Friday, September 14, 2007

*From The Marxist Archives- Friedrich Engels "On Authority"- A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to "Workers Vanguard", dated September 14, 2007, for the article on the subject noted above.

Markin comment:

I will listen to anything that old Friedrich Engels has to say on almost any subject anytime.

*From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard" Defend Immigrant Rights!-A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to "Workers Vanguard", dated September 14, 2007, for the article on the subject noted above.

Markin comment:

This issue is a no-brainer for leftists and for trade union militants who must understand that immigrant workers, many times, bring valuable class-struggle experience in their baggage. We need that experience as well in the international struggle we face, and which has become more important with the increased "globalization" of international capitalism.


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.




It is very nice to be able to periodically run old George W. Bush through with a rhetoric spear and Thursday night's speech to the nation has once again taken us nicely down ‘neocon’ memory lane with a certain flourish. Somethings no matter how one packages them defy changing. I will admit I will miss the ‘old boy’ as a target when he is gone. Not as much as I miss his puppet master, Karl Rove, but I will miss him nevertheless. After almost seven years George Bush, however, is just too ‘soft’ a target and it is no longer ‘clever’ as sign of political sophistication to make hay from that source in order to end this damn war. Christ, my mother, a life long ‘bleeding heart’ conservative Republican, is taking potshots at him.If one is looking for parliamentary targets as obstacles in the struggle to immediately end this war the Congressional Democrats are more tempting. And they deserve it because in the end they knew, or should have known, better than to go along with the Bush agenda in Iraq in the early days.

However, after all the parliamentary wrangling and bleeding over the floor of Congress this spring on the war budget it is almost no longer fun to rip the establishment Democrats for their weak-kneed policy either. Even if Senator Reed, in response, last night made the right parliamentary points the sad reality is those policies on not funding the war are not going to happen. Moreover, here is the hard reality. A Democratic Party consensus appears to be forming that in the likelihood of a Democratic presidential victory in 2008 (most likely by a centrist) troop limits will not drop off significantly under that presidency and will remain in Iraq for ….. (Fill in the blank). In capsule form there are three prongs to that strategy 1. Avoid genocide and ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Iraq; 2. Cut off safe havens for Al Queda in the region 3. Counter and contain Iranian influence in the region. That, my friends, is realpolitik, Democratic style. To these eyes that means many troops for many years. End of story.

Well, where the hell does that leave serious anti-war militants? Our slogan is for Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal. That means today (if not yesterday). Does anything said recently by any politician of note even touch on that? They are all backpedaling using the huge logistical problems to, in practice, negate the impact of that slogan. We need another strategy if we are to win this battle against the war. The long and short of it is looking for parliamentary solutions and depending on the ‘good graces’ of anti-war Democrats has had its day. I have been advocating for over a year on my blog site American Left History that we change the axis of our political struggle and form anti-war soldiers and sailors solidarity committees in order to link up with the rank and file troops and lead us to an end of the war. A couple of years ago that would have seemed somewhat far- fetched, and may strike some readers here as far too radical today, however it comes closer to political wisdom for the left than those tired old parliamentary maneuvers. Let me make one historical point in defense of my position. When the deal goes down on the question of war and peace the only time that war stops in the ‘people’s’ interest is when the soldiers themselves put down their arms. In modern times I would refer the reader to World War I, the Russian Revolution and the American experience in the latter parts of the Vietnam War. More, much more on this later.

Thursday, September 13, 2007




Note: I am entering the lists of Daily Kos as a matter of taking my own advice. For a long time now I have argued on my American Left History blog at www that, unlike in my youth when one could barely walk the streets without running in one or more fellow radical activists, today’s fight against the Iraqi War (and for other progressive causes) demands a fight for the ‘soul’ of young, thoughtful, disenchanted liberals. I have been advised that that means being on this site. So be it. Let the polemical fights begin. However, let the fight against the supporters of this war and this system, their agents, toadies, flaks and hangers-on never end.

A point on style- In order to flesh out this diary a little at the start I am posting some of my more relevant commentary from the above-mentioned blog site. I make no bones about the fact that I am a militant leftist propagandist. I am used to no-holds barred polemical in-fighting within the extreme left. However, I agree with George Orwell’s ideas about style and the English language. One must sense one’s audience and act accordingly. Thus as I get more familiar with this site I will adjust my style accordingly. Style changes-yes. Core politics-no.

Tuesday, September 11, 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.





Well, the long awaited, much leaked, media-hyped testimony concerning the effects of the ‘surge’ in Iraq to Congress by lead American General Petreaus and Ambassador Crocker is finally upon us and, as one suspected, there were no surprises. The reality, as I mentioned months ago, is this war will continue at this same basis level at least until the end of the Bush Administration in January 2009. For those of us hardened leftists opposed to Iraq policy from the beginning this was just one more confirmation that American imperialist hubris has no endgame, at least until we can built a strong oppositional force.

Today’s commentary, however, is directed more toward my liberal friends who really believed after the 2006 mid-tern elections that it was only a hop, step and a jump until America pulled out of Iraq completely. You know, Immediate Withdrawal. During those ‘halcyon days’ I took no end of political abuse by these same liberal friends who snidely advised me on my need for various forms of mental therapy in order to get a grip on reality. No more. Over the past few weeks, as it became increasing clear that the grim reaper had descended on Washington and that there was no ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ for liberal illusionists I have been having conversations with and getting calls from those same friends calling me a ‘prophet’. What gives?

What gives is this. Marxism is a very helpful tool in order to understand politics and more importantly the underlying circumstances behind those politics. However, it does not take, although it surely helps, Marxist training to have seen what was coming barreling headlong down the road once the American Iraqi juggernaut was launched. Understanding that the Bush Administration was, and is, in a blind alley being captive to its own imperialist illusions was just the beginning of wisdom. Additionally, one must understand that these are not rational people, not in our sense of the word, and one must treat them with the same care that one approaches a viper. My liberal friends, having become over the years increasing immersed in parliamentary tactics, have forgotten their better instincts. Moreover they have forgotten how to fight 'dirty' or that sometimes the street is the only place to resolve big questions like war and peace. Thus, when I appeared even to friends to be a lunatic arguing that the troops would be staying in Iraq all these liberal friends could think about was how quickly Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid were going to get them out. Well, the results are now in on that little illusion.

Where do we go from here? As part of the build-up to this week's Congressional hearings there has been much chatter about the time frame for a total withdrawal even if it started today. Due to the huge logistical problems various estimates have ranged from nine months to well over a year. On hearing this one friend remarked, echoing others, it is a lot easier to get into a war than to get out of it. As a result of this chatter some have challenged the relevancy of the slogan Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal. At the military logistical level the time frame may be true. However, what we are talking about here is political will, the political will to withdraw. That is what we have to regroup around. Parliamentary maneuvering like last spring’s Congressional tussle over the Iraqi War budget is passé. We have to do things like build those anti-war soldier and sailor solidarity committees I have been propagandizing for over the last year in order to undercut the seemingly endless desire for the current leadership of the anti-war movement to shrift right to accommodate bourgeois leaders or to keep the same passive ‘rational’ strategy they have muddled along with for five years now. I find no virtue in being a ‘prophet’. Prediction without effect is for carnival fortune-tellers. The point is to struggle to change outcomes. We need to win this fight against war, and we badly need it now. Enough said.


Sunday, September 09, 2007




The late pre-eminent historian of the underclasses of the English Revolution, Christopher Hill, has taken the myriad literary and cultural ideas, serious and zany, that surfaced during the period between 1620-1720, the heart of the conversion of England from an agricultural to an embryonic capitalist economy, and given us his take on some previously understudied and misunderstood notions, many that have not made the conventional history books. I note that he uses as his endpoint John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera, a work later adapted for the stage by Bertolt Brecht, and that I have reviewed elsewhere in this space (see September 2007 archives). One of the points discussed in that review is whether the figure of one MacHealth, the central figure of the work, former imperial soldier and leader of a profitable criminal gang is an incipient capitalist or the relic of an earlier age. Professor Hill’s book would seem to provide ammunition for the proposition that Mac Health, like the legendary Robin Hood, was a representative figure of the ‘freedom’ from the imperatives of capitalist contract, routine and law and harked back to the values of the old pastoral society.

In this expansively footnoted book Mr. Hill, as he has done in his other work, connects the dramatic break up of traditional agrarian English society; the resulting vast increase of 'master less' men not bound to traditional authority and potentially receptive to new ideas; the widespread availability of the protestant Bible brought about by the revolution in printing and thus permitting widespread distribution to the masses; the effects of the Protestant Reformation on individual responsibility; the discrediting of the theology of the divine right of kings; the role of the priesthood of all believers that foreshadow a very modern concept of the validity of individual religious expression; radical interpretations of equality and primitive communism, particularly the work of Gerrard Winstanley ; the Puritan ethic and many more subjects of interests to bring to life what the common people who hitherto had barely entered the stage of history were reading, watching, thinking and doing.

Professor Hill as well, using the extensive prose and poetic literature of the age as a guide, gives us a rudimentary cultural tour of how the under classes responded to the break down of their tradition agrarian lives (and the generally brutal reply of the ruling classes). Elsewhere he has discussed ‘masterless’ men driven out of the villages, forests and fens by the enclosures of the land in the interest of capitalist agricultural production for the market. Here he discusses the literature developed around those men (and women). He tackles, for those who know his work, the now familiar themes of Robin Hood, highwaymen, vagrants, beggars and the like. He moreover, as always, connects trends in biblical interpretation with their effect on the on-going social changes. Furthermore he does an extensive study of the literature of English imperialist expansion during the period connecting up such subjects as the ‘noble savage’, ‘going native’ and the effects of English colonization on both the oppressed and the oppressor. While he brings in his usual cast of characters like the Seekers, Ranters and Quakers and individuals like Abiezer Coppe and others they are more background figures in this exposition. I would also suggest that before one tackles this work that a reading of Professor Hill’s The World Turned Upside Down would be in order.


Click on the title to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Pete Seeger performing performing the classic coal country song "Which Side Are You On?"




In my recent Labor Scorecard 2007 commentary (see September 2007 archives) and elsewhere I have noted that a key to the revitalization of the American labor movement is the unionization of Wal-Mart and the South, two giant tasks that would go a long way toward a return of labor militancy. In short, organize the unorganized. Those tasks are still central to such a recovery, however, the recent mine disaster at the Crandall Canyon Mines in Utah and last year’s disaster at Sago, West Virginia have brought to mind how precarious conditions are in the mines. And that is not even to speak of the seemingly daily disasters in the Chinese mines and elsewhere. Tunneling deep underground is just not a safe operation under any circumstances. Impelled by the profit motive, as Crandall Canyon so graphically demonstrated, it can be nothing short of industrial murder. Moreover, I have also read a recent article on the state of unionization in the American automobile industry that was at one time significantly unionized. The most dramatic statistic that I gathered from the article was that while there are almost as many auto workers as there were at the height of the unions today only one third of that work force is unionized. So militant unionists are today confronted with more than the question of organizing previously unorganized workers. Thus, an expansion drive for membership of these previously militant unions, in effect a reorganization, is on the agenda today.

Historically some of the most dramatic labor battles in America involved the United Mine Workers and other miners’ unions. One need only think of the “Molly McGuires” in the Pennsylvania coal fields, the names Ludlow, Butte, Coeur d’Alene, the Western Federation of Miners led by the legendary “Big” Bill Haywood and of other lesser known class struggles led by him and the International Workers of the World (IWW, Wobblies). The names roll off the tongue in endless succession. More recently one remembers the great battles in the Eastern mines, especially West Virginia, up to the 1970’s. If one location epitomized theses long labor struggles one need only mention one name Harlan, famous in story and song, in the hills of Kentucky to remember when militant miners knew how to fight (as well as the built-in limitations to a successful fight, as well). My father, before he escaped the coal fields by joining the Marines in World War II, ‘worked the coal’ as a boy and young man around Hazard, Kentucky, another legendary mining name. He had many a story to tell about those experiences and it is a measure of how bad conditions were that he happily went into the Marines in order to escape that life. One lesson that he imparted to me and one that offers us hope is the tradition, honored more in the breech that the observance now, of the miners-Picket lines mean don’t cross. Every militant needs to have that slogan etched in his or her brain.

That said, today’s coal economics do not make the task any easier than in earlier times. Coal production has had a very stormy and topsy-turvy history and unemployment and abandonment of worked-over mines is only part of the story. Recently, with the increased price of other fossil fuels, mainly oil, coal ‘clean or dirty’ has become more valuable. Thus, old unsafe mines and other formerly forgotten fields are being worked today by the same old greedy capitalist investors that we all remember from the ‘age of the robber barons’. Moreover the location of the fields in remote areas and, frankly, the parochialism and localism of the work force make organizing as difficult as it always has been. Add to the mix, as noticeable in Crandall Canyon, the waves of immigrants swarming to the fields in search of desperately needed work and there is a handful. Yes, those are all problems to be confronted during a fight but the most serious problem is the lack of interest of today’s leadership of the Mine Workers and of the AFL-CIO to make this fight. And that is where our fight has to begin.

Lest I be accused of the dreaded sin of ‘dual unionism’ let me make clear that this fight to reorganize the miners has to begin within the current organized union structures as a matter of common sense. Tackling the individual, disparate owners piecemeal with local unions is not the way forward. We want one big industry-wide, nation-wide (or for that matter, world-wide) union. End of story. What we do not want to do is rely on the good graces of governmental agencies, in this case, the Mine Safety and Health Administration. As the results of Crandall Canyon demonstrate reliance on this toothless (for labor) agency is a sure sign of defeat before we start.

A central demand beyond the tradition ones of union recognition, wages and working conditions is the absolute necessity to fight for a workers safety committee controlled by the union that would prohibit work in unsafe mines and address other mine safety issues. Let us be clear again this is not some tripartite (labor, capitalist, government) committee but a union one. If one wants to know what the embryonic stages of workers control of production under capitalism but before the victory of socialism might look like that should be our model. It is a life and death struggle. All trade union militants should be demanding that instead of using your hard earned dues to elect one or another of the bourgeois candidates in 2008 that those dues go to organizing the mines, auto and the unorganized. That, my friends, is the beginning of labor wisdom now. As the legendary labor organizer Joe Hill reputedly said before his execution in Utah for the 'sin' of union organizing- Don’t mourn, Organize!

***Labor's Untold Story- Remember The Heroic Homestead Steel Strike of 1892

Click on title to link to PBS documentary information about the Homestead Strike of 1892. There are many lessons about the role of the state, whose state it is, how to organize, how not to organize and who to rely on from that class battle that are applicable to day.

Every Month Is Labor History Month

This Commentary is part of a series under the following general title: Labor’s Untold Story- Reclaiming Our Labor History In Order To Fight Another Day-And Win!

As a first run through, and in some cases until I can get enough other sources in order to make a decent presentation, I will start with short entries on each topic that I will eventually go into greater detail about. Or, better yet, take my suggested topic and run with it yourself.