Thursday, July 13, 2006




NOTE: This blog was originally written prior to the Vermont Democratic primaries this summer. I have republished it here as a reminder. Since that time Mr. Sanders has build up a commanding lead over his Republican and “Democratic” and other third party challengers. As a recent Boston Globe article pointed out this self-proclaimed socialist would be the first such avowed socialist elected since the late, unlamented Wisconsin American Socialist Party Congressman Victor Berger did so in the 1920’s.

The article also pointed out that Mr. Sanders has a picture of socialist icon Eugene V. Debs hanging on a wall in his office. Every militant cherishes the memory of Debs, however, his party- the Socialist party in the 1920’s and thereafter turned into something very different from the militant anti-war, anti-capitalist party that Debs did so much to make a militant organization of the working class and its allies.

Other forces, notably the American Communist Party inherited that tradition. That the Communist Party thereafter lost its authority in the working class does not negate the fact that it gathered the best militants around it. I note further that apparently Mr. Sanders has no picture of the likes of revolutionary militant “Big Bill” Haywood gracing his office. Now that would, indeed, impress me.

All the above information is presented to point out that we are a long, very long way away from the old, militant traditions. Mr. Sanders represents the more insipid parliamentary road to socialism. We just do not have the centuries necessary to wait for that strategy to unfold, assuming it was the right strategy. But, for the sake of consistency, I point out to Mr. Sander’s supporters as I did last summer’s blog, re-posted below, the overarching question of the times. On the war in Iraq- Will you next year break the unanimous logjam for approval and vote against the war budget. YES OR NO. That is the only parliamentary maneuver against the war that means anything. I will invoke the shades of Debs here. He ran for President of the United States on the Socialist ticket from the Atlanta Penitentiary. Why? He was serving time for opposition to World War I. Against that courageous act is a simple parliamentary vote so difficult?

JULY 13, 2006

Is nothing sacred anymore? Picking on poor old Bernie Sanders the self-proclaimed “democratic socialist’’ Independent Congressman from Vermont who is running for the United States Senate. He is attempting to fill the seat of the retiring former Republican, now ‘Independent’ Jim Jeffords. Must be something in the Vermont milk that drives this independent thing. Okay, sure we did appreciate that Sanders (as an elementary act of political hygiene) voted against the Iraq War and all, but come to find out his voting record looks like a carbon copy of Ted Kennedy’s, the OTHER United States Senator from Massachusetts. And Kennedy is MR. DEMOCRAT. Which makes this writer wonder if Bernie walks like a Democrat, if he talks like a Democrat, if he takes his assignments from the Congressional Democrats-isn’t he a Democrat? Especially since the Vermont Democratic party is stepping all over itself NOT to run a Democratic candidate in the fall elections against Sanders. They even offered to put him on their party line. Bernie, however, is a little coquettish and insists on running as an ‘Independent’. I put this down to a personality quirk, though.

In any case, Congressman Sanders is a textbook example of why the so-called parliamentary road to socialism is utopian. As if the history of the international left, at least since 1914, hasn’t hammered militants over the head that unless you change the form of government the capitalists win every time. They have had a long time and much experience in the ways of keeping power. They are damn good at it. Remember that.

Make no mistake; militants use the parliamentary system, especially elections, to get their message out. We also use legislative office as a tribunal to talk over the heads of the politicians. But when the deal goes down we need our own governmental forms to get the things working people need. Bernie may have known that long ago when he started out but lost it somewhere along the way. Maybe it is that milk?

For those militants who insist on voting for Sanders anyway I pose a challenge. Make Congressman Sanders answer this simple question- Will he vote, YES or NO, against the Iraqi War budget next year, if elected? Forget those ‘softball’ non-binding ‘sense of the Congress’ resolutions on Immediate Withdrawal. On the parliamentary level that is the only vote that counts now in the fight against the war. Ask.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

*WE WANT THE WORLD, AND WE WANT IT NOW!- The Music Of Jim Morrison And The Doors

Click on the title to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Jim Morrison and The Doors performing their classic rock anthem, "The End".



Since my youth I have had an ear for American (and other roots music), whether I was conscious of that fact or not. The origin of that interest first centered on the blues, then early rock and roll and later, with the folk revival of the early 1960’s, folk music. I have often wondered about the source of this interest. I am, and have always been a city boy, and an Eastern city boy at that. Nevertheless, over time I have come to appreciate many more forms of roots music than in my youth. The subject of the following review is an example.

The Doors are roots music? Yes, in the sense that one of the branches of rock and roll derives from early rhythm and blues and in the special case of Jim Morrison, leader of the Doors, the attempt to musically explore the shamanic elements in the Western American Native American culture. Some of that influence is apparent here.

More than one rock critic has argued that at their best the Doors were the best rock and roll band ever created. Those critics will get no argument here. What a reviewer with that opinion has to do is determine whether any particular CD captures the Doors at their best. This reviewer advises that if you want to buy only one Doors CD that would be The Best of the Doors. If you want to trace their evolution other CD’s do an adequate job.

A note on Jim Morrison as an icon of the 1960’s. He was part of the trinity – Morrison, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix who lived fast and died young. The slogan- Drugs, sex, and rock and roll. And we liked that idea. Then. Their deaths were part of the price we felt we had to pay if we were going to be free. And creative. Even the most political, including this writer, among us felt those cultural winds and counted those who espoused this vision as part of the chosen. Those who believed that we could have a far-reaching positive cultural change without a political change proved to be wrong long ago. But, these were still our people.

MARK THIS WELL. Whatever excesses were committed by the generation of ’68, and there were many, were mainly made out of ignorance and foolishness. Our opponents at the time , exemplified by one Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States and common criminal, spent every day of their lives as a matter of conscious, deliberate policy raining hell down on the peoples of the world, minorities in this country, and anyone else who got in their way. 40 years of ‘cultural wars’ by his proteges in revenge is a heavy price to pay for our youthful errors. Enough.

Doors — The End lyrics

This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I'll never look into your eyes...again
Can you picture what will be
So limitless and free
Desperately in need...of some...stranger's hand
In a...desperate land
Lost in a Roman...wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane
All the children are insane
Waiting for the summer rain, yeah
There's danger on the edge of town
Ride the King's highway, baby
Weird scenes inside the gold mine
Ride the highway west, baby
Ride the snake, ride the snake
To the lake, the ancient lake, baby
The snake is long, seven miles
Ride the snake...he's old, and his skin is cold
The west is the best
The west is the best
Get here, and we'll do the rest
The blue bus is callin' us
The blue bus is callin' us
Driver, where you taken' us
The killer awoke before dawn, he put his boots on
He took a face from the ancient gallery
And he walked on down the hall
He went into the room where his sister lived, and...then he
Paid a visit to his brother, and then he
He walked on down the hall, and
And he came to a door...and he looked inside
Father, yes son, I want to kill you
Mother...I want to...WAAAAAA
C'mon baby,--------- No "take a chance with us"
C'mon baby, take a chance with us
C'mon baby, take a chance with us
And meet me at the back of the blue bus
Doin' a blue rock
On a blue bus
Doin' a blue rock
C'mon, yeah
Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill
This is the end
Beautiful friend
This is the end
My only friend, the end
It hurts to set you free
But you'll never follow me
The end of laughter and soft lies
The end of nights we tried to die
This is the end

Sunday, July 09, 2006



AMONG EMPIRES: American Ascendancy and Its Predecessors, Charles S Maier, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Ma. 2006

With the demise of the former Soviet Union in 1991-92 and the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq in the post- 9/11 period there has been an inordinate among of ink spilled in academic circles over the question of whether the United States has become the latest empire. In fact, this question has created something of a cottage industry. Professor Maier’s book is a contribution, and not the worst, to this controversy. Militants of this generation who understand what is wrong with the drift of American society must confront the question of the imperialistic nature of the United States head-on. For my generation, the generation of '68, the imperialistic nature of the United States was a given. The question at that time centered more around fights about what to do about it. For a variety of reasons we were not successful in taming the monster. Each generation must come to an understanding of the nature of imperialist society in its own way. And fight it. Thus, this book is a good place to start to understand that question.

A lot of the current controversy in academic circles (governmental and military circles have no such difficulties accepting the imperial premise) about whether there is an American Empire gets tangled up in comparisons with past empires. True, the American Empire does not look like previous empires. The real problem is trying to pigeonhole the contours of empire based on past experiences. As if the builders of each empire doe not learn something from the mistakes of previous empires. Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin long ago analyzed the basis contours of modern imperialism in his seminal work Imperialism- The Highest Stage of Capitalism. That outline, although in need of updating to reflect various, mainly technological, chnages in the global capitalist structure remains an important document for militants today. By his or virtually any other definition the United States gets the nod.

But let’s get down to brass tasks. Hell, the American Empire, is the mightiest military machine the world has ever known defending a nationally-based global economic infrastructure. Previous empires, like the Roman and British, are 'punk' bush league operations in comparison. Academics can afford to have an agnostic view about whether an empire exists or the effects of imperial power. However, when one’s door is kicked in by a foreign, heavily armed soldier in some god forsaken village in Iraq or Vietnam, or your city is flattened in order to ‘save’ it a ready definition of imperialism comes to mind. And a good one.

One of the issues that cloud the question of the American Empire is that there is no readily apparent imperialist ideology. In fact, it is argued, for historical reasons, that there is some kind of popular anti-imperialist ideology in America that has always countered the trend toward empire. I take exception to that notion. While there has always been a section of the chattering classes that has held this position it has never really taken popular root. What is really the dominating popular theme is more like-don’t tread on me. That is a very different proposition. And it can be seen most unequivocally when a war, any war, comes along and virtually everyone- from the groves of academia to the local barroom- gets on board. Then the imperialist fist is bared for all to see.

With that caveat, this writer recommends this book. Agnostism on the question of empire in acceptable in the academy. It is the nature of such an institution. Unless that heavily-armed soldier mentioned about comes kicking down those doors.