Tuesday, September 26, 2006





The thought of that rash youthful action as I am writing this piece still brings a blush to my cheeks. Of all the political mistakes I have made in my life this is the one that is still capable of doing that. In today’s confessional age, however, it is good to get it off my conscience. Right? Please, let me tell you the story. If at any point it sounds awfully familiar concerning today’s political choices please feel free to stop.

First, I must plead my youth as a mitigating circumstance. And as this is also an age when victims give voice to their travails you must realize that I was a victim of circumstances throughout all of this experience. Those circumstances most certainly had a name. That name, one Richard Milhous Nixon, at one time President of the United States, common war criminal, and political sociopath now residing in one of Dante’s circles of hell. You knew, didn’t you, that at least one of the villains had to be a Republican- some things never change. It may be hard for today’s militants to understand how much THAT man dominated our political hatreds in those days. To put it in perspective just remember that Mr. Nixon was the ‘godfather’ of the current president, Mr. Bush, common war criminal, political sociopath and a prime candidate for one of Dante’s circles of hell. Enough said.

In the early and mid- 1960’s this writer defined himself as a left-liberal of the Americans for Democratic Action school of politics. He had worked for civil rights for blacks and against war, particularly the Vietnam War then beginning to take center stage in national politics. When it became apparent that Mr. Nixon was going to be a serious candidate for president I made a very calculated political decision. Despite his war follies the writer was fully committed to supporting one Lyndon Baines Johnson, one time President of the United States, common war criminal, political sociopath and now also residing in one of Dante’s circles. Those readers who supported the pro- Iraqi War Democratic presidential candidate, one John Forbes Kerry, in 2004 know the surreal mental gymnastics entailed to justify my position at that time. Why Johnson? Because he was the only candidate that could defeat the main villain of the piece, Mr. Nixon.

At no time did I consider the candidacy of the anti-war candidate Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota viable by the above-mentioned standard. It must have been something about Irish poets and wits. In any case, after Mr. Johnson announced that he was not going to run again I easily switched my allegiance to Senator Robert Kennedy of New York. Even today I have a little soft spot for the memory of that man. If ever a bourgeois politician could move me it was Bobby. Remember this, it was Robert Kennedy was nailed on the head what Mr. Nixon represented politically- the dark side of the American spirit. However, in the final analysis, what drove me to the Kennedy campaign was the belief that he was the only candidate who could defeat Mr. Nixon.

After the Kennedy assassination in June 1968 and after a little confusion I moved on to support Mr. Humphrey, one time Vice President of the United States, common war criminal and political sociopath now at the Dante residence. Why? Because he was… (you can fill in the rest now). You were warned that this story was not for the faint-hearted. Why did I turn against the Democratic Party? Well, I finally got it about the nature of the American imperialist political system. How did I come to that conclusion? A little thing called the draft into the Army during Vietnam. But that is a story for another time. However, the story has a happy ending. Over the years I have voted for various socialist and labor party candidates and propositions and have not regretted one of those votes. Still, old habits die hard. I am still looking for that entry-level government job- in a victorious workers government.


Sunday, September 24, 2006


Click on the title to link to an "Under The Hood" (Fort Hood G.I. Coffeehouse)Web site online article about the "Oleo Strut" Coffeehouse, an important development in the anti-Vietnam War struggle. Hats off to those bygone anti-war fighters.




This writer for a long time has resisted the seemingly facile task of comparing the situation in Iraq today to the Vietnam of some forty years ago. But it is getting harder and harder to do so. On the face of it the differences are obvious. In Vietnam, revolutionary leftist forces were attempting to unify into one state that which by international diplomacy and previous bouts of international Stalinist treachery had been artificially split.

Furthermore, the defining principle behind the revolutionary forces there was the resolution of the agrarian question and the fight for what those forces conceived to be the road to socialism. Today in Iraq there are nationalist/sectarian forces which want to take revenge on the results of the European- derived Treaty of Versailles after World War I and re-divide this artificially created state-gun in hands. The fact that in Kurdish-controlled areas only the Kurdish flag can fly really says it all. Additionally, as far as this writer can tell, from the little known about the murky underworld of radical Islamic politics there are no forces fighting for anything like a secular- democratic much less a socialist solution to the problems there. Rather something like an Islamic Republic under repressive and anti-women Sharia law appears to be the favored political solution.

However, those differences between the domestic forces in Iraq and Vietnam aside the real way Iraq today looks like Vietnam is the similarities in the role of American imperialism on the ground. The latest news this week, the week of September 18, 2006, coming from the central military command is there will be no draw down of troops any time soon. LET ME REPEAT- THERE WILL NOT BE ANY DRAW DOWN ANY TIME SOON. All those who foolishly believed that draw down would occur and did not take the Bush Administration at its word when it declared empathically that troops would not be withdrawn as long as it drew breathe should ponder this. More on this below.

Moreover, in the week of September 25, 2006 we have the spectacle of the consensus of the various American intelligence services in a 'leaked' report finding that the situation in general and in Iraq in particular is to say the least grim. LET ME REPEAT-THERE WILL BE NO SOLUTION TO THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION CREATED AND DEMOCRATIC PARTY SUPPORTED 'WAR AGAINST TERRORISM' UNTIL THE GREEK CALENDS. There is no way to prettify those sentiments. The question is what to do about it.

There are starting to be voices heard, dormant for a while, spearheaded by the editors of National Review and other neo-con sources that the lesson to be learned from Iraq is that to really win in Iraq the Americans must sent in more troops. How much such sentiments are worth from these previous supporters of a quick and cheap air power strategy in Iraq is beside the point. What is noteworthy is that this premise is not an isolated sentiment even among alleged opponents of the war. And that, in a nutshell, is where the comparison to Vietnam comes into play. The hubris which led the United States into the quagmire of Iraq is still very much in play.

The notion that in order rectify the original mistake of invasion more mistakes, such as increased troop levels, can solve the problem and bring victory where none is possible is the same mentality that led to all the escalations of the Vietnam era.
Against all reason the Bushies of America and the world cannot believe that the situation is lost. Well hell, that is their problem. Militant leftists have other problems like organizing the opposition and getting the troops out to worry over.

Additionally, President Bush himself is getting a little testy at the Prime Minister of Iraq. He cannot believe that at this late stage the wholly-owned American puppet government in Iraq hasn’t stepped up to its tasks of creating domestic tranquility. One should remember the names Diem and Thieu from Vietnamese history who got the same kinds of dressing-downs from previous American administrations. With that thought in mind let me ask this question. Is there anyone today on the planet outside the immediate Bush family that believes that the writ of the Iraqi government runs outside the Green Zone (and even that premise might be shaky)? These guys (and they are overwhelmingly men) never led anything, went into exile under Saddam rather than go underground and build a resistance movement and represent no one but themselves. And the Bushies like it that way.

But, enough of that. The real question is what are we anti-war, anti-imperialist activists going to do about the situation. President Bush has been rightly accused of upping the security alerts during election time to highlight the security question that he has (successfully) used as a trump card to swing the electoral balance in his favor. A less well-known fact is that during the fall of election years, including this year, the leaderships of the reformist anti-war movements close down the nationally-centered anti-war demonstration campaigns which are the lynch pins of their politics. It is no secret that this is done to help so-called 'anti-war' Democratic politicians or at least not be a source of embarrassment to the weak Democratic parliamentary opposition to the war.

In a blog written this summer (see August archives) I wrote an open letter to the troops in Iraq. The thrust of the letter was that the conventional politicians, their own military leadership and the anti-war movement had left the troops in Iraq hanging in the wind. As we enter the fall electoral campaign this is truer than ever. I will repeat here what I stated there- if the troops are to withdraw from Iraq it will have to be on their own hook. Start forming the soldiers and sailors solidarity committees now. Militant leftists here must support those efforts. Begin to fraternize with the troops here. If you live near Oceanside, California go to Camp Pendleton. In North Carolina go to Fort Bragg and Camp Lejuene. Go to Fort Campbell in Kentucky. If you live near naval bases go there. Unfortunately today there is no other way to end the war. FORWARD.

Revised, September 27, 2006


*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-"Silkwood"-A Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for Karen Silkwood

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Spring 1984 issue of "Women and Revolution" that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.


Silkwood. Directed by Mike Nichols. Written by
Nora Ephron and Alice Arlen. ABC Motion Pictures.
A Twentieth Century-Fox release, 1984.

By Amy Rath

The long-standing controversy over the death of Karen Silkwood is being debated yet again, as the release of the movie Silkwood brings the case into the public eye. Silkwood has long been embraced by feminist and ecology groups as a heroine and martyr to the atomic power industry—the "no-nuke" Norma Rae; many believe she was deliberately poisoned with radioactive material and murdered to shut her up. Now, the movie, starring Meryl Streep and directed by Mike Nichols, has been seized upon by such bourgeois mouthpieces as the New York Times and the Washington Post to propagandize for the nuclear energy industry and smear her name.

"Fact and Legend Clash in "Silkwood'," cired the Times' science writer William J. broad, masquerading as a movie critic in the Sunday Arts and Leisure section. "Chicanery," "meretricious," "a perversion of the reporter's craft," blasts a Times (25 December 1983) editorial. That same day the Washington Post printed a piece by one Nick Thimmesch, a free-lance journalist with ties to Silkwood's employer, the Kerr-McGee corporation, charging "glaring discrepancies between the known record and the film's representations."

These are lies. In fact, Silkwood sticks remarkably close to the documentary record. If anything, it is surprisingly devoid of politics for such an alleged propaganda tract. Frankly, it's a little dull. It includes a lot of material (some of it made up, presumably for dramatic interest) about Karen Silkwood's unremarkable personal life. Like most people, she had problems with her lovers and roommates, didn't get along with her ex-spouse, was often troubled, and drank and took drugs. The bulk of the movie is a retelling of the last few weeks of her life, and raises more questions than it answers. How were Karen Silkwood's body and home contaminated with plutonium? Was Kerr-McGee deliberately covering up faulty fuel rods, which could lead to a disastrous accident at the breeder-reactor in Washington state where the rods were to be shipped? What happened on that Oklahoma highway on 13 November 1974, when Karen Silkwood was killed in a car crash, en route to an interview with a New York Times reporter?

The ending of the movie shows Silkwood blinded by the headlights of a truck on the highway, then her mangled body and car, seeming to imply that she was run off the road, as indeed independent investigators have concluded from an examination of her car and the tire tracks on the road and grass. Then a written message on the screen reports that Oklahoma police ruled her death a one-car accident and found traces of methaqualone (Quaalude) and alcohol in her blood¬stream. The conclusion is left for the viewer to decide We may never know the answers to these questions. As we noted in Workers Vanguard (No. 146,25 February 1977) in an article titled "Conspiracy and Cover-Up in Atomic Industry: FBI Drops Inquiry in Karen Silkwood Death":

"The abrupt cancellation of the second Congressional investigation into FBI handling of the case of Karen Silkwood has added to a widespread belief that the facts surrounding the death of the young trade unionist two years ago are being covered up at the highest levels of industry and government.

"...her documentation of company negligence and falsification of safety records was damning to powerful interests and as long as the bourgeois courts and commissions are running the investigations of her death, the only results will be successive cover-ups of the cover-ups."

In the fall of 1974 Karen Silkwood had been working for two years as a laboratory technician at the Cimarron, Oklahoma plutonium processing facility owned by Kerr-McGee, one of the largest energy conglomerates in the U.S. She became interested in health and safety issues at the plant. She brought her worries to the union, the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW), and was elected as a union safety inspector, the movie makes this appear to be her first interest in the union. In fact, she had been one of the few die-hards in a defeated strike the previous year; she never crossed the picket line and she remained in the union even when its membership went down to 20. Along with fellow unionists, she traveled to union headquarters in Washington, D.C., where officials assigned her to gather documentation of company cover-ups of faulty fuel rods, as well as other safety violations.

Early in November 1974, Silkwood was repeatedly contaminated with plutonium, one of the deadliest materials known to man, in circumstances which have never been fully explained. In the Hollywood movie Meryl Streep ends up with raw pink patches over her face from decontamination scrubdowns. Her panicked expression when she knows she has to face a second one imparts the horror of it. Yet it is only a pale image of the reality. Silkwood's first scrubdown was with Tide and Clorox; the two others which, occurred over the next two days employed a sandpaper-like paste of potassium permanganate and sodium bisulfate. De¬spite this chemical torture (try scrubbing yourself with Ajax sometime), her skin still registered high levels of radiation. Worse yet, three days of nasal smears (to monitor inhaled radioactive contamination) increased to over 40,000 disintegrations per minute (dpm)— normal background radiation from cosmic rays and naturally occurring isotopes is roughly 30 dpm.

Silkwood's house was contaminated as well; it was stripped and her belongings were sealed and buried— one scene poignantly portrayed in the movie. An examination conducted at the medical facility at Los Alamos showed that she had received internal contami¬nation possibly as high as 24 nanocuries of plutonium (about 50,000 dpm). The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC, now Nuclear Regulatory Commission) has set a lifetime limit of 16 nanocuries; many specialists consider this hundreds of times too high. The fact is that plutonium is an extremely potent carcinogen, inhalation of which is virtually certain to induce lung cancer at levels where other radioactive nuclides can be tolerat¬ed. And Silkwood was particularly susceptible—she was female, had lung problems (asthma) and was small, under 100 pounds. In short, the plutonium she received chained her to cancer and a painful, slow death.

It is for this contamination, which an Oklahoma jury ruled the responsibility of Kerr-McGee, that $10.5 million in punitive damages was assessed against the company for the Silkwood estate. On January 11 the Supreme Court ruled the court had a legitimate right to assess this penalty; however, the case has been returned to a Jower court where Kerr-McGee may challenge the award on new grounds. Kerr-McGee has held that the contamination was "by her own hand," as a plot to discredit the company, a contention repeated by the New York Times in its editorial, which doesn't even mention that a jury had ruled this imputation not proved.

Since then, theories about Silkwood's contamination have included such slanderous tales as that put forth by alleged FBI informer Jacque Srouji, who claimed that Silkwood was deliberately contaminated by the union, to create a martyr. This is a telling indication of how far the capitalists will go to discredit the only thing that stands between the workers and total disregard for any safety. In the movie the International union representatives are made to appear as a bunch of slick bureaucrats who push Silkwood way out front without anywhere near sufficient backup. Certainly the OCAW is as craven before the capitalists as any other union in the U.S. But it has fought, however partially, for safer conditions for the workers it represents.

In the movie, Silkwood posits that someone purposely contaminated her urine-specimen jar with plutonium while it was in her locker room, a jar she later accidentally broke in her bathroom at home. This explanation is plausible, but we can't know for certain. We do know that Silkwood had been a straight A student in school, the only girl in her high school chemistry class, a member of the National Honor Society. She had studied medical technology. She knew that tampering with plutonium was death. The idea that she would deliberately contaminate herself could originate only in the sick and vicious minds of a profit-mad industry like Kerr-McGee.

Even the New York Times had to admit that Kerr-McGee was "a hellish place to work." Between 1970 and 1974 there were 574 reported exposures to plutonium. Dr. Karl Morgan, formerly a health physicist at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, testified at a Congressional investigation that he had never seen a facility so poorly run. The plant was constructed in a tornado alley; the tornado warnings were so frequent that the company never bothered to remove the plutonium to a safe place. Yet the hazards of the plant get barely a nod in the film. Only one other instance of contamination is shown, Silkwood's friend Thelma. But when Silkwood is shown leaving off her urine sample at the lab for analysis, the audience sees many such samples lined up, thus many more contaminations.

Yes, nuclear power is dangerous. An accident such as almost happened at Three Mile Island could kill thousands of people. But the only "solution" to this problem provided by the movie Silkwood—and shared in real life by the OCAW union tops—is, ironically enough, the New York Times! Get the Times to publish the damning evidence, and the AEC will make Kerr-McGee straighten things out. The crusading press will save America by publicly exposing wrong, and the government will step in and perform justice. Sure. This is a liberal pipedream: the AEC serves the interests of power conglomerates like Kerr-McGee, and the New York Times worships money, not justice.

The "no-nukers" hail the name of Silkwood in their campaign to abolish nuclear power. But the problem is that you have to replace it with something, and in this capitalist society there is no such thing as a danger-free source of energy. For generations workers have died miserably in coal mines and suffocated to death with black lung disease. Like any technology, nuclear power can be used and abused. It is not so much a question of a special technology, but the irrationality of the capitalist economy which makes all industry in the U.S., including the nuclear industry, hazardous. Meanwhile, Ronald Reagan threatens to blow up the world hundreds of times over to save American profits. Over 90 percent of the nuclear waste in this country is military. And that's nothing compared to the global nuclear holocaust plotted in the Pentagon. That is the real danger of nuclear power.

The no-nuke movement is part of a middle-class ecological concern that the disastrous conditions which workers have faced for generations might spread to the suburbs, perhaps even onto a college campus. Anti-nuke groups actively publicize and collect funds for the Silkwood lawsuit but not a peep is heard in protest against the murder of Gregory Goobic during a two-week strike by OCAW Local 1-326 in Rodeo, California last January. Goobic, a 20-year-old union member, was run down by a scab truck while picketing a Union 76 oil refinery. A company boss, with arms folded, stood in the dead striker's blood as cops kept the other picketers away. The capitalists and their government are not interested in the lives of their employees, particularly when adequate wages, work¬ing conditions and safety precautions stand in the way of profits. Obviously one thing militants in unions such as OCAW must do is fight for safety committees with the power to close down plants. But equally necessarily is the struggle to replace the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy with a leadership that will break with both bourgeois parties and build a workers party. The world will be safe to live in when the ruling class has been expropriated by a workers government that runs society for the benefit of all, not the profits of a few.

Silkwood has been denounced by corporate spokesmen at the New York Times for portraying Karen Silkwood as "a nuclear Joan of Arc" when she was really "a victim of her own infatuation with drugs"; it has been denounced by anti-nuke fan Anna Mayo of the Village Voice for portraying her as a dope-smoking "bad girl" when she was really "beloved daughter, sister, friend, union martyr and heroine of the largest, most viable grass-roots force in the U.S. and Western Europe, the anti-nuclear movement."

Actually, Karen Silkwood was simply a union militant fighting the best she could for a better life for herself and her coworkers against one of the least safe, most powerful, biggest price-gouging capitalist enterprises in the country. And we think the movie did a nice job showing it."