Saturday, December 19, 2015

In The Beginning Was The Jug- The Jim Kweskin Jug Band


In The Beginning Was The Jug- The Jim Kweskin Jug Band




 

Who knows how it happened, how the jug bug craze got started in the folk minute of the 1960s, maybe it happened just like in the 1920s and early 1930s when “jug” got a boost by the likes of the Memphis Jug Band, The Mississippi Sheiks, and about twelve other state-named Sheik groupings using home-made weapons, uh, instruments, picked up from here and there, a jug here, a triangle there, fashion a kazoo here, pluck a washtub there and come up with some pretty interesting sounds. Got a boost too when these seemingly amateur productions got a little air time on the local radio a new thing in the firmament, got guys, agents of the million small and medium-sized record companies to buy into their sound and create a niche market, especially down South. The funny thing was these songs were not about love sorrows, man and women sorrows when things went bust or love’s rewards like you would think would sell a ton of records if the singer had some talent but were about stuff like the rent man coming, coming hard with maybe a sheriff behind him, the repo man to take that old Model T away since you “forgot” to make that payment a few months back, and ever since, about the hard, hard life on Penny’s Farm and placed like that and about what is a poor man to do in hard times. Stuff the back country folk and not just them could relate even if it seems far-fetched today that such subject matter could sell record, ah, CD number one.

Yeah, once you listen to the old stuff on YouTube these days you could see where that 1920s material might have been the start of the big first wave. Maybe though this is how it might have played out back in the 1960s somebody, somebody tired unto death of what was on the youth-oriented AM radio stations then and were looking for stuff their parents did not pass on, roots music, a few musicians, got together and figured here was something that folk-crazed kids, a very specific demographic not to be confused with all of the generation of ’68 post-war baby boomers coming of age rock and roll jail break-out age but those who were also sick unto death of the vanilla rock and roll that was being passed out about 1960 or so.

Get this, make of it what you will for anecdotal evidence, music that more than one mother, including my mother, thought was “nice” and that was the kiss of death to that kind of music after the death of classic Elvis/Chuck/Bo/Jerry Lee rock for a while before the Brits, led by Stones and Beatles but a ton of others as well, came over the pond and the acid-eaters like Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead headed east in the “Second Coming” so they started tinkering. Maybe, and remember the folk milieu perhaps more widely that the rock milieu was very literate, was very into knowing about roots and genesis and where things fit in (including how they fit in and some to this day have made a living out of those tracings). So somebody in the quickly forming and changing bands looked up some songs in the album archives at the library, or, more likely from what later anecdotal evidence had to say about the matter, found some gem in some record store, maybe a store like Sandy’s over between Harvard and Central Squares or Sam Goody’s down in New York City who had all kinds of eclectic stuff if you had the time and wherewithal to shuffle through the bins. Institutions that sustained many for hours back then in the cusp of the 1960s folk revival when there were record stores on almost every corner in places like Harvard Square and the Village in the East you could find some gems if you searched long enough and maybe found some old moth-eaten three volume set of  Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music and came up with The Memphis Jug Band and K.C. Moan or the Sheiks doing Rent Man Blues, maybe Furry Lewis on Kassie Jones (although sometimes the search was barren or, maybe worse, something by Miss Patti Page, Tennessee Ernie Ford, or good god, some country bumpkin George Jones thing stared you in the face). From there they found the Cannon’s Stompers, the Mississippi Sheiks or the Cannon Jug Band, could be the way to prosper by going back to those olden days if they kept the arrangements simple, and that was that.

 

See, everybody then was looking for roots, American music roots, old country roots, roots of some ancient thoughts of a democratic America before the robber barons and their progeny grabbed everything with every hand. Let’s make it simple, something that was not death-smeared we-are- going-to-die-tomorrow-if- the-Ruskkies-go-over-the-top red scare bomb shelter Cold War night that we were trying to shake and take our chances, stake our lives that there was something better to do that wait for the forlorn end. And that search was no accident, at least from the oral history evidence I have looked at, having grown up with rock and roll and found in that minute that genre wanting.  Some went searching South to the homeland of much roots music, since those who were left behind or decided out of ennui or sloth to stay put kept up the old country British Isles Child ballad stuff (their own oral tradition Saturday night barn dance spin on the stuff not Child’s rarified collection stuff) and found some grizzled old geezers like Buell Kazee, Hobart Smith, Homer Jones, Reverend Jack Robinson and the like, who had made small names for themselves in the 1920s when labels like RCA and Paramount went out looking for talent in the hinterlands.

 

So there was a history laying there to be exploited, certainly for the individual members of the Jim Kweskin Jug Band, Jim, Geoff Mulduar, Mel Lymon, Maria Muldaur, Fritz Richmond , the most famous and long-lasting of the 1960s jug groupings, all well-versed in many aspects of the American Songbook (hell, I would say so, say they were well-versed, even old tacky Tin Pan Alley Irving Berlin, smooth Cole Porter and the saucy Gershwin Brothers got a hearing), history there for the taking. All they needed was a jug, a good old boy homemade corn liquor jug giving the best sound but maybe some down in the cellar grandpa jug from the old days if that prime item was not available, a found washtub grandma used to use from the old garage, a washboard found  in that same location, a tringle from somewhere, a kazoo from the music store, some fiddle, a guitar, throw in  a tambourine for Maria and so they were off, off to conquer places like Harvard Square, like the Village, like almost any place in the Bay area within  sound of the bay.

And for a while they did, picking up other stuff chimes, more exotic kazoos, harmonicas, what the heck, even up-graded guitars and they made great music, great entertainment music, not heavy with social messages but just evoking those long lost spirits from the 1920s when jug music would sustain a crowd on a Saturday night. Made some stuff up as they went along, or better, made old stuff their own like Washington At Valley Forge, Bumble Bee, Sweet Sue from Paul Whitman and plenty of on the edge Jazz Age stuff that got people moving and forgetting their blues. And here is the beauty of it unlike most of the first wave stuff which was confined to records and radio listening you can see the Kweskin Jug Band live and in action back in the day on YouTube and see the kind of energy which they produced when they were in high form (music that they, Jim and Geoff anyway, still give high energy to when they occasionally appear together in places like Club Passim in Harvard Square these days. Yeah, in the beginning was the jug… 

 

From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days Of......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars


From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days Of......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars
 
 
 

 

Friday, December 18, 2015

From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days Of......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars-Some Books Of Interest

The Labor Party Question In The United States- An Historical Overview-Fight For A Worker Party That Fights For A Workers Government


 

From The Pen Of Josh Breslin

Back in the early 1970s after they had worked out between themselves the rudiment of what had gone wrong with the May Day 1971 actions in Washington, D.C. Sam Eaton and Ralph Morris began some serious study of leftist literature from an earlier time, from back earlier in the century. Those May Day anti-Vietnam War actions, ill-conceived as they in the end turned out to be, centered on the proposition that if the American government would not close down the damn blood-sucking war then they, those thousands that participated in the actions, would close down the government. All Sam, Ralph and those thousands of others got for their efforts was a round-up into the bastinado. Sam had been picked off in the round-up on Pennsylvania Avenue as his group (his “affinity group” for the action) had been on their way to “capture” the White House. Ralph and his affinity group of ex-veterans and their supporters were rounded-up on Massachusetts Avenues heading toward the Pentagon (they had no plans to capture that five-sided building, at least they were unlike Sam’s group not that na├»ve, just surround it like had occurred in an anti-war action in 1967 which has been detailed in Norman Mailer’s prize-winning book Armies Of The Night). For a time RFK (Robert F. Kennedy) Stadium, the home of the Washington Redskins football team) had been the main holding area for those arrested and detained. The irony of being held in a stadium named after the martyred late President’s younger brother and lightening rod for almost all anti-war and “newer world” political dissent before he was assassinated in the bloody summer of 1968 and in a place where football, a sport associated in many radical minds with all that was wrong with the American system was lost on Sam and Ralph at the time and it was only later, many decades later, as they were sitting in a bar in Boston across from the JFK Federal Building on one of their periodic reunions when Ralph was in town that Sam had picked up that connection.

Sam, from Carver in Massachusetts, who had been a late convert to the anti-war movement in 1969 after his closest high school friend, Jeff Mullin, had been blown away in some jungle town in the Central Highlands was like many late converts to a cause a “true believer,” had taken part in many acts of civil disobedience at draft boards, including the one in hometown Carver, federal buildings and military bases. From an indifference, no that’s not right, from a mildly patriotic average young American citizen that you could find by the score hanging around Mom and Pop variety stores, pizza parlors, diners, and bowling alleys in the early 1960s, he had become a long-haired bearded “hippie anti-warrior.” Not too long though by the standards of “youth nation” of the day since he was running a small print shop in Carver in order to support his mother and four younger sisters after his father had passed away suddenly of a massive heart attack in 1965 which exempted him from military service. Not too short either since those “squares” were either poor bastards who got tagged by the military and had to wear their hair short an appearance which stuck out in towns like Cambridge, Ann Arbor, Berkeley and L.A. when the anti-war movement started embracing the increasingly frustrated and anti-war soldiers that  they were beginning to run across or, worse, cops before they got “hip” to the idea that guys wearing short hair, no beard, looked like they had just taken a bath, and wore plaid short-sleeved shirts and chinos might as well have a bulls-eye target on their backs surveilling the counter-cultural crowd.

Ralph, from Troy, New York, had been working in his father’s electrical shop which had major orders from General Electric the big employer in the area when he got his draft notice and had decided to enlist in order to avoid being an 11B, an infantryman, a grunt, “cannon fodder,” although he would not have known to call it that at the time, that would come later. He had expected to go into something which he knew something about in the electrical field at least that is what the recruiting sergeant in Albany had “promised” him. But in the year 1967 (and 1968 too since he had extended his tour six months to get out of the service a little early) what the military needed in Vietnam whatever else they might have needed was “cannon fodder,” guys to go out into the bushes and kill commies. Simple as that. And that was what Ralph Morris, a mildly patriotic average young American citizen, no that is not right, a very patriotic average young American citizen that you could also find by the score hanging around Mom and Pop variety stores, pizza parlors, diners, and bowling alleys in the early 1960s, did. But see he got “religion” up there in Pleiku, up there in the bush and so when he had been discharged from the Army in late 1969 he was in a rage against the machine. Sure he had gone back to the grind of his father’s electrical shop but he was out of place just then, out of sorts, needed to find an outlet for his anger at what he had done, what had happened to buddies very close to him, what buddies had done, and how the military had made them animals, nothing less. (Ralph after his father retired would take over the electric shop business on his own in 1991 and would thereafter give it to his son to take over after he retired in 2011.)

One day he had gone to Albany on a job for his father and while on State Street he had seen a group of guys in mismatched military garb marching in the streets without talking, silent which was amazing in itself from what he had previously seen of such marches and just carrying a big sign-Vietnam Veterans Against The War (VVAW) and nobody stopped them, no cops, nobody, nobody yelled “commie” either or a lot of other macho stuff that he and his hang out guys used to do in Troy when some peaceniks held peace vigils in the square. The civilian on-lookers held their tongues that day although Ralph knew that the whole area still retained a lot of residual pro-war feeling just because America was fighting somewhere for something. He parked his father’s truck and walked over to the march just to watch at first. Some guy in a tattered Marine mismatched uniform wearing Chuck Taylor sneakers in the march called out to the crowd for anybody who had served in Vietnam, served in the military to join them shouting out their military affiliation as they did so. Ralph almost automatically blurred out-“First Air Cav” and walked right into the street. There were other First Air Cav guys there that day so he was among kindred. So yeah, Ralph did a lot of actions with VVAW and with “civilian” collectives who were planning more dramatic actions. Ralph always would say later that if it hadn’t been for getting “religion” on the war issue and doing all those political actions then he would have gone crazy, would have wound up like a lot of guys he would see later at the VA, see out in the cardboard box for a home streets, and would not until this day have supported in any way he could, although lately not physically since his knee replacement, those who had the audacity to march for the “good old cause.”                          

That is the back story of a relationship has lasted until this day, an unlikely relationship in normal times and places but in that cauldron of the early 1970s when the young, even the not so very young, were trying to make heads or tails out of what was happening in a world they did not crate, and were not asked about there were plenty of such stories, although most did not outlast that search for the newer world when the high tide of the 1960s ebbed in the mid-1970s. Ralph had noticed while milling around the football field waiting for something to happen, waiting to be released, Sam had a VVAW button on his shirt and since he did not recognize Sam from any previous VVAW action had asked if he was a member of the organization and where. Sam told him the story of his friend Jeff Mullin and of his change of heart about the war, and about doing something about ending the damn thing. That got them talking, talking well into the first night of their captivity when they found they had many things in common coming from deeply entrenched working-class cultures. (You already know about Troy. Carver is something like the cranberry bog capital of the world even today although the large producers dominate the market unlike when Sam was a kid and the small Finnish growers dominated the market and town life. The town moreover has turned into something of a bedroom community for the high-tech industry that dots U.S. 495.) After a couple of days in the bastinado Sam and Ralph hunger, thirsty, needing a shower after suffering through the Washington humidity heard that people were finding ways of getting out to the streets through some side exits. They decided to surreptiously attempt an “escape” which proved successful and they immediately headed through a bunch of letter, number and state streets on the Washington city grid toward Connecticut Avenue heading toward Silver Springs trying to hitchhike out of the city. A couple of days later having obtained a ride through from Trenton, New Jersey to Providence, Rhode Island they headed to Sam’s mother’s place in Carver. Ralph stayed there a few days before heading back home to Troy. They had agreed that they would keep in contact and try to figure out what the hell went wrong in Washington that week. After making some connections through some radicals he knew in Cambridge to live in a commune Sam asked Ralph to come stay with him for the summer and try to figure out that gnarly problem. Ralph did, although his father was furious since he needed his help on a big GE contract for the Defense Department but Ralph was having none of that.    

So in the summer of 1971 Sam and Ralph began to read that old time literature, although Ralph admitted he was not much of a reader and some of the stuff was way over his head, Sam’s too. Mostly they read socialist and communist literature, a little of the old IWW (Wobblie) stuff since they both were enthrall to the exploits of the likes of Big Bill Haywood out West which seemed to dominate the politics of that earlier time. They had even for a time joined a loose study group sponsored by one of the myriad “red collectives” that had sprung up like weeds in the Cambridge area. Both thought it ironic at the time, and others who were questioning the direction the “movement” was heading in stated the same thing when they were in the study groups, that before that time in the heyday of their anti-war activity everybody dismissed the old white guys (a term not in common use then like now) like Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, and their progeny as irrelevant. Now everybody was glued to the books.

It was from that time that Sam and Ralph got a better appreciation of a lot of the events, places, and personalities from the old time radicals. Events like the start of May Day in 1886 as an international working class holiday which they had been clueless about despite the   May Day actions, the Russian Revolutions, the Paris Commune, the Chinese Revolutions, August 1914 as a watershed against war, the Communist International, those aforementioned radicals Marx, Lenin, Trostky, adding in Mao, Che, Fidel, Ho whose names were on everybody’s tongue (and on posters in every bedroom) even if the reason for that was not known. Most surprising of all were the American radicals like Haywood, Browder, Cannon, Foster, and others who nobody then, or almost nobody cared to know about at all.

As they learned more information about past American movements Sam, the more interested writer of such pieces began to write appreciation of past events, places and personalities. His first effort was to write something about the commemoration of the 3 Ls (Lenin, Luxemburg, and Liebknecht) started by the Communist International back in the 1920s in January 1972, the first two names that he knew from a history class in junior college and the third not at all. After that he wrote various pieces like the one below about the labor party question in the United States (leftist have always posed their positions as questions; the women question, the black question, the party question, the Russian question and so on so Sam decided to stick with the old time usage.) Here is what he had to say then which he had recently freshly updated. Sam told Ralph after he had read and asked if he was still a “true believer” said a lot of piece he would still stand by today:      

“These notes (expanded) were originally intended to be presented as The Labor Question in the United States at a forum on the question on Saturday August 4, 1972. They were updated for a study class in 2012 recently again [2015] for this space. As a number of radicals have noted, most particularly organized socialist radicals, after the dust from the fall bourgeois election settles [2014], regardless of who wins, the working class will lose. Pressure for an independent labor expression, as we head into 2016, may likely to move from its current propaganda point as part of the revolutionary program to agitation and action so learning about the past experiences in the revolutionary and radical labor movements is timely.

I had originally expected to spend most of the speech at the forum delving into the historical experiences, particularly the work of the American Communist Party and the American Socialist Workers Party with a couple of minutes “tip of the hat” to the work of radical around the Labor Party experiences of the late 1990s. However, the scope of the early work and that of those radical in the latter work could not, I felt, be done justice in one forum. Thus these notes are centered on the early historical experiences. If I get a chance, and gather enough information to do the subject justice, I will place notes for the 1990s Labor party work in this space as well.

*********

The subject today is the Labor Party Question in the United States. For starters I want to reconfigure this concept and place it in the context of the Transitional Program first promulgated by Leon Trotsky and his fellows in the Fourth International in 1938. There the labor party concept was expressed as “a workers’ party that fights for a workers’ government.” [The actual expression for advanced capitalist countries like the U.S. was for a workers and farmers government but that is hardly applicable here now, at least in the United States. Some wag at the time, some Shachtmanite wag from what I understand, noted that there were then more dentists than farmers in the United States. Wag aside that remark is a good point since today we would call for a workers and X (oppressed communities, women, etc.) government to make our programmatic point more inclusive.]

For revolutionaries these two algebraically-expressed political ideas are organically joined together. What we mean, what we translate this as, in our propaganda is a mass revolutionary labor party (think Bolsheviks first and foremost, and us) based on the trade unions (the only serious currently organized part of the working class) fighting for soviets (workers councils, factory committees, etc.) as an expression of state power. In short, the dictatorship of the proletariat, a term we do not yet use in “polite” society these days in order not to scare off the masses. And that is the nut. Those of us who stand on those intertwined revolutionary premises are few and far between today and so we need, desperately need, to have a bridge expression, and a bridge organization, the workers party, to do the day to day work of bringing masses of working people to see the need to have an independent organized expression fighting programmatically for their class interests. And we, they, need it pronto.

That program, the program that we as revolutionaries would fight for, would, as it evolved, center on demands, yes, demands, that would go from day to day needs to the struggle for state power. Today focusing on massive job programs at union wages and benefits to get people back to work, workers control of production as a way to spread the available work around, the historic slogan of 30 for 40, nationalization of the banks and other financial institutions under workers control, a home foreclosure moratorium, and debt for homeowners and students. Obviously more demands come to mind but those listed are sufficient to show our direction.

Now there have historically been many efforts to create a mass workers party in the United States going all the way back to the 1830s with the Workingmen’s Party based in New York City. Later efforts, after the Civil War, mainly, when classic capitalism began to become the driving economic norm, included the famous Terence Powderly-led Knights of Labor, including (segregated black locals), a National Negro Union, and various European social-democratic off -shoots (including pro-Marxist formations). All those had flaws, some serious like being pro-capitalist, merely reformist, and the like (sound familiar?) and reflected the birth pangs of the organized labor movement rather than serious predecessors.

Things got serious around the turn of the century (oops, turn of the 20th century) when the “age of the robber barons” declared unequivocally that class warfare between labor and capital was the norm in American society (if not expressed that way in “polite” society). This was the period of the rise the Debsian-inspired party of the whole class, the American Socialist Party. More importantly, if contradictorily, emerging from a segment of that organization, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) was, to my mind the first serious revolutionary labor organization (party/union?) that we could look to as fighting a class struggle fight for working class interests. Everyone should read the Preamble to the IWW Constitution of 1905 (look it up on Wikipedia or the IWW website) to see what I mean. It still retains its stirring revolutionary fervor today.

The most unambiguous work of creating a mass labor party that we could recognize though really came with the fight of the American Communist Party (which had been formed by the sections, the revolutionary-inclined sections, of the American Socialist Party that split off in the great revolutionary/reformist division after the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917) in the 1920s to form one based on the trade unions (mainly in the Midwest, and mainly in Chicago with the John Fitzgerald –led AFL). That effort was stillborn, stillborn because the non-communist labor leaders who had the numbers, the locals, and, ah, the dough wanted a farmer-labor party, a two class party to cushion them against radical solutions (breaking from the bourgeois parties and electoralism). Only the timely intervention of the Communist International saved the day from a major blunder (Go to the James P. Cannon Internet Archives for more, much more on this movement, He, and his factional allies including one William Z. Foster, later the titular head of the Communist Party, were in the thick of things to his later red-faced chagrin).

Moving forward, the American Communist Party at the height of the Great Depression (the one in the 1930s, that one, not the one we are in now) created the American Labor Party (along with the American Socialist party and other pro-Democratic Party labor skates) which had a mass base in places like New York and the Midwest. The problem though was this organization was, mainly, a left-handed way to get votes for Roosevelt from class conscious socialist-minded workers who balked at a direct vote for Roosevelt. (Sound familiar, again?) And that, before the Labor Party movement of the 1990s, is pretty much, except a few odd local attempts here and there by leftist groups, some sincere, some not, was probably the last major effort to form any kind of independent labor political organization. (The American Communist Party after 1936, except 1940, and even that is up for questioning, would thereafter not dream of seriously organizing such a party. For them the Democratic Party was more than adequate, thank you. Later the Socialist Workers Party essentially took the same stance.)

So much then for the historical aspects of the workers party question. The real question, the real lessons, for revolutionaries posed by all of this is something that was pointed out by James P. Cannon in the late 1930s and early 1940s (and before him Leon Trotsky). Can revolutionaries in the United States recruit masses of working people to a revolutionary labor party (us, again) today (and again think Bolshevik)? To pose the question is to give the answer (an old lawyer’s trick, by the way).

America today, no. Russia in 1917, yes. Germany in 1921, yes. Same place 1923, yes. Spain in 1936 (really from 1934 on), yes. America in the 1930s, probably not (even with no Stalinist ALP siphoning). France 1968, yes. Greece (or Spain) today, yes. So it is all a question of concrete circumstances. That is what Cannon (and before him Trotsky) was arguing about. If you can recruit to the revolutionary labor party that is the main ticket. We, even in America, are not historically pre-determined to go the old time British Labor Party route as an exclusive way to create a mass- based political labor organization. If we are not able to recruit directly then you have to look at some way station effort. That is why in his 1940 documents (which can also be found at the Cannon Internet Archives as well) Cannon stressed that the SWP should where possible (mainly New York) work in the Stalinist-controlled (heaven forbid, cried the Shachtmanites) American Labor Party. That was where masses of organized trade union workers were.

Now I don’t know, and probably nobody else does either, if and when, the American working class is going to come out of its slumber. Some of us thought that Occupy might be a catalyst for that. That has turned out to be patently false as far as the working class goes. So we have to expect that maybe some middle level labor organizers or local union officials feeling pressure from the ranks may begin to call for a labor party. That, as the 1990s Socialist Alternative Labor Party archives indicates, is about what happened when those efforts started.

[A reference back to the American Communist Party’s work in the 1920s may be informative here. As mentioned above there was some confusion, no, a lot of confusion back then about building a labor party base on workers and farmers, a two -class party. While the demands of both groups may in some cases overlap farmers, except for farm hands, are small capitalists on the land. We need a program for such potential allies, petty bourgeois allies, but their demands are subordinate to labor’s in a workers’ party program. Fast forward to today and it is entirely possible, especially in light of the recent Occupy experiences that some vague popular frontist trans-class movement might develop like the Labor Non-Partisan League that the labor skates put forward in the 1930s as a catch basin for all kinds of political tendencies. We, of course, would work in such formations fighting for a revolutionary perspective but this is not what we advocate for now.]

Earlier this year AFL-CIO President Trumka [2012]made noises about labor “going its own way.” I guess he had had too much to drink at the Democratic National Committee meeting the night before, or something. So we should be cautious, but we should be ready. While at the moment tactics like a great regroupment of left forces, a united front with labor militants, or entry in other labor organizations for the purpose of pushing the workers party are premature we should be ready.

And that last sentence brings up my final point, another point courtesy of Jim Cannon. He made a big point in the 1940s documents about the various kinds of political activities that small revolutionary propaganda groups or individuals (us, yet again) can participate in (and actually large socialist organizations too before taking state power). He lumped propaganda, agitation, and action together. For us today we have our propaganda points “a workers’ party that fights for a workers (and X, okay) government.” In the future, if things head our way, we will “united front” the labor skates to death agitating for the need for an independent labor expression. But we will really be speaking over their heads to their memberships (and other working class formations, if any, as well). Then we will take action to create that damn party, fighting to make it a revolutionary instrument. Enough said.

30th Annual PDC Holiday Appeal-Free the Class-War Prisoners!

30th Annual PDC Holiday Appeal-Free the Class-War Prisoners!




Workers Vanguard No. 1080
 

















11 December 2015
 
30th Annual PDC Holiday Appeal-Free the Class-War Prisoners!
 

(Class-Struggle Defense Notes)
 
This year’s Holiday Appeal marks the 30th year of the Partisan Defense Committee’s program of sending monthly stipends as an expression of solidarity to those imprisoned for standing up to racist capitalist repression and imperialist depredation. This program revived a tradition initiated by the International Labor Defense under James P. Cannon, its founder and first secretary (1925-1928). This year’s events will pay tribute to two former stipend recipients: Phil Africa of the MOVE 9 who died under suspicious circumstances in January and Hugo Pinell, the last of the San Quentin 6 in prison, who was brutally assassinated in August. We honor the memory of these courageous individuals by keeping up the fight for the freedom of all class-war prisoners. The PDC currently sends stipends to 14 class-war prisoners.
 
Mumia Abu-Jamal is a former Black Panther Party spokesman, a well-known supporter of the MOVE organization and an award-winning journalist known as “the voice of the voiceless.” Framed up for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer, Mumia was sentenced to death explicitly for his political views. Federal and state courts have repeatedly refused to consider evidence proving Mumia’s innocence, including the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed the policeman. In 2011 the Philadelphia district attorney’s office dropped its longstanding effort to legally lynch America’s foremost class-war prisoner. He remains condemned to life in prison with no chance of parole. Mumia now faces a life-threatening health crisis related to an active case of hepatitis C which brought him close to death in March. The Pennsylvania prison authorities adamantly refuse to treat this dangerous but curable condition.
 
Leonard Peltier is an internationally renowned class-war prisoner. Peltier’s incarceration for his activism in the American Indian Movement has come to symbolize this country’s racist repression of its Native peoples, the survivors of centuries of genocidal oppression. Peltier was framed up for the 1975 deaths of two FBI agents marauding in what had become a war zone on the South Dakota Pine Ridge Reservation. Although the lead government attorney has admitted, “We can’t prove who shot those agents,” and the courts have acknowledged blatant prosecutorial misconduct, the 71-year-old Peltier is not scheduled to be reconsidered for parole for another nine years. Peltier suffers from multiple serious medical conditions and is incarcerated far from his people and family.
 
Seven MOVE members—Chuck Africa, Michael Africa, Debbie Africa, Janet Africa, Janine Africa, Delbert Africa and Eddie Africa—are in their 38th year of prison. After the 8 August 1978 siege of their Philadelphia home by over 600 heavily armed cops, they were sentenced to 30-100 years, having been falsely convicted of killing a police officer who died in the cops’ own cross fire. In 1985, eleven of their MOVE family members, including five children, were massacred by Philly cops when a bomb was dropped on their living quarters. After nearly four decades of unjust incarceration, these innocent prisoners are routinely turned down at parole hearings. None have been released.
 
Albert Woodfox is the last of the Angola Three still incarcerated. Along with Herman Wallace and Robert King, Woodfox fought the vicious, racist and dehumanizing conditions in Louisiana’s Angola prison and courageously organized a Black Panther Party chapter at the prison. Authorities framed up Woodfox and Wallace for the fatal stabbing of a prison guard in 1972 and falsely convicted King of killing a fellow inmate a year later. For over 43 years, Woodfox has been locked down in Closed Cell Restricted (CCR) blocks, the longest stretch in solitary confinement ever in this country. His conviction has been overturned three times! According to his lawyers, he suffers from hypertension, heart disease, chronic renal insufficiency, diabetes, anxiety and insomnia—conditions no doubt caused and/or exacerbated by decades of vindictive and inhumane treatment. Albert was ordered released by a federal judge in June, but the vindictive Louisiana state prosecutors are bringing him to trial yet again for a crime he did not commit.
 
Jaan Laaman and Thomas Manning are the two remaining anti-imperialist activists known as the Ohio 7 still in prison, convicted for their roles in a radical group that took credit for bank “expropriations” and bombings of symbols of U.S. imperialism, such as military and corporate offices, in the late 1970s and ’80s. Before their arrests in 1984 and 1985, the Ohio 7 were targets of massive manhunts. The Ohio 7’s politics were once shared by thousands of radicals but, like the Weathermen before them, the Ohio 7 were spurned by the “respectable” left. From a proletarian standpoint, the actions of these leftist activists against imperialism and racist injustice are not crimes. They should not have served a day in prison.
 
Ed Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa are former Black Panther supporters and leaders of the Omaha, Nebraska, National Committee to Combat Fascism. They are victims of the FBI’s deadly COINTELPRO operation, under which 38 Black Panther Party members were killed and hundreds more imprisoned on frame-up charges. Poindexter and Mondo were railroaded to prison and sentenced to life for a 1970 explosion that killed a cop, and they have now spent more than 40 years behind bars. Nebraska courts have repeatedly denied Poindexter and Mondo new trials despite the fact that a crucial piece of evidence excluded from the original trial, a 911 audio tape long suppressed by the FBI, proved that testimony of the state’s key witness was perjured.
 
Contribute now! All proceeds from the Holiday Appeal events will go to the Class-War Prisoners Stipend Fund. This is not charity but an elementary act of solidarity with those imprisoned for their opposition to racist capitalism and imperialist depredations. Send your contributions to: PDC, P.O. Box 99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013; (212) 406-4252.

From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days Of......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars

From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days Of......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars

 

From The Pen Of Assata Shakur-Left Overs-What Is Left


From The Pen Of Assata Shakur-Left Overs-What Is Left

 

Speaking Truth To Power- From The Pen Of Assata Shakur


Speaking Truth To Power- From The Pen Of Assata Shakur


 

30th Annual PDC Holiday Appeal-Free the Class-War Prisoners!

30th Annual PDC Holiday Appeal-Free the Class-War Prisoners!




Workers Vanguard No. 1080
 

















11 December 2015
 
30th Annual PDC Holiday Appeal-Free the Class-War Prisoners!

 
(Class-Struggle Defense Notes)
 

This year’s Holiday Appeal marks the 30th year of the Partisan Defense Committee’s program of sending monthly stipends as an expression of solidarity to those imprisoned for standing up to racist capitalist repression and imperialist depredation. This program revived a tradition initiated by the International Labor Defense under James P. Cannon, its founder and first secretary (1925-1928). This year’s events will pay tribute to two former stipend recipients: Phil Africa of the MOVE 9 who died under suspicious circumstances in January and Hugo Pinell, the last of the San Quentin 6 in prison, who was brutally assassinated in August. We honor the memory of these courageous individuals by keeping up the fight for the freedom of all class-war prisoners. The PDC currently sends stipends to 14 class-war prisoners.
 
Mumia Abu-Jamal is a former Black Panther Party spokesman, a well-known supporter of the MOVE organization and an award-winning journalist known as “the voice of the voiceless.” Framed up for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia police officer, Mumia was sentenced to death explicitly for his political views. Federal and state courts have repeatedly refused to consider evidence proving Mumia’s innocence, including the sworn confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed the policeman. In 2011 the Philadelphia district attorney’s office dropped its longstanding effort to legally lynch America’s foremost class-war prisoner. He remains condemned to life in prison with no chance of parole. Mumia now faces a life-threatening health crisis related to an active case of hepatitis C which brought him close to death in March. The Pennsylvania prison authorities adamantly refuse to treat this dangerous but curable condition.
 
Leonard Peltier is an internationally renowned class-war prisoner. Peltier’s incarceration for his activism in the American Indian Movement has come to symbolize this country’s racist repression of its Native peoples, the survivors of centuries of genocidal oppression. Peltier was framed up for the 1975 deaths of two FBI agents marauding in what had become a war zone on the South Dakota Pine Ridge Reservation. Although the lead government attorney has admitted, “We can’t prove who shot those agents,” and the courts have acknowledged blatant prosecutorial misconduct, the 71-year-old Peltier is not scheduled to be reconsidered for parole for another nine years. Peltier suffers from multiple serious medical conditions and is incarcerated far from his people and family.
 
Seven MOVE members—Chuck Africa, Michael Africa, Debbie Africa, Janet Africa, Janine Africa, Delbert Africa and Eddie Africa—are in their 38th year of prison. After the 8 August 1978 siege of their Philadelphia home by over 600 heavily armed cops, they were sentenced to 30-100 years, having been falsely convicted of killing a police officer who died in the cops’ own cross fire. In 1985, eleven of their MOVE family members, including five children, were massacred by Philly cops when a bomb was dropped on their living quarters. After nearly four decades of unjust incarceration, these innocent prisoners are routinely turned down at parole hearings. None have been released.
 
Albert Woodfox is the last of the Angola Three still incarcerated. Along with Herman Wallace and Robert King, Woodfox fought the vicious, racist and dehumanizing conditions in Louisiana’s Angola prison and courageously organized a Black Panther Party chapter at the prison. Authorities framed up Woodfox and Wallace for the fatal stabbing of a prison guard in 1972 and falsely convicted King of killing a fellow inmate a year later. For over 43 years, Woodfox has been locked down in Closed Cell Restricted (CCR) blocks, the longest stretch in solitary confinement ever in this country. His conviction has been overturned three times! According to his lawyers, he suffers from hypertension, heart disease, chronic renal insufficiency, diabetes, anxiety and insomnia—conditions no doubt caused and/or exacerbated by decades of vindictive and inhumane treatment. Albert was ordered released by a federal judge in June, but the vindictive Louisiana state prosecutors are bringing him to trial yet again for a crime he did not commit.
 
Jaan Laaman and Thomas Manning are the two remaining anti-imperialist activists known as the Ohio 7 still in prison, convicted for their roles in a radical group that took credit for bank “expropriations” and bombings of symbols of U.S. imperialism, such as military and corporate offices, in the late 1970s and ’80s. Before their arrests in 1984 and 1985, the Ohio 7 were targets of massive manhunts. The Ohio 7’s politics were once shared by thousands of radicals but, like the Weathermen before them, the Ohio 7 were spurned by the “respectable” left. From a proletarian standpoint, the actions of these leftist activists against imperialism and racist injustice are not crimes. They should not have served a day in prison.
 
Ed Poindexter and Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa are former Black Panther supporters and leaders of the Omaha, Nebraska, National Committee to Combat Fascism. They are victims of the FBI’s deadly COINTELPRO operation, under which 38 Black Panther Party members were killed and hundreds more imprisoned on frame-up charges. Poindexter and Mondo were railroaded to prison and sentenced to life for a 1970 explosion that killed a cop, and they have now spent more than 40 years behind bars. Nebraska courts have repeatedly denied Poindexter and Mondo new trials despite the fact that a crucial piece of evidence excluded from the original trial, a 911 audio tape long suppressed by the FBI, proved that testimony of the state’s key witness was perjured.
 
Contribute now! All proceeds from the Holiday Appeal events will go to the Class-War Prisoners Stipend Fund. This is not charity but an elementary act of solidarity with those imprisoned for their opposition to racist capitalism and imperialist depredations. Send your contributions to: PDC, P.O. Box 99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013; (212) 406-4252.

Like Oil And Water- Barbara Stanwyck and Clark Gable’s To Please A Lady- A Film Review (1950)


Like Oil And Water- Barbara Stanwyck and Clark Gable’s To Please A Lady- A Film Review (1950)

 
 
 
DVD Review

From The Pen Of Zack James

To Please a Lady, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Clark Gable, and a bunch of famous and not so famous race car drivers, 1950

Okay, let’s go by the numbers here, or rather the science and the heck with the numbers, oil and water do not mix. Do not mix for very sound reasons having to do with chemical properties, densities and all that other stuff you learned, or half learned like me, in high school chemistry class. And that is what we have here is this classic black and white 1950 romance film, To Please a Lady.

The oil-well of course hard-nosed, want-to-win-at-any-cost-he-man-1950s-he-man-war hero race car driver Mike Brannan (played by a Clark Gable beginning to get a little rough around the edges but still a worthy movie matinee idol). The water-of course hard-nosed, want-to-get- the- story-at-any-cost syndicated columnist Regina Forbes (played by Barbara Stanwyck last seen dangling a provocative ankle Fred MacMurry’s way in Double Indemnity so don’t mess with her, no way). No way is this combination going to be anything but daggers and twenty paces especially when brash Mike gets Regina’s nose out of joint during an interview in which he dismisses her out of hand. (And in another scene as well in which he slaps her after some silly provocation, something that would rightly cause a stir today with all the cases of domestic violence around but which in the film just acted to make Mike more attractive to Regina.)            

I hope you paid attention to one little word in the first paragraph, that word “romance” because despite all my blathering on about oil and water not mixing there is no way in a 1950s Hollywood film that hunk Gable and fetching Stanwyck are not going to wind up under the satin sheets (even if not shown on film like they would nowadays). So the pair has to go through a dance before they finally join up. That dance included Regina getting Mike barred from anything to do with race cars except some back road circus thrill-a-minute gig. But Mike didn’t win his tough guy on the track reputation (or that chest full of medals in some muddy European fields) by rolling over and so he worked his way back up to the Indy cars. Of course he can’t win at Indy, can’t win the real race because there is no Mike Brannan listed as winning that trophy any year. But he does win Regina as she had begun to follow his road back as he lifted himself from the cheap streets. They have their ups and downs like every couple but in the end the audience gets to feel good that at least in the movies oil and water do mix-I wish I knew the formula for it though.       

Birthday Vigil for Chelsea Manning In Boston Saturday December 19th




 
Birthday Vigil for Chelsea Manning In Boston Saturday December 19th 
 



Free Chelsea Manning - President Obama- Pardon Chelsea Manning Now!




Birthday Vigil for Chelsea Manning In Boston Saturday December 19th 


In honor of Chelsea Manning’s 28th birthday (December 17th) this December 19th 2015, responding to a call from the Chelsea Manning Support Network, Payday Men’s Network and Queer Strike, long-time supporters of freedom for Chelsea Manning from the Boston Chelsea Manning Support Committee, Veterans For Peace, the Committee for International Labor Defense along with the weekly Saturday vigil at Park Street organized by the Committee for Peace and Human Rights will celebrate Chelsea’s birthday. We invite you to join us. Currently actions are planned for London and other cities.


Supporters are encouraged to also organize an event in their area, and The Chelsea Manning Support Network and Payday Men’s Network and Queer Strike will publicize it.  Write to http://www.chelseamanning.org/ or payday@paydaynet.org for more information and to share details of your event.

Boston vigil details:

1:00-2:00 PM Saturday, December 19


Park Street Station Entrance on the Boston Common


Imprisoned in 2010 and held for months under torturous conditions, Chelsea Manning was sentenced to 35 years in August 2013 for releasing many military secrets about US crimes in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan among other things. If this stands, she’ll be out in 2045. We cannot let this happen- we have to get her out! We will not leave our sister behind. Join us and encourage others to attend and sign the petition for a presidential pardon from Barack Obama in this important show of support to Chelsea Manning  

Free Chelsea Manning Now-We Will Not Leave Our Sister Behind 
 

The following short remarks were addressed to group of fellow veterans and other peace and social activists at a Boston Armistice Day commemoration by Frank Jackman.

I am proud today as a member of Veterans for Peace to be giving this update on the situation of heroic Wiki-leaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning now serving a thirty-five years sentence out in the prairies of Kansas at Fort Leavenworth for telling the American people the truth about the atrocities and other nefarious actions of the military and of the government. Today, we should take a moment to speak for the anti-war resisters as well as the fallen in battle. Speak out in support of the resisters in this the 100th anniversary year of the beginning of the organized anti-war movement to World War I when a few brave people told their respective leaders to take their wars and go to hell. Add the name Chelsea Manning into that mix these days.  
 
Last year when I updated Chelsea’s case on this occasion I noted that once all the hoopla of the trial and sentencing was over the case would fall under the radar as the appellate process and other legal actions ran their long courses. That continues to be the case. I have to report this year that her appellate counsel are still diligently working on reading the transcripts, the trial if you will recall was the longest and produced the most paperwork in Army history, and developing the issues to present to the Army Court Of Criminal Appeals the first crucial step in the long appeals process that may very well wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court. Of course appeals like every other aspect of the justice system cost money, and plenty of it. This year when things were financially dicey an appeal went out which raised the two hundred thousand dollars necessary for the attorneys to go forward. Thanks to all who helped out with this aid. 

As for Chelsea’s personal situation as a woman in a man’s prison according to Jeff Patterson from Courage to Resist, the organization which has been the central organizer of the political and legal efforts on Chelsea’s behalf, she is doing well, has friends out in Fort Leavenworth and has after a successful ACLU suit been given her hormonal treatments. Thus far however her request to wear her hair at Army style woman’s length has been denied.
 
Reflecting the marvels of modern communication and publication Chelsea Manning has not been left without resources even in prison. She is a contributor to the Guardian on-line and writes a blog for Medium. She also has a Twitter account which you can access from the Chelsea Manning Support Network site. Recently she wrote up a proposal to reform the FISA courts, not an easy task to either write about or an organization to reform.   

Locally over the past year we commemorated Chelsea’s fifth year in the government’s dungeons in May and her birthday last December and will do so again this coming December at one of the Park Street weekly vigils. We have also taken every occasion like this one to keep her case before the public as well as by marching in events like the Pride parade in June with a banner as well as urging all to sign the Amnesty International/Courage to Resist on-line petition for President Obama to pardon Chelsea before he leaves office. We will continue to support freedom for Chelsea until she is released- we will not leave our sister behind. Free Chelsea Manning Now!