Friday, April 16, 2010

*From The Anti-War Soldiers Front- The "Courage To Resist" Website

Click on the headline to link to the "Courage To Resist" anti-war soldiers Website.

Markin comment:

Individual draft resistance in the old days of Vietnam when it was a "hot bottom" issue was not a part of the communist program. Nor are individual acts of resistance in the military. We say get to the soldiers en masse and move from there. Those individual soldiers who have come to understand the imperial nature of their tasks are precious cadre to lead their fellows out of war. that said, we, of course, defend those who are committed to individual acts of resistance. Forward!

*From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"- Victory To The Rio Tinto Borax Strike!

Click on the headline to link to a "Workers Vanguard" article, dated April 9, 2010 concerning the lessons to be drawn from the struggle of the Rio Tinto miners out in California.

Markin comment:

Hot-cargoing scab Borax products is simply the beginning of wisdom on this one. Sometimes there is only one way to get successful results and it starts by putting a crimp in the profits of these monster mining conglomerates.

* From The Anti- War Parliamentary Left - The James McGovern-Russ Feingold Sponsored Exit Strategy Legislation-From "Win Wthout War"

Click on the headline to link to a "Win Without War" Website posting of the Congressional legislation sponsored by Congressman James McGovern and Senator Russ Feingold that would create a date certain exit strategy for Afghanistan.

Markin comment:

This legislation provides an interesting contrast to the consummately legalistic (and really diplomatic language0 that even the most left parliamentary politicians are addicted to and the real thrust of what needs to be addressed. Instead of calling on the imperial president (aka the imperial Commander-in-Chief) to do, or not do, anything we communists would use any Congressional position we held to call on the citizenry and the soldiers to put an end to this Afghan occupation. Now that is an exit strategy I could support. This thing is not worth the paper it is written on, or the cyberspace it takes up.

Tina Fey (Oops!) Sarah Palin And The Tea Baggers Come To Boston- A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to a United For Justice With Peace (UJP) post on their activities inportest of Sarah Palin and the tea baggers on Boston Common on April 14, 2010.

Markin comment:

Look, I like to protest out in the streets, for or against, lots of things. Against war, militarism, the death penalty, and so on. For immigrant rights, abortion rights, May Day and so on. What I don’t like to do, although other leftists are more than free to do so, is take precious time out to picket right wing bourgeois politicians like Sarah Palin. Or in the old days, George Wallace and Ronald Reagan, for example. Yes, these guys and gals are awful politically but as I have been trying to put stress on lately to protest them tends to make it look like you are giving political cover to the Democrats. And, frankly, today for those of us who are realistic about our short term political prospects and necessities of accruing young cadre by taking them away from our main enemy who is none other than a hard Democrat, Barack Obama. Sure, aim your fire at the right- but make that the Obama/Palin right and the capitalist system they jointly, and fervently, defend and will defend to their last breaths.

*When The Western Catholic Church Was The Only Game In Town In Europe-Almost- A Book Review

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for Waldo Of Lyon mentioned below in this book review.

Book Review

Popular Religion In The Middle Ages, Rosalind And Christopher Brooke, Thames and Hudson, London, 1984

Back a goodly number of years ago now I began purchasing a number of books, including the one under review, “Popular Religion In The Middle Ages”, on the early history, ethos, and development of Western religions, essentially the Roman Catholic Church and its various off-shoots. My purpose for the purchases at that time was to begin to stockpile material so that when I reached an old enough age I would able to withdraw from the political struggles that animated my youth: the struggle against war, against racial and economic injustice, and various other worldly oppressions and study the social roots of religious expression, especially the primitive communal ones. I have, unfortunately, had to spend that old age continuing those same struggles from my youth but I have come to realize that if I want to get to those questions I had better dust off the old books and sneak some time to read about the old time religion.

I have, frankly, always been intrigued by those various primitive religion expressions that we can directly, in some way, link to the more secular, socialist consciousness of our day. The short-lived, besieged Anabaptist Commune at Muenster in the 1500s, written about long ago by the German Social Democratic leader and academic, Karl Kautsky, comes to mind, as does the medieval theological expression of that same phenomena, Waldo of Lyon and the Waldenese communities that suffered extreme persecution as heretics. Furthermore, I was interested in learning more about a half-forgotten old sect; the Cathars, also known as the Albigensian heretics.

Along the way the authors here investigate all that and also the relationship between the ignorant, illiterate lay masses and the sometimes equally ignorant clergy; the role of the bible, church buildings, church art and the like in bringing the message to the masses; the recurrence waves of piety that would spread over various social layers of society and produced a slew of isolated, otherworldly monasteries and convents; the rise of what we would call primitive capitalism in changing, for some, the way religion got expressed. Now this may seem like very specialized reading, and it is, although the authors here have dealt with that problem with a fairly light touch in this short medieval religion primer. And have provided many interesting pictorial illustrations as well.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

*The Modern Southern Literary View Of The American Civil War Period- William Faulkner’s “Absalom, Absalom!"

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the American novelist, William Faulkner.

Book Review

Absalom, Absalom!, William Faulkner, The Modern Library, New York, 1936

I am here to tell you that not every great book that describes the human struggle as we emerged from the mud has to be written from a leftist progressive political perspective, although usually it helps. The novelist, self-proclaimed white racial purist, and Mississippi partisan, William Faulkner, with this very complicated and somewhat rambling novel placed himself front and center in the pantheon of American literary figures who have tried to confront the daunting task of making great literature out of the slavery-driven plantation society of the ante bellum South and of that same locale in the period of defeat after the Civil War. One does not have to sign up for membership in the William Faulkner political fan club to realize that he has created something that speaks to that very contradictory, and at times incomprehensible, human drive to succeed as it has evolved thus far. He does not pull his punches or hold back on the grizzly picture that he paints.

Let me explain that last sentence. I was put on the trail of Faulkner this time, having previously reviewed his “Sanctuary” in this space, by reading and reviewing a book titled “The Unwritten War” by Daniel Aaron. Aaron’s major thesis is that the social, political and military dimensions of the American Civil experience, for both sides, were so traumatic and overwhelming that it took a figure removed in time, like Faulkner, to have a realistic shot at writing the “great American Civil War novel”. Aaron runs through the litany of great American literary figures that did, or did not, try to create such a work in the immediate post-war period and came up dry until the emergence of Faulkner (and, possibly, the “Agrarians” like Robert Penn Warren). One can agree or disagree with Professor Aaron's thesis but it hard to argue, at an artistic level, that Faulkner’s work here, especially the portrait of the central character, Thomas Sutpen, as he emerges from the descriptions of several fellow townspeople, including characters from other Faulkner novels, of the mythical Jefferson, Mississippi is not a serious candidate for that honor.

And what do we have here in the four hundred or so pages of this novel. A description of the intricate web of the roots of one branch of the slavery economy in the French West Indies as it connects to the then (1830’s) virgin Mississippi lands suitable for plantation creation. The trials and tribulations of two varieties of “poor white trash” (Sutpen, and later his overseer). The Civil War as refracted though small town Southern life. Miscegenation. Lust. Incest. Murder, Almost murder. Wannabe murder. Abortion. Southern gentility. Not so gentile Southern life. Ghosts, real and imagined. Fear of going forward. Fear of going back. Hatred of the North. Hatred of the South. Carpetbaggers. Scalawags. Almost every social and human experience, except any serious description of the hated n----r in post-Civil War society, and except as monsters. And that is only a start. So here is the “real deal”. Goddam, William Faulkner can write a hell of a novel. Nevertheless, after reading this novel, I will stick with the lyrics in Nina Simone’s old 1960’s Civil Rights-inspired song- “Mississippi, Goddam"

"Mississippi Goddam"- Nina Simone- 1963

The name of this tune is Mississippi goddam
And I mean every word of it

Alabamas gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about mississippi goddam

Alabamas gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about mississippi goddam

Cant you see it
Cant you feel it
Its all in the air
I cant stand the pressure much longer
Somebody say a prayer

Alabamas gotten me so upset
Tennessee made me lose my rest
And everybody knows about mississippi goddam

This is a show tune
But the show hasnt been written for it, yet

Hound dogs on my trail
School children sitting in jail
Black cat cross my path
I think every days gonna be my last

Lord have mercy on this land of mine
We all gonna get it in due time
I dont belong here
I dont belong there
Ive even stopped believing in prayer

Dont tell me
I tell you
Me and my people just about due
Ive been there so I know
They keep on saying go slow!

But thats just the trouble
Do it slow
Washing the windows
Do it slow
Picking the cotton
Do it slow
Youre just plain rotten
Do it slow
Youre too damn lazy
Do it slow
The thinkings crazy
Do it slow
Where am I going
What am I doing
I dont know
I dont know

Just try to do your very best
Stand up be counted with all the rest
For everybody knows about mississippi goddam

I made you thought I was kiddin didnt we

Picket lines
School boy cots
They try to say its a communist plot
All I want is equality
For my sister my brother my people and me

Yes you lied to me all these years
You told me to wash and clean my ears
And talk real fine just like a lady
And youd stop calling me sister sadie

Oh but this whole country is full of lies
Youre all gonna die and die like flies
I dont trust you any more
You keep on saying go slow!
Go slow!

But thats just the trouble
Do it slow
Do it slow
Mass participation
Do it slow
Do it slow
Do things gradually
Do it slow
But bring more tragedy
Do it slow
Why dont you see it
Why dont you feel it
I dont know
I dont know

You dont have to live next to me
Just give me my equality
Everybody knows about mississippi
Everybody knows about alabama
Everybody knows about mississippi goddam

Thats it!

*Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits- Honor The Memory Of Soviet Red Army Marshal Tuchachevsky

Click on the title to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for Soviet Red Army leader and victim of Stalin's Red Army purges in the 1930s, Marshal Mikhail Tuchachevsky.

Every January, as readers of this blog are now, hopefully, familiar with the international communist movement honors the 3 Ls-Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht, fallen leaders of the early 20th century communist movement who died in this month (and whose untimely deaths left a huge, irreplaceable gap in the international leadership of that time). January is thus a time for us to reflect on the roots of our movement and those who brought us along this far. In order to give a fuller measure of honor to our fallen forbears this January, and in future Januarys, this space will honor others who have contributed in some way to the struggle for our communist future. That future classless society, however, will be the true memorial to their sacrifices.

Note on inclusion: As in other series on this site (“Labor’s Untold Story”, “Leaders Of The Bolshevik Revolution”, etc.) this year’s honorees do not exhaust the list of every possible communist worthy of the name. Nor, in fact, is the list limited to Bolshevik-style communists. There will be names included from other traditions (like anarchism, social democracy, the Diggers, Levellers, Jacobins, etc.) whose efforts contributed to the international struggle. Also, as was true of previous series this year’s efforts are no more than an introduction to these heroes of the class struggle. Future years will see more detailed information on each entry, particularly about many of the lesser known figures. Better yet, the reader can pick up the ball and run with it if he or she has more knowledge about the particular exploits of some communist militant, or to include a missing one.


The mere mention of the name of the great Soviet General, Marshal Mikhail Tuchachevsky, evokes the heroic age of the seizure of power in the Russian October Revolution of 1917, and its aftermath in the destructive civil wars to defend the new proletarian state against the against the White Guards. Nothing will ever chance that view, except maybe new Octobers that will produce new military heroes to defend those states. That said, beyond those early exploits I always associate Tuchachevsky’s name with two things. The first, his adherence during the early Trotsky-led Soviet War Commissariat, to the military doctrine of the proletarian offensive, and secondly, his heroic, although wasted, military leadership of the struggle against Polish counter-revolution in 1920.

The doctrine of the proletarian offensive need not detain us for any length of time, as life itself determined the incorrect one-sidedness of such a doctrine in pursuit of working class military victories. Such doctrines, in many spheres of early Soviet life, were in any case pervasive and spoke to the pride that those who fought for the creation of the Soviet state had in its creation. If in the relatively benign fields of literature and culture one could reasonably, if again incorrectly, argue for merits of a distinct proletarian culture during the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat that argument falls flat in military affairs.

As we have learned from bitter experience, especially in the last few decades, the vicissitudes of the class struggle produce many ebbs and flows politically and militarily requiring many different responses. As a history of the Soviet state, especially in the early days indicates that same condition held on the military front. Thus, an inflexible doctrine based on some supposed preferred proletarian military doctrine was doomed from the start. Street fighting, offensive positional action, defensive positional action, insurrection, export of revolution, guerrilla fighting and the whole range of previously known military strategies and tactics that humankind has accumulated in these arts are necessary in the doctrinal military arsenal of the proletarian state. .

The Russian-Polish War of 1920, and its negative outcome for the Soviet side, is a more serious matter, although Marshal Tuchachevsky can hardly be held responsible for the Soviet defeat before Warsaw. A stronger argument can and has been made, that Stalin’s actions, as chief political commissar of one of the fronts, precluded victory in that struggle. I tend to agree with that argument but whatever its merits Tuchachevsky was thwarted in his ability to win a frontal assault against the French-advised and supplied Polish forces.

There can be no question by serious revolutionaries that this example of “export of revolution” by force of arms by the Soviet state, not only to break the back of the Polish nationalists and defend Soviet borders but to try to link up through the Polish “corridor” with the then restless and ready for action German proletariat, or at least its vanguard, was entirely consistent with Marxist doctrine. That is the real import of the defeat. Imagine, if you will, the possible difference outcome to the flow of the 20th century a Red Army victory would have posited. The “what if’s” of history are always problematic but here it was a near thing. The defeat, or rather non-start of the German revolution of 1923, is often, mainly correctly, cited as a defining moment in the ebb of 20th century working class revolutionary prospects. I, along with others, would suggest that the 1920 defeat also was a decisive act in creating that ebb. All Honor To The Memory Of Marshal Tuchachevsky!

*From The "Renegade Eye" Blog- "Know Thy Enemy"- Sizing Up The "Tea-Baggers"- A Poll

Click on the headline to link to the "Renegade Eye" blog concerning the demographics and other data of this "hot" political phenomena, "The Tea-Bagger"

Markin comment:

Such right-wing groupings as the "Tea-baggers", are a recurring phenomena in American politics going back to establishment of the American Republic. Someone mentioned the "Know-Nothings" of the 1850s as an example of that tradition. I think that is not a bad approximation, especially on the anti-immigrant, close the borders, sent the blacks back to Africa, and hide your head in the sand while Wall Street takes us on a another roller-coaster ride front. However, another look at those demographics tells me a different story. These people are not going to lead a counter-revolution. Retired, rich, white people who have not even gotten back from Florida, or other of the world sun-tanning spots yet, are not, in the end, up to that task. It is the forces that they might support, or do now support, like the expanding militia movements, where the danger lies. And why we have to "know thy enemy". No question.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

*From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"- A Case Study In Why Revolutionaries Do Not Run For The Executive Offices Of The Bourgeois State

Click on the headline to link to an "American Left History" blog entry concerning the subject discussed below, the attitude of revolutionaries toward running for the executive offices of the bourgeois state.

Markin comment:

Every once in a while in a now rather long political life I get my comeuppance handed to me on a silver platter. That fact has taken on added meaning after reading one of the two parts of the subject matter of this guest commentary below- the parliamentary maneuvering of the bourgeois parties in a recent flare-up in the Canadian Parliament, which, in the final analysis, is still tied to Mother England by a million strands. As the facts of the matter state in the article the British Commonwealth governor –general was asked by the leader of the ruling Tory Party to suspend parliament for his own political reasons. The governor-general complied. That, in the normal course events, is worthy of vociferous protest by your average democratic elements, the parliamentary left, the non-parliamentary left, and even a thoughtful Tory or two . That is not the issue. The issue, driven home in the article, is the rather touching faith of the non-parliamentary left in the preservation of the parliamentary system when that system, their system, in not under attack by some para-military right wing forces. That part they will have to answer politically for in due course.

The real question brought home to this writer is, however, his own previous nonchalant attitude toward the executive offices of the bourgeois state and whether revolutionaries should run for those offices. My struggle over the question, including a confession of seeing it previously as a non-question or not an important question at this time, is linked above. The article below just brings the issue home as to the currency of the question. The question becomes crystal clear here in the case of a rather obscure parliamentary move. Why on this good green earth would we want to administer the bourgeois state, any bourgeois state, and as in the case of Canada have to face and take responsibility for it before Mother England and her monarchist agents? Answer: we don’t. And by the way-whether we defend a parliamentary system at any given point that defense does not hinge on keeping the archaic British monarchy, the House of Lords, or the Church of England. Abolish those institutions. That said, I am still red-faced over my previous stand on executive offices.

A second issue brought up by the article is the question, the burning question, of the national right to self-determination of Quebec. It’s right to separate from English-speaking Canada. There should be no question on the left that Quebec has that right. There is also no question that revolutionaries reserve the right to raise the demand at any particular time, or not raise it. Why? The whole point for revolutionaries, in the long history of struggle over the question of the right to national self-determination within the international working class movement, in raising the demand is to cut across some historic national antagonisms in order to further the class struggle. There is nothing inherently virtuous in the national state and the right of nations to self-determination for revolutionaries, except when it interferes with that goal. Anyone at all familiar with Quebec and its people, especially its at times very militant labor movement, knows that the antagonism with the English-speaking part of Canada today interfere with that goal. Those who want to preserve a unitary Canadian state only add to the problem. Those who know the political thrust of this blog know that I very, very highly regard the martyred revolutionary German Communist leader, Rosa Luxemburg, the Rose Of The Revolution. However, she was wrong on her position on opposition to the right to national self-determination for Poland as against the Tsarist Russian unitary state. Those who oppose Quebec independence today make that same mistake. I need not stand red-faced on this one. Independence For Quebec!


Workers Vanguard No. 955
26 March 2010

Parliamentary Cretinism and Class Collaboration

Canada: A Prorogue’s Gallery

A part of the British Commonwealth, Canada is subordinate to the British monarchy, whose representative, the governor-general, has the power to suspend the Canadian parliament, as happened in December at Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper’s request. The following article about this question originally appeared in Spartacist Canada No. 164 (Spring 2010), newspaper of the Trotskyist League/Ligue trotskyste, Canadian section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist).

On January 23, more than 20,000 people in many Canadian cities protested against the suspension (prorogation) of parliament by governor-general Michaëlle Jean at the behest of Tory prime minister Stephen Harper. These protests, called in the name of “Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament” (CAPP), were backed by the capitalist Liberal Party of Canada, the NDP [New Democratic Party] social democrats and a variety of reformist left groups. Prominent among the latter were the International Socialists (I.S.). They helped organize and build the Toronto demo and one of their leading members made CAPP’s money pitch from the platform. While Liberal heavies like Bob Rae worked the Liberal/NDP crowd in Toronto, the Ottawa rally was addressed by both Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and NDP leader Jack Layton.

A central demand of these protests was that parliament “get back to work.” But the “work” of parliament is to ensure the continued exploitation of the working class and the supremacy of private property. Job one when parliament does “get back to work” will be to continue making the working class pay for the capitalist economic crisis; the Tories are planning massive spending cuts, including an expected assault on the pensions of government workers.

Unlike our reformist opponents, we Marxists do not uphold the “sanctity” of parliament, though we certainly oppose its arbitrary curtailment by the executive power of the capitalist state. We also call for the immediate abolition of the monarchy, the governor-general and the unelected Senate—no mere relics but rallying points for social reaction.

The fake left’s embrace of this “movement” to recall parliament reflects their deeply reformist view that the capitalist state can be administered in the interests of the workers and oppressed, especially if the NDP is helping to run it. In contrast, we recognize that the capitalist state must be smashed through proletarian revolution and replaced with workers councils (soviets), organs of working-class power.

Our defense of bourgeois-democratic rights is closely linked to combatting illusions in the “democratic” trappings of this unjust social system. V.I. Lenin, leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution, captured the essence of capitalist democracy in a scathing attack on the reformist enemies of Soviet Russia, the world’s first workers state: “The working people are barred from participation in bourgeois parliaments (they never decide important questions under bourgeois democracy, which are decided by the stock exchange and the banks) by thousands of obstacles” (The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky [1918]).

We thus do not, on principle, run for or accept executive offices, from mayor to president. In parliaments and other legislative bodies, communist deputies can, as oppositionists, serve as revolutionary tribunes of the working class. But assuming executive office or gaining control of a bourgeois legislative or municipal council, either independently or in coalition, requires taking responsibility for the administration of the machinery of the capitalist state, including its corrupt, violent, racist police forces (see “Down With Executive Offices of the Capitalist State! Marxist Principles and Electoral Tactics,” Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 61, Spring 2009).

The Harper government’s latest suspension of parliament is a very real violation of bourgeois-democratic norms. But consider the history of the parliamentary parties that paraded in the streets. It was the Liberal government of Mackenzie King that interned Japanese Canadians during World War II, a racist atrocity backed by the NDP’s predecessors, the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation. Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals imposed martial law in Quebec in 1970 and Jean Chrétien’s Liberals, backed by the NDP, imposed the Clarity Act, which effectively bans Quebec from exercising its democratic right to self-determination. Federally or provincially; Tory, Liberal or NDP: the bosses’ parliamentary governments wage incessant attacks on workers and the oppressed on behalf of the exploiters.

When Chrétien prorogued parliament (four times), the fake left raised no hue and cry. Now, mired in their typical “fight the right” opportunism, the reformist Communist Party (CP) declared that “this movement to ‘get Parliament back to work’ can help spark a powerful campaign to block and defeat the Harper Tories” (January 7 statement). The CP’s “anybody but Harper” sentiment—shared, if expressed less crudely, by the entire reformist left—can only be read as an endorsement of the bourgeois Liberals or at best the NDP.

In that same “fight the right” spirit, the I.S. begged the NDP to “step it up” so as “to make a difference to the outcome of this fight.” Blaring “Make Harper Pay,” the I.S. pleaded that “the union movement, social justice organizations, anti-war activists, environmentalists and socialists must go all-out to make this movement as big and as militant as possible” (Socialist Worker, January 2010). This is a blatant call on workers to join hands with their capitalist exploiters for the purpose of running the capitalist state. In this the I.S. repeats their bowing to the Liberal-NDP coalition a year earlier. We said that this class-collaborationist alliance was an enemy of the interests of the working class.

Also agonizing over the role of their cherished NDP was Fightback, the Canadian group of Alan Woods’ International Marxist Tendency. Noting the presence of the bourgeois Liberals at the anti-prorogation rallies, Fightback worried that “if the movement continues in its present class collaborationist formation, with demands acceptable to the Liberals, then it will go nowhere.” They recommended fighting “against the dictatorship of the bosses and for a genuine socialist workers’ democracy” (, 26 January). Yet what they mean by this is to call on the NDP, in which they are buried, to take power “on a socialist program.” But the Canadian state is a bourgeois state. Putting the NDP at the helm of this state is the antithesis of a genuine socialist program, i.e., workers revolution to smash the capitalist state and replace it with the dictatorship of the proletariat, the necessary foundation for any regime based on workers democracy.

According to Fightback, “the NDP and the unions need to put themselves at the head of this movement and extend it beyond the issue of prorogation.” The NDP is a bourgeois workers party, based in part on affiliation with workers unions but committed to a thoroughly pro-capitalist program. Contrary to Fightback, the only reason the NDP social democrats “put themselves at the head” of any social struggle is to derail and confine it to what is acceptable to the capitalist rulers.

The “Marxist” pretensions of the I.S., Fightback et al. are an utter fraud. This is best illustrated by their cheering on (and in some cases participating in) the capitalist-restorationist movements which destroyed the bureaucratically deformed/degenerated workers states of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Under cover of defending the same classless (i.e., bourgeois) “democracy” they tout today, they joined in the imperialists’ “human rights” crusade, the sole aim of which was capitalist counterrevolution. They have the same attitude towards China, by far the strongest of the remaining bureaucratically deformed workers states, where the return of capitalism would be a gigantic defeat for China’s worker and peasant masses for whom the 1949 Chinese Revolution has brought tremendous social gains. In contrast, we Trotskyists stand for the unconditional military defense of China, as well as the other deformed workers states—Cuba, North Korea and Vietnam—against imperialism and internal counterrevolution, while calling for the overthrow of the bureaucratic Stalinist misrulers through workers political revolution.

Down With Anglo Chauvinism! Independence for Quebec!

The recent suspension of parliament has its immediate origins in the Tories’ attempts to deflect anger over the well-established fact that the Canadian military in Afghanistan has been routinely handing over prisoners to their Afghan puppet allies for torture. At a more fundamental level, however, the inability of the ruling class to “solve” the Quebec national question has produced a structurally dysfunctional parliamentary system. Variously using military repression and threats, economic blackmail, compromises, cajoling, insults and more threats, the Anglo-chauvinist rulers are dead set on maintaining the French-speaking Québécois as an oppressed nation within a unitary Canadian state. This is the fundamental fault line of the reactionary “Canadian confederation.”

Following the collapse of the 1987 Meech Lake accord and the 1995 referendum which came close to victory for the side of Quebec sovereignty, the Québécois have repeatedly voted for a majority of bourgeois-nationalist Bloc Québécois MPs [Members of Parliament]. Since 2004, this has produced a series of weak minority governments in Ottawa, which worries the anglophone ruling class. Outside Canada, even that haughty mouthpiece of British capital, the Economist, has brooded about Canada’s “deadlocked politics.”

What is decisive for Marxists, though, is the fact that Canada’s protracted split along national lines has created a deep divide within the working class, pitting working people of English Canada and Quebec against one another instead of the capitalist rulers. As we recognized prior to the 1995 referendum, the only foreseeable way forward is for revolutionaries to advocate Quebec independence. By getting the national question off the agenda, workers of both nations will see more clearly that their true enemies are their “own” capitalist bosses, and not one another.

The English Canadian union tops and NDP have long been virulently hostile to Quebec’s national rights. They have lined up behind the Canadian ruling class whenever the Québécois seriously tried to assert their right to self-determination, including in the 1995 referendum. Such Anglo chauvinism has served to drive the once-militant Québécois working class into the arms of their “own” national exploiters, represented by the Bloc and Parti Québécois.

The reformist left capitulates to the Anglo chauvinists of the NDP in English Canada and, in some cases, to the bourgeois nationalists in Quebec, depending on where their immediate opportunist appetites lie. The Communist Party and Fightback oppose independence outright and cover their straight capitulation to Anglo chauvinism with empty “unite-and-fight” rhetoric (see “‘Fightback’ and the Quebec National Question,” SC No. 162, Fall 2009 [reprinted in WV No. 943, 25 September 2009]). Others, such as Socialist Action, favour Quebec independence, but only as a means to ingratiate themselves with “left” Québécois bourgeois nationalists. Today their chosen vehicle for this is the left-nationalist Québec Solidaire, a petty-bourgeois formation that does not even pay lip service to socialism.

Along with Fightback and the CP, the grotesquely misnamed Bolshevik Tendency is another staunch “left” defender of “Canadian unity.” In line with their sneering contempt for all forms of special oppression, the BT openly opposes independence for Quebec. Notoriously, the BT has the dubious distinction of being the “socialists” officially invited to a Montreal “Canadian unity” rally organized by business groups on the eve of the 1995 referendum on Quebec sovereignty! More recently, a BT contingent blended right into the flag-waving January prorogation protest in Toronto—none of their placards breathed a word of criticism against the ruling-class Liberal Party, let alone the social-democratic NDP. The BT is an integral part of the syphilitic chain of pro-capitalist reformism.

While workers and the oppressed must oppose ruling-class attacks on bourgeois-democratic rights, they must do so by their own methods and under their own independent banner. As we said in our 22 December 2008 supplement, “Liberal-NDP Coalition: Tool of the Bosses” (SC No. 160, Spring 2009):

“The Trotskyist League/Ligue trotskyste is fighting to build the nucleus of a revolutionary Marxist party that can root itself in the working class. Taking up the cause of all the oppressed, such a party would give conscious leadership to the struggles of the workers not only to improve their present conditions but to do away with the entire system of capitalist wage slavery. ‘Unity’ with the oppressors, or with their social-democratic political agents, is the road to defeat. The only way to smash the all-sided assault on social programs, to assure free quality medical care, childcare and jobs and decent living standards for all, to end the neocolonial pillage of the Third World, is by ripping the productive forces from the hands of the capitalist class through socialist revolution and putting them in the hands of those whose labour makes society run.”

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

*The Problems Of The American Organized Labor Movement - Victory To The Shaw's Supermarket Strikers!

Click on the headline to link to a "Boston Sunday Globe" article, dated April 11, 2010, concerning the decline of strike action by organized labor and the use of consumer boycotts as an alternative to such actions.

As the above linked “Boston Globe’ article indicates the current condition of the organized labor movement is in perilous straits. And, by extension, the unorganized working class is in even more desperate straits. Not only was the year 2009 the nadir of strike action nationally, the lowest since 1984 and by some other indicators ever, but there was a continuing long term decline in the number of organized union members, especially in the core industrial sector. Now no one expects that in hard economic times there would be a rush of strike activity. This is a defensive time when holding onto work and not losing benefits is the short term goal. However, as history has shown, the fate of the organized sector of the labor movement reflects on the rest of the class. That fate is particularly important to note today as the atomization of the class economically portends problems with organizing the unorganized later. We militants are duty-bound to fight against the atomization of the American working class, as well as internationally.

The central focus of the above article is on the current strike by some 300 warehouse workers, organized in the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), at the Shaw’s Supermarket warehouse. The upshot of this action was a lockout by Shaw’s and the hiring of replacement workers (aka, scabs). The union workers are currently conducting a consumer boycott campaign to get shoppers to shop elsewhere and put “pressure” on Shaw’s to come to terms. Labor militants, of course, support such actions. However one should also note that such ephemeral actions aimed at the general public are seldom successful. And that strategy pursued by the UFCW (and many other unions) is exactly one of the reasons that the atomization of the working class proceeds apace.

Part of the problem with the current labor movement is that there has been a serious breaking of continuity with the labor struggles of the past, especially those labor actions in the 1930s that helped to organize the basic industries like steel, auto, and the truck drivers. By every known indicator the working class, and its sons and daughters, are worst off today than they were a generation ago. That situation cannot be blamed solely on the trials and tribulations of “globalization”, privatization or other factors. Some of it is directly attributable to the actions, or rather inactions, of the national labor organizations and federations. Thus, the call for new labor leadership and a new labor strategy of organizing the unorganized starting with Wal-Mart and the South is merely the beginning of wisdom.

That, obviously, is no mean task with the enormous resources that the international corporations and their agents can bring to bear. However, it is a “no-brainer” that not to fight will only further erode the slight consciousness of the working class as a class and will not even solve the most minimal solutions such as health care, working conditions, and runaway shops. Seemingly the day of the great social-democratic labor unions, like the United Auto Workers, or even the traditional merely trade union-oriented business-like unions, like the Teamsters, are past but that is merely an illusion. At least it is an illusion if one does believes that the working class can be organized to fight for its immediate concerns, and eventually for its own workers government. I do, don't you?

*From "The Rag Blog"- The Culture Wars Redux- Tea Bag Nation

Click on the headline to link to a "The Rag Blog" entry concerning the latest round in the forty plus years of cultural wars we have been fighting- just to keep OUR leftist, militant, communist and socialist heads above water.

Monday, April 12, 2010

*Poet's Corner-Robert Lowell's "For The Union Dead"

Link to essay by poet and literary critic Helen Vendler about Robert Lowell's "For The Union Dead".

Guest Commentary

On the 152th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War in honor of the Northern armies that fought and died defending the union and/or the abolition of slavery a poem written by Robert Lowell during the Centenary in 1964. Markin

Robert Lowell - For the Union Dead- 1964

"Relinquunt Omnia Servare Rem Publicam."

The old South Boston Aquarium stands
in a Sahara of snow now. Its broken windows are boarded.
The bronze weathervane cod has lost half its scales.
The airy tanks are dry.

Once my nose crawled like a snail on the glass;
my hand tingled
to burst the bubbles
drifting from the noses of the cowed, compliant fish.

My hand draws back. I often sigh still
for the dark downward and vegetating kingdom
of the fish and reptile. One morning last March,
I pressed against the new barbed and galvanized

fence on the Boston Common. Behind their cage,
yellow dinosaur steamshovels were grunting
as they cropped up tons of mush and grass
to gouge their underworld garage.

Parking spaces luxuriate like civic
sandpiles in the heart of Boston.
A girdle of orange, Puritan-pumpkin colored girders
braces the tingling Statehouse,

shaking over the excavations, as it faces Colonel Shaw
and his bell-cheeked Negro infantry
on St. Gaudens' shaking Civil War relief,
propped by a plank splint against the garage's earthquake.

Two months after marching through Boston,
half the regiment was dead;
at the dedication,
William James could almost hear the bronze Negroes breathe.

Their monument sticks like a fishbone
in the city's throat.
Its Colonel is as lean
as a compass-needle.

He has an angry wrenlike vigilance,
a greyhound's gently tautness;
he seems to wince at pleasure,
and suffocate for privacy.

He is out of bounds now. He rejoices in man's lovely,
peculiar power to choose life and die--
when he leads his black soldiers to death,
he cannot bend his back.

On a thousand small town New England greens,
the old white churches hold their air
of sparse, sincere rebellion; frayed flags
quilt the graveyards of the Grand Army of the Republic.

The stone statues of the abstract Union Soldier
grow slimmer and younger each year--
wasp-waisted, they doze over muskets
and muse through their sideburns . . .

Shaw's father wanted no monument
except the ditch,
where his son's body was thrown
and lost with his "niggers."

The ditch is nearer.
There are no statues for the last war here;
on Boylston Street, a commercial photograph
shows Hiroshima boiling

over a Mosler Safe, the "Rock of Ages"
that survived the blast. Space is nearer.
When I crouch to my television set,
the drained faces of Negro school-children rise like balloons.

Colonel Shaw
is riding on his bubble,
he waits
for the blessèd break.

The Aquarium is gone. Everywhere,
giant finned cars nose forward like fish;
a savage servility
slides by on grease.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

*From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"-A Call For U.S. /U.N. Troops Out Of Haiti

Click on the headline to link to an "American Left History" blog entry, "A Polemic On Haiti And What Revolutionaries Can Do About It- The Internationalist Group vs. The Spartacist League-Part 2", which gives some context to the material below.

Markin comment:

The question of the call for the withdrawal of American and United Nations troops from Haiti in the aftermath of the recent horrific earthquake there has been the subject of an on-going polemic between the International Communist League/ Spartacist League/U.S. and one of its off-shoots, the International Group (with another off-shoot, the International Bolshevik Tendency, chiming in for good measure). I have provided a link above to the various polemics between the organizations that I had posted previously in this space on this subject. I just want to make a couple of quick comments here now that the ICL/Spartacist League/U.S. has, as their article below states, shifted their position on the question in light of changed circumstances on the ground in Haiti.

To boil down the argument to its core the dispute has centered on the question of the timeliness of a slogan, in this case the withdrawal of imperial troops in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, and under what circumstances to raise the slogan.
There is no question that revolutionaries would not, and do not, call for bourgeois governments, large or small, to sent their troops anywhere, under virtually any foreseeable circumstances. That is the ABCs of Marxism, pure and simple.

Our international workers movement has broken its teeth too many times on that issue, fundamentally the issue of the state and who controls it, to require much further comment on that point. However, I have raised, on several previous occasions in this space, the timeliness of slogans in politics in general and of our revolutionary politics in particular. And that is where I believe that the ICL/SL had the better of the argument here. As cited in the article below that organization, taking a leaf from the thinking of the American Socialist Workers Party in its revolutionary days back in the 1940s (“Shall We Campaign For U.S. Government Aid To The USSR?”, “Militant”, 19 July 1941, although I was not able to get a Google for the article to place it here), argued that while revolutionaries, of course, do not call for sending troops into a situation may, under certain circumstances, not raise an objection. That fits the situation in Haiti in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake to a tee. I would add, as well, particularly when there was precious little, as in Haiti, which revolutionaries today could do about it in that immediate aftermath.

We, unfortunately, can no longer do something like call on the ex-Soviet Union to provide massive relief in the alternative, although I did not see any group calling on the Chinese workers state to do so. Cuba, despite its heroic efforts, is, frankly, just too limited in resources to have effectively provided such an alternative. To pose the question that way gives a little more realistic approach to what was possible, and why raising no immediate objections made sense in conditions of a human/natural catastrophe on the ground. Where I would fault the ICL position, while we are on the subject of timeliness of slogans, is the fact of their timeliness in calling for troop withdrawals. I believe that the withdrawal call could have and should have been made within a month after the earthquake as it became clear that this “aid” situation with the American/ United Nations troops had gone beyond the usual, to use their word, “piggish” nature of such beasts. In any case, we are all on the same page now, and for anyone who isn’t- U.S. /.U.N Troops Out Of Haiti, And Stay Out!


Workers Vanguard No. 955
26 March 2010

All U.S./UN Troops Out of Haiti Now!

It is now more than two months since Haiti was struck by the earthquake that left over 200,000 of its nine million people dead. The quake has multiplied the desperate conditions of what was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Even before the devastation wreaked by it, nearly one out of every two Haitians had no regular access to drinking water and more than half the population survived on less than one dollar a day. Two centuries of looting by the U.S. and France and repeated American invasions to install and prop up brutal tinpot dictatorships had left the populace utterly exposed to the ravages of this natural disaster and totally reliant on outside aid. The quisling state administration of President René Préval—a fig leaf for a United Nations occupation regime—installed in 2006 at U.S. imperialism’s behest, collapsed as rapidly as did the tin shacks housing much of the population.

As part of a “relief effort,” the Obama administration dispatched some 20,000 troops and a flotilla of naval vessels to Haiti, not least in order to prevent Haitians from fleeing to the U.S. and to shore up the UN occupation force, which itself was damaged by the quake. Some 2,000 additional UN troops have been sent to the country, as well as an additional 1,500 UN police.

In response to the quake, a range of pseudo-socialist groups in the U.S. rushed to beg the American imperialists to do right by the Haitian people and send “aid not troops.” In this, groups like the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and Workers World Party (WWP) served only to aid Democrat Obama, whose election they had hailed, in providing a “humanitarian” facelift for blood-drenched U.S. imperialism. The notion that the imperialist powers that have laid waste to this small black country will serve the interests of the Haitian masses is a sick joke.

As we made clear in our article, “Haiti Earthquake Horror: Imperialism, Racism and Starvation” (WV No. 951, 29 January), while we were not for the U.S. military going into Haiti, neither were we going to demand, in the immediate aftermath of that horrific natural disaster, the immediate withdrawal of any forces that were supplying such aid as was reaching the Haitian masses. But the continued presence of any U.S. or UN military forces can only be a dagger aimed at the social and national aspirations of the Haitian toiling people. All U.S./UN troops and police out now!

In a 1941 article titled “Shall We Campaign for U.S. Government Aid to the USSR?” (Militant, 19 July 1941), the then-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party (SWP) underlined: “There is a difference between not raising any objection, when a capitalist government sends aid, and agitating for such aid. The key to the whole question consists in the understanding that we cannot rely on bourgeois governments to aid our cause.” The SWP was addressing the demand of the Stalinist Communist Party that the U.S. provide aid to the Soviet Union following the June 1941 Nazi invasion amid the Second World War. The Trotskyists opposed all the belligerent imperialist powers in that interimperialist slaughter, while standing for the unconditional military defense of the Soviet degenerated workers state.

But while the circumstances were different than those in Haiti today, the Marxist method outlined by our Trotskyist forebears remains fully valid. To call on the imperialists to provide aid means taking “responsibility for bourgeois governmental policy.” Drawing out the logic of the Stalinists’ position, the SWP article added: “Were we to agitate for aid to the Soviet Union by the Roosevelt government, would we then not be compelled to favor convoys to guarantee the arrival of the material shipped to the Soviet Union? Should we then not demand that the waters to Vladivostok be kept open by the U.S. government against Japan?” Indeed, the Stalinists’ call for imperialist aid was part and parcel of their support to the “democratic” imperialists in World War II.

In Haiti today, the U.S. imperialists have basically achieved their purpose, including a blunt reassertion to the rest of the world, most notably French imperialism, that the Caribbean remains an “American lake.” They are patting themselves on the back for a job well done as they wind down their military deployment in Haiti to 8,000 soldiers in order to direct troops back to where the Pentagon needs them—as part of the armies of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. At the same time, some 9,000 UN troops and 3,600 UN cops are to occupy Haiti. The U.S. and other imperialist military forces in the Caribbean are a particular threat to the Cuban bureaucratically deformed workers state. Defend Cuba! U.S. out of Guantánamo! All U.S. troops and bases out of Puerto Rico!

Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s vaunted offer of temporary legal status for undocumented Haitian immigrants in the U.S. has been shown to be the sham that it is, as only a small percentage of these immigrants has been able to afford the $500 application fees for the legal permits. Anybody who has made it to the U.S. should have the right to stay and work here. Down with the racist ban on Haitian refugees! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants!

The notion purveyed by reformists like the ISO and WWP that U.S. imperialism can be cajoled or pressured into serving the needs of the oppressed, rather than its own class interests, shows boundless illusions in the good offices of the rapacious American ruling class. Such illusion-mongering goes hand in hand with fawning over Third World populist nationalists like Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Préval’s mentor, who was restored to the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince in 1994 by a U.S. invasion force after being ousted by a (U.S.-backed) military coup. Aristide was then subsequently whisked away by the U.S. in 2004.

Taking up the left flank of the reformists is the centrist Internationalist Group (IG). In a 20 January article, the IG grotesquely and cynically claimed that the earthquake provided an opening for socialist revolution in Haiti, “particularly at present where the machinery of the capitalist state is largely reduced to rubble and a few marauding bands of police.” As we wrote in response in WV No. 951, “not only is the state ‘largely reduced to rubble,’ but so is the society as a whole,” underlining that “there is a military power in Haiti that is far from ‘reduced to rubble,’ and it’s U.S. imperialism.” Indeed, the only force that seemed to share the IG’s delusions of an uprising in Haiti after the quake was the Pentagon.

Yet the IG denounced us as “supporting imperialism” because we didn’t call for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. As we stated, in a situation where there were no good alternatives, we were “not going to call for an end to such aid as the desperate Haitian masses can get their hands on.” That the IG conjured up fantasies of a workers uprising was little more than an effort to give a phony “revolutionary” veneer to Haitian populists and others who used the earthquake to reinforce the illusions of the Haitian masses in Aristide (see “Haiti: IG Conjures Up Revolution Amid the Rubble,” WV No. 952, 12 February).

The desperate conditions of Haiti cannot be resolved within Haiti. To end the grinding poverty and degradation of the Haitian people, the imperialist system must be swept away through international socialist revolution. What there is of a working class in Haiti has neither the social weight nor industrial concentration to effect a revolutionary transformation of that society. But in the Dominican Republic, Canada and the U.S. there are hundreds of thousands of Haitian workers who can play a vital role in the struggle for socialist revolution. As we stressed in WV No. 951: “The key to the liberation of Haiti lies in proletarian revolution throughout the hemisphere, in which the mobilization of the sizable Haitian proletariat in the diaspora can play a key role.... It is only this revolutionary internationalist program that holds out any genuine perspective for the liberation of the Haitian masses.”

*From The "SteveLendmanBlog"- On The American Afghan Atrocities

Click on the headline to link to a "SteveLendmanBlog" entry concerning the inevitable question of American military atrocities in Afghanistan.

Markin comment:

The American imperial military machine has never left a small footprint whenever it has gone into action- from the Spanish-American War forward. The best way to curb that, in the short term, is Obama-Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied troops From Iraq and Afghanistan! And build those anti-war soldiers and sailors solidarity committees that I have spoken of previously. Then watch out!