Sunday, March 30, 2008


Click on the title to link to the Partisan Defense Committee Web site.


The legendary social commentator and stand up comic Lenny Bruce, no stranger to the American ‘justice’ system himself, once reportedly said that in the Halls of Justice the only justice is in the halls. The truth of that statement came home on Thursday March 27, 2008 as a panel of the federal Third Circuit Court of Appeals voted two to one to uphold Mumia’s conviction.

The only question left is that of resentencing- the death penalty or, perhaps worst, life in prison without parole. I have not yet read the decision but we are now a long way away from the possibility of a retrial-the narrow legal basis for even appealing in the legal system in the first place. Know this- in the end it will be in the streets and factories through the efforts of the international labor movement and other progressive forces that Mumia will be freed. That is the only way, have no illusions otherwise, whatever the next legal steps might be.

Go to the Partisan Defense Committee link at the right side of this commentary (or click on title) to get a statement on the meaning of this outcome and information about future actions on Mumia’s behalf. For now-Free Mumia! Free all the class-war prisoners!

Radical Reconstruction: The Second Civil War


Reconstruction: The Second Civil War, Two Parts Revolution and Reaction, PBS, 2004

Back in the days of my personal ‘pre-history’ the Reconstruction period directly after the American Civil War ended in 1865 was cast as the time of the scalawags, carpetbaggers, Black Codes and ultimately after a determined fight by the ‘right’ people in the South ‘redemption’. In short a time of shame in the American experience and, at least implicitly, a racist slap at blacks and their supporters. Well so much for that nonsense.

There certainly was plenty that went wrong during radical reconstruction in the South but the conventional high school history textbooks never got into the whole story. Nor did they want to. The whole story is that until fairly recently this radical reconstruction period was the most democratic period in the South in American history, for white and black alike. Previously, I have written some book reviews on this subject that led me to this documentary. This documentary goes a long way toward a better visual understanding of what went on in that period.

The first part of the Radical Reconstruction era was dominated by three basic plans that are described here in some detail; the aborted Lincoln ‘soft’ union indivisible efforts; the Johnson ‘soft’ redemption plans; and, the radical Republican ‘scorched earth’ policy toward the South. In the end none of these plans was pursued strongly enough to insure that enhanced black rights gained through legislation would lead to enlightened citizenship. The documentary presents detailed critiques of all these plans and some insights about the social and cultural mores of the country at the time that do not make for a pretty picture.

The producers spend some time trying to demystify what the radical reconstruction governments did and did not do. This is done in the usual ‘even-handed’ approach of PBS documentaries by the use of various individual life stories-a former slave, ex-Yankee officer and a woman plantation owner. That there were scandalous activities and more than enough corrupt politicians to go around goes without saying. However like most myths there is a snowball effect about how bad things really were that obliterates the very real advances for black (and some poor whites) like public education, improved roads and increased state facilities that were anathema to the planting class that formerly ruled the South.

The second part of the documentary deals with the conservative counter-revolution in order to overthrow the radical governments culminating in the well-known Compromise of 1877. The actions of that Southern rabble, rich and poor whites alike, formed in militias and other para-military operations like the Klan is certainly not pretty. Moreover it took about a century and a ‘cold’ civil war during the 1960’s to even minimally right that situation (a battle that continues to this day). For those that need an in depth, definitive study of this subject you must turn to the master Eric Foner (who is also one of the ‘talking heads’, another PBS standard practice, on screen) and his monumental Reconstruction, 1863-1877. However, if you want a shorter but nevertheless informative visual overview of Reconstruction this is your first stop.