Saturday, June 07, 2008

*Defend the Evergreen State College (Washington ) 6 !

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

Markin comment:

This information is passed on from the Partisan Defense Committee. I would note that this is an important student struggle for today at a time when many campuses are very, very quiet. Moreover, the question of suspending leftist student political organizations whatever their political shortcomings is a very serious problems that labor militants must add their voices in protest against. I could not link to the site listed but if you Google the Evergreen 6 Legal Defense Fund you can get information and make a donation.

Defend Activists at Evergreen State College

In "Drop Charges Against Evergreen 6! Reinstate Olympia SDS!" (WVNo. 914, 9 May), we reported that six concertgoers face frame-up charges fol¬lowing the cop riot at a February 14 Dead Prez concert at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Outrageously, as part of this ongoing witchhunt, charges of malicious mischief—a felony—and riot have been filed against three more people, Justin Killing,Kelly Primeaux and Christina Shimizu. The Spartacus Youth Club demands: Drop the charges now! Hands off the concertgoers!

Following the February cop riot, the Olympia branch of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was suspended by the Evergreen State College administration in an act of political censorship. Supporters of SDS have been occupying Evergreen's Seminar I building since May 21, demanding SDS's reinstatement and calling to "build a movement for student power." Cops targeting the protesters have arrested one supporter of SDS, Shyam Khanna, who faces charges of assault and riot for allegedly spitting on a cop at the Olympia May Day demonstration. Six others also face charges following the May Day protest. We say: Drop the charges now! The SYC protests SDS's suspension and defends those occupying the building against any reprisals from the administration or police. At the same time, as revolutionary Marxists, we understand that students do not have the power to fundamentally change society. We seek to win the best radical students over to the side of the working class, which uniquely has both the social power and the objective interest to overthrow the capitalist system and organize society according to human need.

Donations to Evergreen 6 Legal Defense should be made through their PayPal account, accessible from the Evergreen 6 Legal Defense Web site at The address advertised in our last article is no longer in use.

*The Sounds of the 4th of July- From Childhood Times, Circa 1956

Click on the headline to link to a 1950s nostalgia website placed here to give a flavor to the entry below, and only for that purpose.

This is another in that line of questions being asked by my Class of 1964 class committee. I am being nice here and just taking a little trip down memory lane for the old gang.

No, today I will not mention the tattoo of marching drums. Nor will I go on and on about the finale of the Overture of 1812. And I will most assuredly not describe the seemingly supersonic fireworks that boom over the nighttime skyline of Boston. Today I want to go back the quieter streets around Welcome Young Field in the (one-horse) Atlantic section of North Quincy on the Independence Days of my youth.

Probably, like in your neighborhood in the old days, the local older guys and fathers would put together a kitty, collect contributions and seek donations from local merchants to put together a little ‘time’ for the kids on the 4th of July. The details of the organization of this extravaganza are beyond my knowledge but I can surely speak to the results. As these things go it was pretty straight forward, you know; foot races of varying lengths for various age groups, baby contests, some sort of parade, pony rides and so forth. But that is only the frame. Here is the real story of the day. Here is what any self-respecting kid lived and died for that day.

Tonic (you know, soda, pop) and ice cream. And not just one tonic or one ice cream but as much as you could hoard. Twice during the day (I think maybe about 10AM and 1PM) there would be what one can only describe as a free-for-all as we all scrambled to get as many bottles of tonic (you know, soda) and cups of ice cream as we could handle. But here is the secret to the success of my brothers and me in grabbing much more than our fair share of the bounty. Grandma lived right on the corner of Welcome Young Field on Young Street. So, we would sprint with one load of goods over to her house and then go back for more until we filled up the back refrigerator.

Boy, that was work as we panted away, bottles clanking in our pockets. But then, work completed, we could savor our one tonic and one ice cream cup that we showed for public consumption. There were other sounds of the day beyond the cheering, the panting and the hee-haws of the ponies. As the sun went day it went down to the strains of some local pick up band of the era in the tennis court as the dancing started. But that was adult time. Our time was to think about our day 's work, our hoard and the next day’s tonic and ice cream. Ah…

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

*From "Workers Vanguard"- Mormon Polygamists- Leave Them Alone!

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for Mormon polygamists.

Workers Vanguard No. 916
6 June 2008

Mormon Polygamists—Leave Them Alone!

On April 3, heavily armed Texas Rangers, police agencies from six counties, the state highway patrol and wildlife officers stormed into a polygamous Mormon community in Eldorado, Texas. A phone call was the pretext for this massive raid on the Yearning for Zion Ranch of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS), a long-established split-off from the mainstream Mormons. Authorities now admit this call by a woman claiming sexual abuse at the ranch was probably a hoax. Over the next seven days, more than 500 children and women were kidnapped in a state onslaught of “collective punishment.”

At least 465 of those kidnapped were under age 18 and were seized by Child Protective Services (CPS). Thirty-one women were pregnant when arrested; two have given birth while in state custody. Several of the “children” in custody are actually mothers who have had their own infants seized. All the parents were separated from their children, many sent hundreds of miles away, while the state conducted humiliating DNA tests to determine parents’ “legitimacy” to visit their children. The outrageous treatment of the Mormon families is the real abuse perpetrated here! It was so bad that even the Texas Supreme Court on May 29 upheld a prior appeals court ruling that the state had no right to seize the children. As we go to press, most of those seized are being returned to their parents.

We Marxists have a longstanding position in defense of polygamous Mormons against state persecution. We stated in “For the Right of Gay Marriage…and Divorce! Marriage and the Capitalist State” (WV No. 824, 16 April 2004): “We believe the Mormons have the right to be left alone, to practice their religion and live their private lives however they see fit. Our position for the right of gay marriage, like the right of Mormons to practice polygamy, stems from our opposition to government interference with the rights of individuals to effect whatever consensual arrangements they wish.” Leave the Mormon polygamists alone!

The raid and the mass kidnapping have sparked outrage, not least in Mormon strongholds such as Salt Lake City, where 50 protested on April 24 outside an NBA playoff game between the Rockets and Jazz. As FLDS spokesman Rod Parker said, “I think every American needs to be very fearful of what Child Protective Services is doing in Texas.” Mental health workers at emergency shelters for the women and children expressed anger toward the state’s child welfare agency for removing the children from their mothers and for the conditions in the shelters, which were so poor that upper respiratory infections and chicken pox spread rapidly. One of the workers said it was a deliberate form of coercion: “The more uncomfortable they were the more CPS thought they would talk.” The entire mental health staff was fired the second week, accused by the authorities of being “too compassionate” (Houston Chronicle, 10 May).

The spiritual leader of the FLDS, Warren Jeffs, is in prison, charged with “rape as an accomplice” for performing a marriage—“rape” because the young woman, who was 14, was underage and the groom was her 19-year-old cousin. In “Feds Hands Off Mormon Fundamentalists!” (WV No. 871, 26 May 2006), we defended Jeffs against the government’s witchhunt before his capture, denouncing the anti-sex hysteria and hypocrisy of the authorities and noting that such early marriages were commonplace only decades ago. New Hampshire, for example, still allows 13-year-old girls to marry with parental consent. In some European countries, the age of consent is 14 years, while in quite a few U.S. states first cousins can legally marry.

The state uses reactionary “age of consent” laws to oppress youth—who are supposed to go against nature and be “sexless,” especially if they’re female—and expand its own powers of repression. We oppose “age of consent,” “squeal rules” and “statutory rape” laws, which strengthen the repressive reach of the state, as well as serving as a diversion from the real brutality of this sick capitalist society. We uphold effective consent as the only guiding principle in sexual relations—i.e., mutual agreement and understanding, as opposed to coercion. As long as those who take part agree to do so at the time, no one, least of all the state, has the right to tell them they can’t do it. Rape and violent abuse are terrible crimes that occur throughout society and in monogamous as well as polygamous families. But the prosecution of Mormons for polygamy can only force possible victims to retreat further underground in legitimate fear of the authorities.

The question of polygamy has a long history in the U.S., and was central to the development of Mormonism in the 19th century. When in 1890 the Mormons officially renounced the practice, preparatory to getting Utah recognized as a U.S. state in 1896, significant breakaway factions continued polygamy, one calling themselves the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints. Today, an estimated 10,000 FLDS followers live in communities concentrated along the Utah-Arizona border and nearby states. Their presence in Texas dates only from 2003, and the Texas state authorities have been extremely aggressive in their attempts to banish them.

President Abraham Lincoln, though he later signed a bill outlawing plural marriages, made an early statement to a Mormon journalist regarding the Mormons, a model of good sense and tolerance that the rulers of this decaying capitalist society have long since abandoned. When he was a boy on the farm, he said, “Occasionally we would come to a log which had fallen down. It was too hard to split, too wet to burn and too heavy to move, so we plowed around it. That’s what I intend to do with the Mormons. You go back and tell Brigham Young that if he will let me alone I will let him alone.”

The Family and Organized Religion: Props of Brutal Bourgeois Rule

With revolting hypocrisy, America’s rulers are flexing their muscles against a tiny community in rural Texas while hailing one of the most anti-woman and feudalist forces in the world, the Dalai Lama and the deposed pro-slavery Tibetan “Lamaocracy.” Before the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) came to Tibet, it was a hellhole for poor peasants and women, who slaved like oxen as the ruling monks meditated in the temples. In pre-1950s Tibet, polygamy was the norm and intrinsic to the enslavement of women. Its corollary was polyandry among poorer males, who had to share a wife with other men (often brothers) because they could not afford wives themselves. The PLA’s extension to Tibet of the gains of the 1949 Chinese Revolution, which overthrew capitalist rule in China, broke the lamas’ power and lifted the region from feudal darkness, a leap of several centuries in human development (see “Defend Chinese Deformed Workers State! Counterrevolutionary Riots in Tibet,” WV No. 911, 28 March).

Whereas American Mormons essentially choose their practice, in many regions of the world the legacy of precapitalist social backwardness means that women are held to be little more than property, requiring struggle by communists to abolish institutionalized polygamy, as well as the bride price, female genital mutilation and other such practices. In countries of belated capitalist development, social backwardness is reinforced and manipulated by imperialist domination. For example, the U.S. imperialists prop up reactionary client states like impoverished Afghanistan and oil-rich Saudi Arabia, countries where women are forcibly veiled head-to-toe and denied virtually any rights.

In the United States, the government wields its hypocritical “save the children” card to more thoroughly target those it deems “deviant,” including the Eldorado community. The lie of government concern for mothers and children is worn threadbare, as both Democrats and Republicans have slashed welfare and social programs over the past decades, with a huge toll in malnutrition, disease and death. “Abstinence” programs for teens have only enforced sexual ignorance—and resulted in a recent increase in STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). The reality for many poor and working-class Americans, especially single black mothers, is Child Protective Services hounding them and ripping away their children for “neglect” or “abuse,” often because they don’t have anyone to leave their kids with while they go to work.

Certainly the family is a cesspool of frustration, coercion and abuse—whether the bourgeois “one man on one woman for life” model or that of the Mormon polygamists. But it is almost universally far, far worse to fall into the clutches of this barbaric and brutal government’s institutions. Youth who try to escape their families have nowhere to go—and often end up imprisoned in detention centers where they are more likely to be beaten and raped than “rehabilitated.” We fight for free, 24-hour, quality day-care centers and for safe shelters for youth and teens as well as for free contraceptives and abortion on demand and other quality medical care, and for significantly lowering the “age of adulthood.” These are basic measures to help those most in need escape desperate poverty and the straitjacket of the family, without bringing in the cops and prison system.

Fundamentally, the oppression of women and youth is rooted in the institution of the family, which arose with the advent of private property as the mechanism for passing property from one generation to the next, with the monogamous wife supposedly ensuring the heirs’ paternity. For the masses, the role of the family is to instill respect for authority and to act as a conservatizing force. Together with religion, the institution of the family serves to instill a morality that proscribes anything that deviates from the family ideal—such as premarital and gay sex. It reinforces, as Friedrich Engels put it, “the supremacy of the man over the woman, and the individual family as the economic unit of society” (The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State [1884]). Thus, the burden of raising the next generation of workers rests on the family. We wrote in “Free Tom Green! Mormon Polygamists: Leave Them Alone!” (WV No. 764, 14 September 2001):

“The family structure—whether monogamous or polygamous—necessarily oppresses women. However, not everybody understands the source of their oppression, and people do all sorts of things that are undoubtedly bad for them that the state still has no business throwing them in prison for. As Marxists we understand that the family serves a real social purpose and cannot simply be ‘abolished,’ even in a workers state, but must be replaced with alternate social institutions.”

The material basis for women’s liberation can be established only through workers revolutions internationally. In power, the working class would abolish the capitalist private property and inheritance system and socialize the current functions of the family—providing communal kitchens, childcare and health care—thus freeing women from the burden of child-rearing and household slavery.

Regarding religion itself—Mormon or otherwise—our attitude is that it is reactionary superstition counterposed to Marxist materialism. We fight to purge religion from public education and government policy. Religion provides moral justification for exploitation and reactionary prejudices. It deflects workers’ struggles into piety and acquiescence to bourgeois power. But religious beliefs cannot be “abolished” by government decree; they will only wither away when material want is overcome and the oppressed masses no longer feel the need to resort to the supernatural to provide for what is, in capitalist society, unattainable—the hope for a better life, which for billions of people today can only be dreamt of in “heavenly” fantasies.

Persecution by the bourgeois state of religious practices targets smaller, fringe sects or oppressed minorities, reinforcing the moral authority of “mainstream” religions and, more importantly, the bourgeois state itself. We demand the complete separation of church and state, as we seek to relegate religion to the confines of personal belief, and oppose state persecution of religious beliefs. Just as we defend the Church of Scientology against state repression in Germany, we defend the Fundamentalist Mormons, who are being targeted for practices that are nobody’s business but their own.

Given the anti-sex hysteria and ignorance it promulgates, the bourgeois state finds it easy to justify the most barbaric of penalties and intrusions into people’s private lives under the guise of protecting children from sexual abuse. America’s rulers are not interested in protecting children; they are the main oppressors and killers of children, from the black and Latino youth gunned down by cops in the ghettos to the hundreds of thousands of children killed in the predatory wars waged by the American imperialists around the world.

The Eldorado raid is frighteningly reminiscent of the Waco massacre in 1993, when Democratic president Bill Clinton and his attorney general Janet Reno’s thugs ended a three-month siege of the racially integrated Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, by burning alive 86 men, women and children. The guise was alleged “child abuse.” And we do not forget the MOVE massacre in 1985, when the Philadelphia police, led by black Democratic mayor Wilson Goode, and the federal government conspired to firebomb the mainly black back-to-nature MOVE commune, killing eleven people, including five children, and destroying an entire black neighborhood. The Waco and MOVE massacres loom as a reminder of how far the bloody American bourgeois state will go.

While the Eldorado Mormons may be a peculiar sect, they are not the ones wielding the massive apparatus of death that is the bourgeois state, whether administered by the Republicans or Democrats. Just as women’s liberation requires a socialist revolution that expropriates the capitalist class and lays the foundation for the replacement of the family, so the workers and oppressed of this country cannot liberate themselves without understanding that the bourgeois state, with its cops, judges and prisons, must be smashed and replaced by a workers state

*The Rich Are Different From You and I- A Word From Ernest Hemingway

Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of "My Man Godfrey", starring William Powell and Carole Lombard. The Hemingway point is in the post a comment section at the bottom of this entry.


My Man Godfrey, William Powell, Carol Lombard, 1936, black and white

F. Scott Fitzgerald famously is reputed to have said that the very rich are different from you and I. Well, hell we knew that. Nevertheless the premise of this little 1930's class comedy seeks to turn that proposition on its head, at least partially. William Powell as 1930's down and out hobo (although in reality just another scion of a rich family looking to find himself and his place in the world during the Great Depression) is singled out to be a reclamation project (as the family butler, of course) for the Mayfair swells, a society family of crazies.

In the process that family learns some lessons about how the other half lives and about the universal proposition that it is nice to be nice in the world. Especially in need of that lesson is a class conscious, ruling class conscious that is, daughter who is the foil for old Godfrey's antics. Add a little off-hand romance by Powell with a batty younger daughter played by Carol Lombard and all's well that ends well. Except, as I recall during the later part of the 1930's, the period when this 'slice of life' film was produced, there were little things like the Little Steel Strike Massacre, the sit-downs in order to organize the automobile industry in Michigan and myriad other actions to `level the playing field' with the rich. But, my friends, that is another story.

William Powell, although always identified in my mind as the 'society' detective Nick Charles (with his lovely Nora, played by Myrna Loy, and the ever-present Asta)plays it straight here. Carol Lombard is, well, Carol Lombard a fine comedic actress. So suspend your disbelief and take this funny look at the class struggle for what it is worth.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Tidings From The "Good" War


Stage Door Canteen, All-star cast, black and white,1943

War propaganda comes in all forms, from harsh gung-ho chauvinist to the melodramatic. This film is in the melodramatic form of a patriotic homage to what is now called in the mass media, at least, the "greatest generation", my parents generation during World War II. Here we have a thin story line about three GI's landing at New York's famous Stage Door Canteen to be feted, wined and dined by the toast of the international entertainment world, including Benny Goodman, Peggy Lee, Ray Bolger (doing a great dance routine), Gypsy Rose Lee, etc. Plus there is a little off-hand romance between the boys and the off-limits hostesses. But love will out in the end.

The dialogue, is to say the least to the modern ear, stilted. I assume, however, that it got its job done by boosting morale on the home front letting one shed a little tear for the boys going off to fight the enemies of the day. If you wanted to know what moved you in your youth or that of your parents or grandparents- what made you or them laugh, cry, sing and dance- then here is a slice of that for you.

Note:I do not usually comment on technical quality of films but, given war rationing, the film seems, well filmy, and somewhat out of focus.