Saturday, September 14, 2019
A Writer’s Tale-Vincente Minnelli’s Film Adaptation Of James Jones’ “Some Came Running” (1958)-A Film Review
A Writer’s Tale-Vincente Minnelli’s Film Adaptation Of James Jones’ “Some Came Running” (1958)-A Film Review
By Josh Breslin
Some Came Running, starring Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Martha Hyer, directed by Vincente Minelli, adapted from the novel by James Jones, 1958
No question I was first drawn to Some Came Running, a film based on the novel of the same name by James Jones whose more famous novel Here To Eternity also was adapted to the screen and stands as one of the great classic films of the modern cinema, by the ex-soldier’s story and then by his plight as a blocked writer. The draw of the ex-soldier’s story reflected something that had been in my own experience about coming back to the “real” world after the military. That seems to be the character played by Frank Sinatra Dave Hirsh’s situation. That inability to go to the nine to five routine, to settle down after military service had shaken him out of his routine rang a bell. In my own military service generation, in my own service, I ran across plenty of guys who couldn’t deal with the “real” world coming back from Vietnam and who tried to hide from that fact as “brothers under the bridges” alternate communities out in places like Southern California. I see and hear about young Iraq and Afghanistan War service personnel having the same woes and worse, having incredibly high suicide rates. So yeah, I was drawn to Dave’s sulky, moody, misshapen view of the world.
The story line is a beauty. Dave, after a drunken spree, finds he was shipped by bus back in that state by some guys in Chicago to his Podunk hometown in Parkman, Indiana, a town he had fled with all deliberate speed when he was a kid orphaned out by his social-climbing older brother Frank because, well, because he was in the way of that social-climb after their parents die. Dave was not alone in his travels though since he had picked up, or had been attached to, a floozy named Ginny, played by Shirley MacLaine, who will make life hell for him in the end. As he became accustomed to his old hometown and while deciding whether to stay or pick up stakes (the preferred fate of his brother and his also social-climbing wife) he was introduced to a local school teacher Gwen, played by Martha Hyer, who will also make hell for him in the end since he was quickly and madly in love with her but she was seriously stand-offish almost old maid stand-offish since she had had a few tastes of his rough-hewn low life doings. Doings which were encouraged by a gambler, Bama, played by Dean Martin who became his sidekick.
But here is the hook that almost saved Dave and almost lit a spark under dear Gwen. Dave was a blocked writer, had some time before written a couple of books that were published and had gathered some acclaim, were well written. Gwen attempted to act as his muse, and did prove instrumental in getting a work of his published. To no avail since Dave was not looking for a muse, well, not a muse who wasn’t thinking about getting under the silky sheets. No go, no go despite Dave’s ardent efforts. Frustrated Dave turned to Ginny and whatever charms she had-and the fact that she loved him unconditionally despite their social and intellectual differences. In the end Dave in a fit of hubris decided to marry Ginny after being rebuffed by Gwen enough times. The problem though was that Ginny had a hang on gangster guy trailing her who was making threatening noises about putting Dave, and/ or Ginny underground. In the end they were not just threatening noises as he wounded Dave and killed poor bedraggled Ginny.
Watch this one-more than once and read James Jones’ book too which includes additional chapters about those soldiers who could not relate to the “real” world after their military experiences. This guy could write, sure could write about that milieu based on his own military service. (There is a famous photograph of Jones, Norman Mailer, and William Styron, the three great soldier-boy American literary lights of the immediate post-World War II war period with Jones in uniform if I recall.)
Afterward by Greg Green-site manager:
When I first assigned Josh Breslin this film review my intention was for him to discuss a bit his own, Dave-like, writer’s troubles and more importantly, his troubles with the “real” world when he came back from his military service in Vietnam during the 1960s. Josh had initially agreed to put some material about that in to bring the reader into the picture about what was eating at Dave (really author James Jones), what drove him over the edge. When it came time to do so though Josh balked, said he couldn’t do it, couldn’t bring back those hard times without serious mental disturbance even fifty years later.
What I did not know at the time but which when I confronted Josh about breaking the terms of our agreement it turned out those hard times had a name, a name which I have since become painfully familiar with-Peter Paul Markin, the Scribe as his old hometown growing up guys forever called him. Josh was not one of them but had met the Scribe out in San Francisco in the Summer of Love, 1967 when he had just graduated from high school and before he was to start college at State U up in Maine, his home state in the fall. That led to a big-time friendship which was only broken up by the Scribe’s own military service the next year.
No, that is not right. Their friendship in the final analysis was broken up a few years later by that fiendish war in Vietnam which took its toll on both of them. The Scribe, like Josh, had his problems coming back to the “real: world, got seriously into drugs, dried out a bit, did some great stories on those “brothers under the bridge” for which he won a bunch of awards which helped for a while. Josh made the turn but the Scribe, for wanting habits, for his own hubris, for kicks, for his whole freaking overblown life to hear Josh tell the story didn’t, got caught up in the cocaine craze and made the cardinal mistake of using what he was trying to sell. For his efforts he got a potter’s field grave down in Sonora, Mexico courtesy of some ill-advised and deadly busted drug deal with the emerging drug cartels that went awry. So Josh, maybe someday you will tell us Josh, you are right to balk on your part of this assignment now though.
Happy, Happy 100th Birthday Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti-Max Daddy Of Famed “City Lights Bookstore” In “Beat” San Francisco When It Counted And Muse Of His Generation’s Poets
Happy, Happy 100th Birthday Poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti-Max Daddy Of Famed “City Lights Bookstore” In “Beat” San Francisco When It Counted And Muse Of His Generation’s Poets
By Liam Leahy
When the deal went down the hell with street ruffian and gangster of words and thefts Gregory Corso, the hell with Zen Buddha lotus flowers sulks Gary Snyder, the hell with bright lights in the headlights like some virgin Bambi Mike McClure, double the hell with clear the coffeehouses and jazz bars out with his primal wailing to Keil, devil servant, Phil Larkin, ditto double the hell with trying to hit that high white note that only jazz boys and girls can aspire to MaJohn Dupree, back to single hells for Dante boys all choir practice glow bum-tucked like Kenneth Rexforth (and don’t forget Rexforth’s daughter who everybody took a run at and why not even gay boys like Ginsberg), to hell as well the drag queen artless Tim Riley before he fanned the flames of Miss Judy Garland’s hem and made bluegrass green in ocean spray to the China seas bays filled with oil tankers and sodomites sing his naughty boy praises. And in the end, the bookend three hot dog fucks like Miss Julie Johnson in some Joe and Nemo alley.
More retrospective, more circumspect rumbling fullback out of some Merrimack estuary looking hot dog hungry, looking like some holy goof displaced out of European DP camps and he only Icelandic run bound dropping to the titanic seas. So Jack, Jack, Kerouac, the fuck with that Jack stuff Ti Jean of ten million Allan Ginsberg dreams and Neal Cassidy lost father’s gets some play, okay Very much more circumspect and there is no way around it this time Moloch of modern times stripping poor Tom Eliot of everything but his shoddy bedding and his lost in the hills and trenches of Eastern France cursive language as wave after wave fell to complete one square yard Carl Solomon’s dear friend and his mother howler in the dust for all the good it did him, or her, Allan Ginsberg. Yeah, the beat down, beat around, beat sound, beatitude beat to hear holy goof Jack tell it in his Tanqueray funks, crowd that took up plenty of air come 1950s in the states come desolation row time.
Then there was the glue, the guy who kept the torch bright, the guy who had enough knowledge of business which almost to a man (or woman of that matter), beats heating squares up like toast, scorned except come poetry reading time some foggy and rainy nights, book signing when Random House said piss off, putting money in the bucket for the Thunderbird struck nights, back room shacking up to keep from the coldest days in August world. Yeah, Happy Birthday Baby, Buddha in cowboy boots and tepid wrangler jeans Lawrence Ferlinghetti on the magic 100 years. Connection, brother, connection.
Click on the heading to link to the William Blake Archives to view some of his illustrations and other artwork for which he was also famous.
Okay, here is the chain of thought to this entry. I recently posted some work by the "beat" poet (and San Fransisco City Lights Bookstore creator)Lawrence Ferlinghetti (from Coney Island Of The Mind). And that made me think once again of fellow "beat' poet Allen Ginsberg. And if you think of Allen Ginsberg you have to think of mad poet Walt Whitman (singer of 19th century America as Ginsberg sang of the 20th century). And if you think of Whitman you have to go back to the "max daddy", mad, mad William Blake. Simple, right?
by William Blake
And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?
And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my bow of burning gold!
Bring me my arrows of desire!
Bring me my spear! O clouds, unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire!
A Divine Image
by William Blake
Cruelty has a Human heart
And Jealousy a Human Face,
Terror, the Human Form Divine,
And Secrecy, the Human Dress.
The Human Dress is forgéd Iron,
The Human Form, a fiery Forge,
The Human Face, a Furnace seal'd,
The Human Heart, its hungry Gorge.
Proverbs of Hell
by William Blake
From "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell"
In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.
Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.
The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.
He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.
The cut worm forgives the plow.
Dip him in the river who loves water.
A fool sees not the same tree that a wise man sees.
He whose face gives no light, shall never become a star.
Eternity is in love with the productions of time.
The busy bee has no time for sorrow.
The hours of folly are measur'd by the clock, but of wisdom: no clock can measure.
All wholsom food is caught without a net or a trap.
Bring out number weight & measure in a year of dearth.
No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings.
A dead body, revenges not injuries.
The most sublime act is to set another before you.
If the fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.
Folly is the cloke of knavery.
Shame is Prides cloke.
Prisons are built with stones of Law, Brothels with bricks of Religion.
The pride of the peacock is the glory of God.
The lust of the goat is the bounty of God.
The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
The nakedness of woman is the work of God.
Excess of sorrow laughs. Excess of joy weeps.
The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the
destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man.
The fox condemns the trap, not himself.
Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth.
Let man wear the fell of the lion, woman the fleece of the sheep.
The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.
The selfish smiling fool, & the sullen frowning fool, shall be both thought wise, that
they may be a rod.
What is now proved was once, only imagin'd.
The rat, the mouse, the fox, the rabbit: watch the roots; the lion, the tyger, the horse,
the elephant, watch the fruits.
The cistern contains; the fountain overflows.
One thought, fills immensity.
Always be ready to speak your mind, and a base man will avoid you.
Every thing possible to be believ'd is an image of truth.
The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow.
The fox provides for himself, but God provides for the lion.
Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night.
He who has suffer'd you to impose on him knows you.
As the plow follows words, so God rewards prayers.
The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.
Expect poison from the standing water.
You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.
Listen to the fools reproach! it is a kingly title!
The eyes of fire, the nostrils of air, the mouth of water, the beard of earth.
The weak in courage is strong in cunning.
The apple tree never asks the beech how he shall grow, nor the lion, the horse,
how he shall take his prey.
The thankful reciever bears a plentiful harvest.
If others had not been foolish, we should be so.
The soul of sweet delight, can never be defil'd.
When thou seest an Eagle, thou seest a portion of Genius, lift up thy head!
As the catterpiller chooses the fairest leaves to lay her eggs on, so the priest
lays his curse on the fairest joys.
To create a little flower is the labour of ages.
Damn, braces: Bless relaxes.
The best wine is the oldest, the best water the newest.
Prayers plow not! Praises reap not!
Joys laugh not! Sorrows weep not!
The head Sublime, the heart Pathos, the genitals Beauty, the hands &
As the air to a bird of the sea to a fish, so is contempt to the contemptible.
The crow wish'd every thing was black, the owl, that every thing was white.
Exuberance is Beauty.
If the lion was advised by the fox, he would be cunning.
Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement,
are roads of Genius.
Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires.
Where man is not nature is barren.
Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believ'd.
Enough! or Too much!
I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.
Puerto Rico For a Revolutionary Workers Party Down With the Colonial Junta! For the Right of Independence!
Workers Vanguard No. 1159
23 August 2019
For a Revolutionary Workers Party
Down With the Colonial Junta!
For the Right of Independence!
After some of the largest protests in Puerto Rican history forced the resignation of despised governor Ricardo Rosselló last month, Puerto Rico is confronting an ongoing political crisis. The match in the powder barrel was the leaked cache of private chat messages between Rosselló and his cronies, which oozed bigotry, misogyny and derision for the poor. For the 3.2 million citizens residing on a territory under the boot of U.S. colonial domination, the grievances run much deeper: brutal austerity, massive unemployment and deteriorating schools, hospitals and transportation. Now, the American overlords, with the help of Puerto Rican bourgeois politicians, are openly plotting to intensify their iron grip on their colony. First and foremost is enforcing the diktats of Wall Street’s fiscal control board, known as the “junta,” to make the impoverished masses pay billions of dollars in debt to the same U.S. capitalists who wrecked the country’s economy.
Following a five-day gubernatorial stint by Rosselló’s handpicked successor Pedro Pierluisi, a lawyer for the junta, the new occupant of the governor’s mansion La Fortaleza is former justice secretary Wanda Vázquez, another Rosselló crony. Washington has its eyes on Jenniffer González, a Trump supporter and resident commissioner to the U.S. House of Representatives, in the event that Vázquez meets with widespread opposition. Vázquez, notorious for covering up government corruption in her previous position, is reviled for having refused to investigate diverted Hurricane Maria relief funds and aid. That 2017 disaster was marked by the U.S. rulers’ criminal and chauvinist contempt for Puerto Ricans—over 4,000 were left to die in Maria’s wake and whole swaths of the island chain remain devastated to this day.
Ever since seizing the Caribbean territory during the Spanish-American War 121 years ago, U.S. imperialism has looted Puerto Rico’s land, exploited its labor and then laid it to waste. While Puerto Rico has been euphemistically designated a “commonwealth” since 1952 to give the illusion of self-government, to this day the U.S. government calls all the shots, controlling everything from currency and communications to trade relations and shipping. This colonial subjugation is a modern-day version of “white man’s burden,” whereby the white imperialist power lords over its darker-skinned subjects in the name of “civilizing” them. Puerto Ricans are second-class U.S. citizens, and those living in Puerto Rico are barred from voting in federal elections (even their House representative has no official Congressional vote) but held hostage to federal plenary powers, including the FBI and military. We demand: All U.S. troops and federal agents out of Puerto Rico now!
Hoping to quell the recent upheaval and return to business as usual, Democrats and Republicans called for Rosselló to step down. On August 2, the White House announced it would punitively suspend over $8 billion in federal aid to Puerto Rico due to political unrest. While Trump is an open embodiment of racist arrogance and capitalist greed, the Democrats represent the same imperialist ruling class. It was Barack Obama who implemented the 2016 PROMESA law that appointed the fiscal control board of bankers and CEOs—drawn from companies that have directly profited from decades of financial swindles—to further bleed and starve Puerto Rico. Proclaiming some $74 billion in bond debt alone, the junta is a tyrannical collection agency for vulture creditors, and makes its decisions behind closed doors.
While some calm has returned to the streets for now, Puerto Ricans are beyond fed up. What is vital is for the working class to emerge as the leader of the country’s unemployed, students and all the oppressed, particularly women, who suffer violence and degraded status. The working class is the one force with the social power and historic interest to put an end to both colonial oppression and capitalist misery through socialist revolution.
Workers in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico share a common class enemy: the U.S. capitalist rulers. There is also a link of flesh and blood—Puerto Ricans make up a key component of the organized working class in many U.S. cities, where they are subjected to racist abuse by the forces of the capitalist state. The U.S. working class must take a side with its class brothers and sisters and demand: Cancel Puerto Rico’s debt! Opposing the entire system of debt peonage would speak to the righteous anger of Puerto Ricans over the secret machinations of the junta, which refuses to divulge its austerity plans.
We advocate independence for Puerto Rico as part of our opposition to U.S. imperialism. At the same time, we are aware that most Puerto Ricans feel ambivalent about independence. While they detest their colonial status and have a strong sense of nationhood, they are legally allowed to live and work in the U.S., as over five million do, without the same threat of deportation or I.C.E. detention faced by Latino immigrants. It should be up to the Puerto Rican masses to decide how they want to exercise their national self-determination. Therefore, we stress the right of independence for Puerto Rico.
Our aim is to build a Leninist vanguard party in Puerto Rico that can intervene into the struggles against colonial oppression, fighting to direct them against not only the U.S. masters but also their local bourgeois lackeys, with the goal of establishing working-class rule. Only the proletariat in power can begin to lay the material basis for emancipating the Puerto Rican masses from imperialist subjugation.
A Puerto Rican workers republic would face enormous obstacles and powerful enemies, centrally the U.S. bourgeoisie. Proletarian rule in Puerto Rico would have to be extended internationally. What is posed is the forging of Leninist parties in the imperialist heartland and throughout the Caribbean as part of a revolutionary international. A multiracial workers party in the U.S. would win American workers to helping advance the national liberation struggles of Puerto Rico, which are indispensable to tearing down the capitalist order at home.
For a Class-Struggle Perspective
The popular protest slogan “que se vayan todos” (all of them must go) was an expression of the intense mistrust toward Washington’s loyal stooges, including both the governing, pro-statehood New Progressive Party (PNP) as well as the historically pro-“commonwealth” Popular Democratic Party (PPD). The PPD mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulín Cruz, participated in the demonstrations, declaring her opposition to corruption and the junta. But for over six years as the chief executive of the capital, she has overseen austerity measures and commands the repressive police force in San Juan. Cruz, a target of Trump’s wrath and a co-chair for the Bernie Sanders campaign, is plugging herself as a populist to capitalize on widespread discontent in her electoral bid for governor in 2020.
Many politicians from the two main parties in Puerto Rico are directly affiliated with the U.S. bourgeois parties that preside over their colonial “backyard.” (Rosselló and Cruz are both Democrats.) In the U.S., “progressive” Democrats like Sanders aim to refurbish the party’s image so that they can run the same machine of imperialist domination. A major obstacle to the working class mobilizing in its own interest is the lie that Democrats—who uphold the same profit-driven order as the Republicans—can be pressured to act on behalf of the exploited and the oppressed. This strategy is promoted by much of the left and the trade-union bureaucracy, which makes up a layer of the Democratic Party.
In Puerto Rico over the last several years, mass mobilizations of students, teachers and others, as well as labor strikes, have been carried out against privatization threats, school closures, pension theft and budget slashing. Unions like the UTIER electrical workers and the FMPR teachers have been in the front line of protests against union-busting and cutbacks, and both played a role in the July 22 one-million-strong work stoppage to oust Rosselló. But rather than standing at the head of the oppressed and dispossessed masses, the proletariat was dissolved by union misleaders into the “people,” which serves to disappear the unique social power of the working class, whose labor makes society run.
The union tops saddle the combative working class with the nationalist notion that “we are all Puerto Ricans,” which translates to unity with the local capitalists and their political representatives. Following the swearing-in of Vázquez as governor, an array of Puerto Rican unions, including UTIER and FMPR, issued a formal appeal to the administration. A 17 August press release describes how union leaders called on the new government to “take a stand in defense of the interests of the Puerto Rican people against the fiscal control board” and “address the demands for labor and social justice.”
The laboring masses have nothing in common with the capitalist government. What is needed is a class-struggle leadership of the unions that proceeds from this standpoint, opposing all politicians and parties that support capitalism—from the PNP and the PPD to the petty-bourgeois Puerto Rican Independence Party. Such a leadership would be committed to help build a revolutionary workers party.
A nationalist outlook can also be seen in the frequent appeal to the cops as fellow workers and victims of budget cuts. The police, known as la uniformada, are not workers or potential allies, but rather a core part of the bourgeois state. Their role is as strikebreakers, and their associations have no place in the union movement. Even if they come from poor or working-class backgrounds, the cops are the violent enforcers of the system of colonial subjugation and the hired guns of the bosses. When the cops mobilize for pay and pensions, it is to be better able to mete out all-sided repression. From its origins in 1899, the year after the U.S. military invaded and took possession of the country, the Puerto Rican police have helped keep Washington’s colonial subjects under its heel, including in the decades-long bloody war against independentistas.
Amid the current crisis, some leftists have put forward alternatives that merely seek to tinker with the colonial arrangement and capitalist rule. Such is the case with the reformists around the U.S. publication Left Voice, affiliated to the Trotskyist Fraction-Fourth International. While claiming to oppose the colonial regime and to be for socialist revolution, Left Voice argues to convene a “free and sovereign Constituent Assembly” that “would allow the working class, in the heat of the struggle, to develop its own bodies of self-organization” (“A Revolutionary Perspective for Puerto Rico,” 3 August). They claim that a constituent assembly “must discuss and make democratic decisions on the great structural transformations required by the country to win its national liberation, end imperialist plunder and rebuild its economy.”
In fact, the call for a constituent assembly is a barrier to the working class developing the kind of revolutionary class consciousness and organization necessary for its own emancipation. A constituent assembly is a bourgeois government, and the call for it has historically been used to derail proletarian revolution. Only after the working class has seized state power and established a workers government will it be able to decide how to rebuild society to the benefit of the vast majority of the population, including the provision of jobs, as well as quality housing, education and health care.
In the end, only socialist revolution extended internationally can satisfy the basic needs of the masses: the end of poverty, freedom from the yoke of imperialism, and social equality for women and other deeply oppressed layers like gay and trans people. For us in the belly of the U.S. imperialist beast, the fight for the national liberation of Puerto Rico is especially important. As was emphasized in the “21 Conditions” for membership in the then-revolutionary Communist International, adopted in 1920, it is the duty of communists “to support every liberation movement in the colonies not only in words but in deeds.” This task includes instilling “in the hearts of the workers of its country a truly fraternal attitude toward the laboring people in the colonies and toward the oppressed nations.”
A View From The International Left - Defend China! Imperialists Hands Off! Hong Kong: No to Counterrevolutionary Rampage! Expropriate the Tycoons!
Workers Vanguard No. 1160
6 September 2019
Defend China! Imperialists Hands Off!
Hong Kong: No to Counterrevolutionary Rampage!
Expropriate the Tycoons!
SEPTEMBER 2—For three months, anti-Communist mobs have rampaged through Hong Kong. They have blocked roads and stopped public transport, beaten opponents and Chinese mainlanders and bombarded police with bricks and Molotov cocktails. Protesters have raised mass-distributed placards with the appeal, “President Trump: Please Liberate Hong Kong” while singing the U.S. national anthem and waving American flags. Anti-China demonstrators have vandalized the Legislative Council building and raised the British flag, demanding the return of Hong Kong’s former colonial master. Aiming to end China’s control over its capitalist Hong Kong enclave, protesters are openly calling for imperialist intervention.
The U.S. State Department has repeatedly declared its support to the counterrevolutionary protests, as have the British and Canadian foreign offices. Democratic Congressional leader Nancy Pelosi joined with an array of Republicans in demanding U.S. intervention and pushing punitive legislation against Beijing. The U.S. rulers have funded, advised and helped organize the protesters as part of their strategic goal of overturning the 1949 Revolution and returning China to capitalist enslavement, with themselves as the chief robber barons.
China is not a capitalist country but a workers state. However, the workers state has been deformed from its inception by the rule of a parasitic bureaucratic caste that politically suppresses the working class. Since taking power through peasant-based guerrilla war, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has followed the Stalinist dogma of “socialism in one country” and its corollary, “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism. The CCP regime from Mao Zedong’s time to today has opposed the revolutionary internationalist program of Marxism. But despite bureaucratic mismanagement and corruption, the overthrow of capitalism led to historic social advances. While four decades of “market reforms” have led to large-scale foreign investment and the emergence of individual capitalists on the mainland, the economy remains controlled by Beijing, with the most important sectors collectivized and owned by the state.
Today in Hong Kong, we have a military side with the forces of the Chinese deformed workers state, including the police, against the anti-Communist mobilizations. This position stems from our unconditional military defense of China against imperialism and domestic counterrevolution. Such defense does not imply the least political support to the Beijing bureaucracy, whose backing of capitalism in Hong Kong under its “one country, two systems” rubric bears no small responsibility for the current crisis. As Trotskyists who seek to make the working class conscious of its historic task to bring about a socialist future, our perspective is the mobilization of the working people of Hong Kong and mainland China to stop the counterrevolutionary forces.
In 1997, the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist) joined in cheering as the British imperialists relinquished their Hong Kong colony. At the same time, we warned that the CCP’s pledge to maintain capitalism there was a dagger aimed at the Chinese workers state (see “British Colonialist Rulers Leave, Finally—Beijing Stalinists Embrace Hong Kong Financiers,” WV No. 671, 11 July 1997). In 1984, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping explicitly promised British prime minister Margaret Thatcher that the “previous capitalist system and life-style” would remain unchanged.
Since 1997, Hong Kong has been integrated into the People’s Republic of China as a capitalist Special Administrative Region, where every decisive aspect of the government is under Beijing’s control. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA), garrisoned in the enclave, guarantees that. Hong Kong’s Basic Law was established by China’s National People’s Congress, and the territory’s principal executive officers are appointed by the central government in Beijing. The members of its highest court are in turn appointed by the Beijing-approved chief executive. The CCP has made itself directly responsible for maintaining capitalism in Hong Kong, where the capitalist class is politically organized, with its own parties, newspapers and other media. Beijing’s policy has nurtured Hong Kong as a breeding ground for counterrevolution and an outpost for imperialist spying and intrigue. Upholding the interests of the Hong Kong bourgeoisie against those they exploit and oppress is a massive betrayal by the CCP of the working people there and on the mainland itself. We say: Expropriate the tycoons!
The fight against the filthy rich capitalists in Hong Kong is directly linked to the struggle of the proletariat throughout China against the corruption and inequality fostered by the Stalinist bureaucracy, which acts as a transmission belt for the pressures of the capitalist world market onto the workers state. What’s needed is a proletarian political revolution that sweeps away the Stalinist bureaucracy and puts power in the hands of workers, peasants and soldiers councils. Such a regime would be based on a perspective of international proletarian revolution, preparing the groundwork for eliminating scarcity in a world socialist order.
Who pays the piper calls the tune, as the saying goes. The U.S. government’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) has poured millions of dollars into organizations behind the protests, from the Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor and the parties of the “pan-democratic” camp to the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, affiliate of the anti-Communist International Trade Union Confederation. Such organizations are the main components of the Civil Human Rights Front, the chief organizer of the current protests. Joshua Wong, the Western media’s poster boy for anti-China protests, is also tied to the NED.
As journalist Dan Cohen described in a useful Grayzone (17 August) exposé, a key fixture at (and bankroller of) the protests is Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai. Known as the Rupert Murdoch of Asia, Lai built a media empire based on scandalmongering, celebrity gossip, anti-Communism and anti-China bigotry. His press is notorious for waging a chauvinist campaign against “anchor babies” from mainland China, depicting mainlanders as hordes of locusts descending to devour Hong Kong’s resources. In July, Lai traveled to the U.S. for meetings with National Security Advisor John Bolton, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, among others, requesting continued U.S. assistance for “resisting” Beijing. He later declared: “We in Hong Kong are fighting for the shared values of the U.S. against China. We are fighting their war in the enemy camp” (CNN, 28 August).
The U.S. and other imperialist powers pursue a multipronged strategy for capitalist counterrevolution in China. One approach is financing and promoting reactionary mobilizations like the Hong Kong protests. Washington also seeks to use its economic might like a battering ram, as in the current tariff war through which the Trump administration, with solid backing from the Democrats, aims to thwart China’s economic and technological development (see “U.S. Imperialists Ramp Up Trade/Tech War,” WV No. 1157, 21 June). At the same time, the U.S. is increasing military pressure on China, conducting regular military exercises near the Chinese coast, flying bombers over the South China Sea and repeatedly sending Navy warships through the Taiwan Strait. These moves are all part of a strategy of military encirclement of China by the U.S. and its allies.
The State Department recently approved Taiwan’s requests to buy $2.2 billion dollars’ worth of tanks and missiles and $8 billion in advanced fighter jets. From the time of the 1949 Revolution, when the Chinese capitalist regime fled to Taiwan, and the onset of the Korean War the following year, the U.S. has viewed the island as its “unsinkable aircraft carrier,” the front line in a future war. The ICL stands for the revolutionary reunification of Taiwan with China, through social revolution to overthrow capitalism in Taiwan and workers political revolution against the CCP bureaucracy on the mainland.
As revolutionaries in the world’s predominant imperialist power, the Spartacist League/U.S. is dedicated to forging a Leninist vanguard party that can lead the multiracial American working class in the struggle for a workers government that would expropriate the capitalist exploiters. Central to this perspective is winning the most advanced layers of the proletariat to oppose its rulers’ machinations around the world, not least those directed against the Chinese deformed workers state. Workers can’t win new gains without defending those already won!
“One Country, Two Systems”: Danger to the Chinese Revolution
To launch the current wave of anti-China protests, organizers in late spring seized on an extradition bill being debated in Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, claiming that it would undermine the territory’s autonomy. The proposed law would have done no such thing. The measure, which was suspended in June, would have simply established an extradition process—not just between Hong Kong and the rest of China but also between Hong Kong and every country in the world that did not already have such an agreement. By treating mainland China like a foreign country, the law fell entirely within the CCP’s framework of maintaining a distinct capitalist administration in Hong Kong. The ICL has no position on this legislation because we do not seek to advise the Beijing bureaucracy on how best to administer capitalism in Hong Kong, since we oppose it remaining a capitalist enclave.
The Hong Kong demonstrators and their spin doctors in the bourgeois media have raised holy hell about supposed police violence. From the likes of the New York Times, this is sheer hypocrisy. In reality, the Hong Kong police have been highly restrained, focused on containing and dispersing protests rather than stopping them. Compare their conduct with the brutal cop state of siege that descended on Ferguson, Missouri, after protests broke out over the racist police killing of Michael Brown in 2014!
In Hong Kong, the restraint of the police expresses the policy of the CCP bureaucracy. The organizers of the protests are aiming for the overthrow of the Chinese deformed workers state. But Beijing is at pains to respect Hong Kong’s formal autonomy, which is written into its “one country, two systems” pact with the enclave’s capitalists and their imperialist masters. However, rather than appeasing the protesters, the CCP bureaucrats’ concessions have only emboldened them.
The Hong Kong bourgeoisie is not of one mind concerning the protests. While Jimmy Lai and his ilk openly support the mobilizations, Li Ka-shing, the richest man in Hong Kong, as well as several real estate tycoons and some banking interests have recently called for calm. They worry that the chaos around the protests is harming business. More broadly, several bourgeois financial analysts have warned that intervention by the PLA—or by the People’s Armed Police stationed across the border in Shenzhen—to stop the unrest would cause capital flight and other damage to Hong Kong’s economy.
Hong Kong under the tycoons has well earned its reputation as a white-collar sweatshop, where office workers routinely slave away for 12 hours a day with eight hours’ pay. With the CCP’s blessing, a frenzy of land speculation has driven up rents to the extent that working adults are unable to leave their parents’ homes, often sharing tiny rooms with several people. In one of the most expensive cities in the world, full of designer shops and luxury hotels, a fifth of the population falls below the poverty line. “Immigrants” from the mainland constitute some of the most oppressed sectors of the population, while the plight of Hong Kong’s hundreds of thousands of domestic workers, overwhelmingly from the Philippines and Indonesia, shines an especially harsh light on the enclave’s class divide. Meanwhile, venal CCP bureaucrats and their cronies and relations use Hong Kong to park their money or channel it out of China, and also as a venue for shopping sprees.
Hong Kong’s toilers should be a natural ally of the powerful and combative proletariat on the mainland. An authentic communist party in China would mobilize the working class against the counterrevolutionary protests on the basis of the workers’ class interests, championing as well the interests of the oppressed petty bourgeoisie. Expropriating the tycoons and converting their property holdings into low-cost public housing would resonate deeply with the population, as would replacing the luxury shops and restaurants with canteens and cooperatives run by and for working people.
These demands cut against the CCP’s class collaboration with the Hong Kong bourgeoisie, which has been the political basis for the relatively small pro-China counterprotests that have taken place in Hong Kong and internationally. The counterprotests have been designed to be compatible with the interests of the tycoons, whose “patriotism” hinges on their ability to reap profits from their investments on the mainland. The CCP also appeals to patriotism in calling for an end to protests. The Stalinists do not call on the working class to act: As a brittle ruling caste, the Beijing bureaucracy fears that workers’ mobilizations would represent a challenge to its rule.
For the CCP, maintaining capitalism in Hong Kong serves to promote foreign investment on the mainland by reassuring overseas capitalists that it’s safe to do business with China. Hong Kong remains a major hub connecting China with the global capitalist economy. Beijing’s policy toward Hong Kong is in keeping with its opening of whole areas of China to investment by the offshore Chinese bourgeoisie and the imperialist powers, including in the Special Economic Zones.
Any isolated workers state would need to seek foreign investment. Under revolutionary leadership, this would be done under the democratic control of the working class organized in soviets (councils), supported in countries like China by peasants councils. A revolutionary workers and peasants government in China would renegotiate the terms of foreign investment in the interests of working people. The domestic capitalists, on the other hand, would simply be expropriated and their property used in the interests of society as a whole. To defend and extend the gains of the 1949 Revolution, such a regime would strengthen central economic planning and re-establish a state monopoly of foreign trade.
Which Class Will Rule?
In Hong Kong, one of the most ardent champions of “democratic” counterrevolution is Socialist Action (SA), which fraudulently passes itself off as Trotskyist. (Along with the U.S. Socialist Alternative, SA is part of the self-declared majority of the recently split Committee for a Workers’ International, CWI.) Writing off China as capitalist, SA has issued a series of leaflets offering tactical advice to the protest organizers and calling “for united mass struggle of Hong Kong and China people against the CCP dictatorship” (chinaworker.info, 19 July). SA’s main “contribution” has been to agitate for a one-day general strike to bring down the Hong Kong government and defeat the CCP regime. Their program, in short, is to sell out the workers to their direct class enemies: the Hong Kong bourgeoisie and its imperialist godfathers.
In fact, the counterrevolutionary protests have been overwhelmingly based on the petty bourgeoisie and hostile to the working class. The much-touted August 5 “general strike,” preceded by a “bankers strike” on August 1, was primarily a mobilization of students, lawyers, accountants, teachers and other professionals. Many employers encouraged their staff to take the day off and participate. The city was paralyzed as protesters blocked traffic and stopped public transport, threatening transport workers. Likewise, workers were attacked during the airport occupation of August 12-13, when hundreds of flights were stopped at one of the world’s busiest airports. Protesters have also vandalized the offices of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions.
Embracing the call for free elections, which is aimed at toppling the Beijing-loyal local administration, SA is solidly in the camp of counterrevolution in Hong Kong. There it unites with people demanding that the enclave either become a protectorate of U.S. imperialism or return to the days of British rule, when the mass of the Chinese population lived in squalid slums and slaved away as dirt-poor laborers while Communists and trade-union militants were systematically repressed. Only in the lead-up to the handover to China did the British rulers grant a modicum of democratic rights, to be used as a weapon against the Chinese workers state.
SA’s program for Hong Kong and China is in line with the sordid history of the CWI, which avidly supported the imperialists’ campaigns against the Soviet degenerated workers state. In August-September 1991, the CWI’s forebears in the Militant tendency joined the capitalist restorationists on Boris Yeltsin’s barricades in Moscow. In contrast, our Trotskyist international tendency fought in defense of the workers state, distributing tens of thousands of leaflets calling on Soviet workers to crush the counterrevolutionary forces led by Yeltsin and backed by the George H.W. Bush White House.
The question posed by the crisis in Hong Kong is not “dictatorship or democracy” but “which class will rule?” In their drive to destroy the Soviet Union and the bureaucratically deformed workers states of East and Central Europe, the imperialists promoted all manner of reactionary forces, including those who waved the banner of “democracy” against Stalinist “totalitarianism.” The purpose was to overthrow the Communist regimes by one means or another, including using elections in which peasants and other petty-bourgeois layers as well as politically backward workers could be mobilized against the workers states.
A glimpse of what awaits China’s toiling masses if the 1949 Revolution were to be overturned can be seen today in the countries of the former Soviet bloc, where living standards have been massively thrown back and where such “democracy” as exists is a paper-thin facade for the class dictatorship that defines all capitalist societies. A quarter-century after capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union, China is the largest of the remaining countries where capitalist rule has been overthrown. Capitalist counterrevolution in China would be a further massive victory for world imperialism and a defeat for workers and the oppressed across the globe.
The call for bourgeois democracy is a call for counterrevolution. We are for proletarian democracy—a government of elected workers, peasants and soldiers councils that would make decisions about the development of the economy and the organization of society. Under the leadership of China’s massive working class, non-proletarian sectors such as the peasants and Hong Kong’s office workers would in fact have far more of a voice in how society is run than they do in any capitalist republic. As Lenin explained of the 1917 October Revolution that brought the working class to power in Russia:
“The bureaucratic machine has been completely smashed, razed to the ground; the old judges have all been sent packing, the bourgeois parliament has been dispersed—and far more accessible representation has been given to the workers and peasants; their Soviets have replaced the bureaucrats, or their Soviets have been put in control of the bureaucrats, and their Soviets have been authorised to elect the judges. This fact alone is enough for all the oppressed classes to recognise that Soviet power, i.e., the present form of the dictatorship of the proletariat, is a million times more democratic than the most democratic bourgeois republic.”
— The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky (1918)
The True Legacy of Tiananmen
SA and the CIA-backed protesters as a whole falsely link their counterrevolutionary efforts with the specter of “June 4,” the 1989 proletarian upheaval centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that was bloodily suppressed by the CCP regime of Deng Xiaoping. SA & Co. present the 1989 upheaval as a mass movement for (bourgeois) democracy. It was nothing of the kind! The events began with students demanding more political freedoms and protesting the corruption of top CCP bureaucrats. The protests were joined first by individual workers, then by contingents from factories and other workplaces. Workers were driven to act by the high inflation and growing inequality that accompanied the CCP’s program of building “socialism” through market reforms. While some youth looked to Western-style capitalist democracy, the protests were dominated by the singing of the “Internationale,” the international working-class anthem, and other expressions of pro-socialist consciousness.
Various workers organizations that appeared during the protests had the character of embryonic organs of working-class rule. “Workers picket corps” and factory-based “dare to die” groups, organized to protect the students against repression, defied Deng’s declaration of martial law. Workers’ groups began to take on responsibility for public safety after the Beijing government all but disappeared and the police vanished from the streets. It was the entry of the Chinese proletariat into the protests, in Beijing and around the country, that marked an incipient proletarian political revolution. After weeks of paralysis, the CCP regime launched a bloody crackdown on June 3-4 in Beijing, driven by fear not of the student protesters but of the mobilized working class. Even after the massacre, millions of workers across China continued to wage strikes and protests.
The workers showed enormous bravery and willingness to fight, and they forged links with soldiers, who viewed themselves as the defenders of socialism. Seven senior PLA commanders signed a petition opposing the martial law measures that were ordered against the population. On their own, however, the working class could not come to understand the need for political revolution to overturn the deforming rule of the bureaucracy. To imbue the working class with such consciousness requires the intervention of a revolutionary Marxist vanguard party. We honor the memory of the proletarian heroes of 1989, whose struggle vividly demonstrated the revolutionary potential of the working class.
SA and its ilk spit on the legacy of Tiananmen as they serve the imperialist drive for capitalist counterrevolution in China. Seventy years after its revolution, China is not the country it was in 1949—a desperately backward, overwhelmingly peasant society plundered by the imperialist powers and ravaged by decades of civil war. Yet despite China’s enormous advances since then, it remains economically backward in many respects compared to the imperialist countries that dominate the world economy. With its program of appeasing the imperialists and the Chinese bourgeoisie and its political suppression of the proletariat, the CCP bureaucracy constantly undermines the gains of the 1949 Revolution.
The achievement of socialism—a classless society based on material abundance—requires an international planned economy that harnesses and goes well beyond the technology and productive capacity of the most advanced capitalist countries today. The road to socialism lies in proletarian revolutions throughout the capitalist world, crucially including the imperialist centers of the U.S., Japan and West Europe. This perspective is necessarily linked to the fight to mobilize the Chinese proletariat to sweep away its bureaucratic misrulers. But revolutionary struggle needs revolutionary leadership. Our historic model is the Bolshevik Party that, under V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, led the October 1917 Russian Revolution as the opening shot of the fight for world proletarian revolution. The ICL is committed to reforging Trotsky’s Fourth International to carry the Bolshevik banner forward.
The Trials and Tribulations Of The Generation Of ’68-The Summer of 1969-Frank Jackman Casts His Fate With The Poor Peoples Of The Earth-And Tweaking The U.S. Army To Boot-With Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” In Mind
The Trials and Tribulations Of The Generation Of ’68-The Summer of 1969-Frank Jackman Casts His Fate With The Poor Peoples Of The Earth-And Tweaking The U.S. Army To Boot-With Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” In Mind
By Frank Jackman
Maybe it is the nature of this publication, maybe it is the nature of historic memory or maybe it is the nature of this man, me, this Frank Jackman who has staked his life on what he remembered hearing a long time ago on a radio folk music show in the heat of the folk minute that swept the nation, the nation’s youth particularly in the early 1960s when he was growing up poor in the old Acre neighborhood of North Adamsville a bunch of miles south of Boston. He had been startled to hear one Pete Seeger, banjo man extraordinaire playing that instrument and singing alternately in Spanish and English the old Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti’s version of Guantanamera when he came upon a later verse translated as “I want to cast my fate with the poor people of this earth.”* The story I have to tell, a personal Frank Jackman story is how in the summer of 1969, fifty years ago, yes, I know a lot of 50th anniversaries have been addressed in this publication over the past few years by members of the Class of `68 still standing, had been a key decision point in my own fervent desire to cast my fate with the poor people of the earth. And have not done a bad job of staying committed to that vision at a time when things could have gone either way in that hell-bent Vietnam War year.
[*I was about to say that with this song this was the first time I had even heard of the name Pete Seeger, a name I would come to know as a fellow activist and later when I took up writing reviews of music that mattered in the American songbook I got to know him personally as a “hail fellow, well met” but that is not true. Not true although that Sunday evening WBZ (in Boston) Dick Summer’s folk show I rightly assumed I had not heard of the man or his voice before because of one Lester Dannon (known in the local professional music world as Lester Dannon and his Cannons, a jazzy, pop music grouping favored among the older set, the generation that had gone through the Great Depression and slogged through World War II as he had, my parent’s generation for weddings and family outings). Lester whom we kids called innocently then without any other thought that taking part in a youthful rhyming craze called Lester the Molester, which these days would call for all kinds of interventions and investigations, had force-fed the most popular work of Pete’s and a group that he was a member of The Weaver’s cover of Leadbelly’s Goodnight, Irene.
Lester may have not been a molester, but he had a plan to wean us away from our growing love of break-out rock and roll music which he hated by playing on the record player and having us sing folk tunes like Irene and pop tunes from his, our parent’s generation. We bucked and buckled under that horrible weight for three junior high school years but gave in to the inevitable when he threatened to play classic music and opera if we didn’t learn his clowny stuff. (Lester may have not been a molester of anything but our growing music taste buds although he was caught up unjustly in a scandal later when the junior high school male gym teacher was fired because he was sexually molesting young underage boys although not from the school or town but elsewhere part of the reason he was able to be a predator for as long as he had been. We had to bring a big campaign to clear Lester’s name once we heard about the false accusations against him but that did not cause him to not hate rock and roll until his dying days or us to forgive him from ramming music we really did hate then, a generational thing, down our throats.)
Many of the older writers still standing at this publication, I will just mention the guys I grew with still standing, Sam Lowell, Seth Garth, Jack Callahan, Allan Jackson, Bart Webber have written extensively the past couple of years on key anniversaries, key 50th anniversaries which none of us would have thought possible back in the 1960s when the motto, if unspoken mostly was “live fast, die young, and make a good corpse.” Noteworthy and cause for much internal friction between older and younger writers who could have given a fuck about events their parents had come of age through happened a couple of years ago when then site manager Allan Jackson went crazy giving 24/7/365 or so it seemed to commemorating the Summer of Love, 1967 and subsequently the riotous happenings of 1968 too numerous to mention now but the anniversaries which were fully covered last year.*
Now in the year of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, the eternally etched rock festival that defined one end of a generation, we are in for another burst of writing about what it all meant historically and personally. It is with that backdrop that I tell my story which is not about Woodstock Nation, not then anyway, but about that previously mentioned then vague and untested idea of casting my fate with the poor people of the earth, my people. Others from that cohort of older writers I grew up with have written about my epiphany, especially Seth Garth’s Frank Jackman’s Masters of War but just now if nothing else as a cautionary tale I want to commemorate the 50th anniversary of my personal decision to refuse orders to Vietnam, which is just a short cut way of saying that I had cast my fate with the poor people of the earth-for good.