Saturday, August 19, 2017

An Encore -The Son Of Dharma-With Jack Kerouac’s On The Road In Mind

An Encore -The Son Of Dharma-With Jack Kerouac’s On The Road In Mind

Jack Callahan thought he was going crazy when he thought about the matter after he had awoken from his fitful dream. Thought he was crazy for “channeling” Jack Kerouac, or rather more specifically channeling Jack’s definitive book On The Road, definite in giving him and a goodly portion of his generation that last push to go, well, go search a new world, or at least get the dust of your old town growing up off of your shoes, that had much to do with his wanderings. Got him going in search of what his late corner boy, “the Scribe,” Peter Paul Markin called the search for the Great Blue-Pink American West Night (Markin always capitalized that concept so since I too was influenced by the mad man’s dreams I will do so here). Any way you cut it seeking that new world that gave Jack his fitful dream. That  “driving him crazy” stemmed from the fact that those wanderings, that search had begun, and finished shortly thereafter, about fifty years before when he left the road after a few months for the hand of Chrissie McNamara and a settled life. Decided that like many others who went that same route he was not build for the long haul road after all.  

But maybe it is best to go back to the beginning, not the fifty years beginning, Jesus, who could remember, maybe want to remember incidents that far back, but to the night several weeks before when Jack, Frankie Riley, who had been our acknowledged corner boy leader out in front of Jack Slack’s bowling alleys from about senior year in high school in 1966 and a couple of years after when for a whole assortment of reasons, including the wanderings, the crowd went its separate ways, Jimmy Jenkins, Allan Johnson, Bart Webber, Josh Breslin, Rich Rizzo, Sam Eaton and me got together for one of our periodic “remember back in the day” get-togethers over at “Jack’s” in Cambridge a few block down Massachusetts Avenue from where Jimmy lives. We have probably done this a dozen time over the past decade or so, more recently as most of us have more time to spent at a hard night’s drinking (drinking high-shelf liquors as we always laugh about since in the old days we collectively could not have afforded one high-shelf drink and were reduced to drinking rotgut wines and seemingly just mashed whiskeys, and draino Southern Comfort, and that draino designation no lie, especially the first time you took a slug, the only way to take it, before you acquired the taste for it).

The night I am talking about though as the liquor began to take effect someone, Bart I think, mentioned that he had read in the Globe that up in Lowell they were exhibiting the teletype roll of paper that Jack Kerouac had typed the most definitive draft of his classic youth nation travel book, On The Road in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of its publication in 1957. That information stopped everybody in the group’s tracks for a moment. Partly because everybody at the table, except Rich Rizzo, had taken some version of Kerouac’s book to heart as did thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of certified members of the generation of ’68 who went wandering in that good 1960s night. But most of all because etched in everybody’s memory were thoughts of the mad monk monster bastard saint who turned us all on to the book, and to the wanderings, the late Peter Paul Markin.

Yeah, we still moan for that sainted bastard all these years later whenever something from our youths come up. It might be an anniversary, it might be all too often the passing of some iconic figure from those times, or it might be passing some place that was associated with our crowd, and with Markin. See Markin was something like a “prophet” to us, not the old time biblical long-beard and ranting guys although maybe he did think he was in that line of work, but as the herald of what he called “a fresh breeze coming across the land” early in the 1960s. Something of a nomadic “hippie” slightly before his time (including wearing his hair-pre moppet Beatles too long for working class North Adamsville tastes, especially his mother’s, who insisted on boys’ regulars and so another round was fought out to something like a stand-still then in the Markin household saga). The time of Markin’s “prophesies,” the hard-bitten Friday or Saturday night times when nothing to do and nothing to do it with he would hold forth, was however a time when we could have given a rat’s ass about some new wave forming in Markin’s mind (and that “rat’s ass” was the term of art we used on such occasions).

We would change our collective tunes later in the decade but then, and on Markin’s more sober days he would be clamoring over the same things, all we cared about was girls (or rather “getting into their pants”), getting dough for dates and walking around money (and planning small larcenies to obtain the filthy lucre), and getting a “boss” car, like a ’57 Chevy or at least a friend that had one in order to “do the do” with said girls and spend some dough at places like drive-in theaters and drive-in restaurants (mandatory if you wanted to get past square one with girls, the girls we knew, or were attracted to, in those days).           

Markin was whistling in the dark for a long time, past high school and maybe a couple of years after. He wore us down though pushing us to go up to Harvard Square in Cambridge to see guys with long hair and faded clothes and girls with long hair which looked like they had used an iron to iron it out sing, read poetry, and just hang-out. Hang out waiting for that same “fresh breeze” that Markin spent many a girl-less, dough-less, car-less Friday or Saturday night serenading us heathens about. I don’t know how many times he dragged me, and usually Bart Webber, in his trail on the late night subway to hear some latest thing in the early 1960s folk minute which I could barely stand then, and which I still grind my teeth over when I hear some associates going on and on about guys like Bob Dylan, Tom Rush and Dave Von Ronk and gals like Joan Baez, the one I heard later started the whole iron your long hair craze among seemingly rationale girls. Of course I did tolerate the music better once a couple of Cambridge girls asked me if I liked folk music one time in a coffeehouse and I said of course I did and took Markin aside to give me some names to throw at them. One girl, Lorna, I actually dated off and on for several months.

But enough of me and my youthful antics, and enough too of Markin and his wiggy ideas because this screed is about Jack Kerouac, about the effect of his major book, and why Jack Callahan of all people who among those of us corner boys from Jack Slack’s who followed Markin on the roads west left it the earliest. Left to go back to Chrissie, and eventually a car dealership, Toyota, that had him Mr. Toyota around Eastern Massachusetts (and of course Chrissie as Mrs. Toyota).

In a lot of ways Markin was only the messenger, the prodder, because when he eventually convinced us all to read the damn book at different points when we were all, all in our own ways getting wrapped up in the 1960s counter-cultural movement (and some of us the alternative political part too) we were in thrall to what adventures Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty were up to. That is why I think Jack had his dreams after the all-night discussions we had. Of course Markin came in for his fair share of comment, good and bad. But what we talked about mostly was how improbable on the face of it a poor working-class kid from the textile mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts, from a staunch Roman Catholic French-Canadian heritage of those who came south to “see if the streets of America really were paved with gold” would seem an unlikely person to be involved in a movement that in many ways was the opposite of what his generation, the parents of our generation of ’68 to put the matter in perspective, born in the 1920s, coming of age in the Great Depression and slogging through World War II was searching for in the post-World War II “golden age of America.”  Add in that he also was a “jock” (no slur intended as we spent more than our fair share of time talking about sports on those girl-less, dough-less, car-less weekend nights, including Markin who had this complicated way that he figured out the top ten college football teams since they didn’t a play-off system to figure it out. Of course he was like the rest of us a Notre Dame “subway” fan), a guy who played hooky to go read books and who hung out with a bunch of corner boys just like us would be-bop part of his own generation and influence our generation enough to get some of us on the roads too. Go figure.       

So we, even Markin when he was in high flower, did not “invent” the era whole, especially in the cultural, personal ethos part, the part about skipping for a while anyway the nine to five work routine, the white house and picket fence family routine, the hold your breath nose to the grindstone routine and discovering the lure of the road and of discovering ourselves, and of the limits of our capacity to wonder. No question that elements of the generation before us, Jack Kerouac’s, the sullen West Coast hot-rodders, the perfect wave surfers, the teen-alienated rebel James Dean and wild one Marlon Brando we saw on Saturday afternoon matinee Strand Theater movie screens and above all his “beats” helped push the can down the road, especially the “beats” who along with Jack wrote to the high heavens about what they did, how they did it and what the hell it was they were running from. Yeah, gave us a road map to seek that “newer world” Markin got some of us wrapped up in later in the decade and the early part of the next.

Now the truth of the matter is that most generation of ‘68ers, us, only caught the tail-end of the “beat” scene, the end where mainstream culture and commerce made it into just another “bummer” like they have done with any movement that threatened to get out of hand. So most of us who were affected by the be-bop sound and feel of the “beats” got what we knew from reading about them. And above all, above even Allen Ginsberg’s seminal poem, Howl which was a clarion call for rebellion, was Jack Kerouac who thrilled even those who did not go out in the search the great blue-pink American West night.              

Here the odd thing, Kerouac except for that short burst in the late 1940s and a couple of vagrant road trips in the 1950s before fame struck him down was almost the antithesis of what we of the generation of ’68 were striving to accomplish. As is fairly well known, or was by those who lived through the 1960s, he would eventually disown his “step-children.” Be that as it may his role, earned or not, wanted or not, as media-anointed “king of the beats” was decisive.           

But enough of the quasi-literary treatment that I have drifted into when I really wanted to tell you about what Bart Webber told me about his dream. He dreamed that he, after about sixty-five kinds of hell with his mother who wanted him to stay home and start that printing business that he had dreamed of since about third grade when he read about how his hero Benjamin Franklin had started in the business, get married to Betsy Binstock, buy a white picket fence house (a step up from the triple decker tenement where he grew up) have children, really grandchildren and have a happy if stilted life. But his mother advise fell off him like a dripping rain, hell, after-all he was caught in that 1960s moment when everything kind of got off-center and so he under the constant prodding of Markin decided to hit the road. Of course the Kerouac part came in from reading the book after about seven million drum-fire assaults by Markin pressing him to read the thing.

So there he was by himself. Markin and I were already in San Francisco so that was the story he gave his mother for going and also did not tell her that he was going  to hitchhike to save money and hell just to do it. It sounded easy in the book. So he went south little to hit Route 6 (a more easterly part of that road in upstate New York which Sal unsuccessfully started his trip on). There he met a young guy, kind of short, black hair, built like a football player who called himself Ti Jean, claimed he was French- Canadian and hailed from Nashua up in New Hampshire but had been living in Barnstable for the summer and was now heading west to see what that summer of love was all about.

Bart was ecstatic to have somebody to kind of show him the ropes, what to do and don’t do on the road to keep moving along. So they travelled together for a while, a long while first hitting New York City where Ti Jean knew a bunch of older guys, gypsy poets, sullen hipsters, con men, drifters and grifters, guys who looked like they had just come out some “beat” movie. Guys who knew what was what about Times Square, about dope, about saying adieu to the American dream of their parents to be free to do as they pleased. Good guys though who taught him a few things about the road since they said they had been on that road since the 1940s.

Ti Jean whose did not look that old said he was there with them, had blown out of Brockton after graduating high school where he had been an outstanding sprinter who could have had a scholarship if his grades had been better. Had gone to prep school in Providence to up his marks, had then been given a track scholarship to Brown, kind of blew that off when Providence seemed too provincial to him, had fled to New York one fine day where he sailed out for a while in the merchant marines to do his bit for the war effort. Hanging around New York in between sailings he met guys who were serious about reading, serious about talking about what they read, and serious about not being caught in anything but what pleased them for the moment. Some of this was self-taught, some picked up from the hipsters and hustlers.

After the war was over, still off-center about what to do about this writing bug that kept gnawing at him despite everybody, his minute wife, his love mother, his carping father telling him to get a profession writing wasn’t where any dough was, any dough for him he met this guy, a hard knocks guys who was something like a plebeian philosopher king, Ned Connelly, who was crazy to fix up cars and drive them, drive them anyway. Which was great since Ti Jean didn’t have a license, didn’t know step one about how to shift gears and hated driving although he loved riding shot-gun getting all blasted on the dope in the glove compartment and the be-bop jazz on the radio. So they tagged along together for a couple of years, zigged and zagged across the continent, hell, went to Mexico too to get that primo dope that he/they craved, got drunk as skunks more times than you could shake a stick, got laid more times than you would think by girls who you would not suspect were horny but were, worked a few short jobs picking produce in the California fields, stole when there was no work, pimped a couple of girls for a while to get a stake and had a hell of time while the “squares” were doing whatever squares do. And then he wrote some book about it, a book that was never published because there were too many squares who could not relate to what he and Ned were about. He was hoping that the kids he saw on the road, kids like Bart would keep the thing moving along as he left Bart at the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge on their last ride together.

Then Bart woke up, woke up to the fact that he stayed on the road too short a time now looking back on it. That guy Ti Jean had it right though, live fast, drink hard and let the rest of it take care of itself. Thanks Markin.              

From The Pen Of Leon Trotsky-History of the Russian Revolution to Brest-Litovsk-Part IV-THE PEACE NEGOTIATIONS

From The Pen Of Leon Trotsky-History of the Russian Revolution to Brest-Litovsk-Part IV-THE PEACE NEGOTIATIONS

Markin comment:

This article goes along with the propaganda points in the fight for our communist future mentioned in this day's other posts.

Leon Trotsky

History of the Russian Revolution to Brest-Litovsk

Part IV


At an historical night sitting, the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets adopted the historical Peace Decree. At that time the power of the Soviets was still only consolidating in the most important centres of the country, while the number of people abroad who had confidence in it was quite insignificant. We carried the decrees unanimously, but to many it appeared to be merely a political demonstration. The Compromise-mongers kept repeating at every street corner that our resolution could not lead to any practical results, since, on the one hand, the German Imperialists would not recognize and would not even condescend to talk with us, and, on the other hand, our allies would declare war on us for entering into separate peace negotiations. It was under the shadow of these gloomy predictions that we were making our first steps towards a universal democratic peace. The Decree was accepted on November 8th, when Kerensky and Krasnoff were at the very gates of Petrograd, and on November 20th we communicated over the wireless our proposals for the conclusion of a general peace both to our allies and enemies. By way of reply the Allied Governments addressed, through their military agents, remonstrances to General Dukhonin, the Commander-in-Chief, stating that all further steps on our part towards separate peace negotiations would lead to most serious results. We, on our part, replied on November 24th to this protest by a manifesto to all workers, soldiers, and peasants, declaring that under no circumstances should we allow our army to shed its blood by order of any foreign bourgeoisie. We brushed aside the threats of the Western Imperialists and assumed full responsibility for our peace policy before the international working class. First of all, by way of discharging our previous pledges, we published the secret treaties and declared that we repudiated all that was opposed in them to the interests of the popular masses everywhere. The capitalist Governments tried to play off our disclosures against one another, but the popular masses everywhere understood us and appreciated our action. Not a single Socialist patriotic paper, as far as we know, dared protest against this radical change effected by the Government of workers and peasants in all traditional methods of diplomacy, against our repudiation of its evil and unscrupulous intrigues. We made it the aim and purpose of our diplomacy to enlighten the popular masses, to open their eyes as to the nature of the policy of their respective Governments, and to fuse them in one common struggle against, and hatred of, the bourgeois-capitalist regime. The German bourgeois Press accused us of protracting the negotiations, but the peoples themselves eagerly listened everywhere to the dialogues at Brest, and thereby, in the course of the two and a half months during which the peace negotiations proceeded, a service was rendered to the cause of peace which has been acknowledged even by honest enemies. For the first time the question of peace was raised in such a way that it could no longer be distorted by any machinations behind the scenes.

On December 5th we signed the agreement for the suspension of hostilities along the whole front, from the Baltic to the Black Sea. We again appealed to the Allies to join us and to conduct the peace negotiations together with us. We received no answer, although this time our allies did not try to intimidate us by threats. The peace negotiations began on December 22nd, six weeks after the adoption of the Peace Decree. This shows that the accusations levelled at us by the hireling and Socialist traitor Press, that we had not tried to come to an understanding with the Allies, were nothing but lies. For six weeks we kept on informing them of every step we made, and constantly appealed to them to join us in the peace negotiations. We can face the people of France, Italy, and Great Britain with a clear conscience. We did all we could to prevail upon the belligerent nations to join us in the peace negotiations. The responsibility for our separate peace negotiations rests not upon us, but upon the Imperialists of the West, as well as those Russian parties which all along had been predicting an early death to the Workers’ and Peasants’ Government and urging the Allies not to take seriously our peace Initiative.

Anyhow, on December 22nd the peace negotiations were opened. Our delegates made a declaration of principles defining the basis of a general democratic peace in the precise terms of the Decree of November 8th. The other side demanded an adjournment of the sittings; but their resumption was put off, on Kühlmann’s motion, from day to day. It was obvious that the delegates of the Quadruple Alliance had considerable difficulty in drawing up their reply to our declaration. At last, on December 25th, the reply came. The diplomats of the Quadruple Alliance adhered to the democratic formulæ of a peace without annexations and contributions on the principle of self-determination of nations. We could see clearly that this was merely a piece of make-believe. But we did not expect even that, for is not hypocrisy the tribute paid by vice to virtue? The fact that the German Imperialists considered it necessary to pay this tribute to our democratic principles was, in our eyes, evidence of the rather serious internal condition of Germany. But although, on the whole, we had no illusions as to the democratic leanings of Kühlmann and Czernin – we were only too well acquainted with the nature of the German and Austrian ruling classes – it must, nevertheless, be candidly admitted that we did not at the time anticipate that the actual proposals of the German Imperialists would be separated by such a wide gulf from the formulæ presented to us by Kühlmann on December 25th as a sort of plagiarism of the Russian Revolution. We, indeed, did not expect such an acme of impudence.

The masses of the working classes in Russia were deeply impressed by Kühlmann’s reply. They read in it the fear of the ruling classes of the Central Empires in face of the discontent and growing impatience of the masses in Germany. On December 28th, a gigantic workers’ and soldiers’ demonstration took place in Petrograd in favour of a democratic peace. But the next morning our delegates returned from Brest-Litovsk and brought those predatory demands which Kühlmann had presented on behalf of the Central Empires by way of interpretation of his so-called democratic formulæ.

At first it may appear difficult to understand what exactly were the expectations of the German diplomacy when they presented their democratic formulæ in order, two or three days later, to reveal their brutal appetites. The theoretical debates, too, about those democratic formulæfor the most part initiated by Kühlmann himself – may seem to have been rather a risky affair. It ought to have been clear to them from the beginning that on this battlefield the diplomacy of the Central Empires could scarcely gain any laurels. But the secret of Kühlmann’s conduct of diplomacy lay in that he was profoundly convinced that we would be ready to play duets with him. The trend of his thought was approximately as follows: Russia must have peace. The Bolsheviks had obtained power thanks to their fight for peace. The Bolsheviks wanted to remain in power. This was only possible on one condition, namely, the conclusion of peace. True, they had committed themselves to a definite democratic peace programme. But what were the diplomats for, if not for disguising black as white? They, the Germans, would make the position easier for the Bolsheviks by hiding their spoil and plunder beneath a democratic formula. Bolshevik diplomacy would have sufficient grounds for not desiring to probe too deeply for the political essence of their enticing formulae, or, rather, for not revealing it to the eyes of the world. In other words, Kühlmann hoped to come to a tacit understanding with us. He would pay us back in our fine formula, and we should give him an opportunity of obtaining provinces and whole nationalities for the benefit of the Central Empires without any protest on our side. In the eyes of the German working classes, therefore, this violent annexation would receive the sanction of the Russian Revolution. When, during the negotiations, we made it clear that we were not discussing mere empty formulæ and decorative screens hiding a secret bargain, but the democratic foundations of the cohabitation of nations, Kühlmann took it as a malevolent breach of a tacit agreement. He would not for anything in the world budge even an inch from his formula of December 25th. Relying on his refined bureaucratic and legal logic, he tried his best to prove to the world that there was no difference whatever between black and white, and that it was only due to our malicious will that we were insisting on it.

Count Czernin, the representative of Austria-Hungary, played at these negotiations a part which no one would call impressive or dignified. He clumsily seconded and undertook at air critical moments, on behalf of Kühlmann, to make the most violent and cynical declarations. As against this, General Hoffman would often introduce a most refreshing note into the negotiations. Without shamming any great sympathy with the diplomatic niceties of Kühlmann, General Hoffman many times banged his soldier’s boot on the table, at which the most intricate legal debates were carried on. For our part, we had not a moment’s doubt that at these negotiations General Hoffman’s boot was the only serious reality.

The presence of the representatives of the Kieff Rada at the negotiations was a great trump card in Kühlmann’s hands. To the Ukrainian lower middle class, who were then in power, their “recognition” by the capitalist Governments of Europe seemed the most important thing in the world. At first, the Rada had offered its services to the Allied Imperialists and got from them some pocket-money. It then sent delegates to Brest-Litovsk in order to obtain from the Austro-German Governments, behind the backs of the peoples of Russia, the recognition of their legitimate birth. Scarcely had the Kieff diplomats entered on the road of “international” relations than they manifested the same out look and the same moral level which had hitherto been a characteristic feature of the petty Balkan politicians. Messrs. Kühlmann and Czernin, of course, did not indulge in any illusions as to the solvency of the new partner at the negotiations. But they realized quite correctly that by the attendance of the Kieff delegates the game was fated to become more complicated, but also more promising to them. At their first appearance at Brest-Litovsk the Kieff delegation defined the Ukraine as a component part of the nascent Federal Republic of Russia. That was an obvious embarrassment to the diplomats of the Central Powers, whose chief concern was to turn the Russian Republic into a new Balkan Peninsula. At their second appearance, the diplomats of the Rada declared, under the dictation of Austro-German diplomacy, that from that moment the Ukraine no longer desired to form part of the Russian Federation and would constitute henceforth an independent Republic.

In order to give the readers a clear idea of the situation in which the Soviet Government was placed at the last stage of the peace negotiations, I think it useful to reproduce here the main passages of the speech which the author of these lines delivered, as the People’s Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, at the sitting of the Central Executive Committee on February 27, 1918.

“Comrades, – Russia of the Soviets has not only to build the new, but also to sum up the results of the past and, to a certain extent – a very large extent indeed – to settle old accounts, above all, the accounts of the present war which has now lasted three and a half years. The war has been a test of the economic resources of the belligerent nations. The fate of Russia, a poor, backward country, was, a war of attrition, pre-determined from the beginning. In the mighty conflict of the military machines the decisive r6le belonged, in the last resort, to the ability of the respective nations to adapt their industry in the shortest possible time, and thus to turn out again and again, with constantly increasing rapidity and in ever-increasing quantities, the engines of destruction which have been wearing out in no time in this terrible slaughter of nations. At the beginning of the war every, or almost every, country, even the most backward, could be in possession of powerful engines of destruction, since those machines could be obtained from abroad. All backward countries did possess them, including Russia. But the war soon wears out its dead capital, unless it is constantly replenished. The military power of every individual country drawn into the whirlwind of the worldwide war was measured by the ability to make guns, shells, and other engines of destruction by its own means during the war itself. If the war had decided the question of the balance of power in a very short time, Russia, speaking theoretically, might have come out on the victorious side. But the war dragged on, and did so by no means accidentally. The mere fact that during the preceding half-century all international politics had been reduced to the establishment of the so-called balance of power, that IS, to the greatest possible equalization of the military forces of the adversaries, was bound, m view of the strength and Wealth of the modern capitalist nations, to make the war a protracted business. The result has been, first and foremost, the exhaustion of the poorer, less economically developed countries.

Germany proved to be the most powerfull country in the military sense, owing to the mighty development of her industry and the new, rational, up-to-date structure of that industry side by side with the archaic structure of her State. France, with her economic system largely based on small production, proved to be very much behind Germany, while even such a powerful Colonial Empire as England showed herself weaker than Germany, owing to the more conservative, routine-like character of her industries. When the will of History summoned revolutionary Russia to initiate peace negotiations, we had no doubt whatever that, failing the intervention of the decisive power of the world’s revolutionary proletariat, we should have to pay in full for over three and a half years of war. We knew perfectly well that German Imperialism was an enemy imbued with the consciousness of its own colossal strength, as manifested so glaringly in the present war.

All the arguments of the bourgeois cliques which keep telling us that we should have been incomparably stronger had we conducted our peace negotiations in conjunction with our Allies are fundamentally wrong. If we were to carry on, at some distant future, the peace negotiations in conjunction with the Allies, we should, in the first place, have had to go on with the war; but seeing how our country was exhausted and weakened, its continuation, not its cessation, would have led to further exhaustion and ruin. We should thus have had to foot the bill of the war in conditions still more unfavourable to us. Even if the camp which Russia had joined on account of the international intrigues of Tsardom and the bourgeoisie – the camp, that is, at the head of which stands Great Britain – should come out of the war completely victorious (granting for the moment this rather improbable eventuality), it does not follow, comrades, that our country would also have come Out victorious, since Russia, inside this victorious camp, would have been still more exhausted and ruined by the long-drawn-out war than it is now. The masters of that camp, who would have gathered all the fruits of victory – that is, England and America – would, in their treatment of our country, have displayed the same methods which were employed by Germany at the peace negotiations. It would be absurd and childish, in appraising the policy of the Imperialist Countries, to start from other premises than their naked self-interest and material strength. Hence, if we, as a nation, are now weakened in the face of the Imperialist world, we are so. not because we broke away from the fiery circle of the war after previously shaking off the chains of international military obligations – no, we are weakened by the same policy of Tsardom and the bourgeois classes against which we fought, as a revolutionary party, both before and during the war.

You remember, comrades, the conditions in which our delegates went to Brest-Litovsk last time, direct from one of the sittings of the Third All-Russian Congress of Soviets. We had informed you then of the state of negotiations and of the demands of the enemy. These demands, as you no doubt remember, amounted to disguised, or rather semi-disguised, annexationist claims to Lithuania, Courland, part of Livonia, the Moon Sound Islands, and a semi-masked indemnity which we then computed at six to eight or even ten thousand million roubles. In the interval, which lasted ten days, serious disturbances broke out in Austria and strikes took place among the labouring masses there – the first act of recognition of our methods of conducting the peace negotiations on the part of the proletariat of the Central Powers in face of the annexationist demands of German Imperialism. How miserable are the allegations of the bourgeois Press, that it took us two months’ talk with Kühlmann before we discovered that the German Imperialists would demand robbers’ terms. No, we knew that beforehand. But we tried to turn our “conversations” with the representatives of German Imperialism into a means of strengthening those forces which were struggling against it. We did not promise in this connection any miracles, but we asserted that our way was the only way still left at the disposal of revolutionary democracy for securing the chances of its further development.

“One may complain that the proletariat of other countries, especially of the Central Empires, is passing to an open revolutionary struggle too slowly. Yes, the tempo of its advance is much too slow. But in Austria-Hungary we saw a movement which assumed the proportions of a national event and which was a direct and immediate result of the Brest-Litovsk negotiations.

Before we departed from here we discussed the matter together, and we said that we had no reason to believe that that wave would sweep away the Austro-Hungarian militarism. Had we been convinced to the contrary, we should have certainly given the pledge so eagerly demanded from us by certain persons, namely, that we should never sign a separate treaty with Germany. I said at the time that it was impossible for us to make such a pledge, as it would have been tantamount to pledging ourselves to defeat German Imperialism. We held the secret of no such victory in our hands, and in so far as we could not pledge ourselves to Change the balance and correlation of the world’s powers in a very short period of time, we openly and honestly declared that the revolutionary Government might, under certain circumstances, be compelled to accept an annexationist peace. For not the acceptance of a peace forced upon us by the course of events, but an attempt to hide its predatory character from our own people would have been the beginning of the end of the revolutionary Government.

At the same time we pointed out that we were departing for Brest in order to continue the negotiations in circumstances which were apparently becoming more favourable to us and less advantageous to our adversaries. We were watching the events in Austria-Hungary, and various circumstances made us think that, as hinted at by Socialist spokesmen in the Reichstag, Germany was on the eve of similar events. Such were our hopes, and then in the course of the first days of our new stay at Brest the wireless brought us via Vilna the first news that a tremendous strike movement had broken out in Berlin, which, like the movement in Austria-Hungary, was the direct result of the Brest-Litovsk negotiations. But, as it often happens, in consequence of the “dialectical,” double-edged, character of the class struggle, it was just this powerful swing of the proletarian movement, such as Germany had never seen before, that aroused the propertied classes and caused them to close their ranks and to take up a more irreconcilable attitude. The German ruling classes are only too well imbued with the instinct of self-preservation, and they understood that any, even partial concession, under such circumstances, when they were being pressed by the masses of their own people, would have been tantamount to a capitulation before the idea of revolution. That is “why, after the first period of conferences, when Kühlmann had been deliberately delaying the negotiations by either postponing the sittings or wasting them on minor questions of form, he, as soon as the strike had been suppressed and his masters, he felt, were for the time being out of danger, reverted to his old accents of complete self-confidence, and redoubled his aggressiveness. Our negotiations became complicated owing to the participation of the Kieff Rada. We reported the facts of the case last time. The Rada delegates made their appearance at a time when the Rada still represented a fairly strong organization in the Ukraine and when the issue of the struggle had not yet been decided. Just at that moment we made the Rada an official offer to conclude with us a definite agreement, the principal term of which was our demand that the Rada should proclaim Kaledin and Korniloff enemies of the Revolution and refrain from interfering in our fight against them. The Kieff delegates arrived at the moment when we were cherishing hopes of coming to an agreement with it on both heads. We had already made clear to the Rada that so long as it was recognized by the Ukrainian people we should admit it to the negotiations as an independent member of the Conference. But in proportion as things in Russia and the Ukraine developed, and the antagonism between the democratic masses and the Rada was becoming deeper and deeper, the readiness of the Rada also increased to conclude any sort of peace with the Central Powers, and, if necessary, to invite German Imperialism to intervene in the internal affairs of the Ukrainian Republic in order to support the Rada against the Russian Revolution.

On February 9th we learned that the peace negotiations between the Rada and the Central Powers had been successfully completed behind our backs. February 9th was the birthday of Prince Leopold of Bavaria, and, as is the custom in monarchical countries, the solemn, historical act of signing the treaty was fixed for this festal day – whether with the Rada’s agreement or not we do not know. General Hoffman caused the artillery to fire a salute in honour of Leopold of Bavaria, having previously asked the Ukrainians’ permission to do so, as, according to that treaty, Brest-Litovsk had been incorporated with the Ukraine.

However, at the very moment when General Hoffman was asking the Kieff Rada for permission to fire a salute in honour of Prince Leopold, events had advanced so far that, with the exception of Brest-Litovsk, but little territory was left under the Rada’s authority. On the strength of telegrams which we had received from Petrograd we officially informed the delegates of the Central Powers that the Kieff Rada was no longer in existence – a fact which was by no means immaterial for the course of the peace negotiations. We proposed to Count Czernin to send representatives, accompanied by our officers, to the territory of the Ukraine in order to see on the spot whether his co-partner, the Kieff Rada, was still in existence or not. Czernin at first seemed to jump at the idea, but when we raised the question whether the treaty with the Kieff delegation would only be signed after the return of his messengers or not, he began to hesitate and promised to consult K4llhmann, and having done so, sent us a reply in the negative. This was on February 8th, and on the following day they were obliged to sign the treaty. That brooked no delay, not only because of Prince Leopold’s birthday, but also because of a more serious circumstance, which, of course, Kühlmann had explained to Czernin: “If we send our representatives to the Ukraine now, they may find that the Rada is no longer in existence, and then we should have to face the Russian delegates only; which of course would greatly thwart our chances at the negotiations.” We were told by the Austro-Hungarian delegates: “Leave alone the question of principles, place the problem on a practical footing – then the German delegates will try to meet you. It is impossible that the Germans should desire to continue the war for the sake, for instance, of the Moon Sound Islands, if you formulate your demands more concretely ...” We answered: “ Very well, we are ready to test the conciliatory attitude of your colleagues, the German delegates. So far we have been discussing the question of the right of self-determination of Lithuanians, Poles, Letts, Esthonians, etc., and have elucidated the fact that there is no chance for the self-determination of these small nations. Let us now see what kind of self-determination you intend to allot to the Russian people, and what are the military strategical plans and devices behind your seizure of the Moon Islands. The Moon Islands, as part of the Esthonian Republic, as a possession of the Russian Federal Republic, have a defensive value, while in the hands of Germany they are means of offence and constitute a menace to the most vital centres of our country, particularly to Petrograd.” But, of course, Hoffman had not the slightest intention of making any concessions. Then the decisive moment came. We could not declare war – we were too weak. The army was in a state of complete internal dissolution. In order to save our country from ruin it was necessary to re-establish the internal organization of the labouring masses. This moral union could be established only by constructive work in the villages, in the workshop and the factory. The masses, who had passed through the colossal suffering and the catastrophic experiences of the war, had to be brought back to the fields and factories, where they could be rejuvenated morally and physically by work and thus be enabled to create the necessary internal discipline. There was no other way of salvation for our country, which had to pay the penalty for the sins committed by Tsardom and the bourgeoisie. We were forced to get out of the war and lead our army out of the slaughter. At the same time we declared to German Imperialism, straight in the face: “The peace terms which you force us to accept are those of violence and plunder. We cannot allow you, diplomats, to tell the German workers: ‘You branded our demands as annexationist; look here, those demands have been signed by the Russian Revolution!’ Yes, we are weak, ‘we cannot fight at present, but we have enough of revolutionary courage to tell you that we will never of our own free will sign the terms which you are writing with your sword across the bodies of the living peoples’.” We refused to give our signatures, and I believe, comrades, that we acted as we ought to have acted.

Comrades, I do not want to say that a further advance of the Germans against us is out of the question. Such a statement would be too risky, considering the power of the German Imperialist Party. But I think that by the position we have taken up on the question we have made any advance a very embarrassing affair for the German militarists. What would happen if they should nevertheless advance? There is only one answer to this question. If it is still possible to raise the spirit in the most revolutionary and healthy elements in our exhausted country, reduced as it is to desperate straits, if it is still possible for Russia to rise for the defence of our Revolution and the territories of the Revolution, it is possible only as a result of the present situation, as a result of our coming out of the war and of our refusal to sign the peace treaty.

The German Government, during the first days after the breaking off of the negotiations, hesitated, uncertain as to which course to. choose. The politicians and diplomats thought apparently that the chief thing bad been accomplished, and that there was no need to run after our signatures. The military, however, were in all circumstances prepared to break through the framework outlined by the German Government in the Brest-Litovsk treaty. Professor Kriege, adviser to the German delegation, told one of our delegates that in the present conditions there could be no question of a new German offensive against Russia. Count Mirbach, then at the head of the German mission in Russia, left for Berlin assuring us that a satisfactory agreement on the exchange of prisoners had been reached. But all this did not prevent General Hoffman from announcing, on the fifth day after the breaking off of the negotiations, the end of the armistice, the seven days’ notice being antedated by him from the day of the last sitting at Brest. It would be truly out of place to waste time here, in righteous indignation at this dishonourable act, for it is but in keeping with the general diplomatic and military morality of all the governing classes.

The new German offensive developed under conditions which were deadly to Russia. Instead of the agreed seven days’ warning, we only had two days’. This spread a panic in the ranks of the army, already in a state of chronic dissolution. There could scarcely be any question of resistance. The soldiers would not believe that the Germans would advance, after we had declared the state of war at an end. The panic-stricken retreat paralysed even the will of those individual regiments which were ready to take up fighting positions. In the working-class quarters of Petrograd and Moscow the indignation at the treacherous and truly buccaneering German attack knew no bounds. The workers were ready, in those tragic days and nights, to enlist in the army in their tens of thousands. But the necessary organization was lagging far behind. Individual guerrilla detachments, full of enthusiasm, perceived their helplessness at the first serious encounter with the German regular troops, and this was, of course, followed by a further depression of spirits. The old army, long ago mortally wounded, was falling to pieces, and was only blocking up all ways and by-ways. The new army, on the other hand, was arising much too slowly amidst the general exhaustion and the terrible dislocation of industry and transport. The only real serious obstacle in the path of the German advance was the huge distances.

Austria-Hungary had her eyes chiefly on the Ukraine. Through its delegates the Rada had made a direct request to the Central Empires for military help against the Soviets, which by that time had obtained complete victory throughout Ukrainia. In this way the Ukrainian lower middle-class democracy, in its fight with the workers and the poorest peasantry, had voluntarily opened the gates to foreign invasion.

At the same time the Government of Svinhufvud was seeking the help of German bayonets against the Finnish proletariat. German militarism was assuming quite openly, in the face of the whole world, the rôle of executioner of the Russian workers’ and peasants’ revolution.

In the ranks of our party there arose a heated discussion as to whether we should, under such conditions, submit to the German ultimatum and sign a new treaty which – we were all quite convinced of that – would contain far more onerous conditions than those we had been offered at Brest-Litovsk. The representatives of one school of thought considered that at the present moment, when the Germans were effectively intervening in the internal struggles on the territory of the Russian Republic, it was unthinkable to make peace in one part of Russia and remain passive whilst in the north and south the German troops were establishing a regime of bourgeois dictatorship. Another school of thought, at the head of which stood Lenin, argued that every interval, every breathing space, however short, would be of the greatest value for the internal consolidation of Russia and for the restoration of her capacity for self-defence. After our absolute inability to defend ourselves at the present moment from the attacks of the enemy had been demonstrated so tragically before the whole country and the whole world, our conclusion of peace would be understood everywhere as an act forced on us by the cruel law of the correlation of forces. It would be mere Childishness to base our action on abstract revolutionary morals. The question at issue was not how to perish with honour, but how, in the end, we could live through to victory. The Russian revolution wants to live, must live, and must by all possible means refuse to be drawn into battle far beyond her strength she must win time in the expectation that the revolutionary movement in the West would come to her aid. German Imperialism was still at close and fierce grip with British and American militarism. Only for this reason was it possible to conclude peace between Germany and Russia. We must not let this opportunity slip by. The well-being of the Revolution was the supreme law I We must accept the peace which we dared not refuse we must gain some time for intensive work in the interior, including the reconstruction of our army.

At the Congress of the Communist Party, just as at the fourth Congress of the Soviets, those in favour of peace were in a majority. Many of those who in January had been opposed to signing the Brest peace treaty were now in favour of peace. “At that time,” said they, “our signature would have been understood by the British and French workers as a miserable capitulation without any attempt to avoid it; even the base insinuations of the Anglo-French chauvinists about a secret agreement between the Soviet Government and the Germans might have met with some acceptance in certain sections of the Western European workers, had we then signed the peace treaty. But after our refusal to sign, after the new German offensive against us, after our attempt at resistance, after our military weakness has been demonstrated to the whole world with such awful clearness, no one will dare reproach us with having capitulated without a struggle.” The Brest-Litovsk treaty, the second, more onerous edition, was duly signed and ratified.

In the meantime, in the Ukraine and in Finland the executioners were going on with their grim work, threatening more and more the most vital centres of Great Russia. Thus, the question of the very existence of Russia as an independent country became indissolubly bound up with the question of a European revolution.

When our party was assuming the reins of Government, we knew beforehand “what difficulties we should undoubtedly meet on our way. Economically the country had been exhausted by the war to the last degree. The Revolution had destroyed the old administrative machinery without having had the opportunity of creating a new one m its place. Millions of workers had been forcibly torn away from the economic life of the country, thrown out of their class, and morally and mentally shattered by three years of war. A colossal war industry on an insufficiently developed economic foundation had sucked up the very life-blood of the nation, and its demobilization presented the greatest difficulties. The phenomena inseparable from economic and political anarchy had spread widely throughout the country. The Russian peasantry had been for centuries welded together by the barbarous discipline of the land and bent down from above by the iron discipline of Tsardom. The state of our economic development had undermined the one discipline and the Revolution destroyed the other. Psychologically, the Revolution meant an awakening of human individuality in the peasant masses. The anarchical form in which this awakening found expression was but the inevitable result of the previous repression. It will only be possible to arrive at the establishment of a new order of things, based on the control of production by the producers themselves, by a general internal deliverance from the anarchical forms of the Revolution.

On the other hand, the propertied classes, although forcibly removed from power, refuse to give up their positions without a fight. The Revolution has raised in an acute form the question of private property in land and the means of production, that is, the question. of the life and death of the exploiting classes. Politically this means a constant – sometlmes covert, sometimes overt – bitter civil war. In its turn, civil war necessarily brings in its train anarchist tendencies in the movement of the labouring masses.

In view of the dislocation of finance, industry, transport, and the food supply, a protracted civil war, therefore, is bound to cause gigantic difficulties in the way of the constructive work of organization. Nevertheless, the Soviet regime has every right to look forward to the future with confidence. Only an exact inventory of the resources of the country; only a national universal plan of organization of production ; only a prudent and economical distribution of all products can save the country. And this is just Socialism. Either a descent to the state of a mere colony, or a Socialist transformation – such is the alternative which faces our country.

This war has undermined the foundations of the entire capitalist world, and in this lies our invincible strength. The Imperialist ring which is choking us will be broken by a proletarian revolution. We no more doubt this for one moment than we ever doubted the final downfall of Tsardorn during the long decades of our underground work.

To struggle, to close our ranks, to establish discipline of labour and a Socialist order, to increase the productivity of labour, and not to be balked by any obstacle – such is our watchword. History is working for us. A proletarian revolution in Europe and America will break out sooner or later, and it will free not only the Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, Courland, and Finland, but the whole of suffering humanity.

*From The Pen Of Leon Trotsky- On The Anniversary Of His Death- The Workers’ State,Thermidor and Bonapartism (1935)

Click on the headline to link to the Leon Trotsky Internet Archives for an online copy of the article mentioned in the headline.

Markin comment:

The name Leon Trotsky hardly needs added comment from this writer. After Marx, Engels and Lenin, and in his case it is just slightly after, Trotsky is our heroic leader of the international communist movement. I would argue, and have in the past, that if one were looking for a model of what a human being would be like in our communist future Leon Trotsky, warts and all, is the closest approximation that the bourgeois age has produced. No bad, right?

Note: For this 70th anniversary memorial I have decided to post articles written by Trotsky in the 1930s, the period of great defeats for the international working class with the rise of fascism and the disorientations of Stalinism beating down on it. This was a time when political clarity, above all, was necessary. Trotsky, as a simple review of his biographical sketch will demonstrate, wore many hats in his forty years of conscious political life: political propagandist and theoretician; revolutionary working class parliamentary leader; razor-sharp journalist (I, for one, would not have wanted to cross swords with him. I would still be bleeding.); organizer of the great October Bolshevik revolution of 1917; organizer of the heroic and victorious Red Army in the civil war against the Whites in the aftermath of that revolution; seemingly tireless Soviet official; literary and culture critic: leader of the Russian Left Opposition in the 1920s; and, hounded and exiled leader of the International Left Opposition in the 1930s.

I have decided to concentrate on some of his writings from the 1930s for another reason as well. Why, with such a resume to choose from? Because, when the deal went down Leon Trotsky’s work in the 1930s, when he could have taken a political dive, I believe was the most important of his long career. He, virtually alone of the original Bolshevik leadership (at least of that part that still wanted to fight for international revolution), had the capacity to think and lead. He harnessed himself to the hard, uphill work of that period (step back, step way back, if you think we are “tilting at windmills” now). In that sense the vile Stalinist assassination in 1940, when Trotsky could still project years of political work ahead, is not among the least of Stalin’s crimes against the international working class. Had Trotsky lived another ten years or so, while he could not have “sucked” revolutions out of the ground, he could have stabilized a disoriented post-World War communist movement and we would probably have a far greater living communist movement today. Thanks for what you did do though, Comrade Trotsky.

When Prince Love Loved In The 1967 Summer Of Love

When Prince Love Loved In The 1967 Summer Of Love

“Jesus, I never thought I would get here and here I am in San Francisco all in one piece standing at the foot of Russian Hill where all the “hippies” were hanging out before they went over to Golden Gate Park and “blew” their minds,” Joshua Breslin (a.k.a. Prince Love or Prince, and hereafter so identified), late of Olde (very old to hear him tell it) Saco (Maine) High School Class of 1967, but just now of youth nation, youth nation descending on friendly, friend-sized, go West young man (and woman), go West, heaven said to his boon companion of three days, Benny Buzz (real name Lawrence Stein, Brooklyn High School of Science, Class of 1967), also currently of youth nation. It was Benny Buzz who, having the vast experience of having been in ‘Frisco for a week now, and having “been up the hill,” who guided Prince Love to the foot of Russian Hill in preparation for, well, for his first summer of love experience. No, not the eternal teen summer of love at some beach, camp or vacationland amusement park where boys ogle girls (and they back, maybe) but the long expected jail break-out from the squares, from the cradle to grave plan-every-step world, and from the hassles, man, just the hassles.

Yes, Prince Love, could write the book on hassles, hassles followed by man, or not. Just a few week before he, having just graduated from Olde Saco High, had a “job offer,” a job working as a janitor in Shepard’s Textile Mill, ya, the ones who make those “boss” sweaters the girls are all crazy for these days. Crazy for in winter anyway because right now warm suns, California, Denver, hell even Maine suns, require nothing more than some skimpy top, shoulders showing, and a pair of shorts, short shorts depending on the legs or vanity. His father, Prescott, a long time employee of the mills, the lifeblood of Olde Saco just then, “pulled a few wires” to get him the job for the summer before he went off to State U in the fall. Last year, last year when he was nothing but a raw hang-out in front of the Colonial Doughnut Shoppe on Main Street (officially U.S. Route 1) with his boys (and occasionally girls, but only for a few moments while they picked up their orders) he would have jumped with both feet, maybe with both hands and feet, at the job to get some money for college.

But that was then and this is now, as they say. Now, or rather the now just a few weeks or so before he got to the foot of Russian Hill, he had received word through that mysterious youth nation grapevine that parents, squares, cops, and authority guys were frantic to figure out, but who, in the end, were clueless about, of a “great awakening” that was going on in ‘Frisco and that news fed, fed deep, into the wells of the discontent he was feeling, about his own desire to break-out from the squares, from the cradle to grave plan-every-step world, and from the hassles, man, just the hassles mentioned before. The grapevine, by the way, was not all that mysterious. Some young, long-haired, wild-looking guy dressed in a blotted multi-colored shirt (later he found out such things were called tie-dyed) from the West Coast had come east to see his grandparents who lived on Olde Saco Beach a few miles down the road and had run into Prince Love at the doughnut shop when he was looking for some joe and cakes to tide him over before a walk on the beach and told him about what was happening on the West Coast. Simple as that, okay.

That information, those pressing on the brain existential jail-break things, and well, he had just broken up with his girl, his long-time high school honey, Julie Cobb, were what drove him to seek the road west. Simple as that. Well not so simple, really, because, if the truth be known, Julie left him for another guy, an older guy who was already working in the mills (not Shepard’s but Cullen’s, the high society linen-makers), had some dough, had a boss 1964 Mustang and, most importantly, wanted to get married, and pretty soon too. That was the sticking point between the Prince and Julia, the marriage game thing that had been going on in the town since, since, well Prince didn’t know but it was pretty common. Graduate Olde Saco, work in the mills, get a couple of bucks, get married, get a tiny house on Atlantic Avenue, maybe, have two point six children, throw in a dog or two cats, and then finish up whitewashing that picket fence in front of the house with the grandchildren. No sale, not for Prince Love. He was going to college, leave the dust of that old town behind, and make a name for himself at something before he settled down in not-Olde Saco, maybe, maybe on the settle down. And from what he heard on his way west, and since he had arrived in San Fran a lot of people were feeling, wondering, groping for some answers just like him. And, ya, looking to try some dope, listen to some far-out music, grab some cool chick to shack up with, and really leave that hometown dust behind before going back east for the fall semester of school.

Now you are filled in, a little, on the what and the why of Prince (and Benny Buzz who however is right then leaving Prince to go see a man, well, go see a man about something, let’s just leave it at that) being on Russian Hill, that classic San Francisco hill mentioned a while back. A hill not previously known to first time ‘Frisco Prince Love, although maybe to some ancient Native American shaman delighted to see our homeland, the sea, out in the bay working it way to far-off Japans. Or to some Spanish conquistador, full of gold dreams but longing for the hills of Barcelona half a world away.

I just remembered, you know everything, everything except how Prince Love got here which is not a big deal since he took some dough he had originally saved up for college and used it for the Greyhound bus fare to get him here. Not for him the hitchhike road through every back road. Not for him merry prankster buses driven by mad-monk zen masters in the heated western night.

Why? Well, come on now, not everybody got every piece of news, especially in Podunk Maine, about the ways west, VW bus west, stick-out-the-thumb west and that there were people, your kind of people, ready to pick you up and take you down the road a piece. Even backing up on super-highway interstates to pick up a fellow youth nation straggler left on some desolate stretch fair game for hungry police eyes. Besides, after about a two-day bout with his parents about not taking that summer job, using the dough for college for such foolishness (to quote his everywoman mother), and other assorted arguments, family arguments started back in childhood, he had promised them to take the bus west. Let’s just say hassles, man, hassles and be done with it. And now we are done with past.

Right then though, after saying a few things in parting to Benny Buzz about catching up with each other later, as he started walking up the hill toward the entrance to the mini-“people’s park” that was about half way up Russian Hill Prince spied a tall young man, maybe a few years older than him although such things were always hard to tell with older looking beards, drug haggards, and glazed looks. He was, at second glance, tall but not as tall as Prince, lanky, maybe not as lanky as him either and from the look of him his drug stews diet had taken some additional pounds off, and some desire for pounds as well, not really normally lanky. Dressed, always worthy of description in 1967 “Frisco, male or female, in full “hippie” regalia (faded olive drab World War II army jacket, half-faded blue jeans, bright red bandanna headband to keep his head from exploding, striped checkerboard flannel shirt against the cold bay winds, against the cold bay winds even in summer, and nighttime colds too, and now that we are on the West Coast, with roman sandals on his feet). And to draw the eye more fully to the scene he is sitting with two foxy-looking young women. One, the younger one, maybe a high school student, blonde, blue-eyed, slender, short shorts belying West Coast origin, and de rigueur practical road-worthy peasant blouse. A poster child for San Francisco summer of love if he ever saw one, and of his own feverish Maine night teenage desire summer or winter of love now that Julia was past. The other women, whom he found out later called herself Lupe Matin just then although the Prince found out that she had run through several monikers previously, a college student for sure , dark-haired, dark-eyed, slightly voluptuous, seemingly a little out of place, out of figuring place, with her current male companion completed the entourage. (Her real name, Susan Sharp, Vassar College, Class of 1966, and “trying to find herself.”)

Prince cast several glances at that regal company, nodded slightly, a knowing nod, eyes fixed, as was the fashion just then, and then turned around and asked to no one in particular but kind of zeroing in on the blonde (ya, he had a thing for blondes, see Julia was just that same kind of waspy blonde, minus the tan and year-round sunshine, that he fell for, fell for hard and fast), “Got some dope, for a hungry brother?” The male, who Prince would later come to know as Far-Out Phil (Phillip Larkin, North Adamsville, Massachusetts, Class of 1964), looked at him in a bemused manner (nice touch, right). Except for shorter hair, which only meant that this traveler had either not been on the road very long or had just recently caught the “finding himself” bug he could have, thought Far-Out to himself, been Phil’s brother, biological brother.

That line, that single Prince Love line, could have been echoed a thousand, maybe ten thousand times that day along a thousand hills (well maybe not that many in San Fran), aimed at any small clot of like-minded spirits. And Phil sensing that just that one sentence spoke of kindred said, “Sure, a little Columbia Red for the head, okay?” And so started the long, well hippie long, 1960s long anyway, relationship between one Phillip Larkin and one Joshua Breslin. And, maybe, including the women too.

And, of course, as well was that sense that Far-Out had that he and Prince Love were kindred was based on the way that the Prince posed that first question. His accent spoke, spoke hard of New England, not Boston but farther north. And once the pipe had been passed a couple of times and the heat of day started getting everybody a little talkative then Prince spilled out his story. Yes, he was from Olde Saco, Maine, born and bred, a working-class kid whose family had worked the town mills for a couple of generations, maybe more, but times were getting hard, real hard in those northern mill towns now that the mill-owners had got the big idea to head south and get some cheaper labor, real cheap. So Joshua, after he graduated from high school a few weeks before decided, on a whim (not really a whim though), to head west and check out prospects here on the coast for later use after college. Josh, now fully into his Prince Love self finished up his story by saying, “And here I am a few weeks later sitting on Russian Hill smoking righteous dope and sitting with some sweet ladies.”

The Prince was just being a little off-handedly flirtatious as was his style when around women, young or old (old being thirty, tops), aiming his ammunition in general but definitely honing in on the blonde, the blonde now identified for all eternity as Butterfly Swirl (real name, Kathleen Clarke, Carlsbad High School, California, Class of 1968). (Phil, by the way, never ever said what his reaction to that last part of the Prince’s spiel, the flirtatious part, which seemed, the way it was spoken, spoken by Phil in the re-telling, filled with menace. Girl-taking menace. Well, old North Adamsville corner boy Phil would have felt that way but maybe in that hazed-out summer of love it just passed by like so much air.) Naturally Phil, a lordly road warrior now, "on the bus" now, whatever his possible misgivings, invited the Prince to stay with them, seeing as they were practically neighbors back home. Prince Love was “family” now, and Butterfly seemed gladder than the others of that fact.

And of course, family, meant home, and home for Far-Out, Butterfly Swirl, and Lupe Matin meant the now locally famous (West Coast local, okay) yellow brick road bus now known as Captain Crunch’s Crash Pad (after the owner of the bus, and “leader,” whatever that meant, of the expedition). Prince Love, from the first night, not only felt that he had found a home, a home that he never felt he had in Olde Saco but that whatever happened out here he would survive. And as more dope-filled pipes were passed that night, and as the music played louder into the sea-mist bay night, and lights gleamed from all directions the Prince grew stronger in that conviction. Especially when Far Out Phil, acting out of some old testament patriarchal script, came sauntering over to the Prince around midnight and whispered in his ear, “Butterfly Swirl wants to be with you, okay?” And that night the Prince and Butterfly Swirl were “married.”

Friday, August 18, 2017

CALL TO ACTION - SATURDAY DEMO, BOSTON COMMON-Build The Anti-Fascist United Front- Veterans For Peace

The alt-right, in one guise or another, is planning a demonstration on Boston Common this coming Saturday, Aug. 19.  There will be counter-protestors, hopefully many times the number of  those who Trump calls the other side.  Tensions will be high and we, Veterans For Peace, will be there as protesters acting in a peace keeping capacity.  As such and for identification purposes, we are asking everyone to wear a shirt that has our big VFP logo on the front.  We will be bringing our flags, but we can’t rely on these for ID purposes because the cops may not allow the PVC poles.  On this note, it goes without saying – we do not carry weapons of any kind.

To his credit, Mayor Walsh is doing everything he can to quash the demonstration.  What that means, however, is that right now we don’t know exactly when, where or even if the demonstration will happen.  Given this uncertainty, we’re planning to assemble at the Brewer Fountain at 9:30 a.m.  The fountain is right next to the Park St. T station.  As we get more information, especially regarding the time to assemble,  we will send out updates on our list-serve and the Samantha list-serve.  So, stay tuned, and look for “Call to Action” in your email.  Let’s really gear up for this demo. Our democracy is under attack. Bring friends even if they don’t plan to participate in our uniformed peace-keeping mission.

Smedley Executive Committee

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The100thAnniversaryYearOfTheBolshevik-LedOctoberRevolution-LessonsForToday- The Russian Revolution and Black Liberation

The100thAnniversaryYearOfTheBolshevik-LedOctoberRevolution-1917- The Russian Revolution and Black Liberation   

The full text below the quote 

Workers Vanguard No. 1105
10 February 2017


The Russian Revolution and Black Liberation
(Quote of the Week)
The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 gave a powerful impetus to the struggle for black freedom. Lenin and Trotsky’s Third (Communist) International fought to make American Communists understand the centrality of the fight against black oppression to socialist revolution in the U.S. Jamaican-born poet Claude McKay, who was a fraternal delegate to the Communist International’s 1922 Fourth Congress in Moscow, underlined the significance of the Bolshevik Revolution for American blacks in an essay published by the NAACP’s magazine The Crisis.
When the Russian workers overturned their infamous government in 1917, one of the first acts of the new Premier, Lenin, was a proclamation greeting all the oppressed peoples throughout the world, exhorting them to organize and unite against the common international oppressor—Private Capitalism. Later on in Moscow, Lenin himself grappled with the question of the American Negroes and spoke on the subject before the Second Congress of the Third International. He consulted with John Reed, the American journalist, and dwelt on the urgent necessity of propaganda and organizational work among the Negroes of the South. The subject was not allowed to drop. When Sen Katayama of Japan, the veteran revolutionist, went from the United States to Russia in 1921 he placed the American Negro problem first upon his full agenda. And ever since he has been working unceasingly and unselfishly to promote the cause of the exploited American Negro among the Soviet councils of Russia.
With the mammoth country securely under their control, and despite the great energy and thought that are being poured into the revival of the national industry, the vanguard of the Russian workers and the national minorities, now set free from imperial oppression, are thinking seriously about the fate of the oppressed classes, the suppressed national and racial minorities in the rest of Europe, Asia, Africa and America. They feel themselves kin in spirit to these people. They want to help make them free.
—Claude McKay, “Soviet Russia and the Negro” (The Crisis, Vol. 27, No. 2, December 1923)

"Soviet Russia and the Negro"-- An Essay by Claude McKay

Claude McKay
kremlin.jpg (93739 bytes)

The label of propaganda will be affixed to what I say here. I shall not mind; propaganda has now come into its respectable rights and I am proud of being a propagandist. The difference between propaganda and art was impressed on my boyhood mind by a literary mentor, Milton's poetry and his political prose set side by side as the supreme examples. So too, my teacher,--splendid and broadminded though he was, yet unconsciously biased against what he felt was propaganda--thought that that gilt-washed artificiality, "The Picture of Dorian Gray", would outlive "Arms and the Man" and "John Bull's Other Island". But inevitably as I grew older I had perforce to revise and change my mind about propaganda. I lighted on one of Milton's greatest sonnets that was pure propaganda and a widening horizon revealed that some of the finest spirits of modern literature-- Voltaire, Hugo, Heine, Swift, Shelly, Byron, Tolstoy, Ibsen--had carried the taint of propaganda. The broader view did not merely include propaganda literature in my literary outlook; it also swung me away from the childish age of the enjoyment of creative work for pleasurable curiosity to another extreme where I have always sought for the motivating force or propaganda intent that underlies all literature of interest. My birthright, and the historical background of the race that gave it to me, made me very respectful and receptive of propaganda and world events since the year 1914 have proved that it is no mean science of convincing information.

American Negroes are not as yet deeply permeated with the mass movement spirit and so fail to realize the importance of organized propaganda. It was Marcus Garvey's greatest contribution to the Negro movement; his pioneer work in that field is a feat that the men of broader understanding and sounder ideas who will follow him must continue. It was not until I first came to Europe in 1919 that I came to a full realization and understanding of the effectiveness of the insidious propaganda in general that is maintained against the Negro race. And it was not by the occasional affront of the minority of civilized fiends--mainly those Europeans who had been abroad, engaged in the business of robbing colored peoples in their native land--that I gained my knowledge, but rather through the questions about the Negro that were put to me by genuinely sympathetic and cultured persons.

The average Europeans who read the newspapers, the popular books and journals, and go to see the average play and a Mary Pickford movie, are very dense about the problem of the Negro; and they are the most important section of the general public that the Negro propagandists would reach. For them the tragedy of the American Negro ended with "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and Emancipation. And since then they have been aware only of the comedy--the Negro minstrel and vaudevillian, the boxer, the black mammy and butler of the cinematograph, the caricatures of the romances and the lynched savage who has violated a beautiful white girl.

A very few ask if Booker T. Washington is doing well or if the "Black Star Line" is running; perhaps some one less discreet than sagacious will wonder how colored men can hanker so much after white women in face of the lynching penalty. Misinformation, indifference and levity sum up the attitude of western Europe towards the Negro. There is the superior but very fractional intellectual minority that knows better, but whose influence on public opinion is infinitesimal, and so it may be comparatively easy for white American propagandists--whose interests behoove them to misrepresent the Negro--to turn the general indifference into hostile antagonism if American Negroes who have the intellectual guardianship of racial interests do not organize effectively, and on a world scale, to combat their white exploiters and traducers.

The world war has fundamentally altered the status of Negroes in Europe. It brought thousands of them from America and the British and French colonies to participate in the struggle against the Central Powers. Since then serious clashes have come about in England between the blacks that later settled down in the seaport towns and the natives. France has brought in her black troops to do police duty in the occupied districts in Germany. The color of these troops, and their customs too, are different and strange and the nature of their work would naturally make their presence irritating and unbearable to the inhabitants whose previous knowledge of Negroes has been based, perhaps, on their prowess as cannibals. And besides, the presence of these troops provides rare food for the chauvinists of a once proud and overbearing race, now beaten down and drinking the dirtiest dregs of humiliation under the bayonets of the victor.

However splendid the gesture of Republican France towards colored people, her use of black troops in Germany to further her imperial purpose should meet with nothing less than condemnation from the advanced section of Negroes. The propaganda that Negroes need to put over in Germany is not black troops with bayonets in that unhappy country. As conscript-slave soldiers of Imperial France they can in no wise help the movement of Negroes nor gain the sympathy of the broad-visioned international white groups whose international opponents are also the intransigent enemies of Negro progress. In considering the situation of the black troops in Germany, intelligent Negroes should compare it with that of the white troops in India, San Domingo and Haiti. What might not the Haitian propagandists have done with the marines if they had been black instead of white Americans! The world upheaval having brought the three greatest European nations--England, France and Germany--into closer relationship with Negroes, colored Americans should seize the opportunity to promote finer inter-racial understanding. As white Americans in Europe are taking advantage of the situation to intensify their propaganda against the blacks, so must Negroes meet that with a strong counter-movement. Negroes should realize that the supremacy of American capital today proportionately increases American influence in the politics and social life of the world. Every American official abroad, every smug tourist, is a protagonist of dollar culture and a propagandist against the Negro. Besides brandishing the Rooseveltian stick in the face of the lesser new world natives, America holds an economic club over the heads of all the great European nations, excepting Russia, and so those bold individuals in Western Europe who formerly sneered at dollar culture may yet find it necessary and worth while to be discreetly silent. As American influence increases in the world, and especially in Europe, through the extension of American capital, the more necessaryit becomes for all struggling minorities of the United States to organize extensively for the world wide propagation of their grievances. Such propaganda efforts, besides strengthening the cause at home, will certainly enlist the sympathy and help of those foreign groups that are carrying on a life and death struggle to escape the octuple arms of American business interests.

And the Negro, as the most suppressed and persecuted minority, should use this period of ferment in international affairs to lift his cause out of his national obscurity and force it forward as a prime international issue.

Though Western Europe can be reported as being quite ignorant and apathetic of the Negro in world affairs, there is one great nation with an arm in Europe that is thinking intelligently on the Negro as it does about all international problems. When the Russian workers overturned their infamous government in 1917, one of the first acts of the new Premier, Lenin, was a proclamation greeting all the oppressed peoples throughout the world, exhorting them to organize and unite against the common international oppressor--Private Capitalism. Later on in Moscow, Lenin himself grappled with the question of the American Negroes and spoke on the subject before the Second Congress of the Third International. He consulted with John Reed, the American journalist, and dwelt on the urgent necessity of propaganda and organizational work among the Negroes of the South. The subject was not allowed to drop. When Sen Katayama of Japan, the veteran revolutionist, went from the United States to Russia in 1921 he placed the American Negro problem first upon his full agenda. And ever since he has been working unceasingly and unselfishly to promote the cause of the exploited American Negro among the Soviet councils of Russia.

With the mammoth country securely under their control, and despite the great energy and thought that are being poured into the revival of the national industry, the vanguard of the Russian workers and the national minorities, now set free from imperial oppression, are thinking seriously about the fate of the oppressed classes, the suppressed national and racial minorities in the rest of Europe, Asia, Africa and America. They feel themselves kin in spirit to these people. They want to help make them free. And not the least of the oppressed that fill the thoughts of the new Russia are the Negroes of America and Africa. If we look back two decades to recall how the Czarist persecution of the Russian Jews agitated Democratic America, we will get some idea of the mind of Liberated Russia towards the Negroes of America. The Russian people are reading the terrible history of their own recent past in the tragic position of the American Negro to-day. Indeed, the Southern States can well serve the purpose of showing what has happened in Russia. For if the exploited poor whites of the South could ever transform themselves into making common cause with the persecuted and plundered Negroes, overcome the oppressive oligarchy--the political crackers and robber landlords--and deprive it of all political privileges, the situation would be very similar to that of Soviet Russia to-day.

In Moscow I met an old Jewish revolutionist who had done time in Siberia, now young again and filled with the spirit of the triumphant Revolution. We talked about American affairs and touched naturally on the subject of the Negro. I told him of the difficulties of the problem, that the best of the liberal white elements were also working for a better status for the Negro, and he remarked: "When the democratic bourgeoisie of the United States were execrating Czardom for the Jewish pogroms they were meting out to your people a treatment more savage and barbarous than the Jews ever experienced in the old Russia. America", he said religiously, "had to make some sort of expiatory gesture for her sins. There is no surfeited bourgeoisie here in Russia to make a hobby of ugly social problems, but the Russian workers, who have won through the ordeal of persecution and revolution, extend the hand of international brotherhood to all the suppressed Negro millions of America".
I met with this spirit of sympathetic appreciation and response prevailing in all circles in Moscow and Petrograd. I never guessed what was awaiting me in Russia. I had left America in September of 1922 determined to get there, to see into the new revolutionary life of the people and report on it. I was not a little dismayed when, congenitally averse to notoriety as I am, I found that on stepping upon Russian soil I forthwith became a notorious character. And strangely enough there was nothing unpleasant about my being swept into the surge of revolutionary Russia. For better or for worse every person in Russia is vitally affected by the revolution. No one but a soulless body can live there without being stirred to the depths by it.

I reached Russia in November--the month of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International and the Fifth Anniversary of the Russian Revolution. The whole revolutionary nation was mobilized to honor the occasion, Petrograd was magnificent in red flags and streamers. Red flags fluttered against the snow from all the great granite buildings. Railroad trains, street cars, factories, stores, hotels, schools--all wore decorations. It was a festive month of celebration in which I, as a member of the Negro race, was a very active participant. I was received as though the people had been apprised of, and were prepared for, my coming. When Max Eastman and I tried to bore our way through the dense crowds, that jammed the Tverskaya Street in Moscow on the 7th of November, I was caught, tossed up into the air, and passed along by dozens of stalwart youths.

"How warmly excited they get over a strange face!" said Eastman. A young Russian Communist remarked: "But where is the difference? Some of the Indians are as dark as you." To which another replied: "The lines of the face are different. The Indians have been with us long. And so people instinctively see the difference." And so always the conversation revolved around me until my face flamed. The Moscow press printed long articles about the Negroes in America, a poet was inspired to rhyme about the Africans looking to Socialist Russia and soon I was in demand everywhere--at the lectures of poets and journalists, the meetings of soldiers and factory workers. Slowly I began losing self-consciousness with the realization that I was welcomed thus as a symbol, as a member of the great American Negro group--kin to the unhappy black slaves of European Imperialism in Africa--that the workers in Soviet Russia, rejoicing in their freedom, were greeting through me.
Russia, in broad terms, is a country where all the races of Europe and of Asia meet and mix. The fact is that under the repressive power of the Czarist bureaucracy the different races preserved a degree of kindly tolerance towards each other. The fierce racial hatreds that time in the Balkans never existed in Russia. Where in the South no Negro might approach a "cracker" as a man for friendly offices, a Jewish pilgrim in old Russia could find rest and sustenance in the home of an orthodox peasant. It is a problem to define the Russian type by features. The Hindu, the Mongolian, the Persian, the Arab, the West European--all these types may be traced woven into the distinctive polyglot population of Moscow. And so, to the Russian, I was merely another type, but stranger, with which they were not yet familiar. They were curious with me, all and sundry, young and old, in a friendly, refreshing manner. Their curiosity had none of the intolerable impertinence and often downright affront that any very dark colored man, be he Negro, Indian or Arab, would experience in Germany and England.

In 1920, while I was trying to get out a volume of my poems in London, I had a visit with Bernard Shaw who remarked that it must be tragic for a sensitive Negro to be an artist. Shaw was right. Some of the English reviews of my book touched the very bottom of journalistic muck. The English reviewer outdid his American cousin (except the South, of course, which could not surprise any white person much less a black) in sprinkling criticism with racial prejudice. The sedate, copperhead "Spectator" as much as said: no "cultured" white man could read a Negro's poetry without prejudice, that instinctively he must search for that "something" that must make him antagonistic to it. But fortunately Mr. McKay did not offend our susceptibilities! The English people from the lowest to the highest, cannot think of a black man as being anything but an entertainer, boxer, a Baptist preacher or a menial. The Germans are just a little worse. Any healthy looking black coon of an adventurous streak can have a wonderful time palming himself off as another Siki or a buck dancer. When an American writer introduced me as a poet to a very cultured German, a lover of all the arts, he could not believe it, and I don't think he does yet. An American student tells his middle class landlady that he is having a black friend to lunch: "But are you sure that he is not a cannibal?" she asks without a flicker of a humorous smile!

But in Petrograd and Moscow, I could not detect a trace of this ignorant snobbishness among the educated classes, and the attitude of the common workers, the soldiers and sailors was still more remarkable. It was so beautifully naive; for them I was only a black member of the world of humanity. It may be urged that the fine feelings of the Russians towards a Negro was the effect of Bolshevist pressure and propaganda. The fact is that I spent most of my leisure time in non-partisan and antibolshevist circles. In Moscow I found the Luxe Hotel where I put up extremely depressing, the dining room was anathema to me and I grew tired to death of meeting the proletarian ambassadors from foreign lands some of whom bore themselves as if they were the holy messengers of Jesus, Prince of Heaven, instead of working class representatives. And so I spent many of my free evenings at the Domino Café, a notorious den of the dilettante poets and writers. There came the young anarchists and menshevists and all the young aspirant fry to read and discuss their poetry and prose. Sometimes a group of the older men came too. One evening I noticed Pilnyal the novelist, Okonoff the critic, Feodor the translator of Poe, an editor, a theatre manager and their young disciples, beer-drinking through a very interesting literary discussion. There was always music, good folk-singing and bad fiddling, the place was more like a second rate cabaret than a poets' club, but nevertheless much to be enjoyed, with amiable chats and light banter through which the evening wore pleasantly away. This was the meeting place of the frivolous set with whom I eased my mind after writing all day.

The evenings of the proletarian poets held in the Arbot were much more serious affairs. The leadership was communist, the audience working class and attentive like diligent, elementary school children. To these meetings also came some of the keener intellects from the Domino Café. One of these young women told me that she wanted to keep in touch with all the phases of the new culture. In Petrograd the meetings of the intelligentzia seemed more formal and inclusive. There were such notable men there as Chukovsky the critic, Eugene Zamiatan the celebrated novelist and Maishack the poet and translator of Kipling. The artist and theatre world were also represented. There was no communist spirit in evidence at these intelligentzia gatherings. Frankly there was an undercurrent of hostility to the bolshevists. But I was invited to speak and read my poems whenever I appeared at any of them and treated with every courtesy and consideration as a writer. Among those sophisticated and cultured Russians, many of them speaking from two to four languages, there was no overdoing of the correct thing, no vulgar wonderment and bounderish superiority over a Negro's being a poet. I was a poet, that was all, and their keen questions showed that they were much more interested in the technique of my poetry, my views on and my position regarding the modern literary movements than in the difference of my color. Although I will not presume that there was no attraction at all in that little difference!

On my last visit to Petrograd I stayed in the Palace of the Grand Duke Vladimir Alexander, the brother of Czar Nicholas the Second. His old, kindly steward who looked after my comfort wanders round like a ghost through the great rooms. The house is now the headquarters of the Petrograd intellectuals. A fine painting of the Duke stands curtained in the dining room. I was told that he was liberal minded, a patron of the arts, and much liked by the Russian intelligentzia. The atmosphere of the house was theoretically non-political, but I quickly scented a strong hostility to bolshevist authority. But even here I had only pleasant encounters and illuminating conversations with the inmates and visitors, who freely expressed their views against the Soviet Government, although they knew me to be very sympathetic to it.

During the first days of my visit I felt that the great demonstration of friendliness was somehow 
expressive of the enthusiastic spirit of the glad anniversary days, that after the month was ended I could calmly settle down to finish the book about the American Negro that the State Publishing Department of Moscow had commissioned me to write, and in the meantime quietly go about making interesting contacts. But my days in Russia were a progression of affectionate enthusiasm of the peopl  towards me. Among the factory workers, the red-starred and chevroned soldiers and sailors, the proletarian students and children, I could not get off as lightly as I did with the intelligentsia. At every meeting I was received with boisterous acclaim, mobbed with friendly demonstration. The women workers of the great bank in Moscow insisted on hearing about the working conditions of the colored women of America and after a brief outline I was asked the most exacting questions concerning the positions that were most available to colored women, their wages and general relationship with the white women workers. The details I could not give; but when I got through, the Russian women passed a resolution sending greetings to the colored women workers of America, exhorting them to organize their forces and send a woman representative to Russia. I received a similar message from the Propaganda Department of the Petrograd Soviet which is managed by Nicoleva, a very energetic woman. There I was shown the new status of the Russian women gained through the revolution of 1917. Capable women can fit themselves for any position; equal pay with men for equal work; full pay during the period of pregnancy and no work for the mother two months before and two months after the confinement. Getting a divorce is comparatively easy and not influenced by money power, detective chicanery and wire pulling. A special department looks into the problems of joint personal property and the guardianship and support of the children. There is no penalty for legal abortion and no legal stigma of illegitimacy attaching to children born out of wedlock.

There were no problems of the submerged lower classes and the suppressed national minorities of the old Russia that could not bear comparison with the grievous position of the millions of Negroes in the United States to-day. Just as Negroes are barred from the American Navy and the higher ranks of the Army, so were the Jews and the sons of the peasantry and proletariat discriminated against in the Russian Empire. It is needless repetition of the obvious to say that Soviet Russia does not tolerate such discriminations, for the actual government of the country is now in the hands of the combined national minorities, the peasantry and the proletarian By the permission of Leon Trotsky, Commissar-in-chief of the military and naval forces of Soviet Russia, I visited the highest military schools in the Kremlin and environs of Moscow. And there I saw the new material, the sons of the working people in training as cadets by the old officers of the upper classes. For two weeks I was a guest of the Red navy in Petrograd with the same eager proletarian youth of new Russia, who conducted me through the intricate machinery of submarines, took me over aeroplanes captured from the British during the counter-revolutionary war around Petrograd and showed me the making of a warship ready for action. And even of greater interest was the life of the men and the officers, the simplified discipline that was strictly enforced, the food that was served for each and all alike, the extra political educational classes and the extreme tactfulness and elasticity of the political commissars, all communists, who act as advisers and arbitrators between the men and students and the officers. Twice or thrice I was given some of the kasha which is sometimes served with the meals. In Moscow I grew to like this food very much, but it was always difficult to get. I had always imagined that it was quite unwholesome and unpalatable and eaten by the Russian peasant only on account of extreme poverty. But on the contrary I found it very rare and sustaining when cooked right with a bit of meat and served with butter--a grain food very much like the common but very delicious West Indian rice-and-peas.

The red cadets are seen in the best light at their gymnasium exercises and at the political assemblies when discipline is set aside. Especially at the latter where a visitor feels that he is in the midst of early revolutionary days, so hortatory the speeches, so intense the enthusiasm of the men. At all these meetings I had to speak and the students asked me general questions about the Negro in the American Army and Navy, and when I gave them common information known to all American Negroes, students, officers and commissars were unanimous in wishing this group of young American Negroes would take up training to become officers in Army and Navy of Soviet Russia. The proletarian students of Moscow were eager to learn of the life and work of Negro students. They sent messages of encouragement and good will to the Negro students of America and, with a fine gesture of fellowship, elected the Negro delegation of the American Communist Party and myself to honorary membership in the Moscow Soviet.

Those Russian days remain the most memorable of my life. The intellectual Communists and the intelligentsia were interested to know that America had produced a formidable body of Negro intelligensia and professionals, possessing a distinctive literature and cultural and business interests alien to the white man's. And they think naturally, that the militant leaders of the intelligentsia must feel and express the spirit of revolt that is slumbering in the inarticulate Negro masses, precisely the emancipation movement of the Russian masses had passed through similar phases. Russia is prepared and waiting to receive couriers and heralds of good will and interracial understanding from the Negro race. Her demonstration of friendliness and equity for Negroes may not conduce to produce healthy relations between Soviet Russia and democratic America, the anthropologists 100 per cent pure white Americanism will soon invoke Science to prove that the Russians are not at all God's white people I even caught a little of American anti-Negro propaganda in Russia. A friend of mine, a member of the Moscow intelligentsia, repeated to me the remarks of the lady respondent of a Danish newspaper: that I should not be taken as a representative Negro for she had lived in America and found all Negroes lazy, bad and vicious, a terror to white women. In Petrograd I got a like story from Chukovsky, the critic, who was on intimate terms with a high worker of the American Relief Administration and his southern wife. Chukovsky is himself an intellectual "Westerner", the term applied to those Russians who put Western-European civilization before Russian culture and believe that Russia's salvation lies in becoming completely westernized. He had spent an impressionable part of his youth in London and adores all things English, and during the world war was very pro-English. For the American democracy, also, he expresses unfeigned admiration. He has more Anglo-American books than Russian in his fine library and considers the literary section of the New York Times a journal of a very high standard. He is really a maniac of Anglo-Saxon American culture. Chukovsky was quite incredulous when I gave him the facts of the Negro's status in American civilization.

"The Americans are a people of such great energy and ability," he said, "how could they act so petty towards a racial minority?" And then he related an experience of his in London that bore a strong smell of cracker breath. However, I record it here in the belief that it is authentic for Chukovsky is a man of integrity: About the beginning of the century, he was sent to England as correspondent of a newspaper in Odessa, but in London he was more given to poetic dreaming and studying English literature in the British museum and rarely sent any news home. So he lost his job and had to find cheap, furnished rooms. A few weeks later, after he had taken up his residence in new quarters, a black guest arrived, an American gentleman of the cloth. The preacher procured a room on the top floor and used the dining and sitting room with the other guests, among whom was a white American family. The latter protested the presence of the Negro in the house and especially in the guest room. The landlady was in a dilemma, she could not lose her American boarders and the clergyman's money was not to be despised. At last she compromised by getting the white Americans to agree to the Negro's staying without being allowed the privilege of the guest room, and Chukovsky was asked to tell the Negro the truth. Chukovsky strode upstairs to give the unpleasant facts to the preacher and to offer a little consolation, but the black man was not unduly offended:

"The white guests have the right to object to me," he explained, anticipating Garvey, "they belong to a superior race."

"But," said Chukovsky, "I do not object to you, I don't feel any difference; we don't understand color prejudice in Russia."

"Well," philosophized the preacher, "you are very kind, but taking the scriptures as authority, I don't consider the Russians to be white people."
From Crisis 27 (December 1923, January 1942): 61-65, 114-18