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.
The Bad Guys Play Bad-With
Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame’s “The Big Heat” In Mind
By Seth Garth
[Sam Lowell was for a long
time a free-lance film reviewer for several publications starting in the old
days with Rolling Stone when that
magazine had some soul, had not turned into a glossy advertisement-rich venture
with articles used as filler. He also had worked for the East
Bay Other for a number of years and
more recently as he had slowed down a bit heading toward retirement for
the American Film Review (which
reviews foreign films as well-some done very well). Over the years he has come
to appreciate dramatically the films that he watched on those dismal Saturday
afternoon black and white double-feature matinees (complete with a much cheaper
than today tub of popcorn which almost requires a credit card handy to purchase)
at the Strand Theater in Riverdale where he came of age in order to have an
afternoon away from his chaotic family life. Also later to appreciate film
revivals that he was addicted to in such locales as the Brattle Theater in
Harvard Square and the Pilgrim Theater in Oakland when he lived in California
as a young man.
In short Sam had been and
is addicted to what then and now are called film noir efforts-a lot of them
involving crimes, big and small, of one kind or another. Stuff like The Maltese Falcon where Humphrey Bogart
as Sam Spade had to go toe to toe with what in the old days in that same
Riverdale neighborhood was called a guy “light on his feet,” Joel Cairo, with a
greedy, twisted but determined Fat Man, and worst, worst of all a femme fatale
whom he had better not turn his back on for two seconds, make that one second,
all encased in the “stuff that dreams were made of.” Our boy Sam got out a
live, but was a close one, a very close one. Stuff like The Big Sleep where Phillip Marlowe, play also by Bogie, to keep an
old dissipated man from thinking he was a couple failure had to go toe to toe
with a sister act, the old man’s two wild-eyed daughters and a bad boy gangster
and his “hit man” who did like the cut of his jibe. Another close call, very
close. Stuff like the smell of jasmine or whatever the hell she was wearing out
in the slumming streets of Los Angles when an insurance guy, played by Fred
MacMurray, gets all wrapped up with
dame, a twisted dame who spells murder, murder most foul of her nicely insured
husband in Double Indemnity. A guy
who didn’t make it but he was probably better off because he had a couple of
slugs written all over him, special delivery. Stuff like Jack Callahan, a smart
guy, played by Robert Meyers, who wouldn’t leave another man’s woman, a
gangster man’s woman alone and went down for the count, went down in flames not
by the gangster’s hand but that gun-addled femme he was chasing in The Past Is Past.
Stuff like, well, you get
the idea, the idea that drove most film noir-sex, or at least the thought of
sex, dough and violence. Sam had never been much of a police procedural guy,
never really rooted for the coppers in such vehicles having had his fair share
of real run-ins with real coppers back on those mean streets of Riverdale
growing up. Later too. One that caught his attention though, The Big Heat, a dog-eared police
procedural was something he had watched a few weeks before we sat down at Jack’s
over in Cambridge for a few high-shelf scotches. Sam always liked to tell a
story from an odd-ball perspective, from the way the thing would look to a
minor character who was still standing at the end.]
“Never trust an honest cop,
worse never trust a dishonest cop trying to go honest, worse don’t ever even
think about giving a case to an honest cop trying to figure out what happened
to a dishonest cop trying to go honest. Get rid of all of them before they
break up a good thing, hell, shoot them down like dogs once they start getting
too close to stuff that they shouldn’t get too close to. That’s what I learned
the hard way about twenty years ago when the whole shebang fell on my head,”
ex-Riverdale Police Commissioner Fred Ward was telling a couple of day-time
drinkers at Billy’s Tavern in Gloversville a few towns away from his old job
town after having just finished a twenty year stretch for forgetting that
simple rule. For forgetting that a cop, an honest cop like Frank Bannon, with a
chip on his shoulder, helped put him away on accessory to murder, extortion and
corruption charges for that time that he did. Yeah, strictly a yellow-bellied
cop who didn’t know enough to know that you don’t rat out your own. Fred had
made Bannon a detective for the opposite reason, put him on the Trevor case too
to close it up tight with no big waves.
Fred continued once he
bought a round of drinks for the bar stool audience and once they perked up to
who he was, who he had been back in the day, back when they were kids and had
heard about the stuff happening over in wide-open Riverdale. Had gone there
themselves to get their first whiffs of liquor, dope and women some things that
small town Gloversville was too backward to be bothered with by Mike Lagana,
Big Mike, when he ran the rackets in Riverdale before the fall.
“Yeah, that Frank Bannon
was a piece of work. I had put him on the force as a favor to his father,
Arthur Bannon, who had been a cop, had come up with me in the old days, who knew
how to play ball, knew how to keep quiet when there was dough to be made by
being quiet when whoever was running the rackets hit town. Arthur was dead and
in his grave by the time Frank made detective still he should have wised the
kid up, wised him up enough know that playing with fire is dangerous to you and
“Like I say I made him a
dick figuring he was out of his blessed father’s mold. Everybody, including
Frank, knew what was going on, knew right after the war that Mike Lagana had
stuck it to Chilly Devine, stuck him bad and bleeding, and had taken over the
rackets in Riverdale. Notched things up a bit too, brought in the hard
opium-laced drugs that had been forbidden under Devine, brought in a couple of casinos with crooked
action and brought in the young, too young, whores that probably had guys like
you hardly able to wait to come to our town. I didn’t keep close tabs on Frank,
didn’t feel I had to and so didn’t know that he was not “on the take,” was one
of those stupid cops just looking the other way instead of getting on the gravy
train. Once I asked him, asked him after the killings started, trying to reason
with him how the hell did he think his father got that nice cottage up in
Windom Lake that Frank had spent his summers at on a cop’s pay. Yeah, you bet
he had no answer.
“But that was after the
killings started like I said. So I thought nothing of it when we had to “burn”
Jimmy Trevor, Patrolman Jimmy Trevor who had allegedly committed suicide after
some bullshit remorse about all the dirty deals he let go down on his beat.
About the underage girl whorehouses that were set up on his beat and he had looked
the other way on. Got him a nice big house out of the leavings. Had a wife too
who was not fussy about how Jimmy made his dough as long as it was “more.”
“We had the wife, Jeanette,
tell Frank that Jimmy had been having health issues and was depressed and that
was why he put his revolver to his head one late Sunday night. End of story.
Like I said we, we meaning me and Mike, put Frank on the case to close it out
fast. Then this B-girl, this whore, Jimmy’s whore on the side, Lana Lane,
showed up at The Carousel one night, drunk, spied Frank and told him that Jimmy
had been fit as a fiddle, had worn her out in bed just the night before he
crashed. Had been talking though about going clean. They found her a few days
later just out the town line on the side of the road strangled and half naked. Declared
an accident by the “on the take” coroner. With her death and growing suspicions
about the manner of Jimmy’s demise Frank started getting all square about what
was going on. Decided to try and squeeze this Jeanette about what really had
happened at the house the night Jimmy died. No soap because that clever little
bitch had some papers Jimmy had left behind and was squeezing Mike for quiet
money. No way, whatever Frank thought and he thought plenty of evil thoughts
about the matter, was she going to stop the cash cow coming in just because
somebody blasted her former meal ticket. Or his fancy lady on the side.
“Frank started asking too
many questions. Too many questions in the police locker room, the line-up, at
the Carousel, among the beat cops out on the streets and in the patrol cars
once he sensed somebody was looking over his shoulder. Trying to stop him
short. Big Mike and I talked it over, talked it over plenty before I saw things
his way. I just wanted some cop to accidently shoot him in the kneecap which
would have finished up the matter, gave him a warning to back off. Big Mike
said no way, no way was Frank going to be backed off, not from what he was
talking about when Frank visited him unexpectedly at his house asking questions
about dead ass Jimmy, asking if Jimmy was on the take. Big Mike threw him out,
told him to talk to me. In the meantime Big Mike’s idea which made sense was to
blow Frank up to kingdom come. We have Sal Rizzo Mike’s big bang-bang guy rig
up his car with enough dynamite to carve out the Grand Canyon and have some
left over for the Boulder Dam project. How were we to know that Frank’s wife,
Betty, was going to go out to the car to run a couple of errands.
“After that Frank went mad,
went crazy to get us any way he could. Figure out how all the pieces fit. Drove
that Jeanette crazy with his badgering. Tried to evoke sympathy for Betty’s
murder from his fellow cops. No dice with had those guys so scared they were
going to go bang bang that they clammed up, clammed up big time. A guy, a loose
cannon, like Frank though had some resources, had a plan. One night when Lee,
Lee Makin, Big Mike’s number one hit man was in the Carousel, drinking heavily
he tried by design to provoke Frank, tried to have a shoot-out in the club.
Frank was as cool as a cucumber from what some of the guys who were there said
even when Lee mentioned something nasty about him and Betty doing some hard sex
when Frank was out being a boy scout.
“But there was a method to
Frank’s madness because he didn’t give a fuck about what Lee was talking about
but was trying to “impress” Lee’s girl, this hot blonde number, Debby, whom Lee
had picked up in Vegas. He had heard that she was bored playing house with Lee
and wanted a good time. So before Lee and she left she gave him “the look,” the
come up and see me look that in the end did us in. Frank I guess although you
wouldn’t have known it from his late wife Betty’s personality was a guy that
gals liked lean on, to be around. Debby was no different and so Frank and Debby
started an off-hand affair. Very quiet, so quiet that not even the ever
suspicious Lee found out about it. That is what did us in though. Lee, who as
you can imagine, when he was cool as a cucumber put the bang on somebody was a
bloody frantic bastard when he was not working. One night when we were playing
cards Lee asked Debby to bring the table some coffees. She made some smart
remark like she wasn’t a donut shop waitress. That got Lee on his hind legs and
he took out his gun and pistol whipped her about seven times. Debby was a
bloody mess. I know. I had to take her to the hospital and use every bit of
influence I had to keep it quiet.
“Debby who like any
attractive young women without means depended on her looks to survive in the
jungle. The emergency room surgeon told me Debby would never look so good again
and we left the hospital with her bandaged up like a mummy. I left her at her
apartment and the minute I left she went to Frank’s room in the Excelsior Hotel
downtown where he was staying since he still couldn’t stand to be in his old
home and after telling him what Lee had done she started spilling everything.
Everything about how Jimmy had been a “hit” job by Lee. About how Jeanette was
blackmailing Mike (although he, Mike, would keep saying not for long) with
stuff that Jimmy knew about the mob and its connections. About how Sal Rizzo
had killed Lana Lane and his wife. Everything that she knew or thought she knew
including that I was in Big Mike’s pocket. She was wrong on that score because the
minute I became police commissioner I went to Big Mike and told him what he
could and could not do as long as I got my percentage. I was the silent partner
not the bagman in the set-up. Mike knew he needed me and that was that.
“With that knowledge in
hand Frank foolhardily went up to Lee’s apartment and started shooting once he
got in the door. Shot Lee in the shoulder then the leg and he crumbled. Shot at me but missed. Shot at a couple of Big
Mike’s cronies. He wasn’t in a taking prisoners mood. Then Big Mike came in
with a gaggle of patrolmen and tried to subdue Frank. No good. Frank winged
Mike. Then some Staties Frank had called knowing the score showed up and
corralled all of us and that was that. When Frank went back to that room of his
Debby had cleared out for parts unknown. Smart girl because if she had stayed
around she would not have stayed around once Big Mike’s boys from out-of-town
got to her. Big Mike and Lee drew the long stretch and I drew my twenty. End of
“No, not quite. Never let
an honest cop do anything but sit in his office all day. No, better-just shoot
As The 100th
Anniversary Of World War I Continues -The Anti-War Resistance Builds
The events leading up to World War I (known as the Great War
before the world got clogged up with expansive wars in need of other numbers
and names and reflecting too in that period before World War II a certain sense
of “pride” in having participated in such an epic adventure even if it did mow
down the flower of European and in some cases colonial youth from all classes)
from the massive military armament of almost all the capitalist and imperialist
parties in Europe and elsewhere in order to stake their claims to their
unimpeded share of the world’s resources had all the earmarks of a bloodbath
early on once the industrial-sized carnage set in with the stalemated fronts
(as foretold by the blood-letting in the American Civil War and the various
“small” wars in Asia, Africa, and, uh, Europe in the mid to late 19th
century once war production on a mass scale followed in the train of other less
lethal forms of industrial production).
Also trampled underfoot in the opposing trenches, or rather
thrown in the nearest trash bin of the their respective parliamentary buildings
were the supposedly eternal pledges against war in defense of one’s own
against the working masses and their allies of other countries by most of the
Social-Democrats and other militant leftist formations (Anarchists,
Syndicalists and their various off-shoots)representing the historic interest of
the international working-class to stop those imperialist capitalist powers and
their hangers-on in their tracks at the approach of war were decisive for 20th
century history. All those beautifully written statements and resolutions that
clogged up the international conferences with feelings of solidarity were some
much ill-fated wind once bullet one came out of gun one.
Other than isolated groups and individuals, mostly like
Lenin and Trotsky in exile or jail, and mostly in the weaker lesser
capitalistically developed countries of Europe the blood lust got the better of
most of the working class and its allies as young men rushed to the recruiting
stations to “do their duty” and prove their manhood. (When the first
international conference of anti-war socialists occurred in Switzerland in 1915,
the famous Zimmerwald conference, one wag pointed out that they could all fit
in one tram [bus].) Almost all parties assuming that the damn thing would be
over by Christmas and everyone could go back to the eternal expressions of
international working-class solidarity after the smoke had settled (and the simple
white-crossed graves dug in the vast bone-crushed cemeteries that marked the
nearby battle fields too numerous to mention). You see, and the logic is
beautiful on this one, that big mail-drop of a Socialist International, was
built for peace-time but once the cannons roared then the “big tent” needed to
be folded for the duration. Jesus.
Decisive as well as we head down the slope to the first
months of the second year of the war although shrouded in obscurity early in
the war in exile was the soon to be towering figure of one Vladimir Lenin (a
necessary nom de guerre in the hell broth days of the Czar’s Okhrana ready to
send one and all to the Siberian frosts and that moniker business, that nom de guerre not a bad idea in today’s
NSA-driven frenzy to know all, to peep at all), leader of the small Russian
Bolshevik Party ( a Social-Democratic Party in name anyway adhering to the
Second International under the sway of the powerful German party although not
for long because “Long Live The Communist International,” a new revolutionary international, would
become the slogan and later order of the day in the not distant future),
architect of the theory of the “vanguard party” building off of many
revolutionary experiences in Russia and Europe in the 19th century (including
forbears Marx and Engels), and author of an important, important to the future
communist world perspective, study on the monopolizing tendencies of world
imperialism, the ending of the age of “progressive” capitalism (in the Marxist
sense of the term progressive in a historical materialist sense that capitalism
was progressive against feudalism and other older economic models which turned
into its opposite at this dividing point in history), and the hard fact that it
was a drag on the possibilities of human progress and needed to be replaced by
the establishment of the socialist order. But that is the wave of the future as
1914 turned to 1915 in the sinkhole trenches of Europe that are already a death
trap for the flower of the European youth.
Lenin also has a "peace"
plan, a peace plan of sorts, a way out of the stinking trench warfare stalemate
eating up the youth of the Eurasian landmass. Do what should have been done
from the beginning, do what all the proclamations from all the
beautifully-worded socialist manifestos called on the international
working-class to do. Not a simple task by any means especially in that first
year when almost everybody on all sides thought a little blood-letting would be
good for the soul, the individual national soul, and in any case the damn thing
would be over by Christmas and everybody could start producing those
beautifully worded-manifestos against war again. (That by Christmas peace
“scare” turned out to be a minute “truce” from below by English and German
soldiers hungry for the old certainties banning the barbed wire and stinking
trenches for a short reprieve in the trench fronts in France and played soccer
before returning to drawn guns-a story made into song and which is today used
as an example of what the lower ranks could do-if they would only turn the guns
around. Damn those English and German soldiers never did turn the damn things
around until too late and with not enough resolve and the whole world has
suffered from that lack of resolve ever since.)
Lenin’s hard-headed proposition: turn
the bloody world war among nations into a class war to drive out the
war-mongers and bring some peace to the blood-soaked lands. But that advanced
thinking is merely the wave of the future as the rat and rain-infested sinkhole
trenches of Europe were already churning away in the first year as a death trap
for the flower of the European youth.
The ability to inflict industrial-sized
slaughter and mayhem on a massive scale first portended toward the end of the
American Civil War once the Northern industrial might tipped the scales their
way as did the various German-induced wars attempting to create one
nation-state out of various satraps almost could not be avoided in the early 20th
century once the armaments race got serious, and the technology seemed to grow
exponentially with each new turn in the war machine. The land war, the war
carried out by the “grunts,” by the “cannon fodder” of many nations was only
the tip of the iceberg and probably except for the increased cannon-power and
range and the increased rapidity of the machine-guns would be carried out by
the norms of the last wars. However the race for naval supremacy, or the race
to take a big kink out of British supremacy, went on unimpeded as Germany tried
to break-out into the Atlantic world and even Japan, Jesus, Japan tried to gain
a big hold in the Asia seas.
The deeply disturbing submarine warfare
wreaking havoc on commerce on the seas, the use of armed aircraft and other
such technological innovations of war only added to the frenzy. We can hundred
years ahead, look back and see where talk of “stabs in the back” by the losers
and ultimately an armistice rather than decisive victory on the blood-drenched
fields of Europe would lead to more blood-letting but it was not clear, or
nobody was talking about it much, or, better, doing much about calling a halt
before they began the damn thing among all those “civilized” nations who went
into the abyss in July of 1914. Sadly the list of those who would not do
anything, anything concrete, besides paper manifestos issued at international
conferences, included the great bulk of the official European labor movement
which in theory was committed to stopping the madness.
A few voices, voices like Karl Liebknecht (who against the
party majority bloc voting scheme finally voted against the Kaiser’s war
budget, went to the streets to get rousing anti-war speeches listened to in the
workers’ districts, lost his parliamentary immunity and wound up honorably in
the Kaiser’sprisons) and Rosa Luxemburg
( the rose of the revolution also honorably prison bound) in Germany, Lenin and
Trotsky in Russia (both exiled at the outbreak of war and just in time as being
on “the planet without a passport” was then as now, dangerous to the lives of
left-wing revolutionaries and not just them), some anti-war anarchists like
Monette in France and here in America “Big Bill” Haywood (who eventually would
controversially flee to Russia to avoid jail for his opposition to American
entry into war), many of his IWW (Industrial Workers Of the World) comrades and
the stalwart Eugene V. Debs (who also went to jail, “Club Fed” for speaking the
truth about American war aims in a famous Cleveland speech and, fittingly, ran
for president in 1920 out of his Atlanta Penitentiary jail cell),were raised and one hundred years later those
voices have a place of honor in this space.
Those voices, many of them in exile, or in the deportations
centers, were being clamped down as well when the various imperialist
governments began closing their doors to political refugees when they were
committed to clapping down on their own anti-war citizens. As we have seen in
our own times, most recently in America in the period before the “shock and
awe” of the decimation of Iraq in 2002 and early 2003 the government, most
governments, are able to build a war frenzy out of whole cloth. Even my old
anti-war amigo from my hometown who after I got out of the American Army during
the Vietnam War marched with me in countless rallies and parades trying to stop
the madness got caught in the bogus information madness and supported Bush’s
“paper war” although not paper for the benighted Iraqi masses ever since (and
plenty of other “wise” heads from our generation of ’68 made that sea-change
turn with him).
At those times, and in my lifetime the period after 9/11
when we tried in vain to stop the Afghan war in its tracks is illustrative, to
be a vocal anti-warrior is a dicey business. A time to keep your head down a
little, to speak softly and wait for the fever to subside and to be ready to
begin the anti-war fight another day. “Be ready to fight” the operative words.
So imagine in the hot summer of 1914 when every nationality
in Europe felt its prerogatives threatened how the fevered masses, including
the beguiled working-classes bred on peace talk without substance, would not
listen to the calls against the slaughter. Yes, one hundred years later is not
too long or too late to honor those ardent anti-war voices as the mass
mobilizations began in the countdown to war, began four years of bloody
trenches and death.
Over the next period as we continue the
long night of the 100th anniversary of World War I and beyond I will
under this headline post various documents, manifestos and cultural expressions
from that time in order to give a sense of what the lead up to that war looked
like, the struggle against its outbreak before the first frenzied shots were
fired, the forlorn struggle during and the massive struggles after it in places
like Russia, Germany, Hungary, Bulgaria, and the hodge-podge colonies all over
the world map, in order to create a newer world out of the shambles of the
The Growing Conflict
Published In New York on March 17. 1917.
An open conflict between the forces of the Revolutions headed by the city proletariat and the anti-revolutionary liberal bourgeoisie temporarily at the bead of the government, is more and more impending. It cannot be avoided. Of course, the liberal bourgeoisie and the quasi-Socialists of the vulgar type will find a collection of very touching slogans as to “national unity” against class divisions; yet no one has ever succeeded in removing social contrasts by conjuring with words or in checking the natural progress of revolutionary struggle.
The internal history of unfolding events is known to us only in fragments, through casual remarks in the official telegrams. But even now it is apparent that on two points the revolutionary proletariat is bound to oppose the liberal bourgeoisie with ever-growing determination.
The first conflict has already arisen around the question of the form of government. The Russian bourgeoisie needs a monarchy. In all the countries pursuing an imperialistic policy, we observe an unusual increase of personal power. The policy of world usurpations, secret treaties and open treachery requires independence from Parliamentary control and a guarantee against changes in policies caused by the change of Cabinets. Moreover, for the propertied classes the monarchy is the most secure ally in its struggle against the revolutionary onslaught of the proletariat.
In Russia both these causes are more effective than elsewhere. The Russian bourgeoisie finds it impossible to deny the people universal suffrage, well aware that this would arouse opposition against the Provisional Government among the masses, and give prevalence to the left, the more determined wing of the proletariat in the Revolution. Even that monarch of the reserve, Michael Alexandrovitch, understands that he cannot reach the throne without having promised “universal, equal, direct and secret suffrage.” It is the more essential for the bourgeoisie to create right now a monarchic counterbalance against the deepest social-revolutionary demands of the working masses. Formally, in words, the bourgeoisie has agreed to leave the question of a form of government to the discretion of the Constituent Assembly. Practically, however, the Octobrist-Cadet Provisional Government will turn all the preparatory work for the Constituent Assembly into a campaign in favor of a monarchy against a Republic. The character of the Constituent Assembly will largely depend upon the character of those who convoke it. It is evident, therefore, that right now the revolutionary proletariat will have to set up its own organs, the Councils of Workingmens’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, against the executive organs of the Provisional Government. In this struggle the proletariat ought to unite about itself the rising masses of the people, with one aim in view – to seize governmental power. Only a Revolutionary Labor Government will have the desire and ability to give the country a thorough democratic cleansing during the work preparatory to the Constituent Assembly, to reconstruct the army from top to bottom, to turn it into a revolutionary militia and to show the poorer peasants in practice that their only salvation is in a support of a revolutionary labor regime. A Constituent Assembly convoked after such preparatory work will truly reflect the revolutionary, creative forces of the country and become a powerful factor in the further development of the Revolution.
The second question that is bound to bring the internationally inclined Socialist proletariat in opposition to the imperialistic liberal bourgeoisie, is the question of war and peace.
Framingham: Teach-Out and Vigil to Stand with our Immigrant Neighbors
Sunday, February 5 2:00 p.m., Park Street Common
A coalition of citizens concerned about recent ICE actions against immigrants in Framingham will hold a teachout and vigil on Park Street Common in downtown Framingham on Sunday, February 5, at 2:00 p.m.
For the past week, some people in the downtown area have become aware of groups of seven or eight ICE officers questioning, and sometimes detaining, people who look Latino where they work, shop, or live. There is a growing atmosphere of tension and fear in the community created by this sustained ICE presence.
Convened by the Metrowest Workers Center and allies, this teachout and vigil is a first step toward making the larger Framingham community aware of what is happening in our community and to organize a collective response.
(Park Street Common is located on Concord Street, one block north of the train tracks.)
"Passage at St. Augustine" Film Showings and Discussion, led by filmmaker Clennon L. King, and Civil Rights veteran Mimi Jones (at the Boston Public Library).
"Passage at St. Augustine" establishes America's Oldest City as home to the most violent Civil Rights campaign of the entire Movement. Viewers are transported back to this unlikely Florida tourist town to hear first-hand from civil rights foot soldiers, Klansmen, journalists, clergy, politicians and the like, who fought on the front lines of the 18-month battle that led directly to the passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Despite MLK and LBJ headlining the film's real-life cast, most come away asking why a campaign so pivotal appears to have been wiped from the hard drive of History.
"Passage at St. Augustine" Film Showings and Discussion, led by filmmaker Clennon L. King, and Civil Rights veteran Mimi Jones.
Thursday, February 2, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. at the Grove Hall Branch.
Thursday February 9, 6 – 8 p.m. at the Central Library in Copley Square. State Representative Byron Rushing will be part of the event's discussion.
Saturday, February 18, 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. at the Mattapan Branch.
Thursday, April 6, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m.at the Dudley Branch.
THE FOLLOWING LETTER APPEARED IN TODAY'S COUNTERPUNCH. THE AUTHOR MADE A SIMILARLY POWERFUL STATEMENT AT THE ISLAMOPHOBIA RALLY WE CONDUCTED LAST FEBRUARY AT THE ROXBURY MOSQUE. THE LETTER WAS BROUGHT TO OUR ATTENTION BY SAMTHA'S MARC LEVY AND MARTIN REY.
As my family and friends could attest, I do not advertise my veteran status as the first thing people hear about me, but I use it here simply to achieve several minutes of your time to read this letter in its entirety. What I write here comes from a place of deeply held moral conviction, and an utter abhorrence for your treatment of democracy. As a great many veterans and military members did, I signed an enlistment contract with the intent of serving my country and protecting the values we consider most sacred. I was naïve in many ways, and my experiences in Afghanistan showed me that, but my original intention was rooted in service to country and to others. Your idea of service seems to be unilateral decisions and swift strokes of a pen with which you destroy the lives and hopes of millions of human beings. Your idea of “protecting” us is to label entire countries and people groups as evil, which is not only ignorant, but it puts a larger target on America’s back and provides terrorist recruiters all the ammunition they’ll need for the next decade.
I know you value your own voice over that of anyone else, but just try for the next five minutes to hear me – actually hear me, and not automatically dismiss what I’m saying just because it doesn’t pad your ego. I am the daughter of a housekeeper and a maintenance man, both life-long republicans and devoted Christians. I do not share all of their political beliefs, but I respect them as people and I adopted key elements of my character from their lived example. They taught me the value of hard and honest work, rather than the endless pursuit of a vast accumulation of personal wealth. They taught me that the value of human life means ALL human life, young or old, rich or poor, white or black, American or not. They taught me that if a person needs a place to live, you open up your home. They taught me that if someone is hungry, you offer them a place at your own table. They taught me that a person’s character is judged by their actions, and yours speak to an incredible level of arrogance, selfishness, and narcissism.
For someone who has never witnessed war, you are awfully quick to speak of dropping bombs. For someone who used veterans as a regular prop in your campaign, I’m hard pressed to find a single shred of evidence that you ever spent time in a VA hospital or visited troops in a combat zone. For someone who professes to be a Christian, you blatantly ignore the overarching and continual theme of the Bible which is to show love and compassion for those most in need, especially to those in poverty, those being oppressed, and those considered immigrants. Refugees are all of those things, and should be receiving the best help America can offer. Instead they are being treated like the enemy. You claim to be a patriotic American, yet your every action spits on the words of Emma Lazarus inscribed on Lady Liberty “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”. I suppose if past presidents acted as you are now, then your family would never have made it here from Germany.
I speak now to the tiny shred of you that may actually care about the whole next generation of Americans, not just your own children. Stop talking and start listening. Stop signing things for which you have no idea the true impact and start doing some research. Stop playing on people’s worst fears and start employing their best values. Because you see, Mr. Trump, America is not your country, it is OURS – those of us who live in its flawed but still precious neighborhoods and not in its ivory towers or corner offices; those of us who work decades just to own a single home, not multiple mansions or resorts. You seem to live in an alternate reality, but let me tell you some true history – this country was stolen from indigenous people, enlarged by forcefully taking land from Mexico, populated through mass immigration, enriched on the backs of slaves, and made powerful through the constant use and abuse of the military for geopolitical motives. Now for our future you want to:
1 Desecrate what remaining land indigenous populations do have 2 Ban the arrival of refugees who are fleeing for their very lives 3 Build the next Berlin wall to keep out Latin American people who are more entitled to the land than we are (FYI – your hero, Ronald Reagan, thought the Berlin wall was …
Here are some alternative options that would actually achieve some of things for which your voters elected you WITHOUT trampling on the Constitution and the other half of the country who did not vote for you:
1 Rather than forcing the building of oil pipelines (a finite resource), you could try asking Native tribes and other land owners to partner with you on building and maintaining wind and solar fields (infinite resources and sustainable jobs). Give something back to Native Americans instead of contin…
Mr. President, you will likely never see this letter or read these words, but the truth still needed to be said. If you truly cared about the working class, you would have put them on your Cabinet in place of Goldman Sachs. If you cared about being the highest example of ethics and leadership, you would have divested from all of your businesses, because that is what is in the best interest of the American people. If you truly cared about veterans, you would never dare say “maybe we’ll get another chance” to “take the oil”. The truth is, you don’t care, you are just obsessed with people thinking that you care. There is a world of difference.