Saturday, April 07, 2007

*HUE AND CRY OVER SLAVERY- The Struggle For Righting Historic Wrongs

Click on the headline to link to a Website entry concerning the question of black reparations.



Earlier this year the Virginia legislature passed a formal resolution ‘apologizing’ for its history of slavery. A few days ago the North Carolina Senate passed the same kind of resolution. Reportedly, other states of the former Confederacy are considering similar actions. What gives? Apparently these elective bodies have succumbed to the same fits and starts of non-actionable ‘collective guilt’ noted in other situations such as President Clinton’s apology to Native Americans and the German apology to Jews for the Holocaust. Of course, these anti-slavery resolutions are toothless. Of course, they come much too late to do those who were actually affected any good. More importantly, in the case of the descendants of the slaves no real benefits accrue or are proposed to alleviate today’s very real wage slavery for the vast majority of blacks. Thus, we should accept such apologies for what they are worth and move on.

I have stated more than once that politics is many times a matter of timing. I would be, for example, much more impressed by the force of these anti-slavery resolutions if the various legislatures had enacted them in say, 1957. Or 1927. Or better yet, 1877. Certainly not 2007. Moreover, in 2007 I much prefer to stand by actions against slavery like Captain John Brown’s at Harpers Ferry. Or the big fights by the Union armies at Gettysburg or Vicksburg. Or the brave black Massachusetts 54th Regiment before Fort Wagner. Or Grant’s merciless pounding of Lee’s remnants in the above-mentioned Virginia or pursuing General Johnstone’s forces down into the also mentioned North Carolina. For those not so militarily-inclined the codification by post-Civil War Radical Republican-dominated Congresses against slavery and for the expansion of civil rights in the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution as a result of those victories will do as well. Enough said.





Clinton- $26 million. Obama the “Charma” -$25 million. Mitt “Flip-Flop” Romney- $20 million. John Edwards- $14 million. And so on. Those are the sums raised thus far that have been recently announced by their respective presidential campaigns. And all, apparently, without working up a sweat. There is no doubt that those sums will soon be dwarfed as the campaigns really get going. One cannot avoid the conclusion that in bourgeois electoral politics money is the coin of the realm. Hell, they rub that fact in our faces. And for what? Weak or non-existence programs that will do very, very little to change the lives of average working Americans. But that is a tale for another day. Today I want to comment on the campaign finance policy of those of us interested in building a workers party that fights for socialism and our relationship to public campaign funding. Seemingly, however, we are the only ones that even have an interest in the issue as most of the bourgeois candidates have laughed that idea off as a bad joke.

In the interest of full disclosure, even though not mandated by federal regulations, I can announce, not without sorrow, that our campaign coffers in the fight for a workers party are in terminal condition. Well, that is politics and goes with the territory of left-wing politics. So be it. However, I will gaze into the future here. If we ever have the political ear of those that we want to have listen to us –the working poor, women, blacks and other minorities, gays, and lesbians, legal and illegal immigrants, etc.- and run workers party candidates we will NOT accept publicly funded (read governmentally-regulated) matching funds. Why not?

In Europe, in France and Germany among others, socialist and far left candidates have, as a matter of course, taken their versions of public campaign funds for electoral purposes from their respective governments. This is flat-out wrong. As a matter of strategy why would those of us who seek to replace the current forms of government subject ourselves to the supposed largesse of the state? Moreover, face all the strings that such a course entails for our integrity and security. No, we will find our own sources of finance from those small, individual heartfelt contributions by those interested in our message. Frankly, there is no other way.

While we are on the subject of gazing into the future I hope that we will also be able to find the ‘techies’ and financial ‘wizards’ that will know how to milk the Internet and other sources for the possibilities that such technologies have opened up in the personal computer age. While ideas, not money, are the coin of our realm it nevertheless is true that we, as always, will also need our ‘angels’ to fight for what humankind needs. In fact this commentary can serve as an open appeal to those enamored of the Internet as a source of campaign finances to stop wasting their time and talents on bourgeois electoral politics and come join us. Enough said.

Thursday, April 05, 2007




I originally planned to repost the blog below in the summer of 2007. However, two trends have forced me to republish earlier than I planned. The first is the fact that the whole 2008 bourgeois electoral process has gone into warp speed. Yes, yes I know that thinking about electoral politics, or any politics, in the spring of 2007 is only for political junkies and other misbegotten types. I confess to that sin and some day I will turn myself into the appropriate 12 step program. Nevertheless the campaign season goes full throttle. Thus if we are to have any effect on the 2008 campaign on behalf of our fight for socialism we better get in harness now.

The second trend revolves around the periodic publication of, and commentary on, the not so startling, by now, fact that the wealth distribution gap between the very, very rich and the merely rich here in America and the rest of us has over the last few years once again become wider, the widest since the 1920’s. In response a number of political commentators, especially liberal commentators, have bemoaned this condition noting that part of the problem is the very real ‘class struggle’ by the rich and their minions to beat down wages and benefits. One of the better commentators on this subject the Boston Globe Op/Ed writer Robert Kuttner, who is almost always worth reading to gauge the pulse of the Eastern liberal part of the Democratic Party, recently placed the blame on the fight against unionization by the corporations and their political hangers-on. So far, no argument there.

Where we part company is over his exclusive and eternal strategy of relying on the political ‘goodwill’ of the ‘friends of labor’ in the Democratic Party to make capitalism fairer. He further argues that this is where labor has found its earlier successes. No, one thousand times no. Despite Kuttner’s obviously truncated reading of labor history (if at all) the way unions were organized, particularly in the 1930’s the heyday of militant action, usually meant hard-fought factory and street actions over and against those so-called ‘friends of labor’. This is the simply truth that we must get out and have labor militant candidates shout to the rooftops. LET OUR CAMPAIGN BEGIN.


Updated April 2007. In the summer of 2006 I wrote a commentary about writing in workers party candidates based on a program for the fall 2006 elections. With the hoopla already starting for the 2008 election cycle I repost that commentary below with that same intention of getting thoughtful leftist to use the 2008 campaign to further our propaganda needs.

All “anti-parliamentarian”, “anti-state”, “non-political” anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist brothers and sisters need read no further. This writer does not want to sully the purity of your politics with the taint of parliamentary electoral politics. Although I might remind you, as we remember the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Spanish Civil War, that your political ancestors in Spain were more than willing to support the state and enter the government when they got the chance- the bourgeois state and the bourgeois government. But, we can fight that issue out later. We will, hopefully, see you latter on the barricades.

As for other militants- here is my modest proposal. Either recruit fellow labor militants or present yourselves as candidates to run for public office, especially for Congress, during the 2006 election cycle. Why? Even a quick glance at the news of the day is calculated to send the most hardened politico screaming into the night. The quagmire in Iraq, immigration walls, flag-burning amendments, anti same-sex marriage amendments, the threat to separation of church state raised by those who would impose a fundamentalist Christian theocracy on the rest of us, and the attacks on the hard fought gains of the Enlightenment posed by bogus theories such as ‘intelligent design’. And that is just an average day. Therefore, this election cycle provides militants, at a time when the dwindling electorate is focused on politics, a forum to raise our program and our ideas. We use this as a tool, like leaflets, petitions, meetings, demonstrations, etc. to get our message across. Why should the Donkeys, Elephants, and Greens have a monopoly on the public square?

I mentioned in the last paragraph the idea of program. Let us face it if we do not have a program to run on then it makes no sense for militants to run for public office. Given the political climate our task at this time is to fight an exemplary propaganda campaign. Our program is our banner in that fight. The Democrats and Republicans DO NOT RUN on a program. The sum of their campaigns is to promise not to steal from the public treasury (or at least not too much), beat their husbands or wives or grossly compromise themselves in any manner. On second thought, given today’s political climate, they may not promise not to beat their husbands or wives. You get the point. Damn, even the weakest neophyte labor militant can make a better presentation before working people that that. In any case, this writer presents a five point program that labor militants can run on (you knew this was coming, right?). As point five makes clear this is not a ‘minimum’ program but a program based on our need to fight for power.

1. FIGHT FOR THE IMMEDIATE AND UNCONDITIONAL WITHDRAWAL OF U.S. TROOPS FROM THE MIDDLE EAST NOW (OR BETTER YET, YESTERDAY)! U.S. HANDS OFF THE WORLD! VOTE NO ON THE WAR BUDGET! The quagmire in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East (Palestine, Iran) is the fault line of American politics today. Every bourgeois politician has to have his or her feet put to the fire on this one. Not on some flimsy ‘sense of the Congress’ softball motion for withdrawal next, year, in two years, or (my favorite) when the situation is stable. Moreover, on the parliamentary level the only real vote that matters is the vote on the war budget. All the rest is fluff. Militants should make a point of trying to enter Congressional contests where there are so-called anti-war Democrats or Republicans (an oxymoron, I believe) running to make that programmatic contrast vivid.

But, one might argue, that would split the ‘progressive’ forces. Grow up, please! That argument has grown stale since it was first put forth in the ‘popular front’ days of the 1930’s. If you want to end the war in Iraq fight for this position on the war budget. Otherwise the same people (ya, those progressive Democrats) who unanimously voted for the last war budget get a free ride on the cheap. Senator Hillary “Hawk” Clinton desperately needs to be opposed by labor militants. Closet Republican, Democratic Senator Lieberman of Connecticut should not take his richly deserved beating on the war issue from a dissident Democrat. By rights this is our issue. Let us take it back.

2. FIGHT FOR A LIVING WAGE AND WORKING CONDITIONS-UNIVERSAL FREE HEALTH CARE FOR ALL. It is a ‘no-brainer’ that no individual, much less families, can live on the minimum wage of $5/hr. (or proposed $7/hr). What planet do these politicians live on? We need an immediate fight for a living wage, full employment and decent working conditions. We need universal free health care for all. End of story. The organized labor movement must get off its knees and fight to organize Wal-Mart and the South. A boycott of Wal-Mart is not enough. A successful organizing drive will, like in the 1930’s, go a long way to turning the conditions of labor around.

3. FIGHT THE ATTACKS ON THE ENLIGHTENMENT. Down with the Death Penalty! Full Citizenship Rights for all immigrants who make it here! Stop the Deportations! For the Separation of Church and State! Defend Abortion Rights! Down with ant-same sex marriage legislation! Full public funding of education! Stop the ‘war on drugs’, basically a war on blacks and minority youth-decriminalize drugs! Defend political prisoners! This list of demands hardly exhausts the “culture war” issues we defend. It is hard to believe that in the year 2006, over 200 years after the American and the French Revolutions we are fighting desperately to preserve many of the same principles that militants fought for in those revolutions. But, so be it.

4. FIGHT FOR A WORKERS PARTY. The Donkeys, Elephants and Greens have had their chance. Now is the time to fight for our own party and for the interests of our own class, the working class. Any campaigns by independent labor militants must highlight this point. And any campaigns can also become the nucleus of a workers party network until we get strong enough to form at least a small party. None of these other parties, and I mean none, are working in the interests of working people and their allies. The following great lesson of politic today must be hammered home. Break with the Democrats, Republicans and Greens!

5. FIGHT FOR A WORKERS AND XYZ GOVERNMENT. THIS IS THE DEMAND THAT SEPARATES THE MILITANTS FROM THE FAINT-HEARTED REFORMISTS. We need our own form of government. In the old days the bourgeois republic was a progressive form of government. Not so any more. That form of government ran out of steam about one hundred years ago. We need a Workers Republic. We need a government based on workers councils with a ministry (I do not dare say commissariat in case any stray anarchists are still reading this) responsible to it. Let us face it if we really want to get any of the good and necessary things listed above accomplished we are not going to get it with the current form of government.

Why the XYZ part? What does that mean? No, it is not part of an algebra lesson. What it reflects is that while society is made up mainly of workers (of one sort or another) there are other classes (and parts of classes) in society that we seek as allies and could benefit from a workers government. Examples- small independent contractors, intellectuals, the dwindling number of small farmers, and some professionals like dentists. Ya, I like the idea of a workers and dentists government. The point is you have got to fight for it.

Obviously any campaign based on this program will be an exemplary propaganda campaign for the foreseeable future. But we have to start now. Continuing to support or not challenging the bourgeois parties does us no good now. That is for sure. While bourgeois electoral laws do not favor independent candidacies at this late date write-in campaigns are possible. ROLL UP YOUR SHEEVES! GET THOSE PETITIONS SIGNED! PRINT OUT THE LEAFLETS! PAINT THOSE BANNERS! GET READY TO SHAKE HANDS AND KISS BABIES.





At first glance the story line in this French film, sub-titled in English, set in the mid-1960’s about the trials, tribulations, frustrations and sexual adventures (this is a commercial film, after all) of an exiled underground Spanish Communist Party functionary still working to defeat the Franco regime in Spain would seem a little dated. However, two things retrieve it from that fate.

First, despite the victory of Franco in 1939 those who fought the Civil War on the Republican side most definitely had some important unfinished business. Thus, the exploration, even if only cinematically, of the dangers and pitfalls of the necessary underground work in the fight against reactionary regimes still rings true as a lesson for latter day struggles. Secondly, an exploration of the wear and tear on committed cadre still fighting the good fight under much more trying circumstances than we currently face should help those who are trying to fight against today’s ‘monsters’.

An interesting sidelight of the film is the counter-position of the strategies of the old guard Spanish Communist underground leadership committed to patient, if unrewarding, work to gain a hearing from the masses and what turned out to be the Spanish “New Left” of the 1960’s that was looking for more demonstrative means of igniting those same masses. Thus the issue presented in the film of the classical general strike proposed by the old guard versus what amounted to urban guerilla warfare, including spectacular individual acts of terrorism, once again was played out on the Spanish left. Who won the argument? Well the class war still goes on so to pose the question is to give the answer. That in the end General Franco died in his bed in the mid-1970’s is, however, something no militant should have been, or should be, happy about.