Saturday, May 05, 2018
A View From The American Left-Imperialist Strikes and Anti-Russia Provocations U.S. Out of Syria Now!
Workers Vanguard No. 1132
20 April 2018
Imperialist Strikes and Anti-Russia Provocations
U.S. Out of Syria Now!
APRIL 16—Having bled Syria for years, stoking the fires of a civil war that has claimed the lives of half a million people and devastated much of the country, the U.S., with the support of the British and French imperialists, launched more than 100 missiles at Syrian government installations on the night of April 13. The targets included a scientific research facility in Damascus, one of the few Syrian cities with a semblance of normalcy. The pretext for the strikes was an alleged April 7 chemical weapons attack in Douma by the Bashar al-Assad regime. The imperialists claim that the Syrian military killed dozens of people and wounded hundreds with chlorine or sarin gas (or a combination of both). The Syrian government and Russia, its main ally, deny the accusation.
While the imperialists have avoided directly hitting Russian military targets (so far), the missile strikes represent a naked act of aggression aimed at asserting Washington’s power in the Near East, most centrally against Moscow. And it is the Democratic Party that has been spearheading the crazed anti-Russia drive in the U.S.
Following the alleged chemical weapons attack, Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi declared that Russian president Vladimir Putin “must be held accountable.” In an April 10 editorial, the New York Times complained that a statement by Trump indicating that he wanted to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria reinforced “Russia’s reprehensible behavior.” The bluster from Democrats and the Times for a “coherent strategy” in Syria is aimed at goading the scandal-prone Trump administration into a more aggressive posture against Putin’s Russia, a nuclear-armed regional power. Indeed, the White House recently expelled 60 Russian diplomats and imposed sanctions on seven of Putin’s associates, a dozen of their companies and 17 Russian officials.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is also gearing up to impose harsh new sanctions on Iran, the Assad regime’s other key ally. John Bolton, the hawkish new national security adviser, has called for bombing Iran and has declared that the U.S. will bring about “regime change” before the Islamic Republic’s 40th anniversary next February. For its part, the Israeli military has stepped up its attacks in Syria—including by targeting Iranian bases in the country—having launched over 100 airstrikes since 2012.
When it comes to slaughtering civilians, the U.S. imperialists are second to none. According to the Airwars website, the U.S.-led coalition has butchered nearly 10,000 civilians in Syria and Iraq since 2014, having carried out some 30,000 airstrikes. From the 1991 Gulf War and the United Nations-imposed sanctions to the 2003 invasion and its aftermath, the U.S. and its “democratic” allies are responsible for snuffing out nearly three million lives in Iraq alone.
It takes some chutzpah for the U.S. to shed tears over the supposed use of chemical weapons. Napalm was unleashed on the masses of Korea and those of Vietnam, where millions were also exposed to Agent Orange, during U.S. imperialism’s counterrevolutionary wars in those countries. More recently, the U.S. used white phosphorus in Iraq during the 2004 assault on Falluja and the 2016 attack on Mosul. It has acknowledged using depleted uranium in Syria in 2015 in the war against the Islamic State. And, of course, no howls of outrage are heard from America’s politicians and media when U.S. allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia employ these weapons against defenseless populations in Gaza and Yemen.
As Marxists, we have no side in the Syrian civil war, which is reactionary and communal on all sides. But we do have a side against the U.S. and other imperialists. It is in the vital interest of the international proletariat, not least in the U.S., to oppose the depredations of U.S. imperialism and demand: All imperialist forces out of Syria and the Near East now! We also oppose the regional powers that have become involved in the Syrian conflict—including Russia, Iran, Israel and Turkey—and demand that they also get out.
On Saturday, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN, threatened that the U.S. military is “locked and loaded” for further attacks. In the event of a full-on war against the Assad regime, Marxists would have a military side with Assad’s forces while maintaining our political opposition to his brutal capitalist government.
We do not know what happened in Douma on April 7, although there is every reason to suspect that the imperialists’ account is “fake news.” In an article in the London Independent (16 April), Robert Fisk, one of the few Western journalists in Douma, quotes a local doctor who told him that the video of panicked residents “is genuine, but what you see are people suffering from hypoxia [oxygen starvation amid the suffocating rubble]—not gas poisoning.” The U.S. imperialists have a long track record of fabricating evidence to justify war: from the lies about the sinking of the USS Maine, which paved the way for the 1898 Spanish-American War; to the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, which was used as a pretext to escalate U.S. forces in Vietnam; to the claims that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction” and was complicit in the September 11 attacks, which served to beat the drums of war against Iraq.
Last year’s alleged chemical weapons attack at Khan Sheikhoun, which was also blamed on the Syrian government, took place days after Trump announced that his administration accepted that Assad would remain in power. It was followed by the U.S. bombing of a Syrian air base. This year’s attack took place shortly after Trump stated his intention to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and cut off funding to opposition rebels. In both cases, the main source of information regarding the purported chemical attacks was the “White Helmets.” The media presents this group as being made up of dedicated, impartial rescue volunteers. In fact, this outfit was set up and financed by, among others, the U.S. and Britain, and is allied with the Islamist rebels (see “Syrian ‘White Helmets’: Tools of U.S. Imperialism,” WV No. 1103, 13 January 2017).
As demonstrated by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, the imperialists’ stories around the Khan Sheikhoun attack are highly dubious. After the New Yorker and London Review of Books (which commissioned his investigation) refused to publish his account, the German newspaper Die Welt (25 June 2017) printed a report by Hersh revealing that U.S. intelligence services knew that the Khan Sheikhoun site was hit by a conventional bomb. Russia had told the U.S. in advance of the attack, which targeted a meeting of high-level jihadists. According to Hersh’s sources, the conventional bomb triggered secondary explosions from the weapons cache in the building that could have generated a toxic cloud. Even Secretary of Defense James Mattis acknowledged this February that there was “no evidence” that Assad had used sarin gas in Khan Sheikhoun.
The struggle against imperialist militarism and war must be linked to a program for the overthrow of the world imperialist order by the working class. The same ruling class that rains down bombs on the masses of the Near East also wages class war on the working people at home. When the U.S. feigns outrage over Assad killing his “own people,” remember that cops in this country gun down over 1,000 people every year, many of them black and Latino. As we wrote after last year’s missile strikes on Syrian forces (“Defend North Korea! U.S. Out of Syria!” WV No. 1110, 21 April 2017):
“What is desperately needed is class struggle against the capitalist rulers, both to defend the interests of workers and the oppressed at home and to oppose U.S. imperialism abroad. The Spartacist League and our comrades in the International Communist League aim to win the most conscious layers of the working class to the understanding that what is necessary to put an end to exploitation, racial oppression and imperialist slaughter is the overturn of the capitalist order in the U.S. and internationally through socialist revolution.”
On The 50th Anniversary of the May Days in France in 1968
By Frank Jackman
Allan Jackson labeled the post-World War II generation that came of age in the 1960s the “Generation of ’68.” A lot of things happened that year (including our respective draft call notices for induction which we both in retrospect which we had refused to do but you learn a few things in this wicked old world) and this publication has publicized a fair part of them from Tet 1968 in January on.
A lot of the reason that Allan tagged us as the Generation of ’68 though was in homage to the events in France in May and June of 1968. There the students first and then the students and workers came within a hair’s breathe of turning the world upside, of making the newer world we were all looking for. Unfortunately “almost” is usually not good enough and the moment which might have shifted Western history a little bit differently on its axis. That is history in the conditional of course but a definite possibility. We now know two things about that event. Revolutionary moments are few and far between and, at least in the United States, defeat has put us in a forty plus year cultural war which we have not won and are still fighting almost daily.
The Paris days though have a more personal frame of reference since at the time neither Allan nor I were anything but maybe left liberals and not much interested in revolutions and the like. We come by our “Generation of ’68” credentials by a more roundabout way although the events in Paris play a role later. As mentioned above both Allan and I accepted induction into the Army at different points in 1969 (which puts us in a different class of ’69 which I won’t go into now). We both came out of the Vietnam experience very changed in many ways but most directly by a shift in our political perspectives. Neither of us whatever our feelings about the war in Vietnam while students were active in the anti-war movement. Mostly after the Summer of Love experiences out in California in 1967 we were what might be called life-style hippies or some such. Like I said the Army experience changed that. Mainly before that we cared about girls and getting an occasional drug connection.
When we got our respective discharges we were all over the place both as to life style and political seriousness. That is where the Paris days in 1968 came into play. It was obvious by 1971 that massive, mostly student-led, peace marches were not going to end the war. What to do next preoccupied the minds of many of the better elements of that movement. That is where 1968 came in. A cohort of radicals and others started thinking about something like a united front between students and workers strange as that sounded then, and now come to think of it, like what almost brought the French government down. Maybe because we were from the working class, really a notch below, the working poor, this idea sounded good to us although knowing what working class life was really like unlike many of the middle class students we had our doubts about the viability of the strategy. As it turned out not only are revolutionary moments fleeting but mass action moments short of that are as well and so nothing really ever came of that idea. Still if you think about it today if you could get the kids to join up with some radical workers we could shake things up. History doesn’t really repeat itself but if something rises up looking back at the Paris days, 1968 would not be a bad idea.
Friday, May 04, 2018
Once Again, What The Stuff Of Dreams Are Made Of-With The Film Adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon In Mind
Once Again, What The Stuff Of Dreams Are Made Of-With The Film Adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon In Mind
By Crime Novelist Paul Marlon
Joel Cairo shed no tears, not even crocodile tears when he had heard that his old time private dick nemesis who had almost had put a noose around his neck Sam Spade, Samuel Lewis Spade, his full moniker according to the obituary in the San Francisco Chronicle, had cashed his check. Had departed this wicked old world that he seemingly worked overtime in order to prevent honest non-violent criminals (except when a little off-hand violence was necessary to save the play) like Joel from plying their trade. Joel almost smiled a sincere, not ironic or sarcastic, smile when he read the details of how Sam had gone down in a blaze of gunfire when in the year of our lord, 1957 he had stumbled onto a “safe house” for the production of high-grade heroin, H, horse, or any other name you may know that variation of the stuff of dreams by way down away from his comfort zone home, San Francisco. Took the gaff in sunny Mexico, somewhere around Cuernavaca, down where the ‘red bishop fought a losing battle against the batos locos who were infesting the place as a way-station from further south, further down Columbia way. Seems that Sam, with more guts than brains this time, thought he was dealing with guys like Joel, like the Fat Man, like a guy named Sydney Greenstreet that Joel had pulled a few cons with over in the Levant when he was moving up the food chain in the con artist rackets, or a fire-eater woman like Brigid O’Shaughnessy, whose real name when they finally got around to hanging her in the great state of California back in the late 1920s was Mary Louise Astor (that full moniker too provided via that Chronicle obit when mentioning Sam’s most famous case, the Maltese Falcon case) for killing Sam’s partner, a two-bit second-rate gumshoe named Miles Archer.
The dope boys play rough from the start and have no con in them like Brigid had along with that itchy trigger finger though and when Sam had tried to single-handedly break up Lester Lannon’s West Coast dope ring he got nothing but a few coughs after taking about six slugs to various parts of his body. He left a wife, an ex-wife really, Vivian, one of California high roller oil man General Sternwood’s high strung daughters, divorced for about a decade prior to his death and three adult children, all girls. None detectives. [There was more to that divorce from Vivian than we have time for here but one of the reasons for the divorce was that Sam was sleeping with her younger, wilder, and sexually more adventurous sister Carmen once she got out of the drug treatment center at San Luis Obispo. Another reason though was that Sam when not under the sheets with one or the other took too many risks for Vivian’s liking as the girls were growing up. Given Sam’s end she was probably right to cut loose from the bastard before he bled all over the carpet. That was Joel’s savage take on the matter when he heard many years before that Sam had landed in the clover with all that all oil money and more and more cars needed the lifeline.]
Thinking about Sam, about the Fat Man, about Brigid, and a few others like the gunsel she tied up with, Floyd Thursby, a crooked as they come sea captain who was saleable to the highest bidder, Jacoby, and the West End Kid, the Fat Man’s gunsel after Thursby went awry with Brigid, got Joel to thinking about how very close he had come to sharing that necktie party with Brigid. It was only the quick action of the Fat Man flashing a couple of thousand dollar bills before a “from hunger” cop on the take that allowed him and the Fat Man to escape to Istanbul to look for the jeweled bird they had travelled to the United States following once that fucking Thursby let Brigid under his skin.
[That crooked cop, a “friend” of Sam’s from when he was on the San Francisco force himself named Ward Bond, could have been bought and paid for with just one thou but his partner, a tough as nails cop named Barton McLane, needed to get his hush money as well. Money worth spending in any case since that “freedom” allowed the Fat Man and him to finally track down the real jeweled bird. By the way nobody ever called the Fat Man anything but the Fat Man and to this day nobody knew what his real name was, not even Joel who worked with his for several years off and on. Didn’t know much about him except his was a history buff, not just vague schoolboy stuff either but deep thinkers about trends and currents of analysis like H.G. Wells whom the Fat Man claimed to know but when he was interviewed following the Fat Man’s death said he had never known anybody with the moniker Fat Man, was some kind of downwardly mobile European aristocrat, maybe German from his slight accent, and was as treacherous a bastard as Joel had ever worked with-and survived.
They would eventually find the antique dealer in Athens who had created the fake bird that had led them on that wild goose chase in America and allow the late Fat Man and him to retire in splendor in Corfu. (That search for the antique dealer was one of those unfortunate cases where a little off-hand violence was necessary for the bloody bastard to see reason which he did not had in great supply when the deal went down and his body was found a few months after their confrontation floating to shore in the Aegean).
As Joel sat smoking his rich Turkish blend pipe watching the sun go down on another day he began to recall at first with trepidation and then with relish that whole black bird caper (that Maltese Falcon stuff was all made up for successively Brigid’s, Thursby’s and Sam’s edification. Pure bullshit on the part of the master, the Fat Man in all his sublime glory. [That hashish dreamland was not some aberration on Joel’s part. He had been born and raised in the Levant, in the time of the Ottoman Empire, around Tripoli in present day Lebanon and had taken to the pipe early as was the custom among men from his village and when he finally had enough money to seriously indulge the habit after the big black bird cash out he did so to the exclusion of much else.]
Joel thought it was funny how the name Sam Spade had played so big a part in his life back then although their paths had crossed only for a few days. At first the Fat Man, Brigid, that gunsel Thursby who was the Fat Man’s bodyguard, enforcer, tough guy before he fell down under Brigid’s spell. (Joel chuckled that if he had been into women then Brigid’s considerable charms and that fresh jasmine scent that got to even hard-boiled detectives like Spade would had been the end of him too. A couple of moves toward him on her part would perhaps had turned the trick. Tough luck lady that way with men maybe she should have taken up with women.) The odd part was that Brigid when she had gone on her own under Thursby’s guard after finding out that the bird hard left the Asian continent and was heading to the United States under Captain Jacoby’s guidance and was looking for some new help after Thursby caught her fucking some guy in Frisco who had a little dough to fund her search for a while had panicked and went looking for a private detective to help her she had picked the firm of Archer & Spade out of the telephone book since it was the first operation listed under “private detectives” in the phone book. She happened in the end to pick the wrong guy for the job, a guy who ultimately talked, acted, and looked like he would not be made a pasty of when everything got sifted out.
Once the Fat Man and Joel had found out where Brigid was through that Captain Jacoby against Joel’s advice the Fat Man had set them sailing for America. A bad mistake which beyond almost costing them their freedom seemed an unlikely move on the part of that perfidious Greek antique dealer who like Joel had grown up under the devious Ottoman Empire manner of double-dealing, and double-crossing. Joel did not know all the details of what Brigid had told Sam and this Miles Archer about what she wanted their services for but he could guess the effect of that jasmine scent of hers on both men because this Archer fell down for her, fell hard.
[No question a lot of the animosity between Joel and Brigid were their feuds over various men who came on board the Fat Man’s ventures. The immediate cause of bad blood between them had been over Thursby. Before he fell all over himself once Brigid made her play for his loyalties Thursby and Joe had been having an affair. Joel had ever since he was a kid in Tripoli been partial to boys, tough boys, gunsels who he had found out many times would use their cover of toughness to deny who they were, to deny that they were “fairies” like him. Before the West End Kid split when the heat was coming down in the Maltese Falcon adventure and the Fat Man was ready to make a deal with Spade to have the Kid play the fall guy for the various unsolved murders that were accumulating Joel felt he was making headway with that tough young man. As he aged and retreated to his smoked-filled villa in Corfu though he tended toward more feminine youngsters whom he had an agent procure for him. That agent, the clever and discrete Violet Venable, had been highly recommended by the playwright Tennessee Williams when he stayed at Joel’s villa one summer.]
Brigid was not the only one who made a mistake by hiring the firm of Archer & Spade for Joel had miscalculated as well. He assumed that when the news that both Thursby and Archer had been murdered and that there was a possible link between the two closely times murders had been splashed all over the Chronicle which ran with the story for days that Brigid and/or Spade had the bird. He decided to do an end around, possibly cutting out the Fat Man if things worked out that way, and shake down Spade for what he knew, and maybe gain possession of the vaunted bird. He went, armed as a precaution not for killing he did not think, to Spade’s seedy run down office in an off-street downtown where a quick look at the building directory listed lots services that seemed like scams and stuff for small time con artists to work out of without much scrutiny. If worse came to worse he figured he could buy Spade off for say five thousand and he, Spade, probably would think that it was money found on the ground.
When he got to Spade’s sixth floor office with the name Archer already banished from every recognition Joel was surprised that the firm had a receptionist, secretary or kept woman covering all bases, called herself Lee something, a good looking woman if that was your thing, not beautiful like Brigid but something handy to have around. He gave her his “hook”, some knowledge about what had happened to Miles Archer. That got him in the door to Sam’s shabby down at the heels office. When he entered he was surprised (and delighted) to see a guy who was short, had a couple of days stubble, and had the distinct look of something who spent most of his life one or two steps ahead of the “repo” man.
He sat down in a crooked misshapen chair and gave Spade his proposition, or started to, when he realized that he had a gun which would make things easier if the bird was in the office. That was his mistake, pulling the gun on a guy who looked like he could not take care of himself. The minute he pulled it out Spade moved toward the chair and started to slap him around, punched him out, and when he awoke he found that Spade had rifled through his effects including his scented handkerchief which he made a snide remark about (Joel was inured to that “fairy-baiting” since he had put up with it since he was a kid, had used it a couple of times to turn things around and bed the guy who did the baiting. He had half-figured that like Thursby Spade, a seemingly tough guy after all, might be a switch-hitter. Wrong on that count too.) Spade also said that all he saw in Joel’s wallet was a few hundred bucks and air. Joel explained that of course he would not have the dough on him but could get access the next day if things worked out. Sam seemed to agree to that proposition but Joel still figured to short-cut the whole process if the bird was in the office and he could save the five thou. And keep the fabled bird for himself. (As turned out the Fat Man was working his own solo idea and had sent the West End Kid to dog Spade which Spade got hip to in about five minutes and told the Kid to tell the Fat Man if he wanted to deal then they had to meet. From that point on Joel went back to working as an agent of the Fat Man).
Spade and the Fat Man were to meet the next day to size each other up. Meanwhile Brigid was working her own scented magic on Spade and getting plenty of places with it. That night they slept together for the first time even after Sam told her that he was in contact with the Fat Man. (Brigid was one of those never give up woman who figured that at some point, with some sexual trick when she found out what made a man tick, usually some form of oral sex, Spade would fully come under her sway and side with her against all-comers. That too was a mistake in the end but made sense just then when everybody was jockeying for Sam’s favor.)
At the first meeting, Joel in attendance, Sam seemed to be impressed by the Fat Man’s spiel, by his knowledge of the history of the bird (supposedly lost on the way to be given to some king from the Knight of Malta, shorthand for a bunch of cut-throat brigands as tribute but that was all bullshit made up by the Greek to enhance its value to whoever was fool enough to go for the story-and a fake bird and retailed by the Fat Man who was beginning to believe the story himself) and his offer of ten thou for its delivery. No go. Twenty-five thou. In (or seemingly in). Joel was out as an independent agent once the Fat Man gave out that number so he tacitly decided that for now he would side with the Fat Man.
All these monetary offers at that point were so much manure since Spade did not have the bird, not then anyway. That is where Brigid comes back into the picture. She had entrusted, if that is the right word, Captain Jacoby to deliver the bird to her in Frisco town. His ship was scheduled to come in the day that Spade was meeting the Fat Man. It did come in but somehow the Fat Man got wind of Jacoby’s arrival and sent the Kid to get the bird, or else. The Kid shot the place up and set fire to the ship but still no bird. As Joel found out later Jacoby, bleeding like a sieve after the Kid’s handiwork took effect had managed to contact Brigid and the bird was delivered to Sam’s office by the dying Jacoby. Another guy who went to the end of the road for Brigid. Yeah, Sam finally started big time to get the idea that this dame was dangerous.
Everybody met at the Fat Man’s suite in the Fairmont for the final showdown. Sam had stashed the bird in a safe place until the negotiations were complete. They went back and forth for a bit but the Fat Man agreed to terms. Then things went awry, awry from Joel’s perspective. The bird as everybody knows now was a fake, the Fat man and Joel went berserk for a bit before they blew with the wind out of the place. That is when Sam called in the coppers. Called them in to sweep up the lot once he figured that Brigid had killed Miles Archer in order to have that killing laid off on Thursby. Yeah, dealing with her was like sealing with some slithering snake. Yeah, he sent her over, sent that pretty neck into a short noose. Fortunately cash had saved him and the Fat Man from that fate. Joel chuckled to himself “like hell would he let Sam Spade rest in peace.” Fuck that.
In Honor Of International Workers’ Day- May Day 2017 -Ancient dreams, dreamed-The Risen People?-Frank Jackman’s War-Take Three
In Honor Of International Workers’ Day- May Day 2017 -Ancient dreams, dreamed-The Risen People?-Frank Jackman’s War-Take Three
From The American Left History Blog Archives –May Day 1971
Endless, dusty, truck heavy, asphalt steaming hitchhike roads travelled, Route 6, 66, maybe 666 and perdition for all I know, every back road, every Connecticut highway avoiding back road from Massachusetts south to the capital for one last winner-take-all, no prisoners taken show-down to end all show-downs. And maybe, just maybe, finally some peace and a new world a-borning, a world we had been talking about for at least a decade (clueless, as all youth nations are clueless, that that road was well-travelled, very well- travelled, before us). No Jack Kerouac dharma bum easy road (although there were dharma bums, or at least faux dharma bums, aplenty on those 1971 roads south, and west too) let- her-rip cosmic brakeman Neal Cassady at the wheel flying through some Iowa/Kansas wheat field night fantasy this trip.
No this trip was not about securing some cultural enclave in post-war America (post-World War II so as not to confuse the reader) in break-out factory town Lowell or cold water tenement Greenwich Village/Soho New Jack City or Shangri-La West out in the Bay area, east or west, but about mucking up the works, the whole freaking governmental/societal/economic/cultural/personal/godhead world (that last one, the godhead one, not thrown in just for show, no way) and maybe, just maybe sneaking away with the prize. But a total absolute, absolutist, big karma sky fight out, no question. And we, I, am ready. On that dusty road ready.
More. See all roads head south as we, my girlfriend of the day, maybe more, maybe more than a day, Joyell, but along this time more for ease of travelling for those blessed truck driver eye rides, than lust or dream wish and my sainted wise-guy amigo (and shades of Gregory Corso, sainted, okay), Matty, who had more than a passing love or dream wish in her and if you had seen her you would not have wondered why. Not have wondered why if your “type” was Botticelli painted and thoughts of butterfly swirls just then or were all-type sleepy-eyed benny-addled teamster half-visioned out of some forlorn rear view mirror.
Yah, head south, in ones, twos, and threes (no more, too menacing even for hefty ex-crack back truckers to stop for) travelling down to D.C. for what many of us figure will be the last, finally, push back against the war, the Vietnam War, for those who have forgotten, or stopped watching television and the news, but THEY, and you knew (know) who they were (are), had their antennae out too, they KNEW we were coming, even high-ball fixed (or whiskey neat she had the face for them) looking out from lonely balconies Martha Mitchell knew that much. They were, especially in mad max robot-cop Connecticut, out to pick off the stray or seven who got into their mitts as a contribution to law and order, law and order one Richard Milhous Nixon-style (and in front of him, leading some off-key, off-human key chorus some banshee guy from Maryland, another watch out hitchhike trail spot, although not as bad as Ct, nothing except Arizona is). And thus those dusty, steamy, truck heavy (remind me to tell you about hitchhiking stuff, and the good guy truckers you wanted, desperately wanted, to ride with in those days, if I ever get a chance sometime).
The idea behind this hitchhiked road, or maybe, better, the why. Simple, too simple when you, I, thought about it later in lonely celled night but those were hard trying times, desperate times really, and just free, free from another set of steel-barred rooms this jailbird was ready to bring down heaven, hell, hell if it came down to it to stop that furious war (Vietnam, for the later reader) and start creating something recognizable for humans to live in. So youth nation, then somewhat long in the tooth, and long on bad karma-driven bloody defeats too, decided to risk all with the throw of the dice and bring a massive presence to D.C. on May Day 1971.
And not just any massed presence like the then familiar seasonal peace crawl that nobody paid attention too anymore except the organizers, although the May Day action was wrapped around that year’s spring peace crawl, (wrapped up, cozily wrapped up, in their utopian reformist dream that more and more passive masses, more and more suburban housewives from New Jersey, okay, okay not just Jersey, more and more high school freshman, more and more barbers, more and more truck driver stop waitresses, for that matter, would bring the b-o-u-r-g-e-o-i-s-i-e (just in case there are sensitive souls in the room) to their knees. No, we were going to stop the government, flat. Big scheme, big scheme no question and if anybody, any “real” youth nation refugee, excepting, of course, always infernal always, those cozy peace crawl organizers, tried to interject that perhaps there were wiser courses nobody mentioned them out loud in my presence and I was at every meeting, high or low. Moreover I had my ears closed, flapped shut closed, to any lesser argument. I, rightly or wrongly, silly me thought “cop.”
So onward anti-war soldiers from late night too little sleep Sunday night before Monday May Day dawn in some vagrant student apartment around DuPont Circle (I think) but it may have been further up off 14th Street, Christ after eight million marches for seven million causes who can remember that much. No question though on the student ghetto apartment locale; bed helter-skelter on the floor, telephone wire spool for a table, orange crates for book shelves, unmistakably, and the clincher, seventeen posters, mainly Che, Mao, Ho, Malcolm etc., the first name only necessary for identification pantheon just then, a smattering of Lenin and Trotsky but they were old guys from old revolutions and so, well, discounted to early rise (or early stay up cigarette chain-smoking and coffee slurping to keep the juices flowing). Out into the streets, out into the small collectives coming out of other vagrant apartments streets (filled with other posters of Huey Newton , George Jackson, Frantz Fanon, etc. from the two names needed pantheon) joining up to make a cohorted mass (nice way to put it, right?). And then dawn darkness surrounded, coffee spilled out, cigarette bogarted, AND out of nowhere, or everywhere, bang, bang, bang of governmental steel, of baton, of chemical dust, of whatever latest technology they had come up with they came at us (pre-tested in Vietnam, naturally, as I found out later). Jesus, bedlam, mad house, insane asylum, beat, beat like gongs, defeated.
Through bloodless bloodied streets (this, after all, was not Chicago, hog butcher to the world), may day tear down the government days, tears, tear-gas exploding, people running this way and that coming out of a half-induced daze, a crazed half-induced daze that mere good- will, mere righteousness would right the wrongs of this wicked old world. One arrested, two, three, many, endless thousands as if there was an endless capacity to arrest, and be arrested, arrest the world, and put it all in one great big Robert F. Kennedy stadium home to autumn gladiators on Sunday and sacrificial lambs this spring maypole may day basket druid day.
And, as I was being led away by one of D.C.’s finest, I turned around and saw that some early Sunday morning voice, some “cop” voice who advised caution and went on and on about getting some workers out to join us before we perished in an isolated blast of arrests and bad hubris also being led away all trussed up, metal hand-cuffs seemingly entwined around her whole slight body. She said she would stick with us even though she disagreed with the strategy that day and I had scoffed, less than twenty-four hours before, that she made it sound like she had to protect her erring children from themselves. And she, maybe, the only hero of the day. Righteous anonymous sister, forgive me. (Not so anonymous actually since I saw her many times later in Boston, almost would have traded in lust for her but I was still painted Botticelli-bewitched and so I, we, let the moment passed, and worked on about six million marches for about five millions causes with her but that was later. I saw no more of her in D.C. that week.)
Stop. Brain start. Out of the bloodless fury, out of the miscalculated night a strange bird, no peace dove, these were not such times even with all our unforced errors, and no flame-flecked phoenix raising but a bird, maybe the owl of Minerva came a better sense that this new world a-bornin’ would take some doing, some serious doing. More serious that some wispy-bearded, pony-tailed beat, beat down, beat around, beat up young stalwart road tramp acting in god’s place could even dream of. But that was later. Just then, just that screwed-up martyr moment, I was longing for the hot, dusty, truck driver stop meat loaf special, dishwater coffee on the side, road back home even ready to chance Connecticut highway dragnets to get there.
Frank Jackman, after scrounging around for some food to sate his hunger and after finding some, the “movement” food de jure, brown rice and beans, at a make-shift kitchen set up to feed the hungry like him he ambled back to the comfort of that still blazing campfire. As he sat down on one of the anonymous scattered friendly blankets (this time not an Army blanket) he noticed across the fire from him a young man, younger than he, wearing an obvious real GI-issued Army jacket (not Army-Navy store gear then popular about the street protestors). That brother had the look, the short hair, the haphazard mustache, the posture of someone who either was still in the service or who had like him also just gotten out. That fresh vision before him of what he himself looked like got Frank to thinking again about the last year of his “military service,” most of that time spent in the jug, in the Fort Devens stockade.
Frank, after having his conscientious objector application rejected by the military, had decided to pursue one avenue of appeal, to the federal courts. He was able through civilian counsel to get his case before a federal judge in Boston who had furthermore issued a restraining order on the military to not remove him from the jurisdiction of the court. That, however, Frank felt was a long and cumbersome course and not necessarily a successful route if the judge decided that the recent civilian decisions on CO status did not apply to the military. Frank was the first to admit that he had not been a vociferous and outspoken public opponent of the seemingly never-ending war but he had, as he would quip “gotten religion.” As part of his work with the Quakers and others down in Cambridge he had come to see that if the war was to be ended sooner rather than later then strategies based on massive, if ill-formed, public demonstrations or the pressuring of federal politicians was not going to get it done.
Frank knew, knew in his bones, from talks with guys who had been to ‘Nam, guy who knew how bad it was, guys who knew the score, and who also knew that lots of guys were disgruntled that to close down the war you had to get to the foot soldier, to the grunt. And so he determined that he would try to do that, or at least his small part. The Quakers he knew and other Cambridge radical also had the same idea that anti-war actions should be directed toward the military bases in order to try to reach the soldiers. A group of them had decided that one day, one weekday around the end of the base workday that they would make an anti-war protest in front of Fort Devens to drive home the issue. Frank was intrigued by the idea, saw a role for himself in the action, and suggested that he would join them, in uniform, on the appointed day.
After some discussion with his civilian supporters (who he was told later were secretly thrilled to have a uniformed soldier in their anti-war midst) and a period of thought about what his actions would entail (and whether he could do stockade time which would surely come out of his actions) he decided to cast his lot with the ant-warriors. On a Wednesday afternoon in late October 1970 a small group of protestors (maybe fifty people) gathered for about an hour in the triangle in front of the entrance to the main gate of the fort. Among those in attendance was Frank Jackman in full private’s military uniform carrying a sign calling for the American government to “Bring The Troops Home.” That night upon returning to his barracks he was arrested and brought to the Provost Marshal’s Office for transport to the stockade for pre-trial confinement. And that was the start of Private Francis Alan Jackman’s war against the military.
A lot of Frank’s thinking at the time was that he would further his efforts at getting that discharge from the Army by personally actively opposing the war from the inside. That is what was appealing to him about taking part in the civilian action in front of the fort. Call it a martyr’s complex or just show-boating he was determined to perform acts of personal resistance to show others the way out of the war. And the military was more than happy to comply giving him a mandatory six months sentence for his action under the rubric of disobeying lawful orders at his Special Court-Martial.
Frank had assumed that such a sentence would be the end of it. Either the federal judge would rule in his favor or the Army seeing an obvious malcontent would discharge him in some administrative way. So Frank was surprised when neither happened. He did his six months (minus good time) and then was released back to a replacement detachment without any word from Boston. He was in a bind, a political bind by his lights. He could not knuckle under to the military and return to serve good military time doing some job (meaning serving non-stockade time) yet he was hesitant to do another stretch in the stockade. The issue weighed on him until he came up with another idea- a surefire stockade-inducing action.
Each Monday morning there is in probably every military post a general formation to see who is where they are supposed to be (not AWOL) which he later found out was called the morning report. That general formation took place at a large central field where all the base’s units gathered to take account of their personnel. Frank decided that he would make a big person anti-war statement on that occasion by wearing civilian clothes and carrying a large sign calling for “Immediate U.S. Withdrawal from Vietnam” One Monday morning in the summer of 1970 Private Jackman walked out onto the parade field carrying that sign. He was immediately tackled by a couple of lifer-sergeants and transported once again to the Provost Marshal’s Office and from there to pre-trial stockade confinement. Once again he was giving a Special Court-Martial for, what else, disobeying lawful orders, and sentenced to serve another six month sentence. It was during the latter part of that sentence that word came from Boston (through his lawyer) that the federal judge had granted his writ of habeas corpus. He was released from confinement a few days later on February 18, 1971
Frank once again became drowsy as the fire started to flicker and he nodded off still thinking about that year’s worth of time in the stockade and the chances of him having to do more time with the impeding street action set for early May Day morning in order to break down the war effort…
I Hear The Noise Of Wings-Cary Grant And Jean Arthur’s Only Angels Have Wings (1939)- A Film Review
By Associate Film Critic Alden Riley
Only Angels Have Wings, starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth, from a story written by and directed by Howard Hawks, 1939
You know damn well that old Greek legend had it that Icarus a mere mortal had deep aspirations to fly but was the first manned flight failure which nevertheless didn’t keep subsequent humankind from dreaming the dream of flight, to soar above the clouds, to take flight with the angels if you want to get literarily romantic about the quest. As we all know today that quest was conquered in the early part of the last century and now even the little ones can fly anywhere they, or rather their parents, can afford the airfare to. But the film under review, Howard Hawks’ Only Angels Have Wings, despite its romantic, boy-girl romantic if not literary romantic, subplot tells a true story of how near a thing it was in the early days of flying especially in the outposts necessary to make a global aviation market. After viewing this film I was reminded how every fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants sky jockey must have remembered the words from the old hymn Angel Band about “real” angels coming around and the listener heard “the noise of wings” every time she or she went up, just before their number was called.
Here’s the play. Geoff, played by Cary Grant complete with elegant sombrero, a hard-boiled, take every risk, and don’t ask your pilots to do what you wouldn’t do pilot-manager running an outpost operation in the boondocks of South America is trying to establish a permanent route through the mountainous regions of that Podunk place where he is operating out of. Operating the whole thing on plane smoke, dreams and little else. As you can figure the attrition rate is pretty high under such horrible conditions. That is the main story, the story that will have you thinking about angel thoughts despite yourself. Enter one seen-it-all Bonnie Lee, play by Jean Arthur, just off the boat and seemingly down on her uppers. She is the cause of plenty of competition among the women-starved pilots and their associates on the airfields. Including one barnstormer who didn’t make it back once he got sight of her and forgot a few things about flying. But as becomes very clear very early old Bonnie is taking dead aim come hell or high water for Geoff. Geoff, on the rebound from a lost love wants no part of any woman, wouldn’t ask anything of a woman after he had been stung by that old flame. Tough luck Bonnie.
Tough luck for a while as she goes through her paces. And as Geoff short of help and running out of time on a big contract has hired a new guy to fly those treacherous mountain passes. Problem is that the Kid, Geoff best pal and the spirit of the venture had a brother who was died while this new pilot bailed out of a crashing plane. Bad blood all the way around. Bad luck too for Geoff since that old flame of his, Judy played by a young Rita Hayworth which made it entirely understandable why Geoff was in a tailspin over women once she came through the door (and frankly I would have urged him to make up with Judy one way or another since she really was a fox, foxier by far that Bonnie but back to the story) had gotten tied up with this new pilot.
Bad blood or not Geoff needed a pilot, the new guy won his spurs on a couple of runs and things looked pretty good until Geoff who was going to take a last run before the contract deadline himself was accidently wounded by a gunshot from smitten unto death Bonnie. In the end that new pilot and the Kid had to team up to try to make the run. No soap. The plane they were testing didn’t make the grade and the plane came in on a crash landing after the new guy did not, I repeat, did not bail out. But the Kid was mortally wounded on that trip. Didn’t make it in the end. Geoff and Bonnie did of course (as did the new guy and his Judy). But I wonder, I really wonder, if the Kid heard the noise of wings just before his passed on.
A great, underrated film with a fine performance by Grant, great looks by Hayworth, great idea by Hawks to highlight the rigors of flying when the machines were held together by spit and nerves.
As The 100th Anniversary Of World War I Continues -The Anti-War Resistance Builds –The Russian Revolution Breaks The Logjam
As The 100th Anniversary Of World War I Continues -The Anti-War Resistance Builds –The Russian Revolution Breaks The Logjam
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 capitalist-imperialist nation-state 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’s prisons) 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 battlefields.
Delivered: May 1918
First Printing: 1920; by Louis Fraina
Source: TIA version based on What Is A Peace Programme?, pp.32-38, Lanka Samasamaja Publications, Colombo, Ceylon, June 1956. No copyright.
Originally reproduced from pp.348-354 of Louis C. Fraina’s The Proletarian Revolution in Russia.
Transcription/Mark-up for TIA: A. Lehrer/David Walters.
First Printing: 1920; by Louis Fraina
Source: TIA version based on What Is A Peace Programme?, pp.32-38, Lanka Samasamaja Publications, Colombo, Ceylon, June 1956. No copyright.
Originally reproduced from pp.348-354 of Louis C. Fraina’s The Proletarian Revolution in Russia.
Transcription/Mark-up for TIA: A. Lehrer/David Walters.
TIA Editor’s Note:
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk was negotiated with the Central Powers by Bolshevik War Commissar Leon Trotsky. The Treaty, which saw Russia withdraw from the war, was concluded on terms that were very unfavorable to the Bolshevik government which agreed to cede what are now Poland, the Baltic states and Belarus to Germany and Austria-Hungary and certain southern territories to the Ottoman Empire. Russia also agreed to recognize the independence of Finland and Ukraine. In this speech, Trotsky explains the need for Russia to withdraw from the war, the negotiations that led to the treaty and Bolshevik perspectives following its implementation.
The Soviet Government of Russia must now not only build anew, but it must also close up the old accounts and up to a certain and rather high degree, pay the old debts: first, those of the war which has lasted three and a half years. This war furnished the touchstone of the economic strength of the warring countries. The fate of Russia, a poor and backward country, was, in a war of long duration, a foregone conclusion. In the mighty collisions of war apparatus the decision lay, in the last analysis, in the capacity of the country to adapt its industries to the needs of war, to transform the same in the shortest possible time and replace, in ever growing volume, engines of destruction that were used up with such rapidity in the course of this general butchery. Every country or almost every country, even the most backward, could at beginning of the war be in possession of the mightiest engines of destruction – or could import them. That was the case with all backward countries; even so in Russia. But war eats up quickly its dead capital and requires constant renewal. The war capacity of each and every country drawn into this world massacre could in truth be measured by its capacity to create anew and during the war cannons, projectiles and other war material.Had the war solved the problem of the relative relation of forces in a very short time, then it would have been possible, theoretically at least, for Russia to maintain behind the trenches the position that might have meant victory. But the war dragged on too long. And that was not due to accident. The fact that international diplomacy had for the last fifty years worked in the direction of creating a so-called European ‘balance of power’, that is to say, a condition wherein the opposing forces were to be about evenly balanced, that fact alone – considered in the light of the power and wealth possessed by the modern bourgeois nations – would give the war a long-drawn-out character. And that, on the other hand, meant the exhaustion of such countries as were weaker, and, in an economic sense, less developed.
The strongest, in a military sense, proved to be Germany, due to the power of its industries and due also to the modest rational character of these industries side by side with a time-worn, anachronistic political system. It was shown that France, largely because of its petty bourgeois economy, had fallen behind Germany, and even so powerful a colonial empire as England, because of the more conservative and routine character of its industries, proved to be weaker in comparison with Germany. When history placed the Russian Revolution face to face with the question of negotiating peace we were not in doubt that we would have to settle the bill for the three and a half years of war – unless the power of the international revolutionary proletariat should decisively upset all calculations. We did not doubt that in German Imperialism we had to deal with an opponent thoroughly saturated with the consciousness of his colonial power, a power which in the course of this war, has come so plainly to the fore.
All those arguments of bourgeois cliques, to the effect that we would have been much stronger had we concluded the negotiations together with our allies for an indefinite time we should, above all things, have been able to continue the war in conjunction with them; but, as our country was weakened and exhausted, it was the continuation, not the termination of the war, that would have further weakened and exhausted it. And thus we would have been forced to quit sooner or later under conditions still more unfavourable to us. If, therefore, we stand today a weakened country, face to face with world imperialism, we surely have not been weakened because we have torn ourselves out of the fiery ring of war and out of the embrace of international war obligations – no, we have been weakened by the policies of Czarism and of the bourgeois classes, those policies which we have fought as a revolutionary party – before the war and during the war.
Do you remember, comrades, under what circumstances our delegation went direct from a session of the Third All-Russian Soviet Congress to Brest-Litovsk? At that time we rendered to you a report as to the state of negotiations and the demands of the enemy. These demands, as you will recollect, ran along the line of masked, or rather half-masked annexationist desires, an annexation of Lithuania, Courland, a part of Livonia, the islands of the Moon Sound, as well as a half-veiled contribution which, at that time, we estimated at from 6 to 8 and even 10 billion rubles. During a pause in the negotiations, which lasted about ten days, there developed in Austria a tremendous ferment and labour strikes broke forth. These strikes signified the first recognition of our method of conducting the peace negotiations, the first recognition we received from the proletariat of the central powers about the annexationist demands of German militarism. As against that, how silly appear the claims of the bourgeois press that we had required two months to negotiate with Kuhlmann in order to find out that German Imperialism was imposing robber conditions. No, we knew that from the very start. By means of the “pourparlers” with the representatives of German Imperialism, we endeavoured to find a means to strengthen those forces that oppose German Imperialism. We did not promise to perform miracles but we claimed that the road we were following was the only road left to a revolutionary democracy to secure for itself the possibility of future development.
Complaint might be made that the proletariat of other countries, more especially that of the Central Powers, moved too slowly along the road of the revolutionary struggle – true enough. The tempo of its development must be considered altogether too slow – but, nevertheless, in Austria-Hungary a movement began that spread over the entire country and which was a different echo of the Brest-Litovsk negotiations.
When I left here, we were saying that we had no reason to suppose that this strike wave would wash away the militarism of Austria and Germany. Had we been so convinced we would, of course, gladly have made the promise that certain persons expected we should make, namely, that under no circumstances would we make a separate peace with Germany. I said then that we could not make such a promise. That would have meant to assume the task of overcoming German militarism. We do not possess the secret of accomplishing such a victory. And since we could not obligate ourselves to change in a short time the relative position of international forces, we declared, openly and honestly, that a revolutionary government may under certain conditions be compelled to accept the annexationist peace. The decline of such a government would have to begin at the moment it would try to hide before its own people the predatory character of such a peace – not because it might be compelled, in the course of such a struggle, to accept such a peace.
At the same time, we pointed out that we were going to Brest-Litovsk for the continuance of the peace negotiations under conditions which were becoming better for ourselves but worse for our enemies. We observed the movement in Austria-Hungary and there was much to indicate – for that is what the Social Democratic deputies in the Reichstag had reference to – that Germany too was on the eve of such events. Filled with this hope, we departed. And even during the first days of our nest stay at Brest, a radiogram via Vilna brought us the first news that in Berlin a tremendous strike movement had broken out, which, just as that of Austria-Hungary, was directly connected with the conduct of the negotiations at Brest-Litovsk. But, as is often the case in accordance with the dialectics of the class struggle, the very dimensions of this proletarian movement – never seen in Germany before – compelled a closing of the ranks of the propertied classes and forced them to ever greater implacability. The German ruling class is saturated with a sufficiently strong instinct of self-preservation to realize clearly that any concessions made under the conditions it found itself in and pressed by the masses of its own people – that any, even partial, concessions would spell capitulation to the spirit of the revolution. And it was for this reason that Kuhlmann, during the first period of uncertainty, purposely delayed negotiations, either by not holding any sessions at all or by wasting time, when they were held, with purely secondary and formal questions. But as soon as the strike was liquidated, when he knew that his masters were no longer in danger of their lives, he again assumed the tone of complete self-possession and redoubled aggressiveness.
Our negotiations were complicated by the participation of the Kiev Rada.  We did not report this last time. The delegation of the Kiev Rada appeared at the moment when the Rada did not have in the Ukraine a fairly strong organization and when the outcome of the struggle could not yet be foretold. At this very movement we made to the Rada an official proposition to enter with us into an agreement and, as the foremost condition of such an agreement, we stipulated: that this Rada declare Kaledin and Kornilov counter-revolutionists and that it should not hinder us in fighting both. The delegation of the Kiev Rada arrived at Brest at a time when we hoped to attain our agreement with them and with the enemy. We declared to them that, so long as they were recognized by the people of the Ukraine, we regarded it as possible to admit them as independent participants in the negotiations. But the more events developed in Russia and the Ukraine, the more the antagonism between the people of the Ukraine and the Rada became manifest, all the greater issues became the willingness of the Rada to close with the Governments of the Central Powers the first Brest treaty of peace, and if need be, to enlist the services of German militarism for purposes of intervention to the internal affairs of the Russian Republic in order to sustain the Rada against the Russian Revolution.
On February 9, we learned that the negotiations carried on behind our backs between the Rada and the Central Powers had led to the signing of a peace treaty. February 9 is the birthday of King Leopold of Bavaria and, as is customary in monarchial countries, the consummation of the solemn, historic act – whether with the consent of the Kiev Rada, I do not know – had been set for that day. General Hoffmann fired the salute in honour of Leopold of Bavaria – after he had asked the consent of the Kiev delegation, because, after the signing of the Peace Treaty, Brest-Litovsk passed over to the Ukraine. Events, however, took such a course that when General Hoffmann asked the Kiev Rada’s permission to fire the salute, the Rada, granting them Brest-Litovsk, did not have much more of a territory left. Upon the strength of dispatches received from Petrograd, we informed the delegations of the Central Powers, officially, that the Kiev Rada no longer existed – a circumstance not without serious bearing upon the further course of peace negotiations.
We proposed to Count Czernin that he send representatives to the Ukraine, accompanied by our officers, so as to convince himself whether the “party of the second part” – the Kiev Rada – did or did not exist. It looked as though Czernin was willing to acquiesce: but when we submitted to him the question: does this mean that the treaty with the Kiev delegation will not be signed until your representatives return? – he was overcome by doubt and offered to inquire of Kuhlmann. After such inquiry he transmitted to us a negative answer. That was on February 8 – on February 9 they had to have a signed treaty: that permitted no delay. Not only because of the birthday of King Leopold of Bavaria but for a much weightier reason which Kuhlmann had doubtlessly made clear to Czernin: “If we now send our representatives to the Ukraine, they may find, indeed, that the Rada no longer exists, in which case we would have to deal with an All-Russian delegation and that would make worse our chances in the negotiations.” The Austrian delegation told us: “Abandon the position of pure principle, put the question on a practicable basis and then the German delegation will be reasonable ... It is not possible for Germany to continue the war for the sake of the Moon Sound Islands if you present your demand in concrete form.
We answered: “Very well, we are willing to test the conciliatoriness of your colleagues of the German delegation. Thus far we have negotiated about the right of self-determination of the Lithuanians, Poles, Livonians, Letts, Estonians and others, and we ascertained that with all these there was no room for self-determination. Now we want to see what is your attitude towards the self-determination of still another people, that of Russia, and what are your intentions and plans of military-strategic character hidden behind your occupation of the Moon Sound Islands. For the Moon Sound Islands, as part of the independent Estonian republic or as the property of the federated Russian Republic, have a defensive importance. In the hands of Germany, however, they assume an offensive value and will menace the very life centre of our country and, more especially, of Petrograd.” But General Hoffmann was unwilling to make the slightest concession.
Then came the hour of decision. We could not declare war. We were too weak. The army had lost internal cohesion. For the salvation of our country and in order to overcome the process of disintegration, we were forced to re-establish the inner connection of the working-masses. This psychological bond can be created by way of common productive effort in the fields, in the factories, and in the workshops. We must bring the working masses, so long subjected to the terrible sufferings and catastrophe trials of the war, back to their acres and factories where they can again find themselves in their labour and enable us to build up internal discipline. This is the only way out for a country that must now do penance for the sins of Czarism and of the bourgeoisie. We are forced to give up this war and to lead the army out of this slaughter. But we do declare at the same time and in the face of German militarism: the peace you have forced upon us is a peace of force and robbery. We shall not permit that you, diplomatic gentlemen, can say to the German workers: “You have called our demands conquests and annexations, but see: we bring to you, under these same demands, the signature of the Russian Revolution!” – Yes, we are weak; we can not now conduct a war, but we possess sufficient revolutionary force to prove that we shall not, voluntarily, place our signatures under a treaty that you write with your sword upon the bodies of living people. We refused our signatures! – I believe, comrades, that we acted rightly.
Comrades! I shall not claim that an attack upon us by Germany is impossible – such an assertion would be too risky if we visualize the power of the imperialist party in Germany. I believe, however, that the position we have taken in this question has made attack more difficult for German militarism. But if Germany does attack nevertheless? As regards that, all we can say is this: If in our country, exhausted and in desperate condition that we are, it is possible to spur the courage of the revolutionary and vital elements, if with us the struggle for the protection of our Revolution and of the arena of the Revolution is possible – then it is so only because of the situation that has now been created, possible as the result of our exit form the war and our refusal to sign the treaty of peace.
1. Ukrainian Parliament, then held by the bourgeoisie. – Ed.