Tuesday, October 26, 2021

In Honor Of John Brown Late Of Harpers Ferry-1859- *STRIKE THE BLOW-THE LEGEND OF CAPTAIN JOHN BROWN

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the heroic revolutionary abolitionist, John Brown.

February is Black History Month. The name of the fiery revolutionary abolitionist John Brown is forever associated with that history.

Book Review

Reclaiming John Brown for the Left

JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST, DAVID S. REYNOLDS, ALFRED A. KNOPF, NEW YORK, 2005

FEBRUARY IS BLACK HISTORY MONTH


From fairly early in my youth I knew the name John Brown and was swept up by the romance surrounding his exploits at Harper’s Ferry. For example, I knew that the great anthem of the Civil War -The Battle Hymn of the Republic- had a prior existence as a tribute to John Brown and that Union soldiers marched to that song as they bravely headed south. I was then, however, neither familiar with the import of his exploits for the black liberation struggle nor knew much about the specifics of the politics of the various tendencies in the struggle against slavery. I certainly knew nothing then of Brown’s (and his sons) prior military exploits in the Kansas ‘proxy’ wars against the expansion of slavery. Later study filled in some of those gaps and has only strengthened my strong bond with his memory. Know this, as I reach the age at which John Brown was executed I still retain my youthful admiration for him. In the context of the turmoil of the times he was the most courageous and audacious revolutionary in the struggle for the abolition of slavery in America. Almost 150 years after his death this writer is proud to stand in the tradition of John Brown.

That said, it is with a great deal of pleasure that I can recommend Mr. Reynolds’s book detailing the life, times and exploits of John Brown, warts and all. Published in 2005, this is an important source (including helpful endnotes) for updating various controversies surrounding the John Brown saga. While I may disagree with some of Mr. Reynolds’s conclusions concerning the impact of John Brown’s exploits on later black liberation struggles and to a lesser extent his position on Brown’s impact on his contemporaries, particularly the Transcendentalists, nevertheless on the key point of the central place of John Brown in American revolutionary history there is no dispute. Furthermore, Mr. Reynolds has taken pains to provide substantial detail about the ups and downs of John Brown’s posthumous reputation. Most importantly, he defends the memory of John Brown against all-comers-that is partisan history on behalf of the ‘losers’ of history at its best. He has reclaimed John Brown as an icon for the left against the erroneous and outrageous efforts of modern day religious and secular terrorists to lay any claim to his memory or his work. Below I make a few comments on some of controversies surrounding John Brown developed in Mr. Reynolds’s study.

If one understands the ongoing nature, from his early youth, of John Brown’s commitment to the active struggle against slavery, the scourge of the American Republic in the first half of the 19th century, one can only conclude that he was indeed a man on a mission. As Mr. Reynolds’s points out Brown took every opportunity to fight against slavery including early service as an agent of the Underground Railroad spiriting escaped slaves northward, participation as an extreme radical in all the key anti-slavery propaganda battles of the time as well as challenging other anti-slavery elements to be more militant and in the 1850’s, arms in hand, fighting in the ‘proxy’ wars in Kansas and, of course, the culmination of his life- the raid on Harper’s Ferry. Those exploits alone render absurd a very convenient myth by those who supported slavery or turned a blind eye to it and their latter-day apologists for it about his so-called ‘madness’. This is a political man and to these eyes a very worthy one.

For those who like their political heroes ‘pure’, frankly, it is better to look elsewhere than the life of John Brown. His personal and family life as a failed rural capitalist would hardly lead one to think that this man was to become a key historical figure in any struggle, much less the great struggle against slavery. Some of his actions in Kansas (concerning the murder of some pro-slavery elements under his direction) also cloud his image. However, when the deal went down in the late 1850’s and it was apparent for all to see that there was no other way to end slavery than a fight to the death-John Brown rose to the occasion. And did not cry about it. And did not expect others to cry about it. Call him a ‘monomaniac’ if you like but even a slight acquaintance with great historical figures shows that they all have this ‘disease’- that is why they make the history books. No, the ‘madness’ argument will not do.

Whether or not John Brown knew that his military strategy for the Harper’s Ferry raid would, in the short term, be defeated is a matter of dispute. Reams of paper have been spent proving the military foolhardiness of his scheme at Harper’s Ferry. Brown’s plan, however, was essentially a combination of slave revolt modeled after the maroon experiences in Haiti, Nat Turner’s earlier Virginia slave rebellion and rural guerilla warfare of the ‘third world’ type that we have become more familiar with since that time. 150 years later this strategy does not look so foolhardy in an America of the 1850’s that had no real standing army, fairly weak lines of communications, virtually uninhabited mountains to flee to and the North at their backs. The execution of the plan is another matter. Brown seemingly made about every mistake in the book in that regard. However, this is missing the essential political point that militant action not continuing parliamentary maneuvering advocated by other abolitionists had become necessary. A few more fighting abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass, and better propaganda work among freedman with connections to the plantations would not have hurt the chances for success at Harper’s Ferry.

What is not in dispute is that Brown considered himself a true Calvinist avenging angel in the struggle against slavery and more importantly acted on that belief. In short, he was committed to bring justice to the black masses. This is why his exploits and memory stay alive after over 150 years. It is possible that if Brown did not have this, by 19th century standards as well as our own, old-fashioned Calvinist determination that he would not been capable of militant action. Certainly other anti-slavery elements never came close to his militancy, including the key Transcendentalist movement led by Emerson and Thoreau and the Concord ‘crowd’ who supported him and kept his memory alive in hard times. In their eyes he had the heroic manner of the Old Testament prophet. Now this animating spirit is not one that animates modern revolutionaries and so it is hard to understand the depths of his religious convictions on his actions but they were understood, if not fully appreciated, by others in those days. It is better today to look at Brown more politically through his hero (and mine, as well) Oliver Cromwell-a combination of Calvinist avenger and militant warrior. Yes, I can get behind that picture of him.

By all accounts Brown and his small integrated band of brothers fought bravely and coolly against great odds. Ten of Brown's men were killed including two of his sons. Five were captured, tried and executed, including Brown. These results are almost inevitable when one takes up a revolutionary struggle against the old order and one is not victorious. One need only think of, for example, the fate of the defenders of the Paris Commune in 1871. One can fault Brown on this or that tactical maneuver. Nevertheless he and the others bore themselves bravely in defeat. As we are all too painfully familiar there are defeats of the oppressed that lead nowhere. One thinks of the defeat of the German Revolution in the 1920’s. There other defeats that galvanize others into action. This is how Brown’s actions should be measured by history.

Militarily defeated at Harpers Ferry, Brown's political mission to destroy slavery by force of arms nevertheless continued to galvanize important elements in the North at the expense of the pacifistic non-resistant Garrisonian political program for struggle against slavery. Many writers on Brown who reduce his actions to that of a ‘madman’ still cannot believe that his road proved more appropriate to end slavery than either non-resistance or gradualism. That alone makes short shrift of such theories. Historians and others have also misinterpreted later events such as the Bolshevik strategy that led to Russian Revolution in October 1917. More recently, we saw this same incomprehension concerning the victory of the Vietnamese against overwhelming American military superiority. Needless to say, all these events continue to be revised by some historians to take the sting out of there proper political implications.

From a modern prospective Brown’s strategy for black liberation, even if the abolitionist goal he aspired to was immediately successful reached the outer limits within the confines of capitalism. Brown’s actions were meant to make black people free. Beyond that goal he had no program except the Chatham Charter which seems to have replicated the American constitution but with racial and gender equality as a cornerstone. Unfortunately the Civil War did not provide fundamental economic and political freedom. That is still our fight. Moreover, the Civil War, the defeat of Radical Reconstruction, the reign of ‘Jim Crow’ and the subsequent waves of black migration to the cities changed the character of black oppression in the U.S. from Brown’s time. Black people are now a part of "free labor," and the key to their liberation is in the integrated fight of labor against the current seemingly one-sided class war and establishing a government of workers and their allies. Nevertheless, we can stand proudly in the revolutionary tradition of John Brown (and of his friend Frederick Douglass). We need to complete the unfinished democratic tasks of the Civil War, not by emulating Brown’s exemplary actions but to moving the multi-racial American working class to power. Finish the Civil War.

Friday, October 22, 2021

*Poet's Corner- Langston Hughes' John Brown Tribute- "October 16"

Click on the title to link to an article about the relationship between Langston Hughes' forbears and Captain John Brown, late of Kansas on the anniversary of the Harpers Ferry raid.


October 16-Langston Hughes

Perhaps
You will remember
John Brown.

John Brown
Who took his gun,
Took twenty-one companions
White and black,
Went to shoot your way to freedom
Where two rivers meet
And the hills of the
North
And the hills of the
South
Look slow at one another-
And died
For your sake.

Now that you are
Many years free,
And the echo of the Civil War
Has passed away,
And Brown himself
Has long been tried at law,
Hanged by the neck,
And buried in the ground-
Since Harpers Ferry
Is alive with ghost today,
Immortal raiders
Come again to town-

Perhaps
You will recall
John Brown.

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

In Honor Of John Brown Late Of Harpers Ferry-1859- *Poet's Corner- Edwin Arlington Robinson's "John Brown"- On The Anniversary Of Harper's Ferry

Click on the title to link to "Wikipedia"'s entry for the 19th American poet Edwin Arlington Robinson.

Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935). Collected Poems. 1921.

VII. The Three Taverns

11. John Brown


THOUGH for your sake I would not have you now
So near to me tonight as now you are,
God knows how much a stranger to my heart
Was any cold word that I may have written;
And you, poor woman that I made my wife, 5
You have had more of loneliness, I fear,
Than I—though I have been the most alone,
Even when the most attended. So it was
God set the mark of his inscrutable
Necessity on one that was to grope, 10
And serve, and suffer, and withal be glad
For what was his, and is, and is to be,
When his old bones, that are a burden now,
Are saying what the man who carried them
Had not the power to say. Bones in a grave, 15
Cover them as they will with choking earth,
May shout the truth to men who put them there,
More than all orators. And so, my dear,
Since you have cheated wisdom for the sake
Of sorrow, let your sorrow be for you, 20
This last of nights before the last of days,
The lying ghost of what there is of me
That is the most alive. There is no death
For me in what they do. Their death it is
They should heed most when the sun comes again 25
To make them solemn. There are some I know
Whose eyes will hardly see their occupation,
For tears in them—and all for one old man;
For some of them will pity this old man,
Who took upon himself the work of God 30
Because he pitied millions. That will be
For them, I fancy, their compassionate
Best way of saying what is best in them
To say; for they can say no more than that,
And they can do no more than what the dawn 35
Of one more day shall give them light enough
To do. But there are many days to be,
And there are many men to give their blood,
As I gave mine for them. May they come soon!

May they come soon, I say. And when they come, 40
May all that I have said unheard be heard,
Proving at last, or maybe not—no matter—
What sort of madness was the part of me
That made me strike, whether I found the mark
Or missed it. Meanwhile, I’ve a strange content, 45
A patience, and a vast indifference
To what men say of me and what men fear
To say. There was a work to be begun,
And when the Voice, that I have heard so long,
Announced as in a thousand silences 50
An end of preparation, I began
The coming work of death which is to be,
That life may be. There is no other way
Than the old way of war for a new land
That will not know itself and is tonight 55
A stranger to itself, and to the world
A more prodigious upstart among states
Than I was among men, and so shall be
Till they are told and told, and told again;
For men are children, waiting to be told, 60
And most of them are children all their lives.
The good God in his wisdom had them so,
That now and then a madman or a seer
May shake them out of their complacency
And shame them into deeds. The major file 65
See only what their fathers may have seen,
Or may have said they saw when they saw nothing.
I do not say it matters what they saw.
Now and again to some lone soul or other
God speaks, and there is hanging to be done,— 70
As once there was a burning of our bodies
Alive, albeit our souls were sorry fuel.
But now the fires are few, and we are poised
Accordingly, for the state’s benefit,
A few still minutes between heaven and earth. 75
The purpose is, when they have seen enough
Of what it is that they are not to see,
To pluck me as an unripe fruit of treason,
And then to fling me back to the same earth
Of which they are, as I suppose, the flower— 80
Not given to know the riper fruit that waits
For a more comprehensive harvesting.

Yes, may they come, and soon. Again I say,
May they come soon!—before too many of them
Shall be the bloody cost of our defection. 85
When hell waits on the dawn of a new state,
Better it were that hell should not wait long,—
Or so it is I see it who should see
As far or farther into time tonight
Than they who talk and tremble for me now, 90
Or wish me to those everlasting fires
That are for me no fear. Too many fires
Have sought me out and seared me to the bone—
Thereby, for all I know, to temper me
For what was mine to do. If I did ill 95
What I did well, let men say I was mad;
Or let my name for ever be a question
That will not sleep in history. What men say
I was will cool no cannon, dull no sword,
Invalidate no truth. Meanwhile, I was; 100
And the long train is lighted that shall burn,
Though floods of wrath may drench it, and hot feet
May stamp it for a slight time into smoke
That shall blaze up again with growing speed,
Until at last a fiery crash will come 105
To cleanse and shake a wounded hemisphere,
And heal it of a long malignity
That angry time discredits and disowns.

Tonight there are men saying many things;
And some who see life in the last of me 110
Will answer first the coming call to death;
For death is what is coming, and then life.
I do not say again for the dull sake
Of speech what you have heard me say before,
But rather for the sake of all I am, 115
And all God made of me. A man to die
As I do must have done some other work
Than man’s alone. I was not after glory,
But there was glory with me, like a friend,
Throughout those crippling years when friends were few, 120
And fearful to be known by their own names
When mine was vilified for their approval.
Yet friends they are, and they did what was given
Their will to do; they could have done no more.
I was the one man mad enough, it seems, 125
To do my work; and now my work is over.
And you, my dear, are not to mourn for me,
Or for your sons, more than a soul should mourn
In Paradise, done with evil and with earth.
There is not much of earth in what remains 130
For you; and what there may be left of it
For your endurance you shall have at last
In peace, without the twinge of any fear
For my condition; for I shall be done
With plans and actions that have heretofore 135
Made your days long and your nights ominous
With darkness and the many distances
That were between us. When the silence comes,
I shall in faith be nearer to you then
Than I am now in fact. What you see now 140
Is only the outside of an old man,
Older than years have made him. Let him die,
And let him be a thing for little grief.
There was a time for service and he served;
And there is no more time for anything 145
But a short gratefulness to those who gave
Their scared allegiance to an enterprise
That has the name of treason—which will serve
As well as any other for the present.
There are some deeds of men that have no names, 150
And mine may like as not be one of them.
I am not looking far for names tonight.
The King of Glory was without a name
Until men gave Him one; yet there He was,
Before we found Him and affronted Him 155
With numerous ingenuities of evil,
Of which one, with His aid, is to be swept
And washed out of the world with fire and blood.

Once I believed it might have come to pass
With a small cost of blood; but I was dreaming— 160
Dreaming that I believed. The Voice I heard
When I left you behind me in the north,—
To wait there and to wonder and grow old
Of loneliness,—told only what was best,
And with a saving vagueness, I should know 165
Till I knew more. And had I known even then—
After grim years of search and suffering,
So many of them to end as they began—
After my sickening doubts and estimations
Of plans abandoned and of new plans vain— 170
After a weary delving everywhere
For men with every virtue but the Vision—
Could I have known, I say, before I left you
That summer morning, all there was to know—
Even unto the last consuming word 175
That would have blasted every mortal answer
As lightning would annihilate a leaf,
I might have trembled on that summer morning;
I might have wavered; and I might have failed.

And there are many among men today 180
To say of me that I had best have wavered.
So has it been, so shall it always be,
For those of us who give ourselves to die
Before we are so parcelled and approved
As to be slaughtered by authority. 185
We do not make so much of what they say
As they of what our folly says of us;
They give us hardly time enough for that,
And thereby we gain much by losing little.
Few are alive to-day with less to lose. 190
Than I who tell you this, or more to gain;
And whether I speak as one to be destroyed
For no good end outside his own destruction,
Time shall have more to say than men shall hear
Between now and the coming of that harvest 195
Which is to come. Before it comes, I go—
By the short road that mystery makes long
For man’s endurance of accomplishment.
I shall have more to say when I am dead.

Friday, April 23, 2021

*James Connolly-Commandant- Irish Citizens Army- A Critical Appreciation Of Easter, 1916

Click on title to link to "Workers Hammer" (International Communist League/Great Britain newspaper) critical appreciation of James Connolly, a hero of the Irish rebellion of Easter , 1916.

"James Connolly"

The man was all shot through that came to day into the Barrack Square

And a soldier I, I am not proud to say that we killed him there

They brought him from the prison hospital and to see him in that chair

I swear his smile would, would far more quickly call a man to prayer

Maybe, maybe I don't understand this thing that makes these rebels die

Yet all men love freedom and the spring clear in the sky

I wouldn't do this deed again for all that I hold by

As I gazed down my rifle at his breast but then, then a soldier I.

They say he was different, kindly too apart from all the rest.

A lover of the poor-his wounds ill dressed.

He faced us like a man who knew a greater pain

Than blows or bullets ere the world began: died he in vain

Ready, Present, and him just smiling, Christ I felt my rifle shake

His wounds all open and around his chair a pool of blood

And I swear his lips said, "fire" before my rifle shot that cursed lead

And I, I was picked to kill a man like that, James Connolly



A great crowd had gathered outside of Kilmainham

Their heads all uncovered, they knelt to the ground.

For inside that grim prison

Lay a great Irish soldier

His life for his country about to lay down.

He went to his death like a true son of Ireland

The firing party he bravely did face

Then the order rang out: Present arms and fire

James Connolly fell into a ready-made grave

The black flag was hoisted, the cruel deed was over

Gone was the man who loved Ireland so well

There was many a sad heart in Dublin that morning

When they murdered James Connolly-. the Irish rebel



"James Connolly"

Marchin' down O'Connell Street with the Starry Plough on high
There goes the Citizen Army with their fists raised in the sky
Leading them is a mighty man with a mad rage in his eye
"My name is James Connolly - I didn't come here to die

But to fight for the rights of the working man
And the small farmer too
Protect the proletariat from the bosses and their screws
So hold on to your rifles, boys, and don't give up your dream
Of a Republic for the workin' class, economic liberty"

Then Jem yelled out "Oh Citizens, this system is a curse
An English boss is a monster, an Irish one even worse
They'll never lock us out again and here's the reason why
My name is James Connolly, I didn't come here to die....."

And now we're in the GPO with the bullets whizzin' by
With Pearse and Sean McDermott biddin' each other goodbye
Up steps our citizen leader and roars out to the sky
"My name is James Connolly, I didn't come here to die...

Oh Lily, I don't want to die, we've got so much to live for
And I know we're all goin' out to get slaughtered, but I just can't take any more
Just the sight of one more child screamin' from hunger in a Dublin slum
Or his mother slavin' 14 hours a day for the scum
Who exploit her and take her youth and throw it on a factory floor
Oh Lily, I just can't take any more

They've locked us out, they've banned our unions, they even treat their animals better than us
No! It's far better to die like a man on your feet than to live forever like some slave on your knees, Lilly

But don't let them wrap any green flag around me
And for God's sake, don't let them bury me in some field full of harps and shamrocks
And whatever you do, don't let them make a martyr out of me
No! Rather raise the Starry Plough on high, sing a song of freedom
Here's to you, Lily, the rights of man and international revolution"

We fought them to a standstill while the flames lit up the sky
'Til a bullet pierced our leader and we gave up the fight
They shot him in Kilmainham jail but they'll never stop his cry
My name is James Connolly, I didn't come here to die...."

Friday, March 26, 2021

March Is Women’s History Month-Honor Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg- The Rose Of The Revolution

Click on the headline to link to the Rosa Luxemburg Internet Archives.

March Is Women’s History Month

Markin comment:

Usually I place the name of the martyred Polish communist revolutionary, Rosa Luxemburg, in her correct place of honor along with Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin and German revolutionary Karl Liebknecht when we of the leftist international working class movement honor our historic leaders each January. This year I have decided to, additionally, honor the Rose of the Revolution during Women’s History Month because, although in life she never fought on any woman-limited basis in the class struggle, right this minute we are in need, desperate need of models for today’s women and men to look to. Can there be any better choice? To ask the question is to give the answer. All honor to the memory of the Rose of the Revolution- Rosa Luxemburg.
*********
From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-The Revolutionary Heritage Of Rosa Luxemburg- The Rose Of The Revolution

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for Rosa Luxemburg-the "Rose Of The Revolution".

March Is Women's History Month

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Sprong 1982 issue of "Women and Revolution" that has some historical interest- for old "new leftists", perhaps. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during this Women's History Month.

*******

The Revolutionary Heritage of Rosa Luxemburg

The present situation in Poland cries out for a revolutionary proletarian leadership to cut through the disastrous polarization between a particularly vile and utterly discredited Stalinist bureaucracy and the counterrevolutionary nationalist/clericalist Solidarity "trade union" which lines up with U.S. imperial¬ism's bloodthirsty drive to "roll back Communism" throughout the world. The Trotskyist vanguard which must be forged to defend and extend socialized property in Poland will build on the strong traditions of Polish socialism—the party Proletariat, the SDKPiL, the early Polish Communist Party, ruthlessly purged and finally dissolved by Stalin, and above all the revolutionary heritage of Rosa Luxemburg.

It is striking that all sides in the Polish crisis are united in their silence on Rosa Luxemburg, the greatest proletarian revolutionist in Polish history. Certainly the Stalinist usurpers cannot claim Luxemburg; they have had to obscure and slander her revolutionary example for decades.

Still less will Luxemburg, a woman, a Jew and a communist, find defenders among the fans of Solidarity, a "movement" which embraces virulent anti-Semites and ultra-reactionaries. Solidarity program is openly counterrevolutionary—for private ownership of the land, a bourgeois parliament, a dominant role for the Catholic church in government, for turning the nationalized Polish economy over to the International Monetary Fund, the bankers cartel that starves the Chilean masses. That Solidarity', which openly spurns even the word "socialist," disdains Luxemburg and all she stands for, is fully appropriate.

The social-democratic "left" outside Poland embraces Solidarity and wants therefore to separate itself from Luxemburg. At a February 7 forum in Boston, a Socialist Workers Party (SWP) spokesman solidarized wfth Polish "dissident" Marta Petrusewicz when the latter stated, "The problem with Rosa Luxemburg in Polish minds was that Rosa Luxemburg considered... that the existence of the Polish national being was not an important problem for Polish workers."

It is true that Luxemburg incorrectly opposed the right of Poland to national self-determination, for which Lenin took her to task, pointing out that socialists must support this basic democratic right in order to take it off the agenda and expose the underlying class conflicts which national oppression masks. Her error in his eyes lay in not taking the national question sufficiently into account, thereby rendering more difficult the exposure of nationalism as a mortal enemy of the proletariat. Needless to say it is the height of hypocrisy for the SWP and kindred anti-communists to manipulate Lenin's criticisms of Luxemburg in order to make common cause with the deadly enemies of Leninism, the Pilsudskiite reactionaries who hate everything that Lenin and Luxemburg stood for.

Despite errors on the national question (and other questions), Luxemburg was a communist and in Lenin's phrase "an eagle." Leon Trotsky summed up her historic role with these words:

"We can, with full justification, place our work for the Fourth International under the sign of the'three L's,'that is, not only under the sign of Lenin, but also of Luxemburg and Liebknecht."

—"Luxemburg and the Fourth International," New International, August 1935

The Polish proletariat must recover its revolutionary heritage, the socialist heritage of Rosa Luxemburg, hated by the counterrevolutionaries (and feared by the Stalinists) as a revolutionary leader and martyr. We are reprinting below excerpts from some of Luxemburg's works, which with every word breathe a spirit of militant proletarian internationalism. The first selection, from "The Crisis of Social Democracy" (better known as the "Junius Pamphlet," from her penname), written in prison and published in 1916, indeed "saved the honor of the German proletariat" by condemning the German Social Democratic Party's (SPD) historic betrayal in supporting its "own" bourgeoisie in the first imperialist World War. We reprint also an excerpt from Luxemburg's "Socialism and the Churches" (first published in Cracow in 1905 under the penname "Jozef Chmura") because of its almost eerily appropriate condemnation of attempts by the Catholic church to mislead the workers.

We include the last part of her final work, "Order Reigns in Berlin," written when she and Liebknecht were already in hiding during the bloody of the 1919 Spartakus uprising by the Social Democratic hangmen of the German revolution, Scheidemann and Noske. Luxemburg had opposed the uprising as premature; nonetheless she and Liebknecht took their place in the struggle alongside the best of the German proletariat. Finally, we include as well Karl Liebknecht's final rallying cry, "Trotz Alledem" (In Spite of All). The latter two items are taken from J.P. Nettl's biography Rosa Luxemburg, the former two from Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, Pathfinder Press, 1970.

-from the Junius Pamphlet" (1916)

In refuting the existence of the class struggle, the social democracy has denied the very basis of its own existence. What is the very breath of its body, if not the class struggle? What role could it expect to play in the war, once having sacrificed the class struggle, the fundamental principle of its existence? The social democracy has destroyed its mission Its only mission now is to play the role of the gendarme over the working class under a state of military rule… The leaders of the social democracy are convinced that democratic liberties for the working class will come as a reward for its allegiance to the fatherland. But never in the history of the world has an oppressed class received political rights as a reward for service rendered to the ruling classes....

The war has smashed the Second International. Its inadequacy has been demonstrated by its incapacity to place an effective obstacle in the way of the segmentation of its forces behind national boundaries in time of war, and to carry through a common tactic and action by the proletariat in all countries.

In view of the betrayal, by the official representatives of the socialist parties in the principal countries, of the aims and interests of the working class; in view of their passage from the camp of the working-class International to the political camp of the imperialist bourgeoisie; it is vitally necessary for socialism to build a new workers' International, which will take into its own hands the leadership and coordination of the revolutionary class struggle against world imperialism.

To accomplish its historic mission, socialism must be guided by the following principles:

The class struggle against the ruling classes within the boundaries of the bourgeois states, and international solidarity of the workers of all countries, are the two rules of life, inherent in the working class in struggle and of world-historic importance to it for its emancipation. There is no socialism without international proletarian solidarity, and there is no socialism without class struggle. The renunciation by the socialist proletariat, in time of peace as in time of war, of the class struggle and of international solidarity, is equivalent to suicide....

The immediate mission of socialism is the spiritual liberation of the proletariat from the tutelage of the bourgeoisie, which expresses itself through the influence of nationalist ideology. The national sections must agitate in the parliaments and the press, denouncing the empty wordiness of nationalism as an instrument of bourgeois domination. The sole defense of all real national independence is at present the revolutionary class struggle against imperialism. The workers' fatherland, to the defense of which all else must be subordinated, is the socialist International.

— from "Socialism and the Churches" (1905)

The clergy has at its disposal two means to fight social democracy. Where the working-class movement is beginning to win recognition, as is the case in our country (Poland), where the possessing classes still hope to crush it, the clergy fights the socialists by threatening sermons, slandering them and condemning the "covetousness" of the workers. But in the countries where political liberties are established and the workers' party is powerful, as for example in Germany, France, and Holland, there the clergy seeks other means. It hides its real purpose and does not face the workers any more as an open enemy, but as a false friend. Thus you will see the priests organizing the workers and founding "Christian" trade unions. In this way they try to catch the fish in their net, to attract the workers into the trap of these false trade unions, where they teach humility, unlike the organizations of the social democracy which have in view struggle and defense against maltreatment.

When the czarist government finally falls under the blows of the revolutionary proletariat of Poland and Russia, and when political liberty exists in our country, then we shall see the same Archbishop Popiel and the same ecclesiastics who today thunder against the militants, suddenly beginning to organize the workers into "Christian" and "national" associations in order to mislead them. Already we are at the beginning of this underground activity of the "national democracy" which assures the future collaboration with the priests and today helps them to slander the social democrats.

The workers must, therefore, be warned of the danger so that they will not let themselves be taken in, on the morrow of the victory of the revolution, by the honeyed words of those who today from the height of the pulpit, dare to defend the czarist government, which kills the workers, and the repressive apparatus of capital, which is the principal cause of the poverty of the proletariat.

In order to defend themselves against the antagonism of the clergy at the present time, during the revolution, and against their false friendship tomorrow, after the revolution, it is necessary for the workers to organize themselves in the Social Democratic Party.

And here is the answer to all the attacks of the clergy: The social democracy in no way fights against religious beliefs. On the contrary, it demands complete freedom of conscience for every individual and the widest possible toleration for every faith and every opinion. But, from the moment when the priests use the pulpit as a means of political struggle against the working class, the workers must fight against the enemies of their rights and their liberation. For he who defends the exploiters and who helps to prolong this present regime of misery is the mortal enemy of the proletariat, whether he be in a cassock or in the uniform of the police.
*****
— from "Order Reigns in Berlin" (1919)

It was a matter of honour for the revolution to ward off this attack with all its energy, if the counterrevolution was not to be encouraged to further efforts— The revolutions so far have brought us nothing but defeat, but these inevitable defeats are themselves one stepping-stone on top of another to the final victory....

But the leadership has failed. None the less, the leadership can and must be rebuilt by the masses out of the masses… The masses were up to the mark, they have forged this defeat into the chain of those historical battles which are themselves the strength and pride of international Socialism. And that is why a future victory will blossom from this "defeat."

"Order rules in Berlin." You stupid lackeys! Your "order" is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will rear ahead once more and announce to your horror amid the brass of trumpets: be!"

—from Karl Liebknecht's "Trotz Alledem" (1919)

Hold hard. We have not fled. We are not beaten ... for Spartakus—that means fire and spirit, heart and soul, will and deed of the proletarian revolution. For Spartakus—that stands for all the longing for achievement, all the embattled resolution of the class-conscious proletariat... whether or not we shall survive when all is achieved, our programme will live; it will dominate the world of liberated peoples. In spite of all.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-Honor The Women Of The Paris Commune

Click on the headline to link to a “Wikipedia” entry for the Paris Commune.

March Is Women’s History Month


Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Spring 1984 issue of "Women and Revolution" that has some historical interest- for old "new leftists", perhaps. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during this Women's History Month.

******

International Women's Day 1984
In Honor of the Women of the Paris Commune


This year on International Women's Day, March 8, we salute the revolutionary women of the 1871 Paris Commune, whose fierce dedication to fighting for the workers' Commune inspired Marx to propose creating women's sections of the First International. At the 19September 1871 session of the First International Conference a motion, made by Marx, was passed stating: "The Conference recommends the formation of female branches among the working class. It is, however, understood that this resolution does not at all interfere with the existence or formation of branches composed of both sexes" (The General Council of the First International 1870-1871, Minutes).

e Paris Commune was the first modern workers revolution in history, because in Paris for the first time in the world the proletariat not only demonstrated its unquenchable determination to "storm the heavens" and wipe out its exploitation, but proved that it was capable of seizing power, creating new organs of power and ruling society in its own interests. Though they were ultimately crushed after holding out heroically for ten weeks against the counterrevolution¬ary forces of all Europe, the Paris Communards have inspired generations of revolutionaries. And it was the proletarian women of Paris who were among the most fiery and determined fighters for the new world they were creating, as the following excerpts from contemporary reports demonstrate (taken from a collection of documents titled The Communards of Paris, 1871, edited by Stewart Edwards):

Meeting of a women's club: About two hundred women and girls were present; most of the latter were smoking cigarettes, and the reader will guess to what social class they belonged. The Chairwoman, whose name we could not find out, was about twenty-five and still quite pretty; she wore a wide red belt to which two pistols were attached. The other women on the committee also sported the inevitable red belt but with only one pistol....

The following point was on the agenda: "How is society to be reformed?"... Next came a mattress-maker of the Rue Saint-Lazare who undertook to demonstrate that God did not exist and that the education of children should be reformed.

"What silly women we are to send our children to catechism classes! Why bother, since religion is a comedy staged by man and God does not exist? If he did he would not let me talk like this. Either that or he's a coward!"...

Her place was taken by a little old woman....

"My dear childre," she said in a wavering voice, "all this is so much hot air. What we need today is action. You have men—well then, make them follow the right track, get them to do their duty. What we must do is put our backs into it. We must strike mercilessly at those who are undermining the Commune. All men must be made to co-operate or be shot. Make a start and you will see!"

—Report of a meeting in the women's club of the Trinite Church, 12 May 1871, abridged.

The Times [of London] describes a [Paris] women's club: We entered the building without knocking, and found ourselves in a filthy room reeking with evil odours and crowded with women and children of every age. Most of them appeared to belong to the lowest order of society, and wore loose untidy jackets, with white frilled caps upon their heads.... None took much notice of us at first, being too much occupied with the oratory of a fine-looking young woman with streaming black hair and flashing eyes, who dilated upon the rights of women amid ejaculations, and shakings of the head, and approving pinches of snuff from the occupants of the benches near us. "Men are laches [cowardly bastards]," she cried; "they call themselves the masters of creation, and are a set of dolts. They complain of being made to fight, and are always grumbling over their woes—let them go and join the craven band at Versailles, and we will defend the city ourselves. We have petroleum, and we have hatchets and strong hearts, and are as capable of bearing fatigue as they. We will man the barricades, and show them that we will be no longer trodden down by them. Such as still wish to fight may do so side by side with us. Women of Paris, to the front!"... The next speaker seemed tolerably respectable, wearing a decent black gown and bonnet, but her discourse was as rambling and inconsistent as that of her predecessor at the tribune. "We are simple women," she began, "but not made of weaker stuff than our grandmothers of '93. Let us not cause their shades to blush for us, but be up and doing, as they would be were they living now. We have duties to perform. If necessary we will fight with the best of them and defend the barricades...." Encouraged by the applause which had followed her thus far, she now degenerated into rant, attacking the priesthood generally and the confessional, mimicking the actions used at mass amid the laughter and bravoes of the throng. One old lady became ecstatic, and continued digging me violently in the back with her elbow..,. "Ah, the priests!" murmured another from under the heavy frills of her cap, a lady of a serious turn of mind.... "Those priests! I have seen them too closely, la canaille [rabble]!"

—Report by the Paris correspondent of The Times of London of a women's meeting: The
Times, 6 May 1871, abridged.

********

Those sharp jabs in the back that so discomfited the bourgeois gentlemen of The Times were but one small token of the throwing off of centuries of subjugation by the awakened women workers, who knew themselves to be for the first time actually making history. Of all the measures the Commune took in its ten weeks of existence—including getting rid of the hated police and standing army and keeping the citizenry in arms, opening education to all and forcing the State-enriched Church back into a purely private role, establishing that all the members of the Commune government would be paid only workingmen's wage; and be subject to recall at anytime, beginning plans foiworkers' cooperatives to run the factories—its most signal achievement was its own existence, the world's first working-class government; as Marx said, "the political form at last discovered under which to work out the economic emancipation of labour" (The Civil War in France).

In summing up the fundamental lessons of the Paris Commune 20 years later, Frederick Engels emphasized the key question of the state: "From the very outset the Commune was compelled to recognize that the working class, once come to power, could not go on managing with the old state machine—

"The state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another, and indeed in the democratic republic no less than in the monarchy; and at best an evil inherited by the proletariat after its victorious struggle for class supremacy, whose worst sides the victorious proletariat, just like the Commune, cannot avoid having to lop off at once as much as possible until such time as a generation reared in new, free social conditions is able to throw the entire lumber of the state on the scrap heap.

"Of late, the Social-Democratic philistine has once more been filled with wholesome terror at the words: Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Well and good, gentle¬men, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat" (Introduction to The Civil War in France, 1891).

The embattled Parisian workers, men and women alike, threw their whole hearts into the work of creating the new workers' society—many have commented on the exhilarating, almost festive, air the Commune had as it prepared for its battle to the death with reaction. Against the old world at Versailles of "antiquated shams and accumulated lies," was counterposed, as Marx noted, "fighting, working, thinking Paris, electrified by the enthusiasm of historical initiative, full of heroic reality." The Parisian paper Pere Duchene (originally the paper of the left Jacobins), in its slangy fashion
-here are some excerpts caught this indomitable spirit-from Edwards.

Pere Duchene editorial on girls' education dated "20 germinal, an 79" (19 April 1871): Yes, it's a true fact, Pere Duchene has become the father of a daughter and a healthy one at that, who will turn into a right strapping wench with ruddy cheeks and a twinkle in her eye!

He's as proud as a fucking peacock! And as he starts to write his rag today he calls on all good citizens to bring up their children properly, like Pere Duchene's daughter. It's not as if he's gone all toffee-nosed, but Pere Duchene is sure of one thing: the girl is going to get a bloody good education and God knows that's important!

If you only knew, citizens, how much the Revolution depends on women, then you'd really open your eyes to girls' education. And you wouldn't leave them like they've been up to now, in ignorance!

Fuck it! In a good Republic maybe we ought to be even more careful of girls' education than of boys'!...

Christ! The cops of Versailles who are busy bombard¬ing Paris and firing their bloody shells right the way up the Champs-Elysees—they must have had a hell of a bad upbringing! Their mothers can't have been Citizens, that's for sure!

As for Pere Duchene's daughter, she'll see to it her children are better brought up than that; when she's grown up Pere Duchene will have got lots of dough together selling his furnaces so he can let her have a bloody nice dowry and give her away to a good bugger, a worker and a patriot, before the citizens of the Commune!

Long live the Social Revolution!

********

Yes, long live the Social Revolution! And we, when it comes, intend to be no less worthyof our revolutionary grandmothers and great-grandmothers than were the women of the Paris Commune. •

*From The Karl Marx- Friedrich Internet Archives- In Defense Of The Paris Commune And The Struggle To Defend Its Class-War Prisoners- In Honor Of The 140th Anniversary Of The Paris Commune

Click on the headline to link to the Karl Marx-Friedrich Engels Archive online copy of the material mentioned in the title on the defense of the Paris Commune and its class-war prisoners.

Markin comment:

Readers of this space are, by now, familiar with my interest in the defense of class-war prisoners and, perhaps, know that I express that interest through support to the efforts of the Partisan Defense Committee (PDC). One of the reasons for that support of the PDC is its commitment to the non-sectarian defense of all class-war prisoners, a tradition in which it follows the old Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies) principle expressed in the slogan, “an injury to one is an injury to all.” That principle also animated the early James P. Cannon-led work of the International Labor Defense, the legal defense arm of the American Communist Party and of the early legal defense work of the Trotskyist American Socialist Workers Party.

Perhaps not as well known, although it would seem axiomatic to their theories, is the even earlier class-war prisoner defense work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels as an expression of their concept expressed in the slogan “workers of the world unite.” In no place was this work ardently pursued that in their defense against all-comers of the Paris Commune during its short, historic existence and later, after it was crushed of its refugees, exiles, prisoners and their families. Much of this work was done early on through the Marx-created and led First International, and after its demise in the wake of that defeat through other Marx-influenced national organizations. I am posting some material here to provide some examples of their efforts.

The important point here is that, to my knowledge, there was, at most, only one proclaimed Marxist in the leadership of the Commune, and not much more adherence among the plebeians and artisans who heroically defended the Commune. So, mostly, those being defended by Marx and Engels were leftist political opponent, in some cases, severe political opponents. That approach is what has animated my own legal defense work and, hopefully, yours. Here, by the way, is another slogan to end this comment, fittingly I think-All Honor To The Paris Communards! Long Live The Memory Of The Paris Commune!
***********
Paris Commune

International Working mens Association 1872

Resolutions of the Meeting held to celebrate the Anniversary of the Paris Commune

Source: MECW, Volume 23, p. 128;
Written: by Marx between March 13 and 18, 1872;
First published: in La Liberté, March 24, 1872 and in The International Herald, March 30, 1872;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden.

I
“That this meeting assembled to celebrate the anniversary of the 18th March last, declares, that it looks upon the glorious movement inaugurated upon the 18th March, 1871, as the dawn of the great social revolution which will for ever free the human race from class rule.”

II
“That the incapacity and the crimes of the middle classes, extended all over Europe by their hatred against the working classes, have doomed old society no matter under what form of government-Monarchical or Republican.”

III
“That the crusade of all governments against the International, and the terror of the murderers of Versailles as well as of their Prussian conquerors, attest the hollowness of their successes, and the presence of. the threatening army of the proletariat of the whole world gathering in the rear of its heroic vanguard crushed by the combined forces of Thiers and William of Prussia.”

Monday, January 04, 2021

*From The Archives-The Struggle To Win The Youth To The Fight For Our Communist Future-In Honor Of The Three L’s-In Honor Of Karl Liebknecht-Liebknecht’s Protest Against the War Credits(1914)

On The 100th Anniversary Of Newly-Fledged German Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg And Karl Liebknecht-Oh, What Might Have Been-


By Frank Jackman

History in the conditional, what might have happened if this or that thing, event, person had swerved this much or that, is always a tricky proposition. Tricky as reflected in this piece’s commemorative headline. Rosa Luxemburg the acknowledged theoretical wizard of the German Social-Democratic Party, the numero uno party of the Second, Socialist International, which was the logical organization to initiate the socialist revolution before World War II and Karl Liebknecht, the hellfire and brimstone propagandist and public speaker of that same party were assassinated in separate locale on the orders of the then ruling self-same Social-Democratic Party. The chasm between the Social-Democratic leaders trying to save Germany for “Western Civilization” in the wake of the “uncivilized” socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 had grown that wide that it was as if they were on two different planets, and maybe they were.

(By the way I am almost embarrassed to mention the term “socialist revolution” these days when people, especially young people, would be clueless as to what I was talking about or would think that this concept was so hopelessly old-fashioned that it would meet the same blank stares. Let me assure you that back in the day, yes, that back in the day, many a youth had that very term on the tips of their tongues. Could palpably feel it in the air. Hell, just ask your parents, or grandparents.)

Okay here is the conditional and maybe think about it before you dismiss the idea out of hand if only because the whole scheme is very much in the conditional. Rosa and Karl, among others made almost every mistake in the book before and during the Spartacist uprising in some of the main German cities in late 1918 after the German defeat in the war. Their biggest mistake before the uprising was sticking with the Social Democrats, as a left wing, when that party had turned at best reformist and eminently not a vehicle for the socialist revolution, or even a half-assed democratic “revolution” which is what they got with the overthrow of the Kaiser. They broke too late, and subsequently too late from a slightly more left-wing Independent Socialist Party which had split from the S-D when that party became the leading war party in Germany for all intents and purposes and the working class was raising its collective head and asking why. 

The big mistake during the uprising was not taking enough protective cover, not keeping the leadership safe, keeping out of sight like Lenin had in Finland when things were dicey in 1917 Russia and fell easy prey to the Freikorps assassins. Here is the conditional, and as always it can be expanded to some nth degree if you let things get out of hand. What if, as in Russia, Rosa and Karl had broken from that rotten (for socialism) S-D organization and had a more firmly entrenched cadre with some experience in independent existence. What if the Spartacists had protected their acknowledged leaders better. There might have been a different trajectory for the aborted and failed German left-wing revolutionary opportunities over the next several years, there certainly would have been better leadership and perhaps, just perhaps the Nazi onslaught might have been stillborn, might have left Munich 1923 as their “heroic” and last moment.  


Instead we have a still sad 100th anniversary of the assassination of two great international socialist fighters who headed to the danger not away always worthy of a nod and me left having to face those blank stares who are looking for way forward but might as well be on a different planet-from me.  


Markin comment:

One of the declared purposes of this space is to draw the lessons of our left-wing past here in America and internationally, especially from the pro-communist wing. To that end I have made commentaries and provided archival works in order to help draw those lessons for today’s left-wing activists to learn, or at least ponder over. More importantly, for the long haul, to help educate today’s youth in the struggle for our common communist future. That is no small task or easy task given the differences of generations; differences of political milieus worked in; differences of social structure to work around; and, increasingly more important, the differences in appreciation of technological advances, and their uses.
*********
Karl Liebknecht 1914

Liebknecht’s Protest Against the War Credits


Source: Liebknecht “Liebknecht’s Protest Against the War Credits,” Justice, 17th December 1914, p.1;
Transcribed: by Ted Crawford.

The “Berner Tagewacht” publishes the full text of Karl Liebknecht’s protest in the Reichstag against the voting of the war credits. The protest was suppressed in the Reichstag, and no German paper has published it. It appears that seventeen Social-Democratic members expressed their opposition to the credits on December 2, but Karl Liebknecht’s was the only vote recorded against them.

Liebknecht’s protest declares that “this war, which none of the peoples involved desired, was not started for the benefit of the German or of any other people. It is an Imperialist war, a war for capitalist domination of the world markets and for the political domination of the important countries in the interest of industrial and financial capitalism. Arising out of the armament race, it is a preventative war provoked by the German and Austrian war parties in the obscurity of semi-absolutism and of secret diplomacy.

“It is also a Buonapartist attempt tending to demoralise and destroy the growing Labour movement.”

“The German word of command ‘against Czarismus,’ like the English or French word of command ‘against militarism,’ has been the means of bringing forth the most noble instincts, the revolutionary traditions and hopes of the peoples, for the purpose of hatred among the peoples. Accomplice of ‘Czarismus,’ Germany, a model country of political reaction, possesses not the qualities necessary to play the part of a liberator of peoples ...

“This war is not a defensive war for Germany. Its historical character and the succeeding events make it impossible for us to trust a capitalist Government when it declares that it is for the defence of the country that it asks for the credits.

“A peace made as soon as possible and which will humiliate no one is what must be demanded. All efforts in that direction should be supported. A simultaneous and continual demand for such peace in all the belligerent countries will be able to stop the bloody massacre before the complete exhaustion of all the peoples concerned .....”

Liebknecht concludes his protest by declaring that he will vote in favour of anything that will lighten the hard lot of “our brothers on the field of battle, and those wounded and sick, for whom I have the warmest compassion .... But my protest is against the war, against those responsible for it, against those who are directing it; against the capitalistic ends for which it is being pursued, against the violation of the neutrality of Belgium and Luxemburg, against military dictation, and against the complete neglect of social and political duties of which the Government and the dominant class are guilty to-day.”


There is no question that back in my youth I could have used, desperately used, many of the archival materials available today. When I developed political consciousness very early on, albeit liberal political consciousness, I could have used this material as I knew, I knew deep inside my heart and mind, that a junior Cold War liberal of the American For Democratic Action (ADA) stripe was not the end of my leftward political trajectory. More importantly, I could have used a socialist or communist youth organization to help me articulate the doubts I had about the virtues of liberal capitalism and be recruited to a more left-wing world view. As it was I spent far too long in the throes of the left-liberal/soft social-democratic milieu where I was dying politically. A group like the Young Communist League (W.E.B. Dubois Clubs in those days), the Young People’s Socialist League, or the Young Socialist Alliance representing the youth organizations of the American Communist Party, American Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S.) respectively would have saved much wasted time and energy. I knew they were around but not in my area.

The archival material to be used in this series is weighted heavily toward the youth movements of the early American Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S). For more recent material I have relied on material from the Spartacus Youth Clubs, the youth group of the Spartacist League (U.S.), both because they are more readily available to me and because, and this should give cause for pause, there are not many other non-CP, non-SWP youth groups around. As I gather more material from other youth sources I will place them in this series.

Finally I would like to finish up with the preamble to the Spartacist Youth Club’s What We Fight For statement of purpose:

"The Spartacus Youth Clubs intervene into social struggles armed with the revolutionary internationalist program of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. We work to mobilize youth in struggle as partisans of the working class, championing the liberation of black people, women and all the oppressed. The SYCs fight to win youth to the perspective of building the Leninist vanguard party that will lead the working class in socialist revolution, laying the basis for a world free of capitalist exploitation and imperialist slaughter."

This seems to me be somewhere in the right direction for what a Bolshevik youth group should be doing these days; a proving ground to become professional revolutionaries with enough wiggle room to learn from their mistakes, and successes. More later.

Sunday, January 03, 2021

Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits-Honor American Communist Leader James P. Cannon -How to Organise and Conduct a Study Class

On The 100th Anniversary Of Newly-Fledged German Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg And Karl Liebknecht-Oh, What Might Have Been-


By Frank Jackman

History in the conditional, what might have happened if this or that thing, event, person had swerved this much or that, is always a tricky proposition. Tricky as reflected in this piece’s commemorative headline. Rosa Luxemburg the acknowledged theoretical wizard of the German Social-Democratic Party, the numero uno party of the Second, Socialist International, which was the logical organization to initiate the socialist revolution before World War II and Karl Liebknecht, the hellfire and brimstone propagandist and public speaker of that same party were assassinated in separate locale on the orders of the then ruling self-same Social-Democratic Party. The chasm between the Social-Democratic leaders trying to save Germany for “Western Civilization” in the wake of the “uncivilized” socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 had grown that wide that it was as if they were on two different planets, and maybe they were.

(By the way I am almost embarrassed to mention the term “socialist revolution” these days when people, especially young people, would be clueless as to what I was talking about or would think that this concept was so hopelessly old-fashioned that it would meet the same blank stares. Let me assure you that back in the day, yes, that back in the day, many a youth had that very term on the tips of their tongues. Could palpably feel it in the air. Hell, just ask your parents, or grandparents.)

Okay here is the conditional and maybe think about it before you dismiss the idea out of hand if only because the whole scheme is very much in the conditional. Rosa and Karl, among others made almost every mistake in the book before and during the Spartacist uprising in some of the main German cities in late 1918 after the German defeat in the war. Their biggest mistake before the uprising was sticking with the Social Democrats, as a left wing, when that party had turned at best reformist and eminently not a vehicle for the socialist revolution, or even a half-assed democratic “revolution” which is what they got with the overthrow of the Kaiser. They broke too late, and subsequently too late from a slightly more left-wing Independent Socialist Party which had split from the S-D when that party became the leading war party in Germany for all intents and purposes and the working class was raising its collective head and asking why. 

The big mistake during the uprising was not taking enough protective cover, not keeping the leadership safe, keeping out of sight like Lenin had in Finland when things were dicey in 1917 Russia and fell easy prey to the Freikorps assassins. Here is the conditional, and as always it can be expanded to some nth degree if you let things get out of hand. What if, as in Russia, Rosa and Karl had broken from that rotten (for socialism) S-D organization and had a more firmly entrenched cadre with some experience in independent existence. What if the Spartacists had protected their acknowledged leaders better. There might have been a different trajectory for the aborted and failed German left-wing revolutionary opportunities over the next several years, there certainly would have been better leadership and perhaps, just perhaps the Nazi onslaught might have been stillborn, might have left Munich 1923 as their “heroic” and last moment.  


Instead we have a still sad 100th anniversary of the assassination of two great international socialist fighters who headed to the danger not away always worthy of a nod and me left having to face those blank stares who are looking for way forward but might as well be on a different planet-from me.  


Markin comment:


Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices. This year we pay special honor to American Communist party founder and later Trotskyist leader, James P. Cannon, Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci, and German Left Communist Karl Korsch.

Note on inclusion: As in other series on this site (“Labor’s Untold Story”, “Leaders Of The Bolshevik Revolution”, etc.) this year’s honorees do not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levellers, Jacobins, etc.) whose efforts contributed to the international struggle. Also, as was true of previous series this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.
*******
How to Organise and Conduct a Study Class

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Written: December 13, 1924
Source: Fighting for Socialism in the “American Century” (c) Resistance Books 2001. Resistance Books 2001 ISBN 1876646217; Published by Resistance Books 23 Abercrombie St, Chippendale NSW 2008, Permission for on-line publication provided by Resistance Books for use by the James P. Cannon Internet Archive in 2003.
Transcription\HTML Markup: David Walters


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The following article was first published in the Daily Worker magazine supplement, December 13, 1924. At the time, Cannon was the educational director of the Workers Party.


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The problem of educational work is many-sided. Enthusiasm for this work among the party members must be aroused and maintained. A general recognition of its fundamental importance must be established. It must be organically connected with the life and struggles of the party, and must not become academic and sterile. And it must be conducted in a systematic manner, becoming an established part of the life of the party throughout the year. This last will not just “happen”. It will take much work and the introduction of correct organisational and technical principles. All our theories will come to nothing if our educational apparatus does not function properly.

Many classes have landed on the rocks because they were not conducted properly. One of the most frequent inquiries we have received from comrades who are undertaking party educational work is: “What is the best way to conduct a study class?” It is the purpose of this article to give an answer to this question based on the collective experience in the field of educational work from which a few general principles can be extracted.

Let us begin at the beginning and proceed step by step. When the responsible party committee in the given localities has decided to establish a class, let us say, for example, in the “ABC of Communism”, the next move must be to appoint a leader for the class. This leader must understand that the class will not move of itself, but must be organised and directed from beginning to end, otherwise it will fall to pieces. The comrade in charge of the class must then proceed to enrol students, having them register for the class and making sure he has a sufficient number who agree in advance to attend the classes before he sets the time for calling it. As soon as a sufficient number of students have been enrolled, a date is set for the first class and all the students are notified.

At this point we should speak a word about the danger of haphazardness in the attendance at the classes on the part of any of the students. The party committee must decide that the attendance at class once a week, or more frequently, as the case may be, is a part of the member’s party duty and should excuse him from party obligations for those nights. The systematic and regular attendance at class by all students must be constantly stressed, and the party committee and the leader of the class must constantly fight against the tendency, which always grows up, to regard the study class as a series of lectures at which one can “drop in” whenever he feels like it. Good results can only be obtained when the class is an organised body and is regularly attended by the same students.

Methods of conducting classes

The methods of conducting the classes which have proved most successful from past experience can be roughly divided into two general methods. These methods may be modified and varied in many ways, according to local circumstances, experience and qualifications of the teacher, etc.

These two methods are:

1. The lecture-question method.

2. The method of reading from and discussing the text in the class.

The lecture-question method. This is the method most frequently employed by experienced teachers, and one which yields the most satisfactory results if qualified comrades can be found to conduct the class along this line. The use of this method presupposes that the teacher, who is himself thoroughly familiar with the subject matter of the text, possesses some ability and experience as a lecturer. It is not necessary, however, for him to be a professional. The average communist who has a firm grasp of his subject will find that with a little practice he can succeed in holding the attention of a class.

Under this method the teacher delivers a lecture for the period of about one hour on some phase of the general subject, dealt with in the text. In addition he requires the students to read, outside the class, in connection with his lecture, certain portions of the text and sometimes portions of other books which deal with the same subject. When the class comes together for the second time it is opened with a question period of about thirty minutes during which the lecturer quizzes the students on the subject matter of the previous week’s lecture and the reading in connection with it. It is best to have a short recess at the end of the question period in order to get a fresh start for the lecture. A lecture of about an hour then completes the evening’s work. Again the students are referred to sections of the text for reading in connection with the lecture. The same procedure is then followed at each successive meeting of the class until the end of the course.

When this method is employed it is not advisable to have indiscriminate discussion in the class, as this will almost invariably divert the attention of the class from the immediate subject at hand and destroy the possibility of consecutive instruction. For a teacher to conduct a class according to this method he must take it firmly in hand, establish his authority at the very beginning, and maintain it throughout the course. Nothing is more fatal to the success of such a class than for the opinion to grow up amongst some of the students that the teacher knows less then they do about the subject. For he will then be unable to maintain the proper discipline in the class and hold it to its course. Whenever a study class, organised for the purpose of consecutive study of a certain aspect of communist theory or tactics, begins to resolve itself into a group for general discussion or a debating society, its early demise can be confidently expected.

Reading and discussing the text. This method also works out very well, especially in elementary classes. In this method, as in all others, however, the first prerequisite is a class leader who takes a responsible attitude towards the work and who takes it upon himself to organise and lead the class and hold it down to the matter in hand. This class leader should by all means thoroughly study the text before the class commences and make himself master of it.

The class conducted according to this method proceeds by the class leader calling upon the students, one after another, to read a few sentences or a paragraph from the text. After each student finishes reading the part assigned to him, the leader asks the student who has read the passage to explain it in his own words. If he fails to bring out the meaning clearly or interprets the passage incorrectly, the question is directed to other students, the leader himself finally intervening to clarify the matter if necessary.

Proceeding along this line the class will cover a chapter or so of the text each evening. Before the reading commences each time, the leader should conduct a brief quiz of the class on the part of the text dealt with on the preceding evening in order to bring out the points clearly for the second time, refresh the memory of the students, and connect the preceding class with the one about to begin.

In the course of a few months, proceeding along this line, the class will get through the “ABC of Communism” and will have acquired a grasp of the fundamental theories of the movement. Moreover, if the class has been conducted successfully, if it has had the good fortune to have a leader that can inspire confidence and enthusiasm and who can hold it together as an organised body in spite of all difficulties, the students of the class, or at least a large part of them, will emerge from their first course of training with a strong will and spirit to acquire more knowledge and thereby equip themselves better to become worthy fighters in the cause of communism.

The success of the study class work is to a very large extent dependent upon organisation, leadership and class discipline. It should start on time and stop on time each evening. It must not accommodate itself to casual students or chronic latecomers. It should not degenerate into a mere discussion group over the general problems of the movement but must confine itself in a disciplined manner to the specific subjects dealt with in the course. It should be conducted in a businesslike fashion from start to finish, students being enrolled and the roll called each evening. Above all it should have a leader who, notwithstanding lack of previous experience, will take his task so seriously as to thoroughly master the subject himself. Then he will be able to establish sufficient authority in the class to lead it step by step to the end of the course.

Friday, January 01, 2021

*In Honor Of The Three L's-Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht-Our Anthem-"The Internationale"

On The 100th Anniversary Of Newly-Fledged German Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg And Karl Liebknecht-Oh, What Might Have Been-


By Frank Jackman

History in the conditional, what might have happened if this or that thing, event, person had swerved this much or that, is always a tricky proposition. Tricky as reflected in this piece’s commemorative headline. Rosa Luxemburg the acknowledged theoretical wizard of the German Social-Democratic Party, the numero uno party of the Second, Socialist International, which was the logical organization to initiate the socialist revolution before World War II and Karl Liebknecht, the hellfire and brimstone propagandist and public speaker of that same party were assassinated in separate locale on the orders of the then ruling self-same Social-Democratic Party. The chasm between the Social-Democratic leaders trying to save Germany for “Western Civilization” in the wake of the “uncivilized” socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 had grown that wide that it was as if they were on two different planets, and maybe they were.

(By the way I am almost embarrassed to mention the term “socialist revolution” these days when people, especially young people, would be clueless as to what I was talking about or would think that this concept was so hopelessly old-fashioned that it would meet the same blank stares. Let me assure you that back in the day, yes, that back in the day, many a youth had that very term on the tips of their tongues. Could palpably feel it in the air. Hell, just ask your parents, or grandparents.)

Okay here is the conditional and maybe think about it before you dismiss the idea out of hand if only because the whole scheme is very much in the conditional. Rosa and Karl, among others made almost every mistake in the book before and during the Spartacist uprising in some of the main German cities in late 1918 after the German defeat in the war. Their biggest mistake before the uprising was sticking with the Social Democrats, as a left wing, when that party had turned at best reformist and eminently not a vehicle for the socialist revolution, or even a half-assed democratic “revolution” which is what they got with the overthrow of the Kaiser. They broke too late, and subsequently too late from a slightly more left-wing Independent Socialist Party which had split from the S-D when that party became the leading war party in Germany for all intents and purposes and the working class was raising its collective head and asking why. 

The big mistake during the uprising was not taking enough protective cover, not keeping the leadership safe, keeping out of sight like Lenin had in Finland when things were dicey in 1917 Russia and fell easy prey to the Freikorps assassins. Here is the conditional, and as always it can be expanded to some nth degree if you let things get out of hand. What if, as in Russia, Rosa and Karl had broken from that rotten (for socialism) S-D organization and had a more firmly entrenched cadre with some experience in independent existence. What if the Spartacists had protected their acknowledged leaders better. There might have been a different trajectory for the aborted and failed German left-wing revolutionary opportunities over the next several years, there certainly would have been better leadership and perhaps, just perhaps the Nazi onslaught might have been stillborn, might have left Munich 1923 as their “heroic” and last moment.  


Instead we have a still sad 100th anniversary of the assassination of two great international socialist fighters who headed to the danger not away always worthy of a nod and me left having to face those blank stares who are looking for way forward but might as well be on a different planet-from me.  


Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of "The Internationale".

As is always appropriate on international working class holidays and days of remembrance here is the song most closely associated with that movement “The Internationale” in English, French and German. I will not vouch for the closeness of the translations but certainly of the spirit. Workers Of The World Unite!

The Internationale [variant words in square brackets]

Arise ye workers [starvelings] from your slumbers
Arise ye prisoners of want
For reason in revolt now thunders
And at last ends the age of cant.
Away with all your superstitions
Servile masses arise, arise
We'll change henceforth [forthwith] the old tradition [conditions]
And spurn the dust to win the prize.

So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race.
So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race.

No more deluded by reaction
On tyrants only we'll make war
The soldiers too will take strike action
They'll break ranks and fight no more
And if those cannibals keep trying
To sacrifice us to their pride
They soon shall hear the bullets flying
We'll shoot the generals on our own side.

No saviour from on high delivers
No faith have we in prince or peer
Our own right hand the chains must shiver
Chains of hatred, greed and fear
E'er the thieves will out with their booty [give up their booty]
And give to all a happier lot.
Each [those] at the forge must do their duty
And we'll strike while the iron is hot.




________________________________________

L'Internationale

Debout les damnés de la terre
Debout les forçats de la faim
La raison tonne en son cratère
C'est l'éruption de la fin
Du passe faisons table rase
Foules, esclaves, debout, debout
Le monde va changer de base
Nous ne sommes rien, soyons tout

C'est la lutte finale
Groupons-nous, et demain (bis)
L'Internationale
Sera le genre humain

Il n'est pas de sauveurs suprêmes
Ni Dieu, ni César, ni tribun
Producteurs, sauvons-nous nous-mêmes
Décrétons le salut commun
Pour que le voleur rende gorge
Pour tirer l'esprit du cachot
Soufflons nous-mêmes notre forge
Battons le fer quand il est chaud

L'état comprime et la loi triche
L'impôt saigne le malheureux
Nul devoir ne s'impose au riche
Le droit du pauvre est un mot creux
C'est assez, languir en tutelle
L'égalité veut d'autres lois
Pas de droits sans devoirs dit-elle
Egaux, pas de devoirs sans droits

Hideux dans leur apothéose
Les rois de la mine et du rail
Ont-ils jamais fait autre chose
Que dévaliser le travail
Dans les coffres-forts de la bande
Ce qu'il a crée s'est fondu
En décrétant qu'on le lui rende
Le peuple ne veut que son dû.

Les rois nous saoulaient de fumées
Paix entre nous, guerre aux tyrans
Appliquons la grève aux armées
Crosse en l'air, et rompons les rangs
S'ils s'obstinent, ces cannibales
A faire de nous des héros
Ils sauront bientôt que nos balles
Sont pour nos propres généraux

Ouvriers, paysans, nous sommes
Le grand parti des travailleurs
La terre n'appartient qu'aux hommes
L'oisif ira loger ailleurs
Combien, de nos chairs se repaissent
Mais si les corbeaux, les vautours
Un de ces matins disparaissent
Le soleil brillera toujours.


________________________________________

Die Internationale

Wacht auf, Verdammte dieser Erde,
die stets man noch zum Hungern zwingt!
Das Recht wie Glut im Kraterherde
nun mit Macht zum Durchbruch dringt.
Reinen Tisch macht mit dem Bedranger!
Heer der Sklaven, wache auf!
Ein nichts zu sein, tragt es nicht langer
Alles zu werden, stromt zuhauf!

Volker, hort die Signale!
Auf, zum letzten Gefecht!
Die Internationale
Erkampft das Menschenrecht

Es rettet uns kein hoh'res Wesen
kein Gott, kein Kaiser, noch Tribun
Uns aus dem Elend zu erlosen
konnen wir nur selber tun!
Leeres Wort: des armen Rechte,
Leeres Wort: des Reichen Pflicht!
Unmundigt nennt man uns Knechte,
duldet die Schmach langer nicht!

In Stadt und Land, ihr Arbeitsleute,
wir sind die starkste Partei'n
Die Mussigganger schiebt beiseite!
Diese Welt muss unser sein;
Unser Blut sei nicht mehr der Raben
und der machtigen Geier Frass!
Erst wenn wir sie vertrieben haben
dann scheint die Sonn' ohn' Unterlass!