*****When The Pictures Got Small-With Gloria Swanson and William Holden’s Sunset Boulevard In Mind
Saturday, August 06, 2016
*****When The Pictures Got Small-With Gloria Swanson and William Holden’s Sunset Boulevard In Mind
Click below to link to the Partisan Defense Committee website.
Reposted from the American Left History blog, dated December 1, 2010, updated December 2014.
I like to think of myself as a long-time fervent supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, an organization committed to social and political defense cases and causes in the interests of the international working class. Cases from early on in the 1970s when the organization was founded and the committee defended the Black Panthers who were being targeted by every police agency that had an say in the matter, the almost abandoned by the left Weather Underground (in its various incantations) and Chilean miners in the wake of the Pinochet coup there in 1973 up to more recent times with the Mumia death penalty case, defense of the Occupy movement and the NATO three, and defense of the heroic Wiki-leaks whistle-blower Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley).
Moreover the PDC is an organization committed, at this time of the year, to raising funds to support the class-war prisoners’ stipend program through the annual Holiday Appeal drive. Unfortunately having to raise these funds in support of political prisoners for many years now, too many years, as the American and international capitalist class and their hangers-on have declared relentless war, recently a very one-sided war, against those who would cry out against the monster. Attempting to silence voices from zealous lawyers like Lynne Stewart, articulate death-row prisoners like Mumia and the late Tookie Williams, anti-fascist street fighters like the Tingsley Five to black liberation fighters like the Assata Shakur, the Omaha Three and the Angola Three and who ended up on the wrong side of a cop and state vendetta and anti-imperialist fighters like the working-class based Ohio Seven and student-based Weather Underground who took Che Guevara’s admonition to wage battle inside the “belly of the beast” seriously. Others, other militant labor and social liberation fighters as well, too numerous to mention here but remembered.
Normally I do not need any prompting in the matter. This year tough I read the 25th Anniversary Appeal article in Workers Vanguard No. 969 where I was startled to note how many of the names, organizations, and political philosophies mentioned there hark back to my own radical coming of age, and the need for class-struggle defense of all our political prisoners in the late 1960s (although I may not have used that exact term at the time).
That recognition included names like black liberation fighter George Jackson’s now deceased after a brutal prison murder class-war prisoner Hugo Pinell’s San Quentin Six comrade; the Black Panthers in their better days, the days when the American state really was out to kill or detain every last supporter, and in the days when we needed, desperately needed, to fight for their defense in places from Oakland to New Haven, as represented by two of the Omaha Three (Poindexter and wa Langa), in their younger days; the struggle, the fierce struggle, against the death penalty as represented in Mumia’s case today (also Black Panther-connected); the Ohio 7 and the Weather Underground who, rightly or wrongly, were committed to building a second front against American imperialism, and who most of the left, the respectable left, abandoned; and, of course, Leonard Peltier and the Native American struggles from Pine Ridge to the Southwest. It has been a long time and victories few. I could go on but you get the point.
That point also includes the hard fact that we have paid a high price, a very high price, for not winning back in the late 1960s and early 1970s when we last had this capitalist imperialist society on the ropes. Maybe it was political immaturity, maybe it was cranky theory, maybe it was elitism, hell, maybe it was just old-fashioned hubris but we let them off the hook. And have had to fight forty years of rear-guard “culture wars” since just to keep from falling further behind.
And the class-war prisoners, our class-war prisoners, have had to face their “justice” and their prisons. Many, too many for most of that time. That lesson should be etched in the memory of every pro-working class militant today. And this, as well, as a quick glance at the news these days should make every liberation fighter realize; the difference between being on one side of that prison wall and the other is a very close thing when the bourgeois decides to pull the hammer down. The support of class-war prisoners is thus not charity, as International Labor Defense founder James P. Cannon noted back in the 1920s, but a duty of those fighters outside the walls. Today I do my duty, and gladly. I urge others to do the same now at the holidays and throughout the year. The class-war prisoners must not stand alone.
*Free The Last of the Ohio Seven-They Must Not Die In Jail
ONE OF THE OHIO SEVEN -RICHARD WILLIAMS- RECENTLY DIED IN PRISON (2006). THAT LEAVES JAAN LAAMAN AND TOM MANNING STILL IN PRISON. IT IS AN URGENT DUTY FOR THE INTERNATIONAL LABOR MOVEMENT AND OTHERS TO RAISE THE CALL FOR THEIR FREEDOM. FREE ALL CLASS WAR PRISONERS.
Free the last of the Seven. Below is a commentary written in 2006 arguing for their freedom.
The Ohio Seven, like many other subjective revolutionaries, coming out of the turbulent anti-Vietnam War and anti-imperialist movements, were committed to social change. The different is that this organization included mainly working class militants, some of whose political consciousness was formed by participation as soldiers in the Vietnam War itself. Various members were convicted for carrying out robberies, apparently to raise money for their struggles, and bombings of imperialist targets. Without going into their particular personal and political biographies I note that these were the kind of subjective revolutionaries that must be recruited to a working class vanguard party if there ever is to be a chance of bringing off a socialist revolution. In the absence of a viable revolutionary labor party in the 1970’s and 1980’s the politics of the Ohio Seven, like the Black Panthers and the Weathermen, were borne of despair at the immensity of the task and also by desperation to do something concrete in aid of the Vietnamese Revolution and other Third World struggles . Their actions in trying to open up a second front militarily in the United States in aid of Third World struggles without a mass base proved to be mistaken but, as the Partisan Defense Committee which I support has noted, their actions were no crime in the eyes of the international working class.
The lack of a revolutionary vanguard to attract such working class elements away from adventurism is rendered even more tragic in the case of the Ohio Seven. Leon Trotsky, a leader with Lenin of the Russian Revolution of 1917, noted in a political obituary for his fallen comrade and fellow Left Oppositionist Kote Tsintadze that the West has not produced such fighters as Kote. Kote, who went through all the phases of struggle for the Russian Revolution, including imprisonment and exile under both the Czar and Stalin benefited from solidarity in a mass revolutionary vanguard party to sustain him through the hard times. What a revolutionary party could have done with the evident capacity and continuing commitment of subjective revolutionaries like the Ohio Seven poses that question point blank. This is the central problem and task of cadre development in the West in resolving the crisis of revolutionary leadership.
Finally, I would like to note that except for the Partisan Defense Committee and their own defense organizations – the Ohio 7 Defense Committee and the Jaan Laaman Defense Fund- the Ohio Seven have long ago been abandoned by those New Left elements and others, who as noted, at one time had very similar politics. At least part of this can be attributed to the rightward drift to liberal pacifist politics by many of them, but some must be attributed to class. Although the Ohio Seven were not our people- they are our people. All honor to them. As James P Cannon, a founding leader of the International Labor Defense, forerunner of the Partisan Defense Committee, pointed out long ago –Solidarity with class war prisoners is not charity- it is a duty. Their fight is our fight! LET US DO OUR DUTY HERE. RAISE THE CALL FOR THE FREEDOM OF LAAMAN AND MANNING. MAKE MOTIONS OF SOLIDARITY IN YOUR POLITICAL ORGANIZATION, SCHOOL OR UNION.
YOU CAN GOOGLE THE ORGANIZATIONS MENTIONED ABOVE- THE PARTISAN DEFENSE COMMITTEE- THE OHIO 7 DEFENSE COMMITTEE- THE JAAN LAAMAN DEFENSE FUND.
From The Archives-2014
Books To While Away The Class Struggle By-20th Century Labor Leader Big Bill Haywood-Working-Class Warrior
Recently I have begun to post entries under the headline- “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By” and "Films To While Away The Class Struggle By"-that will include progressive and labor-oriented songs and films that might be of general interest to the radical public. I have decided to do the same for some books that may perk that same interest under the title in this entry’s headline. Markin
Big Bill Haywood, Melvyn Dubofsky, Manchester University Press, Manchester England, 1987
If you are sitting around today wondering, as I occasionally do, what a modern day radical labor leader should look like then one need go no further than to observe the career, warts and all, of the legendary Bill Haywood. To previous generations of radicals that name would draw an automatic response. Today’s radicals, and others interested in social solutions to the pressing problems that have been bestowed on us by the continuation of the capitalist mode of production, may not be familiar with the man and his program for working class power. Professor Dubofsky’s little biographical sketch is thus just the cure for those who need a primer on this hero of the working class.
The good professor goes into some detail, despite limited accessibility, about Haywood’s early life out in the Western United States in the late 19th century. Those hard scrabble experiences made a huge imprint on the young Haywood as he tramped from mining camp to mining camp and tried to make ends mean, any way he could. Haywood, moreover, is the perfect example of the fact that working class political consciousness is not innate but gained through the hard experiences of life under the capitalist system. Thus, Haywood moved from itinerant miner to become a leading member of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) and moved leftward along the political spectrum along the way. Not a small part in that was due to his trial on trumped up charges in Idaho for murder as part of a labor crack down against the WFM by the mine owners and their political allies there.
As virtually all working class militants did at the turn of the 20th century, Big Bill became involved with the early American socialist movement and followed the lead of the sainted Eugene V. Debs. As part of the ferment of labor agitation during this period the organization that Haywood is most closely associated with was formed-The Industrial Workers of the World (hereafter IWW, also known as Wobblies). This organization- part union, part political party- was the most radical expression (far more radical than the rather tepid socialist organizations) of the American labor movement in the period before World War I.
The bulk of Professor Dubofsky’s book centers, as it should, on Haywood’s exploits as a leader of the IWW. Big Bill’s ups and downs mirrored the ups and downs of the organization. The professor goes into the various labor fights that Haywood led highlighted by the great 1912 Lawrence strike (of bread and roses fame), the various free speech fights but also the draconian Wilsonian policy toward the IWW after America declared war in 1917. That governmental policy essentially crushed the IWW as a mass working class organization. Moreover, as a leader Haywood personally felt the full wrath of the capitalist government. Facing extended jail time Haywood eventually fled to the young Soviet republic where he died in lonely exile in 1928.
The professor adequately tackles the problem of the political and moral consequences of that escape to Russia for the IWW and to his still imprisoned comrades so I will not address it here. However, there are two points noted by Dubofsky that warrant comment. First, he notes that Big Bill was a first rate organizer in both the WFM and the IWW. Those of us who are Marxists sometimes tend to place more emphasis of the fact that labor leaders need to be “tribunes of the people” that we sometimes neglect the important “trade union secretary” part of the formula. Haywood seems to have had it all. Secondly, Haywood’s and the IWW’s experience with government repression during World War I, repeated in the “Red Scare” experience of the 1950’s against Communists and then later against the Black Panthers in the 1960’s should be etched into the brain of every militant today. When the deal goes down the capitalists and their hangers-on will do anything to keep their system. Anything. That said, read this Haywood primer. It is an important contribution to the study of American labor history.
Since 2014 the site of necessity had taken to publicizing more activist events particularly around the struggle to defend the Palestinian people in Gaza against the Zionist onslaught in the summer of that year. That is to be commended. However, in the main, this site continues to promote the endless conferences on socialism, Marxism, and Trotskyism that apparently are catnip to those on the left in Britain all the while touting the latest mythical "left" labor leader who is willing to speak anywhere to the left of the now banished Milibrands after the last election debacle. They will be on sturdier ground with the new head of the Labor Party, Corbyn. I continue to stand willingly with the original comment above about "stealing" material from the site though.
No question since the demise of the Soviet Union as a flawed but vital counter-weight to world imperialism and the rise of the basically one-superpower American world theories and politics based on socialism, communism, hell, even left radicalism as poles of attraction except in spots (like South Africa or Greece) to the working and oppressed masses of the world has taken a serious hit. Have become seen as something like “utopian” schemes by pro-labor leftist militants, students and intellectuals around the world despite the desperate situations today in many parts of that world, including America and Great Britain, which cry out to high heaven for socialist solutions.
As the weight of that Soviet demise has set in there has been a corresponding demise in the level of programmatic and theoretical understandings by those who still espouse the "good old cause." The scheduled events and works by socialist commentators highlighted on this Histomat blog amply demonstrate the proposition that in the post- Soviet period (if not before) there has been a dramatic tendency to throw out all the experiences since the Russian Revolution of 1917 and try to begin anew as if that event never occurred. Unfortunately that means generally to go back to pre-World War I theories of revolutionary organization (and in some cases to forgo the necessity of revolution as if capitalism were the permanent condition of humankind). The main organizational form to face the scrap heap is Lenin’s theory, a theory many times honored more in the breech than in the observance in the past, of the “vanguard party” of conscious revolutionary intellectuals and advanced workers working as full-time professionals revolutionaries.
The clearest example of this is the revival of certain pre-World War I theorists like the “Pope of Marxism,” Karl Kautsky, although interestingly not back to Marx and Engels of the post-1848 period. A main organization concept of Kautsky’s German Social-Democratic of which he was a leading theorist was the “party of the whole class,” a concept which denied, or muted the sometimes vast differences in the working class movement in the interest of numbers (numbers of votes in parliamentary elections really) that would somehow be worked out in the course of the revolution. Well life itself, with many, many examples, has shown how worthless that type of organization was when the deal went down.
The date August 4th 1914 when the German Social-Democrats piled onto the Kaiser’s bandwagon by voting for his war budget should be etched in the brain of every serious leftist militant. There are, granted, many new concepts necessary in the 21st century to reach the masses in order to revive the socialist message with the new communications technology, the new urgency, and the new allies necessary to fight for socialism but the threadbare theory of the “party of the whole class” is not one of them.
Additional Markin comment:
I place some material in this space which I believe may be of interest to the radical public that I do not necessarily agree with or support. One of the worst aspects of the old New Left back in the 1970s as many turned to Marxism after about fifty other theories did not work out (mainly centered on some student-based movements that were somehow to bring down the beast without a struggle for state power) was replicating the worst of the old Old Left (mainly Stalinism but the Social-Democrats despite their democratic professions could teach a lesson or too about bureaucratic suppression) and freezing out political debate with other opponents on the Left to try to clarify the pressing issues of the day. That freezing out , more times than I care to mention including my own behavior a few times, included physical exclusion and intimidation. I have since come to believe that the fight around programs and politics is what makes us different, and more interesting. The mix of ideas, personalities and programs, will sort themselves out in the furnace of the revolution as they have done in the past.
One of the great sins of Stalinism (which the latter-day Social-Democrats of various stripes have honed to a fine art as well) was to silence both dissent inside the party and try like hell to keep other tendencies silent outside the party. Instead of letting various positions and programs be fought out to see who had something to add to the revolutionary arsenal the “word” came down (sometimes changing overnight) and that was that. It looks to be from this great distance that the very much still Stalinized Greece Communist Party is saddled with some of those old-time attributes when there should be in the Greek situation a bubbling up of discussion and clash of programs. Else the capitalists will once again prevail in a situation where they should be sent to "the dustbin of history" as Leon Trotsky once said in another context.
Off-hand, as I have mentioned before, I think it would be easier, infinitely easier, to fight for the socialist revolution straight up than some of the “remedies” provided by the commentators in these various blogs and other networking media. But part of that struggle for the socialist revolution is to sort out the “real” stuff from the fluff as we struggle for that more just world that animates our efforts. So read on.
*****Coming Of Age, Political Age, In The 1960s Night- A Baptism Of Fire-Making War On The War-Makers
From The Pen Of Frank Jackman
He was scared. All of fourteen year old Peter Paul Markin’s body was scared. Of course he knew, knew just as well as anybody else, if anybody thought to ask, that he was really afraid not scared, but Peter Paul was scared anyway. No, not scared (or afraid for the literary correct types), not Frannie De Angelo demon neighborhood tough boy, schoolboy nemesis scared, scared that he would be kicked in the groin, bent over to the ground in pain for no reason, no reason except Frannie deep psycho hard boy reasons known only to himself. Markin was used to that kind of scared, not liking it, not liking getting used to it but he was not tough, not even close although he was wiry, but not Franny heavyweight tough, but used to it. And this certainly was not his usual girl scared-ness on the off chance that one, one girl that is, might say something to him and he would have no “cool” rejoinder. (Yes, girls scared him, not Franny scared but no social graces scared, except in the comfortable confines of a classroom where he could show off with his knowledge of two thousand arcane facts that he thought would impress them but no avail then, later he would be swarmed, well, maybe not swarmed but he didn’t have to spend many lonely weekend nights studying to get to three thousand arcane facts) This was different. This, and his handkerchief-dabbed wet palms and forehead did not lie, was an unknown scared.
See, Peter Paul had taken a bet, a “put your money where your mouth is" bet, from best freshman high school friend Frankie, Francis Xavier Riley, if you want to know the full name. Now these guys had previously bet on everything under the sun since middle school, practically, from sports game spreads, you know Ohio State by ten over Michigan stuff like that, to how high the master pizza man and owner at Salducci’s Pizza Parlor, Tonio, would throw his pizza dough one strange night when Frankie needed dough (money dough that is) for his hot date with girlfriend Joanne. So no bet was too strange for this pair, although this proposition was probably way too solemn to be bet on.
What got it started, the need for a bet started, this time, really had to do with school, or maybe better, the world situation in 1960. Peter Paul, a bundle of two thousand facts that he guarded like a king’s ransom, went off the deep end in 9th grade Civics class when he, during a current events discussion, exploded upon his fellow classmates with the observation that there were too many missiles, too many nuclear bomb-loaded guided missiles, in the world and that both sides in the Cold War (The United States and the Soviet Union and their respective hangers-on) should “ban the bomb.” But you have not heard the most provocative part yet, Peter Paul then argued that, as a good-will gesture and having more of them, the United States should destroy a few of its own. Unilaterally.
Pandemonium ensued as smarts guys and gals, simps and stups also, even those who never uttered a word in class, took aim at Peter Paul’s head. The least of it was that he was called a “commie” and a "dupe" and the discussion degenerated from there. Mr. Merck was barely able to contain the class, and nobody usually stepped out line in his class, or else. Somehow order was restored by the end of class and within a few days the class was back to normal, smart guys and girls chirping away with all kinds of flutter answers and the simps and stups, well the simp and stups did their simp and stup thing, as always.
Frankie always maintained that that particular day was one of the few that he wasn’t, and he really wasn’t, glad that Peter Paul was his friend. And during that class discussion he made a point, a big point, of not entering the fray in defense of his misbegotten friend. He thought Peter Paul was off the wall, way off the wall, on this one and let him know it after class. Of course, Peter Paul could not leave well enough alone and started badgering friend Frankie about it some more. But this was stone wall time because Frankie, irreverent, most of the time irreligious, and usually just happy to be girl-smitten in the world, and doing stuff about that, and not worried about its larger problems really believed, like the hard Roman Catholic-bred boy that he was underneath, that the evil Soviet Union should be nuclear fizzled-that very day.
But Peter Paul kept egging the situation on. And here is the problem with a purist, a fourteen year old purist, a wet behind the ears fourteen year old purist when you think about it. Peter Paul was as Roman Catholic-bred underneath as Frankie but with this not so slight difference. Peter Paul’s grandmother, Anna, was, and everybody who came in contact with her agreed, a saint. A saint in the true-believer catholic social gospel sense and who was a fervent admirer of Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker for social justice movement started in the 1930s. So frequently The Catholic Worker, the movement newspaper, would be lying around her house. And just as frequently Peter Paul, taking grandmother refuge from the hell-bend storms at his own house, would read the articles. And in almost every issue there would be an article bemoaning the incredible increase in nuclear weapons by both sides, the cold war freeze-out that escalated that spiral and the hard fact that the tipping point beyond no return was right around the corner. And something had to be done about it, and fast, by rational people who did not want the world blown up by someone’s ill-tempered whim. Yah, heady stuff, no question, but just the kind of thing that a certain fourteen year old boy could add to his collection of now two thousand plus facts.
Heady stuff, yah, but also stuff that carried some contradictions. Not in grandmother Anna, not in Dorothy Day so much as in Peter Paul and through him Frankie. See, the Catholic Worker movement had no truck, not known truck, anyway with “commies" and "dupes”, although that movement too, more than once, and by fellow Catholics too, was tarred with that brush. They were as fervent in their denunciation of the atheistic Soviet Union as any 1950s red-baiter. But they also saw that that stance alone was not going to make the world safer for believers, or anybody else. And that tension between the two strands is where Frankie and Peter Paul kind of got mixed up in the world’s affairs. Especially when Peter Paul said that the Catholic Worker had an announcement in their last issue that in October (1960) they were going to help sponsor an anti-nuclear proliferation rally on the Boston Common as part of a group called SANE two weeks before the presidential elections.
Frankie took that information as manna from heaven. See, Frankie was just as interested in knowing two thousand facts in this world as Peter Paul. Except Frankie didn’t guard them like a king’s ransom but rather used them, and then discarded them like a tissue. And old Frankie, even then, even in 1960 starting to spread his wings as the corner boy king of the North Adamsville high school class of 1964, knew how to use his stockpile of facts better than Peter Paul ever could. So one night, one fiercely debated night, when Frankie could take no more, he said “bet.” And he bet that Peter Paul would not have the courage to travel from North Adamsville to Park Street Station in Boston to attend that SANE rally by himself (who else would go from old working- class, patriotic, red-scare scared, North Adamsville anyway). And as is the nature of fourteen year old boy relationships, or was, failure to take the bet, whatever bet was social suicide. “Bet,” said Peter Paul quickly before too much thinking time would elapse and destroy the fact of the bet marred by the hint of hesitation.
But nothing is ever just one thing in this wicked old world. Peter Paul believed, believed fervently, in the social message of the Catholic Worker movement especially on this nuclear war issue. But this was also 1960 and Irish Jack Kennedy was running, and running hard, to be President of the United States against bad man Richard Milhous Nixon and Peter Paul was crazy for Jack (really for younger brother, Bobby, the ruthless organizer behind the throne which is the way he saw his own future as a political operative). And, of course, October in election year presidential politics is crunch time, a time to be out hustling votes, out on Saturday hustling votes, especially every Irish vote, every Catholic vote, hell, every youth vote for your man.
On top of that Jack, old Irish Jack Kennedy, war hero, good-looking guy with a good-looking wife (not Irish though not as far as anyone could tell), rich as hell, was trying to out-Cold War Nixon, a Cold War warrior of the first degree. And the way he was trying to outgun Nixon was by haranguing everyone who would listen that there was a “missile gap,” and the United was falling behind. And when one talked about a missile gap in 1960 that only meant one thing, only brooked only one solution- order up more, many more, nuclear-bomb loaded guided missiles. So there it was, one of the little quirks of life, of political life. So, Peter Paul, all fourteen year old scared Peter Paul has to make good on his bet with Frankie but in the process put a crimp into his hoped-for political career. And just for that one moment, although with some hesitation, he decided to be on the side of the “angels” and to go.
That Saturday, that October Saturday, was a brisk, clear autumn day and so Peter Paul decided to walk the few miles from his house in North Adamsville over the Neponset Bridge to the first MTA subway station at Fields Corner rather than take the forever Eastern Mass. bus that came by his street erratically. After crossing the bridge he passed through one of the many sections of Boston that could pass for the streets of Dublin. Except on those streets he saw many young Peter Pauls holding signs at street corners for Jack Kennedy, other passing out literature, and others talking up Jack’s name. Even as he approached the subway station he saw signs everywhere proclaiming Jack’s virtues. Hell, the nearby political hang-out Eire Pub looked like a campaign headquarters. What this whole scene did not look like to Peter Paul was a stronghold place to talk to people about an anti-nuclear weapons rally. Peter Paul got even more scared as he thought about the reception likely at the Boston Commons. He pushed on, not without a certain tentative regret, but he pushed on through the turnstile, waited for the on-coming subway to stop, got on, and had an uneventful ride to the Park Street Station, the nearest stop to the Common.
Now Park Street on any given Saturday, especially in October after the college student hordes have descended on Boston, is a madhouse of activity. College student strolling around downtown looking for goods at the shops, other are just rubber-necking, other are sunning themselves on the grass or park benches in the last late sun days before winter arrives with a fury. Beyond the mainly civilized college students (civilized on the streets in the daytime anyway) there are the perennial street people who populate any big city and who when not looking for handouts, a stray cigarette, or a stray drink are talking a mile a minute among themselves about some supposed injustice that has marred their lives and caused their unhappy decline. Lastly, and old town Boston, historic old town Boston, scene of many political battles for every cause from temperance to liberty, is defined by this, there are a motley crew of speakers, soap-box speakers whether on a real soap-box or not, who are holding forth on many subjects, although none that drew Peter Paul’s attention this day. After running that gauntlet, as he heads for the Francis Parkman Bandstand where the SANE rally was to take place he was amused by all that surrounds him putting him in a better mood, although still apprehensive of what the day will bring forth.
Arriving at the bandstand he saw about twenty people milling around with signs, hand-made signs that showed some spunk, the most prominent being a large poster-painted sign that stated boldly, “Ban The Bomb.” He is in the right place, no question. Although he is surprised that there are not more people present he is happy, secretly happy, that those twenty are there, because, frankly, he thought there might be just about two. And among that crowd he spotted a clot of people who were wearing Catholic Worker buttons so he is now more fully at ease, and was starting to be glad that he came here on this day. He went over to the clot and introduced himself and tells them how he came to be there. He also noted that one CWer wore the collar of a priest; a surprise because at Sacred Heart, his parish church, it was nothing but “fire and brimstone” from the pulpit against the heathen communist menace.
Get this-he also met a little old lady in tennis sneakers. For real. Now Frankie, devil’s advocate Frankie, baited Peter Paul in their arguments about nuclear disarmament by stating that the “peaceniks” were mainly little old ladies in tennis shoes-meaning, of course, batty and of no account, no main chance political account, no manly Jack Kennedy stand up to the Russians account. Peter Paul thought to himself wait until I see Frankie and tell him that this little old lady knew more about politics, and history, than even his two thousand facts. And was funny too boot. Moreover, and this was something that he had privately noticed, as the youngest person by far at the rally she, and later others, would make a fuss over him for that very reason talking about young bravery and courage and stuff like that.
Over the course of the two hours or so of the rally the crowd may have swelled to about fifty, especially when a dynamic black speaker from the W.E.B. Dubois club at Harvard University linked up the struggle against nuclear weapons with the black struggle down South for voting rights that those in the North had been hearing more about lately. It was not until later, much later, that Peter Paul found out that this Dubois club business was really the name of the youth group of the American Communist Party (CP) at the time but by that time he was knowledgeable enough to say “so what.” And it was not until later that he found out that the little old lady with the tennis sneakers was a CPer, although she had said at the time he talked to her she was with some committee, some women’s peace committee, within the Democratic Party. Oh, well. But then he would also be able to say “so what” to that accusation in proper “family of the left” fashion.
But forget all that later stuff, and what he knew or did not know later. See, that day, that October 1960 autumn day, Peter Paul learned something about serious politics. If you are on the right side of the angels on an issue, a central issue of the day, you are kindred. And although there were more than a few catcalls from the passers-by about “commies”, “dupes”, and “go back to Russia” he was glad, glad as hell that he came over. Although nothing turned inside him, noticeably turned inside him that day, about his politics and his determination to see Jack Kennedy and the Democrats take the White House he thought about those brave people at the bandstand and what they were standing for a lot for a long time after the event faded from memory. Oh yah, it was good to be on the side of the angels. And it didn’t hurt that he won that Frankie bet, either.