Monday, November 20, 2006
Hello, what planet does this man exist on? President Bush did not have to twist the arms of the likes of John Kerry, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton and a whole galaxy of supposedly astute politicians-Democratic and Republican- alike when he pulled down the hammer to rachet up the hysteria to go to war in Iraq. Of course those were sunnier days and everyone was a good fellow (or gal) and true. And then of course everyone assumed the war would be a walkover. Now there are not enough seats on that hell-train out of Iraq.
Despite that recent sorry history what the esteemed Congressman's proposal really means is that the lives and fortunes of the youth of America rest on the 'pacifist' whims of the Congress. Even Vietnam War draft dodger Vice President Dick Cheney would know not to base his career plans on that eventually. No thanks, Congressman.
Apparently the military chieftains do not think much of Congressman Rangel's idea either. They are very happy having their all-volunteer armed forces that, by their lights, are a much better disciplined and maneuverable force. No way do they want an average cross-section of American youth gumming up their works. They saw their army almost destroyed when uppity citizen-soldiers started questioning the Vietnam War. They are still in shock. As for the position of militant leftists we stand fully opposed to reintroduction of the draft. Hell, this is a no-brainer. As this issue comes to the fore over the coming months militant youth must rise up and shout-NO DRAFT! NO WAY!
Sunday, November 19, 2006
WHILE WE ARE AT IT-KEEP THE MILITARY RECRUITERS OUT TOO!
HATS OFF TO THE SAN FRANCISCO SCHOOL BOARD
In the Op/Ed page of the Idea section of the Boston Sunday Globe of November 19, 2006 conservative pundit, one Jeff Jacoby, in a commentary entitled “Anti-Military Bigotry” is up in arms (figuratively, of course, since like most neo-cons of late he did not avail himself of the opportunity to partake of military service) about the decision of the San Francisco School Board to eliminate the JROTC (Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps) program from the city’s schools. The gist of Mr. Jacoby’s argument is that the decision of that Left Coast town is another unmistakable example of its anti-military and therefore unpatriotic bias, especially in a time of the great struggle his beloved President Bush is leading in the “war on terror”. Militant leftists take a rather different view of the matter. Yes, indeed we do. Hell, we commend that school board decision as an exemplary anti-war action and seek to drive ROTC and JROTC off all campuses and out of all schools.
As part of his argument Mr. Jacoby has dressed up the role of JROTC by giving a litany of its positive effects on San Francisco students as a great bonding and “community” creating activity. In short, it is on the same level as the Boy or Girl Scouts, 4-H Clubs and the like. Wrong. However one wants to dress it up ROTC and JROTC are military organizations which act as a transmission belt to recruit students for military service. The name speaks for itself. Whether those organizations do that successfully or not or provide some non-military activities are separate questions- and subordinate to their real aim. The military is not using them as a vehicle to further the brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind. Ask the Iraqis, among others, for the truth of that assertion.
It is no accident that in the 1930’s and again during the Vietnam War of the 1960’s that a major campus activity for leftists, and not only leftists, was to drive ROTC off college campuses. Why? In the final analysis, as Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin pointed out long ago, the state is “armed bodies of men (and these days, women) - the military, the police, etc.” There are many ways to create that armed body-ROTC and JROTC help that effort. If you want to stop a war there is no way around that hard political problem of curtailing the military's power to recruit. As part of the solution to this problem young militants on campuses and in high schools can form, if they have not already done so, united front committees to organize for the removal of these programs. As an elementary and concrete act of opposition to the Iraq War and ultimately of American imperialism militants have to demand-ROTC OFF CAMPUSES! JROTC OUT OF THE SCHOOLS! MILITARY RECRUITERS OUT EVERYWHERE!
Saturday, November 18, 2006
UPDATE: NOVEMBER 20, 2006. Will this madness never stop. Over the weekend the Pentagon has leaked information that there are three potential strategies under discussion in a "commission" they have created to assess the situation in Iraq independently of the of the ill-starred Iraq Study Group. The three potential strategies are, predictably, a heavy increase in troops levels to gain victory, immediate withdrawal and a gradual reduction of American troops and replacement by Iraqi forces. While the Pentagon (and Senator McCain) may have appetites for troops increases in order to obtain "victory" that seems out of the question now. Immediate withdrawal is also dismissed out of hand. After all that might lead to a full-blown civil war. Hello, what the hell is occurring now? Generals, what do you need-the Battle of Bull Run- before you recognize a state of civil war?
The most probable course is a slow drawdown as the Iraqi replacement forces become better trained. In short, this is the case for withdrawal when the situation in Iraq stabilizes itself. Over the last year I have had fun poking holes in that one when anyone advances the argument. My rejoinder has been that the grandchildren of the troops already over in Iraq will be joining 'granddad and grandma' in the fighting before that event occurs. All this "commission" news boils down to is one hard fact- the troops will not be coming home this Christmas or any Christmas soon. Read on.
THE TROOPS ARE NOT COMING HOME FOR THIS CHRISTMAS OR ANY CHRISTMAS SOON!
IRAQ LOOKS MORE AND MORE LIKE VIETNAM EVERY DAY-IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL OF ALL UNITED STATES/ALLIED TROOPS!
FORGET DONKEYS, ELEPHANTS AND GREENS- BUILD A WORKERS PARTY
ORIGINALLY POSTED: SEPTEMBER 24, 2006
This writer for a long time has resisted the facile task route of comparing the situation in Iraq today to the Vietnam of some forty years ago. But it is getting harder and harder to do so. On the face of it the differences are obvious. In Vietnam revolutionary leftist forces were attempting to unify into one state that which by international diplomacy and previous bouts of international Stalinist treachery had been artificial split. Furthermore, the defining concept behind the revolutionary forces there was to resolve the agrarian question and the fight for what those forces conceived to be the road to socialism. Today in Iraq there are nationalist/sectarian forces which want to take revenge on the results of the European- derived Treaty of Versailles after World War I and divide this artificially created state-gun in hands. The fact that in Kurdish-controlled areas only the Kurdish flag can fly really says it all. Additionally, as far as this writer can tell, from the little known about murky underworld of radical Islamic politics there are no forces fighting for anything like a secular- democratic much less socialist solution to the problems there. Rather something like an Islamic Republic under repressive and anti-women Sharia law appears to be the favored political solution.
However, those differences between the domestic forces in Iraq and Vietnam aside the real way Iraq today looks like Vietnam is the similarities in the role of American imperialism on the ground. The latest news this week, the week of September 18, 2006, coming from the central military command is there will be no draw down of troops any time soon. LET ME REPEAT- THERE WILL NOT BE ANY DRAW DOWN ANY TIME SOON. All those who foolishly believed that draw down would occur and did not take the Bush Administration at its word when it declared empathically that troops would not be withdrawn as long as it drew breathe should ponder this. More on this below.
There are starting to be voices heard, dormant for a while, spearheaded by the editors of National Review and other neo-con sources that the lesson to be learned from Iraq is that to really win in Iraq the Americans must sent in more troops. How much such sentiments are worth from these previous supporters of a quick and cheap airpower strategy in Iraq is beside the point. What is noteworthy is that this premise is not an isolated sentiment even among alleged opponents of the war. And that, in a nutshell, is where the comparison to Vietnam comes into play. The hubris which led the United States into the quagmire of Iraq is still very much in play. The notion that in order rectify the original mistake of invasion more mistakes, such as increased troop levels, can solve the problem and bring victory where none is possible is the same mentality that led to all the escalations of the Vietnam era. Against all reason the Bushies of America and the world cannot believe that the situation is lost. Well, hell that is their problem. Militant leftists have other problems like organizing the opposition to worry over.
Additionally, President Bush himself is getting a little testy at the Prime Minister of Iraq. He cannot believe that at this late stage wholly owned American puppet government in Iraq hasn’t stepped up to its tasks of creating domestic tranquility. One should remember the names Diem and Thieu from Vietnamese history who got the same kinds of dressing-downs from previous American administrations. With that thought in mind let me ask this question. Is there anyone today on the planet outside the immediate Bush family that believes that the writ of the Iraqi government runs outside the Green Zone (and even that premise might be shaky)? These guys (and they are overwhelmingly men) never led anything, went into exile under Saddam rather than go underground and build a resistance movement and represent no one but themselves.
But, enough of that. The real question is what are we anti-war, anti-imperialist activists going to do about the situation. President Bush has been rightly accused of upping the security alerts during election time to highlight the security question that he has (successfully) used as a trump card to swing the electoral balance in his favor. The least well-known fact is that during the fall of election years, including this year, the leaderships of the reformist anti-war movements close down the nationally- centered demonstrations campaign which are the lynchpins of their politics. It is no secret that this is done to help so-called anti-war Democratic politicians or at least not be a source of embarrassment to their weak parliamentary opposition to the war. In a blog written this summer I wrote an open letter to the troops in Iraq. The thrust of the letter was that the conventional politicians, their own military leadership and the anti-war movement had left the troops in Iraq hanging in the wind. As we enter the fall electoral campaign this is truer than ever. I will repeat here what I stated there- if the troops are to withdraw from Iraq it will have to be on their own hook. Start forming the soldiers and sailors committees now. Militant leftists here must support those efforts. Unfortunately today there is no other way to end the war. FORWARD.
THIS IS PART OF A SERIES OF ARTICLES OF COMMENTARY ON THE 2006-2008 ELECTION CYCLE UNDER THE HEADLINE- FORGET THE DONKEYS, ELEPHANTS, GREENS-BUILD A WORKERS PARTY!
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
FORGET GENERAL ABIZAID-FORGET IRAQ STUDY GROUPS-FRATERNIZE WITH THE RANK AND FILE TROOPS TO GET OUT OF IRAQ NOW!
THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH SEATS ON THAT HELL-BOUND TRAIN OUT OF IRAQ-CHRIST, EVEN "HAWK" SENATOR JOHN McCAIN IS GETTING UPPITY WITH THE GENERALS
THE TIME FOR IRAQ COMMISSIONS, THE TIME FOR CONGRESSIONAL OR ELECTORAL VOTES, THE TIME FOR STREET PROTESTS IS OVER- IT IS DESPERATELY NECESSARY TO FIGHT UNDER THE SLOGAN -GET THE TROOPS THE HELL OUT OF IRAQ TODAY- FORM SOLDIER AND SAILOR SOLIDARITY FRATERNIZATION COMMITTEES NOW!
Just a little over a week after the dust has settled on the 2006-midterm elections that have been correctly interpreted as a referendum on the Iraq War the political posturing by both Democrats and Republicans in Washington and elsewhere has become hot and heavy-without moving us one inch closer to withdrawal, immediate or otherwise, from the Iraq quagmire. The latest panacea apparently is an Iraq Study Group centrally made up of refugees from the first President Bush’s regime. Aren't they the architects of the first Iraq War? Isn't that like letting the fox into the chicken house?
There have also been any number of proposals from every source under the sun -the most notable being from johnny-come-lately anti-war Pennsylvania Democratic Congressman John Murtha who wants the troops redeployed-to Kuwait. Apparently everyone has a timetable proposal for withdrawal triggered to start anywhere from a few months from now onward. However, most make that timetable contingent on xyz factors about the stability of the situation in Iraq. As I have mentioned several times before in previous posts- The granddchildren of the troops currently serving in Iraq will be starting their tours of duty before that occurs.
To show just how bad the political fallout is over Iraq since the midterm electoral upheaval I note that on November 15, 2006 the Senate Armed Services Committee solicited the views of Iraq War commander General Abizaid. And they did not like what they heard. General Abizaid argued a variation of the Bush doctrine- “stay the course". No withdrawals, no timetables, no drawdowns. Nobody wanted to hear this madness. Even punitive Republican presidential candidate Arizona Senator John McCain, a feisty former Vietnam War prisoner of war, got uppity with the esteemed General on that one. Things have certainly changed rapidly since late summer. At that time this same committee had General Pace up for a grilling but they let him off the hook when he sheepishly promised to do better.
Those days are long gone now. Gone is the circumspection, gone is the deference, gone is the “wink and nod” of one good old boy (or girl) to another that had characterized previous outings. There is not enough room on that train out of Iraq from anyone with the slightest presidential or other political ambitions. Now that the unlamented Rumsfeld is gone General Abizaid apparently is the next logical target with a bullseye on his chest. Many a general in the Pentagon must be checking his or her retirement pension status these days.
After re-reading my posting on the August Senate meeting I have decided to re-post it here. I was then , and am now , trying like hell to propagandize a proposal that it is necessary to organize and fraternize with the troops in order to for them to start an orderly and timely withdrawal from Iraq- and pretty damn quick. The points made there still hold true. Read on.
THE GENERALS SIGNAL THE RETREAT-THERE IS NO LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL IN IRAQ!
FORGET TIMETABLES FOR WITHDRAWAL- CUT AND RUN NOW (JOG, TROT, CRAWL, SWIM, IF NECESSARY)
THE GENERALS AND POLITICANS HAVE ABANDONED THE RANK AND FILE SOLDIERS IN IRAQ TO THEIR FATE. BROTHER AND SISTER SOLDIERS- THE BALL IS IN YOUR COURT- GET THE TROOP TRANSPORTS READY
ORIGINALLY POSTED: August 2006
I’ll keep this short and sweet. The time for discussion on Iraq is long over. Forget the Bush Administration’s lies! Forget the weapons of mass destruction! Forget staying the course, the ‘war on terrorism’, Saddam’s ugly face, the so-called ‘fight for democracy’ in the Middle East, supporting the troops or the thousand and one reasons which have surfaced over the years (yes, years) for supporting the imperialist adventure in Iraq. That is so much background noise now. Here is what counts. That is the appearance on August 3, 2006 of the senior commanding generals, the guys who run the day to day operations of the American military, with the Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld in tow, before the Senate Armed Services Committee. And you better etch the pictures from that proceeding in your minds. Hereafter anytime someone tries to raise his or her head in defense of the Iraq war (or staying there one more minute) refer them to this scene.
What the generals did not say to the committee is as important as what they said. THE WAR IS LOST. These generals are privy to much more information than they would ever publicly acknowledge so when they go, willingly or not, before a Senate Committee and announce that chaos has descended on Iraq one does not need to be Karl Marx to know how really bad the situation is there. These guys are not retired generals sniping at the boss from their consulting firms, think tanks, or vacation retreats. THESE GUYS RUN THE SHOW. These generals did not earn that fruit salad on their chests by being Pollyannas. They would rather fall on their swords than use words like 'defeat' and 'retreat'. It just does not register that the delights of ‘shock and awe’ has turned in quagmire. So be it.
They have, however, learned something over the years. For one thing, do not repeat General Westmoreland’s ‘follies’ in Vietnam by painting a rosy picture of success as the U.S. Embassy is being overrun by a bunch of seemingly crazed foreigners. That is most definitely bad for credibility. For another, these guys started their careers fighting on the ground in the boondocks of Vietnam so they KNOW what a civil war is. Vietnam was a class civil war and Iraq is a sectarian civil war but in either case they want no part of it. No way. Nevertheless, the generals are still more than willing to transfer rank and file soldiers to the hellhole of Baghdad to be used as ‘cannon fodder’ in that same civil war. Some things they do not learn.
This writer makes no bones about his long time opposition to the Iraq war in particular and American imperialism in general. Over the years I have taken my political beatings and been abused by the ‘sunshine patriots’ over this or that policy. Hey, this is politics so it comes with the territory. Besides I have enjoyed beating up on Bush & Co. when they were riding high and now that they are riding low I still enjoy beating these bums down. In fact, let me give them an extra rabbit punch for good measure. Just to make sure they stay down.
No, I will not cry over the defeat of an imperialist adventure but I feel no sense of righteousness over this. Why? While I never supported the social patriotic slogan-Support the Troops- THEY ARE NOT AND NEVER WERE OUR TROOPS. THEY OPERATE UNDER ORDERS FROM THE RULING CLASSES. THAT IS NOT THE SAME THING - there is still the unfinished business. Those troops still need to get the hell out of Iraq. Bush and the Generals have stabbed them in the back. The Democratic and Republican politicians have stabbed them in the back. We of the anti-war movement have failed them. It is up to the rank and file soldiers in Iraq now-the ball in their court. At this point the only way out is through their own efforts. What we civilians can do is form committees of soldier and sailor solidarity in order to fraternize with their efforts. More on this latter. I am preparing AN OPEN LETTER TO THE RANK AND FILE SOLDIERS IN IRAQ (see August 2006 archives) to offer some ideas on organizing themselves out of the chaos. Look for it in this space soon.
A SPECIAL NOTE ON HILLARY "HAWK" CLINTON, UNITED STATES SENATOR FROM NEW YORK AND PUNITIVE (not putative) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE IN 2008. ‘Hawk” finally gets it on Iraq- a very, very, very little. Her solution. Have Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld offer his resignation. This, I assume, represents Ms. Clinton’s attempt to win this year’s Profiles in Courage Award. Christ, the Congressional pages were calling for that bastard’s resignation about a year ago. I do not care about the personal fate of Ms. Clinton or her ambitions. However, her case brings to mind the ghost of Hubert Horatio Humphrey in 1968. Enough said.
THIS IS PART OF A SERIES OF ARTICLES ON THE 2006-2008 ELECTION CYCLE UNDER THE HEADLINE- FORGET THE DONKEYS, ELEPHANTS, GREENS-BUILD A WORKERS PARTY!
Monday, November 13, 2006
IMPERIALISM: THE HIGHEST STAGE OF CAPITALISM, V.I. LENIN, PLUTO PRESS, UNITED KINGDOM, 1996
Over the last generation much has been made of the positive effects of the latter day ‘globalization’ of the international capitalist markets. By this, I assume, commentators mean that kids in Kansas and kids in Katmandu have access to those same pairs of Nike sneakers. Although the outlines of the development of globalization have been known for at least a century, called by less kindly souls like myself- imperialism- apparently the latest devotees of the trend just got the news.
Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin analyzed this tendency of international capitalism in 1916 in a little book called Imperialism-the Highest Stage of Capitalism reviewed here. His major premises were that the 'globalization' of the capitalist markets of his day had made the nation-state an impediment to economic growth and that the concentration of capital into fewer cartels created intolerable tensions internationally ultimately culminating in wars for the redistribution of markets. While Lenin’s analysis could benefit from a little updating, particularly on the effects of the shift of the industrial labor market away from the high cost metropolitan areas to the former colonial areas in the search for lower wage bills and higher profit margins, the increased role of state intervention in markets and the effects of technological innovations, the basis premises are still sound.
While much of the positive ‘globalization’ rhetoric mentioned above has been overblown- especially concerning its effects on the demise of the nation-state and its alledged replacement by multi-national corporations and a multicultural ethic- the chickens are now starting to come home to roost on the down side of the world political situation. Everyone and their brother and sister, multi-national corporation or local “mom and pop” shoestring operation, is scurrying back to the 'safe' confines of the nation-state. With their guns drawn. What gives?
What gives is this. The international capitalist system, which after the fall of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the early 1990’s, lived in a self-imposed fool’s paradise believing that the contradictions of the system would flatten out on their own and that everyone had reached the best of all possible worlds. There was even some sentiment for one-world government, of course a United States-dominated one, from quarters not normally known for such flights of fancy. The events of the last several years have graphically disabused the more cutthroat capitalists, their ideologues and mouthpieces of this notion.
This retrogression to the defenses of individual nation-states reminiscent of the so-called “Dark Ages” apparently is only the vanguard of what promises to be a much more restrictive world. The ruling classes, however, seem unable to put serious efforts in other types of endeavors. Which takes us back to Lenin. He not only wrote this little book on the tendencies of international capitalism as a piece of analysis but he did it for a reason. And that reason was to demonstrate to the militant leftists of his day, during the carnage of World War I, that the hitherto for progressive nature of capitalist development had run out of steam and the socialist revolution was on the historic agenda. And then proceeded to put theory into practice by leading the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia in 1917. Today, the critics of globalization are much stronger on the effects of the process of international capitalist organization and its effects but weak, very weak, on the way to organize out of the impasse. Lenin knew what to do. Do we?
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Reclaiming John Brown for the Left
JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST, DAVID S. REYNOLDS, ALFRED A. KNOPF, NEW YORK, 2005
From fairly early in my youth I knew the name John Brown and was swept up by the romance surrounding his exploits at Harpers Ferry. For example, I knew that the great anthem of the Civil War -The Battle Hymn of the Republic- had a prior existence as a tribute to John Brown and that Union soldiers marched to that song as they headed south. I was then, however, neither familiar with the import of his exploits for the black liberation struggle nor knew much about the specifics of the politics of the various tendencies in the struggle against slavery. I certainly knew nothing then of Brown’s (and his sons) prior military exploits in the Kansas ‘proxy’ wars against the expansion of slavery. Later study filled in some of those gaps and has only strengthened my strong bond with his memory. Know this, as I reach the age at which John Brown was executed I still retain my youthful admiration for him. In the context of the turmoil of the times he was the most courageous and audacious revolutionary in the struggle for the abolition of slavery in America. Almost 150 years after his death this writer is proud to stand in defense of the exploits of John Brown.
That said, it is with a great deal of satisfaction that I can recommend Mr. Reynolds’s book detailing the life, times and exploits of John Brown, warts and all. Originally published in hardcover in 2005, this is an important source (including helpful end notes) for updating various controversies surrounding the John Brown saga. While I may disagree with some of Mr. Reynolds’s conclusions concerning the impact of John Brown’s exploits on later black liberation struggles and to a lesser extent his position on Brown’s impact on his contemporaries, particularly the Transcendentalists, on the key point of the central place of John Brown in American leftist revolutionary history there is no dispute.
Mr. Reynolds has moreover taken pains to provide substantial detail about the ups and downs of John Brown’s posthumous reputation. Most importantly, he defends the memory of John Brown against all-comers-that is partisan history on behalf of the ‘losers’ of history at its best. He has reclaimed John Brown to his proper position as an icon for the left against the erroneous and outrageous efforts of modern day right wing religious and secular terrorists to lay any claim to his memory or his work. Below I make a few comments on some of controversies surrounding John Brown developed in Mr. Reynolds’s work.
If one understands the ongoing nature, from his early youth, of John Brown’s commitment to the active struggle against slavery, the scourge of the American Republic in the first half of the 19th century, one can only conclude that he was indeed a man on a mission. As Mr. Reynolds’s points out Brown took every opportunity to fight against slavery including early service as an agent of the Underground Railroad spiriting escaped slaves northward, participation as an extreme radical in all the key anti-slavery propaganda battles of the time as well as challenging other anti-slavery elements to be more militant and in the 1850’s, arms in hand, fighting in the ‘proxy’ wars in Kansas and, of course, the culmination of his life- the raid on Harpers Ferry. Those exploits alone render absurd a very convenient myth by those who supported slavery or turned a blind eye to it, and their latter-day apologists, about his so-called ‘madness’. This is a political man and to these eyes a very worthy one.
For those who like their political heroes ‘pure’, frankly, it is better to look elsewhere than the life of John Brown. His personal and family life as a failed rural capitalist would hardly lead one to think that this man was to become a key historical figure in any struggle, much less the great struggle against slavery. Some of his actions in Kansas (concerning the murder of some pro-slavery elements under his direction) also cloud his image. However, when the deal went down in the late 1850’s and it was apparent for all to see that there was no other way to end slavery than a fight to the death-John Brown rose to the occasion. And did not cry about it. And did not expect others to cry about it. Call him a ‘monomaniac’ if you like, but even a slight acquaintance with great historical figures shows they all have this ‘disease’- that is why they make the history books. No, the ‘madness’ argument will not do.
Whether or not John Brown knew that his military strategy for the Harpers Ferry raid would, in the short term, be defeated is a matter of dispute. Reams of paper have been spent proving the military foolhardiness of his scheme at Harper’s Ferry. Brown’s plan, however, was essentially a combination of slave revolt modeled after the maroon experiences in Haiti, Nat Turner’s earlier Virginia slave rebellion combined with rural guerrilla warfare of the ‘third world’ type that we have become more familiar with since his time. 150 years later this strategy does not look so foolhardy in an America of the 1850’s that had no real standing army, fairly weak lines of communications, virtually uninhabited mountains to flee to and the North at their backs. The execution of the plan is another matter. Brown seemingly made about every mistake in the book in that regard. However, this is missing the essential political point that militant action not continuing parliamentary maneuvering advocated by other abolitionists had become necessary. A few more fighting abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass, and better propaganda work among freedman with connections to the plantations would have greatly enhanced the chances for success at Harpers Ferry.
A point not in dispute is that Brown considered himself a true Calvinist avenging angel in the struggle against slavery and more importantly acted on that belief. In short, he was committed to bring justice to the black masses. This is why his exploits and memory stay alive after over 150 years. It is possible that if Brown did not have this, by 19th century standards as well as our own, old-fashioned Calvinist determination that he would not been capable of militant action. Certainly other anti-slavery elements never came close to his militancy, including the key Transcendentalist movement led by Emerson,Thoreau and the Concord ‘crowd’ who supported him and kept his memory alive in hard times. In their eyes he had the heroic manner of the Old Testament prophet, but they did not emulate him. Now Brown's animating spirit is not one that animates modern leftist revolutionaries and so it is hard to understand the depths of his religious convictions on his actions. It is better today to look at Brown more politically through his hero (and one of mine, as well) Oliver Cromwell-a combination of Calvinist avenger and militant warrior. Yes, I can get behind that picture of John Brown.
By all accounts Brown and his small integrated band of brothers fought bravely and coolly against great odds. Ten of Brown's men were killed including two of his sons. Five were captured, tried and executed, including Brown. These results are almost inevitable when one takes up a revolutionary struggle against the old order and one is not victorious. One need only think of, for example, the fate of the defenders of the Paris Commune in 1871. One can fault Brown on this or that tactical maneuver. Nevertheless he and the others bore themselves bravely in defeat. As we are all too painfully familiar there are defeats of the oppressed that lead nowhere. One thinks of the defeat of the German Revolution in the 1920’s. There other defeats that galvanize others into action. This is how Brown’s actions should be measured by history.
Militarily defeated at Harpers Ferry, Brown's political mission to destroy slavery by force of arms nevertheless continued to galvanize important elements in the North at the expense of the pacifistic non-resistant Garrisonian political program for struggle against slavery. Many writers on Brown who reduce his actions to that of a ‘madman’ to this day cannot believe that his road proved more appropriate to end slavery than either non-resistance or gradualism. That alone makes short shrift of such 'madman' theories. Historians and others have also willfully misinterpreted later events such as the Bolshevik strategy which led to Russian Revolution in October 1917. More recently, we saw this same incomprehension concerning the victory of the Vietnamese against overwhelming American military superiority. Needless to say, all these events continue to be revised by some historians in order to take the sting out of their proper political implications.
From a modern prospective Brown’s strategy for black liberation, even if the abolitionist goal he aspired to had been immediately successful, reached the outer limits within the confines of capitalism. Brown’s actions were meant to make black people free. Beyond that goal he had no program except the Chatham Charter which seems to have replicated the existing American constitution but with racial and gender equality as a cornerstone. Unfortunately the Civil War did not provide fundamental economic and political freedom that would have insured a running start toward that equality. That is still our fight. Moreover, the Civil War, the defeat of Radical Reconstruction, the reign of ‘Jim Crow’ and the subsequent waves of black migration to the cities have changed the character of black oppression in the U.S. from Brown’s time. Black people are now a part of "free labor," and the key to their liberation is in the integrated fight of labor in the current one-sided class war in order to establish a government of workers and their allies. Nevertheless, we can stand proudly in the revolutionary tradition of John Brown (and of his friend Frederick Douglass). We need to complete the unfinished democratic tasks of the Civil War, not by emulating Brown’s exemplary actions but to moving the multi-racial American working class to power. Finish the Civil War.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
MR BUSH HAS CASHED HIS CHECK- BUT CASSANDRA IS ON WATCH
DONALD RUMSFELD WALKS THE PLANK-IS THERE ANY REASONABLE, OR FOR THAT MATTER UNREASONABLE, LEGAL, POLITICAL, MORAL, ETHICAL OR SOCIAL ARGUMENT WHY THE SECRETARY SHOULD NOT BE IN THE DOCK WITH SADDAM HUSSEIN?
FORGET ELEPHANTS, DONKEYS AND GREENS-BUILD A WORKERS PARTY!
REVISED: NOVEMEBER 14, 2006
Well, the results are in from these misbegotten midterm elections and not surprisingly the Democrats have rode the whirlwind of voter disgust with the Bush Administration’s policy in Iraq, the effects of ‘real’ economy on their lives and disgust with overall political ugliness to boot these bastards out. NO leftist will cry over these election results even though we cannot share in the illusions that the Democrats in power will be qualitatively better.
Despite the fact that I enjoyed kicking these guys when they were riding high- and will give a little extra kick now when they are down- enough is enough. We can all breathe a little easier, at least for the moment, now that we will probably not have to live in constant fear of the knock at the door or have to look twice over our shoulders before we make a move. Nevertheless proceed with caution- as the 'red scare' of the 1950's and the Democratic Lyndon Johnson presidency during the Vietnam War era testify to the Democrats are just as capable as the Republicans of throwing off the niceities of democratic form when it is their interests. And leftists are among the first to pay.
But now on to mundane matters. Yes, I will confess that I lost my share of money on my various bets on the outcome of the elections. I misjudged the extend of the furor over Bush, reflected in the House races, after having seen his Administration run roughshot unopposed by man or beast, except for the thousands who took to the streets over Iraq, for six years. I was, obviously, clearly off base in my appreciation of the Senate races. In my last blog on the subject I took note that I believed that the Democrats must have been smoking “something” to make any projections of victory in those races. Obviously, I must have been having my own “problems” in that "something" direction. This crushing personal defeat only goes to show, once again, that this militant writer is so detached from run of the mill bourgeois electoral politics that he should leave making predictions about bourgeois politics alone-until next time. In any case I call on my muse Doctor Hunter S. Thompson- help, please send money- I have an irate liberal raving over how much I owe her. Notwithstanding my “errors” I feel compelled to make a few comments on what this whole election cycle means, at least in the short haul.
The first and foremost item that strikes me is how little the results will effect the war in Iraq despite the fact that many people used that as their reason for switching horses in mid-stream. Why? First and foremost, exhibit #1 is one George W. Bush and his dwindling coterie of hack supporters. He has made no bones about the fact that he intents to keep troops in Iraq under his watch and retain Secretary of War Donald Rumsfeld (but see headline above, the draft of this blog was written before the 'sad' news of Mr. Rumsfeld's demise occurred). He may have to throw Donald to the wolves but make no mistake, he will keep those troops in Iraq until freezes over or his administration ends- and the rudderless Democrats will acquiesce.
That leaves the question of who these new Democrats are. We already know the old lame ones who allowed the Republicans to run roughshot over the political process with timid, if any, opposition for the past six years. The flap over Senator Kerry’s remarks about Iraq and the consequences of not 'studying' hard enough on the personal fate of the young (see October 2006 archives) and the dive even his fellow Democrats took over the issue should serve as a shocking reminder of how gutless these yahoos are. I have mentioned elsewhere that this election is no watershed of bourgeois politics like 1932 or 1960. And a look at who was elected on what program tends to confirm this view. A virtually unending string of victorious anti-abortion, anti-same-sex marriage, lukewarm Iraqi oppositionists Democrats do not make one think that we are in the opening stages of a third bourgeois revolution in America. I do believe that the Republican right has reached its highwater mark and that a slight drift left is in the making-small relief after forty years of a Republican right-wing onslaught.
What this writer sees as a result of these elections is confirmation of Republican-lite. Conservative policies with a velvet glove. That is what confronts those, mainly power-starved liberals, who thought that the “times they are a changing”. But in the flush of your victory, hear me out. I will provide a litmus test for all those who do not like my Cassandra-type warnings. On Iraq, the central question of the elections and of our times- Will you honorable Congressman or woman or esteemed Senator next year in the next Congressional session vote against the war budget? ON THE RECORD. Ah, now there is the rub. And the answer will not be pretty.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
BY ALL MEANS LET US HAVE A WOMAN PRESIDENT, JUST NOT 'THAT' WOMAN
FORGET DONKEYS, ELEPHANTS AND GREENS- BUILD A WORKERS PARTY
REVISED: NOVEMBER 15, 2006
Well the dust has finally settled on the broken down electoral campaign of 2006 and now we can get down to commenting on the endless campaign for president in 2008. And it ain’t going to be pretty. Let us face it any political system that can do no better than provide the perfecta of Bush-Clinton, their families, their near and distant relatives, their pets, etc. every four years deserves all the problems it gets. Talk about the modern day parliamentary equivalent of the War of the Roses- this nonsense has got to stop. And this writer is just the one , as always, to provide a 'constructive' alternative to the nastiness of bourgeois choices and politics. Here goes.
I am proposing an all-women presidential ticket based on a pro- working class program for 2008. No surprise there. Nor does it matter which one runs for president and which one for vice president, they can decide that between themselves. Some much for the dreaded succession crisis that worries so many capitalist commentators, right? The point is that it is certainly time for a woman to be President of the United States and it makes sense. Just not the lame capitalist politician Hillary "Hawk" Clinton. I propose instead Assata Shakur and Lynne Stewart. And I challenge any feminists, progressives, left liberals or anyone else to say that this pair, individually or together, would not more truly represent the interests of the vast majority of working people than Ms. Clinton.
For those unfamiliar with Lynne Stewart or her case the following is a note from the Partisan Defense Committee which supports the efforts to get her conviction overturned:
“On June 19, Lynne Stewart's counsel filed court papers seeking to discover if any warrantless or illegal electronic surveillance was conducted on her or anyone involved in her case. Then on July 5, Lynne's attorneys filed a Sentencing Memorandum on her behalf asking for a non-custodial sentence, i.e., one involving no jail time. As you are aware, Lynne Stewart was falsely convicted of material support for terrorism for her work representing an imprisoned client, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, a direct attack on the right to an attorney and First Amendment rights for all. She is also recovering from surgery for breast cancer and subsequent radiation and hormone therapy. Currently she awaits sentencing on September 25 to be preceded by a rally at Riverside Church in New York on September 24. We say again her conviction and those of her co-defendants were an outrage. Hands Off Lynne Stewart, Mohamed Yousry and Ahmed Abdel Sattar!”
Since the above information was published in an earlier blog Ms. Stewart has received a 28 month sentence. Her co-defendant Mohamed Yoursy has received a sentence of 20 months. Her other co-defendant Ahmed Sattar has received an outrageous sentence of 24 years. For further information contact the PDC, P.O. Box 99, Canal Street Station, New York, NY 10013-0099, The Lynne Stewart Defense Fund or see my blog, dated June 13, 2006.
Assata Shakur, Tupac’s “Auntie”, is a revolutionary black fighter for justice who was convicted of murder in the 1970’s, later escaped and eventually found her way to Cuba where she now resides in political asylum. Over the past year the United States Justice Department has increased its bounty on her arrest and capture up to one million dollars. To this writer’s mind that makes her prime presidential material. It would certainly improve American relations with Cuba.
Let me motivate these candidacies a little further and address some possible objections. I will simply freshen up some of the material I used in earlier blogs to motivate a write-in vote for Lynne Stewart in the United States Senate race in New York against Hillary Clinton. Thus, as I noted there, some will say Ms. Stewart and Ms. Shaker have been convicted of serious felonies. Grow up! If we counted all the indicted felons, unindicted co-conspirators, and those waiting for or in fear of indictment hanging around Washington the Congressional pages would be the only ones left to run the government. Hell, maybe, they are? Besides, think about this- imagine the respect Ms. Stewart and Ms. Shakur would get from those federal district court and appeals court judges looking for career advancement if they had the power over their nominations. And let us not forget the presidential pardoning process, which would immediately come in handy upon their election.
Hillary “Hawk”, Assata Shakur and Lynne Stewart are all women. Moreover, Ms. Shakur is a black woman. I did not want to incur the wrath of my feminist friends by daring to propose a man for president. After all we need women to break down the doors to the historic men’s club atmosphere of the United States presidency. That is sensible enough, but as I have pointed out before in regard to Senator Clinton, she, and in this she is not alone, stands for the proposition that for all the virtues of the fight for the equality of women over the past decades women can have politics just as ugly as men. Some victory.
As always some will argue- but Hillary is a progressive and we do not want to divide the progressive forces, etc., etc. Get over it! Yes, Hillary was a “progressive”, or what passed for such at Wellesley when she got uppity in her valedictorian speech. (Does this, in any case, really count as a radical expression?) But hell, that was a long, long time ago. Since that time she has adhered to classic Clintonian Democratic Party centrism. Translation- she stays as close to the Republicans as possible without wearing an elephant on her lapel. Unfortunately for her the Republican Party these days is to the right of Genghis Khan (although that may be a slander on Mr. Khan for, as recently reported on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of his birth, the Mongolian nationalists are currently touting his progressive nature- for the times). But let’s get to the bottom line- Hillary is operating in the coin of the realm of bourgeois politics- looking, tongue out, for her main chance. Lynne and Assata has spent their lives and careers on behalf of the voiceless and unrepresented- looking to give people a fighting chance. More, much more on this issue and these candidates as the presidential campaign develops.
DISCLAIMER: FOR ALL INTERESTED PARTIES- IN ORDER NOT TO BE ACCCUSED OF GIVING MATERIAL AID TO THOSE WHO GAVE MATERIAL AID TO THOSE WHO GAVE MATERIAL AID, ETC. THIS WRITER STATES THAT THIS ENDORSEMENT OF MS. SHAKUR AND MS. STEWART IS UNSOLICITED. I DO NOT KNOW MS. SHAKUR OR MS. STEWART PERSONALLY AND HAVE NOT COMMUNICATED WITH THEM ABOUT THIS CANDIDACY. WE BREATH THE SAME POLITICAL AIR- AND BELIEVE ME THAT IS ALL TO MY BENEFIT.
Adolph Joffe, suicide letter sent to Leon Trotsky (16th November, 1927)
I have never doubted the rightness of the road you pointed out, and as you know, I have gone with you for more than twenty years, since the days of 'permanent revolution'. But I have always believed that you lacked Lenin unbending will, his unwillingness to yield, his readiness even to remain alone on the path that he thought right in the anticipation of a future majority, of a future recognition by everyone of the rightness of his path.
Politically, you were always right, beginning with 1905, and I told you repeatedly that with my own ears I had heard Lenin admit that even in 1905, you, and not he, were right. One does not lie before his death, and now I repeat this again to you. But you have often abandoned your rightness for the sake of an overvalued agreement or compromise. This is a mistake. I repeat: politically you have always been right, and now more right than ever. Some day the party will realize it, and history will not fail to accord recognition. Then don't lose your courage if someone leaves you know, or if not as many come to you, and not as soon, as we all would like.
You are right, but the guarantee of the victory of your rightness lies in nothing but the extreme unwillingness to yield, the strictest straightforwardness, the absolute rejection of all compromise; in this very thing lay the secret of Lenin's victories. Many a time I have wanted to tell you this, but only now have I brought myself to do so, as a last farewell.
*A Snapshot View Of The Leaders Of The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution-Soviet Culture Commissar Anatol Lunacharsky
No revolution can succeed without men and women of Armand's caliber. As Trotsky noted, on more than one occasion, the West, for lots of reason, in his day had not produced such cadre. I believe that observation, for the most part, still holds today.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
*Political Journalist's Corner- Louise Bryant's' Bird's Eye View Of The 1917 Russian Revolution-"Six Red Months In Russia"
Monday, November 06, 2006
MAKE NO MISTAKE-THE PARLIAMENTARY ANTI-WAR OPPOSITION HAS FAILED-IT IS NOW UP TO MILITANTS TO FRATERNIZE WITH THE TROOPS IN IRAQ IN ORDER TO ORGANIZE AN IMMEDIATE WITHDRAWAL
UPDATED: NOVEMBER 16, 2006
Below are some thoughts concerning the lack of major street protests against the war in Iraq despite the rise in opinion polls of opposition to the war which will apparently filter through the upcoming midterm election results. These thoughts are a response to an article in the IDEAS section of November 5, 2006 Sunday Boston Globe entitled-“Where Have the Protests Gone?” The theme of the article is the rather apparent contradiction between the rise of opposition to the war and the lack of response on the streets in comparison to various stages of the Vietnam War.
Some of those interviewed commented that the lack of a draft and therefore a general immediacy of the effects of the war on vast sections of the population as a reason. Others argued that the movement was alive and well but that the parliamentary route was the way to go. Others that the rise of high technology has changed the nature of opposition. Yes, okay but we still have the damn hard fact of political life that the war continues unabated, will continue unabated and that unless we take action outside the parliamentary framework and off the Internet that will continue to be the case. In any case, here are a couple of points to consider.
The writer came of political age during the Vietnam War. Here are a few thoughts from someone who came to protesting from a leftist political perspective the Vietnam War rather late (1968) and the Iraq War very early (early summer of 2002) who also wonders where the heck the protests have gone.
I am as enamored of the potential political uses of today high speed technologies as the next person but let us face it this is a very passive medium. One cannot create social change or create “community” in the privacy of one’s office or recreation room. In fact a very good argument can be made that current technological uses are making us more individualized, or as someone recently put it hyper-individualized, beyond the trends noted in the book Bowling Alone. There is no substitute for face to face organizing. One of the most interesting parts of organizing against the Vietnam War was when local PTA-type groups would ask me, a known radical at the time, to come and talk about the war. While these suburban matrons did not come away as devotees of Ho Chi Minh they did take what I had to say seriously. To finish the thought up in one sentence- if the revolution will not be televised neither will it be broadcast over the Internet.
A thought on the effectiveness of street protests. Most people I know believe that the huge anti-war rallies were decisive in ending the Vietnam War. Wrong. In the final analysis it was the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam and the North Vietnamese Army that sent the United States packing. Please remember (or find a photo of) those evacuations from the roof top of the United States Embassy in 1975. I have, as others have as well, noted the many differences between Vietnam and Iraq but every week Baghdad politically looks more and more like Saigon 1975. That said, it is still necessary for the good of our political souls as well as an act of elementary political hygiene to hit the streets to protest this war- against the policies of both Republicans and Democrats.
While the initial strong opposition to the Iraq War was welcome, if surprising, I believe that it was (and is) more shallow that the opposition to the Vietnam War. Vietnam occurred in the, perhaps, unique context of the 1960’s. No only were there many movements going on or created like the black liberation struggle, women’s liberation and assorted anti-imperialist struggles but fights to create alternate cultural traditions in music, the arts and social life in general were everywhere. That most of these failed or still have not achieved their goals does not negate the effect that it had on the times. When there was, for example, a vibrant Student for a Democratic Society (SDS, one of the main villains for most conservatives at that time) in places like South Dakota you knew something was giving way at the base of society.
In contrast, today’s protesters have virtually no connection with past social and political struggles which could help to drive the movement forward. And to some extent, from my experiences, they willfully do not want to know these lessons. Taking to the streets en masse again in 2008 after the Democrats fail to get the troops out of Iraq is way too late. Additionally, almost forty years of relentless right-wing attacks that would have made Genghis Klan blush have made many fearful of challenging this government. But that is another story for another time.
I have noted the following point previously, but as we close in on the 89th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution on November 7th, it bears repeating. That revolution was truly the only time that I know of that an anti-war movement actually ended a war. Without going into all the details here or all the many causes for it the Bolshevik seizure of power from those in the Russian Provisional Government who were committed to continuing Russian participation in World War I on the Allied side graphically points out our dilemma. The Russian soldiers, aided by Bolshevik propaganda, voted with their feet to leave the trenches. The American troops should do the same. Who will help them?
WHAT NEXT? MOATS?
REVISED: NOVEMBER 3, 2006
Over the last generation much has been made of the positive effects of the latter day ‘globalization’ of the international capitalist markets. By this, I assume, commentators mean that kids in Kansas and kids in Katmandu have access to those same pairs of Nike sneakers advertised world wide. Although the outlines of the development of globalization have been known for at least a century, called by less kindly souls like myself- imperialism- apparently the latest devotees of the trend just got the news. Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin analyzed this tendency of international capitalism in 1916 in a little book called Imperialism-the Highest Stage of Capitalism. While Lenin’s analysis could benefit from a little updating, particularly on the effects of the shift of the industrial labor market away from the high cost metropolitan areas to the former colonial areas in the search for lower wage bills and higher profit margins, the basis premises are still sound.
While much of the positive ‘globalization’ rhetoric has been overblown- especially concerning its effects on the demise of the nation-state and its replacement by free-floating multi-national corporations and a multicultural ethic- the chickens are now starting to come home to roost on the down side of the world political situation. Everyone, and their brother and sister, multi-national corporation or local “mom and pop” shoestring operation, is scurrying back to the allegedly safe confines of the nation-state. With their guns drawn outward and cement at the ready.
Cases in point. Over the last several years the Israeli nation-state has been furiously building huge concrete walls to separate itself from the dreaded Palestinians who are fighting over and claiming the same territory and looking for their own nation-state. Additionally, last week, the week of September 10, 2006, saw the democratically elected United States House of Representatives pass an immigration bill that would create a wall, concrete or not I do not know, along several hundred miles of the 2000 mile United States southern border with Mexico. This slap at the dreaded Mexican laborers searching for work is also, like the Palestinian fight, a fight over disputed territory as any Mexican could easily make the argument that he or she was merely going home by crossing the border. But that is a point for another day. (Do not forget the Anglo-Texas and California land grabs or the infamous Gadsden Purchase that expanded the United States southwestward if you are bewildered by the last sentence). Now comes news that the democratically elected government of Iraq, ever so gently assisted by its American sponsor,is planning to fortify, with cement and other materials, the whole city of Baghdad. All of the above are allegedly done in the name of somebody’s or some nation’s security. Since this blog was originally written in September China has been busily building a wall against the threat of refugees from its neighbor North Korea, after the fallout over its nuclear weapons testing. Others are the planning stages of their own wall motifs What gives?
What gives is this. The international capitalist system which after the fall of communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe in the early 1990’s lived in a self-imposed fool’s paradise that the contradictions of the system would flatten out on their own and that everyone had reached the best of all possible worlds. There was even some sentiment for one-world government, from quarters not normally known for such flights of fancy. The events of the last several years have graphically disabused the more cutthroat capitalist elements of this notion.
This retrogression to the defenses of nation-states by physical fortifications reminiscent of the so-called “Dark Ages” apparently is only the vanguard of what promises to be a much more restrictive world. Unless we do something about it, and soon, it will not be pretty. The only walls that make sense in this world are the walls in front of the oceans to protect from their wrath in places like New Orleans. The ruling classes, however, seem unable to put serious efforts in those types of endeavors. Which takes us back to Lenin. He not only wrote that little book on the tendencies of international capitalism as a piece of analysis but he did it for a reason. And that reason was to demonstrate to the militant leftists of his day that the hitherto for progressive nature of capitalist development had run out of steam and the socialist revolution was on the historic agenda. Today, the critics of globalization are much stronger on the effects of the process but weak, very weak, on the way out of the impasse. Lenin knew what to do. Do we?
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
RESOLUTIONS AND GOOD INTENTIONS ARE NOT ENOUGH- USE THE VOTE TO SUPPORT ANTI-WAR FRATERNATIZATION WITH THE TROOPS IN IRAQ
Forget elephants, donkeys and greens-BUILD A WORKERS PARTY!
1. NOTE: THE COMMENTARY BELOW WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED ON OCTOBER 12, 2006. THIS IS IN THE NATURE OF A REMINDER ON THIS ISSUE. GIVEN THE STATE OF CURRENT POLITICS THIS IS THE ONLY WAY THAT THOSE WHO ARE OPPOSED TO THE IRAQ WAR CAN MAKE THEIR VOICES HEARD. IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE ME JUST ASK EVERY CANDIDATE- WILL YOU VOTE AGAINST THE WAR BUDGET?- YES OR NO. THE ANSWERS WILL NOT BE PRETTY
According to the Boston Globe of October 11, 2006 the voters of a number of Massachusetts communities will be able to vote on November 7th on a non-binding referendum calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The measure sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers) and other anti-war organizations will be on the ballot in various communities depending on the Massachusetts House of Representatives district. The gist of the resolution is a call on your local state representative to support a resolution to call on the Congress and the President to immediately withdraw troops from Iraq. Given that all hell is breaking out in Iraq at some level this should be regarded as sub-parliamentary cretinism. I personally think that it would be easier to turn swords in plowshares than to get any effective action out of this cumbersome parliamentary maneuver. Nevertheless it is minimally supportable by militant leftists as an expression of opposition to the Iraq war. But, hear me out further.
Petitions, people’s peace treaties and referenda against war pushed by the more pacific, reformist-minded elements of anti- war movements throughout its history have been a dime a dozen every time a serious military conflict arises. Those forces that place primacy on such methods of redress fundamentally believe that those who have the power to take a nation to war are at heart “reasonable” and subject to parliamentary pressure from the masses. At last count their efforts have had zero effect on the continuation or cessation of any war, particularly the current one. Nevertheless, as a political proposition such acts do no harm and can give a minimal voice to anti-war opposition. That it is hardly enough goes without saying. Let me, however, propose another way to look at such a vote.
Any even moderately political person who has paid attention to the situation in Iraq over the last period knows that it is desperately necessary to cut and run with “all deliberate speed”out of that quagmire. That part is a no-brainer. Nevertheless, the President, the Congress, the military chieftains and, yes, the anti-war movement have failed the troops in Iraq. The shortest and only way home now for the troops is to organize AMONG THEMSELVES TO COME HOME. Our role on this side of the ocean is to act in solidarity with such efforts and form civilian solidarity committees to aid these efforts. Thus, on November 7th voters in the effected Massachusetts districts can use their vote not only for calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq but to support the troops' efforts to get out. Until then it is still necessary to say and organize around- GET THE HELL OUT OF IRAQ NOW!!
ADDED NOTE: For the past several months I have been proposing the above course of action regarding troop solidarity committees. During that time I have also been adamant that there will be no troops drawdown soon. Today’s Boston Globe (October 12, 2006) brings the grim confirmation of that projection. No drawdown until 2010, according to the Army chieftains. During this same several month period I have been arguing that the only meaningful measure on a parliamentary level is a vote against the war budget. That is the litmus test for any labor party or socialist candidate (forget the Democrats and Republicans, they like to vote for these budgets). Moreover, on the state level I have proposed this parliamentary question in another form. In the heat of the current Governor’s race I have posed the question to ask Deval Patrick (Republican Kerry Healey is beyond the pale), the darling of the parliamentary anti-war left, whether as Commander-in Chief of the Massachusetts National Guard he would refuse to send troops to Iraq. No liberal really want to know the answer to that one. Nevertheless, these are the real parliamentary tactics needed for the times.
THE CASUALTY LISTS DO NOT LIE-THIS WAR IS FOUGHT BY THE WORKING CLASS AND MINORITIES-EDUCATED OR NOT
Forget the elephants, donkeys and greens-BUILD A WORKERS PARTY
After spending the past several months lambasting Massachusetts Senator John Forbes Kerry for his presidential pretensions and political ambitions I finally have a momentary point of solidarity with him. Do not worry. When he goes back to form I will kick him and the other capitalist politicans around-and enjoy it. But, fair is fair.
And what is this flap all about? Earlier this week, the week of October 30, 2006, Kerry made what was, as always for him, an ill-fated attempt to poke fun at President Bush and his alleged possession of an I.Q. However, the way that it came out in his West Coast junior college presentation Kerry appeared to be offering the students a cautionary note that if they fell down on the academic job they would wind up as 'cannon fodder' in Bush's misbegotten war in Iraq. As usual, his attempt at humor got him in more trouble than anticipated and the Republicans were waiting. Can this guy ever get out of the cardboard costume?
Notwithstanding that little problem, what Senator Kerry inadvertently blurred out was the deep, dark unspoken secret of American politcal life- the working class, the rural poor, and minorities are the main elements fighting the war in Iraq. A cursory look any day of the week at the casualty lists in the newspaper confirms this graphically. Read the personal profiles of the dead and wounded. Junior colleges, unlike the elite schools Kerry is more familar with, represent for many young working class and minority youth the last shot at obtaining some kind of socially usable skill. And, yes, if one fails there the prospects ARE bleak in an increasingly technologically driven world. Thus, no one should be surprised that between the pressures from military recruiters, home pressures and the brutal facts of an "economic" draft for many poor or minority families that the poor and minorities form a disproportionate part of the armed services. It was true in Vietnam, with even more deadly consequences. It is true in Iraq.
The filthy rich, the super rich and the merely rich would like to pay their fair share for the war but their tax advisors have advised them of the adverse effects on their tax shelters if they do so. Furthermore they would not dream of having their children play with guns. Their servants or their servants' children, yes, but not their own. The middle class, especially the upper middle class, may pay for the war but still shelter their children from the traumas of war. But the working class and minorities pay for the war AND provide the 'cannon fodder' for it. THOSE SOLDIERS AND SAILORS BETTER GET EDUCATED FAST TO ORGANIZE THEMSELVES TO GET THE HELL OUT OF IRAQ NOW. NOT ONE PENNY, NOT ONE PERSON FOR THIS WAR!
That said, Senator Kerry, despite his inadvertant insight, should still not be left off the hook. And that brings up the most important question of this parliamentary election season. As always the question to be put to every politican by anti-war militants is-Will you vote against the war budget? YES OR NO. That is the only meaningful parliamentary opposition to the war. On that note I can comfortably go back to lambasting the ill-starred Kerry.
Revised: November 3, 2006
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
NOTES ON THE FINAL ELECTORAL ODDS, REPUBLICAN ZANIES, DEMOCRATIC HYPOCRISY AND ONE LAST DESPERATE MESSAGE FOR DOCTOR HUNTER THOMPSON-CALL ME
Forget elephants, donkeys and greens-BUILD A WORKERS PARTY!
With about one week to go in the 2006 electoral cycle I am prepared to make my breathlessly awaited final line on the Congressional contests. Fortunately, as noted in an early October blog (see October 2006 archives, dated October 1), as an anti-capitalist militant I am able to keep a long, a very long, distance between myself and the fate of these parties and therefore am able to make a considered, in fact a most considered judgment, on the results. Unfortunately, the real loser in this years elections is the working class who along with its allies have for the umpteenth time taken a beating by being confronted with choices of elephants, donkeys and Greens whose programs do not come close articulating its historic needs. Hell, those parties do not even come close to meeting its immediate needs- which is a party of its own- a workers party based on a working class program. Forget the Left Liberals, Forget the Greens- accept no substitutes.
Despite all the hoopla over the expected Democratic resurgence, especially in the House of Representatives, the number of races that count have been dramatically overblown in the media. Given Republican gerrymandering, base-building and a flat out cash flow advantage the real number of seats “in play”, as the conventional political pundits put it, is still in the 25 to 30 range that I indicated were up for grabs in early October. That and a certain narrowing of the numbers toward the Republicans down the final stretch leads me to one conclusion- even, take your pick. I will take all the action I can get on that proposition and feel it is a wise investment. Of course, in early October I was considering my bets as money found on the ground. Well, even disinterested leftists are capable of getting caught up in the moment. As for the Senate races I think the Democratic pundits have been smoking “something”. I will be damned if I can see their numbers. 3/2 Republicans retain the Senate.
These numbers point to the underlying problem that the Democrats have faced all year. Despite a willfully ignorant President (who capacity for screwing up everything he touches, by the way, should make the Trustees of the Yale Corporation blush that they gave up a seat to a meritorious student in favor of the ‘tribe’s’ George W.), a barrelful of scandals that would make Boss Tweed blush and other assorted antics the Democrats have maintained a political position which they have carried over from the 2004 election campaign-Republican-lite. So be it. That is their problem, our problems lie elsewhere. Below are a few final observations that make this writer very glad that he stands outside the bourgeois political parties.
* Last spring Anne Coulter made a splash on the political scene by trashing widows in her latest book of political trivia. Now hot off the “de-tox” trail one Rush Limbaugh has aimed his blunted barbs at actor Michael J. Fox, a sufferer from Parkinson’s disease, who has been supporting the fight to increase stem-cell research. Apparently ever since last year’s obscene flap in the Terry Schrivo case every half-baked zany with access to a microphone is now capable of a tele-diagnosis of the ailments of the world. Seemingly this is the Republican prescription in lieu of a universal health care program.
Last spring I also mentioned that the Republicans should nominate, unopposed, Ms. Coulter as their nominee for President in 2008, as she represents the “soul” of that party. Now I have found her Vice Presidential running mate. At one time bourgeois politicians nurtured widows and orphans, the afflicted, the waifs of the world – even if they were not going to do anything about their plight. Now the “survival of the fittest” code of political warfare has rendered that point moot. In the year 2006 is it really necessary in the “interest of full and frank democratic discourse” to have these zanies running the mainstream political circus (or perhaps, asylum is a better choice of words).
* Make no mistake racism is a fact of life in American life, particularly of political life, in 2006 as always. Make all the paeans to racial integration that you want but the hard reality is down in the mud the “race card” is the coin of the realm. Cases in point. In Tennessee, black Democratic Senatorial candidate Harold Ford was the subject of a vicious television ad depicting a willowy white blonde woman coming on to him. Despite all the disclaimers his Republican opponent’s numbers jumped up after the hoopla over that ad died down. Some commentators have noted that the blatant aims of the ad- to fuel the fires over the taboo subjects of interracial sex and its adjunct the “preservation of the purity of the white race” evokes the memory of Emmett Till (see October 2006 archives for an article on Till’s case). True enough, but the really interesting thing about the ad is not so much a certain assumption about a black man’s sexuality as much as that a white woman is coming on to a black man- now that is the nut of the whole racial cultural battle which drives the ‘gentile’ whites crazy with anxiety.
In Massachusetts black Democratic candidate for Governor Deval Patrick has also been attacked with a racially charged television ad that he is “soft” on rapists. Jesus, how low can these bourgeois politicians go just to get elected to a two-bit office? Even those hardened politicians, the late Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon, who were capable of the most gross political shenanigans to get into office would be blushing here.
* Recently Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, who is slated to take over the House Finanical Services Committee chairmanship if the Democrats sweep into the majority there, gave a revealing interview that epitomizes the limits of the Democratic Party as a vehicle that working people can rely on. Now Congressman Frank is an intelligent, witting and knowledgeable politician, far from the worst of the lot- in fact probably one of the most liberal in bourgeois politics. Here is what he had to say. After paying the obligatory homage to the “free market” system Frank noted that this system contains an inherent inequality but that was essentially the overhead price one must pay for the system to function. The role of government is to regulate that inequality so that it does not become too oppressive. That, dear readers, in a nutshell is exactly what is wrong with capitalism and its defenders. The role of government should be to end government over the citizenry- to let every cook be a commissar, to end exploitation of humankind by humankind and let the devil take the hinder post. Even the best liberal politician has a tin ear on this question.
* As we wind down on this bummer of a campaign season and begin the gear up to the real action-the presidential campaign of 2008 I refer back to an article written last summer when I first started to pay attention to the national political campaign (see July 2006 archives). This was an open letter to the late Doctor Hunter J. Thompson, political writer of blessed memory, to come back and give me some goddamn help. He liked this stuff. He liked to get down in the mud with this crowd. Thompson was a pro and took this weirdness in stride. Hunter-call me, please. Enough said.