Saturday, February 27, 2010

*From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"- The Fight Around "No Platform For Fascists" In Britain- A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to a "Workers Vanguard", Number 952, dated February 12, 2010,article,"Britain: Fascists Feed On Labor Party Racism".

Markin comment:

It is always important for communist militants to get the position being polemicized in favor of here, "No Platform For Fascists", right. On some issues there is, even within our narrower communist perspective of driving the class struggle forward, more than one possible right way to look at the situation. This is not one of them. We have nothing to "debate" with the para-military thugs, or rather we will "debate" them in the streets when, and if, the time comes. One of the most painful, and dearly bought, lessons that we have learned from the communist struggles of the 20th century is that this rabble has to be stopped in the egg. While almost everyone, including communists, prefers to work in a democratic environment we are are under no obligation to defend the rights of fascists to do anything. One of the problems in the United States, and this comment extends to Britain as well, is that we have lived in a relatively democratic society for so long that we have gotten "soft" around some of these issues of who our enemies are, and what they will do to us if they ever get a chance. We must not give the fascists that chance.

I will invoke a little personal history here to make a point. I do not know if it was some working class instinct, or just growing up in a place in society where the working poor and the lumpen elements from whom the fascists recruits their "shock troops" intersected but I have always had a visceral hatred for the fascists. Even when I was nothing but an up-and-coming young liberal politico on the make I always disagreed with the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) so-called absolute defense of free speech that also encompassed the rights of fascists to that privilege. The most graphic example of that in my youth was their defense of George Lincoln Rockwell, leader of the American Nazis, to spew his garbage. Later, during the 1970s the ACLU went on to disgrace themselves further by defending the right of fascists to march through heavily Jewish, heavily Holocaust survivor Skokie, Illinois. My blood still runs cold just thinking of that even today. And if anyone needs any further reminder of what we are are up against- Remember Germany 1933(and 1923, for that matter, when Hitler first raised his head and the German revolution that could have changed things around failed to materialize paving his way forward), Remember Greensboro, North Carolina 1979, and Remember our slogan-Never Again! "No Platform For Fascists"!

*Notes From The Old Home Town- On "Now" Photos From Classmates-Ouch!

Click on the headline to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Iris Dement performing "Our Town".

Markin comment:

Okay, okay I know this is not related to the song mentioned at the top of the story but I just wanted an excuse to listen to my "Arkie Angel".


Not all the entries in this space are connected to politics, although surely most of them can be boiled down into some political essence, if you try hard enough. The following is one of those instances where trying to gain any “political traction”, or as I am fond of saying, drawing any “lessons” would be foolhardy. I should also note that this entry is part of a continuing, if sporadic, series of “trips down memory lane” provoked by a fellow high school classmate who has been charged with keeping tabs on old classmates and their doings, even those of old-line communists like this writer. Go figure?


This comment was provoked by viewing a number of "now" photos of fellow old geezer classmates. As I noted in the headline-Ouch!


On “Now” Photos- For Robert F.

“’Cause I’ve memorized each line in your face and not even death can ever erase the story they tell to me”-a line from the folksinger/songwriter Iris DeMent’s hauntingly beautiful song, “After You’re Gone”. (You can Google for the rest of the lyrics. Some of her music is on “YouTube but I could not find this one.)

Well, of course, those lyrics only apply to our male classmates. After all Iris is singing about her gone man. I do not, age of sexual equality or not, want to extend their application to our sister classmates because I do not need to have every cyber-stone in the universe thrown at me. But those same lyrics do bring me to the purpose of today’s entry. As part of getting a 'feel’ for writing about the old high school I peruse the class profiles and a number of you have placed your current photos there, although a number of people, including myself, are apparently camera-shy. Some, however, like the, to be polite, bleary-eyed Chase brothers are not at all shy. (By the way, Jimmie and John, and others as well, what is up with the hats? We are Kennedy-era boys and hats were not part of our uniform.) Or like the born-again "muscle man", Bill Cady, formerly mentioned in this space as the slender, silky-strided, gracefully-gaited class star runner. That little fact forms the basis for my comment.

I have to admit that I have been startled by some of the photos. Many of them seem to have been taken by your grandchildren just before their naps. Isn’t the digital age supposed to have made the camera instantly user-friendly? Why all the soft-focus, looking through a fish tank kind of shots. And why does everyone seem to be have been photographed down the far end of some dark corridor or by someone about six miles away? Nobody expects Bachrach-quality photos but something is amiss here.

In contrast, a new arrival on this photo scene, Robert Flame, has found just the right approach. Initially, Robert placed a recent shot of himself on his profile page. Frankly, the old codger looked like he was wanted in about six states for “kiting” checks, and maybe had done a little “time”. More recently, however, his page has been graced with a stock photo provided by the site, a tastefully-shot, resplendent, wide old tree. Wise choice. Automatically I now associate Robert with the tree of life, with oneness with the universe, with solidity, with the root of matter in him, and with bending but not breaking. Moreover, I do not have to suppress a need to dial 911, but rather can think of Robert as one who walks with kings, as a sage for the ages. And nothing can ever erase the story that tells to me.

*Notes From The Old Home Town- The "Long March"

Click on the headline to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Jerry Lee Lewis performing his classic, "High School Confidential". Wow! And why not.

Markin comment:

Not all the entries in this space are connected to politics, although surely most of them can be boiled down into some political essence, if you try hard enough. The following is one of those instances where trying to gain any “political traction”, or as I am fond of saying drawing any “lessons” would be foolhardy. I should also note that this entry is part of a continuing, if sporadic, series of “trips down memory lane” provoked by a fellow high school classmate who has been charged with keeping tabs on old classmates and their doings, even those of old-line communists like this writer.
Go figure?


This little number is a "tribute" to the fact that this year is the 50th anniversary of our graduation from middle school (then called junior high school) Ouch!

On “The Long March” From The Old High School

No, this will not be one of those everlasting screeds about the meaning of existent, the plight of modern humankind or our trials and tribulations since leaving the friendly confines of the old high school those many years ago. We have been down that road before in this space and, moreover, this is a lite-user site and cannot stand that kind of weighty matter. Nor is it to be an exegesis on the heroic “long march” of the Chinese Red Army in the 1930s, although that is an interesting story. For that you can turn to the old time journalist Edgar Snow’s eye-witness account, “Red Star Over China”. Today’s entry is much more mundane, although come to think it, in its own way it may have historic significance. The “long march" in question is the one that some members of the class took from the old high school over to the new junior high(now Middle School) in the 7th grade.

Recently I have sent out a blizzard of e-mails to virtually anyone on the class lists that I could by any stretch of the imagination call upon to help me out with a problem that I am having. So some of you already know the gist of this entry and can move on. For the rest, here is the ‘skinny’:

"... I will get right to the point, although I feel a little awkward writing to classmates that I did not know at school or have not seen for a long time. I, moreover, do not want to get tough with senior citizens, particularly those grandmothers and grandfathers out there, but I need your help. And I intend to get it by any means necessary. As you may, or may not, know over the past couple of years I have, episodically, placed entries about the old days at the old high school on any class-related Internet site that I could find. Some of the entries have come from a perusal of the 1964 “Manet", but, mainly from memory, my memory, and that is the problem. I need to hear other voices, other takes on our experience. Recently I have been reduced to dragging out elementary school daydreams and writing in the third person just to keep things moving. So there is our dilemma.

The question of the “inner demons” that have driven me to this work we will leave aside for now. What I need is ideas, and that is where you come in. This year, as you are painfully aware, those of us who went to the Junior High (now Middle School) are marking our 50th anniversary since graduation. Ouch! So what I am looking for is junior high memories, especially of the “long march” from the old high school over to the then new junior high when we were in 7th grade that I remember hearing much about at the time. I was not at the school at that time, having moved back to the old town in the spring of 1959 so I need to be filled in again. However any story will do. If this is too painful then tell me your hopes and dreams. Hell, I will listen to your frustrations. From back then. I already ‘know’ your nicks and bruises since graduation; we will leave that for another day. Better still write them up and place them on the message boards on your own.

And what if you decide not to cooperate. Well, then we will go back to that “any means necessary” statement above. Do you really want it broadcast all over the Internet about what you did, or did not do, at the beach, Squaw Rock, or wherever I decide to place you, and with whom, on that hot, sultry July night in the summer of 1963? No, I thought not. So come on, let us show future generations of cyberspace-fixated old high school graduates that the Class of 1964 knew the stuff of dreams, and how to write about them. And seek immortality. Friendly regards, Markin"

Friday, February 26, 2010

*On The Question Of The Occupation Of Haiti- A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to a "WBUR" NPR entry concerning the role of the American military in the dire humanitarian situation in Haiti.

Markin comment:

This situation requires almost daily monitoring in order to evaluate (or rather, reevaluate) the question of the call for American troops withdrawal from Haiti.

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Bob Dylan's "Only A Pawn In Their Game"-In Honor Of Slain Civil Rights Leader Medgar Evers

Click on the title to link a "YouTube" film clip of Bob Dylan performing "Only A Pawn In Their Game" at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963.

February Is Black History Month

In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.

Only A Pawn In Their Game

A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers' blood.
A finger fired the trigger to his name.
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man's brain
But he can't be blamed
He's only a pawn in their game.

A South politician preaches to the poor white man,
"You got more than the blacks, don't complain.
You're better than them, you been born with white skin," they explain.
And the Negro's name
Is used it is plain
For the politician's gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game.

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid,
And the marshals and cops get the same,
But the poor white man's used in the hands of them all like a tool.
He's taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
'Bout the shape that he's in
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game.

From the poverty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks,
And the hoof beats pound in his brain.
And he's taught how to walk in a pack
Shoot in the back
With his fist in a clinch
To hang and to lynch
To hide 'neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain't got no name
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game.

Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught.
They lowered him down as a king.
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He'll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain:
Only a pawn in their game.

Copyright ©1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music

Thursday, February 25, 2010

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-Angela Davis Peddles Liberal Myths

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for black activist Angela Davis.

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Winter 1982-83 issue of "Women and Revolution" that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.


Angela Davis Peddles Liberal Myths
Women, Blacks and Class Struggle

Women, Race and Class
by Angela Y. Davis Random House, Inc., New York 1981

The most striking thing about Angela Davis' book, Women, Race and Class, is what's not in it. Davis, a philosophy professor and member of the central committee of the reformist Communist Party (CP), achieved an international reputation as a black radical associated with the Black Panther Party. Framed up in 1970 as part of the massive cop/FBI vendetta against the Panthers, Davis spent over a year in prison before being acquitted. Her relationship with Panther martyr George Jackson was even featured in a slick Hollywood movie. To those not blinded by the celluloid, Davis remains a living symbol of the reconciliation of the militant, eclectic Panthers with the mainstream Stalinist reformism of the CP. Yet in this set of liberal-oriented essays, Davis doesn't even mention the Black Panther Party. The explosive '60s of militant black nationalism, the New Left women's movement, etc. is sunk without a trace.

Of course the Communist Party, then, was generally written off by the New Left and the best of the black radicals as rotten old reformist hacks irrevelant to the struggle. But the New Left's rejection of CP-style "coalitionism" with the Democrats was falsely equated with a rejection of working-class politics in general. The New Left's "answer" to CP sellouts was not revolutionary Marxist program, but eclectic Maoist/Third World-ist ideology and mindless militancy: "direct action," often physical confrontation with the state, passive enthusing over ghetto outbursts, "Off the Pig" rhetoric. When the inevitable capitalist reaction hit, the New Left either splintered or made its peace with the reformist status quo—and there was the CP, waiting with awful inertia to sell young militants its shopworn "strategy" of maneuvering within the capitalist system.

A watershed in the degeneration of the Panthers' militant impulse was the 1969 "United Front Against Fascism" conference in Oakland. Explicitly embracing the class-collaborationist formula of popular-front "theoretician" Dimitrov, the Panthers made a sharp right turn towards alliance with the liberal bourgeoisie, brokered by the CP. The CP had money and lawyers, which the Panthers, facing massive repression, desperately needed. The price was returning to the fold of Democratic Party "reform" politics (indeed Huey Newton became a Democratic politician a few years later). Groups to the left of the CP were kicked out of the conference, particularly Progressive Labor and the Spartacist League. The SL argued that the road to black liberation must lie through revolutionary alliance with the working class, through building an integretated vanguard party with black leadership to fight for socialist revolution. Women at the conference who objected to the Panthers' gross male chauvinism were also harassed.
Angela Davis, in the CP's orbit at least since her high school days, should have been delighted with the "rectification" of Panther politics in the direction of mainstream Stalinist reformism. But Women, Race and Class does not deal at all with the Panthers.

In fact it makes no real attempt to come to grips with the searing reality of black America today—the explosive contradiction of ghetto misery and potential proletarian power. Nor can Davis suggest a solution to women's oppression, which is rooted in the institution of the monogamous family, linked inextricably to private property and thus insoluble without a revolution overthrowing capitalist property relations. Then what is Women, Race and Class about? It is basically an attempt to find historical antecedents for the CP's eternal search for the "anti-monopoly coalition": an alliance of workers, women, blacks, youth, etc. with right-thinking imperialists, Democrats of good will, progressive Republicans, anti-racist bankers and so on.

In the CP's view, the only obstacle to unity is... divisiveness. Never mind the brutal, racist, imperialist system that sets black against white, employed against jobless, skilled against unskilled, everywhere you look. For Davis, all that's needed is for the various sectors to be more receptive to each other. Thus, central to the book is the appeal to middle-class feminists to be more sensitive to race and class. "Today's feminists are repeating the failures of the women's movement of a hundred years ago.... Clearly, race and class can no longer be ignored [I] if the women's movement is to be resurrected" as the book's dust-jacket puts it. The solution? In the classic words of Alva Buxenbaum, reviewing Davis' book in the CP's own Political Affairs (March 1982), we must develop a "deeper understanding of and commitment to alliances based on unity." As opposed to disunity, we guess. Of course this inane language serves a purpose; it's CPese for support to the Democrats.

Davis also leaves out of Women, Race and Class all mention of international communism and the Bolshevik Revolution, which on the woman question and especially the black question in America had a decisive impact on radicals. This would certainly offend those bourgeois liberals the CP chases after today, as all wings of the bourgeoisie are united in hostility to the USSR and the gains of the October Revolution which remain despite Stalinist bureaucratic deformation. The history of American Marxism, its early counterposition to late 19th century feminism, even the aggressive work of the CP itself in the late '20s and '30s in winning blacks to a proletarian perspective, is all buried—and necessarily; it would expose too starkly the total bankruptcy and betrayals of the Communist Party today.

The Myth of the "Progressive Black Family"

So what is in the book? Davis opens with a discussion of black women under slavery. She points out that black women were full-time workers in the fields and other heavy labor, thus excluded from the 19th century ideology of "femininity" which relegated "many white women," as she puts it, to positions of useless, sentimentalized inferiority inside the home. Davis neglects to mention in this section that early Northern industrialization relied heavily on the intense exploita¬tion of "free" female labor, especially in textiles. Moreover, the large majority of white women in pre-Civil War America were the hard-working wives and daughters of farmers.

Her main point, however, is that the bitter experience of slavery created strong black women who "passed on to their nominally free female descendents a legacy of hard work...resistance and insistence on sexual equality—in short, a legacy spelling out stand¬ards for a new womanhood." Arguing against Daniel P. Moynihan's notorious 1965 "black matriarchy" thesis that the problem with blacks is that black women are running things too much, creating a "tangle of pathology," Davis contends that slavery, rather than destroying black families, actually promoted sexual equality within black family and community life, which has come down essentially unchanged to this day: "Black people—transformed that negative equality which emanated from the equal oppression they suffered as slaves into a positive quality: the equalitari-anism characterizing their social relations." This cheery Stalinist vision of some progressive black family emerging from slavery is absolutely grotesque!

In 1975 we pointed out that Moynihan's "The Negro Family: The Case for National Actions' a U.S. labor department study, sought to "shift the blame for the social problems of blacks from the capitalist system to blacks themselves, particuparly black women.... The so-called 'black matriarch' is, in fact, the most oppressed of all. She is paid the least and relegated to the lowest-paying jobs with no opportunity for advancement" ("Black Women Against Triple Oppres¬sion," W&R No. 9, Summer 1975). Where she even has a job, that is. "Equalitarian" black families? No way. Michelle Wallace, in her overall pretty despicable trashing of the "Black Power" era, the steamy Cosmopolitan-style confessional Black Macho and the Myth of the Super-Female, at least had the guts to cast a very cold eye on such liberal mythologizing:

"I remember once I was watching a news show with a black male friend of mine who had a Ph.D. in psychology We were looking at some footage of a black woman who seemed barely able to speak English, though at least six generations of her family before her had certainly claimed it as their first language. She was in bed wrapped in blankets, her numerous small, poorly clothed children huddled around her. Her apartment looked rat-infested, cramped, and dirty. She had not, she said, had heat and hot water for days. My friend, a solid member of the middle class now but surely no stranger to poverty in his childhood, felt obliged to comment—in order to assuage his guilt, I can think of no other reason— 'That's a strong sister as he bowed his head in reverence."

You literally would not know from reading Davis' book that such a thing as the miserable, rotting big city black ghetto even exists, with its poisonous, violent currents of humiliation and despair and hatred.

The Ghetto and the Factory: Disintegration and Power

The huge migrations of blacks to industrial centers out of the rural South—peaking during World Wars I and II, periods of capitalist boom, as well as after the Second World War when mechanization of Southern agriculture forced more blacks into the cities of the North and South—resulted in the integration of blacks into the American capitalist economy, albeit at the bottom. That fact has been the key shaping factor in black experience in contemporary America—and that integration into the industrial proletariat is the key to black liberation today. At the same time, this wrenching integration into urban life took place under conditions of growing racist segregation socially. Blacks formed the central native component of that huge "surplus population" necessary to the capitalist "free labor" system. Thus the resulting crowded, desperately poor black ghettos with their inevitable "social disintegration"—a fancy phrase for broken homes, abandoned women and children, a permanent welfare population, illiteracy, crime and violence, drugs and squalor. Richard Wright's Black Boy, pioneering urban studies like St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton's Black Metropolis, Malcolm X, James Baldwin—they spoke of this bitter reality. Today the statistics are overwhelming on the hideous condition of the black ghetto popula¬tion, and especially of black women. Three-quarters of all poor black families are headed by women alone, while 47 percent of all black families with children under 18 are headed by women, according to 1980 statistics (Department of Health and Human Services' National Center for Health' Statistics). Almost 55 percent of births to black women are "illegitimate." The fashionable phrase "feminization of poverty" expresses a terrible reality.

But Davis doesn't even mention it exists, because she can't. A world so crushing is not going to be touched by electing a few more "progressive" black Democrats, the CP's line. It's going to take a massive social upheaval—revolution—to break out of the black ghettos. Davis, however, confines herself to a series of hollow, eclectic essays on various "social uplift" causes. One whole chapter on the black clubwomen's movement, for example! Does Davis really believe that the personal rivalries between Ida B. Wells and Mary Church Terrell in this cultured and ladylike milieu have anything significant to do with black or woman's liberation? As for black labor, there is but one chapter: on black women's long history of work as domestic servants. It's easy for liberals to weep over this humiliating labor, but it's hardly a source of black proletarian power. Blacks.integrated into the industrial working class at the point of production are the key to black leadership. And precisely because black workers may typically have a mother on welfare or a younger brother in prison, and are confronted in a thousand ways with evidence that the racist, capitalist "American dream" doesn't include blacks, they will be the most militant fighters for the entire working class, least tied to illusions that anything short of a fundamental social restructuring of this country through socialist revolution will liberate blacks.

Abolition and Suffrage:The Limits of Bourgeois Radical Idealism

Almost half of Women, Race and Class is devoted to the relationships between the abolitionist movement of the 1830s and '40s, the fight for women's rights and the post-Civil War suffragette movement, which developed in often explicitly hostile counterposition to continued demands for black political and civil rights. These chapters are the most interesting in the book, although here too Davis' reformist CP ideology deforms the past.

She has a hard time explaining the early and active participation of many prominent upper- and middle-class women in the abolitionist movement. "In 1833 many of these middle-class women had probably begun to realize that something had gone terribly awry in their lives. As 'housewives' in the new era of industrial capitalism, they had lost their economic importance in the home," Davis guesses. She contends that these women's identification with the slaves was essentially the result of "unfulfilling domestic lives." This projection of a Betty Friedanesque "feminine mystique" back into history not only fails to explain the fact that far more Northern men (e.g., William Lloyd Garrison, founder of the fiery abolitionist journal The Liberator; Thaddeus Stevens, head of the radical Republicans in Congress) took up the abolitionist cause, but actually is rather insulting to such powerful orators and theoreticians as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Utopian socialists like Frances Wright, or the transcendentalist Margaret Fuller, who went to Italy to participate in the revolutionary upsurge of 1848.

In fact, rather than the "alliance of oppressed housewives and slaves" Davis evokes, the abolitionist movement in America was ideologically influenced bythe radical petty-bourgeois currents sweeping Europe,which reached their highest expression (and defeat) in the revolutions of 1848. As Kenneth B. Stampp pointed out in The Era of Reconstruction 1865-1877, the abolitionists, women as well as men, represented the:
"...heirs of the Enlightenment.... As nineteenth- century liberals, they believed in the autonomous individual—his right to control his own destiny—and therefore regarded slavery as the ultimate abomination In fact, radical reconstruction ought to be
viewed in part as the last great crusade of the nineteenth-century romantic reformers."
Both demands for the abolition of slavery and for women's rights were seen by their advocates as inseparable parts of the same progressive bourgeois struggle for "liberty, equality, fraternity." At the founding conference of the Women's Loyal League in 1861, organized by Stanton and Anthony to draw women into support for the North in the Civil War and press for the immediate enfranchisement of the slaves, Angela Grimke's "Address to the Soldiers of Our Second Revolution" expressed this radical spirit:

"The war is not, as the South falsely pretends, a war of races, nor of sections, nor of political parties, but a war of Principles, a war upon the working classes, whether white or black.... In this war, the black man was the first victim, the workingman of whatever color the next; and now all who contend for the rights of labor, for free speech, free schools, free suffrage, and a free government... are driven to do battle in defense of these or to fall with them.... The nation is in a death-struggle. It must become either one vast slaveocracy of petty tyrants, or wholly the land of the free."

Grimke undoubtedly represented the high point of this radical equalitarianism. Davis' ahistorical refusal to admit that this movement represented the limits of bourgeois radicalism is no accident. The CP today pretends that the American bourgeoisie from Reagan to Kennedy is potentially capable of fulfilling the same progressive role that the bourgeoisie of Abraham Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison and Thaddeus Stevens • played. But in pre-Civil War America, the industrial proletariat was not a class-conscious and decisive factor. Certainly the workers of the North were in no sense prepared to begin to wage a struggle for power in their owh name: given this, and the fundamental block to the expansion of modern, industrial capitalism represented by the agrarian slave society of the South, it was left to the liberal Northern bourgeoisie, in alliance with the "free soil" petty-bourgeois farmers of the West, to fulfill one of the unfinished tasks of the American bourgeois revolution: the abolition of slavery.

Even so it took a bloody four-year Civil War to crush the slaveocracy, while the following attempt at "radical Reconstruction" in the South was sold out, revealing the ultimate incapacity of bourgeois radicalism to finally "liberate" any sector of the oppressed. Instead of the "land of the free," America became the land of the robber barons, unleashed capitalist expansion and exploitation, while Ku Klux Klan terror, lynchings and Jim Crow segregation became the blacks' lot in the South. By the end of the nineteenth century the U.S. emerged as a rapacious imperialist power. As happened after 1848 in Europe, following the Civil War in America "the component elements of early nineteenth century radicalism (liberal democracy and socialism, trade unionism, women's equality and national libera¬tion) separated and began to compete and conflict with one another... it seemed that bourgeois society would continue for some time and that the interests of the oppressed, be they workers, women or nations [or the black population in the U.S.], would have to be realized within its framework It was Marx who cut the Gordian knot and provided a coherent, realistic analysis of the social basis for the socialist movement within bourgeois society" ("Feminism vs. Marxism: Origins of the Conflict," W&R No. 5, Spring 1974).

Revolutionary Marxism insisted on the need for working-class revolution to open the way to further human progress. In America, the main historic obstacle to the creation of a revolutionary workers party has been the divided ethnic consciousness of the working class, built upon waves of immigration, with black-white polarization underlying that. The ability of the Democratic Party in the 20th century, expressed in Roosevelt's "New Deal" coalition of labor, liberals and ethnic minorities, to successfully manipulate these divisions and absorb petty-bourgeois movements reflects the political backwardness of American labor— and the bitter fruit of decades of betrayal by so-called "socialists" like the CPand social-democrats. The New Left, too, with its sectoralist belief that every oppressed sector must "liberate itself" also accepted as unchangeable the racist, divided status quo. For the Communist Party, the Democrats are the only possible "coalition of the oppressed" within capitalist society. Thus in 1964 they greeted the election of Lyndon B. Johnson—mad bomber of Vietnam—as a "People's Victory"!

Feminism and Racism

The remainder of Davis' historical chapters are choppy and chock-full of "unfortunately"s—the telltale reformist throat-clearing device employed preparatory to leaping over some gross betrayal or crushing defeat. Accepting the grim capitalist frame¬work as immutable, Davis' detailing of the split between the suffragettes and black civil rights fighters is full of passive hand-wringing. She quotes Stanton's racist cry of alarm in 1865 when it appeared black men, but not women, would get the vote:

"The representative women of the nation have done their uttermost for the last thirty years to secure freedom for the negro...but now, as the celestial gate to civil rights is slowly moving on its hinges, it becomes a serious question whether we had better stand aside and see 'Sambo' walk into the kingdom first Are we sure that
he, once entrenched in all his inalienable rights, may not be an added power to hold us at bay?... In fact, it is better to be the slave of an educated white man, than of a degraded, ignorant black one."

—New York Standard, 26 December 1865 letter.

Davis nails the women's suffrage leaders for their racism and support to American imperialism. She quotes Susan B. Anthony's admission, when preparing a Suffrage Association meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, that "knowing the feeling of the South with regard to Negro participation on equality with whites, I myself asked Mr. Douglass [Frederick Douglass, black abolitionist leader and early supporter of women's suffrage] not to come. I did not want to subject him to humiliation, and I did not want anything to get in the way of bringing the southern white women into our suffrage association." Anthony and Stanton allied with notorious racist Southern Democrats who argued for the enfranchisement of white women on the grounds that it would maintain white supremacy in the South after blacks got the vote. Davis gives a thorough account of rising racism in the women's suffrage movement, of the segregation of organizations and actions such as the 1913 suffrage parade, where an official attempt was made to exclude black activist Ida B. Wells from the Illinois contingent in favor of a segregated bloc. She quotes Stanton's insistence that "the worst enemies of Woman Suffrage will ever be the laboring classes of men" and records that Anthony urged women printers to scab on male printers' strikes.

Any serious reader must conclude that the pioneer feminist movement, preaching "unity of all women," essentially sought to advance the interests of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois white women, as against those of blacks and the working class. The icons of today's feminist movement are shown to be more than a little tarnished. Of course the opportunist Davis never challenges the ideology of "sisterhood," necessarily a screen for the subordination of working-class interests to bourgeois interests. Feminism, which seeks the reactionary splitting of the working class along sex lines and the collaboration of women of all classes, is a barrier to women's liberation, which can be won only through the revolutionary struggle of the working class—women and men, black and white—against their common exploiter, the capitalist class. The suffragettes' "unfortunate" racism and "capitulation to imperialism" flowed from their conscious identification with the interests of their own class.

American Communism

Davis' only chapter on the Communist Party, consisting solely of potted biographies of prominent CP women, opens with a gross omission. Davis asserts that when "Weydemeyer founded the Proletarian League jn 1852, no women appear to have been associated with the group. If indeed there were any women involved, they have long since faded into historical anonymity... to all intents and purposes, they appear to have been absent from the ranks of the Marxist socialist movement." Sliding over the Working-men's National Association and Communist Club as "utterly dominated by men," she manages neatly to avoid the major faction fight that took place in the American section of the First International over the question^of feminism. That flamboyant and notorious "free love" advocate, presidential candidate and early feminist Victoria Woodhull must be spinning in her grave. She was undoubtedly the most famous American to join the First International, organizing her own section (Section 12), which was a radical liberal faction, counterposing women's rights, "free love," and an electoralist strategy to proletarian socialism. Marx himself personally intervened to suspend Section 12, asserting the communist principle that the end to all kinds of oppression must run through the victory of the working class over capitalism.

Davis' omission of the tremendously important work of the early Communist Party among blacks is even more egregious. Her sole comment on that work as such is one bland statement, following a rather mysterious quote from William Z. Foster that the CP neglected Negro women factory workers in the 1920s, that "Over the next decade, however, Communists came to recognize the centrality of racism in U.S. society. They developed a serious theory of Black liberation and forged a consistent activist record—

Obviously it's impossible to go into detail in a review of this scope, but a few fundamental points are vital. First, there was the decisive impact of international Communism. As James P. Cannon, an early CP leader and founder of American Trotskyism, put it:

"The influence of Lenin and the Russian Revolution, even debased and distorted as it later was by Stalin, and then filtered through the activities of the Communist Party in the United States, contributed more than any other influence from any other source to the recogni¬tion, and more or less general acceptance, of the Negro question as a spec/a/ problem of American society—a problem which cannot be simply subsumed under the general heading of the conflict between capital and labor, as it was in the pre-communist radical movement." —The First Ten Years of American Communism The Russian Revolution also affected blacks' attitude toward the Communist Party well through the 1930s, as Drake and Cayton's Black Metropolis makes clear: "...widespread approval of 'the Reds' was not only associated with the fight of American Communists; it was also grounded upon admiration for the Soviet Union which, to thousands of Negroes, was the one 'white' nation that 'treated darker folks right'."

Despite the CP's sectarian "Third Period" excesses in the 1930s and its erroneous "Black Belt" theory (for Negro "self-determination" in the impoverished, segregated South, which was never actually raised agitationally), the CP's early work among blacks combined a proletarian orientation with the recogni¬tion that it was strategically necessary to fight racial oppression throughout America, especially addressing the problems of poor and unemployed blacks.

The CP made the first serious efforts to organize black workers and to attack the American Federation of Labor's conservative Jim Crow trade unions since the days of the Wobblies (IWW). In the South, there were heroic CP attempts to organize poor black share¬croppers, including a series of hard-fought strikes for better wages. Their most famous Depression-era work was their defense of the "Scottsboro boys," nine black youth framed up on charges of raping two white girls they were travelling with and sentenced to life imprisonment (this Davis does mention, but only in the context of appealing to the feminist "anti-rape" anti-porn movement—which she sees as essentially progressive—to avoid vigilante-type frameups of blacks). The CP won thousands of black members in this period, though few ultimately stayed.

By the mid-'30s the Communist Party had broken from the radicalism of the "Third Period" and was firmly wedded to the "Popular Front" line of open class collaboration in support of FDR. By 1941 the CP became Roosevelt's most slavish sycophant, instituting the no-strike pledge on behalf of U.S. capitalism's war to preserve and expand its empire. The CP made an open bloc with racism. When the "progressive" Earl Warren, acting on FDR's orders, interned the Japanese-Americans in concentration camps, stealing their property, the Stalinists not only refused to protest this racist atrocity, but told their own Japanese-American members to get lost. In 1945 the CP hailed the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki! While the Jim Crow U.S. was fighting its "war for democracy" with a segregated army and navy, the CP opposed every struggle for black rights on the grounds that it would "disrupt the war effort."

The Trotskyists in the then-revolutionary Socialist Workers Party opposed the bosses' imperialist war, while defending the Soviet Union and fighting to continue the class struggle, including militant support to black rights. While black soldiers and sailors were segregated and assigned the most humiliating, dirty and dangerous tasks, their wives and sisters were among those who suffered at home from the pro-imperialist betrayals of the labor tops and Communist Party. Brought into heavy industry in large numbers during the war, at war's end they were unceremoniously dumped back into low-paying service jobs or unemployment. Needless to say, the labor bureaucracy and the CP—which called for making the no-strike pledge permanent—took no effective action to save their jobs. The CP's "reward" for its class collaboration was the 1950s Cold War witchhunt, which shattered what was left of its mass influence.

It'll Take a Socialist Revolution to Finish the Civil War

Today the Spartacist League continues the fight for an American workers party, in opposition to those like the CP who tell workers and blacks to be passive and rely on "good" capitalist politicians. The CP cynically uses the history of the Civil War to cover its alliance with the liberal imperialist bourgeoisie today. We say it's going to take a socialist revolution to finish what the Civil War started! For the CP, women, blacks and the working class are simply three "constituencies" within capital¬ism, whom they tell to petition the racist, bourgeois state to ameliorate their oppressed condition. But exploitation of the working class is the motor force of capitalism. And capitalist society can never replace the family unit, the main social institution oppressing women. For blacks, the deeply embedded racism of American society, their forced segregation into miserable, rotting ghettos cannot be overcome short of ripping up this institutionalized oppression in socialist revolution. Our strategy is to build a women's section of a revolutionary vanguard party, to link the fight against the particular oppression of women to the power of the working class. A vital component of black leadership will be key to the second American revolution; we have fought since our inception for black Trotskyist cadre and leadership of an integrated mass workers party, like Lenin's Bolsheviks, that can lead all the oppressed against their common enemy, the capitalist class, in battle for the American socialist revolution."

*The American Black Diaspora: An Academic View- A Guest Review

Click on the headline to link to a "The Boston Sunday Globe", dated February 21, 2009, book review of Professor Ira Berlin's "The Making Of African America:The Four Great Migrations".

February Is Black History Month

*Black Studies Pioneer Professor John Hope Franklin Passes On- A Belated Tribute

Click on the headline to link to a "The New York Times" obituary, dated March 25, 2009, for the pioneer black studies scholar, Professor John Hope Franklin.

February Is Black History Month

Markin comment:

Somehow I missed the passing of this great black studies academic pioneer last year, a vital source for my knowledge of black history in my youth when this kind of information was not readily available, or had not been "discovered". My missing his passing is strange as well since last February (2009) I reviewed his "Black Reconstruction" as part of Black History Month. I make belated amends here. Hats off to Professor Franklin.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

*From The "HistoMat" Blog- On The (British) Trade Unionist And Socialist Coalition

Click on the headline to link to an "HistoMat" blog entry concerning the formation of an electoral British- Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition which may be of interest to militants as the elections in Britain approach.

*From "The American Insurgency" Blog- Widom (Oops!) For The Ages

Click on the headline to link to an "American Insurgency" blog entry on the travails of Teabagger 'education'.

Markin comment:

I agree with "American Insurgency" on that troublesome problem of fighting with the quirks of the "spell check". Oh, yes, and on the Teabagger problem as well. Nice job.

*From The "Green Left Global News" Blog- All Out On March 4th To Save Pubic Education- A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to a "Green left Global News" blog entry concerning the upcoming March 4th day of support to public education, and the future.

*From The "Green Left Global News" Blog-" Beyond "Green Capitalism"

Click on the headline to link to a "Green Left Global News" blog entry, "Beyond "Green Capitalism".

Markin comment:

Praise be!- Someone is finally making the connection that 'green' (small) capitalism is still capitalism- driven by the profit motion rather than social need. Now if the people who understood that would only start to think about the real alternative, socialism-and, for openers, a vanguard party to bring it about. Hope springs eternal.

*From The "HistoMat" Blog- Leon Trotsky's "On Revolutionary Discipline"

Click on the headline to link to a "HistoMat Blog" entry of an article by Leon Trotsky in 1923 on the vanguard party question and the duty of Bolsheviks, in good times and bad.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

*From "The Rag Blog"- "A Luddite's Prayer To Gaia" -Notes On the Imperial Star Fleet

Click on the headline to link to a "The Rag Blog" entry concerning the current (and future)of the American imperial star fleet.

Markin comment:

Nobody can say I do not have a bent for the quirky after I have posted this one. Believe me there is more than a little Luddite in me (and every self-styled Bolshevik).

*From The "HistoMat" Blog- The "International Socialism" Journal

Click on the headline to link to a "HistoMat" blog entry about the journal, "International Socialism".

*The Latest From The Green Left Global News"- "No Way Up For The Poor"

Click on the headline to link to a "Green Left Global News" entry concerning the plight of today's young workers and their current justified despair over their futures.

Markin comment:

Clue: think Russian October Revolution of 1917, for starters.

*The Latest From "The Rag Blog"- "The Rich Get Richer"

Click on the headline to link to a "The Rag Blog" entry about the seemingly never-ending and widening gap between the "haves" and the "have-nots".

Monday, February 22, 2010

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-"The Color Purple" -A Guest Book Review

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for author Alice Walker.

February Is Black History Month

March Is Women's History Month

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Spring 1988 issue of "Women and Revolution" that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.


Race, Sex and Class:
The Clash Over The Color Purple

By Don Alexander and Christine Wright

"Well, you know wherever there's a man, there's trouble."

—Alice Walker, The Color Purple

'"Why do you always feel the need to castrate the black man?'"

—Ishmael Reed, Reckless Eyeballing

When The Color Purple, Stephen Spielberg's film of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, was released in 1985, it roused loud debates among blacks, picketing and furious letters to the editor across the country. Painting a compelling picture of a terribly abused black woman in rural Georgia between the two world wars, the film really hit a nerve; the controversy quickly got much bigger than the novel. While debates raged in community meetings, feminist supporters of Walker and her liberal and black nationalist critics took up their pens to wage a feud which still soaks up gallons of ink.

Many of Alice Walker's critics accuse her of presenting an image of the black male as a violent monster. Walker has responded that black men don't want to face her "truth-telling." As Marxists, we find what amounts to a highly literary contest for the status of "most oppressed" somewhat beside the point. Nonetheless, the furor over The Color Purple has raised some basic questions about the clash of race and sex in this deeply bigoted, anti-sex society, not least about the explosive tensions between black men and women bred by the destruction of the fabric of life through poverty and oppression.

The Color Purple tells the story of Celie and her struggle to survive and defeat a series of physical and psychological assaults by men. She is raped repeatedly by her father, who gives away her two children against her will. She is married off to a man (Mister) who only agrees to take her if he gets the cow too. Mister treats her worse than a dog, beats her, and has kids as rotten as you can get. As she is later mocked by her husband, "Look at you. You black, you pore, you ugly, you a woman. nothing at all."Then, through her relationship with Mister's lover, the blues singer Shug, Celie finds love and sexual pleasure, leaves her husband, goes into business making pants, discovers she is heiress to a fortune and is eventually reunited with her children, who have been raised in Africa by her missionary sister, Nettie.

Alice Walker's novel begins as a masterly evocation of Celie's nightmarish oppression through a series of letters in Celie's own words. But this artistic promise is betrayed to Walker's feminist agenda at the end of the book, which degenerates into a hokey miracle solution: Walker's "message" is that black women, however rotten and wretched their lives may be, can "make it." Celie embodies the liberal idealist myth that sheer individual will—and in her case, rather unbelievably good luck—can break the chains of oppression.

The novel largely ignores the social misery of the black sharecroppers in the rural Jim Crow South, and fails to so much as hint at the convulsive social struggles in the U.S. in the 1930s. The one exception is Celie's daughter-in-law, Sofia, who is destroyed when she tries to stand up to the white boss. Even then, no one else attempts to combat the vicious racism; Walker is already laying the basis for a retreat into "personal liberation." The novel also describes Nettie's experiences as a missionary in Africa, where she witnesses the destruction of tribal life by imperialism. All Walker can counterpose to this brutality is black Christian missionaries and throwbacks to such vicious, anti-woman tribal practices as ritual sexual mutilation.

Walker's brand of bourgeois feminism, which she calls "womanism," celebrates gooey, mystical "female bonding" not one whit different from the standard line in Ms., where she served on the editorial staff for years. Bourgeois feminism, preoccupied with the career advancement of female yuppies and closing porn shops in Times Square, cannot address the very real sexual and racial oppression of black women.

Who's Afraid of Alice Walker?

Most critics of The Color Purple enthusiastically embrace the liberal lies disguised in it. (Although the controversy exploded when Spielberg's movie was released, it's important to differentiate between Walker's novel and Spielberg's unintended parody.) Walker has been accused of reinforcing racist stereotypes because she wrote about a black woman who had been abused, raped and beaten by black men. There has also been a disgusting, moralistic streak in the outcry over The Color Purple, centering on opposition to Walker's sympathetic portrayal of black lesbianism. Black journalist/TV host Tony Brown, sounding like a Moral Majority Reaganite bigot, claims that anyone who liked the movie was either a "closet homosexual, a lesbian, a pseudo-intellectual or white."

Certain layers of the black establishment intelligentsia denounce as "racist" anything that presents black people in a negative or critical light. But this is another liberal lie just as dangerous as Walker's. Blacks are by no means exempt from 'social backwardness, such as anti-abortion and anti-gay bigotry. The real point (and Walker herself has made this point in previous novels such as The Third Life of Grange Copeland) is tha't terrible poverty and oppression breed personal cruelty and degradation such as that described in 7"he Color Purple. For example, in the eloquent film Nothing But a Man (1964), a spirited young black man, Duff, lives in a small Alabama town, where he is targeted by the racists for his independence and sense of pride. In one of the key scenes in the movie, Duff, blacklisted and unable to support his family, goes home to his wife feeling humiliated by racist mistreatment. Thinking that he sees his failure as a man reflected in his woman's eyes, he turns on her in rage, and their marriage is almost destroyed. Both Duff and his wife are victims of the
racist system which denies the black man his dignity.

When Richard Wright's Native Son was published in 1940, controversy broke out over his gripping portrayal of a brutalized and alienated young black man whose poverty and desperation turn him into a vicious anti-social criminal. Wright, influenced by the Stalinist Communist Party in the late '30s and early '40s, had been disturbed that even "bankers' daughters" were weeping over his earlier short stories, Uncle Tom's Children. As he said, "I swore to myself that if I ever wrote another book, no one would weep over it; that it would be so hard and deep that they would have to face it without the consolation of tears." And so Wright brought his readers face to face with the starkness of brutal racial oppression in the U.S., implicitly suggest¬ing that there was no room for sentimental liberal drivel.

While Walker seems to have even the bankers' granddaughters bawling, many of her critics are no different from Wright's. Such critics want to perpetuate the myth that blacks owe their condition of savage oppression to the fact that they "don't stick together"—another version of blaming the victim. These critics seek merely to uphold the "respectable" image of the petty-bourgeois black establishment, personified by the "black family life" portrayed on TV's The Bill Cosby Show. And guilty liberals—both white and black—cannot acknowledge the truth about racist America: the ugly degradation of brutalized ghetto life that strips its victims of their dignity and humanity.

Clash of Race and Sex

Of all Walker's critics, the novelist and poet Ishmael Reed has made the best case against The Color Purple. Moving beyond concerns with mere image, Reed has raised some of the hard questions, and for this he has been smeared as a "misogynist" by the feminists. But Reed, whose seven novels are brilliant parables against American racism, is no more a misogynist than Walker is a racist. What the feminists can't stand is that he has got their number: drawing a simplistic sex line in society can put you on the wrong side on some fundamental questions. It simply is not woman-hating point out that Walker's man-hating is relentless. Celie says to Mister, "You a lowdown dog is what's,
wrong It's time to leave you and enter into Creation. And your dead body is just the welcome m need." And Celie berates her stepson, "If you had tried to rule over Sofia the white folks never would Pu caught her."

Reed's barbed and effective satire of feminism, Reckless Eyeballing, is the story of Ian Ball, a black dramal who has been "sex-listed" for his play about a black woman who likes having sex (with men). To make peace with the feminists Ball writes a new play in whi the body of a young black man, lynched by a racist mob for ogling (called "reckless eyeballing" in the South white woman, is exhumed so he can be tried for his se ist crime, which the feminists denounce as equally bad as the murder.

Those who think Reed is exaggerating should thir back about ten years to Susan Brown miller's Again Our Will, one of the bibles of contemporary Americc feminism. As part of her thesis that rape (or the threat of rape) is the main way that all women are controlled t all men, Brownmiller reviewed the famous case of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old black youth who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 for whistling at a white man's wife.

This monstrous racist murder was a touchstone on th race question. But as a feminist, Brownmiller disgustingly insisted that Till and J.W. Millam (one of th murderers) had something in common: "They both understood that... it was a deliberate insult just short o physical assault, a last reminder to Carolyn Bryant tha this black boy, Till, had in mind to possess her." As result, Brownmiller says, "Today a sexual remark on the street causes within me a fleeting but murderous rage.' Brownmiller's sex-war politics put her in bed with i racist lynch mob.

In the course of Reckless Eyeballing, successful black woman playwright Tremonisha Smarts (who some say was modeled after Alice Walker) was accosted by a man who:
"tied her up, and shaved all of her hair off. His twisted explanation: this is what the French Resistance did to those women who collaborated with the Nazis. The man had said that because of her 'blood libel' of black men, she was doing the same thing. Collaborating with the enemies of black men."

The horrifying racist murder at Howard Beach in December 1986 inspired Reed to make his definitive argument against Alice Walker and other black feminists in an essay serialized in the Amsterdam News in January-February 1987. But when Reed takes his argument out of the realm of fiction, where poetic license allows him to get at a core of truth, he goes astray. Citing the fact that Jon Lester, the teenager who led the lynch mob that murdered Michael Griffith, was said toj be "real emotional" about the film The Color Purple Reed argues that the description of black male violence incites race-terror. He claims that black feminism's "group libel campaign" against black men "is the kind of propaganda spread by the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party." Reed has a point when he describes his "justifiable paranoia"—he knows it could have been him killed on that highway in Queens. (As black comedian Godfrey Cambridge said , "Paranoia is the occupational disease of black people.")

But the strutting little Mussolinis in Howard Beach could care less what black men do to black women in Harlem, and to lay the blame on "bad propaganda" is a dangerous trivialization of the real threat the race-terrorists pose. It is, however, to Reed's credit that in the days of the black nationalist anti-Semitic demagogue Farrakhan, Reckless Eyeballing savagely denounces anti-Semitism. The book's title page quotes an epigram: "What's the American dream? A million blacks swimming back to Africa with a Jew under each arm." Characters in Reed's novel include a psychotic New York City cop notorious for blowing away blacks and Puerto Ricans, and a Jewish writer who is beaten to death by a mob at the mythical Mary Phegan College. (Mary Phegan was in fact a young white woman murdered in Georgia in 1915; a Jewish businessman, Leo Frank, was framed up for the crime and lynched. The racist upsurge led to the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan.) Reed uses such themes to calculate by sex and ethnic group the chances of being murdered in the U.S. As the critic Darryl Pinckney said: "Reed's subtext might be that the rape of black women and the lynching of black men are part of the same historical tragedy" (New York Review of Books, 29 January 1987). As a vivid picture of the viciousness of social relations in the United States, Reckless Eyebslling is eons ahead of The Color Purple—and a much better read, too.

The Talented Tenth Squares Off

In a certain sense, the literary debate over The Color Purple reflects the careerist interests of the black intelligentsia, struggling over shrinking economic opportunities in the absence of any movement for radical change. Thus Walker can snipe at black men from her sanctuary at Ms., the darling of white bourgeois feminists, while Reed raves that there is a publishing conspiracy against black male writers. (We thought this was even nuttier than it is, until we tried to buy his books and discovered they were all out of print!) While seemingly Reed and Walker are at loggerheads, they have at bottom the same program. Walker envisages a female Horatio Alger; Reed sees the "solution" in independent black art. Both posit individual struggle within capitalist society, which necessarily pits one section of the oppressed against another. Their message is, "see, you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps," ignoring the fact that the majority have no boots.

What lies behind these squabbles is the frustration of the "talented tenth"—the tiny selection of minority people who have been able to integrate into the professional layers of American society. In the face of the swift elimination of the token and reversible gains of the civil rights movement and in the absence of any mass struggle for social change, such debates among the black intelligentsia take on the air of a dispute over the shrinking job market.

But we must say in passing that even during the heyday of the civil rights movement the reality of sexual oppression was never addressed. The ensuing black social struggle under revolutionary leadership which today allows the fundamentally despairing ideologies of black nationalism and feminism to flourish among those who see themselves as spokesmen for the oppressed. Walker and Reed, in their different ways accepting the basically hopeless framework of the capitalist status quo, see black women's progress as necessarily coming at the expense of black men—and vice versa. Only an anti-capitalist perspective provides the basis for uniting all the oppressed in a fight for freedom at the expense of the class enemy which aims to keep us divided and in chains.

Capitalism and "American Apartheid"

In the 1980s the harsh realities of a decaying class system have become ever more bleak. Especially for blacks, capitalism has less and less to offer. The unemployment rate has soared with the closing of giant industrial plants in the Midwest, which once provided decent union wages and basic social power to a crucial component of the working class. Funding for educa¬tion has been slashed, while segregation in schools and
in housing has increased. Blacks are not safe in many neighborhoods throughout the U.S. as lynch mob terrorists are emboldened by racist government policy. "Political power" for blacks has come to mean more black elected officials, who the Democratic Party has deemed useful to preside over the deterioration of the big cities, where they exact racist cutbacks and enforce "law and order." Philadelphia mayor Wilson Goode, whose police firebombed an entire black neighbor¬hood in order to wipe out eleven MOVE members, including five of their children, is no more a champion of black rights than New York's fascistic Ed Koch.

With the exception of a very few who have "made it," the hellish conditions are compounded for black women through sexual oppression. Unskilled black women remain confined to the lowest-paying, most menial jobs, earning starvation wages as maids, laundresses and waitresses. Black women are made to bear the brunt of devastating cutbacks in social welfare. In the U.S., twice as many black girls are pregnant before the age of 18 as whites, twice the number of black infants die. The American bourgeoisie has long upheld the lie that ghetto poverty and degradation are the fault of the "deviant" promiscuous black "matriarch." In 1969 Daniel Moynihan argued that the black "matriarchy" was responsible for the breakdown of the black family and suggested that young black men should learn the right values by joining Uncle Sam's army. Over the years the black woman has been variously stereotyped as a presumed tower of strength, a sexless and obese mammy, a promiscuous baby machine, an emasculating fiend.

Yet the picture for black men is not much less bleak. The unemployment rate in big cities for a young black man is 50 to 60 percent. There is also the problem of "permanent unemployability"—e.g., black industrial workers, "last hired, first fired," who under today's conditions will never be rehired. Women account for two-thirds of all the professional jobs held by blacks: black women are seen by racist employers as docile,non-criminal, non-militant, non-violent, an upgraded version of what used to scrub floors; whereas that young black man in a suit who seems articulate and ambitious is suspected of being Malcolm X in disguise. In the 3 December 1987 New York Review of Books, the article "American Apartheid" describes the grim reality:
" men are more likely [than whites] to be in prisons or the military, or die at an early age. The fact that upward of 20 percent are missed by the census would point up their lack of stable jobs or even settled addresses. Moreover, of those black men the census manages to reach, fewer than half have full-time jobs."

It all comes home to roost in the black family. In a society which defines manhood as the ability to support a family, black men are often denied that very ability. "Single-parent households" are growing throughout the U.S., a phenomenon which affects blacks more heavily but by no means exclusively. Over 56 percent of black families are headed by women. Capitalist society needs the institution of the nuclear family not only to produce the next generation of wage laborers, but as an important force for social conservatism. At the same time, capitalist decay undermines the family through grinding poverty and oppression. The family is the main social institution by which women are oppressed. But in the absence of alternatives, those who fall outside the classic pattern of the family have nothing at all. Thus, this vicious racist system cannot but lead to embittered personal relations between men and women. Out of this rises the frustration which takes The Color Purple controversy out of the literary realm into the community, where it exploded in angry debates.

In this sense, Alice Walker triumphed as an artist: the depth of the controversy shows that she began to lay bare a painful reality. The solution to the reality she and Ishmael Reed have described in their novels lies not in the realm of art or bourgeois politics, but in the struggle for the socialist transformation of society."

*Books To While Away The Class Struggle By-Confessions Of A Former Stalinist- "Tyranny To Freedom"

Click on the headline to link to Chapter One Of "Tyranny To Freedom: Diary Of A Former Stalinist" by Professor Emeritus Ludwik Kowalski.

Recently I have begun to post entries under the headline- “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”-that will include progressive and labor-oriented songs that might be of general interest to the radical public. I have decided to do the same for some films that may perk that same interest under the title in this entry’s headline. In the future I expect to do the same for books under a similar heading. And this entry is the first for books in the series-Markin

Markin comment:

It is always good to see what motivated those who under the banner of Stalinism, a banner very different from our Trotskyist-based tradition, fought for what they thought was our communist future. That said, contrary to what the good professor emeritus here implies in the memoir's conclusions (to speak nothing of the title), that task is nevertheless a task that we do not "outsource" to American "democratic" imperialism. Forward to future Octobers!

*From The HistoMat Blog- The Pioneer Black Scholar W.E.B. Dubois

Click on title to link to "Wikipedia"'s entry for the pioneer black scholar W.E.B. Dubois. No academic study of black history is complete without a nod to his work.

February Is Black History Month

From HistoMat Blog

Saturday, November 21, 2009
More on W.E.B. Du Bois

This blog has always had a soft spot for W.E.B. Du Bois, so Lenin's Tomb's long review of The End of Empires: African Americans and India by Gerald Horne was most welcome. Some issues of The Crisis, the journal of the NAACP that Du Bois founded and edited for a long period, seem to be available online - which is also nice.

posted by Snowball @ 11:57 AM

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Markin comment:

As some of you may know, in the early 1960s (if not before) the American Communist Party's youth work was carried out under the banner of the W.E.B. Dubois Clubs. That is where I first ran into 'communists', although I was no more than a garden-variety very softly pro-communist left liberal at the time. Since then Dubois' name has been associated with serious study of black history, Pan-Africianism, black nationalism, and black scholarship. His "The Souls Of Black Folk" and "Black Reconstruction" are still, to my mind, required reading for all serious radicals and revolutionaries. But here is where everything comes together. My first exposure to Dubois' work was his sympathetic biography of the revolutionary abolitionist, John Brown. Brown/Dubois-now you know why I gravitated to Dubois' work in a big way.

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-Phil Och's "I Ain't Marching Anymore"

Click on the title to link a "YouTube" film clip of Phil Ochs performing "I Ain't Marching Anymore".

In this series, presented under the headline “Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By”, I will post some songs that I think will help us get through the “dog days” of the struggle for our communist future. I do not vouch for the political thrust of the songs; for the most part they are done by pacifists, social democrats, hell, even just plain old ordinary democrats. And, occasionally, a communist, although hard communist musicians have historically been scarce on the ground. Thus, here we have a regular "popular front" on the music scene. While this would not be acceptable for our political prospects, it will suffice for our purposes here.

Markin comment:

This is my first entry for folksinger/songwriter Phil Och's who back in the early 1960s stood right up there with Bob Dylan in the protest songwriting category. However, early on I sensed something special about Dylan and never really warmed up to Ochs. His singing style did not "move" me and that counted for a lot in those days. The rest just turned on preference.

“I Ain't Marching Anymore”-Phil Ochs

Oh I marched to the battle of New Orleans
At the end of the early British war
The young land started growing
The young blood started flowing
But I ain't marchin' anymore

For I've killed my share of Indians
In a thousand different fights
I was there at the Little Big Horn
I heard many men lying I saw many more dying
But I ain't marchin' anymore

It's always the old to lead us to the war
It's always the young to fall
Now look at all we've won with the saber and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all

For I stole California from the Mexican land
Fought in the bloody Civil War
Yes I even killed my brothers
And so many others But I ain't marchin' anymore

For I marched to the battles of the German trench
In a war that was bound to end all wars
Oh I must have killed a million men
And now they want me back again
But I ain't marchin' anymore


For I flew the final mission in the Japanese sky
Set off the mighty mushroom roar
When I saw the cities burning I knew that I was learning
That I ain't marchin' anymore

Now the labor leader's screamin'
when they close the missile plants,
United Fruit screams at the Cuban shore,
Call it "Peace" or call it "Treason,"
Call it "Love" or call it "Reason,"
But I ain't marchin' any more,
No I ain't marchin' any more

Sunday, February 21, 2010

*Once Again From The Late Professor Howard Zinn- An Interview On Anarchism

Click on the title to link to an "American Left History" blog entry that reviewed a film documentary about the late Professor Zinn without forgetting that, in the end, we were political opponents on the left.

Howard Zinn: Anarchism Shouldn't Be a Dirty Word

By Ziga Vodovnik, CounterPunch
Posted on May 17, 2008

Howard Zinn, 85, is a Professor Emeritus of political science at Boston University. He was born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1922 to a poor immigrant family. He realized early in his youth that the promise of the "American Dream", that will come true to all hard-working and diligent people, is just that -- a promise and a dream. During World War II he joined US Air Force and served as a bombardier in the "European Theatre." This proved to be a formative experience that only strengthened his convictions that there is no such thing as a just war. It also revealed, once again, the real face of the socio-economic order, where the suffering and sacrifice of the ordinary people is always used only to higher the profits of the privileged few.

Although Zinn spent his youthful years helping his parents support the family by working in the shipyards, he started with studies at Columbia University after WWII, where he successfully defended his doctoral dissertation in 1958. Later he was appointed as a chairman of the department of history and social sciences at Spelman College, an all-black women's college in Atlanta, GA, where he actively participated in the Civil Rights Movement.

From the onset of the Vietnam War he was active within the emerging anti-war movement, and in the following years only stepped up his involvement in movements aspiring towards another, better world. Zinn is the author of more than 20 books, including A People's History of the United States that is "a brilliant and moving history of the American people from the point of view of those who have been exploited politically and economically and whose plight has been largely omitted from most histories" (Library Journal).

Zinn's most recent book is entitled A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, and is a fascinating collection of essays that Zinn wrote in the last couple of years. Beloved radical historian is still lecturing across the US and around the world, and is, with active participation and support of various progressive social movements continuing his struggle for free and just society.

Ziga Vodovnik: From the 1980s onwards we are witnessing the process of economic globalization getting stronger day after day. Many on the Left are now caught between a "dilemma" -- either to work to reinforce the sovereignty of nation-states as a defensive barrier against the control of foreign and global capital; or to strive towards a non-national alternative to the present form of globalization and that is equally global. What's your opinion about this?

Howard Zinn: I am an anarchist, and according to anarchist principles nation states become obstacles to a true humanistic globalization. In a certain sense the movement towards globalization where capitalists are trying to leap over nation state barriers, creates a kind of opportunity for movement to ignore national barriers, and to bring people together globally, across national lines in opposition to globalization of capital, to create globalization of people, opposed to traditional notion of globalization. In other words to use globalization -- it is nothing wrong with idea of globalization -- in a way that bypasses national boundaries and of course that there is not involved corporate control of the economic decisions that are made about people all over the world.

Ziga Vodovnik: Pierre-Joseph Proudhon once wrote that: "Freedom is the mother, not the daughter of order." Where do you see life after or beyond (nation) states?

Howard Zinn: Beyond the nation states? (laughter) I think what lies beyond the nation states is a world without national boundaries, but also with people organized. But not organized as nations, but people organized as groups, as collectives, without national and any kind of boundaries. Without any kind of borders, passports, visas. None of that! Of collectives of different sizes, depending on the function of the collective, having contacts with one another. You cannot have self-sufficient little collectives, because these collectives have different resources available to them. This is something anarchist theory has not worked out and maybe cannot possibly work out in advance, because it would have to work itself out in practice.

Ziga Vodovnik: Do you think that a change can be achieved through institutionalized party politics, or only through alternative means -- with disobedience, building parallel frameworks, establishing alternative media, etc.

Howard Zinn: If you work through the existing structures you are going to be corrupted. By working through political system that poisons the atmosphere, even the progressive organizations, you can see it even now in the US, where people on the "Left" are all caught in the electoral campaign and get into fierce arguments about should we support this third party candidate or that third party candidate. This is a sort of little piece of evidence that suggests that when you get into working through electoral politics you begin to corrupt your ideals. So I think a way to behave is to think not in terms of representative government, not in terms of voting, not in terms of electoral politics, but thinking in terms of organizing social movements, organizing in the work place, organizing in the neighborhood, organizing collectives that can become strong enough to eventually take over -- first to become strong enough to resist what has been done to them by authority, and second, later, to become strong enough to actually take over the institutions.

Ziga Vodovnik: One personal question. Do you go to the polls? Do you vote?

Howard Zinn: I do. Sometimes, not always. It depends. But I believe that it is preferable sometimes to have one candidate rather another candidate, while you understand that that is not the solution. Sometimes the lesser evil is not so lesser, so you want to ignore that, and you either do not vote or vote for third party as a protest against the party system. Sometimes the difference between two candidates is an important one in the immediate sense, and then I believe trying to get somebody into office, who is a little better, who is less dangerous, is understandable. But never forgetting that no matter who gets into office, the crucial question is not who is in office, but what kind of social movement do you have. Because we have seen historically that if you have a powerful social movement, it doesn't matter who is in office. Whoever is in office, they could be Republican or Democrat, if you have a powerful social movement, the person in office will have to yield, will have to in some ways respect the power of social movements.

We saw this in the 1960s. Richard Nixon was not the lesser evil, he was the greater evil, but in his administration the war was finally brought to an end, because he had to deal with the power of the anti-war movement as well as the power of the Vietnamese movement. I will vote, but always with a caution that voting is not crucial, and organizing is the important thing.

When some people ask me about voting, they would say will you support this candidate or that candidate? I say: "I will support this candidate for one minute that I am in the voting booth. At that moment I will support A versus B, but before I am going to the voting booth, and after I leave the voting booth, I am going to concentrate on organizing people and not organizing electoral campaign."

Ziga Vodovnik: Anarchism is in this respect rightly opposing representative democracy since it is still form of tyranny -- tyranny of majority. They object to the notion of majority vote, noting that the views of the majority do not always coincide with the morally right one. Thoreau once wrote that we have an obligation to act according to the dictates of our conscience, even if the latter goes against the majority opinion or the laws of the society. Do you agree with this?

Howard Zinn: Absolutely. Rousseau once said, if I am part of a group of 100 people, do 99 people have the right to sentence me to death, just because they are majority? No, majorities can be wrong, majorities can overrule rights of minorities. If majorities ruled, we could still have slavery. 80% of the population once enslaved 20% of the population. While run by majority rule that is OK. That is very flawed notion of what democracy is. Democracy has to take into account several things -- proportionate requirements of people, not just needs of the majority, but also needs of the minority. And also has to take into account that majority, especially in societies where the media manipulates public opinion, can be totally wrong and evil. So yes, people have to act according to conscience and not by majority vote.

Ziga Vodovnik: Where do you see the historical origins of anarchism in the United States?

Howard Zinn: One of the problems with dealing with anarchism is that there are many people whose ideas are anarchist, but who do not necessarily call themselves anarchists. The word was first used by Proudhon in the middle of the 19th century, but actually there were anarchist ideas that proceeded Proudhon, those in Europe and also in the United States. For instance, there are some ideas of Thomas Paine, who was not an anarchist, who would not call himself an anarchist, but he was suspicious of government. Also Henry David Thoreau. He does not know the word anarchism, and does not use the word anarchism, but Thoreau's ideas are very close to anarchism. He is very hostile to all forms of government. If we trace origins of anarchism in the United States, then probably Thoreau is the closest you can come to an early American anarchist. You do not really encounter anarchism until after the Civil War, when you have European anarchists, especially German anarchists, coming to the United States. They actually begin to organize. The first time that anarchism has an organized force and becomes publicly known in the United States is in Chicago at the time of Haymarket Affair.

Ziga Vodovnik: Where do you see the main inspiration of contemporary anarchism in the United States? What is your opinion about the Transcendentalism -- i.e., Henry D. Thoreau, Ralph W. Emerson, Walt Whitman, Margaret Fuller, et al. -- as an inspiration in this perspective?

Howard Zinn: Well, the Transcendentalism is, we might say, an early form of anarchism. The Transcendentalists also did not call themselves anarchists, but there are anarchist ideas in their thinking and in their literature. In many ways Herman Melville shows some of those anarchist ideas. They were all suspicious of authority. We might say that the Transcendentalism played a role in creating an atmosphere of skepticism towards authority, towards government. Unfortunately, today there is no real organized anarchist movement in the United States. There are many important groups or collectives that call themselves anarchist, but they are small. I remember that in 1960s there was an anarchist collective here in Boston that consisted of fifteen (sic!) people, but then they split. But in 1960s the idea of anarchism became more important in connection with the movements of 1960s.

Ziga Vodovnik: Most of the creative energy for radical politics is nowadays coming from anarchism, but only few of the people involved in the movement actually call themselves "anarchists." Where do you see the main reason for this? Are activists ashamed to identify themselves with this intellectual tradition, or rather they are true to the commitment that real emancipation needs emancipation from any label?

Howard Zinn: The term anarchism has become associated with two phenomena with which real anarchists don't want to associate themselves with. One is violence, and the other is disorder or chaos. The popular conception of anarchism is on the one hand bomb-throwing and terrorism, and on the other hand no rules, no regulations, no discipline, everybody does what they want, confusion, etc. That is why there is a reluctance to use the term anarchism. But actually the ideas of anarchism are incorporated in the way the movements of the 1960s began to think.

I think that probably the best manifestation of that was in the civil rights movement with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee -- SNCC. SNCC without knowing about anarchism as philosophy embodied the characteristics of anarchism. They were decentralized. Other civil rights organizations, for example Seven Christian Leadership Conference, were centralized organizations with a leader -- Martin Luther King. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) were based in New York, and also had some kind of centralized organization. SNCC, on the other hand, was totally decentralized. It had what they called field secretaries, who worked in little towns all over the South, with great deal of autonomy. They had an office in Atlanta, Georgia, but the office was not a strong centralized authority. The people who were working out in the field -- in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi -- they were very much on their own. They were working together with local people, with grassroots people. And so there is no one leader for SNCC, and also great suspicion of government.

They could not depend on government to help them, to support them, even though the government of the time, in the early 1960s, was considered to be progressive, liberal. John F. Kennedy especially. But they looked at John F. Kennedy, they saw how he behaved. John F. Kennedy was not supporting the Southern movement for equal rights for Black people. He was appointing the segregationists judges in the South, he was allowing southern segregationists to do whatever they wanted to do. So SNCC was decentralized, anti-government, without leadership, but they did not have a vision of a future society like the anarchists. They were not thinking long term, they were not asking what kind of society shall we have in the future. They were really concentrated on immediate problem of racial segregation. But their attitude, the way they worked, the way they were organized, was along, you might say, anarchist lines.

Ziga Vodovnik: Do you thing that pejorative (mis)usage of the word anarchism is direct consequence of the fact that the ideas that people can be free, was and is very frightening to those in power?

Howard Zinn: No doubt! No doubt that anarchist ideas are frightening to those in power. People in power can tolerate liberal ideas. They can tolerate ideas that call for reforms, but they cannot tolerate the idea that there will be no state, no central authority. So it is very important for them to ridicule the idea of anarchism to create this impression of anarchism as violent and chaotic. It is useful for them, yes.

Ziga Vodovnik: In theoretical political science we can analytically identify two main conceptions of anarchism -- a so-called collectivist anarchism limited to Europe, and on another hand individualist anarchism limited to US. Do you agree with this analytical separation?

Howard Zinn: To me this is an artificial separation. As so often happens analysts can make things easier for themselves, like to create categories and fit movements into categories, but I don't think you can do that. Here in the United States, sure there have been people who believed in individualist anarchism, but in the United States have also been organized anarchists of Chicago in 1880s or SNCC. I guess in both instances, in Europe and in the United States, you find both manifestations, except that maybe in Europe the idea of anarcho-syndicalism become stronger in Europe than in the US. While in the US you have the IWW, which is an anarcho-syndicalist organization and certainly not in keeping with individualist anarchism.

Ziga Vodovnik: What is your opinion about the "dilemma" of means -- revolution versus social and cultural evolution?

Howard Zinn: I think here are several different questions. One of them is the issue of violence, and I think here anarchists have disagreed. Here in the US you find a disagreement, and you can find this disagreement within one person. Emma Goldman, you might say she brought anarchism, after she was dead, to the forefront in the US in the 1960s, when she suddenly became an important figure. But Emma Goldman was in favor of the assassination of Henry Clay Frick, but then she decided that this is not the way. Her friend and comrade, Alexander Berkman, he did not give up totally the idea of violence. On the other hand, you have people who were anarchistic in way like Tolstoy and also Gandhi, who believed in nonviolence.

There is one central characteristic of anarchism on the matter of means, and that central principle is a principle of direct action -- of not going through the forms that the society offers you, of representative government, of voting, of legislation, but directly taking power. In case of trade unions, in case of anarcho-syndicalism, it means workers going on strike, and not just that, but actually also taking hold of industries in which they work and managing them. What is direct action? In the South when black people were organizing against racial segregation, they did not wait for the government to give them a signal, or to go through the courts, to file lawsuits, wait for Congress to pass the legislation. They took direct action; they went into restaurants, were sitting down there and wouldn't move. They got on those buses and acted out the situation that they wanted to exist.

Of course, strike is always a form of direct action. With the strike, too, you are not asking government to make things easier for you by passing legislation, you are taking a direct action against the employer. I would say, as far as means go, the idea of direct action against the evil that you want to overcome is a kind of common denominator for anarchist ideas, anarchist movements. I still think one of the most important principles of anarchism is that you cannot separate means and ends. And that is, if your end is egalitarian society you have to use egalitarian means, if your end is non-violent society without war, you cannot use war to achieve your end. I think anarchism requires means and ends to be in line with one another. I think this is in fact one of the distinguishing characteristics of anarchism.

Ziga Vodovnik: On one occasion Noam Chomsky has been asked about his specific vision of anarchist society and about his very detailed plan to get there. He answered that "we can not figure out what problems are going to arise unless you experiment with them." Do you also have a feeling that many left intellectuals are loosing too much energy with their theoretical disputes about the proper means and ends, to even start "experimenting" in practice?

Howard Zinn: I think it is worth presenting ideas, like Michael Albert did with Parecon for instance, even though if you maintain flexibility. We cannot create blueprint for future society now, but I think it is good to think about that. I think it is good to have in mind a goal. It is constructive, it is helpful, it is healthy, to think about what future society might be like, because then it guides you somewhat what you are doing today, but only so long as this discussions about future society don't become obstacles to working towards this future society. Otherwise you can spend discussing this utopian possibility versus that utopian possibility, and in the mean time you are not acting in a way that would bring you closer to that.

Ziga Vodovnik: In your People's History of the United States you show us that our freedom, rights, environmental standards, etc., have never been given to us from the wealthy and influential few, but have always been fought out by ordinary people -- with civil disobedience. What should be in this respect our first steps toward another, better world?

Howard Zinn: I think our first step is to organize ourselves and protest against existing order -- against war, against economic and sexual exploitation, against racism, etc. But to organize ourselves in such a way that means correspond to the ends, and to organize ourselves in such a way as to create kind of human relationship that should exist in future society. That would mean to organize ourselves without centralize authority, without charismatic leader, in a way that represents in miniature the ideal of the future egalitarian society. So that even if you don't win some victory tomorrow or next year in the meantime you have created a model. You have acted out how future society should be and you created immediate satisfaction, even if you have not achieved your ultimate goal.

Ziga Vodovnik: What is your opinion about different attempts to scientifically prove Bakunin's ontological assumption that human beings have "instinct for freedom," not just will but also biological need?

Howard Zinn: Actually I believe in this idea, but I think that you cannot have biological evidence for this. You would have to find a gene for freedom? No. I think the other possible way is to go by history of human behavior. History of human behavior shows this desire for freedom, shows that whenever people have been living under tyranny, people would rebel against that.

Ziga Vodovnik is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana, where his teaching and research is focused on anarchist theory/praxis and social movements in the Americas. His new book Anarchy of Everyday Life -- Notes on Anarchism and its Forgotten Confluences will be released in late 2008.

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*Poet's Corner- The Work Of French Poet Arthur Rimbaud

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the 19th century French Symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud.

Markin comment:

One cannot have paid serious attention to American storyteller/songwriter/poet Bob Dylan's early work, especially "Desolation Row" and "Like Tom Thumbs Blues" without have coming into contact with, and note the influnce of, the two 19th century French poets honored today, Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud. And the selections below certainly make the case for that statement.



On the calm black water where the stars are sleeping
White Ophelia floats like a great lily;
Floats very slowly, lying in her long veils...
- In the far-off woods you can hear them sound the mort.

For more than a thousand years sad Ophelia
Has passed, a white phantom, down the long black river.
For more than a thousand years her sweet madness
Has murmured its ballad to the evening breeze.

The wind kisses her breasts and unfolds in a wreath
Her great veils rising and falling with the waters;
The shivering willows weep on her shoulder,
The rushes lean over her wide, dreaming brow.

The ruffled water-lilies are sighing around her;
At times she rouses, in a slumbering alder,
Some nest from which escapes a small rustle of wings;
- A mysterious anthem falls from the golden stars.


O pale Ophelia! beautiful as snow!
Yes child, you died, carried off by a river!
- It was the winds descending from the great mountains of Norway
That spoke to you in low voices of better freedom.

It was a breath of wind, that, twisting your great hair,
Brought strange rumors to your dreaming mind;
It was your heart listening to the song of Nature
In the groans of the tree and the sighs of the nights;

It was the voice of mad seas, the great roar,
That shattered your child's heart, too human and too soft;
It was a handsome pale knight, a poor madman
Who one April morning sate mute at your knees!

Heaven! Love! Freedom! What a dream, oh poor crazed Girl!
You melted to him as snow does to a fire;
Your great visions strangled your words
- And fearful Infinity terrified your blue eye!


- And the poet says that by starlight
You come seeking, in the night, the flowers that you picked
And that he has seen on the water, lying in her long veils
White Ophelia floating, like a great lily.

Arthur Rimbaud

Dance Of The Hanged Men

On the black gallows, one-armed friend,
The paladins are dancing, dancing
The lean, the devil's paladins
The skeletons of Saladins.

Sir Beelzebub pulls by the scruff
His little black puppets who grin at the sky,
And with a backhander in the head like a kick,
Makes them dance, dance, to an old Carol-tune!

And the puppets, shaken about, entwine their thin arms:
Their breasts pierced with light, like black organ-pipes
Which once gentle ladies pressed to their own,
Jostle together protractedly in hideous love-making.

Hurray! the gay dancers, you whose bellies are gone!
You can cut capers on such a long stage!
Hop! never mind whether it's fighting or dancing!
- Beelzebub, maddened, saws on his fiddles!

Oh the hard heels, no one's pumps are wearing out!
And nearly all have taken of their shirts of skin;
The rest is not embarrassing and can be seen without shame.
On each skull the snow places a white hat:

The crow acts as a plume for these cracked brains,
A scrap of flesh clings to each lean chin:
You would say, to see them turning in their dark combats,
They were stiff knights clashing pasteboard armours.

Hurrah! the wind whistles at the skeletons' grand ball!
The black gallows moans like an organ of iron !
The wolves howl back from the violet forests:
And on the horizon the sky is hell-red...

Ho there, shake up those funereal braggarts,
Craftily telling with their great broken fingers
The beads of their loves on their pale vertebrae:
Hey the departed, this is no monastery here!

Oh! but see how from the middle of this Dance of Death
Springs into the red sky a great skeleton, mad,
Carried away by his own impetus, like a rearing horse:
And, feeling the rope tight again round his neck,

Clenches his knuckles on his thighbone with a crack
Uttering cries like mocking laughter,
And then like a mountebank into his booth,
Skips back into the dance to the music of the bones!

On the black gallows, one-armed friend,
The paladins are dancing, dancing
The lean, the devil's paladins
The skeletons of Saladins.

My Bohemian Life

I went off with my hands in my torn coat pockets;
My overcoat too was becoming ideal;
I travelled beneath the sky, Muse! and I was your vassal;
Oh dear me! what marvellous loves I dreamed of!

My only pair of breeches had a big whole in them.
– Stargazing Tom Thumb, I sowed rhymes along my way.
My tavern was at the Sign of the Great Bear.
– My stars in the sky rustled softly.

And I listened to them, sitting on the road-sides
On those pleasant September evenings while I felt drops
Of dew on my forehead like vigorous wine;

And while, rhyming among the fantastical shadows,
I plucked like the strings of a lyre the elastics
Of my tattered boots, one foot close to my heart!