Showing posts with label break with the democrats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label break with the democrats. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

John McCain-Hands Off Professors Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn


October 11, 2008

For the fourth time this presidential season I have had to repost this item on Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. This time it is one putative Republican presidential candidate John McCain, mad "terrorist" bomber of everything he could get in his sights over North Vietnam while he was a Navy pilot, who is muddying up the waters. I have nothing in common with Democratic Vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden but he has his finger on the situation. Why, if it was such a big issue didn't John McCain raise to Barack Obama to his face on debate night, October 7, 2008. Not much of interest was being said so it would have been okay to brooch the subject. Well done, Joe. As for the rest of this damn presidential campaign season- the hell with it. Forward to a workers party!

October 7, 2008

Apparently, for the third time this presidential season I have to dust off this old review of the Weather Underground and the activities of leftist Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. Why? Sarah Palin, self-proclaimed "hockey mom" Republican Vice-presidential candidate, has decided that the virtue of the American Republic requires a rehashing of that old chestnut concerning the supposed organic relationship between the "terrorist" professors and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. I am reposting previous comments here because, frankly, I have nothing to add to the previous comments. Except this, Professors Ayers and Dohrn can now serve as prima facie evidence that ostensible leftists should be very careful in the choice of bourgeois capitalist candidates they "hang around with". In short, stay very far away from those types.

August 26, 2008

Apparently, the Republican presidential campaign of Arizona Senator John McCain is trying to get mileage out of some tenuous connection between Democratic presidential candidate Illinois Senator Barack Obama and very, very ex-Weatherpeople Professors Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. This same issue popped up in the spring of 2008. The introductory comment used there reposted directly below and a review of what The Weather Underground really meant politically still apply. I would only add that forty years of "cultural wars" by these reactionaries, led by Karl Rove and his ilk, is enough. I only hope that when our day comes we will relegate them to some nice island somewhere so they can "reflect" on their sins and leave the rest of us alone.


May 2008

There is currently a tempest in a teapot swirling around Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama concerning his relationship with former Weatherpeople Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. Here are a couple of reviews from last year on the historic significance of that movement. The real question to ask though is not why Obama was hanging around with Ayers and Dohrn but why they were hanging around with this garden-variety bourgeois candidate on the make. Enough said.




In a time when I, among others, are questioning where the extra-parliamentary opposition to the Iraq War is going and why it has not made more of an impact on American society it was rather refreshing to view this documentary about the seemingly forgotten Weather Underground that as things got grimmer dramatically epitomized one aspect of opposition to the Vietnam War. If opposition to the Iraq war is the political fight of my old age Vietnam was the fight of my youth and in this film brought back very strong memories of why I fought tooth and nail against it. And the people portrayed in this film, the core of the Weather Underground, while not politically kindred spirits then or now, were certainly on the same page as I was- a no holds- barred fight against the American Empire. We lost that round, and there were reasons for that, but that kind of attitude is what it takes to bring down the monster. But a revolutionary strategy is needed. That is where we parted company.

One of the political highlights of the film is centered on the 1969 Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) Convention that was a watershed in the student anti-war protest movement. That was the genesis of the Weathermen but it was also the genesis of the Progressive Labor Party-led faction that wanted to bring the anti-war message to the working class by linking up the student movement with the fight against capitalism. In short, to get to those who were, or were to be, the rank and file soldiers in Vietnam or who worked in the factories. In either case the point that was missed, as the Old Left had argued all along and which we had previously dismissed out of hand, was that it was the masses of working people who were central to ‘bringing the war home’ and the fight against capitalism. That task still confronts us today.

One of the paradoxical things about this film is that the Weather Underground survivors interviewed had only a vague notion about what went wrong. This was clearly detailed in the remarks of Mark Rudd, a central leader, when he stated that the Weathermen were trying to create a communist cadre. He also stated, however, that after going underground he realized that he was out of the loop as far as being politically effective. And that is the point. There is no virtue in underground activity if it is not necessary, romantic as that may be. To the extent that any of us read history in those days it was certainly not about the origins of the Russian revolutionary movement in the 19th century. If we had we would have found that that movement also fought out the above-mentioned fight in 1969. Mass action vs. individual acts, heroic or otherwise, of terror. The Weather strategy of acting as the American component of the worldwide revolutionary movement in order to bring the Empire to its knees certainly had (and still does) had a very appealing quality. However, a moral gesture did not (and will not) bring this beast down. While the Weather Underground was made up a small group of very appealing subjective revolutionaries its political/moral strategy led to a dead end. The lesson to be learned; you most definitely do need weather people to know which way the winds blow. Start with Karl Marx.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Channeling Bobby Kennedy 2019-From The Archives -*As The Kennedy Legacy In American Politics Passes- Reflections On The Political Hero Of My Youth-Bobby Kennedy

Click on title to link to the Public Broadcasting System's "American Experience" segment on Robert Kennedy.

Markin Commentary-August 28, 2009

With the passing of Massachusetts United Senator Edward Kennedy on August 26, 2009 there is a palpable sense that a political era has passed in American bourgeois politics. That may be. There will be plenty of time to analyze that, for those so inclined, later. For now though this reviewer, as one who was born in Massachusetts and has been face to face with the Kennedy aura since early childhood, has a few comments to make, not on Ted Kennedy, but on the political hero of my youth his older brother, Robert. I am reposting two entries, “The Real Robert Kennedy” and “On Bobby Kennedy”, from last year, the 40th anniversary of Bobby’s assassination during his run for the 1968 democratic presidential nomination.

As for the late Ted Kennedy he probably went as far it is possible to do in professing the liberal capitalist credo inherited from Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal”. Admittedly, since the halcyon “Camelot” days of the early 1960s that has been a bar that has been progressively lowered. Nevertheless, on specific issues, we leftists could unite (and did), with the appropriate freedom of criticism that we needed to insist on as a condition for joint action, with Ted Kennedy. That, my friends, who may not understand is under the old principle of uniting with “the devil and his grandmother” for the good of our cause.

But here is the real “skinny” on Ted Kennedy from our prospective. When, and if, the deal went down and the existence of the capitalist system was on the line old Teddy would have been the last “liberal” defender on the last barricade of that system. And why not? It was his system. Somewhere to Kennedy’s left there was a great divide that he could not pass and where we would, of necessity, have had to part company on those barricades just mentioned. Enough said on Ted though today I really want to go back to my young and reminisce about Bobby. Again.

As The Kennedy Legacy In American Politics Passes- Reflections On The Political Hero Of My Youth-Bobby Kennedy

Posted on "American Left History", June 5, 2008

*On Bobby Kennedy- A Personal View From The Left On The 40th 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 Bobby 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.        

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Tom Wolfe-Fashionista Of His Own Kind-And A Hell Of A Writer When The Deal Went Down Has Cashed His Check -From The Archives-The Streets Are Not For Dreaming Now- Chicago 1968-Norman Mailer's View

Tom Wolfe-Fashionista Of His Own Kind-And A Hell Of A Writer When The Deal Went Down Has Cashed His Check

By Bart Webber

I had been, strangely enough, in La Jolla out in California attending yet another writers’ conference which seems to be the makings of my days these days, attending writers’ conferences that is instead of taking pen to paper or rather fingers to word processor keyboard, when I heard Tom Wolfe had cashed his check. “Cashed his check” a term (along with synonymous “cashed his ticket”) grabbed from memory bank as a term used when I was “on the bum” hanging out in hobo jungle camps and the whole trail of flop houses and Salvation Army digs to signify that a kindred had passed to the great beyond. Was now resting in some better place that a stinking stew-bitten, flea –bitten, foul-aired and foul-person place. No more worries about the next flop, the next jug of cheapjack wine, the next run-in with vicious coppers and railroad bulls, and the next guy who was ready to rip whatever you had off to feed his own sullen addiction.

By the way this is not Thomas Wolfe of You Can’t Go Home Again, Look Homeward, Angels, etc. but the writer, maybe journalist is a better way to put the matter of tons of interesting stuff from acid trips in the 1960s hanging with Ken Kesey and his various tribes of merry pranksters, the Hell’s Angels, drifters, grifters and midnight sifters, to marveled space flights in the 1970s to Wall Street in the reckless 1980 and back who had cashed his check. The strange part of the “strangely enough” mentioned above was that on Monday May 14th 2018, the day he died, I was walking along La Jolla Cove and commenting to my companion without knowing his fate that Tom Wolfe had made the La Jolla surfing scene in the early 1960s come alive with his tale of the Pump House Gang and related stories about the restless California tribes, you know those Hell’s Angels, Valley hot-rod freaks and the like who parents had migrated west from dustbowl Okies and Arkies to start a new life out in Eden. These next generation though lost in a thousand angsts and alienation not having to fight for every breath of fresh air (with the exception of the Angels who might as well have stayed in the Okies and McAllister Prison which would have been their fate.   

I don’t know how Tom Wolfe did at the end as a writer, or toward the end, when things seemed to glaze over and became very homogenized, lacked the verve of hard ass 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s times. Although I do note that he did a very although I note he did an interesting take on the cultural life at the Army base at Fort Bragg down in North Carolina in a book of essays around the theme of hooking up. That hooking up angle a sign that social cohesiveness in the age of the Internet was creating some strange rituals. Know this those pound for pound in his prime he along with Hunter Thompson could write the sociology of the land with simple flair and kept this guy, me, flipping the pages in the wee hours of the morning. RIP, Tom Wolfe, RIP.  

From The Archives-The Streets Are Not For Dreaming Now- Chicago 1968-The Late Norman Mailer's View

Commentary/Book Review (2008)

This year, also a presidential election year, marks the 40th anniversary of the bloodbath in the streets of Chicago during the 1968 Democratic Convention. I have reposted Norman Mailer’s work Miami and the Siege of Chicago originally posted on this site in September 2007 that recounts many of the incidents that occurred during that week. Mailer’s work is as good example as any that I have read from a journalist’s perspective so can stand here, as well.

Parts of the review also detail my own political positions during that period. Readers can get the gist of those positions below. I would only add that during this particular week I was in Boston manning the phones while others in the Humphrey campaign had gone to Chicago. In retrospect, the most painful detail of that week was the necessity of answering many irate calls from Gene McCarthy supporters and others about the police riot in Chicago. Even stranger was being denounced as a “hawk” for supporting Humphrey’s Vietnam position. Oddly, my own position at the time- for immediate withdrawal- was actually far to the left of what the irate callers were arguing for. Such is the price of my youthful opportunism though.

The Streets Are Not For Dreaming Now



As I recently noted in this space while reviewing the late Norman Mailer’s The Presidential Papers at one time, as with Ernest Hemingway, I tried to get my hands on everything that he wrote. In his prime he held out promise to match Hemingway as the preeminent male American prose writer of the 20th century. Mailer certainly has the ambition, ego and skill to do so. Although he wrote several good novels in his time like The Deer Park I believe that his journalistic work, as he himself might partially admit, especially his political, social and philosophical musings are what will insure his place in the literary pantheon.

With that in mind I recently re-read his work on the 1968 political campaign Miami and the Siege of Chicago -the one that pitted Lyndon Johnson, oops, Hubert Humphrey against Richard M. Nixon. This work is exponentially better than his scatter shot approach in the Presidential Papers and only confirms what I mentioned above as his proper place in the literary scheme of things. Theodore White may have won his spurs breaking down the mechanics of the campaign and made a niche for himself with The Making of a President, 1960 and his later incarnations on that same theme but Mailer in his pithy manner gives an overview of the personalities and the stakes involved for the America in that hell-bent election. I would note that for Mailer as for many of us, not always correctly as in my own case, this 1968 presidential campaign season and those conventions evolved in a year that saw a breakdown of the bourgeois electoral political process that had not been seen in this country since the 1850’s just prior to the Civil War.

The pure number of unsettling events of that year was a portent that this would be a watershed year for good or evil. Out of the heat, killing and destruction in Vietnam came the North Vietnamese/National Liberation Front Tet offensive that broke the back of the lying reports that American/South Vietnamese success was just around the corner. Today’s Iraq War supporters might well take note. In the aftermath of that decisive event insurgent anti-war Democratic presidential hopeful Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy’s seemingly quixotic campaign against a sitting president jumped off the ground. In the end that Tet offensive also forced Lyndon Johnson from office. And drove Robert Kennedy to enter the fray. The seemingly forgotten LBJ spear carrier Hubert Humphrey also got a new lease on life. I will have more to say about this below. Then, seemingly on a dime, in a tick we started to lose ground. The assassination of Martin Luther King and the burning down of the ghettos of major cities in its aftermath and later in the spring of Robert Kennedy at a moment of victory placed everything on hold.

That spring also witnessed turmoil on the campuses of the United States exemplified by the Columbia University shut down and internationally by the student –ignited French General Strike. These and other events held both promise and defeat that year but when I reflect on 1968 almost forty years later I am struck by the fact that in the end one political retread, Richard Milhous Nixon, was on top and the front of an almost forty year bourgeois political counter revolution had began. Not a pretty picture but certainly a cautionary tale of sorts. The ‘of sorts’ of the tale is that if you are going to try to make fundamental changes in this society you better not play around with it and better not let the enemy off the hook when you have him cornered. That now seems like the beginning of wisdom.

I have written elsewhere (see archives, Confessions of An Old Militant- A Cautionary Tale, October 2006) that while all hell was breaking loose in American society in 1968 my essentially left liberal parliamentary cretinist response was to play ‘lesser evil’ bourgeois electoral politics. My main concern, a not unworthy but nevertheless far from adequate one, was the defeat of one Richard Nixon who was making some very depressing gains toward both the Republican nomination and the presidency. As noted in the above-mentioned commentary I was willing to go half the way with LBJ in 1968 and ultimately all the way with HHH in order to cut Nixon off at the knees.

I have spent a good part of the last forty years etching the lessons of that mistake in my brain and that of others. But as I also pointed out in that commentary I was much more equivocal at the time, as Mailer was, about the effect of Robert Kennedy the candidate of my heart and my real candidate in 1968. I have mentioned before and will do so again here that if one bourgeois candidate could have held me in democratic parliamentary politics it would have been Robert Kennedy. Not John, although as pointed out in my review of The Presidential Papers, in my early youth I was fired up by his rhetoric but there was something about Robert that was different. Maybe it was our common deep Irish sense of fatalism, maybe our shared sense of the tragic in life or maybe in the end it was our ability to rub shoulders with the ‘wicked’ of this world to get a little bit of human progress. But enough of nostalgia. If you want to look seriously inside the political conventions of 1968 and what they meant in the scheme of American politics from a reasonably objective progressive partisan then Mailer is your guide here. This is the model, not Theodore White’s more mechanical model of coverage, that Hunter Thompson tapped into in his ‘gonzo’ journalistic approach in latter conventions- an insightful witness to the hypocrisy and balderdash of those processes.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

November 22, 1963-Frankie’s Cry Of The Banshee-For The Class Of 1964 Everywhere

November 22, 1963-Frankie’s Cry Of The Banshee-For The Class Of 1964 Everywhere

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry covering the background to the assassination of American President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 for those too young to remember that event.

Frankie Riley comment:

Well you, the North Adamsville High School Class of 1964, knew this was coming at some point. That date, November 22, 1963, is etched, one way or another, is the minds of the generation of ’68 forever. Some events form the signposts for every generation. For our parents, the Class of 1964 parents, it was starving or semi-starving, hitting the western roads or just marking time through the Great Depression and slogging, gun in hand, through World War II, or waiting anxiously at home, waiting for the other shoe to drop. For today's kids it is the dastardly heinous criminal acts around 9/11 and the permanent "war against terrorism" that seems to color every political move made these days. For us it was the Cold War “red menace” Soviet Union space race throw-up satellite Sputnik and, in the end, the political horrors emanating from the Irish tragic Kennedy assassination. The cry of the banshee out in the wilds, on the wild oceans, and careening the wild winds.

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, legitimately or otherwise, playing hooky, legitimately or otherwise, or on a field trip, legitimately or otherwise, you were sitting in some dank classroom as the old craggy-faced, rum-besotten (as least we all suspected that and which was later confirmed when he was arrested for drunk driving about seven times), headmaster, one Mr. Donald O’Toole, came over the P.A. system to announce the news of the shooting of President Kennedy. What I would find interesting 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 in America 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, a little anyway if they can stop that eternal, infernal texting and look up for a minute. 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 notebook. 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.
So naturally if Frank Riley has anything to say on any subject, from dung beetles to one-worldism, just like in the old North Adamsville Salducci’s Pizza Parlor nights, one Peter Paul Markin has to put his face into the conversation. Here, as usual, is his lame take on the Kennedy days from an entry he wrote in 2010. In other words he refuses to give us any new stuff but, christ, just the same old, same old. Here it is if you can stand it:

Peter Paul Markin, Class of 1964:

A while back [October, 2010] I mentioned, in an entry that amounted to a nostalgic 1960s Boston kid time trip down political memory lane, the following that links in with this entry posted under the sign of the 50th anniversary of Jack Kennedy’s presidential election victory election over one Richard Milhous Nixon, the arch-political villain of the age:

“During the course of the afternoon that event [the Massachusetts governor’s race where President Obama was to speak at a rally in behalf of Deval Patrick’s reelection at the Hines Center in Boston], and the particular locale where it was staged, brought back a flood of memories of my first serious organized political actions in 1960 when, as a lad of fourteen, I set out to “save the world.” And my soul, or so I thought at the time, as well. That was the campaign of one of our own, Jack Kennedy, as he ran for president against the nefarious sitting Vice President, one Richard Milhous Nixon. In the course of that long ago campaign he gave one of his most stirring speeches not far from where I stood on this Saturday.

Although gathering troops (read: high school and college students) for that long ago speech was not my first public political action of that year, a small SANE-sponsored demonstration against nuclear proliferation further up the same street was but I did not help to organize that one, the Kennedy campaign was the first one that hinted that I might, against all good sense, become a serious political junkie. Ya, I know, every mother warns their sons (then and now) and daughters (now) against such foolhardiness but what can you do. And, mercifully, I am still at it. And have wound up on the right side of the angels, to boot.

The funny thing about those triggered remembrances is that as far removed from bourgeois politics as I have been for about the last forty years I noticed many young politicos doing their youthful thing just as I did back then; passing out leaflets, holding banners, rousing the crowd, making extemporaneous little soapbox speeches, arguing with an occasional right wing Tea Party advocate, and making themselves hoarse in the process. In short, exhibiting all the skills (except the techno-savvy computer indoor stuff you do these days before such rallies) of a street organizer from any age, including communist street organizers. Now if those young organizers only had the extra-parliamentary left-wing politics to merge with those organizational skills. In short, come over to the side of the angels.

But that is where we come back to old Jack Kennedy and that 1960 campaign. Who would have thought that a kid, me, who started out walking door to door stuffing Jack Kennedy literature in every available door in 1960 but who turned off that road long ago would be saying thanks, Jack. Thanks for teaching me those political skills.”

And not just that thanks for heralding the break-out, or at least the attempted break-out of my 1960s generation from the Eisenhower-Nixon cold war death trap. See, at the time of the great attempted break-out from the confines of bourgeois society and the tracked career path all kinds of people seemed like they could be allies, and Jack Kennedy seemed a kindred spirit. I will not even mention Bobby, that one still brings a little tear to my eye. But enough of nostalgia we still have to fight to seek that newer world, to hear that high white note before everything comes crashing down on us.”
And here is more from Mr. Markin under cover of a book review from 2007. This guy is too much, way too much-Frank Riley.

On Coming Of Political Age-Norman Mailer's "The Presidential Papers"

Commentary/Book Review

The Presidential Papers, Norman Mailer, Viking, 1963

At one time, as with Ernest Hemingway, I tried to get my hands on everything that Norman Mailer wrote. In his prime he held out promise to match Hemingway as the preeminent male American prose writer of the 20th century. Mailer certainly has the ambition, ego and skill to do so. Although he wrote several good novels, like The Deer Park, in his time I believe that his journalistic work, as he himself might partially admit, especially his political, social and philosophical musings are what will insure his place in the literary pantheon. With that in mind I recently re-read his work on the 1960 political campaign-the one that pitted John F. Kennedy against Richard M. Nixon- that is the center of the book under review. There are other essays in this work, some of merely passing topical value, but what remains of interest today is a very perceptive analysis of the forces at work in that pivotal election. Theodore White won his spurs breaking down the mechanics of the campaign and made a niche for himself with The Making of a President, 1960. Mailer in a few pithy articles gave the overview of the personalities and the stakes involved for the America of that time.

Needless to say the Kennedy victory of that year has interest today mainly for the forces that it unleashed in the base of society, especially, but not exclusively, among the youth. His rather conventional bourgeois Cold War foreign policy and haphazard domestic politics never transcended those of the New and Fair Deals of Roosevelt and Truman but his style, his youth and his élan seemingly gave the go ahead to all sorts of projects in order to ‘‘seek a newer world.” And we took him up on this. This writer counted himself among those youth who saw the potential to change the world. We also knew that if the main villain of the age , one Richard Milhous Nixon, had been successful in 1960 as he graphically demonstrated when he later became president we would not be seeing any new world but the same old, same old.

I have been, by hook or by crook, interested in politics from an early age. Names like Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Joseph McCarthy, Khrushchev and organizations like Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) and the like were familiar to me if not fully understood then. I came of political age with the 1960 presidential campaign. Mailer addresses the malaise of American political life during the stodgy Eisenhower years that created the opening for change-and Kennedy and his superb organization happily rushed in. These chances, as a cursory perusal of the last 40 odd years of bourgeois presidential politics makes painfully clear, do not come often. The funny thing is that during most of 1960 I was actually ‘Madly for Adlai’, that is I preferred Adlai Stevenson the twice- defeated previous Democratic candidate, but when the deal went down at the advanced age of 14 I walked door to door talking up Kennedy. Of course, in Massachusetts that was not a big deal but I still recall today that I had a very strong sense I did not want to be left out of the new age ‘aborning.’ That, my friends, in a small way is the start of that slippery road to the ‘lesser evil’ practice that dominates American politics and a habit that took me a fairly long time to break.

Mailer has some very cutting, but true, remarks about the kind of people who populate the political milieu down at the base of bourgeois politics, those who make it to the political conventions. Except that today they are better dressed and more media savvy nothing has changed. Why? Bourgeois politics, not being based on any fidelity to program except as a throwaway, is all about winning (and fighting to keep on winning). This does not bring out the "better angels of our nature." For those old enough to remember that little spark of youth that urged us on to seek that "newer world" and for those too young to have acquired knowledge of anything but the myth Mailer’s little book makes for interesting and well-written reading.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Bread, Land And Peace"- Figting Slogans For Obamian Times


Earlier this year (see archives, dated May 29, 2008) in an entry with a theme similar to that headlined above I mentioned the strong similarities between the propaganda slogans that militant workers had to fight under now and those which formed the core agitational political program of the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution in 1917, obviously taking all historical proportions and differences taken into consideration.

In thinking through some of the points that militant workers will have to fight for in Obamian times I re-read that entry and found that in the intervening months the points made there retain their relevance and can serve to form the axis of our left oppositionist program for the impeding Obamiad. Naturally, there are other slogans that we will need to fight under but we might as well prepare now, especially on that peace point when Obama pulls the hammer down in Afghanistan and escalates the war there. More, much more later. For now here is a repost of that May 29, 2008 entry ([ ] indicates comment added today).


Has Markin gone senile on us with the headline slogans above? Has Markin been in a time warp and gone back to the spring and summer of 1917 in Russia to appropriate the day-to-day slogans that the Bolsheviks grafted onto their program and which led to their success in the October revolution? No, Markin is not senile nor has he gone back in a time machine to the glory days of 1917. Markin has just taken a glance at some recent daily headlines and ‘creatively’ encapsulated those stories. Hear me out.

Bread- In Russia in 1917 the initial sparks that set off the February revolution that overthrew the Czar were the demonstrations of working women, housewives and soldiers’ wives for bread. Literally. A look, on any given day, today at the worldwide rise in prices of basic foodstuffs due to a myriad of factors but mainly caused by the anarchy of the “free” market place brings that old fight against starvation in stark relief. Literally. Add to that food crisis the lunatic increase in the price of fossil fuels [even if temporarily abated at present] and other forms of energy needed to produce the world’s goods and the situation cries out today for a fundamental change in the way the world’s finite resources are apportioned. Conclusion: propaganda centered on the need for a rationalization of the world economy through centralized planning under workers’ control is on the order of the day.

Land- In Russia in 1917 the peasants cried out for resolution of their land hunger after centuries of near starvation tilling of their tiny plots and their serf-like subservience to the landed interests. Today that land hunger has taken a different form, at least in America- ownership of single family homes. The current and ongoing housing, crisis with its foreclosures and steep declines of prices in the housing market, has placed working people up against the wall. Whether working people were right or wrong in their desire for private home ownership they are the ones taking it in the neck today. An immediate long moratorium on foreclosures and restructuring of mortgages is called for. No evictions for those renters affected by the turmoil. Conclusion: Again, fighting propaganda on the question of rationalization of the housing market under the central planning principal through local workers councils is called for.

Peace- In Russia in 1917 the slaughter of World War I had finally hit home and the peasant-based army was falling apart under the direct military thrust of German imperialism, the inane goading of the Western imperialist powers, especially Britain and France, and the sheer madness of continuing the war by a broken army. Today Iraq and Afghanistan, to speak nothing of a plethora of other localized wars and disputes like the still far from resolved Palestinian question, have made the world an extremely dangerous place where war-like conditions can set off an explosion in an instant. [Most dramatically, President-elect Obama had made it clear from the beginning of his candidacy and since the elections has taken actions to ensure that Afghanistan is HIS war. I have mentioned elsewhere in this space that that he has taken a very calculated risk to, above all other issues, stake his presidency on this question.] Conclusion: Short and sweet- it is time to make class war on the warmongers, and in the first instance, the American military goliath. The beginning of wisdom for today’s propaganda fight is the immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all American/ Allied troops and their mercenaries from Iraq and Afghanistan!

These three slogans point to the more general conclusion implicit in their exposition. All of this is merely a pipe dream or a Markin delusion if the fight does not include the fight for an independent working class party of our own that fights for a workers government so we can begin to fight like hell to turn things around. In short, and here is where the 1917 analogy really comes into focus- we have to start talking Russian, circa 1917, to the bosses. Pronto!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

*From The Edges (Maybe) Of The Class Struggle- A Guest Review Of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11"

Click on the title to link to YouTube's film clip of the movie trailer for Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11".

Markin comment:

Thanks for saving me from having to review this work. While we can all appreciate the work of Michael Moore in tweaking the right wing loonies I would feel much better about his work, his person and his politics if he didn't have that front row seat safely ensconced in the midst of the Democratic Party. Michael- Break with the Democrats! Enough said.

Fahrenheit 9/11

A Marxist Review

by Aman Singh

Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 829, 9 July 2004.

Michael Moore's powerful new documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, offers a rare commodity in this era of stage-directed "reality"—a dose of truth, conveyed in human terms. Its images of mangled Iraqi limbs and mutilated babies are rare glimpses of what happens on the receiving end of America's bombs. Where much of America sees either a faceless "enemy" or faceless beneficiaries of American "liberation," Moore gives voice to human victims, as in the Baghdad woman in agonized rage over the American military's murder of her family, or the family terrorized by U.S. troops on Christmas Eve. A black man in Flint, Michigan, sees images of war-torn Baghdad and remarks, "There's parts of Flint that look like that, and we ain't even been in a war." Wrenching stories like that of Lila Lipscomb, whose son's death in Iraq convinced her of the depravity of the Iraq war, go untold by the mass media.

The film's resonance across the country has been intense. It set the record for the highest-grossing opening weekend in documentary film history. It has caught the attention of Bush's right-wing keepers, and for good reason: Moore's raw talent as a propagandist perhaps best comes through in his portrait of the dim and banally monstrous George W. Bush, who plays golf and vacations while thousands of Iraqi people and hundreds of American troops die at his command. Fearing this, the Republican-beholden Disney corporation refused to distribute the film, which was subsequently given an R rating to deter most teenagers from seeing it. (Moore points out that this prevents those who could soon be drafted from seeing exactly what they might be doing in the armed forces.) A small group of prominent Republicans calling themselves Move America Forward has campaigned to intimidate theaters from showing the film; a parallel group called Citizens United filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission to ban advertising for it.

But there's a problem. From the point of view of changing the reality that Moore powerfully depicts, Fahrenheit 9/11 is fundamentally defective. It is a sad comment on the state of American leftist political consciousness to witness the spectacle of audiences rightfully agitated by Bush's deadly war, inflamed by the sinister Patriot Act, disgusted by the Democrats' pathetic one-ness with the White House, who then come out of the theater all pumped up and ready to...register voters. But that has indeed been all the rage. And that was exactly Moore's intent: he has stated that "It's my personal aim that Bush is removed from the White House" (New York Times, 24 June), adding that he hoped the film would "inspire people to get up and vote in November" because "We cannot leave this to the Democrats this time to f--k it up and lose" (London Guardian, 17 May). Moore's perspective is one shared by many, particularly those who have been out on the streets demonstrating against the "war on terror," that Kerry and the Democrats are nothing to get excited about, but that they nevertheless deserve support, however critical, because Bush is so damn intolerable. Behind this "anybody but Bush" enthusiasm is a fundamentally liberal—and dangerous—view of American democracy.

Moore's vignette on the chicanery around the 2000 elections is compelling. He casts a spotlight on black oppression in the footage of black Congressional representatives rising in the Senate to protest the disenfranchisement of black voters and the fraudulence of Bush's "victory," only to be ruled out of order by an Al Gore unwilling to fight for his election victory because to do so would highlight capitalist America's disregard for black people and undermine the legitimacy of the imperial presidency. That nothing changed shows exactly why the black Democrats are kept around—to head off outrage and revolt against this racist, capitalist order, particularly among black Americans, whenever it breaks out.

Moore believes that the American people have been betrayed by a small clique of reactionary thieves (the Bush administration and its corporate network) and a few spineless Democrats. In other words, he thinks it's Bush & Co. who have violated a national unity that must be restored based on the sensibilities of the common people. In his words, a Democratic victory brings us a step closer to getting "this country back in the hands of the majority" (New York Times, 24 June). But there is and can be no national unity because this society is divided into social classes with mutually hostile interests. The whole of society is organized to extract profit for the minuscule class of capitalists, who own the factories, banks, transportation, etc., from the labor of those who produce the wealth, the working class.

Moore's worldview explains some of the glaring omissions in the film. For example, his populist outlook leads him to ignore the Bush administration's close ties to the Christian right, to take notice of which would mean acknowledging that Bush really has a popular base. The box office figures of The Passion of the Christ, remember, are real. The neocons come in for personal ridicule, but not for braintrusting the Iraq invasion policy. They are closely aligned with the religious right, particularly in support of Zionist Israel. To mention this fact would get in the way of his Democratic bandwagon-building, as the Democrats are, if anything, more wedded to support of the Zionists than the Republicans. In fact, Moore himself declared in a Los Angeles Times (22 June) interview that "Israel is a democracy."

Where Moore (and lots of other people) see the need to hold your nose and vote Democrat in November, we argue that a vote to the Democrats is a vote in favor of chaining the working masses to their oppressors and that the need is to fight to lay the basis for a conscious class break from the Democrats in the direction of political independence for the workers. The hoopla surrounding Fahrenheit 9/11 and its "anybody but Bush" popularity is a perfect illustration of why the Russian revolutionary Lenin argued in his work State and Revolution that "a democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism." As he put it, "To decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament—this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism, not only in parliamentary-constitutional monarchies, but also in the most democratic republics."

Think about it. Through the last few years a growing number of activists have participated in struggle against the capitalist system's madness. But then bring up the question of elections. All of a sudden, many of those who had become increasingly open to getting rid of the capitalist system as a whole now get all emotional about how much we need to fire the capitalist oppressor Bush, even if it means supporting the capitalist oppressor Kerry. Add in a few left-sounding voices to the chorus (like Moore's) and you end up with a pretty solid array of forces working to convince everyone that there is a real alternative within the capitalist framework.

In discussing some of these ideas with audiences following showings of Fahrenheit 9/11, we occasionally encountered something like the following argument: "There's not a huge difference between the Democrats and Republicans, but things would have been better if Gore were president." From Moore's film you'd think that no American capitalist did anything about Iraq until George W. Bush met September 11. Not nearly true. While a Gore administration might not have invaded Iraq and established a colonial occupation—an optional aggression from the standpoint of the ruling class—he likely would have "merely" continued the Democratic Clinton Iraq policy, a regime of sanctions punctuated regularly by bombings that completely ravaged Iraq and killed hundreds of thousands more Iraqis than Bush's war. All this was accomplished under a humanitarian guise (along with his adventures in Somalia, Haiti and Serbia) and with minimal protest.

So why do the capitalists wage all these wars? As much as Moore brilliantly evokes the hypocrisies of the Bush administration's war propaganda, his explanation of the underlying motives is shallow. In line with the latest in anti-globalization ideology he offers as an explanation the incestuous web linking the Saudi royal family to the Bush family, who are in turn in bed with Cheney and a handful of similar rich white corporate profiteers. But it's ridiculous to think that the personal profit interests of a handful alone motivated either the Afghanistan or Iraq wars.

The government represents the executive committee of the ruling capitalist class, which means more than obtaining tax breaks for a bunch of robber barons. The White House and Congress must defend the strategic interests that serve the capitalist social system. So while you might see capitalist politicians bickering over tactics ("We need the UN!"—Democrats; "Screw those pansies!"—Bush & Co.), there is mutual commitment that, with the Soviet Union gone, U.S. imperialism must use its overwhelming military might to expand and solidify its grip on world resources and markets in the interest of raw profit for U.S. capitalists at the expense of their European and Japanese rivals. Controlling the world's oil faucet helps in doing this. So does dictating to your imperialist competitors what wars (or trade agreements, spheres of influence, etc.) will take place and what role they'll have in the world arena. International capitalist competition drives the ruling class of each dominant industrialized country to expand and extend its profit-making reach. In other words, imperialism is not a policy that a particular government can take or leave, but nothing other than modern capitalism itself.

If an American ruler launches a war effort proclaiming that, for example, it will "make the world safe for democracy" or "liberate the oppressed Kosovars," then 1) he is lying and 2) these lies, necessary to get working people to fight and die for the profits of their own exploiters, are not simply the product of individual moral depravity (as Moore portrays it with Bush) but are a result of the way capitalists and their representatives see their class interests, which they must pass off as the national interest.

At the end of Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore says of U.S. troops: "They offer to give up their lives so that we can be free. It is remarkable their gift to us. And all they ask for in return is that we never send them into harm's way unless it's absolutely necessary." And then, referring to Bush's lies about Iraq, Moore intones of the troops, "Will they ever trust us again?" Hmmm. Have American presidents lied for war before? Well, if history is good for anything, it's to answer questions like this.

•The Spanish-American War: The sinking of the American battleship USS Maine in 1898 was blamed on Spain, and "Remember the Maine" became the war cry for America's first imperialist war to defeat Spain and seize its colonies in Cuba and the Philippines. It is now well established that the explosion that sank the ship was caused by faulty construction design.

•World War I: Democrat Wilson justified U.S. intervention vowing that "the world must be made safe for democracy." In fact, the war, which saw unprecedented bloodletting on all sides, served only to redivide the world among the capitalist powers, with up-and-coming U.S. imperialism coming out on top.

•World War II: This supposed "war against fascism" was, except for the Soviet Union, in reality another war to redivide the world, this time touched off by Germany's drive to reverse the results of its defeat in the First World War and Japan's competition with the U.S. over who would dominate the Pacific and East Asia. For over a year prior to Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt sought to provoke a Japanese attack to justify an American declaration of war. He got it.

•Vietnam: The Democratic Johnson administration fabricated stories of an unprovoked attack on an American ship in the Gulf of Tonkin to get Congress to pass an effective declaration of war, enabling a massive escalation of the U.S.'s dirty colonial war against the Vietnamese workers and peasants.

In fact, most of American imperialism's wars were launched under Democratic administrations (in addition to the above, the Democrat Truman initiated the Korean War under United Nations auspices, and Democrat Clinton directed General Wesley Clark, whom Moore supported during the primaries, to bomb much of the life out of Serbia). So, why have the Democrats led most of America's wars? Fahrenheit 9/11 eloquently shows why, though Moore didn't mean to do so. In one scene Bush addresses his rich corporate friends, quipping, "This is an impressive crowd, the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite. I call you my base." Who would want to fight and die for these people? Moore chronicles perfectly how Bush's Iraq lies were transparent and stupid—not like the Democrats, who provide much nicer-sounding, humanitarian war lies and pose as "friends of labor."

It is this kinder, gentler, friendlier-to-the-people image relative to the other big party of capitalism that makes the Democrats more pernicious, more deceptive, and more effective than the Republicans. Look at what Moore recently had to say about Kerry, a man who wants to substantially increase the American troop presence in Iraq: "He is a person of integrity whose heart is in a good place. He will never send kids off to war unless he absolutely has to. Because he's been there himself" (San Francisco Chronicle, 30 June). It is precisely for the same reason that the Democrats are able to masquerade as a lesser evil that they are American imperialism's preferred party for racism and war.

Perhaps the most glaring omission in the film comes when Moore treats the "war on terror" simply as a mechanism used to instill fear of terrorists in the populace, but ignores its central use—as a racist witchhunt of immigrants, the first target of a wider war on blacks, workers and all the oppressed. Why would Moore leave out this central component of the capitalists' cynical use of September 11? Moore in his own way echoes the Democratic politicians who argue that Bush is not prosecuting the "war on terror" effectively. In an interview in the July issue of Playboy, Moore advises that the U.S. should "Hire the Israelis to find Osama and kill him."

Moore ridicules Bush for going after the wrong people—harmless peaceniks and a guy in a gym who was critical of Bush—and demonstrates that Bush doesn't even take his own terrorist warnings seriously by showing the comically sub-skeletal police force assigned to keep Oregon's serene coastline "safe." But in doing so, Moore implicitly gives credence to the capitalists' xenophobic framework of national security. Take his intimations that the Saudis control some 7 percent of the American economy and were therefore able to escape scrutiny following September 11. To begin with, it's a joke to think that American imperialism answers to the Saudi royal family. More importantly, by saying nothing about the witchhunt against Arabs and Muslims in the U.S., Moore plays into the still rampant government-led chauvinism that all Arabs are potential terrorists who need to be watched.

While we're on the topic of state repression, we can't let pass Moore's disgusting statement in his book Dude, Where's My Country? that black journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal "did indeed kill that cop." Moore willfully ignored the overwhelming evidence proving the innocence of this fighter against black oppression, put on death row in a transparent frame-up targeting him for his political views. This is the type of repression that the government wants to seriously escalate. On a case that touches America's racist core, this statement is like a pledge of loyalty to the racist capitalist order.

Fahrenheit 9/11 features a number of scenes focusing on the impact of war on black people in America: Lila Lipscomb's story, the Marine recruiters prowling a mall parking lot looking for young black recruits, and the group of young black men who all raise hands when asked who has a friend or relative fighting in Iraq. These sequences powerfully evoke the economic draft, where it is those who are most ground down by the structural poverty and racial oppression of this profit-driven society who end up on the front lines of their oppressor's wars. Moore evokes sympathy for the plight of these working and oppressed youth sent off to do imperialism's dirty work. Many, including Moore, take this to argue that those who oppose the war should "support the troops." But Iraq is a clear case where it is necessary to take a side, and not the side of the U.S. or those doing its fighting—every blow struck against the American occupation forces is a blow struck against the enemy of workers and the oppressed all over the world, including in the U.S.

The capitalists' timeless lie that there is a "national unity" must be smashed. It is essential to drive home the point that a vote for the Democrats is a vote for a democratic facade to the "war on terror" and the occupation of Iraq, which they will continue not because they're spineless, but because the Democrats are devoted to the capitalist system. Moore's proposed solution cannot change this reality, and more to the point, his populism, his identification with the American on the street, his awareness of racism make him especially effective in mobilizing support for the Democratic Party in a way that the Democrats cannot do for themselves. This counteracts exactly what is most pressing—a political break with the capitalist framework, and therefore the Democratic Party.

There is a force that can change things—the multiracial working class, the collective producers who have both the power and the need to remake society based on production for need rather than profit, and thereby lay the basis for obliterating class and therefore inequality from history. The fight to unleash that power is the fight for a workers party that is independent of the capitalist parties and based on a policy of class struggle—the mobilization of its power through strikes and other work actions—in defense of itself, blacks, immigrants and all the oppressed toward ultimately smashing the existing state power. While powerful in many ways, Fahrenheit 9/11 expresses a worldview all too common among workers and leftist youth today—that workers are good people who form a potentially powerful voting bloc as victims of a corporate-dominated system. The key to human liberation is to understand the working class as a class with power, the force for change. The working class and oppressed can't elect capitalism out of office. We need a workers revolution.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

From The "Socialist Alternative" Website- "Debates in the Movement – Occupy Needs a Political Voice "-Break With The Democrats

Debates in the Movement – Occupy Needs a Political Voice

Jan 26, 2012
By Aditi Kaushik

The Occupy movement began as a response to years of deepening inequality, political corruption, and the brazenness with which Wall Street and Washington have colluded to wreak havoc on the economy, and then pay huge prizes to the very same robber-bankers who created the financial crisis.

The movement reflects a significant step forward in consciousness. Its slogans have emphasized the massive disparity between the “99%” and the “1%,” giving it a class character, whereas other recent movements have limited themselves to single-issues, such as the Iraq anti-war movement, or the movement against corporate personhood.

A strong sense of having been sold out was the starting point for Occupy and has given it a justified suspicion of politics in general. This connects to its concern about the development of political demands, political programs, and political organizations.

The movement is correct to be wary of being co-opted by “business as usual,” and its resistance to politics is an understandable response to decades of betrayal by the Republican and Democratic parties and their rotten policies. The well-founded nature of this concern was illustrated in how the corporate media, Wall Street, and the two parties of big business have reacted to the movement itself. Initially, they ignored Occupy and pretended it wasn’t happening. As the movement continued to grow, violent repression and intimidation tactics were directed against it. When repression failed to silence the movement and, instead, led to massive public sympathy and support, a section of the ruling class began looking to see how best to co-opt its energy for their own benefit.

Danger of Democratic Party Co-Option

Obama has begun speaking positively about the Occupy movement, saying in a recent speech that “it expresses the frustrations that the American people feel.” By this and similar statements, he hopes to turn a section of the movement back toward the Democratic Party, and mobilize it for the 2012 electoral campaign.

While the Democrats’ use of progressive-sounding rhetoric can be skillful, their track record of representing the interests of the 99% is abysmal. Despite his words, Obama has done little to challenge the Wall Street agenda. On the contrary, the Wall Street bailouts continued under Obama, attacks on social services and unions have become sharper, public sector layoffs have increased, a massive wave of deportations has taken place, and war spending has risen. Obama filled his cabinet with financial executives, in particular from Goldman Sachs. Recently, he chose Broderick Johnson, a man with a long resume as a Wall Street lobbyist, as his senior campaign advisor.

One of the insights of the Occupy movement has been a growing skepticism toward the Democratic Party among a wide layer of its activists. That skepticism, however, will be challenged by the drumbeat to support the “lesser evil” in November, and to keep Republicans from being elected.

The Democratic Party is also searching for a foothold inside the movement. A recent trend in Occupy has been directed against undemocratic electoral actions by the Republican Party, such as Occupy activists protesting in Iowa against voter suppression and electoral fraud. This trend is being seized on by Democrats to re-focus energy against the Republicans and pull Occupy activists into the Democratic party orbit. Other strategies include bringing Democratic Party representatives to Occupy events as speakers, who then seek to portray the Democrats as the party of the 99%.

Challenging the politics of lesser evilism will require building an independent movement that actively exposes the Democratic Party and puts forward its own program as an alternative to the corporate agenda. A class war is being waged by the 1% and, if the 99% fails to lead the resistance, the Democratic Party will co-opt a section of the movement to fight on the side of big business, as it has done with so many past movements.

The Need for Politics

Equating the resistance to co-option with a rejection of all “politics” would be disastrous for the movement. In the absence of a clear political direction, Occupy will likely be increasingly absorbed in divisive, unproductive internal debates, and make itself increasingly irrelevant in the middle of an election year. Without clear political positions on the key issues of the day, Occupy risks losing its focus, becoming marginalized, and ultimately co-opted.

The movement needs to employ slogans and political demands that can provide a solution to the massive crisis facing tens of millions of Americans who sympathize with Occupy. This will help it grow into a mass movement by connecting with broader layers of the working class and youth who are angry at the economic crisis, but who have so far only passively supported the movement.

One of the most common questions about Occupy, after four months, is still “what is the movement about?” The corporate media has used the lack of a political program or demands as ammunition to attack Occupy as being directionless. While inaccurate and dishonest, this media characterization has had substantial impact. There has been broad support and sympathy for the general ideas of Occupy among ordinary Americans. There is, however, still a lack of clarity about the goals of the movement.

Sections within Occupy have the view that putting forward demands is a sign of watering down the movement, and should be avoided at all costs. Others do not trust such decisions to be made democratically, and want a fully “leaderless” movement, basing itself autonomously on occupation and struggle.

But history shows that struggle alone is not enough. While the Occupy movement has exploded in a wave of class struggle unlike any in recent U.S. history, it is in danger if it cannot agree on a way forward. This is particularly true now that the political center of the movement, the physical encampments, have largely been evicted. Without that center, the question hangs in the air: “What next?”

The Civil Rights movement, and the other movements of the 1960s and 1970s, built their successes by capturing the imagination of wider and wider layers of the working class and youth and developing ultimately into a threat to the establishment. Their initial demands were far from revolutionary, but they resonated with the public and brought new people onto the streets. Through the experience of struggle, activists were increasingly attracted to anti-capitalist and socialist ideas, and new revolutionary organizations developed, such as the Black Panther Party.

New Direction

The Occupy movement has recently begun to develop new structures, such as the formation of local, neighborhood, town, and university occupy groups to take up issues affecting local areas and populations. This is an excellent direction and should be further developed.

Occupy should also call for democratic and participatory regional conferences in the coming months to develop its political direction and program, and discuss the idea of running its own candidates.

An Occupy political program could include demands widely supported within the movement, such as the need for single-payer health care, an end to home foreclosures, an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the repeal of Taft-Hartley, a massive green jobs program, the cancellation of student debt, and an end to all cuts to education and social services. Such demands will also find a strong echo among broader layers outside the movement. But first a challenge must be mounted against the prevailing anti-political mood, and the need for a political program must be patiently explained.

Social movements are ongoing processes that exist within the context of wider class society. To grow and succeed, movements need to take consciousness forward, but can only do so by first reaching out to where consciousness currently is. To defeat Wall Street’s agenda, the working class and youth will need to fight en masse for their interests, become better organized, develop a broader activist base, take massive strike action, and ultimately to overturn this rotten system of capitalism.

Socialist Alternative, P.O. Box 45343, Seattle WA 98145
Phone: (206)526-7185

Comments? Suggestions for improving our web page? Please email

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

From Boston Indy Media-Labor Must Choose Between Occupy and the Democrats by workers action

Labor Must Choose Between Occupy and the Democrats by workers action
(No verified email address) 21 Nov 2011

The Occupy Movement couldn't have come along at a worse time, from the viewpoint of the Democrats. Election season is just getting started and Occupy has thrown a giant wrench into the political machinery. Some labor leaders too are sensing “politics as usual” shifting under their feet; the “get out the vote” for the Democrats may elicit blank stares from the rank and file.

Occupy has the potential to create earthquakes within the labor movement and labor’s relationship to the Democrats, if it approaches the subject intelligently. This seismic shift could permanently change politics in the United States, much for the better.
Many commentators have noted that the Occupy Movement can be only poison for the Democrats. Unlike the Republicans, who benefited from the corporate sponsored far-right Tea Party, the Democrats have no intention of moving — or even flirting — with an independent movement to its left. Long before the corporate Presidency of Bill Clinton, the Democrats have moved only to the right, with the leftist talk reserved strictly for election campaigns. This evolution is now to the point where President Obama stands to the right of President and arch-Conservative Richard Nixon on most economic and social issues. Times have certainly changed.

In an effort to pretend that times haven't changed, some labor leaders are obsessed with comparing the modern Democrats with the modern Republicans, the latter who have evolved into a party that openly denies evolution and disdains all things non-corporate. Comparing Democrats with Republicans in this distorted manner certainly makes Democrats look good, while also avoiding the real issues at stake.

And then came Occupy. Real issues are now being talked about. Occupy has successfully pointed out the absurd policies of both corporate owned political parties. This disruption has created open hostility from Republicans and Democrats, the latter have stood silent as local riot police-- controlled mainly by Democratic Party administrations-- have attacked peaceful Occupy protesters all over the country. Even the eternally loyal Democrat Daily Kos website has spewed anti-Democrat anger over this:

"The deafening silence from Congress, from both the Democratic and Republican parties, and President Obama on the abuse of civilians exercising the right to assemble, and the right to freedom of speech, speaks volumes as to the priorities, concerns and goals of the political class in D.C. We should be very, very concerned and angry over this silence...Silence is in fact, complicity." (November 16, 2011).

The labor movement sees a natural ally in Occupy and is openly embracing it, to varying degrees. Of course the two movements are mutually compatible: labor has been fighting off and on against corporations since unions were born. The Occupy Movement is breathing fresh air into the working people's movement, and the unions had better go "all in" with Occupy, lest they stand alone and become totally irrelevant.

The labor movement thus has a foot in both worlds; one in step with the Occupy Movement and the other with the Democrats, who are working to crush Occupy outright. Labor's split personality is obviously unsustainable; something has got to give. A stark example of these incompatible positions was put forth by Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), when she discussed SEIU's recent endorsement of President Obama:

"We need a leader [Obama] willing to fight for the needs of the 99 percent . . . .Our economy and democracy have been taken over by the wealthiest one percent."

What?! Corporations gave Obama far more money than his previous Republican opponent, John McCain. Corporations are again giving Obama more money than his current Republican counterparts. He doesn't need the dues money of union workers; he's already flush with corporate cash.

Mary Kay Henry is just one of several top labor officials who frame the Occupy Movement as a battle against "the right wing,” i.e., Republicans. In response to this argument, Glenn Greenwald of Salon commented:

"...pretending that the ongoing [Occupy] protests are grounded in the belief that the GOP is the party of the rich while the Democrats are the party of the working class is likely to fool just about nobody other than those fooled by that already" (November 19, 2011).

If labor plans on being relevant to the Occupy Movement — and this means being relevant at all in the near future — major changes must occur. And although many Occupiers have expressed concern about Labor having ulterior motives to co-opt the Occupy Movement, the threat is greatly exaggerated.

Most labor unions are politically co-opted by the Democrats. Labor still needs a national political voice. Though the mass actions of the Occupy Movement have done more to change the political climate than the millions who voted for Obama, most of Labor's entrenched leadership remain attached to the Democrats in an illusory attempt to have a national voice.

In practice this means that labor ignores the pro-corporate policies of Democratic politicians while unions water down its demands to make them compatible with the positions of Democrats. Occupy won't stand for this, or even listen to it.

Some major examples of labor's neutered pro-Democrat Party politics are:

-National labor unions largely ignored the fact that Democratic Governors, elected with the help of the unions, recently forced major concessions on public sector unions all over the country, substantially weakening the larger labor movement.

-Labor's political subservience to the Democrats also means that, instead of demanding a real jobs program, labor is reduced to supporting Obama's truly pathetic jobs program, which would create a million or so jobs, when 20 million plus are needed.

-Worse yet is labor's virtual inaction in response to Obama's Super Committee, which intends to cut the national budget deficit on the backs of working people, especially by slashing Medicare and Medicaid, and very likely Social Security, creating a precedent for even larger cuts in the future. This amounts to perhaps the biggest single attack on working people in recent U.S. history, as it would dramatically affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people. While AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has made some strong statements against these cuts, neither he, nor any of the other top labor officials, have called for what is really needed, which is a massive, nationally coordinated mobilization of the ranks of the labor movement and labor’s allies, the 99%, to take to the streets of America to demand of the government: No Cuts! No Concessions! Tax the Rich!

If labor plans on building a strong movement with Occupy — and they had better — then these suicidal pro-Democratic Party policies must end. Labor cannot earn credibility within the Occupy Movement and then completely change course to campaign for Obama, in effect throwing all credibility in the garbage.

If labor puts forth watered down demands — like Obama's jobs bill — it will elicit no response from the vast majority of Occupiers and their supporters. The Occupy Movement recognizes the dire economic situation the country is in and is not held back by mainstream politicians.

This gives the Occupy Movement an amazing chance to lead labor down the right path. There is a wide gulf between the demands that the labor movement and the Democratic Party are putting forward and what working people desperately need. Occupy would not exist were this not the case.

Therefore, Occupy must address the nationwide social crisis in a serious way that can unite working people, and help drive the labor movement forward in the process.

For example, instead of the labor movement merely demanding End the Bush Tax Cuts, Occupy could demand Tax the 1% at 90% (as it was under Franklin Delano Roosevelt).

Instead of labor demanding that Obama's Jobs bill be passed, the Occupy Movement should demand that revenue from taxing the rich be used to create 20 million new jobs, a federal jobs program similar to the one implemented in the 1930s, but bigger.

Most importantly, Occupy could start a national campaign demanding NO CUTS to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid by taxing the rich and corporations.

Taxing the rich should be a critical demand of the Occupy movement, since it naturally unites working people against cuts and produces revenue that can create jobs. Taxing the rich is also the demand that naturally emerges from the slogan "We Are the 99%,” which reveals the giant wealth disequilibrium that has happened in the country, in large part due to the shrinking tax rates of the rich.

There is plenty of room for Occupy to prove its political independence by putting forth demands that will discredit the Democrats and lead Labor towards campaigns that the majority of working people will join, making Occupy/Labor an unstoppable force. If occupy mobilizes over key demands that resonate with the majority, the unions will follow. They will have no choice, since their rank and file will already be following Occupy.
See also:

This work is in the public domain

Friday, June 03, 2011

From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"- An Editorial On The American Anti-War Movement-"Shocking! There’s Gambling in Rick’s Café"

Markin comment:

Most of the time I do not comment on some organization’s editorial but this one is too good to pass up. In a few paragraphs, via a commentary on an academic sociological work that did more critical analysis than it was suppose to, it explains exactly, concisely, precisely and very other “-ly” the malaise of the American anti-war movement and the shifts and shakes of that movement as the Democrats went for the main chance over the past few years- bourgeois political power. And for its subservient efforts the anti-war movement is now in desperate need of a very, very high-powered microscope to order to find evidence of its presence on the mean streets of America. (As I know from first-hand experience as I run into the same twenty to fifty or so activists wherever I go.) Don’t be shocked then if you “reap what you sow,” as the old biblical phrase goes. Certainly Captain Renault would not be shocked. He would do just as the Democrats did, take the money and run.
Workers Vanguard No. 981
27 May 2011

Shocking! There’s Gambling in Rick’s Café

(Editorial Note)

Captain Renault announced that he was “shocked, shocked” to see gambling in Rick’s café in the 1942 film Casablanca, as he pocketed his winnings for the evening. It was about as shocking to learn that the reformist-led “antiwar movement,” which was premised on “Anybody but Bush” politics, plummeted following the Democratic Party’s gains in the 2006 midterm elections and Obama’s victory in 2008. Such were the conclusions of a recent study by Michael Heaney of the University of Michigan and Fabio Rojas of Indiana University titled, “The Partisan Dynamics of Contention: Demobilization of the Antiwar Movement in the United States, 2007-2009.”

The authors conclude that the antiwar movement was essentially a movement of the Democratic Party and was dissolved once the Democrats won office. To readers of Workers Vanguard, these conclusions are hardly news. But at least they’re now documented with numerous tables and graphs, packaged in excruciating acadamese.

Where once hundreds of thousands could be mobilized in protest against “Bush’s war” in Iraq, today it takes a microscope to spot any opposition in the streets. In evaporating such opposition, the Democrats had the help of the reformist left, which promoted the lie that the imperialist rulers can be pressured to make their system more humane, peaceful and democratic. In fact, the bloodthirsty depredations of U.S. imperialism continue apace across the world under the Obama administration. U.S. troops still occupy Iraq; an intensified U.S./NATO war rages against the peoples of Afghanistan; U.S. drone strikes and special operations have escalated in Pakistan; the U.S. and NATO are bombing Libya on behalf of a pro-imperialist “opposition.”

The data used in the Heaney/Rojas study were gleaned from Listservs managed by the now-defunct United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), the ANSWER Coalition, Code Pink, the World Can’t Wait, and the Washington Peace Center. The researchers maintained “personal relationships with leading activists,” conducted interviews with some of them and surveyed attendees at some 27 events nationally. The study notes early on that “Obama maintained the occupation of Iraq and escalated the war in Afghanistan” and that the “antiwar movement should have been furious at Obama’s ‘betrayal’ and reinvigorated its protest activity. Instead, attendance at antiwar rallies declined precipitously and financial resources available to the movement dissipated.” The paper’s conclusion reads in part:

“The Democrats and the antiwar movement struck a useful alliance from 2003 to 2006. The antiwar movement helped to demonstrate grassroots support for a key party issue and the party helped to provide activists, resources, and legitimacy for the movement. By early 2009, however, it was abundantly clear that Democrats were no longer interested in this alliance.”

The alliance certainly was useful for the Democrats. But then the authors continue: “Abandonment by the Democrats gave the movement the independence it desired, but also stripped it of its capacity for political influence. While Obama’s election was heralded as a victory for the antiwar movement, Obama’s election, in fact, thwarted the ability of the movement to achieve critical mass.” This greatly prettifies the liberal and reformist left—the UFPJ; the ANSWER Coalition (once sponsored by the Workers World Party and now by its split organization, the Party for Socialism and Liberation); the World Can’t Wait outfit, sponsored by the Revolutionary Communist Party; the International Socialist Organization, which participated in any number of such coalitions. These organizations never desired “independence” from the Democratic Party, whose fortunes they promoted.

Obama did not “betray” the reformist left. Rather, it was the reformists who betrayed the interests of the proletariat by chaining opponents of the Iraq and Afghanistan occupations to the capitalist Democratic Party, the other party of exploitation, oppression and war. From the outset, the Spartacist League/Spartacus Youth Clubs called for the military defense of Afghanistan and Iraq against U.S. imperialism and fought for class struggle at home against America’s capitalist rulers. The bankruptcy of the reformist left was succinctly captured by then-Trotskyist James Burnham in his 1936 piece, “War and the Workers”: “No one can uphold capitalism—whether directly, as an open adherent of the capitalists, or indirectly, from any shade of liberal or reformist position—and fight against war, because capitalism means war.”