Saturday, December 26, 2009

*On The Slogan- "For A Freedom/Workers Party"- A Note For Discussion

Click on the title to link to the "End U.S. Wars" Web site for ex-Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney's address (scroll down) that is related to the commentary below.

The following note, although written on December 20, 2009, belongs with the entry for Cynthia McKinney’s speech below, originally posted on December 17, 2007, because a point I made in that entry is the focus of the comment here. Thanks, Internet blogger technology for this one.

Markin comment:

Note: December 20, 2009-Someone with whom I shared this entry on another blog that I belong to questioned me on the formulation of a “freedom/workers party” when I, off-handedly, called on Cynthia McKinney to break from all bourgeois parties and come over and work with us. He noted that on all previous occasions when I had evoked the “workers party fighting for a workers government” slogan there was not “freedom” used as part of the formulation. The comrade had a good point and I want to expand on it here.

Frankly, part of the use of the word “freedom”, in addition to the traditional fighting slogan of building a workers party that fights for a worker government, was a somewhat sloppy, cryptic and not fully thought out way of expressing a concept that I think is worth thinking about for the future as we fight for a class-struggle workers party, for socialist revolution, and for the goal of a classless international communist society. As I have repeatedly emphasized in this space a black working class-led trans-class black liberation struggle will be an important component in the fight for the coming American socialist revolution. That strategic perspective still holds true today, perhaps more so.

That said, I do not think that raising the slogan under discussion over the past few decades would have made political sense. The "freedom" idea brings back memories of civil rights days, and while that battle was narrowly centered on democratic rights, and, ultimately, did not finish the black liberation struggle, not by a long way, the central focus thereafter became bringing that liberation as a part of general propaganda for the communist program. However, some of the factors that underlined that perspective have eroded somewhat over the past few decades since the civil rights days, mainly the hellish effects that the deindustrialization (and de-unionization, which went hand and hand with it) of the American economy has had on the black, and now, other minority populations like Hispanics and immigrants.

Centered on the historic black question particularly, by almost every statistic from unemployment rates, net worth, educational opportunities, foreclosure rates and prison incarcerations rates (always a sure way to tell the real status of blacks, especially young black males) the black population has taken it on the chin. Although those conditions have been addressed in the general propaganda previously I think we need to think about bringing in an additional concept again that reflects that social reality today.

Formulations placing a special emphasis on the black question have a rather rich, if somewhat spotty, history in the American communist movement going back to the founding of the party back in 1919. Some of it centered on the black struggle in the South in the 1920s and 1930s when, despite the erroneous “third period” Stalinist Communist International policy of calling for a truncated form of national self-determination for blacks in some mythical “black belt”, the American Communist Party was in the vanguard of the black liberation struggle. My sense of the use of the slogan, however, does not go back that far. I am thinking more of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, when it was being led (or rather misled) by the black preachers and other middle class black elements (supported by, mainly, Northern white liberals, including me) whose strategy was a total political reliance on the good offices of the racist Democratic Party, a party in turn dependent for its national majorities on the hard segregationist South.

The most graphic example of this reliance came at the 1964 Democratic Convention in Atlantic City where Lyndon Johnson sought to be crowned the candidate of that party in his own right. The most burning question of the convention, however, was the seating of the traditional racist Mississippi Democratic Party. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, led by the heroic civil rights militant Fannie Lou Hamer, was pieced off there by the national Democratic Party in the interests of… winning in 1964 against the arch-villain, Senator Barry Goldwater. Sound familiar? With those civil rights struggles still in progress (and in desperate need of some socialist intervention, not the abstention, or worst, of the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party) it was a natural spot to call for a “Freedom/Workers Party”, putting class and race issues together in a very algebraic way. And that brings us to the present.

Obviously, the exact conditions and questions posed today are not the same as then. However, I would argue that with the economic and social conditions in the black communities today (think, most graphically, of New Orleans, Los Angeles and, tragically, the decimation of black working class Detroit) that this slogan is due for a 21st century reincarnation. As an effective propaganda tool when confronting the first black elected president of the American imperium, Barack Obama, who has gone out of his way to avoid the burning issues of the black communities, I do not think I am being outlandish.

As for the call for Cynthia McKinney to break with the bourgeois parties in order to pose this slogan at this time. That was something of a convenient ruse. If Cynthia McKinney, personally, came over on our programmatic basis fine. If not- we still stand for a “freedom/workers party”. This question, I think, is still at the discussion stage. I, for example, am not sure that "freedom" is the right word for a shorthand way to address the crying need for a communist solution to the black liberation struggle. Nor are the special issues to be raised etched in stone, Although one should center on physically saving the mainly black inner-cities with massive public works at union rates. More on this later. What do you think?

*First Rumbling From The Black Community On The Afghan War Front- Ex- Congreewoman Cynthia McKinney At The December 12, 2009 Anti-War Rally

Click on the title to link, via the End U.S. Wars Web site (scroll down), to ex-Congresswoman (and 2008 Green Party candidate) Cynthia McKinney's address at the December 12, 2009 emergency anti-war rally in Washington, D.C..

This entry was originally posted on this site on December 17, 2009 as stated below, for informational purposes. Of course, the best laid plans don not always work out as my comment about the need for a freedom/workers party raised some eyebrows. Thus, I have moved this entry to be tied into today's posted commentary on the subject of the slogan of the freedom/workers party.

Markin comment:

This speech is mainly placed in this space for informational purposes as an example of the beginning of the first serious rumblings in the black community against the Obama administration. We communists have long known that the Obama 'honeymoon' is over on the question of Afghanistan (if he ever had one on that issue since one of his first key acts was a little commented-on troop escalation in February, 2009) but also is over on other issues that may be more pressing to others, especially blacks and Hispanics who overwhelmingly supported his candidacy, and who have been hit hard by these tough economic times.

My comment on this address is- Cynthia McKinney break with all the bourgeois parties, including the Green Party, and come fight for a freedom/worker party. That is where the future lies- get on board now because the train is leaving the station- and Obama and the other capitalist party politicians, large and small, are not on it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

*In Search Of The Great Working Class Love Song- Richard Thompson's "1952 Vincent Black Lightning"

Click on the title to link to a “YouTube” film clip of Richard Thompson (yes, that Richard Thompson from way back in Fairport Convention days) performing his classic tale of true working class (maybe lumpen?) love, “ 1952 Vincent Black Lightning”.

Markin comment:

This entry started life as a question posed by one of my class officer high school classmates with who I am in occasional contact, and who has this nasty habit of asking me to write questions in her incessant quest to know every flimsy detail of what, if anything, goes through of the minds of our well-aged fellow classmates. I have only myself to blame on this one though because I started off a couple of years ago actually performing this ‘service’ when I, innocently, thought there was some limit to such inquiries. In any case, as is my wont I turned her question around slightly to reflect the high tone class-struggle nature of this site, and in appreciation of the ethos of our old beaten down working class town.


Yes, I know, just when you thought it was safe to, discretely, peruse this page without having to be bombarded by some outlandish commentary from a fellow classmate here he is again asking those infernal, eternal questions. Well, yes. For some time now I have been doing a little of this and a little of that, including some writing, in order to make ends meet. But now I have time for some serious writing and so it goes.

Today’s subject is prompted by a question that I have been asked about before - what music were you listening to back in the day? Well, for me at least that subject is exhausted. I no longer want to hear about how you fainted over “Teen Angel,” Johnny Angel,” or “Earth Angel”. Moreover, enough of “You’re Gonna Be Sorry,” “I’m Sorry,” and “Who’s Sorry Now”. And no more of “Tell Laura I Love Her,” “Oh Donna,” and “I Had A Girl Her Name Was Joanne”, or whatever woman’s name comes to mind. It is time, boys and girls, to move on to other musical influences from our more mature years.

But why, as the headline suggests, the search for the great working class love song? Well, hello! Our old town was (and is, as far as I can tell from a very recent trip to the old place) a quintessential working class town (especially before the deindustrialization of America). At least the great majority of us came from working class or working poor homes. Most songs, especially popular songs, reflect a kind of “one size fits all” lyric that could apply to anyone. What I am looking for is songs that in some way reflect that working class ethos that is still in our bones, whether we recognize it or not.

Needless to say, since I have posed the question, I have my choice already prepared. As will become obvious, once you read the lyrics, this song reflects my take on the male angst in the age old love problem. However, any woman classmate is more than free to choice songs that reflect her female angst angle (ouch, for that awkward formulation) on the class hit parade.

1952 Vincent Black Lightning-Richard Thompson

Said Red Molly to James that's a fine motorbike
A girl could feel special on any such like
Said James to Red Molly, well my hat's off to you
It's a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952
And I've seen you at the corners and cafes it seems
Red hair and black leather, my favorite color scheme
And he pulled her on behind
And down to Box Hill they did ride

Said James to Red Molly, here's a ring for your right hand
But I'll tell you in earnest I'm a dangerous man
I've fought with the law since I was seventeen
I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine
Now I'm 21 years, I might make 22
And I don't mind dying, but for the love of you
And if fate should break my stride
Then I'll give you my Vincent to ride

Come down, come down, Red Molly, called Sergeant McRae
For they've taken young James Adie for armed robbery
Shotgun blast hit his chest, left nothing inside
Oh, come down, Red Molly to his dying bedside
When she came to the hospital, there wasn't much left
He was running out of road, he was running out of breath
But he smiled to see her cry
And said I'll give you my Vincent to ride

Says James, in my opinion, there's nothing in this world
Beats a 52 Vincent and a red headed girl
Now Nortons and Indians and Greeveses won't do
They don't have a soul like a Vincent 52
He reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys
He said I've got no further use for these
I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome
Swooping down from heaven to carry me home
And he gave her one last kiss and died
And he gave her his Vincent to ride

Come on now, after reading these lyrics is any mere verbal profession of undying love, any taking somebody on a ride to some two-bit carnival ("Jersey Girl"), some buying a gold ring ("James Alley Blues")or some chintzy flowers going to mean anything? Hell, the guy is giving her his BIKE. Case closed.

*Not Ready For Prime Time Class Struggle -Watch What Yo Eat-Please- "Water For Chocolate"-A Film Review

Click on the title to link to a "YouTube"film clip of a scene from the film, "Water For Chocolate".

DVD Review

Water For Chocolate, (in Spanish, English sub-titles), Marco Leonardi, Lumi Rivera, Walt Disney Video, 2000.

Apparently once you get on the topic of food there is no end to commentary on the subject. Recently I reviewed the food-centered “Julie and Julia” about the marathon efforts of a modern day blogger to race through and prepare every recipe in the famous Child’s cook book. Now we have a little Mexican import that has the mysteries, portents and usages of food, if not as the central plot then as an important prop in the narration of the story.

And that story? A tale straight out of the “magical realism” trend that is still, mainly, in vogue these days in novelistic treatments. In short, a tale of love, longing for love, love thwarted, love twisted, conventional family life Mexican style gone awry, old time views on the place of women and children in the nuclear family structure and all glue together by…endless scenes of the preparation of this and that in the ever present kitchen. A nice sent-up of a film and a cautionary tale or two to make one think. As I pointed out in the Child’s review though, I hope I do not have to revive that old feudal tradition of having someone taste my food before I eat it.

*Not Ready For Prime Time Class Struggle-In The Time Of The 1960s Great Teenage Breakout- "Hairspray" - A Film Review

Click on the title to link to a "YouTube" of one of the songs from "Hairspray", "You Can't Stop The Beat".

DVD Review

Hairspray, starring John Travolta, Christopher Walkens, Michelle Pffeifer, directed by John Waters, 2007

If I were reviewing this off-beat musical comedy from a political perspective I would have to classify this film about the virtues of show tunes as a tool for racial harmony in early 1960s Baltimore, before the out-front racial polarization of the city was exposed to the world and Spiro Agnew hit the scene, as an integrationist’s daydream, and a segregationist’s nightmare. And at that political level the theme just doesn’t work, although the sub-theme about accepting differences (racial, ethnic, gender, size) has a certain appeal. But all of this is to take this sweet fluff of a film way beyond those rationale political parameters.

What does work? Well, a nice little odd-ball, not exactly cookie-cutter American family, circa 1960, with some big dreams and some big women get to play center stage in the quest for the American dream, or one of the early 1960s variant of it- stardom in the music and/or television world. The current “American Idol” is only the latest in a long line of such efforts. Here the plot revolves around becoming “top dog” on one of the old after school dance shows that were a staple of 1950s-early 1960s television to keep restless kids under control for a few hours until dad got home. To that extent the plot is just a ruse for some great songs about those above-mentioned social differences and how to deal with those differences in a quirky and dreamy interracial way.

The real kicker here though are the performances of John Travolta (yes, that John Travolta) as the over-sized mother, Edna, who can still dance up a storm, the usually bad guy-playing Christopher Walken as the supportive and skinny dad, Wilbur, and normally good girl, and always femme fatale Michelle Pffeifer, as the plotting television station manager makes this thing appealing to a non-teenager. And, of course Queen Latifah being, well…. Queen Latifah. The high school kids led by Wilbur and Edna's daughter Tracy (Nikki Blonsky), black and white, good or bad, sweet or vicious are just there to glue this thing together. Watch this couple of hours of an integrationist’s daydream.

Hairspray Cast - Come So Far (Got So Far To Go) Lyrics

Hey old friend, let's look back
On the crazy clothes we wore

Elijah Kelly
Ain't it fun to look back
And to see it's all been done before

All those nights together
Are a special memory

And I can't wait for tomorrow
Just as long as you're
dancing next to me

Cause it's so clear
Every year
We get stronger

What's gone is gone

The past is the past

Turn the radio up

And then hit the gas
Cause . . .

I know we've Come So Far
But we've Got So Far To Go
I know the road seems long
But it won't be long till it's time to go
So, most days we'll take it fast
And some nights lets we'll it slow
I know we've Come So Far
But baby, baby
We've Got So Far To Go

Hey old friend, together
Side by side and year by year

The road was filled with twists
and turns
Oh but that's the road that
got us here

Let's move past the bad times
But before those memories fade

Let's forgive but not forget
And learn from all the mistakes we made

Cause it's so clear
Every year
We get stronger
So don't give up
And don't say when
And just get back on the road again
Cause . . .
I know we've Come So Far
But we've Got So Far To Go
I know the road seems long
But it won't be long till it's
time to go
So, most days we'll take it fast
And some nights we'll take it slow
I know we've Come So Far
but baby, baby
We've Got So Far To Go
Hey old friend come along for the ride
There's plenty of room so jump inside
The highway's rocky every now and then
But it so much better than
where I've been
Just keep movin, at your own speed
Your heart is all the compass
you'll ever need
Let's keep cruisin the road we're on
Cause the rear view mirror only shows
what's gone, gone, gone
Got so far to go
Oh its so clear

Every year
We get stronger

So shine that light
Take my hand
And let's dance into the promised land
Cause . . .
I know we've Come So Far
But we've Got So Far To Go
I know the road seems long
But it won't be long till it's
time to go
So, most days we'll take it fast
And some nights we'll take it slow
I know we've Come So Far
but baby, baby
We've Got So Far To Go

[Thanks to Lance Evans for lyrics]

[Thanks to Karina, Demetre Lindsey, Angelica for corrections

Monday, December 21, 2009

*From The Steve Lendman Blog- Obama At One

Click on the title to link to an analysis of Barack Obama's first year in office as Commander-in-Chief of the American imperium.

Markin comment:

I am glad Steve Lendman found the time and interest to do this analysis of Obama's first year. (There is a second part of the blog that you can link to as well). I know I did not want to, nor did I intent to take on such a worthless project. The only thing I could add here is the general proposition that I have been guided by since it looked like Obama was going to become the next American imperial president- After Obama- Us!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

*The Ghost Classmate- A Personal Story And, Maybe, A Cautionary Tale

Every once in a while, although as much recently, some old high school classmates that I have stayed in touch with remind me that it has been 45 years since we went though those hallowed hall of the old school. That, knowledge, has on occasion sparked more than a few entries in this space. The following tale, although not filled with the humor that I tried to instill in of my earlier efforts, continues in that vein.

Not everyone who went through our old high school survived to tell the tale, or at least the way the tale was suppose to be told, or how they wanted it told. Moreover, we, as a class, after 45 years, are long enough in the tooth to have accumulated a growing list of causalities, of the wounded and broken, of the beaten down and disheveled. This entry is going to be about one of our classmates who got lost in the shuffle somehow and it only here, and only by me, that he gets his struggles voiced. I will not mention his name for you may have sat across from him in class, or given him what passed for "the nod" in the hallway back in the day, or had something of a ¿crush¿ on him because from pictures of him taken back then he certainly had that 'something' physically all the girls were swooning over. Let's just call him, as the title for this entry suggests- the ghost classmate (and in the interest of saving precious space in order to tell his story, shorten it to GC).

Now I will surprise you, I think. I did not know GC in our school days; at least I have no recollection of him from that time. I met him, or rather he met me, when we were in our early thirties in front one of the skid row run-down "hotels" that dotted the low rent (then) streets of the waterfront of San Francisco. My reason for being there is a tale for another day, after all this is GC's story, but rest assured I was not in that locale on vacation, nor was he. Ironically, at our first meeting we were both in the process of pan-handling the same area when the light of recognition hit him. After the usual exchange of personal information, and assorted other lies we spent some weeks together doing, as they say, the best we could. Then, one night, he split taking all his, and my, worldly possessions.

Fast forward. A few years later, when I was in significantly better circumstances, if not exactly in the clover, I was walking down Beacon Street in Boston when someone across the street on the Common started to yell my name. Well, the long and short of it, was that it was old GC, looking even more disheveled than when I had last seen him. After an exchange of personal data and other details I bought him some dinner. The important thing to know, however, is that from that day until very recently I have always been in touch with the man as he has descended further and further into the depths of the skid row ethos. But enough of the rough out-line, let me get to the heart of the matter.

I have left GC's circumstances deliberated vague until now. The reader might assume, given the circumstances of our first meeting, GC to be a man driven to the edge by alcohol, or drugs or any of the other common maladies that break a man¿s body, or his spirit. Those we can relate to, if not fully understand. No, GC was broken by his own almost psychotically-driven need to succeed, and in the process constantly failing. He had been, a number of times, diagnosed as clinically depressed. I am not sure I can convey, this side of a psychiatrist's couch, that condition in language the reader could comprehend. All that I can say is this man was so inside himself with the need to do the right thing, the honorable thing, the 'not bad' thing, that he never could do any of those. What a terrible rock to have to keep rolling up the mountain.

Here, however, to my mind is the real tragic part of this story, and the one point that I hope you will take away from this narration. GC and I talked many times about our youthful dreams, about how we were going to conquer this or that "mountain" and go on to the next one, how we would right this or that grievous wrong in the world, and about the, to borrow the English revolutionary and poet John Milton's words from his famous "Paradise Lost", need to discover the "the paradise within thee, happier far". Over the years though GC's dreams got measurably smaller and smaller, and then smaller still until there were no more dreams, only existence. That, my friends, is the stuff of tragedy, not conjured up Shakespearean tragedy. but real tragedy.

*Not Quite Ready For Prime Time Class Struggle- The Art Of Fine Cooking For The Servantless- “Julie and Julia”- A Film Review

Click on the title to link to a "The Sunday Boston Globe", December 13, 2009, review of writer/cook/apprentice butcher Julie Powell, author of the blog and book reviewed below.

Every once in a while there is something to review that I have watched, listened to or read that just does not fit the 'high' standards of this space. Something that is lacking in the way of lessons to be drawn for the pushing the class struggle forward. Or, put another way, this writer, on occasion has the need to stretch out and write something whimsical. Today commentary is one such example. So be it.

DVD Review

Julie and Julia, starring Meryl Streep, directed by Nora Ephron, 2009

I can boil water. My “soul mate” can boil water and, in addition, throw something into the pot. That, sadly, is the extent of our culinary acumen. That condition, nevertheless, does not preclude said “soul mate” from enthusiastically partaking in the recent mania for all things cookery. This last sentence is a round-about way of getting to the why of reviewing this recent film centered on a parallel presentation of the lives of a modern (maybe, post-modern, blog and all), alienated, middle class woman who gets caught up in a French cooking frenzy and the American post-World War II “queen” of that domain, the alienated, upper middle class woman, Julia Child.

Now it would be quite easy to sneer at the original premise of the plot- connecting the high-pitched old PBS icon Child with a "thoroughly modern Millie", Julie, in a fluffy, feel good piece of film about the travails of finding meaning in modern day life. Or to look askance at those old OSS (predecessor of the CIA) connections of old Julia and her husband, Paul. Or, more interestingly, the noblesse oblige premise of an intelligent woman with time on her hands behind her manic struggle to publish a book on fine French cooking for the average, servantless American housewife.

On most days I would be more than happy to throw some barbs that way. But here is the “skinny”. This is just , in its own way, a funny look at a couple of slices of Americana. Beside that, who has time to be critical, in the above-mentioned ways, when you have to concentrate on watching Meryl Streep BE Julia Child. (Director Nora Ephron, apparently, just let Streep goes through her paces, thankfully). As always that actress turns in a sterling performance, no matter what the part. Moreover, if those are not good and sufficient reasons for taking a dive on this subject, please remember that “soul mate”, who loved this film. I do not want to have to revive, in our household, the old tradition of having someone else taste my food before I eat it.