This space is dedicated to the proposition that we need to know the history of the struggles on the left and of earlier progressive movements here and world-wide. If we can learn from the mistakes made in the past (as well as what went right) we can move forward in the future to create a more just and equitable society. We will be reviewing books, CDs, and movies we believe everyone needs to read, hear and look at as well as making commentary from time to time. Greg Green, site manager
*****The Blues Aint Nothing But Lucille On Your Mind- With The Late B.B. King’s Lucille In Mind
From The Pen Of Sam Lowell
Here is the drill. Bart Webber had started out life, started out as a captive nation child listening to singers like Frank Sinatra who blew away all of the swirling, fainting, screaming bobbysoxers who really did wear bobby sox since the war was on and nylons were like gold, of his mother’s generation proving that his own generation, the generation that came of age to Elvis hosannas although to show human progress they threw their undergarments his way, was not some sociological survey aberration before he, Frank, pitter-pattered the Tin Pan Alley crowd with hip Cole Porter champagne lyrics changed from sweet sister cocaine originally written when that was legal, when you could according to his grandmother who might have known since she faced a lifetime of pain could be purchased over the counter at Doc’s Drugstore although Doc had had no problem passing him his first bottle of hard liquor when he was only sixteen which was definitely underage, to the bubbly reflecting changes of images in the be-bop swinging reed scare Cold War night, Bing Crosby, not the Bing of righteous Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? when he spoke a little to the social concerns of the time and didn’t worry about Yip Harburg some kind of red pinko bastard raising hell among the workers and homeless guy who slogged through World War Ibut White Christmas put to sleep stuff dreaming of very white Christmases along with “come on to my house” torchy who seemed to have been to some Doc’s Drugstore to get her own pains satisfied Rosemary Clooney (and to his brother, younger I think, riding his way, Bob and his Bobcats as well), the Inkspots spouting, sorry kit-kating scat ratting If I Didn’t Care and their trademark spoken verse on every song, you know three verses and they touched up the bridge (and not a soul complained at least according to the record sales for a very long time through various incantations of the group), Miss Patti Page getting dreamy about local haunt Cape Cod Bay in the drifty moonlight a place he was very familiar with in those Plymouth drives down Route 3Aand yakking about some doggie in the window, Jesus (although slightly better on Tennessee Waltz maybe because that one spoke to something, spoke to the eternal knot question, a cautionary tale about letting your friend cut in on your gal, or guy and walking away with the dame or guy leaving you in the lurch), Miss Rosemary Clooney, solo this time, telling one and all to jump and come to her house as previously discussed, Miss Peggy Lee trying to get some no account man to do right, do right by his woman (and swinging and swaying on those Tin Pan Alley tunes of Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, the Gershwin brothers and Jerome Kern best with Benny Goodman in wartime 1940s which kept a whole generation of popular singers with a scat of material), the Andrew Sisters yakking about their precious rums and cokes (soft drinks, not cousin, thank you remember what was said above about the switch in time from sweet sister to bathtub gin), the McGuire Sisters getting misty-eyed, the Dooley sisters dried-eyed, and all the big swing bands from the 1940s like Harry James, Tommy Dorsey (and his brother Jimmy who had his own band for some reason, maybe sibling rivalry, look it up if you like) as background music on the family radio in the 1950s.
The radio which his mother, Delores of the many commands, more commandments than even old Moses come down the mountain imposed on his benighted people, of the many sorrows, sorrows maybe that she had picked a husband more wisely in the depths of her mind although don’t tell him, the husband, his hard-pressed father or that she had had to leave her own family house over on Young Street with that damn misbegotten Irish red-nosed father, and the many estrangements, something about the constant breaking of those fucking commandments, best saved for another day, always had on during the day to get her through her “golden age of working class prosperity” and single official worker, dad, workaday daytime household world” and on Saturday night too when that dad, Prescott, joined in.
Joined in so they, mother and father sloggers and not only through the Great Depression and World War II but into the golden age too, could listen to Bill Marley on local radio station WJDA and his Memory Lane show from seven to eleven where they could listen to the music that got them (and their generation) through the “from hunger” times of the 1930s Great Depression (no mean task not necessarily easier than slogging through that war coming on its heels) and when they slogged through (either in some watery European theater or the Pacific atoll island one take your pick) or anxiously waited at home for the other shoe to drop during World War II. A not unusual occurrence, that shoe dropping, when the lightly trained, rushed to battle green troops faced battle-hardened German and Japanese soldiers until they got the knack of war on bloody mudded fronts and coral-etched islands but still too many Gold Star mothers enough to make even the war savages shed a tear.
Bart, thinking back on the situation felt long afterward that he would have been wrong if he said that Delores and Prescott should not have had their memory music after all of that Great Depression sacking and war rationing but frankly that stuff then (and now, now that he had figured some things out about them, about how hard they tried and just couldn’t do better given their circumstances but too later to have done anything about the matter, although less so) made him grind his teeth. But he, and his three brothers, were a captive audience then and so to this very day he could sing off Rum and Coca Cola,Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree (the Glenn Miller version not the Andrew Sister’s) and Vera Lynn’s White Cliffs of Dover from memory. But that was not his music, okay. (Nor mine either since we grew up in the same working class neighborhood in old Carver, the cranberry bog capital of the world, together and many nights in front of Hank’s Variety store we would blow steam before we got our very own transistor radios and record players about the hard fact that we could not turn that radio dial, or shut off that record player, under penalty of exile from Main Street.)
Then of course since we are speaking about the 1950s came the great musical break-out, the age of classic rock and roll which Bart “dug” (his term since he more than the rest of us who hung around Jimmy Jack’s Clam Shack on Main Street [not the diner on Thornton Street, that would be later when the older guys moved on and we stepped up in their places in high school] was influenced by the remnant of the “beat” generation minute as it got refracted in Carver via his midnight sneak trips to Harvard Square, trips that broke that mother commandment number who knows what number), seriously dug to the point of dreaming his own jailbreak commandment dreams about rock star futures (and girls hanging off every hand, yeah, mostly the girls part as time went on once he figured out his voice had broken around thirteen and that his slightly off-key versions of the then current hits would not get him noticed on the mandatory American Bandstand, would not get him noticed even if he was on key) but that Elvis-etched time too was just a bit soon for him, us, to be able to unlike Bart’s older brother, Payne, call that stuff the music that he, I came of age to.
Although the echoes of that time still run through his, our, minds as we recently proved yet again when we met in Boston at a ‘60s retro jukebox bar and could lip-synch, quote chapter and verse, One Night With You (Elvis version, including the salacious One Night Of Sin original), Sweet Little Sixteen (Chuck Berry, of course, too bad he couldn’t keep his hands off those begging white girls when the deal went down and Mister wanted no interracial sex, none, and so send him to hell and back), Let’s Have A Party ( by the much underrated Wanda Jackson who they could not figure out how to produce, how to publicize -female Elvis with that sultry look and that snarl or sweet country girl with flowers in her hair and “why thank you Mister Whoever for having me on your show I am thrilled” June Carter look ), Be-Bop-a-Lula (Gene Vincent in the great one hit wonder night, well almost one hit, but what a hit when you want to think back to the songs that made you jump, made you a child of rock and roll), Bo Diddley (Bo, of course, who had long ago answered the question of who put the rock in rock and roll and who dispute his claim except maybe Ike Turner when he could flailed away on Rocket 88), Peggy Sue (too soon gone Buddy Holly) and a whole bunch more.
The music that Bart really called his own though, as did I, although later we were to part company since I could not abide, still can’t abide, that whiny music dealing mainly with mangled murders, death, thwarted love, and death, or did I say that already, accompanied by, Jesus, banjos, mandos and harps, was the stuff from the folk minute of the 1960s which dovetailed with his, our coming of chronological, political and social age, the latter in the sense of recognizing, if not always acting on, the fact that there were others, kindred, out there beside us filled with angst, alienation and good will to seek solidarity with which neither of us tied up with knots with seven seals connected with until later after getting out of our dinky hometown of Carver and off into the big cities and campus towns where just at that moment there were kindred by the thousands with the same maladies and same desire to turn the world upside down.
By the way if you didn’t imbibe in the folk minute or were too young what I mean is the mountain tunes of the first generation of the Carter Family coming out of Clinch Mountain, Buell Kazell, a guy you probably never heard of and haven’t missed much except some history twaddle that Bart is always on top of (from the Harry Smith Anthology of American Folk Music times), Jimmy Rodgers the Texas yodeler who found fame at the same time as the Carters in old Podunk Bristol, Tennessee, the old country Child ballads (Northwest Europe old country collected by Child in Cambridge in the 1850s and taken up in that town again one hundred years later in some kind of act, conscious or unconscious, of historical affinity), the blue grass music (which grabbed Bart by the throat when Everett Lally, a college friend of his and member of the famed Lally Brothers blue grass band let him in on his treasure trove of music from that genre which he tried to interest me in one night before I cut him short although Everett was a cool guy, very cool for a guy from the hills and hollows of Appalachia). Protest songs too, protest songs against the madnesses of the times, nuclear war, brushfire war in places like Vietnam, against Mister James Crow’s midnight hooded ways, against the barbaric death penalty, against a lot of what songwriter Malvina Reynolds called the “ticky-tack little cookie-cutter box” existences all of us were slated for if nothing else turned up by the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, Dave Von Ronk and Phil Ochs. Bart said that while he was in college (Boston College, the Jesuit school which was letting even heathen Protestants like Bart in as long as the they did not try to start the Reformation, again on their dime, or could play football) the latter songs (With God On Our Side, Blowin’ In The Wind, The Time They Are A-Changing, I Ain’t Marching No More, Universal Soldier and stuff like that) that drove a lot of his interest once he connected their work with the Harvard Square coffeehouse scene (and the adjacent hanging out at the Hayes-Bickford Cafeteria which he has written plenty about elsewhere and need not detain us here where he hung on poverty nights, meaning many nights.
Bart said a lot of the drive toward folk music was to get out from under the anti-rock and rock musical counter-revolution that he, we although I just kept replaying Elvis and the crowd until the new dispensation arrived, kept hearing on his transistor radio during that early 1960s period with pretty boy singers (Fabian, a bunch of guys named Bobby, the Everly Brothers) and vapid young female consumer-driven female singer stuff (oh, you want names, well Sandra Dee, Brenda Lee, Patsy Cline, Leslie Gore say no more). I passed that time, tough time it was in that cold winter night where the slightest bit of free spirit was liable to get you anywhere from hell form commandment mother to the headmaster to some ill-disposed anonymous rabid un-American committee which would take your livelihood away in a snap if you didn’t come across with names and addresses and be quick about it just ask the Hollywood Ten and lesser mortals if you think I am kidding which I agreed was a tough time in the rock genre that drove our desires, feeling crummy for not having a cool girlfriend to at least keep the chill night out playing my by the midnight phone classic rock and roll records almost to death and worn down grooves and began to hear a certain murmur from down South and out in Chicago with a blues beat that I swear sounded like it came out of the backbeat of rock. (And I was not wrong, found out one night to Bart’s surprise and mine that Smiley Jackson big loving tune that I swear Elvis ripped off and just snarled and swiveled up. Years later I was proven right in my intuition when it turned out that half of rock and roll depended on black guys selling scant records, “race records” to small audiences.)
Of course both of us, Bart and me, with that something undefinable which set us apart from others like Frankie Riley the leader of the corner boy night who seemed to get along by going along, being nothing but prime examples of those alienated teenagers whom the high-brow sociologists were fretting about, hell, gnawing at their knuckles since the big boys expected them to earn all that research money by spotting trends not letting the youth of the nation go to hell in a handbasket without a fight, worried that we were heading toward nihilism, toward some “chicken run” death wish or worse, much worse like Johnny Wild Boy and his gang marauding hapless towns at will leaving the denizens defenseless against the horde and not sure what to do about it, worried about our going to hell in a handbasket like they gave a fuck, like our hurts and depressions were what ailed the candid world although I would not have characterized that trend that way for it would take a few decades to see what was what. Then though the pretty boy and vapid girl music just gave me a headache, a migraine if anybody was asking, but mostly nobody was. Bart too although like I said we split ways as he sought to seek out roots music that he kept hearing in the coffeehouses and on the radio once he found a station out of Providence (accidently) which featured such folk music and got intrigued by the sounds.
Part of that search in the doldrums, my part but I dragged Bart along a little when I played to his folkie roots interests after he found out that some of the country blues music would get some play on that folk music station, a big search over the long haul, was to get deeply immersed in the blues, mainly at first country blues and later the city, you know, Chicago blues. Those country guys though intrigued me once they were “discovered” down south in little towns plying away in the fields or some such work and were brought up to Newport for the famous folk festival there, the one where we would hitchhike to the first time since we had no car when Steve when balked at going to anything involving, his term “ faggy guys and ice queen girls” (he was wrong, very wrong on the later point, the former too but guys in our circle were sensitive to accusations of “being light on your feet” and let it pass without comment) to enflame a new generation of aficionados. The likes of Son House the mad man preacher-sinner man, Skip James with that falsetto voice singing out about how he would rather be with the devil than to be that woman’s man, a song that got me into trouble with one girl when I mentioned it kiddingly one time to her girlfriend and I got nothing but the big freeze after that and as recently a few years when I used that as my reason when I was asked if would endorse Hilary Clinton for President, Bukka White (sweating blood and salt on that National Steel on Aberdeen Mississippi Woman and Panama Limited which you can see via YouTube), and,of course Creole Belle candy man Mississippi John Hurt.
But those guys basically stayed in the South went about their local business and vanished from big view until they were “discovered” by folk aficionados who headed south in the late 1950s and early 1960s looking for, well, looking for roots, looking for something to hang onto and it took a younger generation, guys who came from the Mister James Crow’s South and had learned at their feet or through old copies of their records like Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and the guy whose photograph graces this sketch, the late B.B. King, to make the move north, to follow the northern star like in underground railroad days to the big industrial cities (with a stop at Memphis on Beale Street to polish up their acts, to get some street wise-ness in going up river, in going up the Big Muddy closer to its source as if that would give them some extra boost, some wisdom) to put some electric juice in those old guitars and chase my blues away just by playing like they too had, as the legendry Robert Johnson is said to have done one dark out on Highway 61 outside of Clarksville down in the Delta, made their own pacts with the devil. And made a lot of angst and alienation just a shade more bearable.
B.B. King was by no means my first choice among electrified bluesmen, Muddy Waters and in a big way Howlin’ Wolf, especially after I found out the Stones were covering his stuff (and Muddy’s) got closer to the nut for me, But B.B. on his good days and when he had Lucille (whichever version he had to hand I understand there were several generations for one reason or another) he got closer to that feeling that the blues could set me free when I was, well, blue, could keep me upright when some woman was two-timing me, or worst was driving me crazy with her “do this and do that” just for the sake of seeing who was in charge, could chase away some bad dreams when the deal went down.
Gave off an almost sanctified, not like some rural minster sinning on Saturday night with the women parishioners in Johnny Shine’s juke joint and then coming up for air Sunday morning to talk about getting right with the Lord but like some old time Jehovah river water cleaned, sense of time and place, after a hard juke joint or Chicago tavern Saturday night and when you following that devil minister showed up kind of scruffy for church early Sunday morning hoping against hope that the service would be short (and that Minnie Callahan would be there a few rows in front of you so you could watch her ass and get through the damn thing. B.B. might not have been my number one but he stretched a big part of that arc. Praise be.
Both the Army Corp of Engineers and the Governor of North Dakota have issued eviction notices to the encampment. At the same time a 2000 strong contingent of military veterans has committed to travel in the next week to Standing Rock to act as human shields against the brutality of police and company security forces. We are passing on the following message from our co-activists in Movement for the 99% and encourage everyone to help:
Below is a message from Aaron, one of the Movement for the 99% activists heading to Standing Rock today. He is a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and is heeding the call to join other veterans and medics to stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline. We are asking everyone to help Aaron by chipping in $25, $50 or what you can to help offset his $500 train ticket, supplies, and the threat issued by the Morton County Sheriff's Department of a $1000 fine for bringing supplies to the encampment.
“My name is Aaron and I'm a Veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I'm going to Standing Rock answering a recent call for experienced medics.
Packing my bags for severe winter weather, anticipating possible food shortages, updating my emergency contacts, reviewing my will: this is an altogether too familiar routine for me, I'm preparing to deploy. Only this time, I'm on the side of the downtrodden, on the right side of history. I'm heading out to North Dakota, where I'll join thousands of other veterans as well as many more water protectors, representing hundreds of tribes and thousands of communities.
The next week will be decisive, and those bravely standing for the future of our planet could face police violence the likes of which we've never seen. Local authorities have made clear that they are willing to provide unlimited forces for repression and violence, but it is up to folks like me to provide the medical care everyone needs in camp and during actions.
But I think that the fight won't be won out in the snowy Dakota winter. I think that it will be won when we working people come together in cities across the country in a movement to shut down banks and fossil fuel infrastructure. Many of us have local battles against Big Oil, and fighting those battles, while tying them to #NoDAPL, will put even greater pressure on the ruling elites to back off where the flame is hottest.
*****For The Frontline Defenders Of The Working Class!-Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up!”
An Injury To One Is An Injury To All!-Defend The International Working Class Everywhere! ******** Fight-Don’t Starve-We Created The Wealth, Let's Take It Back! Labor And The Oppressed Must Rule! ******** Ralph Morris and Sam Lowell a couple of old-time radicals, old-time now not being the Great Depression labor radicals who had been their models after a fashion and who helped built the now seemingly moribund unions but anti-war radicals from the hell-bent street in-your-face 1960s confrontations with the American beast during the Vietnam War reign of hell were beside themselves when the powder-puff uprising of the Occupy movement brought a fresh breeze to the tiny American left-wing landscape in the latter part of 2011. (That term “powder puff” not expressing the heft of the movement but the fact that it disappeared almost before it got started giving up the huge long-term fight it was expected to wage to break the banks, break the corporate grip on the world and, try to seek “newer world”). Although Ralph and Sam were not members in good standing of any labor unions, both having after their furtive anti-war street fights and the ebbing of the movement by about the mid-1970s returned to “normalcy,” Ralph having taken over his father’s electrical shop in Troy, New York when he retired and Sam had gone back to Carver to expand a print shop that he had started in the late 1960, but having come from respectable working-class backgrounds in strictly working-class towns, Carver about thirty miles from Boston and the cranberry bog capital of the world and Ralph in Troy near where General Electric ruled the roost, and had taken to heart the advice of their respective grandfathers about not forgetting those left behind, that an injury to one of their own in this wicked old world was an injury to all as the old Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) motto had it. Moreover despite their backing away from the street confrontations of their youth when that proved futile after a time as the Vietnam War finally wound down and yesterday’s big name radicals left for parts unknown they had always kept an inner longing for the “newer world,” the more equitable world where the people who actually made stuff and kept the wheels of society running and their down-pressed allies ruled.
So Ralph and Sam would during most of the fall of 2011travel down to the Wall Street plaza which was the center of the movement on weekends, long weekends usually, to take part in the action after the long drought of such activity both for them personally and for their kind of politics. They were crestfallen to say the least when the thing exploded after the then reigning mayor and the NYPD the police pulled down the hammer and forcibly disbanded the place (and other city administrations across the country and across the world and police departments doing likewise). Of more concern since they had already known about what the government could do when it decided to pull down the hammer was thereafter when the movement imploded from its own contradictions, caught up not wanting to step on toes, to let everybody do their own thing, do their own identity politics which did much to defang the old movements, refusing out of hand cohering a collective leadership that might give some direction to the damn thing but also earnestly wanting to bring the monster down.
Ralph and Sam in the aftermath, after things had settled down and they had time to think decided to put together a proposal, a program if you like, outlining some of the basic political tasks ahead to be led by somebody. Certainly not by them since radical politics, street politics is a young person’s game and they admittedly had gotten rather long in the tooth. Besides they had learned long ago, had talked about it even over drinks at Jack Higgin’s Grille more than once, how each generation will face its tasks in its own way so they would be content to be “elder” tribal leaders and provide whatever wisdom they could, if asked. Here working under the drumbeat of Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up something of a “national anthem” for what went on among the better elements of Occupy are some points that any movement for social change has to address these days and fight for and about as well.
A Five-Point Program As Talking Points
***Jobs For All Now!-“30 For 40”- A historic demand of the labor movement going back to the 1930s Great Depression the last time that unemployment, under-employment, those who have just plain quit looking for work and critically those who are working jobs beneath their skill levels was this high in the American labor force, although it is admittedly down from the Great Recession of 2008-09 highs. Thirty hours work for forty hours pay is a formula to spread the available work around to all who want and need it. This is no mere propaganda point but shows the way forward toward a more equitable distribution of available work.
The basic scheme, as was the case with the early days of the longshoremen’s and maritime unions when the union-run hiring hall ruled supreme in manning the jobs is that the work would be divided up through local representative workers’ councils that would act, in one of its capacities, as a giant hiring hall where the jobs would be parceled out. This would be a simpler task now than when it was first proposed in the 1930s with the vast increase in modern technology that could fairly accurately, via computers, target jobs that need filling, where, and at what skill level, and equitably divide up current work.
Here is the beauty of the scheme, what makes it such a powerful propaganda tool-without the key capitalist necessity of keeping up the rate of profit the social surplus created by that work could be used to redistribute the available work at the same agreed upon rate rather than go into the capitalists’ pockets. The only catch, a big catch one must admit, is that no capitalist, and no capitalist system, is going to do any such thing as to implement “30 for 40” –with the no reduction in pay proviso, although many low –end employers are even now under the “cover” of the flawed Obamacare reducing hours WITH loss of pay-so that to establish this work system as a norm it will, in the end, be necessary to fight for and win a workers government to implement this demand.
Organize the unorganized is a demand that cries out for solution today now that the organized sectors of the labor movement, both public and private, in America are at historic lows, just over ten percent of the workforce and less in the formerly pivotal private industries like auto production. Part of the task is to reorganize some of the old industries like the automobile industry, now mainly unorganized as new plants come on line and others are abandoned, which used to provide a massive amount of decent jobs with decent benefits but which now have fallen to globalization and the “race to the bottom” bad times. (Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, the North American auto industry employs almost a million workers but only a third or less are unionized whereas in the old days the industry was union tight.)
The other sector that desperately need to be organized is to ratchet up the efforts to organize the service industries, hospitals, hotels, hi-tech, restaurants and the like, that have become a dominant aspect of the American service-orientedeconomy. Everyone should support the recent militant efforts, including the old tactic of civil disobedience, by service unions and groups of fast-food workers to increase the minimum socially acceptable wage in their Fight For $15.
Organize the South-this low wage area, this consciously low-wage area, where many industries land before heading off-shore to even lower wage places cries out for organizing, especially among black and Hispanic workers who form the bulk of this industrial workforce. A corollary to organizing the South is obviously to organize internationally to keep the “race to the bottom” from continually occurring short of being resolved in favor of an international commonwealth of workers’ governments. Hey, nobody said it was going to be easy.
Organize Wal-Mart- millions of workers, thousands of company-owned trucks, hundreds of distribution centers. A victory here would be the springboard to a revitalized organized labor movement just as auto and steel lead the industrial union movements of the 1930s. The key here is to organize the truckers and distribution center workers, the place where the whole thing comes together. We have seen mostly unsuccessful organizing of individual retail stores and victimizations of local union organizers. To give an idea of how hard this task might be though someone, probably Bart Webber in his more thoughtful moments, once argued that it would be easier to organize a workers’ revolution that organize this giant mainstay of the run to the bottom capitalist ethos. Well, as to the latter point that’s a thought.
Defend the right of public and private workers to unionize. Simple-No more defeats like in Wisconsin in 2011, no more attacks on collective bargaining the hallmark of a union contract. No reliance on labor boards, arbitration, courts or bourgeois recall elections either. Defeat all “right to work” legislation. Unions must keep their independent from government interference. Period.
*** Defend the independence of the working classes! No union dues for Democratic (or the stray, the very strayRepublican) candidates. In 2008 and 2012 labor, organized labor, spent over 450 million dollars respectively trying to elect Barack Obama and other Democrats (mainly). The “no show, no go” results speak for themselves as the gap between the rich, make that the very rich but don’t forgot to include them on the fringes of the one percent and poor has risen even more in this period. For those bogus fruitless efforts the labor skates should have been sent packing long ago. The idea presented, an old idea going back to the initial formation of the working class in America, in those elections was that the Democrats (mainly) were “friends of labor” and the Republicans are the 666 beasts but the Obama administration does not take a back seat to the elephants on this one. The past period of cuts-backs, cut-in-the-back give backs should put paid to that notion. Although anyone who is politically savvy at all knows that is not true, not true for the labor skates at the top of the movement. They always have their hands out.
The hard reality is that the labor skates, not used to any form of class struggle or any kind of struggle, know no other way than class-collaboration, arbitration, courts, and every other way to avoid the appearance of strife, strife in defense of the bosses’ profits. One egregious example from the recent past from around the time of the Occupy movement where some of tried to link up the labor movement with the political uprising- the return of the Verizon workers to work after two weeks in the summer of 2011 when they had the company on the run and the subsequent announcement by the company of record profits. That sellout strategy may have worked for the bureaucrats, or rather their “fathers” for a time back in the 1950s “golden age” of labor, but now we are in a very hard and open class war. The rank and file must demand an end to using their precious dues payments for bourgeois candidates all of whom have turned out to be sworn enemies of labor from Obama on down when the deal goes down.
This does not mean not using union dues for political purposes though. On the contrary we need to use them now more than ever in the class battles ahead. Spent the dough on organizing the unorganized, organizing the South, organizing Wal-Mart, and other pro-labor causes. Think, for example, of the dough spent on the successful November, 2011 anti-union recall referendum in Ohio. That type of activity is where labor’s money and other resources should go. And not on recall elections against individual reactionaries, like Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin, as substitutes for class struggle when some form of general strike was required to break the anti-union backs (and which was overwhelmingly unsuccessful to boot-while the number of unionized public workers has dwindled to a precious few).
***End the endless wars!- As the so-called draw-down of American and Allied troops in Iraq reached its final stages back in 2011, the draw- down of non-mercenary forces anyway, we argued, Sam more than I did since he had been closer to the initial stage if the opposition that we must recognize that we anti-warriors had failed, and failed rather spectacularly, to affect that withdrawal after a promising start to our opposition in late 2002 and early 2003 (and a little in 2006).As the endless American-led wars (even if behind the scenes, as in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and other proxy wars) continue now with a new stage against ISIS (common moniker for the Islamic State) in Iraq we had better straighten out our anti-war, anti-imperialist front quickly if we are to have any effect on the U.S. troop escalation we know is coming before that fight is over. Not Another War In Iraq! Stop The Bombings In Syria, Iraq, Yemen! Stop The Arms Shipments To The Middle East Especially To Israel and Saudi Arabia! Defend The Palestinian People-End The Blockade of Gaza-Israel Out Of The Occupied Territories. And as always since 2001 Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of Every Single U.S./Allied Troops (And The Mercenaries) From Afghanistan!
U.S. Hands Off Iran! Hands Off Syria!- Despite a certain respite recently during the Iran nuclear arms talks American (and world) imperialists have periodically ratcheted up their propaganda war (right now) and increased economic sanctions that are a prelude to war well before the dust has settled on the now unsettled situation in Iraq and well before they have even sniffed at an Afghan withdrawal of any import. We will hold our noses, as we did with the Saddam leadership in Iraq and on other occasions, and call for the defense of Iran against the American imperial monster. A victory for the Americans (and their junior partner on this issue, Israel) in Iran and Syria is not in the interests of the international working class. Especially here in the “belly of the beast” we are duty-bound to call not just for non-intervention but for defense of Iran. We will, believe us we will, deal with the mullahs, the Revolutionary Guards, and the Islamic fundamentalists in Iran in our own way in our own time.
U.S. Hands Off The World! And Keep Them Off!- With the number of “hot spots” that the American imperialists, or one or another of their junior allies, like Saudi Arabia and France over the recent period have their hands on in this wicked old world this generic slogan would seem to fill the bill.
Down With The War Budget! Not One Penny, Not One Person For The Wars! Honor World War I German Social-Democratic Party MP, Karl Liebknecht, who did just that in 1915 in the heat of war and paid the price unlike other party leaders who were pledged to stop the war budgets by going to prison. The only play for an honest representative of the working class under those conditions. The litmus test for every political candidate must be first opposition to the war budgets (let’s see, right now no new funding in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran preparations, China preparations, etc. you get the drift). Then that big leap. The whole damn imperialist military budget. Again, no one said it would be simple. Revolution may be easier that depriving the imperialists of their military money. Well….okay.
***Fight for a social agenda for working people! Free Quality Healthcare For All! This would be a no-brainer in any rationally based society. The health and welfare of any society’s citizenry is the simple glue that holds that society together. It is no accident that one of the prime concerns of workers states whatever political disagreements we may have with the Cuban leadership like Cuba, and whatever their other internal political problems caused in no small part the fifty plus year U.S. blockade, has been to place health care and education front and center and to provide to the best of their capacity for free, quality healthcare and education for all. Even the hide-bound social-democratic-run capitalist governments of Europe have, until recently anyway, placed the “welfare state” protections central to their programs. Be clear Obamacare is not our program and has already been shown to be totally inadequate and wasteful however we will defend that program against those who wish to dismantle it and leave millions once again uninsured and denied basic health benefits.
Free, quality higher education for all! Nationalize the colleges and universities under student-teacher-campus worker control! One Hundred, Two Hundred, Many Harvards!
This would again be a no-brainer in any rationally based society. The struggle to increase the educational level of a society’s citizenry is another part of the simple glue that holds that society together. Today higher education is being placed out of reach for many working-class and minority families. Hell, it is getting tough for the middle-class as well.
Moreover the whole higher educational system is increasing skewed toward those who have better formal preparation and family lives leaving many deserving students from broken homes and minority homes in the wilderness. Take the resources of the private institutions and spread them around, throw in hundreds of billions from the government (take a big chuck from the bloated military budget and the bank bail-out money, things like that, if you want to find the money quickly to do the job right), get rid of the top heavy and useless college administration apparatuses, mix it up, and let students, teachers, and campus workers run the thing through councils on a democratic basis.
Forgive student debt! The latest reports indicate that college student debt is something like a trillion dollars, give or take a few billion but who is counting. The price of tuition and expenses has gone up dramatically while low-cost aid has not kept pace. What has happened is that the future highly educated workforce that a modern society, and certainly a socialist society, desperately needs is going to be cast into some form of indentured servitude to the banks or other lending agencies for much of their young working lives. Let the banks take a “hit” for a change!
Stop housing foreclosures and aid underwater mortgages now! Although the worst of the crunch has abated there are still plenty of problems and so this demand is still timely if not desperately timely like in the recent past. Hey, everybody, everywhere in the world not just in America should have a safe, clean roof over their heads. Hell, even a single family home that is part of the “American dream,” if that is what they want. We didn’t make the housing crisis in America (or elsewhere, like in Ireland, where the bubble has also burst). The banks did. Their predatory lending practices and slip-shot application processes were out of control. Let them take the “hit” here as well.
***We created the wealth, let’s take it back. Karl Marx was right way back in the 19th century on his labor theory of value, the workers do produce the social surplus appropriated by the capitalists. Capitalism tends to beat down, beat down hard in all kinds of ways the mass of society for the benefit of the few. Most importantly capitalism, a system that at one time was historically progressive in the fight against feudalism and other ancient forms of production, has turned into its opposite and now is a fetter on production. The current multiple crises spawned by this system show there is no way forward, except that unless we push them out, push them out fast, they will muddle through, again.
Take the struggle for our daily bread off the historic agenda. Socialism is the only serious answer to the human crisis we face economically, socially, culturally and politically. This socialist system is the only one calculated to take one of the great tragedies of life, the struggle for daily survival in a world that we did not create, and replace it with more co-operative human endeavors.
Build a workers’ party that fights for a workers government to unite all the oppressed. None of the nice things mentioned above can be accomplished without as serious struggle for political power. We need to struggle for an independent working-class-centered political party that we can call our own and where our leaders act as “tribunes of the people” not hacks. The creation of that workers party, however, will get us nowhere unless it fights for a workers government to begin the transition to the next level of human progress on a world-wide scale.
As Isaac Deutscher said in his speech “On Socialist Man” (1966):
“We do not maintain that socialism is going to solve all predicaments of the human race. We are struggling in the first instance with the predicaments that are of man’s making and that man can resolve. May I remind you that Trotsky, for instance, speaks of three basic tragedies—hunger, sex and death—besetting man. Hunger is the enemy that Marxism and the modern labour movement have taken on.... Yes, socialist man will still be pursued by sex and death; but we are convinced that he will be better equipped than we are to cope even with these.”
Emblazon on our red banner-Labor and the oppressed must rule!
Bob Marley Get Up, Stand Up Lyrics
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!
Preacher man, don't tell me,
Heaven is under the earth.
I know you don't know
What life is really worth.
It's not all that glitters is gold;
'Alf the story has never been told:
So now you see the light, eh!
Stand up for your rights. come on!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!
Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights!
Get up, stand up: don't give up the fight!
Most people think, Great god will come from the skies,
Take away everything And make everybody feel high.
But if you know what life is worth,
You will look for yours on earth:
And now you see the light, You stand up for your rights. jah!
Get up, stand up! (jah, jah! )
Stand up for your rights! (oh-hoo! )
Get up, stand up! (get up, stand up! )
Don't give up the fight! (life is your right! )
Get up, stand up! (so we can't give up the fight! )
Stand up for your rights! (lord, lord! )
Get up, stand up! (keep on struggling on! )
Don't give up the fight! (yeah! )
We sick an' tired of-a your ism-skism game -
Dyin' 'n' goin' to heaven in-a Jesus' name, lord.
We know when we understand:
Almighty god is a living man.
You can fool some people sometimes,
But you can't fool all the people all the time.
So now we see the light (what you gonna do?),
We gonna stand up for our rights! (yeah, yeah, yeah! )
So you better: Get up, stand up! (in the morning! git it up! )
Stand up for your rights! (stand up for our rights! )
Get up, stand up!
Don't give up the fight! (don't give it up, don't give it up! )
Get up, stand up! (get up, stand up! )
Stand up for your rights! (get up, stand up! )
Get up, stand up! (... )
Don't give up the fight! (get up, stand up! )
We Don’t Want Your Ism-Skism Thing- Dreadlocks Delight- “One Love: The Very Best of Bob Marley And The Wailers”- A CD Review By Ralph Morris (2012)
One Love: The Very Best of Bob Marley And The Wailers, Bob Marley And The Wailers, UTV Records, 2001
Admit it, back in the late seventies and early eighties we all had, Sam and me included, our reggae minute, at least a minute anyway. And the center of that minute, almost of necessity, had to be a run-in with the world of Bob Marley and the Wailers, probably I Shot The Sheriff. Some of us stuck with that music and moved on to its step-child be-bop, hip-hop when that moved onto the scene. Others like me just took it as a world music cultural moment and put the records (you know records, those black vinyl things, right?) away after a while. And that was that.
Well not quite. Of late the Occupy movement, the people risen, has done a very funny musical thing, at least funny to my ears when I heard it. They, along with the old labor song, Solidarity Forever, and, of course Brother Woody Guthrie’s This Land Is Your Land , have resurrected Bob Marley’s up-from-under fight song, Get Up, Stand Up to fortify the sisters and brothers against the American imperial monster beating down on all of us and most directly under the police baton and tear gas canister. And that seems, somehow, eminently right. More germane here it has gotten me to dust off those old records and give Brother Marley another hear. And you should too if you have been remiss of late with such great songs as (aside from those mentioned already) No Woman, No Cry, Jamming, One Love/People Get Ready (yah, the old Chambers Brother tune), and Buffalo Soldier. And stand up and fight too.