Showing posts with label DEMOCRATIC POLITICS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DEMOCRATIC POLITICS. Show all posts

Monday, December 09, 2019

***Sagas Of The Irish-American Diaspora- Albany-Style- William Kennedy's "Very Old Bones"

***Sagas Of The Irish-American  Diaspora- Albany-Style- William Kennedy's "Very Old Bones"

Book Review

Very Old Bones, William Kennedy, Viking Press, New York, 1992

Recently, in reviewing an early William Kennedy Albany-cycle novel, “Ironweed” I mentioned that he was my kind of writer. I will let what I stated there stand on that score here. Here is what I said:

“William Kennedy is, at least in his Albany stories, my kind of writer. He writes about the trials and tribulations of the Irish diaspora as it penetrated the rough and tumble of American urban WASP-run society, for good or evil. I know these people, my people, their follies and foibles like the back of my hand. Check. Kennedy writes, as here with the main characters Fran Phelan and Helen Archer two down at the heels sorts, about that pervasive hold that Catholicism has even on its most debased sons and daughters, saint and sinner alike. I know those characteristics all too well. Check. He writes about that place in class society where the working class meets the lumpen-proletariat-the thieves, grifters, drifters and con men- the human dust. I know that place well, much better than I would ever let on. Check. He writes about the sorrows and dangers of the effects alcohol on working class families. I know that place too. Check. And so on. Oh, by the way, did I mention that he also, at some point, was an editor of some sort associated with the late Hunter S. Thompson down in Puerto Rico. I know that mad man’s work well. He remains something of a muse for me. Check.”

Although “Very Old Bones” is structurally part of Kennedy’s Albany-cycle of novels it is far more ambitious than the other novels in the cycle that I have read. Those previous efforts, led by the premier example, “Ironweed” set themselves the task of telling stories about particular characters in the Phelan clan and their neighbors in particular periods of the cycle that runs from approximately the 1880s to, as in the present novel, the late 1950s. Here we get a vast view of the clan, its trials and tribulations and its cursedness as a result of the insularity of the Irish diaspora, Albany style.

I am, frankly, ambitious about the success of this endeavor. While it is very good to have a summing up of the history of the Phelan clan, it struggle for "lace curtain" respectablity, and its remarkable stretch of characters from the cursed Malachi generation through to Fran (of “Ironweed”), and here his brother Peter as well, and on to Orton, the narrator’s generation (and Billy Phelan’s) there is almost too much of this and it gets in the way of the plot line here, basically the current survivors trying to cope with the traumas brought on by those previous generations. Conversely, I ran through the book at breakneck speed. Why? Change the names and a few of the incidentals, and a few f the specific pathologies, and this could have been the story of my Irish-derived family in that other diaspora enclave, Boston. Hence the ambiguity. Moreover, there is just a little too much of that “magical realism” in the plot that was all the rage in the 1990s in telling the sub-stories here and then expecting us the sober, no nonsense reader to suspend our disbelieve. Is this effort as good as "Ironweed"? No, that is the standard by which to judge a Kennedy work and still the number one contender from this reviewer's vantage point.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

In Honor Of The 100th Anniversary Of The Founding of The Communist International-From The Archives- *If Drafted I Will Not Run, If Elected I Will Not Serve- Revolutionaries and Running For Executive Offices Of The Capitalist State

Click on title to link to important theoretical article on the question of revolutionaries running for the executive offices of the capitalist state in "Spartacist- English Language Edition, Number 62, Spring 2009. (Yes, isn't it nice to transcend and go forward in time by the 'magic' of technology in the blogosphere.)


If drafted, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve- words attributed to William Tecumseh Sherman at the prospect of being nominated for American president in the late 19th century.

Well, the old soldier Billy Sherman has it right, if for different reasons from those of today 's revolutionaries. We want no part in administering the bourgeois state today and therefore, disrespectfully decline to run for its executive offices. However, to show that we are not anti-parliamentary abstentionists like many of our anarchist brethren we, in our role as 'tribunes of the people', will graciously accept any elected legislative posts that come our way-of course running on our program of a workers party fighting for a workers government.

Wait a minute, Markin, haven’t you gone out of your way in previous commentaries to argue that revolutionaries should run for executive office, while also taking the historic revolutionary socialist position of refusing to actually accept the office if elected? Umm......, well yes, and here the writer will have to eat humble pie and accept that the old historic position is indeed wrong and not just wrong on a tactical basis but on principal.

Let’s go into a little background here. As I have developed a socialist worldview I have attempted to ground that position with a sense of history. Part of that history included studying the lives of various revolutionary socialists here and elsewhere. One of the first that I came across was Eugene V. Debs, one of the key early leaders in the American socialist movement. Debs not only ran for president as a socialist in the historic four-way presidential fight of 1912 (you know, the one where Teddy Roosevelt ran as a Bull Moose) but also in 1920 from the Atlanta Penitentiary where he was spending a little time, at government expense, for opposition to American entry into the slaughter of World War I. That fighting stance exemplified for me an ideal way for socialists to get their propaganda out to a hostile world that might be a little less so when confronted during traditional election periods.

That position was fortified further for me by a look at the latter campaigns of the American Communist Party from the time that they placed William Z. Foster and Ben Gitlow on their presidential ticket in the 1920's. To speak nothing of later campaigns by Earl Browder in 1940 and Gus Hall more recently for that same party, as well. Moreover, when I first began sniffing around the Trotskyist movement in the early 1970’s I distinctly remember, as an act of defiance in breaking with the Democratic Party (I had after all, when all the dust was settled, supported Hubert Humphrey in 1968), voting for the Socialist Workers Party candidate in 1972 (and here memory fails for I am not sure whether it was Doug or Linda Jenness who was running for president that year but I believe that it was Linda- someone can correct me on that, please) Moreover, in the harsh reality of American politics since then and the harsher realities of socialist propaganda politics the question of the pitfalls of running for executive office seemed a little exotic, to say the least. In short, nothing really seemed to require that I seriously work through the issue.

Then, a few years ago, entered the International Communist League (ICL) and presumably others to upset the historic applecart. Apparently within that organization some qualms developed over the historic position mentioned above(a position that they themselves utilized back in the 1980’s running a candidate for Mayor of New York City). Researches by the ICL back to the early days of the Communist International concerning various nebulous formulations of the workers government slogan and some unfinished business concerning electoral platforms opened up this can of worms. When I first read of this dispute I dismissed it out of hand as a 'tempest in a teapot' rather than as a serious issue that needed a full airing today among small left-wing propaganda groups and labor militants trying to avoid the pitfalls of opportunism.

Now there are many ways to obtain political enlightenment in the world. One of the most important for me about the nature of the state came from being part one of that state’s armed bodies of men- a member of the American armed forces during the Vietnam War. On the present question my awakening was not nearly so dramatic but as I mentioned in a recent blog entitled "The ‘Woes’ of The British Labor Party" (see May 2008 archives) the defeat of “Red” Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London brought the issues home. The idea that a soft pink leftist, much less a hard Bolshevik would want to administer the bourgeois state for Her Majesty showed me graphically the absurdity of the old historic position. And Livingstone did not even bother with the formality of refusal but accepted that political responsibility, gladly, to boot. Reinforced by a little quick research on my part into the German Social Democratic and French and Italian Communist executive running of municipalities and states and things began to fall into place.

Sometimes old habits die hard though. I still have to think through how critical support to other leftist formations who do run for executive office with some supportable positions would work in connection with this new standard. My question: Are we just maintaining theoretical ‘purity’ by not personally sullying our hands administering the bourgeois state but are more than happy to let others, whom we give critical support to, do that dirty work? In any case I am ‘born again’ on the principal of executive office refusal now and have swore off that childhood dream of becoming president of the American imperial juggernaut- but, hey, how about being a commissar?

Friday, May 10, 2019


Click on title to link to Karl Marx's 1850, yes that is not a misprint the question has been with us for a long time, 1850 "Address Of The Central Committee Of The Communist League" which deals with the popular fronts of his day in the aftermath of the revolutions of 1848.



Radicals and revolutionaries, including Marxist revolutionaries, have been struggling with the implications of popular front politics at least since the European Revolutions of 1848. At that time, due more to the question of political immaturity and inexperience, left-wing working class militants and their allies tried to line up with, and in most cases in subordination to, their national bourgeoisies in the fights for the demands of the classic bourgeois revolutions. And for their troubles these same ‘allies’ suppressed these militants and their demands once the situation became too ‘hot’ and the various capitalist parties made their peace with the old regimes. One of the great lessons that Karl Marx (and his co-thinker Frederich Engels) derived from that turn of events was an understanding that an essential ingredient to successful socialist revolution was the need for independent working class organization and action and a political break with the capitalist parties.

Of course, as latter working class history has made painfully clear that seemingly elemental task has been easier said than done. Since Marx's time time endless numbers of ‘socialist’ politicians and ‘vanguard’ political organizations have broken their teeth on denying the truth of his assertions. One need only think of the classic Popular Fronts in Spain and France the 1930’s and Chile in the 1970’s created explicitly by leftwing forces to act as brakes on developing revolutionary situations to know that such a strategy means political death for the revolution and the physical destruction of revolutionary cadre for decades.

What gives? What do those historic events have to do with today’s opposition to the war in Iraq? Simple, while not all popular fronts are created equal they all serve the same ends. As a primer one should know that the popular front is a left-wing political strategy where its advocates call on all ‘progressive’ forces and people of ‘good will’ including capitalist parties and politicians to unite around some ‘good old cause’. Well, what is wrong with that? On democratic issues such as the right to vote or opposition to government snooping and in political defense cases not a thing. Except we call that a united front. Why? Because depending on the case the fight is a limited one, the time is short and there is no political reason not to gain the support of as many people as possible. No, the popular front is a very different animal. It is a conscious strategy on the part of some left-wing forces to limit the aims of any particular fight to those acceptable to the capitalist parties.

For those who do not believe the import of such distinctions let me give one example. Take a simple slogan like –STOP THE WAR. In the build-up to the Iraq War that did not have a bad sound, if not particularly poliitcally sophisticated. Big burly former football linebackers and pacifist little old ladies in tennis shoes could agree to that. However, until early 2006 this was still the central slogan of the anti-war movement. The more appropriate IMMEDIATE, UNCONDITIONAL WITHDRAWAL OF ALL UNITED STATES AND ALLIED TROOPS FROM IRAQ did not get official sanction until that time. Why? Because those big burly football players and gentile old ladies did not want to go that far? Hell, no. The real reason was no ‘respectable’ capitalist politician, except maybe Congressman Kucinich on a good day, was making that call. And that is the rub. The case of the various umbrella anti-war coalitions such as the ANSWER Coalition and United For Peace and Justice here in America (and elsewhere as this is decidedly an international phenomena) are classic examples of a non-parliamentary popular front. Any thoughtful militant who wonders why the anti-war movement here is spinning its wheels can look to that conscious strategy on the part of the current anti-war leaderships as the root cause of the dilemma.

I have noted above, at least twice, the fact that the popular front strategy is a conscious one on the part of those ‘progressives’ who pursue it. And for those who do not want to make a revolution or are just serious about 'pressure' politics on the face of it that policy makes sense. The capitalist parties and their politicians have no need, except as electoral cannon fodder, to seek an on-going bloc with non-parliamentary leftwing forces. One should note that it has only been this year (2007) that even minor league Democratic politicians have gotten on the platforms at anti-war events. No, this is strictly a strategy pursued by 'get rich quick' artists of the left who pursue this course in order to be at one with the ‘masses’ or not get ‘isolated’ from the political consciousness of the masses. That at the end of the day the wily (and in some case not so wily, take John Kerry in 2004, for example) capitalist politicians reap the rewards of this political treachery seems not to have occurred to these same artists. The next battleground on the fight against the popular front will be on the upcoming war budget. It will not be pretty. However, those are the central slogans for the immediate future. You will definitely see the limits of popular front politics on that one. DOWN WITH THE WAR, DOWN WITH THE WAR BUDGET, BREAK WITH THE CAPITALIST PARTIES.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

On the 16th Anniversary Of The Iraq War-From The Archives- Will They Be Throwing Boots At Obama Before It Is All Over?


Listen; don’t let the extra-parliamentary leftist political tilt of this space fool you. I enjoyed kicking one George W. Bush, at one time the 43rd President of the United States, and his neo-con entourage, especially old Rummie, around when they were riding high in the good old days of 2001 and 2002 while many people were running for cover (and supporting their Afghan and Iraq war policies). This latest ‘boot’ incident in Baghdad only adds fuel to the fire. Let’s face it though, after eight years of giving everyone in the world hell, friend and foe alike, if the worst thing that happened to Bush was a couple of boots thrown at him he got off extremely easy.

However, just for good measure, now that the “Liberator” is down for the count I am more than glad to kick him one more time with my Size 11 boot. And add a little rabbit punch thrown in for good measure. Hunter S. Thompson, a.k.a Doctor “Gonzo”, was, after all, always something of a muse for me despite our political differences and he knew exactly how you had to treat these ‘dogs’. I wonder what the good 'Doc' would make of this latest ‘event’. Damn, I still miss him. That savage wit of his was what was missing from this year’s political sideshow. But we move on.

Karl Marx, in one of his earlier journalistic efforts covering the ‘exploits’ of Napoleon III of France, noted that historic events usually played themselves out as tragedy then as farce. Frankly, the latest wanderings of George Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan can only be deemed as bizarre, if nevertheless providing us with some much needed comic relief. Bush and his addle-brained administration have won the title as the worst in recorded memory hands down, even by the none too high modern bourgeois standards. With its foreign adventures and domestic misadventures I, moreover, feel compelled to argue that he has won the prize as the worst president ever. Earlier in the year I believed that he was merely in a neck-and- neck race with another accidental president, the obscure Millard Fillmore. But note this well, Fillmore at least went on to a ‘worthy’ career as the presidential candidate of the self-described “Know Nothing” party in 1856. Mr. Bush has no such cover.

So much, however, for award ceremonies. That is old news. Let's get back to serious business. What is really at issue in this latest Bush incident is why it was necessary for some local obscure Iraqi journalist in Baghdad in the year 2008 to have the ‘moxie’ to put Bush in his place. Where were the “Tims” of all those high- priced Washington ‘hot shot’ media reporters- WHEN IT COUNTED. More importantly, what will these same media mavens do when the new security arrangements around the Obama White House and other presidential environs dictate reporters running around in bare feet in order to attend presidential press conferences?

Moreover, and here we get back to that leftist political tilt of this space mentioned at the beginning. When, as I am projecting, one Barack Obama, soon to be the 44th President of the United States, gets bogged down in HIS war in Afghanistan who will be ‘tossing’ boots at him. Probably some irate Afghani journalist in Kabul. I will make a six-two-and even bet that it will not be some Washington-based journalist. But, I will not rely solely on my wager. I will, to be on the safe side, keep that other Size 11 boot handy. And to really be on the safe side I start right now to call - Obama, Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal of U.S. Troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

On the 16th Anniversary Of The Iraq War-From The Archives- The Dog Days Of The American Anti-war Opposition


Here is an unfair question. Who, recently, has been more committed to seeking the withdrawal of American and Allied troops from Iraq- the American anti-war movement or Sheik Sadr’s Madhi Army and his political apparatus in the mosques of Sadr City? Answer: These days it is clearly Sadr and his cohorts. Not only have Sadr’s forces borne the brunt of fighting against American and Iraqi governmental forces this spring but every Friday over the past several weeks after prayers they have gone into the streets to call for the American withdrawal. On the American anti-war side there has been the infinitely harder task of..... breathlessly waiting for the other shoe to drop- the election of non-Bush, presumably Obama, to get America out of its quagmire one way or another.

Yes, I know that this is an unfair comparison but hear me out on this. This street fight that the two supposedly anti-war democrats Obama and Clinton have just completed has taken all the political air out of domestic politics. Such silly things as fighting to deny war funding have taken a back seat to the pressing questions of Obama’s religious affiliation and , my favorite, what does Hillary want. Moreover, I have noted more than once that, historically, the traditional pro-Democratic outfits like United For Peace and Justice and 'progressive' coalitions of that ilk have taken cover when these democratic parliamentary campaigns are in full swing.

Goodness gracious, the Quakers, pacifists and home grown professional radical leftists of every persuasion would not want to spoil the chances of the liberal parliamentary types (read today-Democrats) by filling the air with people and chants denouncing these same do-nothings. Moreover, the much ballyhooed mid-term Congressional elections of 2006 which were suppose to usher in the Golden Age after the turnover to Democratic majorities proves my case rather than theirs. We should now instead be screaming bloody murder in the streets to get the troops withdrawn-over the political corpses of these same Democrats .

When I made the comparison between the activity of Sadr concerning American troops and the American anti-war movement I was, obviously, overdrawing the picture in his favor. Sadr and his pals have their own axes to grind and are responding to their fraction of the Shia base, especially on the national sovereignty question. With the very real likelihood that American bases will be in Iraq for that McCain- predicted 100 years there is no political capital to be lost by leading Iraqi opposition to that move and to opposing the desires of the other Shia faction led by the Malaki government.

Moreover, Sadr's ‘opposition’ to American imperialism has been spotty, at best- he brokered the stand down of the Mahdi Army that has permitted the Iraqi government (and the Americans) some breathing room in order to stabilize their regime (or, at least, stem the daily slaughter on the streets of Iraq). But, even more noteworthy than that is that while Sadr has been our objective ‘ally’, as they say, remember in the final analysis his brand of Islamic fundamentalism is committed to imposing some form of Islamic Republic on Iraq that is counterpoised to our fights. So, when I headlined this commentary 'in the dog days' I was not just talking out of my hat but also expressing our real quandary- except I am not in any quandary about the main task that we still face- Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal From Iraq and Afghanistan of American/ Allied troops and their mercenaries!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Channeling Bobby Kennedy 2019 -From The Archives -On Bobby Kennedy- A Personal View From The Left On The Anniversary Of His Assassination

On Bobby Kennedy- A Personal  View From The Left On The  Anniversary Of His Assassination


Every political movement has its ‘high holy days’, its icons and its days of remembrance. We on the international labor left have our labor day-May Day. We pay tribute each January to the work of Vladimir Lenin, Rosa Luxembourg and Karl Liebknecht. Some of us remember the assassination by Stalin of the revolutionary Leon Trotsky in Mexico in 1940. Others celebrate November 7th the anniversary of the Russian revolution in 1917. The Democratic Party in the United States is no exception to those symbols of group solidarity. They have their Jefferson- Jackson dinners, their nomination conventions and their remembrances of their modern political heroes like Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman and so forth.

It is somewhat ironic that at just the time that when presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, a recent addition to the Democratic Party pantheon of heroes and heir apparent to the Kennedy legacy, is claiming the nomination of the party that the 40th Anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy during the presidential campaign of 1968 is being remembered in some quarters. That event holds much meaning in the political evolution of this writer. The Robert Kennedy campaign of 1968 was the last time that this writer had a serious desire to fight solely on the parliamentary road for political change. So today he too has some remembrances, as well.

In the course of this year I have read (or rather re-read) and reviewed elsewhere the 1960, 1968 and 1972 presidential campaign writings of Norman Mailer and those of 1972 by Hunter Thompson. I have, additionally, written reminiscences of my own personal political evolution that point to 1968 as a watershed year personally and politically for those of us of the Generation of ’68. Just a quick thumbnail sketch of my own political trajectory that year will give the reader a flavor of the times.

I committed myself early (sometime in late 1967) to the reelection of Lyndon Johnson, as much as I hated his Vietnam War policy. Why? One Richard M. Nixon. I did not give Eugene McCarthy’s insurgent campaign even a sniff, although I agreed with his anti-war stance. Why? He could not beat one Richard M. Nixon. When Booby jumped into the race and days later Johnson announced that he was not going to run again in I was there the next day. I was a senior in college at the time but I believe I spent hundreds of hours that spring working the campaign either out of Boston, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. Why? Well, you can guess the obvious by now. He COULD beat one Richard M. Nixon.

It was more than that though, and I will mention more on that below. I took, as many did, his murder hard. It is rather facile now to say that something of my youth, and that of others who I have talked to recently about this event, got left behind with his murder but there you have it. However, to show you the kind of political year that it was for me about a week after his death I was in the Hubert Humphrey campaign office in Boston. Why? You know why by now. And for those who don’t it had one name- Richard M. Nixon.

But let us get back to that other, more virtuous, political motive for supporting Bobby Kennedy. It was always, in those days, complicated coming from Massachusetts to separate out the whirlwind effect that the Kennedy family had on us, especially on ‘shanty’ Irish families. On the one hand we wished one of our own well, especially against the WASPs, on the other there was always that innate bitterness (jealousy, if you will) that it was not we who were the ones that were getting ahead. If there is any Irish in your family you know what I am talking about.

To be sure, as a fourteen year old I walked the neighborhood for John Kennedy in 1960 but as I have mentioned elsewhere that was a pro forma thing. Part of the ritual of entry into presidential politics. The Bobby thing was from the heart. Why? It is hard to explain but there was something about the deeply felt sense of Irish fatalism that he projected, especially after the death of his brother, that attracted me to him. But also the ruthless side where he was willing to cut Mayor Daly and every politician like him down or pat them on the back and more, if necessary, to get a little rough justice in the world. In those days I held those qualities, especially in tandem, in high esteem. Hell, I still do, if on a narrower basis.

This next comment will I hope put the whole thing in a nutshell. Recently I was listening to a program commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Robert Kennedy’s assassination on National Public Radio where one of the guests was the journalist and close Kennedy friend Pete Hamill. Hamill, who was in the Los Angeles hotel celebrating the decisive California primary victory when the assassination took place, mentioned that a number of people closely associated with Kennedy at that time saw history passing through their hands in a flash. By that they meant, sincerely I am sure, that the last best change to beat Nixon and hold off the "Night of the Long Knives" had passed.

Well, if nothing else they were right in one sense and here is where one including this writer, as politically distance from Kennedy’s party as I am today, could appreciate the political wisdom of Robert Kennedy. In his incisive way Kennedy cut to the chase and through all the political baloney when he said that Richard Nixon represented the dark side of the American spirit. True words, I would only add these words-the dark spirit that the world has rightly come to fear and loathe. Forty years later and one hundred years politically wiser I can still say though - Bobby Kennedy, oh what might have been.

The Fire This Time-The Cold Civil War Cometh-Who Will Go Down In The Mud (And Win) Against The Trump Machine-Channeling Bobby Kennedy, 1968-The Times Call For A Street Fighter-Bernie Sanders’ Time Has Come        

By Frank Jackman

Last year well before the presidential candidates as least publicly started putting their eggs in their respective baskets I made a big deal, a big splash out of commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, our beloved Bobby who I have shed more than one cyber-tear over just saying his name (and some misty moments off computer). Like many past events in this publication that death required some commentary as a watershed moment not just for me personally but as a point where things could have gone the other way in a perhaps dramatic fashion. So beyond a tear for my (and Bobby’s) youthful idealism gone awry it was also a “what might have been” moment. History in the conditional is always problematic but there you have it.  

A great part of why I, a senior in college who had basically completed his course work, worked like seven dervishes as a youth organizer all along the Eastern part of the country for Bobby was that I feared for the fate of the country if one Richard Milhous Nixon had been elected POTUS (Twitter speak). That prospect in the wake of the disastrous Goldwater campaign in 1964 against Lyndon Baines Johnson which had opened the floodgates to get the Republican back somewhere off the edge of the cliff made Nixon and his henchmen the “chosen” choice early on. As it turned out my “prophecy” turned out to be correct as Nixon’s presidency brought us to the brink of the breakdown of republican rule (small “r” let’s be clear).         
Bobby Kennedy’s assassination and the subsequent Nixon victory over Humbert H. Humphrey also had personal consequences since I had projected, not without reason, that if Bobby had gone on to be nominated by the Democrats (which seemed more certain after the fateful California primary victory over tough opponent Senator Eugene McCarthy, the Irish poet-politician) and finished off Nixon’s so crooked he needed a corkscrew for his valet to fit him into his pants every morning I would be in line for a political job most likely in Washington which would have gone a long way toward my childhood dream of being a political make and shaker in the traditional sense. Without a doubt part of that whirling dervish Spring of 1968 was the threat of the draft hanging over my head without some kind of political pull. (I have come to realize through many, many conversations with the male segment of my “Generation of ‘68” that every guy had that Vietnam War decision with no good choices hanging over his head one way or another).

The lasting memory though was of fear for the fate of the country for a man who truly believed in a modern-day version of the “divine right of kings,” that he was above the law. You can see where this is leading. As I have written and others like my old friend Seth Garth from my growing up Acre neighborhood in North Adamsville I was drafted, was trained as an 11 Bravo, an infantryman, at a time when the only place that skill was needed just then was in Vietnam. After much anguish and confusion, I would refuse the orders to go and wound up in an Army stockade and a long legal battle to get my freedom. The long and short of that experience was that my personal political perspective changed from concern over becoming a maker and shaker to being concerned more about issues like war and peace, social justice and being a thorn in the side of whatever government was in power. From the outside. I have kept that perspective for the past fifty years being involved in many issue campaigns, some successful others like the struggle against the endless wars and bloated military budgets not so.       

Back to Bobby Kennedy. Everybody knows what trouble, serious trouble, what I have called in the title to this piece and elsewhere for the past few years “the cold civil war” we are in now (this predated the Trump presidency which has only put the push toward hot civil war on steroids). Now when another POTUS, Donald J. Trump, really believes in the modern-day version of the “divine right of kings” and has upped the ante some old-time feelings have reemerged. In other words, conditions (although I would not have called it cold civil war then) looked very much like what drove me to “seek a newer world” Bobby Kennedy’s camp.
Naturally, or maybe not so naturally, but out of necessity that means at this time “stooping” (and I used that expression in a jovial way) to get involved in presidential politics, to get “down in the mud,” to join what will be come 2020 an old-fashioned take no prisoners “street fight.” To be part of what was called in the early stages of Senator McCarthy’s seemingly quixotic challenge to a sitting president a “children’s crusade.” To support someone who can speak to the better angels of our natures and WIN. That candidate for many reasons, but mainly because he has been down in the mud many times and can keep pace with the treacherous stuff that will come out of the Trump campaign is Bernie Sanders.       

Bernie is no Bobby from looks to style. Also as far as I know he never had nor now has that ruthlessness Bobby had combined with that that “seek a newer world” drive which I have always loved in a politician (and with Jack and Bobby Irish politicians, those who wrote the book on ruthlessness and vision). But Bernie has the kids eating out of his hand and that is exactly what we need right now. So for better or worse I am with Bernie, willing to work like seven dervishes to get him over the finish line. Channeling Bobby Kennedy every misty-eyed moment.        

Monday, June 04, 2018

On The 50th Anniversary Of The Death Of Robert F. Kennedy-November 22, 1963-Where Were You?

This is another one of those questions that I have been periodically answering from my Class of 1964 high school class committee.

Today's Question: How did you react to the John F. Kennedy assassination?

Well you knew this question was coming at some point. Some events form the signpost for every generation. For our parents it was the Great Depression and World War II. For today’s kids it is 9/11 and the ‘war against terrorism’. For us it was Sputnik and the Kennedy assassination.

Usually, when discussing these milestone events the question asked centers on where you were or what you were doing on that fateful day. I do not need to ask that question here. I know where you were, at least most of you. Unless you were sick, playing hooky or on a field trip you were sitting in some dank classroom as the Principal, Mr. Walsh, came over the P.A. system to announce the news of the shooting of President Kennedy. What I am interested in, if you want to answer this question, is not what your current take is on that event, whether you were a Kennedy partisan or not, but how you reacted at the time. Here is the story of my reaction.

In the fall of 1960, for most of us our first year at North, a new wind was blowing over the political landscape with the Kennedy nomination and later his election victory over Richard Nixon. If you want the feel of that same wind pay attention to the breezes that I sense coming from today’s youth. Maybe that wind grabbed you in 1960. It did me. Although some people that I have met and worked with over the years swear that I was born a ‘political junkie’ the truth is that 1960 marked my political coming of age.

One of my forms of ‘fun’ as a kid was to write little ‘essays’ on political questions. You know, like-Should Red China (remember that term) be admitted into the United Nations? Or, are computers going to replace workers and create high unemployment? (I swear that I wrote stuff like that. I do not have that good an imagination to make this up. It also might explain one part of a very troubled childhood)

In any case, I kept these little ‘pearls of wisdom’ in a little chapbook. Within a couple of days after the Kennedy assassination I threw them all away, swearing off politics forever. Well, I did not hold to that promise. I have also moved away from that youthful admiration for JFK (although I will always hold a little spot open for brother Robert-oh, what might have been?) but I can still hear the clang as I threw those papers in the trash barrel.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

*Hollywood's Frost/Nixon Watergate Interviews- Parental Guidance Still Advised

Hollywood's Frost/Nixon Watergate Interviews- Parental Guidance Still Advised

Zack James’ comment June, 2017:
You know it is in a way too bad that “Doctor Gonzo”-Hunter S Thompson, the late legendary journalist who broke the back, hell broke the neck, legs, arms of so-called objective journalism in a drug-blazed frenzy back in the 1970s when he “walked with the king”’ is not with us in these times. In the times of this 50th anniversary commemoration of the Summer of Love, 1967 which he worked the edges of while he was doing research (live and in your face research by the way) on the notorious West Coast-based Hell’s Angels. His “hook” through Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters down in Kesey’s place in La Honda where many an “acid test” took place and where for a time the Angels, Hunter in tow, were welcomed. He had been there in the high tide, when it looked like we had the night-takers on the run and later as well when he saw the ebb tide of the 1960s coming a year or so later although that did not stop him from developing the quintessential “gonzo” journalism fine-tuned with plenty of dope for which he would become famous before the end, before he took his aging life and left Johnny Depp and company to fling his ashes over this good green planet. He would have “dug” the exhibition, maybe smoked a joint for old times’ sake (oh no, no that is not done in proper society) at the de Young Museum at the Golden Gate Park highlighting the events of the period showing until August 20th of this year.   

Better yet he would have had this Trump thug bizarre weirdness wrapped up and bleeding from all pores just like he regaled us with the tales from the White House bunker back in the days when Trump’s kindred one Richard Milhous Nixon, President of the United States and common criminal was running the same low rent trip before he was run out of town by his own like some rabid rat. But perhaps the road to truth these days, in the days of “alternate facts” and assorted other bullshit    would have been bumpier than in those more “civilized” times when simple burglaries and silly tape-recorders ruled the roost. Hunter did not make the Nixon “hit list” (to his everlasting regret for which he could hardly hold his head up in public) but these days he surely would find himself in the top echelon. Maybe too though with these thugs he might have found himself in some back alley bleeding from all pores. Hunter Thompson wherever you are –help. Selah. Enough said-for now  

DVD Review

Frost/Nixon, starring Frank Langella as Richard Nixon and Michael Sheen as David Frost, Universal productions, 2008

Markin comment: after viewing the Hollywood Ron Howard production of "Frost/Nixon" I have decided to stick with my review of the original truly scary interviews. With the addition of kudos for Frank Langella's performance as Nixon and a nod for the good sense of dramatic timing for a fairly mundane subject I will stand by the comments there.

"*The Original Frost/Nixon Watergate Interviews- Parental Guidance Advised

Frost/Nixon: The Original Watergate Interview, David Frost, Richard Milhous Nixon, 1977

Apparently some things will not remain in the bottle. That appears to be the case with one Richard Milhous Nixon, one time President of the United States, certified demon and off-handedly a common criminal. Just when you though it was safe to go outdoors to get a little fresh air here he rises again to scare the bejesus out of another generation of idealistic young people and send his old time political opponents, including this reviewer, screaming in the night. What has brought on the fear?

Well, for one the recent notoriety around the movie "Frost/Nixon", the "story" behind the celebrated attempt by Nixon to `help' rewrite the second draft of history on his presidency and for Frost to leap-frog to the front of the journalist pantheon. That is what I thought I had bargained for when I ordered up what I assumed was a copy of the movie. What I got was far, far worst, a copy of the original Watergate segments of the original Frost/Nixon television interviews from 1977. I will, eventually, after my pulse returns to normal, get a copy of the movie and review that in this space but for now I will make a few comments on this little documentary gem.

As fate would have it I have recently been reading (or rather re-re-reading) "Dr. Gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson's compilation volume entitled "The Great Shark Hunt". Included in the selections were a series of articles that Thompson did for "Rolling Stone" magazine from his "mythical" National Affairs Desk at the time of the Nixon-era Watergate hearings in 1974. Thompson, not afraid to deride Nixon when he was riding high was more than willing to skewer him on his way down. To give a flavor of the times, of Thompson's appreciation of what the name Nixon meant to our generation and the importance of exposing that little crook to the clear light of day (something that, unfortunately, never really happened as he ran down some rat hole) I am reposting the concluding paragraph from a review I did of his "Songs Of The Doomed" in 2006:

"As a member of the generation of 1968 I would note that this was a period of particular importance which won Hunter his spurs as a journalist. Hunter, like many of us, cut his political teeth on one Richard Milhous Nixon, at one time President of the United States and all- around political chameleon. Thompson went way out of his way, and with pleasure, skewering that man when he was riding high. He was moreover just as happy to kick him when he was down, just for good measure. Nixon represented the `dark side' of the American spirit- the side that appears today as the bully boy of the world and as craven brute. If for nothing else Brother Thompson deserves a place in the pantheon of journalistic heroes for this exercise in elementary political hygiene. Anyone who wants to rehabilitate THAT man before history please consult Thompson's work. Hunter, I hope you find the Brown Buffalo wherever you are. Read this book. Read all his books."

And that last sentence kind of says it all. Probably from the minute that he resigned in disgrace in August 1974 Nixon began his little campaign to "rehabilitate" himself and move up in the presidential pecking order from dead last to at least beat the likes of James Buchanan and Millard Fillmore. He should not have bothered. His grilling by the well-prepared Frost (who had his own personal agenda in getting involved in this project) was as full of self-justifications, obfuscations, down right balderdash and melodramatic nonsense as one could take in an hour and one half presentation.

Even three years later he still didn't get it. The basic premise that Nixon and his staff worked under while president was that of the "divine right of kings" a theory discredited a couple of centuries ago. But why go on. Whether you want to view this little film as horror, humor or hubris do not, and I repeat do not, do it while you are depressed about the state of the world. As noted above- Be forewarned this film is not for the faint-hearted. Parental Guidance is very definitely suggested for all concerned."

Monday, July 25, 2016

*The Original Frost/Nixon Watergate Interviews- Parental Guidance Advised

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip One Of The "Frost/Nixon Interviews" of 1977. You Can Pick Up Links To Other Parts Of The Interviews There.

Frost/Nixon: The Original Watergate Interview, David Frost, Richard Milhous Nixon, 1977

Apparently some things will not remain in the bottle. That appears to be the case with one Richard Milhous Nixon, one time President of the United States, certified demon and off-handedly a common criminal. Just when you though it was safe to go outdoors to get a little fresh air here he rises again to scare the bejesus out of another generation of idealistic young people and send his old time political opponents, including this reviewer, screaming in the night. What has brought on the fear?

Well, for one the recent notoriety around the movie "Frost/Nixon", the "story" behind the celebrated attempt by Nixon to `help' rewrite the second draft of history on his presidency and for Frost to leap-frog to the front of the journalist pantheon. That is what I thought I had bargained for when I ordered up what I assumed was a copy of the movie. What I got was far, far worst, a copy of the original Watergate segments of the original Frost/Nixon television interviews from 1977. I will, eventually, after my pulse returns to normal, get a copy of the movie and review that in this space but for now I will make a few comments on this little documentary gem.

As fate would have it I have recently been reading (or rather re-re-reading) "Dr. Gonzo" journalist Hunter S. Thompson's compilation volume entitled "The Great Shark Hunt". Included in the selections were a series of articles that Thompson did for "Rolling Stone" magazine from his "mythical" National Affairs Desk at the time of the Nixon-era Watergate hearings in 1974. Thompson, not afraid to deride Nixon when he was riding high was more than willing to skewer him on his way down. To give a flavor of the times, of Thompson's appreciation of what the name Nixon meant to our generation and the importance of exposing that little crook to the clear light of day (something that, unfortunately, never really happened as he ran down some rat hole) I am reposting the concluding paragraph from a review I did of his "Songs Of The Doomed" in 2006:

"As a member of the generation of 1968 I would note that this was a period of particular importance which won Hunter his spurs as a journalist. Hunter, like many of us, cut his political teeth on one Richard Milhous Nixon, at one time President of the United States and all- around political chameleon. Thompson went way out of his way, and with pleasure, skewering that man when he was riding high. He was moreover just as happy to kick him when he was down, just for good measure. Nixon represented the `dark side' of the American spirit- the side that appears today as the bully boy of the world and as craven brute. If for nothing else Brother Thompson deserves a place in the pantheon of journalistic heroes for this exercise in elementary political hygiene. Anyone who wants to rehabilitate THAT man before history please consult Thompson's work. Hunter, I hope you find the Brown Buffalo wherever you are. Read this book. Read all his books."

And that last sentence kind of says it all. Probably from the minute that he resigned in disgrace in August 1974 Nixon began his little campaign to "rehabilitate" himself and move up in the presidential pecking order from dead last to at least beat the likes of James Buchanan and Millard Fillmore. He should not have bothered. His grilling by the well-prepared Frost (who had his own personal agenda in getting involved in this project) was as full of self-justifications, obfuscations, down right balderdash and melodramatic nonsense as one could take in an hour and one half presentation.

Even three years later he still didn't get it. The basic premise that Nixon and his staff worked under while president was that of the "divine right of kings" a theory discredited a couple of centuries ago. But why go on. Whether you want to view this little film as horror, humor or hubris do not, and I repeat do not, do it while you are depressed about the state of the world. As noted above- Be forewarned this film is not for the faint-hearted. Parental Guidance is very definitely suggested for all concerned.

Friday, July 15, 2016

*Political Symbolism In The French Revolution- Professor Lynn Hunt's View

Click On Title To Link To Wikipedia's Entry For The French Revolution. As Always With This Source It Is A Good Place To Start In Order To Look Elsewhere For More Specific, And Sometimes More Reliable, Information.

Book Review

Politics, Culture, and Class in the French Revolution, Lynn Hunt, University Of California Press, Berkeley, 1984

This year marks the commemoration of the 220th Anniversary of the great French Revolution. Democrats, socialists, communists and others rightly celebrate that event as a milestone in humankind’s history. Whether there are still lessons to be learned from the experience is an open question that political activists can fight over. None, however, can deny its grandeur. Well, no one except those closet, and not so closet, modern day royalists, and their epigones that screech in horror and grasp for their necks every time the 14th of July comes around. They have closed the door of history behind them. Won’t they be surprised then the next time there is a surge of progressive human activity?


All great revolutions, like the French revolution under review here, are capable, especially when they are long over, of being analyzed from many prospectives. Moreover, official and academic historian have no other reason to exist except to keep revising the effects that such revolutions have had on future historical developments. Left wing political activists, on the other hand, try to draw the lessons of those earlier plebeian struggles in order to better understand the tasks ahead. As part of that understanding it is necessary to look at previous revolutions not only from the position of how it effected the plebes but to look at from the position of those who do not see the action of the plebeian masses as decisive, at least for the French Revolution.

Professor Lynn Hunt in the book under review, “Politics, Culture and Class In the French Revolution” has carved out a niche for herself exploring the morals, mores and customs of the insurgent revolutionary forces as they tried to legitimize their seizure of power. Moreover, she has done some extensive work culling through the statistics and other documentary evidence to see who, according to her lights, the main beneficiaries of the revolutionary struggle were. For those partisans of later social movements and revolutionary movements the questions posed by Professor Hunt’s study about the symbols and organization of power are a welcome addition.

If one, like this reviewer, spends his or her time looking at the base of society (here the urban sans culottes, the landless peasants and displaced village artisans)to see how those forces were brought to political life, organized, made politically effective (if only for a time, as noted above, before they as individuals like society in general also run out of revolutionary steam) and how they put pressure on their leaderships and how those leaderships responded to those pressures then one downplays the other social forces that are in play in a revolutionary period. Great revolutions, however, create all kinds of turmoil in layers of society that previously were dormant or were in control, although shakily. In that regard, virtually a sure sign that a pre-revolutionary situation exists is when a portion of the old ruling elite (or their agents) begins to make revolutionary noises. That is the value of Professor Hunt’s study.

All political/social movements have their rituals, symbols and customs. Of special note here is Professor Hunt’s focus on the work of the politician/artist David in creating many of the visual ‘myths’ of the revolution. The book is loaded with many other interesting cultural tidbits, as well. For those of us who cherish the memory of the French Revolution as the forerunner of greater social movements this little work is a welcome addition. For those unfamiliar with the inner workings of the French revolution a more generalized study is warranted before you tackle this work. Then come back here and appreciate this more intriguing and specialized study.

"La Marseillaise"

Allons enfants de la patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé
Entendez vous dans les campagnes,
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans nos bras
Egorger nos fils, nos compagnes!


Aux armes, citoyens!
Formez vos bataillons!
Marchons! Marchons!
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!

Amour sacré de la patrie,
Conduis, soutiens nos bras vengeurs!
Liberté, Liberté cherie,
Combats avec tes defenseurs!
Sous nos drapeaux, que la victoire
Accoure à tes males accents!
Que tes ennemis expirants
Voient ton triomphe et notre gloire!


Nous entrerons dans la carrière
Quand nos ainés n'y seront plus;
Nous y trouverons leur poussière
Et la trace de leurs vertus.
Bien moins jaloux de leur survivre
Que de partager leur cercueil,
Nous aurons le sublime orgueil
De les venger ou de les suivre!


Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

*Looking For America- De Tocqueville's 19th Century America- A Guest Book Review

Click on the headline to link to a "Sunday Boston Globe" article, dated April 18, 2010 reviewing Leo Damrosch's "Tocqueville's Discovery Of America".

Markin comment:

When I was nothing but a run-of the mill Americans For Democratic Action (ADA) left liberal youth in the 1960s I spent many an hour reading and figuring out ways to use deTocqueville’s “Democracy In America” in arguments with Goldwater Republican-types. The core of the argument centered on the collective plebeian experiences that de Tocqueville noted in his travels in the 1830s as quintessentially American and that I was foolish enough to believe still were operative in post -World War II America. Silly me.

Now, today, I do not cast aspirations on deTocqueville’s work, such as it was, because he was an outsider, a tourist really. Some of the most insightful and trenchant commentaries have come from such sources. But, rather, because whatever limited observations he made back in the day are indeed pretty well worn out by now. Thus, I become infuriated at later day devotees, liberal and conservative alike, who drag out his name and works, seemingly at every opportunity, to prove that American is the best thing since the invention of the wheel, or as Lincoln said “the last best hope of mankind”.

I will say two words that will put paid to that notion. Iraq and Afghanistan. If you need more I will be happy to oblige. Notwithstanding that if you have not read de Tocqueville and are looking for a different look at this tired old subject this does not seem to be a bad place to look. But, please, read something by Karl Marx to get the real ‘skinny’ on what modern American society is really all about.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The “Heroic” Age of the Democratic Party-Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party

Book Review

Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party, Robert V. Remini, W.W. Norton and Co., New York, 1951

For those political propagandists, including this writer, interested in an independent working-class political realignment in American politics an important point to understand is the way that political realignments are created- and taken advantage of. Thus a little look at history, in this case the history of American parliamentary politics, is called for. For openers a study will show that such dramatic shifts do not occur often so that we had better be prepared when and if it happens. Elsewhere in this space I have commented on the creation of the Republican Party from the remnants of the Whigs, Free Soilers and other forces just prior to the Civil War. (See Review of Free Soil, Free Labor by Eric Foner in an entry entitled The Heroic Age of the Republican Party). The book under review here is a detailed look at the creation of the Democratic Party in the mid 1820’s that was solidified by the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828. And what better place to look at how that occurred that at the career of the master-mind of that creation, Martin Van Buren, who would ultimately benefit by that realignment himself both as Vice President in Jackson’s second term and as his immediate successor as president in 1836.

This book is narrowly focused on the creation of the Democratic Party and Van Buren’s role in it. Thus the time frame for the work is essentially the elections of 1824 and 1828. The story as it unfolds here shows that Van Buren did not come to prominence out of thin air but has done yeoman’s work in creating the embryo of the Democratic Party in New York State with the famous Albany Regency that controlled, or attempted to control, New York politics during this period. The strength of the Regency lay in its control of patronage, its adhesion to a policy of only rewarding its friends and devotees, its adherence to a uniform political line and of fighting for organization, organization and again organization. Those are not bad lessons to learn even today. Strangely in reading about this organization and its rules and regulations I was reminded of a proto-Leninist vanguard organization-without its revolutionary aims.

Of course strong organization only helps if you have some access, or potential access, to power and in American politics the coin of the realm is control of the American presidency. And for that purpose the election of 1824 gives a text book lesson in all the strengths and weakness of the presidential electoral process. Many changes had occurred in the first fifty years of the American Republic as it moved away from the bucolic agrarian/mercantile society of the 1780’s. These included the relentless driving of the frontier westward, the increased role of capitalist production and technology in linking communications and transportation systems and the cry of the masses for more political participation in the electoral process. Those factors were the social basis for Jackson’s ultimate victory.

But not in 1824. At that point the Monroe presidency and its so-called “Era of Good Feeling” had theoretically blunted the political party concept at a time when, as now, the class divide was growing. One of the strange things about the 1824 election is that the several candidates all professed to be of the same ‘party’ from the closet monarchist John Quincy Adams to the plebeian hero Jackson. Something had to give. What gave immediately, to Jackson’s detriment, was the popular outcry against the Congressional caucus system where that body essentially provided the official candidate. Van Buren was the master of that system and it died hard with him. In any case no candidate got a majority of the Electoral College votes and thus the election was thrown into the House of Representatives for settlement. In the end Henry Clay’s electoral votes and whatever promises he received from Adams determined Adams’s victory. 1828 would be a different story

Van Buren learned the lesson of that defeat well. He went through out the country trying to build a coalition of forces that would create a national party based on a set of principles, essentially taken from Jefferson’s philosophy of government and a strict constructionist school of interpretation of the Constitution. In the process Van Buren basically formed the modern political party by uniting forces from the West, the South and New York to give the New England-centered Adams a thumping. Having a popular candidate like Jackson obviously did not hurt. One can argue with the author about the weight of Van Buren’s role in the Jackson victory however one cannot argue that Van Buren knew which way the wind was blowing and created a powerful plebeian party that fought for power up until the Civil War with some success. For good or evil Van Buren also became the proto-type for the professional politician that we have today come to know and loathe. But that is a separate story. All “honor” to the old Red Fox of Kinderhook.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

From The "Renegade Eye" Blog-Religion and Secularism

Religion and Secularism
Written by John Pickard
Wednesday, 27 April 2011

As the twenty-first century progresses, there has been an increasing interest and not a small amount of debate on the role of religion in society and particularly on advances in secularisation. Richard Dawkins’ book , ‘The God Delusion,’ was a best-seller in the UK and novels like ‘The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ’ by Richard Pullman have touched raw nerves in Church hierarchies.

Against what they see as a growing tide of secularism, spokespersons for the Church have denounced the ‘intolerance’ of atheism and have fought a vigorous rearguard action to defend the special position of faith, woven as it is into the fabric of everyday life.

In his 2010 visit to the UK, the Pope typically denounced the fact that faith was being driven into the private domain. Like others, he has argued that faith is more than a ‘private’ matter, that it must be manifestsly in the public arena, where it would necessarily feature as part of civil society. Alongside it and as part of the debate, there has been an ongoing argument about science. Some US evangelists, who support leading political candidates of the so-called Tea Party, have even questioned the value of science itself as if it were some kind of nefarious left-wing creed.

More particularly, it has been the role of science in education that has been challenged, and especially evolution. Pressure has been exerted, with some success, to ensure that Creationism is taught in the school science curriculum, in the guise of ‘Intelligent Design.’ In the United States especially, the extreme neo-conservative right allies itself openly and unashamedly to what they see as Christian principles and it draws its inspiration from the Bible as the unerring “Word of God.”

On the other side of the debate, the problem with many atheists and secularists is that their arguments are presented as if the whole question of religion is purely an ideological struggle, an intellectual debate in which the followers of religion are charged with harbouring inferior and inconsistent ideas. That indeed may be the case but it is important to see the modern phenomenon of mass support for various religions, as well as their historic foundations as being rooted in the material conditions of society. Religions have not arisen because of ideas that were superior at the time, and which are required to be supplanted at a later stage by even more superior ideas. The origin of all mass religions is rooted in specific sets of social and economic conditions, each at a given moment in history.

These material conditions were expressed ideologically – in politics and, above all, in religion – as a consequence, not as a cause. The inception of a religion owes more to the national and class conflicts of the day than to a clash in the realm of pure ideas. It is as a result of the material and intellectual cul-de-sac in which modern capitalism finds itself that so many millions of people are so ‘spiritually’ alienated from society that they look for inspiration elsewhere, including metaphysics. Likewise, it will be from these economic and material contradictions and the class conflicts they engender that a new social order can be created. It is within that perspective that the ground can be prepared for religious ideas to wither away.

In ‘The German Ideology’ Karl Marx was critical of the ‘materialist’ Feuerbach, who did not carry his ‘materialism’ over into the realm of politics and economics. “As far as Feuerbach is a materialist,” Marx wrote, “he does not deal with history, and as far as he considers history he is not a materialist.”

Similar criticisms could be made today of many of the most celebrated advocates of secularism and atheism. Richard Dawkins has produced a withering criticism of religious faith in ‘The God Delusion’ and he has made a valuable contribution to the argument in favour of the secularisation of civil life.

The same is true of Daniel Dennett, the American philosopher, who, like Dawkins in the UK, has been a strident defender of atheism and what he calls a “naturalist” (i.e. materialist) world outlook. But neither of these celebrated authors carries his materialism into the realm of politics and economics.

The same can be said of secular organisations like the British Humanist Association. The BHA plays a very valuable role in education and in the promotion of secular cultural ceremonies like marriages and funerals. BHA publications add great weight to the argument for secularism. But whenever the BHA accidentally strays into the realm of politics they too are trapped in an idealistic framework. Most humanists, according to Jim Merrick in ‘Humanism an Introduction,’ “support a mixed economy…” He argues for a social system based on “fairness” and “justice”. No doubt the overwhelming majority of humanists sincerely support these aims and they are predominantly broad-minded, tolerant, left-leaning and radical, rather than conservative. But supporting the principles of “fairness” and “justice” and placing them in their material reality are two different matters.

As an example of the political swamp into which some secularists have sunk, we need look no further than ‘The End of Faith’ by Sam Harris, a book unfortunately endorsed by Richard Dawkins. In this 300-page think-piece, the author condemns the attack on the World Trade Centre on 9/11 and suicide attacks by Islamic militants but insistently places these actions in the realm of ideas and divorces them from the social and political milieu from which such terrorist attacks are ultimately derived.

Harris takes issue with the American author Noam Chomsky who cites the 1998 US bombing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical plant in Sudan and the later invasion of Iraq – both of which have led to tens of thousands of innocent deaths – as a form of state “terrorism”. According to Harris, there is no “moral equivalence”, between the actions of Al Qaeda and the US military, because, he argues, none of the deaths caused by America were intended.

“Did the Clinton administration intend to bring about the deaths of thousands of Sudanese children? No. Was our goal to kill as many Sudanese as we could? No. Were we trying to kill anyone at all? Not unless we thought members of Al Qaeda would be at the Al-Shifa facility in the middle of the night. Asking these questions about Osama bin Laden and the nineteen (9/11) hijackers puts us in a different moral universe entirely.” (p 141)

On the contrary, it is this author who inhabits a moral “parallel universe”. To paraphrase Marx, as far as Harris is a materialist, he should not dabble with politics, because as far as he does stumble into politics he is certainly not a materialist. It doesn’t matter one iota what the formal rules of engagement are or what the declared moral intentions of US forces happen to be. The material fact is that the overwhelming US military firepower, combined with a quasi-racist contempt for the worth of non-American lives leads inevitably to massive ‘collateral’ loss of life. The United States follows an economic, diplomatic and military policy that is wholly in the material interests of US corporations. This policy works directly against the interests of the mass of Muslims in the Middle East. To deny that this has any connection to the resurgence of political Islam, including 9/11, is to fly in the face of reality; it is idealism of the worst kind.

It is well known that Karl Marx wrote that religion is “the opium of the people”, but less well known are his words immediately preceding, that religion “is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions”. (Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right).

Lenin too, writing in 1909, said that:

“The deepest root of religion today is the socially downtrodden condition of the working masses and their apparent complete helplessness in the face of the blind forces of capitalism, which every day and every hour inflicts upon ordinary working people the most horrible suffering and the most savage torment, a thousand times more severe than those inflicted by extraordinary events such as wars, earthquakes, etc.” (The Attitude of the Workers Party to Religion).

Even some of the spokespersons and representatives of the US administration can see a connection between mass support for militant Islam and the political, economic and social realities experienced by Muslims around the world. Sam Harris may not like it, but it is perfectly possible to condemn the attacks of 9/11 and at the same time understand the relevant social and economic connections.

The capitalist system (what the BHA pamphlet calls the ‘mixed economy’) rests upon the exploitation of workers (and the super-exploitation of workers in the less developed world), not to mention the spoliation of the whole planet in the pursuit of material gain. Historically, and in every part of the world, each single step along the road towards democratic freedom – voting, trade union rights, the right of assembly, publishing, etc – has had to be fought for against the most bitter and uncompromising opposition of the capitalist class and their political representatives (including the Church). Asking a rapacious capitalist class to support “fairness and justice” and not to behave like rapacious capitalists is, to coin a very unsecular phrase, like asking the devil to renounce sin.

Justice and Fairness are good ideas but they have not been established anywhere in the world without the real struggle of the working class. It is still in the material interests of the working class to achieve and maintain these rights, just as it is in the material interests of the capitalist class to oppose and erode them. They are not issues that can be decided by a civilized and friendly debate with one’s opponents.

Marxists support the right of all religious people to practice their religion in full. Indeed many of the best class fighters will first come into the movement still carrying the religious trappings of their traditional culture. But Marxists also support the idea of the complete separation of religions from the state and from civil society. Education, government, the courts and all aspects of public service and provision should have no connection at all with religious practice. It may be perfectly correct, as part of an education system based on tolerance and mutual respect, that school students understand the basic outlines and beliefs of world religions. But on the other hand it is absolutely unacceptable for faith to be taught within the realms of science. It is a scandalous legacy of medievalism that there should be 26 bishops sitting in the House of Lords and affecting the passage of legislation that ought to be the preserve of only elected representatives.

Returning to the issue of religion versus secularism, it is not possible to understand the development of organised religion by a discussion on ‘ideas’ alone, but only by an examination of the material roots of religion. Karl Marx and Frederick Engels were consistent materialists, in that they applied their materialist world outlook to history and politics in what became known as Historical Materialism. “Marx and I”, Engels wrote, “were pretty well the only people to rescue conscious dialectics from German idealist philosophy and apply it in the materialist conception of nature and history.”

“The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or estates is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged.

“From this point of view the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men's brains, not in man's better insight into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy, but in the economics of each particular epoch...” (Anti-Duhring)

The task of Marxists is to ensure that workers and youth are not diverted by religion and dreams of the here-after but focus instead on the real task before them - the class struggle to overthrow capitalism and with it all the material causes of poverty, war and oppression here on earth. This is the only reality

Friday, February 18, 2011

Victory To The Wisconsin Public Workers Unions!- Hands Off The Unions! -Hands Off The Democratic Legislators

Markin comment:

I suppose we all knew that it would come to this. Probably the last serious bastion of organized labor-the public employees unions are starting to face the onslaught of governmental attempts to break those collective bargaining agreements, crying budgetary crisis- the heart of any union operation. With the demise of the industrial unions (representing less than ten percent cent of the workforce in the wake of the deindustrialization of America) the public employee union became the obvious target in the bosses' relentless struggle to break any collective working agreements. Wisconsin, as all sides agree, is the tip of the iceberg and will be closely watched by other states (and the federal government).

On the question of the Democratic legislators who have left the state (at least as of today, February 18, 2011), to avoid voting on the proposals. While it is unusual for those of us who consider themselves communist labor militants to demand hands off for this crowd under normal circumstances in this case we are duty-bound to defend their action. Stay the hell out of Wisconsin until this blows over. A good idea would be to put workers on the borders to make sure the State Police don't try to force them back. Okay. Strange times that we live in, strange indeed.

Wisconsin Public Workers Protest Governor's Proposal .Article Comments (277) more in Politics & Policy ».EmailPrintSave This ↓ More.

For a second straight day, thousands of Wisconsin public employees converged on the state capitol in Madison to protest Gov. Scott Walker's plan to close the state's projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall by increasing the cost of their pensions and health benefits and taking away their collective bargaining rights.

About 10,000 teachers, nurses, city workers and firefighters chanted "Kill the Bill" and held signs outside that said "Recall Walker," while others squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder inside the capitol rotunda as a key legislative panel held hearings on the bill.

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Associated Press

In Madison, Wis., thousands protested a plan to balance the state's budget in part by stripping public workers of bargaining rights.
.Mr. Walker said Wednesday afternoon he would listen to lawmakers' concerns but didn't plan "to fundamentally undermine the principle of the bill, which is to allow not only the state but local governments to balance their budgets."

In exchange for bearing more costs and losing bargaining leverage, the state's 170,000 public employees were promised no furloughs or layoffs. Mr. Walker has threatened to order layoffs of up to 6,000 state workers if the measure fails.

President Barack Obama called Mr. Walker's bill an "assault on unions." He made the remark in the course of an interview with a Milwaukee radio station about federal budget issues.

"I think it's very important for us to understand that public employees, they're our neighbors, they're our friends," Mr. Obama said. "These are folks who are teachers and they're firefighters and they're social workers and they're police officers."

In Madison, the protesters aimed to sway a handful of moderate Republican senators from traditionally Democratic districts.

Mr. Walker said the dramatic action is necessary to close the state's gaping budget hole for the fiscal year starting in July and avoid massive employee layoffs.

"We're at a point of crisis," Mr. Walker told reporters. And while he said he appreciated the concerns of the public employees shouting outside his office door, taxpayers "need to be heard as well."

Beyond eliminating collective bargaining rights, the bill would force public workers to pay half the cost of their pensions and at least 12.6% of their health-care coverage.

Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO called the bill "an attack on organized labor and middle class values."The protests have been among the most well attended in recent Wisconsin history.

Public schools in Madison were closed on Wednesday because 40% of teachers called in sick.

Archbishop Jerome Listecki of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference called on state lawmakers to "carefully consider" the implications of removing collective-bargaining rights for public workers.

Under Mr. Walker's proposal, public-worker unions could still represent employees, but could not pursue pay increases above those pegged to the Consumer Price Index unless they were approved by a public referendum. Unions also could not force employees to pay dues and would have to hold votes once a year to stay organized.

Write to Kris Maher at and Douglas Belkin at

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Friday, October 15, 2010

*A Jeff Bridges Retrospective- Bad Blake As President- "The Contender"

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the film, The Contender.

DVD Review

The Contender, Jeff Bridges,  Joan Allen, Gary Oldman, 1999

I have spilled much ink this year, in the wake of Jeff Bridges’ Oscar victory in the role of broken down country singer-songwriter, Bad Blake, in the film Crazy Hearts , arguing that he had been preparing for that role since he first broke out as the future good ol’ boy, Duane Jackson, in The Last Picture Show. I will argue here that his persona as the President in this film, The Contender, follows that same career path. Bridges plays the up front and in your face, wise, witty, populist-oriented, but also politically savvy good ol’ boy president to a tee, from his bowling in the White House basement to his plebeian culinary tastes. I will rest my case on those scenes.

What I will not rest my case on is the plot; liberal, feminist-friendly, democracy-friendly, and politically feel good that it turns out to be. Apparently, for some undisclosed reason, the then sitting Vice President dies leaving under the then (and now, as well) current constitutional amendment the need for the president to appoint a successor (and for Congress to approve of that appointment in some form). Of course, Bridges, as a second and final term president, has more candidates that he can shake a stick at, including one prominent recently heroic state governor. He, eventually, settles on an Ohio (naturally, the Midwest for balance and stability) woman Senator. Seems that good ol’ boy Bridges, carrying a secret progressive streak, like every president before him, starts to worry about his legacy and having appointed the first woman Vice President is where he will hang his hat.

That is the easy part. What transpires though is said (if you can believe this about anyone from Ohio) woman Senator has an allegedly shady sexual past, among other personal problems that pile up as the film progresses. Moreover, various Congressmen, including the chairman of the committee that will give its advice on the appointment, are gunning for said Senator for their own reasons. The bulk of the remainder of the film centers of the political fight to save the president’s appointment, led by the President himself and his trusty advisers (using all the powers at their disposal).

Hold on a minute, I can enjoy a political thriller just as well as the next guy but this whole thing has the quality of a science fiction thriller. What were those screenwriters in the year 1999 on anyway? Why? Simple. Anyone who has even glanced at a newspaper headline over the last twenty or so years (or checked out the Internet, for that matter) KNOWS that no sitting president, second term or not, legacy or not, would do anything but make the quickest withdrawal of the appointee in recorded history (or be pushed out the back door by his party’s leaders, they still have to make a living remember) the minute the facts of the Senator’s case were known. Even old stand up Bridges. So if you want to see Bad Blake in a science fiction thriller this is for you. Oh, as almost always is the case, Bridges is just fine here.

Friday, October 08, 2010

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-Women and The French Revolution

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-Women And The French Revolution

Markin comment:

The following is an article from an archival issue of Women and Revolution, Spring 2001, that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of Women and Revolution during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.


Women and The French Revolution-Spring 2001

We publish below an edited version of a presentation given by our comrade Susan Adams at a Spartacist League forum to celebrate International Women's Day 2000 in New York City, first published in Workers Vanguard No. 752, 16 February 2001. Susan, who died this February (see obituary, page 2), was a longtime leader of the ICL's French section and maintained an intense commitment to the study of history and culture throughout her years as a communist. These interests were put to particular use in her work as a member of the Editorial Board of Women and Revolution while that journal existed.

International Women's Day originated in March 1908, with a demonstration here in Manhattan by women needle trades workers. They marched to oppose child labor and in favor of the eight-hour day and women's suffrage. March 8 became an international day celebrating the struggle for women's rights. And then on International Women's Day in 1917, right in the middle of World War 190,000 textile workers, many of them women, went on strike in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), the capital of the Russian tsarist empire. They rose up from the very bottom rungs of society, and it was these most oppressed and downtrodden of the proletariat who opened the sluice gates of the revolutionary struggle leading to the October Revolution, where Marx's ideas first took on flesh and blood.

The Soviet state was the dictatorship of the proletariat. It immediately enacted laws making marriage and divorce simple civil procedures, abolishing the category of illegitimacy and all discrimination against homosexuals. It took steps toward replacing women's household drudgery by setting up cafeterias, laundries and childcare centers to allow women to enter productive employment. Under the conditions of extreme poverty and backwardness, those measures could be carried out only on a very limited scale. But they undermined the institution of the family and represented the first steps toward the liberation of women. The collectivized planned economy laid the basis for enormous economic and social progress. Fully integrated into the economy as wage earners, women achieved a degree of economic independence that became so much a matter of course that it was barely noticed by the third generation after the revolution. We fought for unconditional military defense of the Soviet Union against imperialist attack and internal counterrevolution up until the very last barricade.

The great October Russian Revolution has now been undone and its gains destroyed. Surrounded and pounded by the imperialists for seven decades, the Soviet Union was destroyed by capitalist counterrevolution in 1991-92. The responsibility for that lies primarily with the Stalinist bureaucracy which usurped political power from the working class in 1923-24 and betrayed the revolutionary purpose of Lenin and Trotsky's Bolshevik Party and the revolutionary Communist International that they founded. Not the least of the Stalinists' crimes was the glorification of the family and the reversal of many gains for women. We called for a proletarian political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy and return to the road of Lenin and Trotsky.

In celebrating International Women's Day, we reaffirm that the struggle for women's rights is inextricably linked to revolution and we honor the women fighters through the centuries whose courage and consciousness has often put them in the vanguard of struggles to advance the cause of the oppressed. The Russian Revolution was a proletarian socialist revolution; it overthrew the rule of the capitalists and landlords and placed the working class in power. The Great French Revolution of 1789-94was a bourgeois revolution, the most thorough and deep going of the bourgeois revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries.

The French Revolution overthrew the rule of the monarchy, the nobility and the landed aristocracy and placed the bourgeoisie in power. It swept Europe with its liberating ideas and its revolutionary reorganization of society. It transformed the population from subjects of the crown to citizens with formal equality. Jews were freed from the ghettos and declared citizens with full rights; slavery was first abolished on the territory of the French nation. It inspired the first successful slave revolt in the colonies, the uprising led by Toussaint L'Ouverture in what became Haiti. And, within the limitations of bourgeois rule, it achieved gains for women that were unparalleled until the time of the Bolshevik Revolution.

Today's capitalist ruling class is unsurpassed in bloody terrorism against working people around the world in defense of its profits and property. As hard as it is to imagine, the ancestors of this bourgeoisie played a historically progressive role then, sweeping away the backwardness, irrationality and inefficiency of the previous feudal system. The leaders of the French Revolution, who represented the most radical sector of the French bourgeoisie, spoke with—and for the most part believed—the words of the Enlightenment, justifying its fight to destroy the nobility as a class and take political power itself as the advent of "liberty, equality and fraternity" for all. They could not, and the majority of them did not intend to, emancipate the lower classes. Nevertheless, something changed in the world.

Particularly since "death of communism" propaganda has filled the bourgeois press and media following the destruction of the Soviet Union, there's been a real attempt to demonize not just the Russian Revolution but any revolution, the French Revolution in particular. The push for retrograde social policies has been historically justified with a virtual flood of books and articles attacking the humanist values of the Enlightenment philosophy which laid the ideological basis for the French Revolution. Today, while the bourgeoisie in its decay disowns the rationalist and democratic values it once espoused, we Trotskyists stand out not only as the party of the Russian Revolution but the champions of the liberating goals of the French Revolution.

Bolshevik leader V. I. Lenin identified with the Jacobins, the radical wing of the French revolutionary bourgeoisie, whose most prominent leaders were Maximilien Robespierre, Jean-Paul Marat and Louis-Antoine de Saint-Just. Lenin wrote that the "essence of Jacobinism" was "the transfer of power to the revolutionary, oppressed class" and that Jacobinism was "one of the highest peaks in the emancipation struggle of an oppressed class." You can better understand why Lenin was inspired by the Jacobins from the following words by Saint-Just: "Those who make a revolution, with half-measures are only digging their own grave."

Women's Oppression and Class Society

In the early 19th century, a French socialist named Charles Fourier carefully studied the French Revolution. He wrote biting, witty and humorous criticism of existing social relations, including working out a whole scheme—kind of nutty but fun and food for thought—for perpetually satisfying sexual relations. Needless to say, he thought sexual monogamy was a curse worse than death. In a famous statement quoted by Karl Marx in his 1845 book The Holy Family, Fourier said:

"The change in a historical epoch can always be determined by women's progress towards freedom, because here, in the relation of woman to man, of the weak to the strong, the victory of human nature over brutality is most evident. The degree of emancipation of woman is the natural measure of general emancipation."

And that quite profound observation guides us today in our understanding of society.

Women's oppression is rooted in the institution of the family and has been a feature of all class societies. At one point before recorded history, it didn't much matter who the father of a child was, since children were largely cared for communally. But then inventions such as agriculture made it possible to produce more than the producers could actually consume. This ability to produce a surplus meant that a leisure class could live off the labor of others and accumulate property. It became important to know who the father of a child was so that he could pass on his property to his own children. Monogamy appeared, making the man dominant and the woman subservient, enslaved.

The family is a key social unit for the maintenance of capitalism. For the capitalists, the family provides the basis for passing on accumulated wealth. And where there is no property to pass on, the family serves to rear the next generation of workers for the capitalists and to inculcate conservative social values. It is the family—and the necessity to control sexual access to the woman to ensure that the man knows who his real heir is—which generates the morality codified in and reinforced by religion. It is the family which throughout a woman's life gives definition to her oppressed state: as daughter, as wife, as mother.

We Marxists fight to rip the means of production out of the hands of the capitalists in order to put them at the service of the needs of the working people that create the wealth. Only then can household drudgery be replaced with socialized child-care, restaurants, laundries and so on. The program of communism is for a classless society in which the family is transcended by superior sexual and social relations which will be free of moral or economic coercion. Our slogan is: "For women's liberation through socialist revolution!"

Marx said that revolution is the locomotive of history. In the Great French Revolution, the women of Paris were often the engineers in that locomotive. I'm going to be talking about the role of thousands of women leaders, military commanders, propagandists and organizers whose role at key junctures of the French Revolution was quite simply decisive. Groups like the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women literally shaped history. Count Mirabeau, one of the major actors in the beginning of the revolution, was an extremely sleazy guy, firmly in favor of a constitutional monarchy, occasionally in the pay of the king. But even he said: "Without women, there is no revolution."

Most histories of the French Revolution concentrate their chief attention on the upper levels of society and the top layers of the plebeian masses. In recent years, a number of French and American women historians have done very interesting and important research into the dusty archives of the revolution in Paris—police reports, newspaper articles. Some of these historians are feminists; that is, they see the fundamental division in society as that between the sexes.

At the time of the revolution, a movement focused specifically on women's rights was in the minority. One person who was what you would call a feminist today, at least as far as I have been able to put together her history, was Olympe de Gouges. In her pamphlet, The Declaration of the Rights of Woman and Female Citizen, written in the fall of 1791, she implicitly called for the vote for women, for a women's assembly and for equal rights with men. She also dedicated her pamphlet to the despised queen Marie Antoinette! De Gouges was not an aristocrat but a butcher's daughter from outside Paris, yet she remained a royalist throughout most of the revolution and was guillotined in November 1793.

Some of the recent analysis by feminist historians feeds right into today's reactionary climate. Taking aim at the French Revolution itself, they claim that the failure of women to secure the right to vote for national parliaments and the suppression of the exclusively women's political clubs during the most radical period of the revolution proves that misogyny triumphed. This view is also promoted in an article in the New York Times Magazine (16 May 1999) called "The Shadow Story of the Millennium: Women." The article states that the French Revolution's "new philosophy of rational natural rights placed all men on an equal footing in regard to citizenship and the law" but adds: "Men of the revolution said that women should stay home and rear their sons to be good citizens."

Let us allow a participant to refute this falsehood. Mere Duchesne was a domestic servant, a cook, who, unlike most domestic servants then, defied her aristocratic masters. She was described in a police report as "the satellite and missionary to all women under Robespierre's orders, a most ferocious woman." The Mere Duchesne newspaper wrote in September 1792:

"In the past, when we wanted to speak, our mouths were shut while we were told very politely, 'You reason like a woman'; almost like a goddamn beast. Oh! Damn! Everything is very different now; we have indeed grown since the Revolution."

"The Columns of French Liberty"

Now I want to go into some detail about the French Rev¬olution itself. A revolution is a monumental military and social battle between classes. The dominant class in any society controls the state—the police, courts, army—which protects its class interests. In modern society there are two fundamental classes: the big capitalists who own the means of production (the mines, factories, etc.) and the workers who own absolutely nothing except their personal effects and are compelled to sell their labor power to the capitalists. At the time of the French Revolution, there were essentially four
classes. The king and the nobility who owned nearly all of the land, the rising bourgeoisie, the peasants (who constituted over 80 percent of the population) and the urban sans culottes. The latter consisted of artisans, who worked either at home or in very small workshops, shopkeepers, day laborers, the poor and unemployed. Those who did manual labor wore loose trousers and were sans—without—the tight silk leggings worn by aristocrats and those imitating them.

A revolution happens when the ruling class can no longer rule as before, and the masses are no longer willing to be ruled in the same way. We're talking about a political crisis in which the rulers falter and which tears the people from the habitual conditions under which they labor and vegetate, awakening even the most backward elements, compelling the people to take stock of themselves and look around. That political crisis was provoked in France by the 1776 American Revolution.

France had taken the side of the American colonies against its perpetual enemy England and so had emerged on the side of the victors, but totally broke. In May 1789, King Louis XVI convened an Estates General—a meeting of representatives of the nobility, the clergy and the non-noble property owners and lawyers (the so-called Third Estate)— at Versailles, where his palace was located, about 12 miles from Paris. He hoped to convince some of them to pay more taxes. But they refused, while every village throughout the country wrote up its grievances to be presented at Versailles. The meeting of the three estates transformed itself into a National Assembly.

It was clear that the king was gathering troops to disperse the National Assembly. The negotiations out at Versailles might have gone on forever, except the Parisian masses took things into their own capable hands and organized to arm themselves, seizing 60,000muskets from armories like the Invalides and the Bastille prison fortress around the city on 14 July 1789. You know of this event as the storming of the Bastille. The freeing of the handful of prisoners was incidental; it was the arms that were the goal. The Paris garrisons had been deeply influenced by revolutionary propaganda following a massacre of rioters in the working-class quarters of Faubourg Saint-Antoine some months earlier. In June, the troops paraded through the streets to shouts of "Long live the Third Estate! We are the soldiers of the nation!"

The king backed down, but the monarchy still had its army and its throne. The bourgeoisie and the aristocracy, mutually hostile classes, were relying on essentially incompatible government institutions, the National Assembly and the royal throne. One or the other would have to go. Either the king (and his many royal cousins and relations by marriage ruling other countries of Europe) would crush the National Assembly or the king would meet up with what came to be known as "Madame la Guillotine."

The weeks following the July 14 events were known as the "Great Fear," the fear that the aristocrats were coming to take the land back and were organizing brigands and robbers and bands of pirates and so forth. So the peasants armed to protect themselves. Then it turned out to be a rumor, but there they were, armed and ready, and being practical sorts, they turned on the landlords' manor houses and made use of the arms that they'd gotten.

The people's representatives, who were deliberating out at Versailles, took note of the insurrection and on August 4 passed laws eliminating feudal privileges, which had been the original issue all summer. The problem was that you had to buy your way out of your feudal duties and pay 25 times your feudal taxes in order to free yourself from them. Most peasants simply ignored that and had been seizing the land all over the country since July 14. They also would burn down the lord's manor house, where the records and the deeds were kept. You know, straightforward and practical.

The next major event is crucial to our understanding of the women's role. It was October and the people of Paris were starving again. October is usually a cold and wet month in Paris. It was indeed raining at 8 a.m. on the morning of 5 October 1789. Thousands of women—eventually some 8,000—had already gathered in front of City Hall. They knew where to find the arms because it was they who had helped store them here after July 14.

The king had allowed the symbol of the revolution—the red-white-and-blue cockade (rosette)—to be trampled underfoot by some foreign troops brought in to protect him and his Austrian queen, Marie Antoinette. The women intended to stop this anti-revolutionary activity and they wanted bread. Huge stores of fine white flour waited at Versailles. They began to walk there. They couldn't get anyone to come with them, but later in the afternoon about 20,000 troops of the National Guard—which had been formed by the bourgeoisie—forced the very reluctant General Lafayette, whom you might know as a hero of the American Revolution, to lead them there. One of the women was Pauline Leon, a chocolate maker, who was later to lead the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women. That day she was armed with a pike, which was known as the people's weapon, because it was so easy to make. You could pull something off the top of a railing and attach it to a good hefty stick. It was said that "the pikes of the people are the columns of French liberty."

This was no protest march—it was a sea of muskets and pikes. The women were determined not to come back without the king and his family. There were still plenty of illusions in the king, but they wanted him under their watchful eye, in Paris. At one point the crowd apparently invaded the palace and was wandering through Marie Antoinette's chambers and some things were getting broken and stepped on and stomped and so forth. One very respectable woman in a velvet hat and cloak turned around and said very haughtily, "Don't do that, we're here to make a point, not to break things." And a woman from the artisan class turned around and said, "My husband was drawn and quartered for stealing a piece of meat." Finally the women demanded that the royal family get into their carriage. Lafayette's troops led the way and the women marched in front carrying on their pikes loaves of fresh, very white bread—the kind reserved for the upper classes—and the heads of two of the king's bodyguards.

The Revolutionary Jacobin Dictatorship

While pretending to be happy with the situation, the king was secretly corresponding with the other royal heads of state and nobles began to emigrate en masse, establishing counterrevolutionary centers outside the country. In June 1791, the king and queen disguised themselves and tried to escape, intending to return with the backing of the Austrian army. But an observant revolutionary recognized them in the town of Varennes, and they were brought back to Paris. This destroyed the people's remaining illusions in the monarchy and triggered an upsurge in revolutionary agitation. But the bourgeoisie, fearing things could get out of hand, sought to maintain the monarchy and clamp down on the mass turmoil. A month after the king's arrest, a petition to abolish the monarchy was being circulated among the crowd on the broad expanse of the Champs de Mars. The National Guard fired on the crowd and many were killed. Commanded by the aristocrat Lafayette, the National Guard had been organized as a force not only against the king but also against the threat that the bourgeoisie had already seen coming from the Parisian working people.

The Champs de Mars massacre marked a split within the bourgeois revolutionary forces. The two main factions that emerged—the Girondins and the Jacobins—represented the same social class, but they were deeply politically divided. The Prussian monarchy and the rest of royal Europe were mobilizing militarily and in April 1792 revolutionary France went to war. The Girondins sought a "negotiated solution" with the reactionary feudal armies combined with concessions to the nobility and the clergy. The Jacobins were ready to make temporary concessions to the hungry urban masses in order to thoroughly vanquish feudal reaction. You could say that the Girondins were the reformist wing and the Jacobins the revolutionary wing of the bourgeoisie.

In June 1792, thousands of armed marchers, including numerous women armed with sabers, paraded through the Assembly in the first of what became known as journees, or days of action. One official observed at the time, "The throne was still standing, but the people were seated on it, took the measure of it." The monarchy was finally overthrown by a second journee on 10 August 1792, when the masses invaded the king's residence at the Tuileries Palace in Paris and imprisoned the royal family.

The war was not going well. Most of the former officers, aristocrats, had emigrated. A government representative appealed for recruits by invoking "the heartbreaking thought that, after all the efforts that have already been made, we might be forced to return to the misery of our former slavery." While the best of the revolutionaries volunteered for the front, they were untrained and assumed to be undisciplined. Most of the new recruits were trades people, artisans and journeymen, not the sons of the bourgeoisie as before. The road to Paris seemed open to the Prussian royal armies.

The king of Prussia expected the French troops to scatter in disarray when his troops moved to drive them out of a strip of land near Valmy in eastern France. But not a man flinched as the French general waved his hat in the air on the point of his sword, shouting "Long live the nation!" The sans-culottes fired straight and repeatedly at the enemy. With a torrential rainstorm some hours later, the armies fell back. The German writer Goethe was present at Valmy, and as he looked out over the battlefield that night he said, "This day and this place open a new era in the history of the world."
He could not have been more prescient. On that day, the Assembly gave way to the Convention, which was elected by universal male suffrage and convoked expressly to give the nation a constitution which codified the overthrow of the king. Also, as we will see, the most progressive marriage and divorce laws until the Bolshevik Revolution were passed on exactly the same day as the victory at Valmy. Five months later, the king was beheaded.

In a third uprising in June 1793, the people of Paris and 80,000 National Guard troops surrounded the Convention and demanded the arrest of the Girondins and a comprehensive program of revolutionary defense of the country. This ushered in the Jacobin revolutionary dictatorship, which irremediably abolished seigneurial (feudal) rights, instituted the price controls (referred to as the "maximum") demanded by the sans-culottes and destroyed the resistance of the feudal order through a reign of revolutionary terror carried out by the Committee of Public Safety.

A month after the foreign troops were driven from France in mid-1794, on July 27 (9 Thermidor in the revolutionary calendar), the conservative wing of the bourgeoisie took the reins of power. The next day Robespierre followed the Grindings to the guillotine. The Thermidorians thought they could do without the alliance with the lower classes. That calculation was proved false, and they were themselves replaced in 1799 in the coup of the 18th Brumaire (November 9) by Napoleon Bonaparte, who subsequently declared himself emperor. But the Jacobin dictatorship had irreversibly consolidated the central achievement of the French Revolution, the rooting out of feudal relations in the countryside.

Marriage, Divorce and Inheritance

As materialists, we understand, as Marx put it, that "Law can never be higher than the economic structure and the cultural development of society conditioned by that structure." The rising capitalist class was firmly committed to the preservation of private property, as indeed it had to be. It was precisely this which staked out the limits of the revolutionary social changes that could be carried out, although the most radical years of the French Revolution went very far indeed.

The family was temporarily undermined in order to serve the needs of the revolution against its enemies, the feudal nobility and Catholic church. This is one demonstration of the fact that social institutions which seem to be immutable, to be "natural" and "eternal," are in fact nothing more than the codification of social relations dictated by the particular economic system that is in place. After the bourgeoisie consolidated its power as the new ruling class, it re-established the constraints of the family. But nothing would ever be the same again. The contradictory reality of the French Revolution—the breathtaking leap in securing individual rights and the strict limits imposed on those rights by the fact that this was a bourgeois and not a socialist revolution—was captured by Karl Marx in The German Ideology:

"The existence of the family is made necessary by its connection with the mode of production, which exists independently of the will of bourgeois society. That it was impossible to do without it was demonstrated in the most striking way during the French Revolution, when for a moment the family was as good as legally abolished."

The feminists who want to dismiss the bourgeois revolution as anti-woman end up echoing those who justify suttee (widow-burning) in India and the imposition of the chador in Iran and Afghanistan as "cultural differences." Where the bourgeois revolution did not triumph, the status of women is qualitatively inferior. It is enough to contrast the condition of women today in West Europe with Afghanistan, groaning under the rule of the Islamic fundamentalist Taliban.

I'll give you a very small example of what it meant to have a society in which a rising, vigorous, productive class—the bourgeoisie—was held in check by outmoded institutions. France was a Catholic country. In 1572, tens of thousands of French Protestants were killed in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, and more fled the country. The 1598 Edict of Nantes assured them the free exercise of their religious beliefs, but this was revoked in 1685. Some of the richest merchants were Protestant, but marriages performed by their own pastors were not officially recognized. At the death of a spouse, you would have distant Catholic relatives claiming the inheritance, because legally there was no spouse and the children were illegitimate. Both Protestants and Jews accepted divorce. In 1769, according to James Traer in his Marriage and the Family in Eighteenth-Century France (1980), a respected author advocated permitting divorce on the grounds that "the Protestant nations of northern Europe were enjoying both population growth and prosperity while the Catholic states of southern Europe were suffering from declining population and poverty." But the conservatives always managed to get the law postponed.

Under the Old Regime, women had the right to exactly nothing. The monarchy consistently sought to reinforce, supplement and extend the father's control over the marriage of his children. Women found guilty of adultery were sentenced to public whipping or imprisonment. Women were also put into convents for life for adultery. Marriage was indissoluble—a life sentence. If you were a man, you couldn't marry until you were 30 without your parents' permission. If your family had property, your father could get the king to issue a lettre de cachet, something like an unlimited arrest warrant, and you could be locked up indefinitely. If you married a minor (under the age of 25 for women) without permission, the penalty was death for rape notwithstanding the woman's consent. By the way, actors and actresses couldn't marry either, because their profession was viewed by the church as immoral.

The aristocracy was hardly committed to the sanctity of marriage. It was said at the court of Louis XIV some decades before the revolution that the aristocracy frowned on marital fidelity as being in bad taste, and a German visitor noted, "I know of not a single case of mutual affection and loyalty." I introduce this to make the point that marriage for the upper classes was all about property. Many of the sans-culottes did not marry at all. But in the Paris of the French Revolution, women were still largely dependent on men for economic reasons (whether or not they were legally married).

Much debate and several pieces of draft legislation on marriage and divorce had already been considered by the National Assembly before September 1792. All proposed to make marriage d simple civil affair. However, what stood in the way of this was the Catholic church. Those clergy who refused to swear an oath of loyalty were threatened with deportation. But the Pope forbade it, and a lot did refuse. Though some were deists or free thinkers, the bourgeois deputies in the Assembly had no intention of suppressing religion; they nearly all agreed that some kind of religion was necessary to keep the people pacified. But now they had a big problem on their hands as the village priests became organizers for counterrevolution.

The local priests not only carried out marriage ceremonies, baptisms and funerals, but also recorded them. If these records were in the hands of hostile forces, how could you count the population? You wouldn't even know if you had enough draftees for the army. When in June 1792 the Minister of Justice wrote that the civil war launched by the aristocracy and the church in the Vendee region in southwest France had completely disrupted the keeping of records, one delegate rose to propose that the marriage ceremony be abolished with the cry, "Freedom or death!" So in some ways, the progressive marriage and divorce laws enacted in September the same day as the victory at Valmy were war measures.

The age of adulthood was lowered to 21 and marriage without parental consent was legalized. This was followed by a June 1793 decree that proclaimed the right of illegitimate children to inherit from both their mothers and their fathers. At a stroke, the institution of the family lost one of its main functions as the framework for the transfer of property from one generation to the next. While inheritance rights didn't mean much to those without property, the new laws also tended to legitimize "free unions." For example, soldiers' common-law wives could receive government pensions.

Divorce had not been high on the list of grievances before the revolution, but as the pamphlets flowered, so did the notion that divorce was a necessary right in society. Probably rarely in history had a simple law so delighted the female population. When a certain citizen Bellepaume came to the town hall intending to oppose the divorce demanded by his wife, he found that she had organized "a considerable number of citizens of both sexes, but chiefly women" who pursued him in the corridors, abused him and tore his clothes. In the first year after the divorce law was passed, women
initiated over 70 percent of all divorces. One woman wrote to the Convention:

"The female citizen Govot, a free woman, solemnly comes to give homage to this sacred law of divorce. Yesterday, groaning under the control of a despotic husband, liberty was only an empty word for her. Today, returned to the dignity of an independent woman, she idolizes this beneficial law that breaks ill-matched ties and returns hearts to themselves, to nature, and finally to divine liberty. I offer my country six francs for the expense of war. I add my marriage ring, which was until today the symbol of my slavery."

The Society of Revolutionary Republican Women

The question of women's status in society had been a subject of debate throughout the Enlightenment. The Encyclopedia, published just before the revolution and intended as a compendium of all knowledge, contained four contributions under the category "Women": one in favor of equality, one ambiguous and two against. Even in a very radical work like Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), woman's role as subordinate to man inside the family was not seriously called into question. Wollstonecraft was part of a circle of British radical-democratic revolutionaries who supported the French Revolution against English monarchical reaction, even participating in the French government.

Most of the Enlightenment thinkers and writers concentrated on education for women, and that was about it. Now, this is undeniably a very important question, and it refuted the prevalent idea that women were inferior to men and their brains worked in an inferior way. Only about a third of French women at the time were literate. You'd find them during the revolutionary years at the corner cafe with their glass of red wine, reading or listening to someone else read Robespierre's latest speech. The hunger for knowledge was totally linked to the desire to change society. Before 1777, France had no daily newspaper. Two years later, there were 35 papers and periodicals and by 1789 there were 169. Thousands of political pamphlets rolled off the printing presses.

One of the novels based on the new research published in the last few years has the Enlightenment philosopher Condorcet, who wrote very eloquently about women's rights, and his lovely young wife enjoying long mornings reading a bit of Voltaire or the equivalent of the Sunday New York Times in bed with their cafe au lait, making love, and then getting up in the afternoon to walk in the garden and do their very serious intellectual work. Not a bad life, right? But it wasn't available to most people, of course. Condorcet ended by opposing the execution of Louis XVI, ostensibly on the grounds of opposition to the death penalty.

The working women of Paris who were a motor force in the revolution lived very different lives. Perhaps 45,000 women in Paris, some 20 percent, were wage earners; a similar percentage of women in cities like Lyon and Rouen worked. Because of the war, women were able to break into traditionally male professions and they were also employed at sewing, as domestic servants. Some were proprietors of shops. Wives, legal or otherwise, of soldiers at the front were given subsidies. The Paris municipal government and the political clubs set up spinning workshops that at a certain point employed several thousand women, though the wages were miserable. They were centralized by the government office responsible for producing clothes for the troops.

It was from among these women of the sans-culottes that the Society of Revolutionary Republican Women was formed in the spring of 1793. One of the leaders of the society was the chocolate maker Pauline Leon, whom we last saw with her pike on the October 1789 march to Versailles. Another was the actress Claire Lacombe, who always followed her signature with "A Free Woman." A third was Anne Felicite' Colombe, who owned a print shop. Typography was generally a man's job, so she was already exceptional for this. In 1791, she had been one of the four women arrested when the National Guard shot down demonstrators at the Champs de Mars calling for the overthrow of the monarchy. Colombe printed the revolutionary newspapers of Jean-Paul Marat, L'Ami du Peuple (The Friend of the People) and L'Orateur du Peuple (The Orator of the People). She was dragged into a libel suit, which she eventually won, and distributed the 20,000-//vre settlement to the poor in her neighborhood.

While women did not win the right to vote for delegates to the Convention, especially after the establishment of the Jacobin dictatorship in 1793 they played a full role in the Parisian sectional assemblies, intervening, presenting positions, voting and being elected as delegates. They refused to be "servile women, domestic animals," as one put it in May 1793. Interestingly, the one widespread demand for formal equality was for the right to bear arms. In March 1792, Pauline Leon had led a delegation to present a petition to the Assembly declaring:

"You cannot refuse us and society cannot remove from us this right which nature gives us, unless it is alleged that the Declaration of Rights is not applicable to women and that they must allow their throats to be slit, like sheep, without having the right to defend themselves."

The women demanded the right to arm themselves with pikes, pistols, sabers and rifles, and to assemble for maneuvers on the Champs de Mars. After much debate, the Assembly moved to put the petition in the minutes with honorable mention. Dozens of women actually went to the front when the war began, a few as officers.

The Society of Revolutionary Republican Women solidly backed the Jacobins as the revolutionary government and politically supported the extreme left Enrages around Jacques Roux, who spoke for the popular masses. Just after the Revolutionary Republican Women was founded, they mobilized the support of the masses in the streets for the Jacobins, whose battle to oust the Girondins was then coming to a head. As the split deepened, there were many more women than men in the street gatherings, according to police reports. The Revolutionary Republican Women dressed in military clothes and carried sabers. One account has them waging a military battle in the Convention to get back the seats which had been taken from them by supporters of the right-wing Gironde.

Reversal of Gains Under Thermidor

In October 1793, the society became one of the first organizations to be banned by the Jacobin government. Those feminist historians I mentioned earlier claim that this proves that the French Revolution was essentially hostile to women. That's wrong. The society was banned not because it was composed of women, but because it was one of the most radical expressions of the sans-culottes.

Here's what happened. The Enrages and the Revolutionary Republican Women fought for strict price controls, especially on food, and an upper limit on the size of personal fortunes. In October, the Revolutionary Republican Women launched a campaign to force all women to wear the revolutionary cockade. They brought their campaign to Les Halles, the central marketplace in Paris. The market women were of course hostile to the price maximum on food that had just been imposed by the Jacobin government as a concession to the sans-culottes. The question of the cockade was just the pretext for the major-league brawl that ensued between the market women and the women revolutionaries. This fight represented an early split in the Jacobins' base, and the Jacobins sided with the market women, banning the Revolutionary Republicans.

The peasants wanted maximum food prices, the artisan-proletariat in the cities wanted minimum ones, pointing to the spectre of a civil war which the sans-cullotes could not win. The Jacobins could have tried to strike a deal, but ultimately they could not satisfy the conflicting demands of the urban poor and the peasantry. When revolutionary Russia in the early 1920s was confronted with the "scissors crisis," as the price of scarce manufactured goods rose and the price of agricultural products fell 3nd the peasants threatened to withhold their produce, Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky proposed a course of planned industrialization to make more manufactured goods available to the peasants and maintain their support for the proletarian dictatorship. Trotsky's proposal was rejected at the time (only to be implemented at forced-march pace a few years later by Stalin). But such an option was objectively unrealizable in the capitalist economic system of pre-industrial France.

By the fall of 1793, the Jacobins and revolutionary France were gasping for air. Mandatory conscription had provoked mass uprisings in the Vendee; there had been treachery at the front; the armies of the European monarchies had reinvaded France; and Girondin provinces were seceding; Marat, the "friend of the people," had been assassinated by the royalist Charlotte Corday. Against this backdrop, the Revolutionary Republican Women, in their revolutionary zeal against the market women, threatened to get in the way of prompt and regular deliveries of food to the city from the countryside, without which the Jacobins would have lost the allegiance of the urban masses.

Many of the revolutionary women continued to be active as individuals. Even after being arrested by the Jacobin government, Claire Lacombe stayed loyal to Robespierre. She never renounced her support, and after Robespierre's execution she always refused to point out that she had been arrested by his revolutionary government because she hated the idea of becoming a hero of the Thermidorians. Women played a vanguard role in the last uprising of the French Revolution in the spring of 1795, after Thermidor. The rallying cry was "Bread and the Constitution of 1793!"

The modern feminist historians believe that the role of women who rose up from the "cellars and catacombs" has been largely obscured because of prevailing patriarchal attitudes in society. Or they seek to show that women acted only on "women's issues," mainly food shortages. While there's some truth in both these observations, they fundamentally miss the point. The mass of active women in the French Revolution did not fight and organize as women but as revolutionaries. And, as the October 1789 march that brought the king back from Versailles showed, it wasn't simply the question of bread that motivated them.

Thermidor marked the end of the radical phase of the revolution, and women were among the first to feel this. This was especially true for divorced women, who would have trouble finding work and maintaining themselves under the conservative Thermidorians. Divorce became identified with the "ruin of society" and the "torrent of corruption that invaded the cities and especially Paris" during the Terror and the months that followed it. Proof of a legitimate marriage became a requirement for soldiers' wives seeking to receive aid. After May 1795, the Convention banned women from "attending political assemblies," urging them to withdraw to their homes and ordering "the arrest of those who would gather together in groups of more than five."

The Napoleonic Code saw a further reversal of the gains of women. It's reported that the only part of the deliberations on the Napoleonic Code that Bonaparte sat in on was the Family Code enacted in 1804. The Family Code again made women minors from the standpoint of the law, mandating that they had to have the approval of their husbands for all contracts and so forth. In 1816, a year after Napoleon was overthrown and the monarchy restored, divorce was abolished.

For Women's Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!

I want to briefly trace the revolutionary continuity extending from the French Revolution through the 19th century. The French Revolution, refracted through Napoleon's armies, brought the first notions of women's equality to hideously backward tsarist Russia. Following Napoleon's defeat, Paris was occupied by Russian troops for a period of time. A number of young officers spent a lot of time in the cafes talking to people about what had been going on, and went back to St. Petersburg and led the Decembrist Uprising against the tsarist autocracy in 1825. They fought, among other things, for women's equality.

The very first communist ideas came out of the analysis developed by some of the radical Jacobins while in prison after the defeat of the Jacobin dictatorship. Revolutionaries like Gracchus Babeuf, who organized the Conspiracy of Equals, and Philippe Buonarroti came to believe that private property itself was the cause of oppression. They provided a living link to Marx and Engels, who issued the Communist Manifesto as the next revolutionary wave swept Europe in 1848, declaring: "The bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course when its complement vanishes, and both will vanish with the vanishing of capital." In France, a program was advanced for women's emancipation that called for replacing domestic slavery with socially organized and financed services. I found this 1848 program reprinted in an early 1920s women's journal published by the French Communist Party, L'Ouvriere (The Woman Worker).

In the Paris Commune in 1871, women once again played an extremely important role. Marx described the Commune as the first realization of the dictatorship of the proletariat, though it lasted less than three months. The women of the Paris Commune were called the "incendiaries" by the reactionary press, and a correspondent for the London Times wrote, "If the French Nation were composed of nothing but women, what a terrible nation it would be." But Marx hailed them: "The women of Paris joyfully give up their lives on the barricades and execution grounds" (quoted in Edith Thomas, The Women Incendiaries [1967]). When the French capitalist rulers finally defeated the Commune after heroic resistance, they slaughtered at least 30,000 people in one week, and many thousands more were sent to penal colonies.

Today, bourgeois France is an imperialist power, where the July 14 storming of the Bastille is celebrated as a chauvinist glorification of the "grandeur of France"—much like July 4 here—while French colonial atrocities are carried out to the music of the once-revolutionary hymn, the Marseillaise.

We Trotskyists know that it will take world socialist revolution to do away with the institutions which are the root cause of women's oppression. In our fight to reforge Leon Trotsky's Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution, to lead new October Revolutions around the planet, we are guided by the words of the Fourth International's founding document, the 1938 Transitional Program: "The sections of the Fourth International should seek bases of support among the most exploited layers of the working class, consequently among the women workers. Here they will find inexhaustible stores of devotion, selflessness, and readiness to sacrifice." Join us!