and the bourgeoisie. The notorious Palchinsky, Deputy Minister for Industry, was a typical representative of that apparatus, blocking every measure against the capitalists. While the ministers prated everything remained as of old.

The bourgeoisie used Minister Tsereteli in particular to fight the revolution. He was sent to “pacify” Kronstadt when the local revolutionaries had the audacity to remove an appointed commissar.[5] The bourgeoisie launched in their newspapers an incredibly vociferous, violent and vicious campaign of lies, slander and vituperation against Kronstadt, accusing it of the desire "to secede from Russia", and repeating this and similar absurdities in a thousand ways to intimidate the petty bourgeoisie and the philistines. A most typically stupid and frightened philistine, Tsereteli, was the most “conscientious” of all in swallowing the bait of bourgeois slander; he was the most zealous of all in "smashing up and subduing" Kronstadt, without realising that he was playing the role of a lackey of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. He turned out to be the instrument of the “compromise” arrived at with revolutionary Kronstadt, whereby the commissar for Kronstadt was not simply appointed by the government, but was elected locally and was confirmed by the government. It was on such miserable compromises that the ministers who had deserted socialism for the bourgeoisie wasted their time.

Wherever a bourgeois minister could not appear in defence of the government, before the revolutionary workers or in the Soviets, Skobelev, Tsereteli, Chernov or some other “socialist” Minister appeared (or, to be precise, was sent by the bourgeoisie) and faithfully performed their assignment; he would do his level best to defend the Cabinet, whitewash the capitalists and fool the people by making promise after promise and by advising people to wait, wait and wait.

Minister Chernov particularly was engaged in bargaining with his bourgeois colleagues; down to July, to the new "crisis of power" which began after the movement of July 3-4, to the resignation of the Cadets from the Cabinet, Minister Chernov was continuously engaged in the useful and   interesting work, so beneficial to the people, of “persuading” his bourgeois colleagues, exhorting them to agree at least to prohibition of the purchase and sale of land. This prohibition had been most solemnly promised to the peasants at the All-Russia Congress of Peasant Deputies in Petrograd. But the promise remained only a promise. Chernov proved unable to fulfil it either in May or in June, until the revolutionary tide, the spontaneous outbreak of July 3-4, which coincided with the resignation of the Cadets from the Cabinet, made it possible to enact this measure. Even then, however, it proved to be an isolated measure, incapable of promoting to any palpable extent the struggle of the peasants against the landowners for land.

Meanwhile, at the front, the counter-revolutionary, imperialist task of resuming the imperialist, predatory war, a task which Guchkov, so hated by the people, had been unable to accomplish, was being accomplished successfully and brilliantly by the "revolutionary democrat" Kerensky, that new-baked member of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party. He revelled in his own eloquence, incense was burned to him by the imperialists, who were using him as a pawn, he was flattered and worshipped – all because he served the capitalists faithfully, trying to talk the "revolutionary troops" into agreeing to resume the war being waged in pursuance of the treaties concluded by Tsar Nicholas II with the capitalists of Britain and France, a war waged so that Russian capitalists might secure Constantinople and Lvov, Erzurum and Trebizond.

So passed the second phase of the Russian revolution – May 6 to June 9. Shielded and defended by the “socialist” Ministers, the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie grew in strength, consolidated their position and prepared an offensive both against the external enemy and against the internal enemy, i.e., the revolutionary workers.


On June 9, the revolutionary workers’ party, the Bolsheviks, was preparing for a demonstration in Petrograd to give organised expression to the irresistibly growing popular discontent and indignation. The Socialist-Revolutionary and   Menshevik leaders, entangled in compromises with the bourgeoisie and bound by the imperialist policy of an offensive, were horrified, feeling that they were losing their influence among the masses. A general howl went up against the demonstration, and the counter-revolutionary Cadets joined in this howl, this time together with the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. Under their direction, and as a result of their policy of compromise with the capitalists, the swing of the petty-bourgeois masses to an alliance with the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie became quite definite and strikingly obvious. This is the historical significance and class meaning of the crisis of June 9.

The Bolsheviks called off the demonstration, having no wish to lead the workers at that moment into a losing fight against the united Cadets, Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks. The latter, however, so as to retain at least a vestige of the people’s confidence, were compelled to call a general demonstration for June 48. The bourgeoisie were beside themselves with rage, rightly discerning in this a swing of the petty-bourgeois democrats towards the proletariat, and they decided to paralyse the action of the democrats by an offensive at the front.

In fact, June 18 was marked by an impressive victory for the slogans of the revolutionary proletariat, the slogans of Bolshevism, among the people of Petrograd. And on June 19 the bourgeoisie and the Bonapartist[1] Kerensky solemnly announced that the offensive at the front had begun on June 18.

The offensive meant in effect the resumption of the predatory war in the interests of the capitalists and against the will of the vast majority of the working people. That is why the offensive was inevitably accompanied, on the one hand, by a gigantic growth of chauvinism and the transfer of military power (and consequently of state power) to the military gang of Bonapartists, and, on the other, by the use   of violence against the masses, the persecution of the inter nationalists, the abolition of freedom of agitation, and the arrest and 9hooting of those who were against the war.

Whereas May 6 bound the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks to the triumphal chariot of the bourgeoisie with a rope, June 19 shackled them, as servants of the capitalists, with a chain.


Owing to the resumption of the predatory war, the bitterness of the people naturally grew even more rapidly and intensely. July 3–4 witnessed an outburst of their anger which the Bolsheviks attempted to restrain and which, of course, they had to endeavour to make as organised as possible.

The Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, being slaves of the bourgeoisie, shackled by their master, agreed to everything: dispatching reactionary troops to Petrograd, bringing back the death penalty, disarming the workers and revolutionary troops, arresting and hounding, and closing down newspapers without trial. The power which the bourgeoisie in the government were unable to take entirely, and which the Soviets did not want to take, fell into the hands of the military clique, the Bonapartists, who, of course, were wholly backed by the Cadets and the Black Hundreds, by the landowners and capitalists.

Down the ladder, step by step. Having once set foot on the ladder of compromise with the bourgeoisie, the Socialist Revolutionaries and Mensheviks slid irresistibly downwards, to rock bottom. On February 28, in the Petrograd Soviet, they promised conditional support to the bourgeois government. On May 6 they saved it from collapse and allowed themselves to be made its servants and defenders by agreeing to an offensive. On June 9 they united with the counter revolutionary bourgeoisie in a campaign of furious rage, lies and slander against the revolutionary proletariat. On June 19 they approved the resumption of the predatory war. On July 3 they consented to the summoning of reactionary troops, which was the beginning of their complete surrender of power to the Bonapartists. Down the ladder, step by step.

This shameful finale of the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties was not fortuitous but a consequence of the economic status of the small owners, the petty bourgeoisie, as has been repeatedly borne out by experience in Europe.


Everybody, of course, has seen the small owner bend every effort and strain every nerve to "get on in the world", to become a real master, to rise to the position of a “strong” employer, to the position of a bourgeois. As long as capitalism rules the roost, there is no alternative for the small owner other than becoming a capitalist (and that is possible at best in the case of one small owner out of a hundred), or becoming a ruined man, a semi-proletarian, and ultimately a proletarian. The same is true in politics: the petty-bourgeois democrats, especially their leaders, tend to trail after the bourgeoisie. The leaders of the petty-bourgeois democrats console their people with promises and assurances about the possibility of reaching agreement with the big capitalists; at best, and for a very brief period, they obtain certain minor concessions from the capitalists for a small upper section of the working people; but on every decisive issue, on every important matter, the petty-bourgeois democrats have always tailed after the bourgeoisie as a feeble appendage to them, as an obedient tool in the hands of he financial mangates. The experience of Britain and France has proved this over and over again.

The experience of the Russian revolution from February to July 1917, when events developed with unusual rapidity, particularly under the influence of the imperialist war and the deep-going crisis brought about by it, has most strikingly and palpably confirmed the old Marxist truth that the position of the petty bourgeoisie is unstable.

The lesson of the Russian revolution is that there can be no escape for the working people from the iron grip of war, famine, and enslavement by the landowners and capitalists unless they completely break with the Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik parties and clearly understand the latter’s treacherous role, unless they renounce all compromises with the bourgeoisie and resolutely side with the revolutionary   workers. Only the revolutionary workers, if supported by the peasant poor, are capable of smashing the resistance of the capitalists and leading the people in gaining land with out compensation, complete liberty, victory over famine and the war, and a just and lasting peace.


This article was written at the end of July, as is apparent from the text.

The history of the revolution during August has fully corroborated what is said in this article. Then, at the end of August, the Kornilov revolt[6] caused a new turn in the revolution by clearly demonstrating to the whole people that the Cadets, in alliance with the counter-revolutionary generals, were striving to disband the Soviets and restore the monarchy. The near future will show how strong this new turn of the revolution is, and whether it will succeed in putting an end to the fatal policy of compromise with the bourgeoisie.

N. Lenin

September 6, 1917


[1] Bonapartism (from Bonaparte, the name of the two French emperors) is a name applied to a government which endeavours to appear non-partisan by taking advantage of a highly acute struggle between the parties of the capitalists and the workers. Actually serving the capitalists, such a government dupes the workers most of all by promises and petty concessions. —Lenin

[2] On July 12 (25) the Provisional Government introduced capital punishment at the front. The divisional “military revolutionary tribunals” that were set up passed sentences which became effective immediately and were executed without delay.

[3] The Trudoviks (Trudovik group) were a Duma group of petty-bourgeois democrats—peasants and intellectuals with Narodnik leanings. The group was formed by the peasant Deputies to the First Duma in April 1906. In the Duma it wavered between the Cadets and the revolutionary Social-Democrats. During the First World War most of the Trudoviks adhered to a social-chauvinist position.

After the February revolution the Trudoviks, expressing the interests of the kulaks, actively supported the Provisional Government. Their reaction to the October Revolution was hostile and they took part in the counter-revolutionary activities of the bourgeoisie.

[4] The Contact Commission was formed by decision of the compromising Executive Committee of the Petrograd Soviet on March 8 (21) to “influence” and “exercise control over” the activity of the Provisional Government. Its members were M. I. Skobelev, Y. M. Steklov, N. N. Sukhanov, V. N. Filippovsky and N. S. Chkheidze (subsequently V. M. Chernov and I. G. Tsereteli were included). The Commission helped the Provisional Government take advantage of the prestige of the Petrograd Soviet to disguise its counter-revolutionary policies. The Mensheviks and Socialist– Revolutionaries hoped with its aid to keep the people from revolutionary action aimed at effecting the transfer of power to the Soviets. The Commission was abolished in the middle of April 1917, its functions being handed over to the Executive Committee’s Bureau.

[5] On May 17 (30), 1917, in view of a conflict between the Kronstadt Soviet and Pepelayev, the Provisional Government Commissar, the non-affiliated section of the Soviet passed a resolution abolishing the office of government commissar and investing the Kronstadt Soviet with full powers. The resolution, supported by the Bolsheviks, said that the only authority in Kronstadt was the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, which should enter into direct contact with the Petrograd Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies on all matters affecting the state.

The bourgeois, S.R. and Menshevik press launched a slander campaign against the people of Kronstadt and the Bolsheviks, alleging that Russia had begun to disintegrate, that a state of anarchy was in, that Kronstadt had seceded, and so on.

First the Petrograd Soviet and then the Provisional Government sent delegations (Chkheidze, Gotz and others in the former   case and the Ministers Skobelev and Tsereteli in the latter) to deal with the Kronstadt incident. In the Kronstadt Soviet the two Ministers succeeded in putting through a compromise decision stipulating that the commissar be elected by the Soviet and his election confirmed by the Provisional Government. A political resolution was also passed, saying that the Kronstadt Soviet recognised the authority of the Provisional Government but adding that this “recognition certainly does not rule out criticism and the desire that the revolutionary democrats should form a new central authority and transfer all power to the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies”. = The resolution expressed the hope that the Bolsheviks would achieve this by exerting ideological influence. It ended with an emphatic protest against attempts to attribute to the Kronstadt Bolsheviks “the intention of severing Kronstadt from the rest of Russia”.

[6] The Kornilov revolt against the revolution was organised by the bourgeoisie and landowners in August 1917. It was led by the tsarist general Kornilov, then Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Army. The conspirators aimed at capturing Petrograd, smashing the Bolshevik Party, disbanding the Soviets, establishing a military dictatorship, and paving the way for the restoration of the monarchy. A. F. Kerensky, head of the Provisional Government, joined in the conspiracy. However, when the revolt began, ho dissociated himself from Kornilov, fearing that he might be swept away with Kornilov, and declared Kornilov to be a rebel against the Provisional Government.

The revolt began on August 25 (September 7). Kornilov marched the Third Cavalry Corps against Petrograd. In Petrograd itself, the counter-revolutionary organisations of Kornilov’s backers were getting ready for action.

The Bolshevik Party led the people against Kornilov as it continued, in accordance with Lenin’s recommendation, to expose the Provisional Government and its S.R. and Menshevik hangers-on. In response to the call of the Bolshevik Party’s Central Committee, the workers of Petrograd and the revolutionary soldiers and sailors rose to fight the rebels. The Petrograd workers promptly formed Red Guard units. Revolutionary committees were set up in several localities. The advance of the Kornilov troops was checked and Bolshevik propaganda began to demoralise them.

The Kornilov revolt was put down by the workers and peasants under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party. Under pressure from the people, the Provisional Government had to order the arrest and trial of Kornilov and his accomplices.


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. That was the time when even some of us who came straight from the working-classes to be the first in our families to go to college believed that students comfortably ensconced in ivory tower “red” universities had replaced the working class and oppressed of the world as the center of progressive action. A fair number of the emerging leaders, again some who also were out of working class neighborhoods in places like Chicago, Detroit, New York City and Oakland, 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 (or better for working class kids bourgeoisified) parents. What has 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 that emerged from the old Socialist Party but that story of the hows and whys of the existence of two parties 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 in bits and pieces, 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. And of a longing for the days when such questions mattered to a candid world. I admit I shared some of his nostalgia, some of his sense that while this wicked old world needs a new way of social relations to the means of production we are a bit wistful in our dreams right now. 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, did actively attempt, 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 (him) and a Chicago steel belt (her), 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. A war where the flower of the European youth had laid down their heads for no apparent reason and Wilson was preparing the same fate for American youth. 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 had also gotten 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. 


The pre-war Socialist Party in America like a lot of socialist parties around the world then had been based on the working class but had also been reliant on other classes like farmers and urban professionals, especially during electoral periods. So the American organization was a loose organization. Loose until faction fight time, or when the leadership felt some threat and pulled the hammer down on party discipline usually gunning for elements to their left but sometimes just any opposition that might vie for party power which encompassed many divergent elements. Elements that were not always on the same page. Comrades Curtis and Rosa had to laugh when the old time Socialist Party leadership used as its calling-card its looseness as against the Bolshevik iron vice. They knew first-hand that leadership did not play second fiddle to anyone where bureaucratic abuse occurred.


The biggest organizations, better to say federations, were the Midwestern farmers, those sturdy wheat and corn farmers from Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma who had moved over from the defunct Populist and Greenback parties who could not keep up with the times, the foreign language federations which included both American citizens and recent immigrants who were merely transferring their socialist loyalties from their native parties to the American one , and a smaller grouping of what I would call “natives” who had been around America for a few generations and who were city dwellers or worked in city professions like lawyering, journalism, medicine and the like. These three rather heterogeneous groups and what happened to them later are important to Comrade Markham’s parents’ story since they were both native born and his father had been a law clerk (after he left the farm and got some clerkship for a lawyer in Kansas City) and his mother a school teacher (her steelworker father working overtime to put her through Chicago Normal School as the first of her family to go to college).


A fair number of the foreign language federations were opposed to American entry into the war, as were farmers and the professionals and as noted a fair number were rounded up and went to jail (or like with the IWW, Industrial Workers of the World, Wobblies, anarchist workers were deported quickly if their immigration status was shaky). What started the big fights inside the party, what got Comrades Curtis and Rosa up in arms, was what attitude to take toward the Russian revolution. Not so much the February 1917 revolution which overthrew the useless Czar but the Bolshevik-led October revolution which its leaders, Lenin and Trotsky, proclaimed as the first victory in the international battle to make socialism the new way to produce and distribute the world’s goods. The party split into several factions over this issue but what is important is that Curtis and Rosa found themselves working with other “natives,” guys like Jim Cannon, John Reed, Earl Browder, Jack Johnstone, some of the New York union leaders, and many party writers who saw the Russian October as the new wave for humankind and were ready to move might and main to defend that revolution against all comers. That is the baptism of fire that the as yet unborn Comrade Markham had in his genes.  


Some say that the events around the left-wing’s expulsion from the Socialist Party, or rather what those leftist did, or did not do, to get themselves expelled, did not bode well for those who would go on to form the American Communist parties (yes, plural as two separate parties, one based roughly on the foreign language federations, especially the Russian, Finnish, and Slavic, and the other around the “natives,” the faction Curtis and Rosa worked with as noted above). There is always a tension when great events occur and there is an impassable division of the house over the issues and so whether the split/expulsion was premature or necessary was not under the control of the ousted faction. Sure, staying in would have produced a better, clearer explanation for why a split was necessary in the post-October world. But the Russians were setting up a Communist International in which they recognized, taking their own experiences in Russian socialist politics as a guide, that in the age of imperialism, that the “party of the whole class,” the socialist “big tent” where everybody who called themselves socialists found a home was no longer adequate as a revolutionary instrument to seize state power and begin the socialist agenda. Comrades Curtis and Rosa had done yeoman’s work in Chicago and New York to round up all the supporters of the Russian revolution they could before the hammer came down. Although they were not in the first rank of left-wing leaders they were just below that and had a certain authority having served jail time for their anti-war views. Some of the few “natives” who faced that choice.


As mentioned above some of the organizations which had been affiliated with the Socialist Party were not on the same page. That fact was equally true of the groupings who would try to form an American Communist Party. This is the place where the differences between the foreign language federations and the “natives” came to the fore (again these are rough divisions of the social basis of the antagonistic groupings as there was some overlap as usual). So for a few years there were two parties, both underground at the beginning given the heat from the American bourgeoisie who were apoplectic about the revolution in Russia (including armed intervention there) and unleased the Palmer Raids to round up every red under every bed and kill them through vigilante action, deport them or jail them (named after the Attorney-General of the time). Mostly Curtis and Rosa kept a low profile, worked clandestinely (having already seen American jails they were leery of going back and one could not blame them, especially Rosa who had a hard time having been placed with the common criminal women for lack of other facilities and who had to fend off one woman who wanted to make Rosa her “girl”), tried to keep the press published and distributed, and tried to fight against all the various “theories” that basically ignorant American comrades had about the “virtues” of an underground party which the foreign language federations were in favor of. The issue of the legal/underground party finally after a few years of controversy had to be resolved by the Russians, by the Communist International, hell, by Trotsky himself. So for a time Comrades Curtis and Rosa had a very high opinion of that Russian leader, that victorious leader of the Red Army, especially after Jim Cannon came back with the favorably verdict and how it was arrived at. If anything, according to Comrade Markham’s  recollections of what his parents told him about the founding days of the party they became even more fervent about defense of the Russian revolution and spent a great deal of time during the early years propagandizing for American governmental recognition of the Soviet Union.    


The early 1920s say up to about 1924 were hectic for the American Communist Party, hectic until the Communist International straightened out that dispute between the “legal” party and “underground” party factions noting that the changed political climate allowed the party to act more openly (the frenzy of the red scare Palmer raid days abated in the “lost generation,” “Jazz Age ”days but where the “dog days” of political struggle of the 1920s in the labor movement were then also descending on the American landscape). The hard “under-grounders” had departed leaving those who wanted to increase the public face of the party able to do so without rancor (of course other disputes would rise up to enflame the factions but that is another story). Still the party in many ways was rudderless, had not kept pace with what was going on in the Communist International. Nowhere was this problem more apparent than the whole question of supporting a farmer-labor party in the 1924 presidential elections, in short, to support that old progressive Republican, Robert Lafollette, in his independent campaign.


The impulse was to make a big public splash on the national scene with the advantages that the exposure of a national campaign would bring. Both Comrades Curtis and Rosa having been public activists and strong supporters of the idea pushed Jim Cannon and his co-thinker, Bill Dunne, toward support for the idea. Cannon and Dunne a little more knowledgeable about American bourgeois organizations were lukewarm after the Chicago labor leaders balked and began a red-baiting campaign. Curtis and Rosa saw that campaign as a way to publicize the campaign for American recognition of the Soviet Union. The problem with support for a farmer-labor party, a two-class party is that the thing is a bourgeois formation, an early version of what in the 1930s would become the “popular front” policy. The name and reputation of Lafollette should have been the tip-off. So most of the year 1924 was spent in trying to iron out the problem of whether to support a farmer-labor party or just a labor party. The internal politics of this dispute are important. No less an authority on the early party than Cannon said later that a wrong decision (to support Lafollette or some version of that idea) would have destroyed the party right then. The CI stepped in and changed the policy not without controversy. Comrades Curtis and Rosa were not happy, certainly not happy with Cannon then but deferred to the factional leadership’s judgment. They spent most of that year doing trade union support work for William Z. Foster’s Trade Union Education League drawing closer to that leader as a result although still aligned with the Cannon faction. 


Comrade Markham was a “love” baby. (He had his parents word on this when he asked some child’s question about it later when he was first learning about sex.)  A “love baby” in the days when most ideas of contraception, even among knowledgeable revolutionaries connected with the Village and other places where such things might be discussed, was some variation of the old Catholic “rhythm” method dealing with a woman’s cycle (both Curtis and Rosa had been brought up as Catholics). After the hectic times around the farmer-labor question the pair decided to bring a child into the world, into their world and so Rosa stopped counting the days in her cycle. And in the fall of 1925 Markham was born, born and nurtured by two happy parents.


Part of Comrade Curtis and Rosa’s decision to have a child was determined by the low level of class struggle in America at the time (and world-wide especially after the aborted German revolution of 1923 which while they were not familiar with the details had sensed that something big had been missed). Labor strikes were few and far between, the party message was not getting much of a hearing outside the New York area, and the Coolidge administration was adamant about not recognizing “red” Russia. Moreover after the death of Lenin and the struggle for power in the Soviet party between Stalin and Trotsky (and in the Communist International where Zinoviev was in a bloc with Stalin against Trotsky) some of the wind went out of the sails for Comrade Curtis and Rosa, a not unknown phenomenon in the “dog days” of any movement. So while they remained good party members, paid their dues and sold the paper on Saturdays, remained loyal to the defense of Soviet Russia they were less active in those years when they were raising Markham over in Brooklyn after moving from Chicago looking for work where Curtis had found a job as a law clerk and started taking stenographic courses to bring some income into the household rather than depending on parents and the party dole.   


Comrades Curtis and Rosa had in the first few years of Comrade Markham’s life, the late 1920s, not been as attentive to what was going on in Russia as previously. Were unaware of the details of the internal struggle started after the death of Lenin in 1924 between Stalin and Trotsky at first and then eventually the whole of the old Bolshevik Party, those who had actually made the revolution rather that those who were emerging as Stalin’s allies, those who had sat on the sidelines (or on the other side) or who were Johnny-come-latelies and had no sense of party history. Although they had adhered to various factional line-ups lashed together by the Cannon-Dunne section of the party leadership they had not been as attuned during the mid to late 1920s of the way that the changes in the political situation in Moscow was reflected in the changes in the American party. It was almost as if once they had genuflected before their duty to the defense of the Soviet Union the rest of the situation there receded into vague rumors and esoteric theory.


Although early on they had been admirers of the Red Army leader, Leon Trotsky, once he became anathema in party circles in Russia they took their cues from the newly installed Lovestone leadership in the American party (and the Cannon faction as well) and were as adamant in their ritualistic denunciations of the person of Trotsky and of the Trotskyite menace as anyone. His criticism of the Stalin regime seemed like sour grapes to them and his rantings about the failure of leadership in the British trade union crisis and second Chinese revolution did not resonate with them being in a country like America where the possibilities of revolution for the foreseeable future seemed extremely remote and therefore it was impolitic for others to speak about such matters in other countries. They would pass on these same pieces of wisdom to Comrade Markham when he came of age.


They were thus shocked, shocked but not moved, when it was discovered that one of the main leaders of their faction, Jim Cannon, who had been sent to Moscow for the Sixth Congress of the Communist International in1928 came back and proved to be, or have been all along, a closet Trotskyite “wreaker.”  Here too they made their ritualistic denunciations of the counter-revolutionary Cannon and would spent the rest of their political lives denouncing him and whatever political formations he helped organize to spread Trotsky’s words. This hatred too they passed on to their son.                                                                                                 


The late 1920s and early 1930s, the time of the great world-wide economic Depression were hard times for Comrades Curtis, Rosa and their son although not because of the direct effects of that sore (everybody needs law clerks and teachers) but because it portended a change in party doctrine as mandated by the Communist International. They had always been public activists and thus ran into other left-wing groupings in their work, especially the still influential Socialist Party (mainly with the urban labor bureaucracy and the beset farmers out in the prairies). Got along with such groups, excepting of course the now banished counter-revolutionary Trotskyites who were to be beaten down if possible and an occasional Wobblie who still hadn’t gotten over the demise of that organization.


The new policy, which came down in Communist International history as the “third period” (the first being the immediate revolutionary period after World War I and the second, the mid-1920s stabilization of world capitalism), dictated that the world-wide Depression signaled the “final conflict” with capitalism and therefore any truck with non-communist forces now deemed to be “social-fascists” was forbidden. Moreover communist trade union cadre were told to create out of whole cloth “revolutionary unions.” Since party influence except in a few cities and a few unions, mainly in New York City, was minimal those policies only added to that isolation and with the exception of some stellar labor defense work and black defense work (the Scottsboro boys) done in spite of the party dictates this was an unfruitful period.  The only other bright spot was in 1933 when the newly-elected Roosevelt (himself earlier a “social-fascist” as well) formally recognized the Soviet Union.   


These were trying and mainly isolated times for the party, for the comrades and, frankly, for the gullible like Comrade Curtis and Rosa who would nightly talk about the nearness of their socialist dreams. Well, no question the period was bleak but the hard reality was that those Communist International doctrines (dictated by the now all-powerful Stalin and his cronies) led in their own way to the victory of the Nazis in Germany which would within the decade cause many tough nights worrying about the fate of the Soviet Union. Here is where the gullible part came in. Instead of blaming Stalin (or Earl Browder who took charge of the party as a well-known hack ready to do anything to advance himself although in his youth he had been an ardent militant and fervent anti-war supporter) Comrades Curtis and Rosa did somersaults to blame everybody and everything on socialists, Trotskyites, anybody. They never said word one about what happened in Germany and whose policies let Hitler in. Comrade Markham heard that kind of talk around the house as he grew up, as he became a Young Pioneer when he came of age. 


The early 1930s, years of party-imposed self-isolation from the main political arenas, the “third period” years mentioned above, were hard years for Comrades Curtis and Rosa. They had been used to a useful and somewhat productive political life since they had moved to New York City in the 1920s. They did not get back to that normalcy until well after the Hitler threat to the Soviet Union or, better, the perceived threat since Hitler made no bones about liquidating the “Bolshevik menace” and hence made Stalin and his coterie change course dramatically with the policy which would later be codified as the “popular front.” For all practical purposes that “third period” policy had been shelved well before, probably in America with the great Communist-led general strike in San Francisco for a goodly part of 1934.


The implications were rather dramatic. Now yesterday’s “social-fascists,” including certain bourgeois elements were to be courted and the theory of the “catastrophic” end of world capitalism put on the back burner. Of course the damn Trotskyites, who had led their own general strike in backwater Minneapolis, were still to be beaten down and no party meeting (or Young Pioneer meeting either) was complete without some ritualistic denunciation of the bastards. No question though that the “thaw” as Comrade Curtis called it was welcome to that family and no more fervent supporters of the new policy in the city rank and file could be found than that pair. They took on more party responsibilities as this decade moved on (and as Comrade Markham became older and could travel with them to paper sales, meetings, and contact sessions, sessions to gain new recruits). This new energy came in handy with the outbreak of civil war in Spain where the popular front government was besieged by an armed Army/Fascist uprising  and the Soviet Union was the only country willing to send military aid to drive the reactionaries back. Those were the days when Comrade Rosa would help the young activist Ethel Greenglass (later Ethel Rosenberg martyred along with her husband Julius in the Cold War 1950s executed as heroic Soviet spies) collecting funds for Spain in Times Square while Ethel performed the tarantula. Yes those who supported the Spanish Republic were kindred in those days and the young Comrade Markham got his first taste of public communist work.                       


The time of the new Communist International policy, the popular front against fascism with all anti-fascist forces, including bourgeois forces, was a fruitful time for the now aging Comrades Curtis and Rosa who whatever they saw in that strategy in terms of defense of the Soviet Union also saw as a way to mix with kindred in the various committees that the party was forming with other organizations. For them it was a breath of fresh air after the “third period.” Comrade Markham also got immersed in the new milieu, mixing with members of other student organizations to fight against fascism and the threat of a new war that seemed almost imminent by 1939 with the defeat in Spain hanging over everybody.


War would come soon enough, soon enough in Europe, in September 1939 and before that Comrades Curtis and Rosa spared no efforts to rally the anti-Nazi forces and to berate the isolationists who wanted nothing to do with the war in Europe.


Then the other shoe fell, fell as it had several times before when the announcement came that Stalin and Hitler had signed a non-aggression pact, and had agreed to divide Poland up. Overnight, maybe faster, the anti-fascist front was abandoned, the new slogan was peace and non-intervention. The Communist Party could now join hands with the anti-interventions America First-ers to keep America out of a European war. Overnight as well the Comrades lost many friends who could not understand the switch in policy. Worse there was an exodus from the party of many intellectuals and others who had joined the party in the spirit of the popular front who wanted no truck with Hitler alliances. Those withdrawals would not help them later when the post-war red scare came but then reflected their disgust with Soviet foreign policy. 


Comrade Curtis and Rosa having been through the previous twists and turns of the party did not question the switch in fact thought that it was a clever move by Stalin to protect the Soviet Union against the British and French imperialists. All Comrade Markham knew was that he was laughed at or scorned at school but he too although only a young teenager thought Stalin had acted correctly even if he could not have articulated that feeling as well as his parents. He would learn.


“That bastard Hitler and his damn Nazis have invaded the Soviet Union, can you believe that after all Comrade Stalin did to try to keep the socialist fatherland out of the second European conflagration which had been going on for almost two years now,” cried out Comrade Curtis to his son, his now teenage son, who would probably bear the family brunt of this new world catastrophe on that fateful June 1941 when the world, the world communist world anyway, was turned upside down.


When Rosa came home from work she was beside herself since she had stopped by the Brooklyn party headquarters to see what the latest grim news was from the quickly folding and crumbling Russian front as the Nazi troops made their familiar quick work of attacking with lightning speed leaving the totally unprepared Red Army prostrate. It would only come out later, at least Comrades Curtis and Rosa did not find out about until after Stalin’s death in 1953, that Comrade Stalin and his staff had been forewarned of the attack by the international Soviet spy network that the Nazi attack was imminent and one source had actually given exact date. The damn Trotskyists over in the Village would have a field day with that since they had been saying for years that the purge of the Red Army in the late 1930s and that failure to heed the spies warnings proved, if further proof was necessary, that Stalin was responsible for the deaths of many millions at the hands of the on-rushing Nazis.


But in June 1941, in the immediate aftermath of the debacle the comrades had no time (or inclination) to question the wisdom of Soviet foreign policy moves as the socialist fatherland was in danger, must be defended at all costs, a call that both the long time comrades had paid especial heed to. So instead of calling for vague appeals to world peace, instead of calling for the American government to stay out of the European conflict, a position the party had shared prior to June, 1941 with the American First movement which included many of the most reactionary and ant-Soviet elements in American ruling and elite circles, they were urging FDR to extend Lend-Lease to the Soviets. Their world that month had indeed turned upside down. 


During the period before the American entry into what would be called World War II, before Pearl Harbor Curtis, Rosa and the now politically maturing Markham were among the most active advocates of American entry into the war, of extending Lend-Lease to the Soviets for they were quite fearful that the Soviet experiment was finished after reading the daily reports of defeat and retreat. That short period came to an end quickly enough and having earlier in the year been the most fervent advocates in the streets of New York for non-intervention they now declared that everybody, everything had to go to the American war effort, that, in essence, the class struggle had to be suspended for the duration. They willingly parroted the party line that every good trade unionist should be supporting the “no strike” pledge (ironically the party had boosted its credentials by leading, or helping to lead, strikes right up until June, 1941. Personally they all followed the news from the Russian front all through the war but certainly breathed a sigh of relief when the Soviets would retreat no further and in the winter of 1943 the German forces were broken before Stalingrad. They also were out on the streets of New York calling for the opening of a “second front” to relieve the Soviets who were bearing the bulk of the burden on the eastern (that second front, a western front, would come as Normandy).

The gloom of 1941 was turning around by 1943 as even non-military types like our comrades could see that the Germans were overextended.  


Closer to home in 1943 as Markham drew closer to his eighteenth birthday he as a good young communist wanted to join the American Army to go fight the Nazis (while his parents would soften up their language and call the main enemy Germans rather than Nazis Markham would always, even when I interviewed him, refer to the main enemy as Nazis with a certain twist like the German people even today could be tarred with that long ago brush). Curtis and Rosa had been able to talk him out of going in at seventeen (when they would have had to sign off on his enlistment) saying that he should finish high school so that he would have more to offer to the defense of the Soviet Union but they now  had to accept the inevitable that their son would be enlisting soon and like any parents, Soviet defense or not, they feared for his fate. So in late 1943 Markham was down in Fort Dix (nor far from home anyway Rosa said, with a lurking hope that maybe the war would be over before the year was out) where he was a model soldier (that Pioneer and Young Communist League training had paid off). Then after the initial thrusts of the Normandy invasion had eaten up men and materials at prodigious rates Markham shipped out on the troop transports as a member of a unit of the Big Red One-First Division. He saw enough fighting in Europe to garner a fistful of medals (and as he told me he had had enough of fighting for those many months to last a life time). He said he would always point to that service as decisive in his commitment to defend the Soviet Union. Yeah, Markham said that those were good times with the camaraderie, and the join efforts to knock off the Nazis.                        


Curtis and Rosa expected, finally expected, that an “era of good feeling” would accompany the end of the war in Europe after all the Americans and Russians had been allies. Believed that, finally, the damn capitalists, the damn imperialists, would leave the Soviet Union alone. Markham was more sanguine, knew that the way the war had ended with their “spheres of interest” intact after much bargaining that the temporary allies could not go on as such forever. (Markham, having had plenty of time to read away from New York and the campaign-a-day atmosphere, read the classic Marxist texts, including lots of Lenin and was living in the world of realpolitik unlike his parents who had been buffered by every turn in the world situation.)


And then the other shoe, other shoes began to fall. First the reds were being purged from the trade unions that they had helped build, then loyalty oaths were being required in the professions (“are you now, or have you ever been a “red”)and wherever else they could intimidate and cower any leftists. The freeze, what became known as the Cold War, came fast and furious and almost swept up everybody before it, especially party leaders who were being rounded up like America was some latter day Germany.


Then, just when it seemed that things could not get any more frosty, old party members who had been recruited when the popular front “good fellows, well met” policy was in effect, had not flinched at the Hitler-Stalin Pact and left, were proud to be party members during the war saw the writing on the wall, saw that the new world order had no place for them as party members started leaving the party. Worse, worst of all, many of the intellectuals (although not just them) rather than just fade to academia, the union bureaucracies, or the professions, turned renegade, “dropped the dime,” snitched on their fellows. Many times without even being asked. No those were not good times and Curtis and Rosa took it hard, harder than in the 1920s when they had their youth going for them. They were so disheartened that in 1950, the start of a new decade, saw them burying their Marxist books out in the Bronx so that maybe someday somebody would find them and the struggle could continue. Yeah, it was a tough time to be a communist in America.           


1953 was a tough year for Markham and his parents. First Comrade Stalin passed on, left a big hole in the world communist movement. Although Curtis and Rosa had been early party members, first as rank and filers and then as secondary local leaders, they had not, other than to accept every twist and turn of the Communist International line, Soviet foreign policy, and whatever came with the Moscow winds followed the internal events in Moscow very much from the beginning until Stalin’s end and so they were able to survive, were never accused of anti-party behavior, never threatened with expulsion. In some senses that was a remarkable feat for political people who had spent the previous forty or so years in political struggle. Markham from very early on in his life had been wrapped up with the latest controversies, had definite opinions about what the party should, and should not, do (and before that the policies of the Pioneers and Young Communist League) and was unstinting in his admiration for Stalin. No question he was until 1953 anyway looking for some paid party position in his quest to be a professional revolutionary. His parents, knowing that he had that appetite, encouraged him to keep away from too many controversies since once you were tied to a position you could be pushed out very quickly when the winds changed (they were probably thinking of the toady, Earl Browder, who right after the war made the mistake of trying to live popular front politics when the freeze was coming and was dumped in about two seconds when the deal went down). With Stalin’s death lots of things might change, despite the continuing freeze in world politics.    


Closer to home and more threatening for Curtis and Rosa was the pending execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (nee Greenglass) as Soviet spies, as those who defended the Soviet Union in the best way they could which apparently was to gather intelligence about the development of the atomic bomb in America. The party had initially taken a hands-off attitude on the case, fearing blow-back in the red scare Cold War night. Rosa remembered back to the days in Times Square when Ethel would do the tarantella and she would go around collecting funds in the audience for the Republican cause in Spain, the glory days in defense of the beloved Spanish cause. Rosa had lost contact with Ethel during the war and then afterwards when everybody was lying low she would occasionally see Ethel around before she and Julius were picked up. Once the party saw an opening to publicize the case (mainly since the Communists in Europe were leading mass demonstrations to save their lives) Rosa was tireless in working on the committee in America to save the lives of two stalwart soldiers of the socialist revolution. Alas in June 1953 after many appeals and a bid for a pardon from President Eisenhower they were executed and Rosa was crestfallen for a long time after that. Two valiant defenders of the Soviet Union gone, their children orphans.


Comrades Curtis and Rosa had watched the internal Russian party after Stalin’s death with a certain amount of detachment (Rosa never really got over the execution of Ethel Rosenberg, and would go to her own grave proclaiming Ethel’s innocence), although not Markham who still had ambitions to be a paid party functionary (a beneficiary of “Moscow gold” as some anti-communists would snicker when he mentioned such ambitions later when it was safer to do so). After the internal battle with Khrushchev emerging supreme they thought that the Soviet situation would stabilize and the work of getting back to a pre-World War II levels and life a goal worth pursuing. Then in late 1956 they would hear very persistent rumors of some kind of secret party meeting where Khrushchev, who had been his henchman, laid out the case against the huge crimes of Stalin during his reign. This hit Curtis like a thunderbolt since he had been a very strong supporter of Bill Dunne’s back in the late 1920s after Dunne broke with the Trotskyite renegade Jim Cannon who swore that Stalin had been the man for the job in Russia since Lenin’s death and that the counter-revolutionary Trotsky was nothing but a two-bit dilettante. After that period Curtis had made his peace with the Russian regime, had believed that since they were, under Stalin’s leadership, the only workers’ state working toward socialism, that any criticism from the weak and small American party was so much train smoke. And so Curtis, and to a lesser extent Rosa, followed every twist and turn of the pipe-smoking Stalin and accepted it as good coin, or as necessary.


As already explained Markham had a little more sophisticated approach to Stalin’s leadership seeing him as the “great man, ” using ruthless means if he had to in order to push the struggle forward,  a man who could save Russia and hadn’t he done just that almost single-handedly in World War II against Hitler’s hordes of Nazi bastards. Although many long time party members used Khrushchev’s revelations as a way to opt out of party life (in addition to being physically tired, tired of being politically marginalized, and sick unto death of defending the party line before, or then) our three comrades sucked it up, and especially with the counter-revolutionary turmoil in Hungary justified staying in as a way to defend the Soviet Union in its new hour of need.


It is very hard to go for long periods in politics without some kind of “reward,” without some hope that what you do can make a difference in your lifetime and as Comrade Curtis and Rosa entered the 1960s they had been in certain amount of despair about the lifetime of work that they had put in without much reward. Curtis especially was tired, wanted to cut back on party work, wanted to write some stuff unrelated to the party. Rosa was more ambiguous but she sensed that she too would not mind taking a rest. Then the black civil rights movement down south flared up, and the opportunity to work in public more, to be involved with younger people who were less leery of working with communists than their parents offered a way to do some good work that might pay off in the near future, pay off with the right to vote becoming a reality. So they plugged in to that support work. Markham actually went south for extended periods and could often be seen when the television news came on hovering in the background while Doctor King, or some leader, made pronouncement to the press. That was good if now tiring work. Then Vietnam hit the waves like a big storm and the question, indirectly, of defense of the Soviet Union was presented once again since the dominos the American government were trying to avoid have falling with all their military power would accrue to the Soviet Union and so Vietnam was what would be called later a “proxy war” in the Cold War night. In 1968 just after the heroic Tet offensive had finished up and broke the American will and before the evil genius Lyndon Johnson cried “uncle” and decided to retire Comrade Curtis passed on in his sleep. Comrade Rosa passed away in 1972 after essentially retiring from political work after Curtis’ death.  An era, a half century of communist life, was over.      


Comrade Markham had been living on the West Coast during the late 1960s, having moved there at the request of the party to take advantage of the excellent opportunities provided by the upsurge in left-ward political activity from the civil right movement to the anti-war movement to the more recent aspect of the black liberation struggle, the defense of the Black Panthers and of his own comrade, Angela Davis, who were being targeted for their militant direct actions by the government. For a while he lived in San Francisco but as the repression of the Panthers grew he moved across the bay to Oakland to be closer to the defense efforts by the party on behalf of the Panthers. Funny, he said, at one point a couple of years before no white radicals (or any other white politicals) could approach the then exclusionist, hard black nationalist Panthers but as the “shit hit the fan” and the state geared up its vendetta against black militants and they were being jailed and murdered in numbers way out of proportion to their weight a section of the leadership put out feelers to the party in order to tap into the party’s large legal and fund-raising apparatus. Since Markham had done such defense work in the 1950s defending the party against the red scare tactics of the government and down south for the legal needs of the civil rights workers he was placed in a key position in the United Front Against Fascism, the organizational form that the defense campaign worked under. For a while until the big split in the Panthers in 1971 and the successful closing of the case against Angela Davis he had more work than he needed.        


Comrade Markham although pretty forthright in talking about his parents and their relationship had for many of the interview sessions been extremely reticent to discuss his own personal life, his life outside the party. Then at one session, one session when they had not been at the library but had gone to the High Hat Grille for a couple of drinks he opened up a little. He told of his first serious affair with a non-party woman, Sarah Q., whom he had meet in college, New York University, where he went to school after the war on the GI Bill. They had planned to be married after graduation but Sarah just could not take the red-baiting and thoughts of Markham going to jail, or worse and so they separated, separated on friendly terms (and would during the 1950s when she was married to another man rekindle their affair for several years before that too flickered out when he headed south). That on and off affair was the only serious relationship he had until he met Janice L., a non-party lawyer who worked on the Panther campaign. They married in 1976 and had two children, Delores and David, neither, like many children of reds and other serious political parents, were the slightest bit interested in politics and so the relationship between father and children had been rocky at times. At the time of the interviews there was what Markham called an “armed truce” between them. The marriage, despite some tense moments in the early 1980s over his stance on Afghanistan (and a “platonic affair” with a younger party member), lasted until Janice passed away in 2008.               

If the 1960s and the early 1970s were good times for leftists, for the party with many opportunities to recruit and spread the pro-Soviet word the later part of that decade saw many prospects dry up as the Vietnam War wound down (or really direct American involvement with troops on the ground wound down) and the campuses went back to their normal level of activity, sporadic. Comrade Markham had spoken several times in the interviews about various controversies in the party while he was a member, especially early on. The 1970s were another such period except rather than being about such things as the Hitler-Stalin pact or Khrushchev’s revelations about Stalin it was about how the party faced the world in public. In a country where there was no significant labor party the party leadership (egged on by Moscow) felt it had to keep a close relationship with the Democratic Party in order to carry out the popular front program that the party had pursued for most of the period after World War II.


Well if you start touting the Democrats you are bound to get infected by that experience. And the party did in 1972 with the McGovern campaign. Although the party, depending on the period and the resources, fielded its own presidential candidates and did so in 1972 it came out that half the freaking central committee had voted for McGovern then instead of the party candidate. Markham had been appalled at that discovery having grown up on the idea that communists had to work with outside forces holding their noses. His parents liked to work with outside forces, liked to let them take the lead, but Markham was made of sterner stuff and he took it hard that others were soft on political opponents who essentially did not need you. Still he could not leave the party, could not fathom the idea of going over to the Socialist Workers Party and that damn Trotskyite heresy stuff.          


In the world of politics, especially communist politics a lot of times you wind up reacting to some event that you did not create, had no say in putting together and so you are reduced to responding the best way you can. The controversy over the Democrats was one thing but the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan at the request of the beleaguered progressive government was of a different order. This in Markham’s mind was a question of the defense of the Soviet Union, pure and simple, against the machinations of Islamic fundamentalism who wanted their world to go back to the 8th century or something like that and of aggressive American imperialist action. Markham spent quite a bit of time arguing about the virtues of Soviet intervention from self-defense to extending the gains of the October revolution to Afghanistan and had been what in the European communist movement was called a “tankie,” one who favored intervention. That position was a tough dollar then, what with the American government not so secretly supplying the mujahedeen with weapons and other materials.  A tough position even within his family, with his wife. Worse out on the streets where everybody was condemning another act of Soviet aggression. He ended this interview with this observation- given what has happened in the world, in the Middle East, in America, in Afghanistan since then, shouldn’t we have been calling for the Soviets to finish the job there, and call for international brigades like in the 1930s in Spain to go fight alongside the Red Army soldiers.           


The 1980s were a turbulent time in the Soviet Union as the American imperialists under Reagan put on a full-court press militarily to attempt to drain the Soviet economy, cause discontent, and make it vulnerable to machinations from outside. Moreover the leadership changes to younger men in the Russian party with “new” ideas about fixing the economy and permitting more internal political freedoms appeared to be a necessary corrective. At least early on in the Gorbachev regime Markham had been willing to see what would happen but as the decade turned and the decision was made to get out of Afghanistan without a win he began to turn his position into back into a harder old-time Stalinist position (his term), started to see that as the situation in Poland and East Germany deteriorated and the counter-revolution was successful that the Soviet Union was in mortal danger. And for once there was nothing he could about it. He said he had never in over almost sixty years of party life felt so helpless. So when the Yeltsin coup occurred he knew that his beloved Soviet experiment, flaws and all, was over. The gloating of world imperialism over that fact, “the end of history” as they liked to express it in their haunts, especially by the CIA, was the final kick in the teeth.