Wednesday, January 24, 2007





One of the most heinous acts passed by Congress before the American Civil War was the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Its provisions allowed slaveholders to repossess their ‘property’ anywhere in the United States of the times. More importantly, the authority of the American government could be called upon by individual slaveholders to insure that any found slaves were repatriated through the use of federal marshals to capture them and federal commissioners to determine their status, slave or free. Every black liberation fighter and supporter of black liberation struggles should cringe every time they look at the United States Constitution, its original infamous 3/5 clause and its benign attitude toward chattel slavery. The Fugitive Slave Act merely rubbed everyone’s face constantly and publicly in those dirty little facts until the Civil War.

The Fugitive Slave Act did not, however, go unopposed. Abolitionists in the North rallied against it and in many ‘high’ abolitionist areas like Boston, Massachusetts and Rochester, New York the act became unenforceable. The role of William Parker, farmer, itinerant preacher and fugitive slave, and leader of the ‘Battle of Christiana’ in southern Pennsylvania in 1851 is probably the most dramatic act of resistance to that law. When the slaveholders came north of the Mason-Dixon line to try to reclaim their slave ‘property’ abetted by local hooligans and the federal government they got far more than they had bargained for. What they got was a Parker-organized, mainly black, armed self-defense organization to protect themselves and any fugitive slaves that came their way. Such self-defense tactics would do black liberation fighters proud today.

As every black liberation fighter and every other kind of liberation fighter since that time knows even small victories will produce ‘blowback’ by the government and its hangers-on. Parker and his cohorts faced just such a situation. As a result of their resistance Parker had to flee to Canada. Moreover, Millard Fillmore, another one of those forgotten accidental presidents, called out troops to stop these anti-slavery actions and place those arrested on trial. Needless to say these were in the nature of show trials in an attempt to ‘chill’ free speech and actions. However, enflamed Northern anti-slavery sentiment insured that there were no convictions. The moral of the story is this- federal Fugitive Slave Act or not the slaveholders stopped pursuing their fugitive slaves when armed self-defense organizations and others who made it too ‘hot’ for them to pursue such actions. We can use some of that same thinking today as we face the outrageous legislation of our own times. HONOR WILLIAM PARKER! REMEMBER THE ‘BATTLE OF CHRISTIANA’.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


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.



Readers of this space perhaps already know that this writer has been harping over the last year on the need for the anti-war movement to turn its face to the rank and files troops in order to end the war in Iraq. Recently, the urgency of this need was dramatically brought home by the news that in California troops have petitioned Congress for the redress of grievance. And the subject of that grievance is not about the lousy military food, it is not about the lousy pay and it is not about the lousy equipment, although God knows those are always legitimate issues for all rank and file military personnel. The redress petition is for the immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Despite the small attention it has received in the bourgeois press this is a big political development and a possible harbinger of things to come in the military.

This highly conscious political, and given the circumstances under which they operate, courageous act is in dramatic contrast to the paralysis of will exhibited by a Congress that cannot even vote for a real anti-war resolution much less against the war appropriations. Sure, they can vote all day and night for these non-binding ‘sense of the Congress’ resolutions that tie them to no concrete action. Christ, they live for these kinds of votes to brighten up their rather tarnished and sorry records on Iraq. For my money, we need to address the issue of withdrawal from Iraq where it can mean something by organizing anti-war soldier and sailor solidarity committees in order to fraternize with the troops. As I have mentioned before, in the final analysis, this is shortest route to ending the war in Iraq.

Most of us have organized or been part of organized anti-war demonstrations over the last few years. Organizing civilian demonstrations against the war is as relatively easy as getting a permit (if necessary), making up some posters and banners, writing a leaflet announcing the event and grabbing a bullhorn. Let us be clear this military solidarity committee organizing is much more serious business. Although the military has not been as publicly Draconian toward its military dissenters as in the past, especially anti-war soldiers in the Vietnam era, dealing with the military is a whole different ball of wax, from the ‘justice’ they dispense to the ranks to their reaction to anti-war civilians in front of their bases. Make no mistake the military brass are not among nature’s noblemen.

That said, the bulk of the troops, either those who have served in Iraq or those getting ready to ship out are no mercenary professional soldiers, but rather are citizen-soldiers caught up in a terrible place. This is especially true of the increasing numbers of National Guard and Reserve units that are being deployed as the Bush Administration buries itself deeper in the quagmire of ‘Big Sandy’. Christ, yesterday those soldiers were probably sitting beside you at work. And that, my friends, gives us an opening. While these are not our troops, they most definitely are our sons, daughters and neighbors.

This is not the place to discuss the specifics of organizing anti-war troop support. That can be left to local initiative, for now. What is necessary is to get out to the military bases, naval stations and armories to make contacts, and to listen. That is the first rule of fraternization with the troops. From personal experience I have found that those troops who want to find an outlet for their anti-war sentiments or need legal help to get out of the military or want to talk about a whole range of issues including the above-mentioned lousy food, pay and equipment will find you. And those are all legitimate ways to start out. Nevertheless in the end it is the need to find direct ways to get the immediate, unconditional withdrawal from Iraq that must drive the work. More on this question later.