Saturday, November 05, 2016

*****When The Fight To Turn The World Upside Down Was In Full Flower- With The Doors The Unknown Soldier In Mind

*****When The Fight To Turn The World Upside Down Was In Full Flower- With The Doors The Unknown Soldier In Mind

 
 
Wait until the war is over
And we're both a little older
The unknown soldier
Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Unborn living, living, dead
Bullet strikes the helmet's head

And it's all over
For the unknown soldier
It's all over
For the unknown soldier

Hut, hut, hut ho hee up
Hut, hut, hut ho hee up
Hut, hut, hut ho hee up

Comp'nee, halt
Present, arms

Make a grave for the unknown soldier
Nestled in your hollow shoulder
The unknown soldier

Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Bullet strikes the helmet's head

And, it's all over
The war is over
It's all over
War is over

Well, all over, baby
All over, baby
Oh, over, yeah
All over, baby
Ooh, ha, ha, all over
All over, baby
Oh, woah, yeah, all over
All over, heh

Add song meaning

Songwriters
Robbie Krieger;John Densmore;Jim Morrison;Ray Manzarek

From The Pen of Zack James

There was no seamless thread that wrapped the counter-cultural dominated 1960s up tightly, wrapped it up neatly in a pretty bow all set for posterity except for the media types who lived day by day in those merciful times for scraps to feed the teletype hot wires and by on-the-make politicians who to this day attempt to make capital making sport of what in the final analysis was a half-thought out desire to create the “newer world” that some old-time English poet was harping about. That seamless thread business had been distracting Frank Jackman’s attention of late now that a new generation of media-types are at hand who want to refight that social battle and the politicians are whipping   up the raw meat good old boys and girls and the staid as well to provide the troops for that new battle against some phantom in their heads. Despite all the rhetoric, despite all the books written disclaiming any responsibility by those who led the march, despite all those who have now “seen the light” and have hopped back into the fold in academia and the professions (in fact that march back to what everybody used to call bourgeois society started the day after the whole movement ebbed or the day they got their doctorates or professional degrees) there was some question even in Franks’ own mind about whether “the movement” for all its high gloss publicity and whirlwind effect dominated the play as much as he and his kindred had thought then or can lay claim to these forty plus years later.
Place plenty of weight on Frank’s observation, maybe not to take to the bank but to have some knowledge about the limits to what a whole generation in all its diversity can claim as its own mark on society and history. Place plenty of weight for the very simple reason that he went through the whole thing in almost all of its contradictions. Had been raised under the star of parents who slogged through the Great Depression although that was a close thing, a very close thing for some like Frank’s parents who were desperately poor. His poor besotted mother having to leave home and head west looking, looking for whatever there was out there before coming back home with three dollars in hand, and maybe her virtue how can you ask that question of your mother when you wouldn’t think to look at her when young, later too, that she was capable of sex, not the sex you had at your pleasure with some sweet Maryjane. His father out of the Southern winds, out of tar-roof shack of a cabin, half naked, down in the coal-rich hills and hollows of Appalachia, the poorest of the poor, leaving that desperate place to seek something, some small fame that always eluded him. They together, collectively, slogged through the war, World War II, his father through Pacific fight, the most savage kind, had his fill of that damn island hopping and his mother waiting, fretfully waiting for the other shoe to drop, to hear her man had laid his head down for his country in some salted coral reef or atoll whatever they were. Get this though, gladly, gladly would lay that head down and she if it came right down to it would survive knowing he had laid that precious head down. That was the salts they were made of, the stuff this country was able to produce even if it had very little hand in forming such faithful servants so no one would, no one could deny their simple patriotism, or doubt that they would pass that feeling on to their progeny.
Made that progeny respect their music too, their misty, moody I’ll see you tomorrow, until we meet again, I’ll get by, if I didn’t care music, music fought and won with great purpose. But Frank balked, balked young as he was, with as little understanding as he had, the minute he heard some serious rhythm back-beat absent from that sugary palp his parents wanted to lay on him and he would, young as he was, stand up in his three brother shared room (when they were not around of course for they older “dug” Patti Page and Rosemary Clooney, stuff like that) and dance some phantom dance based on that beat he kept hearing in his head, and wondered whether anybody else heard what he heard (of course later when it was show and tell time in the 1960s that beat would be the thing that glued those who were kindred together, funny they were legion). Caught the tail end of the “beat” thing that those older brothers dismissed out of hand as faggy, as guys “light on their feet” and gals who seemed black-hearted blank and neurotic. But that was prelude, that, what did somebody in some sociology class call it, the predicate.                      
As the 1960s caught Frank by his throat, caught him in its maw as he liked to call it to swishy-dishy literary effect he got “religion” in about six different ways. Got grabbed  when the folk minute held sway, when guys like Bob Dylan and Dave Von Ronk and gals like Joan Baez preached “protest” to the hinterlands, reaching down to places like Frank’s Carver, nothing but a working poor town dependent on the ups and downs of the cranberry business. At one time the town was the cranberry capital of the world or close to it. That up and down business depending too on whether people were working and could afford to throw in cranberry sauce with their turkeys come Thanksgiving and Christmas or would be reduced to the eternal fallback beans and franks. But see Carver was close enough, thirty or forty miles south of Boston to Beacon Hill and Harvard Square to be splashed by that new sound and new way of going on dates too, going to coffeehouses or if times were tough just hang around the Harvard Square’s Hayes-Bickford watching with fascination the drunks, hipsters, dipsters, grifters, winos, hoboes, maybe  an odd whore drinking a cup of joe after some John split on her, but also guys and gals perfecting their acts as folk-singers, poets, artists and writers.
Grabbed on the basis of that protest music to the civil rights movement down South, putting Frank at odds with parents, neighbors and his corner boys around Jack Slack’s bowling alleys. Grabbed too the dope, the hope and every girl he could get his hands on, or get this to tell you about the times since he was at best an okay looking guy, they could get their hands on him, on those bedroom blue eyes of his they called it more times than not, that came with the great summers of love from about 1965 on.
Here’s where the contradictions started get all mixed up with things he had no control over, which he was defenseless against. So grabbed too that draft notice from his friends and neighbors at the Carver Draft Board and wound up a dog soldier in Vietnam for his efforts. Wound up on cheap street for a while when he came back unable to deal with the “real” world for a while. That failure to relate to the “real” world cost him his marriage, a conventional marriage to a young woman with conventional white picket fence, a little lawn, kids, and dogs dreams which only had happened because he was afraid that he would not come back from “Nam in one piece, would never get to marriage for what it was worth. Grabbed the streets for a while before he met a woman, a Quaker woman, who saved him, for a while until he went west with some of his corner boys who had also been washed by the great push. Did the whole on the road hitchhike trip, dope, did communes, did zodiacs of love, did lots of things until the hammer came down and the tide ebbed around the middle of the 1970s. So yeah Frank was almost like a bell-weather, no, a poster child for all that ailed society then, and for what needed to be fixed.      
That decade or so from about 1964 to about 1974 Frank decided as he got trapped in old time thoughts and as he related to his old friend Jack Callahan one night at his apartment in Cambridge as they passed a “joint” between them (some things die hard, or don’t die) was nevertheless beginning to look like a watershed time not just for the first wave immediate post-World War II baby-boomers like him, Jack, Frankie Riley, the late Peter Markin, Sam Lowell and a lot of other guys he passed the corner boy night with (the ones like him born immediately after the war as the troops came home, came off the transports, and guys and gals were all hopped up to start families, figure out how to finance that first white picket fence house and use the GI bill to get a little bit ahead in the world, at least get ahead of their parents’ dead-end great depression woes) who came of social and political age then washed clean by the new dispensation but for the country as a whole. More so since those of the so-called generation of ’68, so called by some wag who decided that the bookends of the rage of the American Democratic Convention in Chicago that year and the defeat of the revolutionary possibilities in France in May of that year signaled the beginning of the ebb tide for the whole thing, for those who are still up for a fight against the military monster who is still with us are continuing to fight a rearguard action to keep what little is left of accomplishments and the spirit of those time alive.
Thinking back a bit to that time, Frank as the dope kicked in, a thousand things, or it seemed like a thousand things, some things new in the social, economic, political or cultural forest came popping up out of nowhere in many cases, came together in pretty rapid succession to draw down in flames the dread red scare Cold War freezes of their  childhoods (that time always absurdly symbolically topped off by the sight of elementary school kids, them , crouched under some rickety old desk arms over their heads some air-raid drill practice time as if, as the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who are still alive from that time can attest to, that would do the slightest bit of good if the “big one,” the nuclear bombs hit.
Yeah, the Cold War time too when what did they know except to keep their obedient heads down under their desks or face down on the floor when the periodic air-raid shelter tests were performed at school to see if they were ready to face the bleak future if they survived some ill-meant commie atomic blast. (Personally Frank remembered telling somebody then that he would, having seen newsreel footage of the bomb tests at Bikini, just as soon take his  chances above desk, thank you, for all the good the other maneuver would do them.)
For a while anyway Frank and the angel-saints were able to beat back that Cold War mentality, that cold-hearted angst, and calculated playing with the good green world, the world even if they had no say, zero, in creating what went on. Not so strangely, although maybe that is why people drifted away in droves once the old bourgeois order reasserted itself and pulled down the hammer, none of those who were caught up in the whirl thought it would be for only a while or at least thought it would fade so fast just as they thought, young and healthy as they were, that they would live forever. But if you, anybody when you really think about the matter, took a step back you could trace things a little, could make your own “live free” categories of the events that chipped away the ice of those dark nights.

Start in with the mid-1950s if you like, which is where Frank liked to start dating his own sense of the new breeze coming through although being a pre-teenager then he told Jack he would not have had sense enough to call it that, with the heat of the black struggle for some semblance of civil liberties down South in the fight for voter rights and the famous desegregation of buses in Montgomery and the painful desegregation of the schools in Little Rock (and some sense of greater  equality up North too as organizations like the NAACP and Urban League pushed an agenda for better education and housing). Also at that same time, and in gathering anecdotal evidence Frank had found that these too are a common lynchpin, the first break-out of music with the crowning of rock and roll as the wave of the future (black rhythm and blues, scat, rockabilly music all mixed up and all stirred up), and the “discovery” of teen alienation and angst exemplified by sullen movie star  James Dean, who lived fast, and died fast a metaphor that would work its way through youth culture over the next generation. (And throw in surly “wild one” movie star Marlon Brando in The Wild One and a brooding Montgomery Cliff in almost anything during those days, take The Misfits for one, to the mix of what they could relate to as icons of alienation and angst .)   
An odd-ball mix right there. Throw in, as well, although this was only at the end and only in very commercial form, the influence of the “beats,” the guys (and very few gals since that Jack Kerouac-Neal Cassady-William Burroughs-Allen Ginsberg mix was strictly a male bonding thing) who listened to the guys who blew the cool be-bop jazz and wrote up a storm based on that sound, declared a new sound, that you would hear around caf├ęs even if you did not understand it unlike rock and roll, the guys who hitchhiked across the American landscape creating a wanderlust in all who had heard about their exploits, and, of course, the bingo bongo poetry that threw the old modernists like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound out with a bang.
Then start to throw in the struggles against the old authority in places like Frisco town where they practically ran the red-baiters in the HUAC out of town (what Frank, and some of his friends although not the Carver corner boys except Markin, would learn to call “bourgeois authority working hand in hand with the capitalists”), the old certitudes that had calmed their parents’ lives, made them reach out with both hands for the plenty in the “golden age of plenty.”
Of course the biggest event that opened the doors for liberals, radicals, hell, even thoughtful conservatives was the sweet breeze coming down the road from Boston with the election of Jack Kennedy. Ike, the harmless uncle, the kindly grandfather, was for parents Frank wanted guys who set the buzz going, let them think about getting some kicks out of life, that maybe with some thought they would survive, and if they didn’t at least we had the kicks.

That event opened up a new psyche, that it was okay to question authority, whatever the limitations and shortness of the Camelot times with the struggles against some hoary things like segregation, the death penalty, nuclear proliferation, the unevenness of social life which would get propelled later in the decade with fight for women’s liberation, gay liberation, and the fight against the draft, the damn war in Vietnam that drove a nail into the heart of Frank’s generation. A river of ideas, and a river of tears, have been, and can be, shed over that damn war, what it did to young people, those who fought, maybe especially those who fought as Frank got older and heard more stories about the guys who like him didn’t make it back to the “real” world after “Nam, didn’t have a sweet mother Quaker lady like Frank to save them, those guys you see downtown in front of the VA hospitals, and those who refused to, that lingers on behind the scenes even today.
There were more things, things like the “Pill” (and Frank would always kid Jack who was pretty shy talking about sex despite the fact that he and Chrissie, his high school sweetheart, had had four kids when he asked what pill if you need to know what pill and its purpose where have you been) that opened up a whole can of worms about what everyone was incessantly curious about and hormonally interested in doing something about, sex, sex beyond the missionary position of timeless legends, something very different if the dramatic increase in sales of the Kama Sutra meant anything, a newer sensibility in music with the arrival of the protest folk songs for a new generation which pushed the struggle and the organizing forward.
Cultural things too like the experimenting with about seven different kinds of dope previously the hidden preserve of “cool cat” blacks and white hipsters (stuff that they only knew negatively about, about staying away from, thru reefer madness propaganda, thru the banning of some drugs that were previously legal like sweet sister cocaine and taunt Nelson Algren hard life down at the base of society in films like The Man With The Golden Arm), the outbreak of name changes with everybody seemingly trying to reinvent themselves in name (Frank’s moniker at one time was Be-Bop Benny draw what you will out of that the idea being like among some hipster blacks, although with less reason, they wanted to get rid of their  slave names)  fashion (the old college plaid look fading in the face of World War II army surplus, feverish colors, and consciously mismatched outfits and affectation (“cool, man, cool” and “right on’ said it all). More social experiments gathering in the “nation” through rock concerts, now acid-etched, new living arrangements with the arrival of the urban and rural communes (including sleeping on more than one floor in more than one church or mission when on the road, or later on the bum). They all, if not all widespread, and not all successful as new lifestyles all got a fair workout during this period as well.     

Plenty of Frank’s kindred in retrospective would weigh the various combinations of events differently in figuring out how the uprising started just as plenty of them had their specific dates for when the tide began to ebb, when the mean-spirited and authoritarian began their successful counter-offensive that they still lived with for not taking the omens more seriously. (Frank’s ebb tide, as he had  described to Frankie Riley one time, was the events around May Day 1971 when they seriously tried, or thought they were seriously trying, to shut down the government in D.C. if it would no shut down the war and got nothing but billy-clubs, tear gas, beatings and mass arrests for their efforts. After those days Frank, and others, figured out the other side was more serious about preserving the old order than they were about creating the new and that they had better rethink how to slay the monster they were up against and act accordingly.)

Then Frank passed Jack a photograph that he had taken from a calendar put out by the New England Folk Song Society that his wife, Sarah, who worked to put the item out to raise funds for folk music preservation (see above) that acted as another catalyst for this his short screed, and which pictorially encapsulated a lot of what went then, a lot about “which side were you on” when the deal went down. This photograph Frank pointed out to Jack was almost impossible to imagine without some combination of that hell broth anti-war, anti-establishment, pro-“newer world” mix stirred up in the 1960s.
Three self-assured women (the “girls” of photograph a telltale sign of what society, even hip, progressive society thought about women in those slightly pre-women’s liberation time but they would learn the difference) comfortable with the loose and individualistic fashion statements of the day from floppy hats to granny dresses to bare legs, bare legs, Jesus, that alone would have shocked their girdled, silk stocking mothers, especially if those bare legs included wearing a mini-skirt (and mother dread thoughts about whether daughter knew about the pill, and heaven forbid if she was sexually active, a subject not for polite society, not for mother-daughter conversation, then she damn better well know, or else).
They are also uncomfortable about the damn Vietnam war, no, outraged is a better way to put the matter, that was eating up boyfriends, brothers, just friends, guys they knew in college or on the street who were facing heavy decisions about the draft, Canada exile, prison or succumbing to the worst choice, Frank’s choice if you could call his induction a choice what else could he have done gone to Canada, no,  military induction, at a heavy rate and they unlike their mothers who came through World War II waiting patiently and patriotically for their military heroes to come home, come home in one piece, have a very different sense of the heroic. A sense of the heroic going back to ancient times, Greek times anyway, when one group of women like their stay-at-home-waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop World War II mothers demanded that their men come home carried on their shields if they had to rather than speak of defeat. Others, the ones that count here, refusing their potential soldier boys any favors, read sexual favors, okay, if they went off to war, providing a distant echo, a foundation to make their request stand on some authority, for these three women pictured there.
Frank wondered how many guys would confess to the lure of that enticement if they had refused induction. His own wife, quickly married at the time was if anything more gung-ho about stopping the red menace than his parents. Frank did not refuse induction for a whole bunch of reasons but then he did not have any girlfriends like that sweet mother Quaker woman later, who made that demand, his girl- friends early on, and not just his wife if anyway were as likely to want him to come back carried on a shield as those warrior-proud ancient Greek women. Too bad. But Frank said to Jack as Jack got up ready to head home to Hingham and Chrissie that he liked to think that today they could expect more women to be like the sisters above. Yeah, more, many more of the latter, please as Frank and his comrades in Veterans for Peace continue to struggle against the night-takers in the nightmare world of endless war

On The Anniversary Of The Russian Revolution-HONOR THE MEMORY OF JULIUS AND EHTEL ROSENBERG-SOLDIERS OF THE REVOLUTION


 
 
Markin comment:
 
THEY WERE NOT OUR PEOPLE-BUT, THEY WERE OUR PEOPLE

 Eisenhower, Stalin, the Cold War, the Korean War, atomic bombs, atomic spies, air raid shelters, the “Red Scare”, McCarthyism and the Rosenbergs- in the mist of time these were early, if undigested terms,  from my childhood. Ah, the Rosenbergs.  That is what I want to write about today. Out of all of those undigested terms that name is the one that still evokes deep emotion in these old bones. For those who have forgotten or those too young to remember the controversy surrounding their convictions for espionage in passing information about the atomic bomb to the now defunct Soviet Union and their executions defined an essential part of the 1950’s, the formation of the Cold War period in American history. Their controversial convictions and sentencing evoked widespread protests throughout the world. Thus, those who seek to learn the lessons of history, our working class history, and about justice American-style should take the time to carefully examine the case and come to some conclusions about it.

Frankly, I have not, until recently when I read The Rosenberg File by Ronald Radosh and Joyce Milton (written in 1983 and which I will review separately in this space), read any books on the case so that one of my tasks is to re-read the old material, read the new post-Soviet material, and make some suggestions about what to look for in trying to understand its history. This commentary will thus express my own thoughts on the Rosenbergs more than present the questions raised by the scholarship on the case.

And what is the scholarship on the case? Was their trial a frame-up in classic American-style against leftist political opponents of the Cold War and American foreign policy? Were they, individually or collectively, “master spies” at the service of the Soviet Union? Were they innocent, if misguided, progressives caught up in the turmoil of the American “red scare” of the post-World War II period? Did the government through its FBI and other security agencies, its attorneys, its judges stumble into a case which would make many reputations? Did the American Communist Party, itself under severe scrutiny, betray the Rosenbergs? Did the various international campaigns on behalf of the couple work at cross purposes with their various demands for a new trial, reduction of sentence and clemency? What kind of people were these Rosenbergs? In short, were the Rosenbergs heroic Soviet spies, martyrs, dupes or innocents? Those are the questions thoughtful readers are confronted with and I will deal with at least some of them in due course.

My own evolution on the case goes something like this. In my young left-liberal and social democratic days I believed, based on my reading of the evidence and a belief then of the basic fairness of the American justice system that unlike Sacco and Vanzetti, they were guilty of the charges but as an opponent of the death penalty they should not have been executed. As I moved left closer to Marxist politics I still believed they were ‘guilty’. However, I came to believe that the question of guilt or innocence was beside the point and their actions on behalf of the Soviet Union made them heroes of the international working class. That, dear reader is still my basic position.

And what is the basis of that position. At one time I was ‘in the orbit’ of the American Communist party, a fellow traveler if you will. One of the criteria for that position was a question of defending the gains of the Russian Revolution, as I then understood it. And that meant defense of the interests of the Soviet Union. I saw the Rosenberg case as part of that same continuum, those who could actively aid the Soviet cause, by any means necessary, were kindred spirits although other than propaganda I never did anything materially to aid the Soviet Union. Those who have read this space over last year know that I am an ardent supporter of the work of Russian Bolshevik warrior Leon Trotsky. As one should also know there is a river of blood, including the physical destruction of the Left Opposition inside the Soviet Union and elsewhere and Trotsky’s assassination by a Stalinist agent in 1940, between those two concepts of socialist society.            

 Nevertheless to his dying breath Trotsky defended the Soviet Union against foreign and internal counterrevolution. Thus, despite that political divide the Rosenbergs’ action, according to their lights, was not affected by my change of political orientation. Nor should it have.            

 

In the headline above I called them soldiers of the revolution, as they saw it. I think that is a fair assessment and one that I hope they would agree with despite our divergence political perspectives. I like the picture of Julius Rosenberg standing up for the almost forgotten labor martyr Tom Mooney in the early 1930’s at City College of New York. I like the picture of the ‘premature’ anti-fascist Ethel Rosenberg singing in Times Square in 1936 to raise money for the Spanish Republicans when damn few others raised their heads. They made, seemingly, every mistake in the spy book. They may have not been the natural leaders of a socialist revolution in America. However, no revolution can be made without such dedicated rank and filers, when it counts. And they did not cry about their fate. And they did not turn informer to save their skins.   Yes, my friends, those are indeed my kindred spirits. They were not our people-but, they were our people. And they should be yours. Some day when they is a lot most justice in the world than there is now a really fitting memorial to their memory will be in order in the socialist society of the future. In the meantime- Honor the Rosenbergs-Soldiers of the Revolution.

*From The Pages Of "Women And Revolution"-"The Roots Of Bolshevism: The Russian Revolutionary Tradition"-A Guest Commentary

Click on the title to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the heroic 19th century early Russian revolutionary, Vera Figner, mentioned in the article below.

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Summer/Autumn 1992 issue of "Women and Revolution" that has some historical interest for all those who wish to learn about our militant forbears. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during this Women's History Month.

The Roots Of Bolshevism:The Russian Revolutionary Tradition

W&R is pleased to present the edited transcript of a talk given by a member of our editorial board, Joseph Seymour, at an educational conference of the Spartacist League/US, held in the Bay Area on 2 May 1992.

The origins of this talk go back a few years to conversations I had with two comrades who were most directly and actively involved in seeking to build a section of the International Communist League in the Soviet Union. We talked about how wretched the present-day Russian intelligentsia was, both the pro-Wall Street self-styled "democrats" and the Stalinist self-described "patriots." Particularly disturbing was the depth of women's oppression and the pervasive¬ness of male chauvinism, not only in Soviet societyat large but even amongpeople who considered themselves communists, Leninists, would-be Trotskyists.

As we were talking, it occurred to me that the present-day Russian intelligentsia is not only profoundly alienated from Bolshevism, but from the many generations of Russian revolutionaries who preceded and culminated in Bolshevism. If the ghost of Nikolai Chernyshevsky, who was the greatest Russian socialist of the pre-Marxist era—a man who had a profound influence on Lenin—could return to his old intellectual haunts in the universities and editorial offices of Russia today, he would not be able to understand how anyone who called himself a democrat could want to transform Russia along the lines of Western capitalism. For him, to be a democrat meant to be for social equality. It meant to be for the rule of the lower classes in society. The Russian revolutionaries despised the bourgeoisie, both the Russian version and the Western version.

Chernyshevsky would be even more uncomprehending about how anyone could call himself a communist and yet be a Russian nationalist, a male chauvinist and an anti-Semite. Because to be a communist meant by definition that you were an internationalist, you were an extreme partisan of women's equality and liberation, and you welcomed Jews as equals and as comrades. From the 1870s onward, Jews played a prominent role in all of the Russian radical movements, all of the wings of populism and later all wings of Marxism.

And women played a far more prominent role in the Russian revolutionary movement than they did in any other country in the world. Women like Vera Zasulich and Sofia Bardina of Land and Liberty, which was the principal populist organization, were hard, tough, dedicated revolutionaries. From the shooting of the police commandant Trepov in 1878 to the assassination of the tsarist general Luzhenovsky by Maria Spiridonova in 1906, Russian women carried out some of the most spectacular acts of terrorism. After the
Revolution of 1905 a tsarist prison official in his own way recognized the equality of women: "Experience shows that women, in terms of criminality, ability, and possession of the urge to escape, are hardly distinguishable from men."

If we could get into a time machine and go back to the world of Chernyshevsky and Land and Liberty, we would have big fights about peasant socialism and the efficacy of terrorism. But at a deeper level we would feel ourselves among comrades. So what we are trying to do is to reinstill in Russia today its own great revolutionary tradition, a tradition which has been perverted and degraded or simply forgotten after decades of Stalinist rule and the pressure of Western imperialism on the Soviet bureaucratically degenerated workers state.

French Jacobins and Russian Decembrists

That tradition begins with the Decembrists, a group of revolutionary democratic military officers who sought to overthrow the tsarist autocracy in December 1825. But the Decembrists themselves begin with the French Revolution, which is the fountainhead of radicalism in the modern world. It is one of the ironies of history that the Russian army which the tsar sent into West Europe to crush the French Revolution in its Napoleonic phase became a transmission belt back into Russia for the ideals of that revolution. One of the Decembrists later wrote:

"During the campaigns through Germany and France our young men became acquainted with European civilization, which produced upon them the strongest impression. They were able to compare all that they had seen abroad with what confronted them at every step at home: slavery of the majority of Russians, cruel treatment of subordinates by superiors, all sorts of government abuses, and general tyranny."

So the Decembrists were a belated attempt to extend the French Revolution into Russia. One of their principal leaders had been the son of the Russian ambassador to Napoleonic France; he grew up in a milieu shot through with former Jacobin revolutionaries, among them Napo¬leon himself. Another prominent Decembrist, when he was stationed in Paris in 1815, went around to the leading intellectuals, among them Henri Saint-Simon, a pioneer
theorist of socialism. Saint-Simon attempted to convince this young Russian nobleman to introduce socialism into his homeland.

The most radical of the Decembrists, Pavel Pestel, had not personally been to France although he identified himself wholeheartedly with the French revolutionaries. But he went beyond Jacobinism. By the 1820s the ideas of socialism were beginning to gain currency among the European intelligentsia. Pestel attempted to combine a radical bourgeois-democratic revolution with elements of socialism. He proposed that the land be taken from the nobility and given to the peasants—half given to the peasants to farm privately, the other half to farm collectively so that no peasant family would go hungry. And Pestel called this the Russian Law. After the insurrection was suppressed, the tsarist authorities discovered the Russian Law among Pestel's private papers. Instead of publicizing it at his trial, they thought it was so inflammatory and attractive that they buried it in a secret archive. It did not see the light of day for almost 100 years.

An old reactionary general was on his deathbed when he heard of the Decembrist uprising, and it perplexed him. He said: before we have had uprisings of peasants who want to become noblemen; now we have an uprising of noblemen who want to become shoemakers. The Decembrists did not want to become shoemakers; they were not concerned with their future personal status. But this old reactionary understood something: that this was a movement of an elite, isolated from the peasant masses in whose interests they spoke and attempted to act. And this would be true of the Russian revolutionary intelligentsia throughout the 19th century. Initially this milieu consisted mainly of the sons of noblemen, later on the sons and daughters of what was called the "middle class," the children of tsarist bureaucrats or like Chernyshevsky, of Russian Orthodox priests. It was only at the end of the century, in the mid-1890s, that the Marxist wing of the intelligentsia acquired a mass base among the rapidly growing industrial proletariat.

The Decembrists were the first revolutionary bourgeois-democratic movement in Russia. They were also the last such movement. That is, they were the last movement that attempted to overthrow the tsar in order to remodel Russian society along the lines of contemporary West Europe or North America. After that, those people who wanted to transform Russia along the lines of Western capitalism did not call themselves democrats because they were not democrats; they called themselves liberals. They did not want to overthrow the tsarist autocracy. Rather they wanted to pressure the tsarist autocracy to modernize Russia from above. Their goal was a constitutional mon¬archy in which the monarch remained strong and the constitution guaranteed the rule of the propertied classes. As Chernyshevsky put it: "The liberals absolutely refuse to allow the lower strata any preponderance in society."

The First Russian Socialist Movement

Following the suppression of the Decembrists it took another generation for a new revolutionary movement to emerge. This was the so-called Petrashevsky Circle, a group of a couple of hundred radicals around Mikhail Petrashevsky. At that time the Russian Orthodox Church was sexually segregated, and in order to show his support for the equality of women and his defiance of the state church, Petrashevsky donned women's clothing and he attended a ceremony of the church exclusive to women. However he had forgotten to shave off his beard! He was approached by a policeman who said, "Madam, I think you are a man." Petrashevsky replied, "Sir, I think you are an old woman." The policeman was so flustered, Petrashevsky made his getaway.

Whereas the Decembrists had viewed West Europe in the afterglow of the French Revolution, a generation later Petrashevsky and his comrades only saw in West Europe an arena of the horrible exploitation of the lower classes by the propertied classes. They identified with the socialist opposition to Western bourgeois society and defined their goal as the application of Western socialism to Russia. In light of everything that's happening in Russia today, it's important to emphasize that this very first Russian socialist movement was implacably opposed to Russian nationalism in all its manifestations. They of course opposed the Slavophiles, who idealized Russia before Peter the Great and counterposed the spirituality of the Russian people to the crass materialism of the bourgeois West. But Petrashevsky and his comrades also opposed radical democrats like Belinsky who argued that the progress of humanity goes through nations, not by transcending nations. Against this view they argued, "Socialism is a cosmopolitan doctrine, which stands higher than nationalities...for socialists differing nations do not exist, there are only people."

The Petrashevsky Circle was the exact contemporary of the German League of the Just, out of which came the Communist League for which Marx wrote the Com¬munist Manifesto. Like Marx, Petrashevsky and his com¬rades believed that the spectre of communism was haunt¬ing Europe. And Russia was part of Europe. They looked forward, in the near future, to a pan-European socialist revolution, predominantly proletarian in the West, predominantly peasant-based in the East. They believed that the outbreak of the revolutions of 1848 in West Europe was the beginning of that development, and they immediately wanted to get in on the act. They started discussing how they were actually going to overthrow the tsar. But before they got very far, the tsarist authorities simply crushed them. Nicholas I was panicked in his own way by the spectre of communism and moved to destroy its meager reflection among a small section of the Russian intelligentsia.

The Origins of Populism

The revolutions of 1848 and the ensuing counterrevolutions by the combined forces of bourgeois and monarchical reaction are the great historic watershed of 19th century Europe. Among other things they gave rise to Russian populism as a distinct current of European socialism. Petrashevsky and his comrades had believed that socialism would come to Russia as part of a general European revolution. That vision was defeated on the barricades in Paris, Vienna, Rome and elsewhere.

A witness to that defeat was Alexander Herzen, the founder of Russian populism. Herzen had been a radical democrat who emigrated to West Europe, and he experienced the revolutions of 1848 in France and Italy. But Herzen remained optimistic about the prospects of revolution in Russia. If Russia was going to have a revolution in advance and independently of West Europe, however, it would have to be a predominantly peasant revolution because the industrial proletariat was minute. A German conservative, Baron Haxthausen, who had visited Russia in the 1840s, wrote a book saying that Russia didn't need a socialist revolution, it already had socialism in the form of the traditional peasant commune. After 1848 Herzen accepted this premise and argued that what would require a proletarian revolution in the West could be achieved on the basis of Russian rural institutions if the society were sufficiently democratized.

It is important to emphasize that while the Russian populists saw a different path to socialism in Russia, they had the same goal as Western revolutionaries. Thus Marx was always held in extremely high regard in the Russian populist movement. One of the early under¬ground populist groups wrote to Marx in London and proposed that he represent Russia as well as Germany in the leading council of the First International. The first language into which Capital was translated was Russian. It got through the tsarist censors, who figured that a book so dry and abstract as Capital could not inspire anyone to revolutionary passion, and it became an instant best seller. At the end of his life, Herzen stated that he had always been faithful to the ideas of Saint-Simon, who had an extremely technologically advanced conception of socialism.

Herein lay the fundamental contradiction of Russian populism. The populists projected onto the peasant commune not only economic egalitarianism, but social equality at all levels—the equality of women, a libertarian conception of sexual relations, a belief in materialism and the progress of science. They believed that the tsar-worshipping, priest-ridden, wife-beating Russian peasant could be won to the outlook of a Saint-Simon or a Marx. Such an illusion could survive only as long as the populist movement was exclusively a movement of the intelligentsia. And in fact the "To the People" movement marked the beginning of the end of Russian populism.

Revolutionary populism went through four distinct phases. The first phase was ushered in by the Crimean War of 1853-55 in which Russia was defeated by England and France. This defeat sent shock waves through the Russian upper classes. Tsar Nicholas I died in 1855 (some say he committed suicide out of a sense of shame). His successor, Alexander II, appeared to be a liberal, and in the late 1850s Russia experienced the tsarist version of glasnost and perestroika. Censorship was relaxed very considerably, and the tsarist government began talking about fundamental reforms of the system of serfdom.

Initially populist intellectuals like Herzen and Chernyshevsky demanded that the tsar expropriate the landed nobility and give the land to the peasantry. Some believed that the tsarist autocracy would achieve from above what the French Revolution had achieved from below. However, it soon became clear that the legal emancipation of the serfs was going to be done in a way which perpetuated the exploitation of the peasants at the hands of the landlords and the absolutist state. In the first years after the abolition of serfdom, the economic conditions of the peasantry were actually worse than they had been. When the Emancipation Edict of 1861 was read, it provoked scattered peasant uprisings; the peasants thought it was a counterfeit document by the local bureaucrats and the landlords. The so:called Emancipation Edict marked the beginning of revolutionary populism. The intelligentsia became convinced that in order to establish peasant-based socialism they would have to overthrow the tsarist autocracy and create a democratic republic.

The "Common Cause":
Women in the Revolutionary Movement


In the 1860s the first underground revolutionary organizations came into existence. These were easily crushed. Chernyshevsky himself was imprisoned and then exiled. Yet the tsarist repression in no way suppressed the revolutionary populist movement. Over the course of the next decade, a group of perhaps two or three hundred intellectuals became a mass movement of the intelligentsia numbering thousands of activists and perhaps ten times as many sympathizers.

A three-sided political struggle developed during this period within the Russian intelligentsia who opposed the existing social and political order to some degree: the Slavophiles, the liberals, and the revolutionary populists. In this struggle the populists won hands down, and by the early 1870s Russian universities were a bastion of revolutionary populism.

Perhaps the decisive reason for the victory of populism is that they were able to mobilize the vast reserves of the women of the educated classes. This movement literally liberated thousands of women from the shackles of the patriarchal family. A woman was not legally allowed to live on her own without the permission of her parents, or her husband if she was married. To circumvent this, the fictitious marriage became a sort of standard activity within the radical movement. Some young male student would be told by a friend that he knew of a woman of advanced views who wanted to go abroad to study medicine (a woman couldn't study medicine in Russia). And they would meet for the first time in front of a church; they would go in, get married; they would come out, and he would hand her her passport, of which he had control, and say, "Now you are free to go and study medicine and do what you like."

During the 1860s the Russian revolutionary movement acquired the participation of women to a far greater degree than their counterparts in Western Europe. These women at the same time consciously rejected Western-style feminism, that is, the idea of building a separate movement predominantly of women in order to pressure the existing government to pass laws in favor of women's equality. They saw women's equality coming about through what was called the "common cause," a total social revolution in which they would participate on an equal footing with male revolutionaries. Vera Figner, who became the principal leader of the terrorist People's Will in its final phase, recounts how she and her fellow Russian radical students at the University of Zurich viewed this question:

"Generally speaking, as a group the female students abroad were not advocates of the woman question and smiled at any mention of it. We came without thought of pioneering or trying to solve the woman question. We didn't think it needed solution. It was a thing of the past; the principle of equality between men and women had been achieved in the sixties."

Now of course what Figner meant was that it had been achieved within the revolutionary movement, not in Russian society at large. The Russian populists, called "Narodniks" in their own language, were acutely aware of the terrible oppression of women. At a mass trial of populists in 1877, the tsarist prosecutors denounced them for undermining the family. Sofia Bardina replied to this:

"As far as the family is concerned...isn't it being destroyed by a social system which forces an impoverished woman to abandon herself to prostitution, and which even sanctifies this prostitution as a legal and necessary element of every civilized state? Or is it we who are destroying the family? we who are trying to root out this poverty—the major cause of all society's ill, including the erosion of the family?"

"To the People"

In the mid-1870s the populist intelligentsia who were organized in Land and Liberty, which was an all-Russian, fairly highly centralized organization of the Narodnik vanguard, made a heroic 'attempt to overthrow what Bardina called the "social system." This was the "To the People" movement. Thousands of revolutionary intellec¬tuals flocked to rural villages trying to incite the peasants to rise up in a radical democratic and social revolution. The response was not favorable. One of the leading veterans of this movement reported:

"I noticed that any sharp sallies against the Tsar or against religion made an extremely disagreeable impression on the peasants; they were just as deeply perplexed by energetic appeals for a rebellion or uprising."

When the Narodnik intellectuals said that the peasants should have the landlords' land, they got a favorable hearing. But the peasants were unwilling to defy the state to achieve this end.

While the main body of Narodnik intellectuals went to the rural villages, some remained in the cities and sought to agitate and organize among factory workers. Here they were distinctly more successful. They were able to win over some advanced workers, such as Stepan Khalturin, who joined the leadership of Land and Liberty and set up small but significant allied organizations of workers.

One of the leading populist intellectuals involved in organizing the workers was Georgi Plekhanov. Initially Plekhanov accepted what could be called the conventional populist line: factory workers are simply peasants doing seasonal vyork in the factories, which had no effect on their sympathies and ties to the rural villages. But Plekhanov's own experience caused him to question this. In 1879 he wrote:

"The question of the city worker is one of those that it may be said will be moved forward automatically by life itself, to an appropriate place, in spite of the a priori theoretical decisions of the revolutionary leaders."

The "To the People" movement, which necessarily operated quite openly, exposed the Narodniks to massive state repression. This repression, combined with the frus¬tration that the movement had not achieved its basic aim, paved the way for the last phase of revolutionary populism: the turn toward terrorism.

In 1878 Vera Zasulich heard that one of her comrades had been almost beaten to death in prison. She put on her best clothes, walked to the prison, requested that she present a petition to the head of the prison, and when she went into his office she pulled out a gun and shot him pointblank. She did not however kill him. The tsarist authorities thought this was such an open-and-shut case that instead of trying her for a political crime before a special tribunal, they tried her on an ordinary criminal charge before a jury drawn from the St. Petersburg upper classes. And she was acquitted, because the jury found this a justifiable act of moral outrage!

The acquittal had a far more shocking impact than the shooting. Count Leo Tolstoy, the author of War and Peace, expressed the views of the educated elite when he called Zasulich's acquittal "a harbinger of revolution." The populist leaders drew the same conclusion: that if even an upper-class jury will acquit an overt terrorist, then a cam¬paign of terrorism would have enormous popular support. Marx and Engels in London similarly concluded that in the particular conditions of Russia a campaign of terrorism could incite a popular revolution.

The one populist intellectual who dissented was Plekhanov, who warned that the only effect of shooting Alexander II would be to replace him with another Alexander with another digit after his name. He wanted to continue to propagandize and agitate among the rural had been in prison and then in exile for almost 20 years. The tsarist regime had sufficient respect for the effectiveness of People's Will that they did in fact free the old man of Russian socialism. But in the following years Russian populism was basically broken, not so much by the tsarist repression as by demoralization. Neither mass agitation nor terrorism had seriously affected the tsarist autocracy, which emerged if anything even more reactionary than ever.

From Populism to Marxism

The 1880s were the low point of the Russian revolutionary movement. In 1889 a student in St. Petersburg, just ten years earlier a hotbed of revolutionary activism, reported: "There were few self-sacrificing participants who completely consecrated themselves to the cause.... All wanted to finish the course as soon as possible and then to live entirely within the law." Yet just a few years later, a new generation of Russian revolutionaries would enter the scene and finish off the tsarist autocracy
once and for all.

Most accounts of the transition from populism to Marxism within the Russian intelligentsia focus exclusively on Plekhanov and his comrades. It's important, however, to place this transition in its international context. During the 1870s Russia appeared to be the one country on the verge of a radical upheaval. The bomb-throwing Russian Narodnik seemed the model of the European revolutionary. When Zasulich fled to West Europe after being acquitted for shooting Trepov, she was greeted as a heroine not only by socialists, but even by many Western liberals who hated the tsarist autocracy. Yet a decade later the Russian populist movement had almost evaporated. In 1878, the same year that People's Will was formed, the Bismarck regime in Germany passed the so-called Anti-Socialist Laws aimed at breaking the power of the German Marxist movement. The leaders, Bebel and Kautsky, were driven into exile and many activists were imprisoned. Yet unlike the Russian populists, the Marxists became the mass party of the German proletariat despite the repression. So Plekhanov's influence among a new generation of Russian revolutionaries-was not merely because of the intrinsic brilliance of his polemics against populism, but also because he was a cothinker of the strongest, most effective socialist movement in Europe.

After the split in Land and Liberty, Plekhanov attempted to establish a small propaganda group called "Total Redistribution," but the tsarist persecution was so intense that he and his comrades were forced into exile. This compelled them to rethink their basic theoretical premises and strategic perspectives, and in the early 1880s Ple¬khanov made the transition from populism to Marxism. That transition contained two basic elements, one negative, the other positive. Instead of just idealizing it, Plekhanov looked at what was happening to the peasant commune, and he saw that since the emancipation of the serfs, the collective elements of the Russian peasantry were rapidly being undermined. A new layer of rich peas¬ants, known by the insulting term kulaks, or "fists," was increasingly dominating the life of the village because they had the money. That was the negative element. The positive element is that Plekhanov generalized from his own experiences in the 1870s that there was a fundamental difference between workers and peasants, that they were not just part of the narod, the "people," and that only the workers in their mass were receptive to the socialist program. He concluded that a socialist party in Russia must be based centrally on the slowly but steadily growing proletariat.

In rejecting the conception of peasant-based socialism, Plekhanov concluded that Russia at that point in its economic development could not have a socialist transformation of any kind. He conceived a theory of what later came to be called the "two-stage revolution." In the first stage the working class, guided by the socialist intelligentsia, would lead the overthrow of the tsarist autocracy. The liberal bourgeoisie, such as ruled in the West, would then come to power. In turn the workers would gain the political freedom to build a mass proletarian party and allied trade-union movement. Plekhanov also believed that a radical democratic revolution in Russia would enormously accelerate capitalist development, thus increasing the numerical weight of the industrial proletariat and creating the objective economic conditions for a socialist revolution in the future. Thus the program of the Eman¬cipation of Labor group, formed in 1883, stated:

"Present-day Russia is suffering—as Marx once said of the West European continent—not only from the development of capitalist production, but also from insufficiency of that development.

"One of the most harmful consequences of this backward state of production was and still is the underdevelopment of the middle class, which, in our country, is incapable of taking the initiative in the struggle against absolutism. "That is why the socialist intelligentsia has been obliged to head the present-day emancipation movement, whose immediate task must be to set up free political institutions in our country...."

Plekhanov's two-stage revolutionary schema was accepted within the Marxist movement until the beginnings of the Revolution of 1905, when it was confronted, as Plekhanov would have said, "by life itself." It was then challenged in different ways by Lenin's conception of the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry and Trotsky's conception of permanent revolution.

"From a Spark a Flame Shall Be Kindled"

In the first decade of its existence, the Emancipation of Labor group was a mere handful of exiles. This reflected both the apolitical mood of the Russian intelligentsia and the continuing dominance of the populists over the diminished radical movement. Slowly Plekhanov began to influence a new younger generation of Russian intellectuals, personified by Vladimir llyich Ulyanov. According to his own account, the future Lenin was an apolitical youth until 1887, when his older brother was executed for participating in one of the last populist attempts to take the tsar's life. Alexander Ulyanov's execution radicalized his younger brother, who, however, did not follow the same path in a programmatic and strategic sense. In the early 1890s the young future Lenin consciously rejected populism in all its contemporary manifestations, and consid¬ered himself a Marxist.

By the mid-1890s, revolutionary populism was a thing of the past and what passed for populism had merged with liberalism. In the 1890s the only people who were calling for a democratic republic were the Marxists, called the Social Democrats. Thus Lenin could write at this time: "All true and consistent democrats in Russia must become Social Democrats." The Russian Marxists had achieved a position in some ways comparable to the revolutionary populists of a generation earlier. They had become the dominant current among that section of the Russian intelligentsia which was fundamentally hostile to the existing social and political order. They had also acquired a small layer of advanced workers. But they had to break outside the narrow circle. This was called the transition from propaganda to agitation. Plekhanov defined propaganda as the explanation of many complex ideas to the few, and agitation as the explanation of a few basic ideas to the many.

The attempt of the Marxist propaganda circle to involve itself in agitation among the workers happened to coincide with a major strike wave. As a result they got a far more favorable hearing and greater influence among the workers than they had initially expected. Lenin, Martov and the other leaders of the movement sought to direct the workers' economic resistance to the employer toward the ultimate goal of a radical democratic revolution against the tsarist autocracy. In a popular pamphlet on factory fines written in 1895, for example, Lenin wrote:

"[The workers] will understand that the government and its officials are on the side of the factory owners, and that the laws are drawn up in such a way as to make it easier for the employer to oppress the worker."

The turn toward agitation incurred increased tsarist repression. Lenin, Martov and the other leaders of what were called the first generation of Russian Marxist "practicals"—that is, the Russian Marxists who actually organized the workers, as opposed to the older veterans like Plekhanov and Axelrod who provided the theoretical direction from exile—were arrested. The movement passed into the hands of younger people whose formative experience was their involvement in the mass strikes. They became so enthralled with increasing their influence among the workers that they decided to drop the demand for a democratic republic, which they argued was remote from the immediate concerns of the workers and was unpopular among the more backward sections who still had illusions in the tsar's benevolence.

Plekhanov denounced this tendency as "economism," which a colleague of Lenin, Potresov, defined as the Utopian notion of building an effective trade-union move¬ment under tsarist absolutism. Nonetheless in the late 1890s economism became the dominant current within Russian Social Democracy, both the underground circles in Russia and the exile organizations in West Europe.

In 1900 Lenin, Martov and Potresov were released from Siberia, where they had been sent into exile. They joined Plekhanov and his comrades in West Europe to form what was called the Iskra group. "Iskra," meaning "spark," was taken for their journal; it derived from a letter that was written 75 years earlier by the imprisoned and condemned Decembrists to their friend, the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin. In justifying their actions, the Decembrists said: "From a spark a flame shall be kindled." In choosing this name the Iskra group was stating that the proletariat was and must be the heir to the tradition of revolutionary democratic struggle against the tsarist autocracy. The very name was an attack on economism.

Although Plekhanov was one of the towering figures of European socialism, it was Lenin who was the real driving force and principal organizer of the Iskra group. Its immediate goal was to wrest control of the movement from the still dominant economists. The Iskra group won rather rapidly, in part because Russian society was beginning to experience revolutionary ferment at all levels. Factory workers in large numbers spontaneously joined student strikes and protests, thereby giving the lie to the economist notion that workers would take to the streets only when their own personal livelihood was involved—a very narrow and degrading conception. The narrowness of the economist perspective was discredited even among the economists themselves.

For Lenin, the leadership of the movement was only the first step. The second and decisive step was to cohere the localized propaganda circles into a centralized party with a clearly defined program, strategic perspective and leadership. Describing the need for a such a party in his principal work of the Iskra period, What Is To Be Done?, Lenin used a metaphor from construction:

"Pray tell me, when a bricklayer lays bricks in various parts of an enormous structure, the like of which he has never seen, is it not a 'paper line' that he uses to find the correct place to lay each brick and to indicate the ultimate goal of his work as a whole.... And aren't we passing now through a period in our party life, in which we have bricks and bricklayers, but lack a guiding line visible to all?"

To establish such a guiding line and a centralized party, the Iskra group called a congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party in mid-1903. As is well known, this congress ended in a deep split between the Bolsheviks (the majority, or "hards"), led by Lenin, and the Mensheviks (the minority, called at the time the "softs"), whose principal leader was Martov. At first it appeared that the split was over narrowly organizational grounds: whether to have a highly centralized party consisting of people who are committed revolutionaries, or, as the Mensheviks wanted, a looser party open to all workers and intellectuals who actively supported the movement in some degree. However, as Russia moved toward a revolutionary crisis it became increasingly clear that the difference over the internal nature of the party was linked to differences over the course of the role it would play in the revolution, in fact differences over the revolution itself.

The Permanent Revolution

In 1904 Russia engaged in a war with Japan over which country would control the Far East. The tsarist autocracy had expected that a wave of popular patriotic solidarity would dampen the growing social discontent. Instead the defeats of the Russian army at the hands of the Japanese further undermined the tsarist autocracy. "Bloody Sunday," the January 1905 massacre of peaceful workers who were petitioning the tsar, ignited a wave of mass workers strikes, peasant uprisings and military mutinies throughout the year. The Romanov throne tottered wildly, although in the end it did not fall. However, in the early months of 1905 the demise of the autocracy seemed imminent, and therefore the various factions and tendencies of Rus¬sian Social Democracy were forced to spell out much more concretely their conceptions of the course of the revolution and its aftermath.

The Mensheviks translated Plekhanov's initially rather abstract conception of a two-stage revolution into support for the liberal wing of the Russian bourgeoisie, organized in the Constitutional Democratic party or Cadets. The last thing that the Cadets wanted was a popular insurrection to overthrow the tsar. What they aimed at was to use the turmoil from below to pressure the tsarist autocracy to create quasi-parliamentary bodies in which the propertied classes would have the dominant place. In practice the Mensheviks' adherence to a two-stage revolution, in which the first stage meant the workers were supposed to march arm in arm with the democratic bourgeoisie against tsarist reaction, turned out to be a no-stage revolution because there was no democratic bourgeoisie with which to march.

Lenin recognized that all wings of the Russian bourgeoisie were anti-democratic and anti-revolutionary, that a radical bourgeois-democratic revolution therefore would have to occur against and not in alliance with the Russian bourgeoisie. This was the core of his conception of the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry. He projected that a workers party, supported by the mass of the peasants, would be able to purge Russia of all the feudal-derived backwardness, the tsarist autocracy, bureaucracy and the state church. It would eliminate the oppression of nationalities as well as of the Jews and end the exploitation of the peasants by the landed nobility.

This conception was clearly influenced by the Jacobin dictatorship in the Great French Revolution. Yet the ques¬tion remained: could the proletariat replay the Jacobin dictatorship in the Russia of 1905; was it possible to take economic actions which would harm the interests of large sections of the propertied class and at the same time not economically expropriate the bourgeoisie? Lenin insisted that this was not a stable form of government, but rather "only a transient, temporary socialist aim." He argued a' the time (although he later changed his view) that in thi absence of proletarian revolutions in West Europe, a rev¬olution in Russia, no matter how radical, could not go beyond the framework of capitalist economic relations.

The person who uniquely argued arthe time that th Russian Revolution could and had to go beyond bourgeois economic relations was Leon Trotsky. Trotsky had bef one of the younger leaders of the Iskra group; in the split he initially sided with the Mensheviks. He played prominent role in the Revolution of 1905, and in the course of that revolution developed what he called the doctrine of permanent revolution, in part based on Marx's writings in the immediate aftermath of the revolutions of 1848. In a preface which he wrote in 1921 to his writings on the Revolution of 1905, Trotsky summarized the doctrine of permanent revolution:

"This rather high-flown expression defines the thought that the Russian revolution, although directly concerned with bourgeois aims, could not stop short at those aims; the revolution could not solve its immediate, bourgeois tasks except by putting the proletariat into power. And the proletariat, once having power in its hands, would not be able to remain confined within the bourgeois framework of the revolution. On the contrary, precisely in order to guarantee its victory, the proletarian vanguard in the very earliest stages of its rule would have to make extremely deep inroads not only into feudal but also into bourgeois property relations....

"The contradictions between a workers' government and an overwhelming majority of peasants in a backward country could be resolved only on an international scale, in the arena of a world proletarian revolution. Having, by virtue of historical necessity, burst the narrow bourgeois-democratic confines of the Russian revolution, the victorious proletariat would be compelled also to burst its national and state confines, that is to say, it would have to strive consciously for the Russian revolution to become the pro¬logue to a world revolution."

In 1905 the permanent revolution did not go further than the beginnings of dual power between the proletariat and the tsarist autocracy. However, Russia's defeats in the first imperialist world war broke the back of the tsarist autocracy and paved the way for the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, the greatest victory of the world pro¬letariat in history. Today that victory is being desperately threatened by the ascendancy of capitalist counterrevo¬lutionary forces.

But I would like to end this talk rather with a story. After the assassination of Alexander II the leadership of People's Will came into the hands of Vera Figner. It was she who negotiated with the tsarist regime for the release of Chernyshevsky, and she managed to hold together an underground group in Russia for the next two years. The police official who finally tracked her down had gained so much respect for her that he requested to kiss her hand before sending her to prison. But sent to prison she was, where she stayed for the next 22 years. She was only released in the amnesty of 1905. When she came out of prison she was a kind of Narodnik Rip Van Winkle; she could not understand or orient to the radically changed political and social conditions.

Nevertheless, she remained active within the left, where she was universally respected.
In 1917 many prominent old populists joined the counterrevolutionary camp and went into exile. Figner, the old Narodnik terrorist, faced with a fundamental choice of political loyalties, chose to stay in Soviet Russia. In the 1920s she devoted herself to writing her memoirs and to an organization called the Society of Former Political Prisoners, who were old populists who considered themselves loyal citizens of the Soviet Union. In that capacity she sought to induce populists who had emigrated to return to Soviet Russia and to serve the interests of the workers state. This eminently worthy organization was disbanded by Stalin in the early '30s.

Figner was still alive and kicking at the age of 89, living in Moscow, when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941. As the Wehrmacht approached Moscow, the Russian authorities turned to Figner and said, "We will move you to safety further east." She refused, saying, "I am very old. I will die soon anyway. Save your efforts for people who are living, who still have a life to give to the cause." So the last member of the famous Central Committee of the People's Will died the following year in Moscow, a heroic and self-sacrificing revolutionary right to the end, and in that sense an inspiration for us all.

*****Out Of The Hills And Hollows- With The Bluegrass Band The Lally Brothers In Mind

*****Out Of The Hills And Hollows- With The Bluegrass Band The Lally Brothers In Mind  


From The Pen Of Frank Jackman 

 
You know sometimes what goes around comes around as the old-time expression had it. Take for example Sam Lowell’s youthful interest in folk music back in the early 1960s when it crashed out of exotic haunts like Harvard Square, Ann Arbor, Old Town Chi Town and North Beach/Berkeley out in Frisco Bay Area Town and ran into a lot of kids, a lot of kids like Sam, who were looking for something different, something that they were not sure of but that smelled, tasted, felt, looked like difference from a kind of one-size-fits-all vanilla existence. Oh sure, every generation in their youth since the days when you could draw a distinction between youth and adulthood and have it count has tried to march to its own symbolic beat but this was different, this involved a big mix of things all jumbled together, political, social, economic, cultural, the whole bag of societal distinctions which would not be settled until the end of the decade, maybe the first part of the next. But what Sam was interested then down there in Carver about thirty miles south of Boston was the music, his interest in the other trends did not come until later, much later long after the whole thing had ebbed. 

The way Sam told it one night at his bi-weekly book club where the topic selected for that meeting had been the musical influences, if any, that defined one’s tastes and he had volunteered to speak since he had just read a book, The Mountain View, about the central place of mountain music, for lack of a better term, in the American songbook was that he had been looking for roots as a kid. Musical roots which were a very big concern for a part of his generation, a generation that was looking for roots, for rootedness not just in music but in literature, art, and even in the family tree. Their parents’ generation no matter how long it had been since the first family immigration wave was in the red scare Cold War post-World War II period very consciously ignoring every trace of roots in order to be fully vanilla Americanized. So his generation had to pick up the pieces not only of that very shaky family tree but everything else that had been downplayed during that period.

Since Sam had tired of the lazy hazy rock and roll that was being produced and which the local rock radio stations were force- feeding him and others like him looking to break out through their beloved transistor radios he started looking elsewhere on the tiny dial for something different. That transistor radio for those not in the know was “heaven sent” for a whole generation of kids in the 1950s who could care less, who hated the music that was being piped into the family living room big ass floor model radio which their parents grew up with since it was small, portable and could be held to the ear and the world could go by without bothering you while you were in thrall to the music. That was the start. But like a lot of young people, as he would find out later when he would meet kindred in Harvard Square, the Village, Ann Arbor, Berkeley he had been looking for that something different at just that moment when something called folk music, roots music, actually was being played on select stations for short periods of time each week.

Sam’s lucky station had been a small station, an AM station, from Providence in Rhode Island which he would find out later had put the program on Monday nights from eight to eleven at the request of Brown and URI students who had picked up the folk music bug on trips to the Village (Monday a dead music night in advertising circles then, maybe now too, thus fine for talk shows, community service programs and odd-ball stuff like roots music.) That is where he first heard the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, Dave Von Ronk, a guy named Tom Rush from Harvard whom he would hear in person many times over the years, and another guy, Eric Von Schmidt whom he would meet later in one of the Harvard Square coffeehouses that were proliferating to feed the demand to hear folk music, well, cheaply alone or on a date. Basically as he related to his listeners for a couple of bucks at most admission, the price of a cup of coffee to keep in front of you and thus your place, maybe a pastry if alone and just double that up for a date except share the pasty you had your date deal all set for the evening hearing performers perfecting their acts before hitting the A-list clubs).

He listened to it all, liked some of it, other stuff, the more protest stuff he could take or leave depending on the performer but what drew his attention, strangely then was when somebody on radio or on stage performed mountain music, you know, the music of the hills and hollows that came out of Appalachia mainly down among the dust and weeds. Things like Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow, Gold Watch and Chain, Fair and Tender Ladies, Pretty Saro, and lots of instrumentals by guys like Buell Kazee, Hobart Smith, The Muddy River Boys, and some bluegrass bands as well that had now escaped his memory.

This is where it all got jumbled up for him Sam said since he was strictly a city boy, made private fun of the farm boys, the cranberry boggers, who then made up a significant part of his high school and had no interest in stuff like the Grand Ole Opry and that kind of thing, none. Still he always wondered about the source, about why he felt some kinship with the music of the Saturday night red barn, probably broken down, certainly in need of paint, and thus available for the dance complete with the full complement of guitars, fiddles, bass, mandolin and full complement of Jimmy Joe’s just made white lightening, playing plainsong for the folk down in the wind-swept hills and hollows.                                 
As Sam warmed up to his subject he told his audience two things that might help explain his interest when he started to delve into the reasons why fifty years later the sound of that finely-tuned fiddle still beckons him home. The first was that when he had begun his freshman year at Boston University he befriended a guy, Everett Lally, the first day of orientation since he seemed to be a little uncomfortable with what was going on. See Everett was from a small town outside of Wheeling, West Virginia and this Boston trip was only the second time, the first time being when he came up for an interview, he had been to a city larger than Wheeling. So they became friends, not close, not roommate type friends, but they had some shared classes and lived in the same dorm on Bay State Road.

One night they had been studying together for an Western History exam and Everett asked Sam whether he knew anything about bluegrass music, about mountain music (Sam’s term for it Everett was Bill Monroe-like committed to calling it bluegrass). Sam said sure, and ran off the litany of his experiences at Harvard Square, the Village, listening on the radio. Everett, still a little shy, asked if Sam had ever heard of the Lally Brothers and of course Sam said yes, that he had heard them on the radio playing the Orange Blossom Express, Rocky Mountain Shakedown as well as their classic instrumentation version of The Hills of Home.  Everett perked up and admitted that he was one of the Lally Brothers, the mandolin player.

Sam was flabbergasted. After he got over his shock Everett told him that his brothers were coming up to play at the New England Bluegrass Festival to be held at Brandeis on the first weekend of October. Everett invited Sam as his guest. He accepted and when the event occurred he was not disappointed as the Lally Brothers brought the house down. For the rest of that school year Sam and Everett on occasion hung out together in Harvard Square and other haunts where folk music was played since Everett was interested in hearing other kinds of songs in the genre. After freshman year Everett did not return to BU, said his brothers needed him on the road while people were paying to hear their stuff and that he could finish school later when things died down and they lost touch, but Sam always considered that experience especially having access to Everett’s huge mountain music record collection as the lynchpin to his interest.             

Of course once the word got out that Everett Lally was in a bluegrass group, played great mando, could play a fair fiddle and the guitar the Freshman girls at BU drew a bee-line for him, some of them anyway. BU, which later in the decade would be one of the hotbeds of the anti-war movement locally and nationally but then was home to all kinds of different trends just like at campuses around the country, was filled with girls (guys too but for my purposes her the girls are what counts) from New York City, from Manhattan, from Long Island who knew a few things about folk music from forays into the Village. Once they heard Everett was a “mountain man,” or had been at Brandeis and had seen him with his brothers, they were very interested in adding this exotic plant to their collections. Everett, who really was pretty shy although he was as interested in girls as the rest of the guys at school were, told Sam that he was uncomfortable around these New York women because they really did treat him like he was from another world, and he felt that he wasn’t. Felt he was just a guy. But for a while whenever they hung out together girls would be around. Needless to say as a friend of Everett’s when there were two interested girls Sam got the overflow. Not bad, not bad at all.        

But there is something deeper at play in the Sam mountain music story as he also told the gathering that night. It was in his genes, his DNA he said. This was something that he had only found out a few years before. On his father’s side, his grandfather, Homer, whom he had never met since after his wife, Sam’s grandmother, Sara died he had left his family, all grown in any case, without leaving a forwarding address, had actually been born and lived his childhood down in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, down near the fabled Hazard of song and labor legend before moving to the North after World War I. Here is the funny part though when his father and mother Laura were young after World War II and at wits end about where his grandfather might be they travelled down to Prestonsburg in search of him. While they stayed there for a few months looking Sam had been conceived although they left after getting no results on their search, money was getting low, and there were no father jobs around so he had been born in the South Shore Hospital in Massachusetts. So yes, that mountain music just did not happen one fine night but was etched in his body, the whirlwind sounds on Saturday night down amount the hills and hollows with that sad fiddle playing one last waltz to end the evening.