Saturday, May 22, 2010

*Books To While Away The Class Struggle By- The God That Failed- Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness At Noon”

Click on the headline ot link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the writer and novelist, Arthur Koestler.

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

Book Review

Darkness At Noon, Arthur Koestler, Bantam Book, 1941

In what seems, politically, a long time ago, and concerning events that today seemingly took place on a different planet for the average reader, the book under review represented one of the first of a long succession of works on the subject of the “god that failed.” For those too young, like me, to remember back to the first wave of such disillusionment or who were not born at the time this subject centered on, in one form or another, of the breaking by a steady stream of Western intellectuals, writers, and other creative figures with an association, as they knew it, of the “communist experiment” in the Soviet Union (and later, as they attached themselves to other revolutions, in places like China and Cuba), Not the worst among them was the author here, Arthur Koestler, who had at least the distinction of having been in Spain when it mattered.

For some, few actually, that disillusionment might have occurred around the notorious Moscow Trials of the late 1930s where Stalin attempted, successfully, to liquidate his political enemies, the remnants of the Bolshevik Old Guard, their supporters in various Soviet state institutions, including the military, and their international allies in the communist movement. For others it was the noxious Hitler-Stalin Pact of 1939, the source of virtually all the subsequent false ideological linking of fascism and communism as twin ideologies. Later, in the post-World War II period, it was the Khrushchev revelations of Stalin’s crimes, or Hungary 1956, of Czechoslovakia, or…Afghanistan 1979. Whatever the pretext, whatever the validity of the outrageous behavior the net effect of the “break” was an overwhelmingly retrenchment back into the arms of the “god that didn’t fail”- Western imperialism. While those of us who have followed the teachings of Stalin’s great revolutionary nemesis, Leon Trotsky, have our own catalogue of crimes, and our own cries for vengeance against the historic legacy of Stalinism we, unconditionally, preferred not to “outsource” that task to world imperialism.

And the thrust of the last sentence is the central political and moral conundrum not only of writers like Arthur Koestler, who supported the Soviet Union and then backed off when the heat got too high, but of the central character in this novel, Nicolas Rubashov. Rubashov, an Old Guard Bolshevik leading figure, who had lost favor with “Number One” (Stalin), for opposing him in the past, and, more importantly, in the present through acts of political opposition, including actions outside the party. The action of the novel, such as it is, centers of Rubashov’s struggle to capitulate to “Number One” during these upheavals of the Moscow Trials period, on his own terms. Of course, there are no “own terms”, as we know from Khrushchev’s later revelations, except abject grovelings and debasement. The real moral query for Rubashov, who after all was no fool and had been at his revolutionary trade for four decades, much long than the younger element that populated the Stalinist bureaucracy and that has no clue to the heroic struggles of the pre-revolutionary period, is whether this capitulation will be of service, even if a last service to the party. In the end, however, he went down to the “killing” cellars for no good purpose.

It is at that last point that this novel, real enough in the facts behind the scenes of the action, is “unreal”. I mentioned above the name of the great Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky. In the early Soviet period in the 1920s he, in the heat of a polemic, made a comment that no individual could be right against the party; the historic vehicle for the liberation of humankind. Many political opponents, of various hues, have used that statement, among others, to tar him with a quasi-Stalinist brush. But that is wrong, at least if one looks at his later career of opposition to Stalin and the Stalin regime, unto the death. And that is the contrast to be drawn between his political actions and those of Koestler/Rubashov. They mixed up the notion of duty to some political organizational form over the truths of the Marxist perspective in the struggle for our communist future. They could never resolve their moral dilemma either by a fruitless death or of a meaningless submission to world imperialism, an imperialism that really had other weapons, real weapons, to fight the “god that failed”. Learn that lesson, and learn it well.

*From The "Renegade Eye" Blog- Revolution And Counter-Revolution In Thailand- A Guest Commentary From The International Marxist Tendency

Click on the headline to link to the "Renegade Eye" blog entry- "Revolution And Counter-Revolution In Thailand"- A Guest Commentary From The International Marxist Tendency.

*From The SteveLendmanBlog" On The Growing Homeless In America

Click on the headline to link to a "SteveLendmanBlog" entry on the growing homelessness in America.

Markin comment:

I suppose the Obama administration will want to call them "Bushvilles" (after the "Hoovervilles" of the early 1930s in the other Great Depression) to shift the blame back but I like "Obamavilles" just fine. In any case, we need to fight for a workers party that fights for a workers government to begin to seriously address this issue.

*From The "HistoMat" Blog- The Skewering Of "Bad Boy" (ex) Christopher Hitchens

Click on the headline to link to the "HistoMat" blog for a little well-served and well-placed skewering of one Christopher Hitchens-poster boy for ?.

*From The "Socialist Worker" Website- On The Tea Party

Click on the headline to link to a "Socialist Workers. org" Website entry on the latest on the Tea Party movement in America.

Markin comment:

Hearty and heartfelt thanks for this article since that means that I don't have to write on the subject. I think that I would rather, much rather, face the Stalinist prison camps and show trials that I am writing about in a review of Arthur Koestler's "Darkness At Noon" today than on the intricacies of bourgeois political techniques. Except to keep a very close watch on this movement not for what it stands for but for the madness and mad people that it will bring out in its wake. It will not be pretty if the results so far are any indication. On that, be alert.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Books To While Away The Class Struggle By- James Baldwin's-"Tell Me How Long The Train's Been Gone"-Get On The Train To The Liberation Struggle

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for James Baldwin's "Tell Me How Long The Train's Been Gone"

Get On The Train- To Black Liberation Struggle

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

Book Review

"Tell Me How Long The Train's Been Gone", James Baldwin, The Dial Press, New York, 1968

Recently I started a review of a film documentary, “Lenny Bruce: Without Tears”, using the following lines that I found appropriate to use to set the same kind of tone in reviewing James Baldwin’s his 1974 novel, “If Beale Street Could Talk”. I also find it useful to do so here as well in reviewing "Tell Me How Long The Train's Been Gone":

“Okay, the average black male kid on the average ghetto city block today knows, and knows without blinking, and knows from some seemingly unspoken source deep within his genetic structure that the cards are stacked against him. That the cops, the courts, or some other part of the “justice” system will, eventually, come knocking at the door or grab him off the street for something, usually dope. The average Latino male kid on the average barrio city block pretty much knows that same thing, again usually on some bogus drug charge. And nowadays young black and Latina women are getting that same message coded into their psyches.”

And that sums up the message behind almost all of Baldwin’s’ best work, at least the message that will last and that should be etched in the memory of every fighter for social justice.

Now I have been, as is my wont when I get “hooked” on some writer, on something of a James Baldwin tear of late, reading or re-reading everything I can get my hands on. At the time of this review I have already looked at “Go Tell It On The Mountain”, the play “Blues For Mr. Charlie”, and "If Beale Street Could Talk. Frankly, those works, caught my attention more so that this work of "black uplift". Although it is well-written and powerful in spots it did not remind me why I was crazy to read everything that Baldwin wrote when I was a kid.

Why? Well, while I could definitely relate to the main character, Leo's, struggle to make a career for himself in the very white theater of his day and I could also sympathize with his struggle against the ingrained racism that he faced in daily life, even when he was successful, there was just a little too much self-satisfaction to move me into his direction. I will say that Baldwin's use, as on previous occasions, of the two-tier past and present interspersed literary format to tell Leo's early story (and his brother Caleb's and his white paramour Barbara's as well) and his current ill-health induced dilemma makes the novel move better than expected when I started reading the book.

That said, Baldwin is at his best when he creates situations where his characters have to confront the hard, hard reality of up-front racism in American. Little scenes like "being black" while in small town New Jersey, being black while in big time Broadway, and being black while dealing with a white (female) lover bring home the point nicely. And of those racial nodal points the strongest is when Baldwin has the bi-sexual Leo's male paramour, Black Christopher, who represents the "new" post- civil rights movement young black draws just the right historical parallel to the Jewish experience in World War II when he states, in effect- we will not go sheepishly into the concentration camps that the whites have ready for us when things get too hot. Powerful stuff. To bad it got buried in a story line that in the end has Leo traipsing off to Europe and not worthy of such insights.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

*From The Communist International Internet Archives- Lenin On The Twenty One Conditions For Admission To The Communist International

Click on the headline to link to a "The Communist International Internet Archives" entry - "Lenin On The Twenty One Conditions For Admission To The Communist International."

Markin comment:

Every once in a while it is worthwhile to go back and take a good long, long look at what being a communist, and fighting for our communist future, meant to those forbears who put the Communist International together. As recent developments on the international left bear witness to- it is easy to lose your way, especially in ideologically and politically hard times for communists.

*From The Pages Of “Workers Vanguard”-Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants!

Click on the headline to link to a "New York Times" article, dated April 24, 2010, concerning the Arizona immigrant law.

Markin comment:

As almost always these historical articles and polemics are purposefully helpful to clarify the issues in the struggle against world imperialism, particularly the “monster” here in America.

Workers Vanguard No. 958
7 May 2010

Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants!

Down With Arizona’s Racist Pass Law!

Break with the Democrats—For a Revolutionary Workers Party!

To be brown-skinned in the state of Arizona is to be a suspected criminal under the provisions of the recently enacted “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhood Act.” This apartheid-style, anti-immigrant pass law mandates the cops to stop and question anyone they think might be an “illegal” immigrant. Those who fail to immediately produce documentation proving their “right” to be in the United States could be arrested and thrown behind bars. This is the codification in law of the racist roundups of Latinos that have been carried out for years by notorious Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, whose prisoners are shackled in chain gangs and housed in tent cities in the blazing heat of the desert.

Outrage against the Arizona law brought out tens of thousands in protest in cities across the country on May 1. But as was the case with the massive immigrant rights demonstrations on May Day 2006, the protest leaders are channeling this outrage into the political shell game that is a central pillar of capitalist rule in America—the idea that the Democratic Party is the “friend” of immigrants, labor and black people. The 2006 rallying cry of “Today we march, tomorrow we vote” paid off handsomely for the Democrats, who captured the overwhelming majority of the Latino vote in the last presidential elections. This year, chants of “Sí, se puede! Yes, we can!”, the election slogan of today’s Commander-in-Chief of U.S. imperialism, Barack Obama, were the chorus orchestrated by the Latino organizations, Democratic Party politicians and trade-union bureaucrats who headed the protests.

In a televised message to hundreds of thousands at a March 21 immigrant rights rally in Washington, D.C., Obama promised to “build a future worthy of our history as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.” The ability to use such honey-coated words to mask a system which is based on the exploitation of the working class and rooted in vicious racial oppression is precisely what has made the Democratic Party the often-preferred party of the American bourgeoisie in times of war and economic crisis.

Behind the words stands the iron fist of capitalist state repression. This was seen in Arizona only a week before the passage of the new law, in anti-immigrant raids carried out by Obama’s Department of Homeland Security (now headed by former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano). With helicopters buzzing overhead, up to 800 agents from the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) and other police agencies, some in black hoods, launched a military-style attack on shuttle van businesses that transport immigrant workers in Phoenix, Tucson, Rio Rico and Nogales. Heralded as the biggest smuggling bust in the I.C.E.’s history, these raids provide a chilling snapshot of the Democrats’ program for “immigration reform.”

As described in a Washington Post (1 May) article: “The Democrats’ legislative ‘framework’ includes a slew of new immigration enforcement measures aimed at U.S. borders and workplaces. It would further expand the 20,000-member Border Patrol; triple fines against U.S. employers who hire illegal immigrants; and, most controversially, require all American workers—citizens and noncitizens alike—to get new Social Security cards linked to their fingerprints to ease checks of their work eligibility.” Obama promised to “open a pathway to citizenship” for the more than eleven million undocumented immigrants in this country. What this means is seen in the current Democratic proposal that these desperately impoverished workers turn themselves in as “lawbreakers,” pay heavy fines and back taxes, pass background checks and be proficient in English. Even then they would be granted only a provisional status for eight years.

This has not shaken the reformists’ illusions in Obama as “change” they can “believe in.” As usual, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) takes second place to no one on this score. A 30 April article in its press, Socialist Worker, opines: “A conversation about really progressive immigration reform needs to start by strategizing about how to stop the Arizona scare, and how to force Obama, who repeatedly has recognized that the system is broken, to stop deportations”! This, they argue, “can buy time for the movement to push for legislation...that puts the interests of the entire working class, immigrant and native-born alike, up front.”

The hard truth is that the capitalist system is based on the brutal exploitation of all labor, with the ruling class inflaming racial and ethnic hostilities to keep the working class divided and thus ensure a greater extraction of profit. Just as immigrant workers are brought in during economic boom times to provide a pool of low-wage labor, the current rise in anti-immigrant attacks worldwide is exacerbated by the global economic crisis and its attendant soaring unemployment. As we wrote in the International Communist League’s “Declaration of Principles and Some Elements of Program” (Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 54, Spring 1998):

“Modern capitalism, i.e., imperialism, reaching into all areas of the planet, in the course of the class struggle and as economic need demands, brings into the proletariat at its bottom new sources of cheaper labor, principally immigrants from poorer and less-developed regions of the world—workers with few rights who are deemed more disposable in times of economic contraction. Thus capitalism in ongoing fashion creates different strata among the workers, while simultaneously amalgamating the workers of many different lands. Everywhere, the capitalists, abetted by aristocracy-of-labor opportunists, try to poison class consciousness and solidarity among the workers by fomenting religious, national and ethnic divisions. The struggle for the unity and integrity of the working class against chauvinism and racism is thus a vital task for the proletarian vanguard.”

We do not seek to tinker with the capitalist system by advising the bourgeoisie to take up an alternative immigration policy. We call for full citizenship rights for all immigrants as part of our struggle to advance the class consciousness and solidarity of the multiracial working class, preparing it for the necessary revolutionary battle to end capitalist class rule. A real fight for immigrant rights in this country will only begin when the workers—white, black, Latino and others—struggle based on their common interests as a class. This means opposition to all the political parties and state agencies of the capitalist class. Unlocking the social power of the multiracial working class will take a political fight against the current pro-capitalist misleaders of labor who have shackled the working class to their exploiters, particularly through support for the Democratic Party.

Labor Lieutenants of the Capitalist Class

Many of the 1.8 million members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are immigrants, and many of these have waged militant struggles to organize unions. But their interests are betrayed by the union leaders. A statement on Arizona’s anti-immigrant law by Eliseo Medina, executive vice president of the SEIU, declared:

“This radical anti-immigration law should be a wake-up call to Congress and the White House. Immigration is a national problem that needs a national solution.... We need immigration policies that will eliminate the underground economy by getting undocumented immigrants into the system, paying fines, back taxes, learning English and getting on local, state and federal tax rolls. We need reform that will truly end illegal immigration and hold bad-actor employers responsible for depressing wages and violating the right to a safe worksite for all workers.”

Likewise, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka’s statement in opposition to the Arizona law demanded that “our focus should instead be on a comprehensive solution to the broken immigration system.”

Last year, the SEIU’s “Change to Win” union federation and the AFL-CIO issued a joint statement for “comprehensive immigration reform.” Embracing the government’s campaign against undocumented workers, these labor traitors seek only to tinker with its methods of repression. To regulate immigration, their “unified framework” called for “an independent commission to assess and manage future flows” of immigrant workers, leaving open the possibility of their own participation on such a commission as the labor police for the capitalist state. It also demanded more “rational operational control of the border” and a “secure and effective worker authorization mechanism.”

Since coming to power, bankrolled by millions in contributions from the labor tops, the Obama administration has expanded such “worker authorization mechanisms” as the E-Verify program, which is aimed at confirming the legal status of workers through checking their Social Security numbers against government databases. At one workplace after another, mass firings of immigrant workers have followed such audits. Last year, 254 workers, mostly women, at the food processing plant Overhill Farms and another 1,500 at clothing maker American Apparel, both in the Los Angeles area, were driven out of their jobs after these so-called “desktop raids.” The Obama administration boasts that in its first year it deported a record number of “illegals.”

Such raids are an open invitation to get rid of union activists and other “troublemakers.” In 2006, the bosses at Smithfield’s pork processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, tried to stop a fight for union recognition by firing 75 “no match” workers. A two-day walkout that included black and white workers as well as Latinos forced the company to rehire everyone. The workers won their union in late 2008, but by that time I.C.E. workplace raids had driven out a significant number of the immigrant workers.

The battle at Smithfield underlines the need for a mass, militant union organizing drive throughout the country and particularly in the open shop South. Only 6.5 percent of workers in Arizona, a notorious “right-to-work” state, are organized. Now, in response to the new anti-immigrant law, an article in the Phoenix Business Journal (30 April) reports that SEIU union representatives “say they are seeing a surge in inquiries from Hispanic workers in Arizona worried about the new law and the potential for more police raids and inquiries into their workplaces.” Enlisting immigrant workers—many of whom have a history of militant struggle in their own countries—in the front ranks of the labor movement is an urgent task both to fight the exploitation of the most vulnerable layers of the population and to bust the government’s anti-union laws. This in turn could reverse the decades-long decline of the trade unions in this country. Rather than defending the working class as a whole or even members of their own unions, the union bureaucracy embraces the “national” interests of the U.S. capitalist rulers as its own.

The Democrats’ “immigration reform” plans include the institution of a national biometric identity card for everyone in the United States. This will increase the police-state powers and repressive apparatus of the capitalist state, which have already been vastly augmented under the so-called “war on terror.” Under the Transportation Workers Identity Credential (TWIC) program, such biometric ID cards have already been mandated for hundreds of thousands of workers at the ports. To qualify for a TWIC card, all port workers had to submit to extensive criminal background and immigration checks. For black and Latino port workers, who have been particularly targeted under the racist “war on drugs,” even applying for the card meant running the risk of possible deportation or being pursued as some kind of “fugitive from justice.” The applications of tens of thousands of port workers were rejected, although some eventually won their cases on appeal. An unknown number of longshore and other port workers are permanently gone, branded as a threat to “national security” for trivial offenses like drug possession with “intent” to distribute, or just being an “illegal” immigrant.

Rather than fighting this “anti-terror” law, the response of the leaders of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union—which is still widely seen as a bastion of labor power and militancy—was to call for a more expedient and “fair” implementation of the TWIC program! As we wrote in “‘War on Terror’ Crackdown on the Docks” (WV No. 936, 8 May 2009):

“For the ILWU and other longshore unions to wage a real fight against TWIC and the racist, union-busting ‘war on terror’ laws, the obvious starting point must be opposition to the very state that is enforcing these laws. It means championing full citizenship rights for all immigrants and fighting to organize foreign-born workers.... In a country built on the subjugation of black people, where racist reaction has long served to ratchet up the exploitation of the working class as a whole, the fight for black freedom is directly linked to the fight to break the chains of capitalist wage slavery and the state forces and laws that maintain it. But to wage that kind of struggle, the unions must be led by a different kind of leadership, one rooted in a program of class struggle, as opposed to the present misleaders whose policies of class collaboration increasingly subordinate the unions to the capitalist state.”

When the ILWU embraces TWIC, making itself an auxiliary to the racist crackdown on the port truckers; when the auto unions lobby for the bosses’ bailout schemes, pledging to lower the cost of union labor to rival the depressed wages and rotten conditions in non-union plants; when the powerful Teamsters union pleads that “unsafe” Mexican truckers should be barred from America’s highways: the conservative bureaucrats are lining up against the basic class interests of the international proletariat. Their highest loyalty is to capitalist profitability on behalf of their own racist ruling class, whose benefits are supposed to “trickle down.” This means pitting workers against one another in competition for crumbs and increasing poverty and unemployment, especially for the most vulnerable social layers.

Black Rights and Immigrant Rights

Calls for an economic boycott of Arizona have come from a variety of Democratic Party politicians, ranging from the San Francisco city government to New York’s Al Sharpton, with the reformist left, such as Workers World Party, bringing up the rear with the demand that capitalist investors and businesses “divest from the apartheid-like police state!” The last time there were appeals for such a boycott was in response to the refusal of the Arizona state administration to recognize Martin Luther King’s birthday as an official holiday. That refusal, together with the state’s apartheid-style, anti-immigration law, captures something of the history of Arizona. This history is in turn emblematic of the racial oppression of blacks and anti-immigrant reaction that are central to the maintenance of American capitalism.

Until the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, Arizona like most of the Southwest was part of Mexico. It was in large measure the Southern slavocracy’s drive to extend slavery that motivated the invasion of Mexico, which resulted in the U.S. stealing half of Mexico’s territory. Today, Latinos—largely Mexicans and Mexican Americans—make up more than 30 percent of the state’s population. Although black people are a mere 4.2 percent of Arizona’s population, the state has long been a bastion of anti-black racism. Barry Goldwater, five-term Arizona Senator and Republican candidate for president in 1964, voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act. For decades Goldwater was an icon of a right-wing backlash against black rights, unions and any and all social welfare programs. In the past decade, Arizona has been on the cutting edge of anti-immigrant reaction, spawning vigilante Minuteman militias to patrol the borders against “illegals.”

Now, Sharpton—a political hustler who mobilized against Korean-owned grocery stores in Brooklyn before he became a more “respectable” Democratic Party politician—bombastically declares “we will bring Freedom Walkers to Arizona just like Freedom Riders went to the deep south 50 years ago” (New York Daily News, 26 April). The courageous civil rights struggles of the 1960s led to the elimination of formal Jim Crow segregation in the South. But the promise of black freedom was betrayed by the leaders of the civil rights movement, who tied their fortunes to the Democratic Party and were bought off for token concessions and a few “black faces in high places.” Today, Sharpton’s invocation of these heroic freedom riders is aimed at enforcing the rule of racist American capitalism in its Democratic Party face.

A keynote speaker at the 50,000-strong immigrant rights protest in Los Angeles on May Day was the city’s Latino Democratic Party mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. A sign read “We Latinos Are the Jews of the 21st Century.” Only two weeks earlier, a gang of Hitler-loving Nazis staged an anti-immigrant, race-hate rally in Los Angeles to “Reclaim the Southwest.” They were protected by hundreds of L.A. cops, mobilized by the mayor’s office, against a protest by about a thousand anti-fascists. The trade-union misleaders, in a city where immigrant workers have been in the forefront of union organizing over the past two decades, turned a blind eye to this deadly fascist provocation. The fascists should have been stopped by a militant mass mobilization of working people and oppressed led by the labor movement. Labor’s inaction spelled an unqualified defeat for the working class, the bitter fruit of the labor bureaucracy’s allegiance to the Democratic Party.

The working class needs its own party, a multiracial revolutionary workers party. It is the purpose of the Spartacist League/U.S. to forge such a party, which, through education and in the course of sharp class struggle, can make the working class conscious not only of its social power but also of its historic interest as the gravedigger of the vicious and depraved rule of capitalist imperialism. Crucial to building such a party in the U.S. is the understanding of the inextricable link between the fight for labor’s emancipation, the defense of immigrant rights and the cause of black freedom. When the wealth of this country is in the hands of the working class that produced it, we will begin the construction of a socialist planned economy which will provide the material basis for the eradication of black oppression. Grounded in a program of revolutionary internationalism, a workers government will begin to right the historical crimes of U.S. imperialism, for example by returning to Mexico the predominantly Spanish-speaking areas along the border. Such a gesture would be the sharpest possible repudiation of the social-patriotic politics of the present American labor movement and a concrete demonstration of the internationalist program to smash the imperialist world order.

As we wrote in a 2006 joint declaration of the SL/U.S. and our comrades of the Grupo Espartaquista de México (GEM), written to intervene into the mass immigrant rights demonstrations held that year: “The multiracial U.S. working class is potentially the most powerful ally of Mexican workers. The SL/U.S. and the GEM are dedicated to forging revolutionary workers parties on both sides of the border as part of the fight to reforge Trotsky’s Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution.”

*From Revolutionary History, Vol.2 No.1, Spring 1989-Carl Skoglund's-"The 1934 Minneapolis Strike"

Click on the headline to link to "Revolutionary History", Vol.2 No.1, Spring 1989-Carl Skoglund's-"The 1934 Minneapolis Strike".

Markin comment:

I have previously posted Socialist Workers Party leader James P. Cannon's work on the subject of the great Minneapolis Teamsters strikes of 1934 in this space. Carl Skoglund was a central on site figure in that fight, and a central leader of the precursor to what became the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party in America that Cannon lead in its early, revolutionary day.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-The Battles Against Syphilis and AIDS: Medicine vs. Anti-Sex Moralism-A Tribute to Paul Ehrlich

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Spring 1987 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.


The Battles Against Syphilis and AIDS: Medicine vs. Anti-Sex Moralism

A Tribute to Paul Ehrlich

"I was led by the desire to direct my lifetime's work to an important and worthy objective— I chose diseases that affect man and which it had hitherto been impossible to combat with other medicines." —Paul Ehrlich, quoted in Ernst Baumler, Paul Ehrlich, Scientist for Life

Women and Revolution has chosen this International Women's Day as an occasion to commemorate Paul Ehrlich, one of the great pioneers of medical science. Among his many discoveries in bacteriology, immunology and hematology, any one of which would earn him a place in history, was Salvarsan, the first effective treatment for syphilis, one of humanity's most terrible scourges. Although Salvarsan has been superceded by the far more effective penicillin, its discovery established the use of chemical agents in the treatment of disease (chemotherapeutics) as a new branch of medicine. And by targeting a venereal disease for treatment, Ehrlich took head-on the superstitious moralist which viewed such an illness as a "just punishment" for "sin." To the scientist Paul Ehrlich, this terrible disease was a medical condition, caused by a microbe, that could be cured and eliminated; his concern was to find that cure. Today, when anti-sex bigotry and hysteria against AIDS victims impede the already difficult task of conquering this new and deadly disease, the lessons of Paul Ehrlich's work are all the more important.

Ehrlich was born in 1854 of a German Jewish family. He entered medical school in 1872, at the dawn of anew age in medicine: the discovery that microorganisms are the cause of many diseases. With the aid of the microscope and the new theory, Louis Pasteur had saved the silk industry of southern France from the ravages of silkworm diseases. Over the next decade, the German bacteriologist Robert Koch identified the agents of anthrax, tuberculosis and Asiatic cholera.

Previously medicine had been dominated by the ancient theory of "humors." Syphilis patients, for example, were treated with mercury to cause profuse salivation and perspiration, which were believed to remove the bad "humors." Doses of mercury, a poison, probably neared lethal levels; whether patients suffered and died more from the illness or the "cure" is impossible to say.

It is hard to comprehend today the scale of devastation caused by this dreaded disease. The 1940s movie made of Ehrlich's life, Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet (starring Edward G. Robinson), paints a heart-rending picture of the suffering caused by syphilis: the desperate faces of the ill; a young man who commits suicide when informed that he has syphilis and cannot marry his sweetheart. The lives of millions of people were destroyed by syphilis, which often caused terrible complications such as heart ailments, blindness, insanity, sterility and paralysis. It has been estimated that 20 percent of the inmates of mental hospitals suffered from syphilis-induced dementia. In the latent phase of the disease, a woman could pass it on to her unborn child, without even being aware that she was infected. Congenital syphilis was a leading cause of stillbirths and infant mortality.

Bacterial research had been greatly aided by the discovery of dyes to stain tissue, which enhanced the microscopic details of cells. As a student Ehrlich became fascinated with staining and meticulously researched the affinities of various dyes with cellular structure. One of his first important discoveries was a stain which made a positive diagnosis of tuberculosis possible for the ordinary doctor.

In 1892 Ehrlich joined Robert Koch at the Institute for Infectious Diseases in Berlin, where they worked on tuberculosis immunology. Ehrlich was also part of the research team which realized the development of a diphtheria antitoxin and saved the lives of countless children. For this work Ehrlich won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1908, along with llya Mechnikov, who introduced the theory of the role of the white blood cells in immunity.

Out of this work Ehrlich developed the concept of chemotherapy, highly controversial at the time. He expressed his insight in a vivid image: "Antibodies are to some extent magic bullets which seek out their own targets without damaging the organism" (Baumler, Paul Ehrlich, Scientist for Life). Would it not be possible to use chemicals which would bind with specific microorganisms and render them harmless in the body? As the later development of antibiotics was to show, Ehrlich was on the right track, in a broad and technical way. But his discovery of Salvarsan was fortuitous: his work was highly experimental and conducted primarily through trial and error, without benefit of the decades of research into bacteriology and biochemistry which medical science now has. Advances in molecular biology have enabled scientists to better understand many cellular functions and so to design more effective drugs.

In 1907, with the Japanese bacteriologist Kiyoshi Shiga, Ehrlich discovered the dye known as trypan red, which destroyed trypanosomes in infected animals. Encouraged by this success, Ehrlich decided to target the spirochete causing syphilis, which had already been identified. In 1906 his colleague August von Wassermann had even developed a diagnostic test for the disease, but there was no effective treatment.

Ehrlich began his search for the "magic bullet" with arsenic compounds, which had long been known to be effective against disease. With his own research facility and staff in Frankfurt, Ehrlich proceeded to subtly alter also found himself the target of scurrilous attacks by moralists and enemies of scientific progress: one Dr. Richard Drew, formerly in the police vice squad, accused him of endangering the public health. Scandal sheets distributed in Frankfurt charged that Salvarsan had been forced on prostitutes and was responsible for blindness and several deaths. Ehrlich characterized his opposition as anti-scientific, anti-progress and anti-Semitic "rabble." When the Nazis came to power they took up the cudgel for this rabble, the enemies of Paul Ehrlich, and tore down the street signs on Paul-Ehrlich-Strasse. Ehrlich's widow was forced into exile.

Ehrlich's magic bullet targeted more than the syphilis spirochete: the stigma of venereal disease had been as much of an obstacle for its victims as the disease itself. Henrik Ibsen's 1881 play Ghosts describes the ravages brought by secrecy, hypocrisy and syphilis on one family. An eminent critic of the time gave voice to typical destructive prudery: Ghosts was "an open drain, a loathsome sore unbandaged, a dirty act done publicly, a lazar [leper] house with all its doors and windows open" (quoted in Six Plays by Ibsen, Eva Le Gallienne). In 1916 Dr. Allan J. Mclaughlin, a Massachusetts public health authority, denounced the moralists who claimed that "to advertise the marvelous effects of Salvarsan, and to place it within the reach of the poor is to place a premium upon vice and to absolve the syphilitic from the just punishment of his sins. As health officers let us be practical and consider syphilis as a public health problem..." (Allan M. Brandt, No Magic Bullet: A Social History of Venereal Disease in the United States Since 1880). In 1881 Massachusetts General Hospital had changed its policy from charging syphilitic patients double rates to refusing them admission altogether!

To this day, although both syphilis and gonorrhea are generally easily cured, they are widespread in the United States. In 1979 gonorrhea accounted for two-thirds of all reported communicable diseases in the U.S.; it is the most prevalent human bacterial infection on the planet. Just when the wide availability of penicillin after World War II could have dramatically lowered rates of venereal disease, government funding allocated for public education was slashed to the bone. While disingenuously de-emphasizing that syphilis and gonorrhea can be treated and cured, educational programs still often withhold the simple truth that condoms can be effective against venereal disease. The current controversy over public advertising for condoms is merely another episode in a long, dreary story.

For Free, Quality Health Care for All!

The control of disease is as much a social question as a scientific one; in this sick capitalist society, the profits of the pharmaceutical giants and the insurance vultures come before public health. For decades the U.S. Public Health Service conducted an "experiment" only one step away from Nazi Germany: for 40 years, from 1932 to 1972, it "studied" 400 black sharecroppers with syphilis, who were never told they had it and never treated, so that "researchers" could watch the ravages of the untreated disease as it destroyed their bodies and minds. Over one-quarter of the victims died of the effects of syphilis!

Today a new plague is upon us: AIDS, caused by a virus which destroys the immune system. Because the victims of AIDS in the United States have so far been predominantly gay men or users of intravenous drugs, bigotry and ignorant fear have come down on them full force. Ostracism and discrimination compound the physical suffering of an invariably fatal disease that is if anything even more horrible than syphilis.

So far AIDS has no effective cure and there is no preventive vaccine. Although much has been learned about the virus, the obstacles are indeed formidable. The only good news is that it is rather hard to transmit; nevertheless, hysteria has focused on bogus "dangers" of casual transmission as reactionaries seek to eject AIDS children from the classroom and fire AIDS victims from their jobs. The recent federal proposal for massive testing of hospital patients and applicants for marriage licenses will do nothing to stop the spread of AIDS—but it will create a blacklist of victims of the anti-sex crusade.

Conservative columnist William F. Buckley thinks that people infected with the AIDS virus should be tattooed—perhaps he has in mind the pink triangle that marked gays in Hitler's Germany? In fact, the fascists have put themselves forward as the shock troops of anti-sex bigotry. J.B. Stoner, the man behind the racist Birmingham church murder bombings in 1964, rallied the Ku Klux Klan in Forsyth County, Georgia against black civil rights marchers with a pamphlet "Praise God for AIDS." Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz, frothing at the mouth as usual, railed against government expenditures on vaccination research: "Are they aware that in the name of compassion they are giving social sanction to what can only be described as brutish degradation?" (ibid.).

As the history of syphilis and gonorrhea reveal only too well, such bigotry can be as much of an obstacle to fighting a disease as the microbe itself. Although the need for massive funding for AIDS research has been evident now for years, Reagan has consistently cut allocations for this work, while his director of communications, Patrick Buchanan, declared AIDS to be "nature's retribution" on homosexuals. What's necessary is bi//ions for an internationally coordinated program of AIDS research,

Paul Ehrlich pointed the way forward when in the early years of this century he brought in the methods of science and threw out ideas of "retribution" as medieval rubbish. It will take a socialist revolution to put the tools that the heroes of medical science have given us fully to use in the service of all humanity."

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-Dr. Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis: A Man Who Saved Millions of Women

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Spring 1983 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.


Women and Revolution has chosen International Women's Day this year as an occasion to commemorate Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis. As an obstetrician in mid-19th century Europe Dr. Semmelweis searched for, found and tried to apply the cure for puerperal (childbed) fever. For his actions he was ridiculed, forced out of his practice in Vienna and eventually driven to insanity. While his discoveries preceded those of Louis Pasteur and John Lister and were superior to the earlier work of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Semmelweis is little remembered today—even by many in the medical profession. Yet his simple concern for his female patients resulted in the saving of millions of women, in his lifetime as an originator of current medical procedure.

Semmelweis was born in Hungary in 1818. By 1844 he had begun work as an obstetrician in the First Maternity Division of the Vienna General Hospital, a facility for charity cases and the poor. An estimated 1,800 women a year died there of childbed fever, an extremely contagious and painful microbial infection which led to* certain death within days after childbirth. Indeed, the First Maternity ward was notorious for these statistics, and women went to incredible ends to avoid it, sometimes even trying to hold off labor pains until they could be admitted to the Second (midwives') Maternity Division. When Semmelweis met his first patient she was shaking with fear, but he somewhat arrogantly assured her that the doctors' ward was certainly superior. She soon became one of the many thousand dead, and he was jolted. He checked the records of deaths at both wards for the previous six years and found a nearly ten percent mortality rate at the First and less than two percent at the Second.

For the next two years, Semmelweis devoted himself to researching the likely causes of the disease, nagging his rather uninterested superiors, unsuccessfully trying every conceivable corrective measure. He wrote, "I was like a drowning man grabbing at straws. Everything was questionable, everything inexplicable, only the great number of dead was an undoubted actuality" (quoted in Men Against Death, Paul de Kruif). In March of 1847 the assistant pathologist at the hospital died after cutting himself during the autopsy of a puerperal patient. Semmelweis noticed that his disease was identical to those of women who died in his ward after childbirth. He realized then that, unlike the midwives, doctors went straight from surgical and autopsy rooms to the maternity ward where they examined each woman in turn. This led him to the discovery that puerperal fever was not some unknown, cosmically-caused disorder emanating from within the childbearing woman (as was commonly believed at the time) but rather an infection that was conveyed to them by their doctors.

He immediately instituted the practice of doctors washing their hands in calcium chloride solution
before entering the maternity ward (and eventually between examining each patient). In April of 1847,18 of every 100 women had died of childbed fever. By June of 1847, one month after Semmelweis' discovery, one out of every 100 women died, less than the mortality rate in
the midwives' ward.

Semmelweis' findings were not exactly embraced by his colleagues and superiors. He had, after all, proved that doctors themselves were responsible for these deaths. More importantly, his discovery ran counter to the prevalent medical philosophy of his day. German medicine in the first half of the 19th century reflected the extreme idealism of intellectual thought generally. It was dominated by the Nature-Philosophy school, whose leading light, a naturalist named Lorenz Oken, was as inept as he was fanciful. Oken went so far as to declare, "Ideally every child should be a boy" (quoted in History of Medicine, Fielding Garrison). This doctrine, along with several equally mystical offshoots, was shattered as a result of the 1848 revolution. But its successor, the New Vienna School in which Semmelweis was trained, hung on longer. It subscribed to the theory of "therapeutic nihilism," taking great pains to diagnose and describe disease without any expectation of curing it. Patients were regarded merely as objects of investigation, and the humane aspects of medical practice were ignored. When it came to treatment, the leading clinician of the school, Josef Skoda, would shrug and say, "Ah, it's all the same!" (ibid).
Hospital conditions reflected this attitude. No one used gloves or washed hands. Instruments and bandages were not disinfected, linen was not changed from one patient to the next, and open windows let in the putrid air of adjacent morgues. In an article entitled "Madness" in the 16 December 1982 New York Review of Books, Princeton University professor of history Lawrence Stone commented:

"It is now credibly believed that hospitals were lethal death traps before Pasteur demonstrated the importance of a sterile environment. It is now also generally recognized that doctors—presumably unwittingly—have killed more patients than they cured, certainly before the
early nineteenth century, and maybe before the invention of anti-biotics in the mid-twentieth.”
Semmelweis began to make changes in these conditions, and the medical profession retaliated. While some—notably Dr. Skoda—stood by him, he became an object of derision. His boss finally had him demoted by having it brought to the attention of the medical authorities that Semmelweis had worn the plumed hat of a revolutionary in 1848 (which, if true, is certainly an honorable statement). Semmelweis returned to Budapest where he was again scorned and ignored. Yet he continued his fight, first as an unpaid obstetrician at St. Rochus Hospital and then as a professor at Budapest University. It was there that he published a treatise on his work and a scathing attack on his fellow obstetricians with the refrain, "This murder must stop." Semmelweis' anguish over and obsession with the needless number of deaths overwhelmed him, and he died in a public insane asylum of massive infection in 1865. It was not until the work of Pasteur and Lister that his breakthrough was accepted. Feminists will doubtless denounce us for saluting the work of a man on International Women's Day, just as in the past we have been assailed for upholding and implementing the revolutionary work of "old men with white beards." We are not champions of "sisterhood" but rather seek to strengthen the ranks of the working class in struggle against capitalist society, including the reactionary nuclear family which enslaves women. Semmelweis was hardly a Marx or Engels nor is the medical profession now, despite greatly increased knowledge, a humane champion of women and the oppressed. What we share with Semmelweis is his desire to make childbirth an easy and safe procedure. The reality of having children with real choice, without the certain knowledge that motherhood means a life of mindless drudgery and the fear for the lives and livelihoods of one's children, awaits the socialist future. And it is the development of technology, not least through scientific achievements of such men as Dr. Semmelweis, which has laid the basis for a society with the resources to replace the family structure and ultimately liberate women."

Dr. Semmelweis and the Revolutions of 1848


For our International Women's Day 1983 editorial we wrote a piece honoring Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, the 19th century Hungarian doctor who discovered the cause of and preventive cure for puerperal (childbed) fever, which had caused the deaths of thousands of women (see "A Man Who Saved Millions of Women," W&R No. 26, Spring 1983). His discovery—that doctors themselves were spreading the disease because they came directly from the morgue, bearing deadly bacteria, and examined woman after woman without washing their hands—caused intense hostility from his supervisors. As we noted, "His boss finally had him demoted by having it brought to the attention of the medical authorities that Semmelweis had worn the plumed hat of a revolutionary in 1848 (which, if true, is certainly an honorable statement)."

It is true. We recently came across an article from the Militant (5 July 1948), the newspaper of the then-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party, titled "Semmelweis—Forgotten Martyr," which noted that:

"The revolution that swept over Europe in 1848 gave Klein [Semmelweis' supervisor in the Vienna General Hospital] the opportunity he was looking for. In Vienna the people drove the Emperor from the city. Semmelweis, an ardent revolutionist, belonged to the famous 'Academic Battalion/ composed of intellectuals, artists, professionals and students. When reaction triumphed, Klein secured his assistant's dismissal and banishment from Austria. Returning to Budapest, Semmelweis found the revolution still in power there; he embraced it with enthusiasm. But this upsurge of the people, too, was defeated."
The revolutions of 1848 were defeated by the rotting absolutist powers of Europe at the time—yet they provided inspiration for new generations of revolutionaries: the Paris Commune of 1871, then the triumphant Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Semmelweis himself, his life-saving discovery largely ignored in his lifetime, died in a madhouse of a massive infection. Yet his pioneering work ultimately won out.

We are pleased to honor Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis again, then, not only as a man who fought to obliterate the death agonies of women he treated in his "professional capacity" as a doctor, but as a comrade in the more than century-long struggle for social revolution."

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-Gays And The SWP (American Socialist Workers Party)

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Spring 1982 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.


Seduced and Abandoned: The Politics of Opportunism

Gays and the SWP

"Tinkerbell Meets Trotsky: The Revolution Be¬trayed": With this smirking title as a come-on, Boston's Cay Community News (19 September 1981) reviewed two collections of Socialist Workers Party (SWP) internal documents on gay liberation recently pub¬lished by gay activists to scandalize the SWP. The document collections, Cay Liberation and Socialism (published by David Thorstad) and No Apologies (published by Scott Forgione and Kurt Hill, with an introduction by Thorstad), cover the SWP's gyrations on the gay question from 1970 to 1979. Thorstad, Forgione and Hill are all ex-SWP members who want to expose the SWP's "betrayal" of gay lifestylist politics. In this they certainly succeed. They and the Cay Commu¬nity News reviewer, Scott Tucker, an anarchist/gay liberationist, use the sorry story of SWP hypocrisy to denounce Trotskyism as an enemy of freedom for homosexuals.
But the SWP has not had anything in common with Trotskyism for a long time! The authentic Trotskyist tendency in this country, the Spartacist League, has never wavered in its commitment to opposing anti-gay backwardness and the brutal enforcement of sexual puritanism by the capitalist state. From our very inception as an organization and long before the advent of a "gay liberation movement" (and at a time when the SWP was still forcing gay members to resign!), the Spartacist League has fought against all victimiza¬tion and persecution of homosexuals. But Thorstad & Co. would prefer not to acknowledge our record because their aim is to show that only those who see themselves as gay activists first and foremost can be relied on to defend the democratic rights of homosexuals.
Our commitment to gay rights has never meant patronizing acceptance of gay activists' lifestylist illusions. The Spartacist League has always argued against the dangerously Utopian belief that in this violent, class-divided society "only gays can liberate themselves." On the contrary, only socialist revolution can lay the basis for finally uprooting sick prejudices against "sexual deviance," through providing social alternatives to the stifling monogamous family, the main social institution oppressing women, children and homosexuals. Our aim is not a sectoralist "gay movement" but a revolutionary party based on the working class to lead the struggles of all the oppressed—and in which the best fighters from all sectors of the oppressed will be, not narrow represent¬atives of "their people," but communist revolutionaries.
Lenin's exhortation in What Is To Be Done? (1903) guides our work:
"The Social-Democrat's ideal should not be the trade-union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects... who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat." Our principled approach to these questions has attracted to the Spartacist League some of the best elements of the New Left-derived gay liberation milieu, most notably the Los Angeles-based Red Flag Union (formerly Lavender & Red Union), with whom we fused in 1977 (see W&R No. 16, Winter 1977-78, which discusses the key political issues—defense of the Soviet Union, rejection of lifestylism—which laid the pro¬grammatic basis for the fusion).
By contrast, the SWP documents published by Thorstad, Forgione and Hill are a testament to the proposition that opportunism doesn't pay. The value of the SWP documents is not, as Thorstad maintains, that they are "the most important such debates ever to occur inside any left-wing group" or that they will prove "essential" to resolving the question of the relationship between the fight against homosexual oppression and the fight for socialism. They are, however, useful for the light they shed on the grotesque zig-zags and utter cynicism of the reformist SWP. That today the SWP now dismisses Thorstad and his "North American Man/Boy Love Association"— currently being victimized by a state witchhunt—as virtual child molesters, as part of the current SWP policy of benign neglect of gay rights, is not merely evidence of their adaptation to homophobia.
The method behind this history of flirtation with and abandonment of this specially oppressed sector is the same tailist approach the SWP brought to what they called the "autonomous mass movements" of feminists, black nationalists, Chicano nationalists, etc. With the prolif¬eration of "do-it-yourself liberation" currents in the late 1960s/early 1970s, the SWP with consummate cynicism authored the proposition that "consistent" anythingism equals socialism and jumped on the gay bandwagon. When the lifestyle radical mood receded the SWP backed away from the gay question. Ultimate¬ly, the SWP rediscovered the working class and with predictable opportunist logic decided to "turn" to the unions by pandering to some of the most backward attitudes prevalent among workers, as for example through Barnes & Co.'s despicable defense of anti-homosexual "age of consent" laws.
If we can share the disgust of Thorstad et al. with the SWP's wretched politics, it is for very different reasons. There is a political chasm dividing the petty-bourgeois politics of gay community lifestylism from Marxism. Thorstad at least, has drawn the conclusion from his experiences in and out of the SWP that Marxism has nothing to say to homosexuals: "For years, gay socialists have been trying to develop a synthesis between homosexuality and socialism— After a decade of effort, I am ready to draw the conclusion that the left has failed to meet the challenge of gay liberation." He concludes his introduction to No Apologies by quoting an earlier gay liberationism Kurt Hiller, "The liberation of homosexuals can only be the work of homosexuals
Spartacist League/ Spartacus Youth League contingent in Los Angeles march against anti-homosexual Briggs Initiative, July 1978.
Hill and Forgione (now, respectively, a supporter of the social-democratic Workers Power group and a staff member of Cay Community News) still present themselves as Marxists—of a sort. Littering their own documents with dozens of cutesy-poo illustrations (a cartoon of Lenin, Brezhnev and Trotsky in a gay bath), they conclude their foreword to No Apologies with the slogans "For an understanding of Michael Mouse-Lennonism too!" and "In defense of campy socialists as well as the socialist camp!" Is this the sort of treatment they think will serve "to further a Marxist perspective" on the gay question?
Tucker is an, unabashed anti-Marxist, an anarchist whose sense of political reality is best illustrated by his comment, "The SWP leadership has no sense of proportion if it really believes that transvestism is so much more exotic and eccentric to the masses than Trotskyism itself"! The entire point of his lengthy review is to use the SWP in order to write off "all 57 varieties of Marxism-Leninism" as "unfit for human consumption." There is, however, a revolutionary alternative to Tucker's anarcho-lifestylism, Thorstad's advocacy of an autonomous gay movement, and Forgiohe/Hill's Mickey-Mouse "Marxism." To develop this theme, it is necessary to delve a little deeper into the SWP's slimy record and into the politics of gay liberationism.
The SWP in the '60s: "Gay is Good"...Maybe
As part of the SWP's political degeneration in the 1960s the organization adopted an unofficial policy of excluding homosexuals. As SWP honcho Jack Barnes admitted in a report to the Political Committee (the SWP top leadership) in November 1970, "Since the early 1960s the party and YSA [Young Socialist Alliance] have been moving toward a policy which proscribes homosexuals from membership" (quoted in Gay Liberation and Socialism, p. 5).
In its earlier revolutionary days the SWP leadership, in particular founding leader James P. Cannon, had a far different attitude. In his contribution to the commemo¬rative book James P. Cannon As We Knew Him, long¬time SWP leader Sam Gordon recalled the case of "a young leader of the organization ...[who] had fallen afoul of the New York homosexual laws, and was clapped into jail one day early in the thirties." Cannon, Gordon recalled, got the comrade out. "The case was finally quashed. Our comrade continued to be a leading member...." But in the 1960s the SWP was sloughing off simple decency, as well as revolutionary principles, in its pursuit of success on the cheap.
The hallmark of that New Left era was the SWP's vigorous attempt to mimic and adapt to black national¬ism, feminism, Chicano nationalism (the mythical land of "Aztlan") and virtually every other "mass movement"—most importantly the liberal-bourgeois anti-war movement. As Barnes said, "The consistent and irreconcilable liberation struggle of an oppressed nationality is our struggle. If it is irreconcilable and consistent, then it will point toward socialism..." (speech to 1970 SWP convention). As applied to feminism et al. this became "consistent (fill in the blank) will lead to socialism." It was only a matter of time until Barnes & Co. discovered gay liberation. And if "Black is Beautiful" and "Sisterhood is Powerful" became, in the SWP's eyes, "socialist" slogans—then why not "Gay is Good"? Tucker indignantly raises this very point, and indeed, by the SWP's own logic, there's no reason they shouldn't have adopted this equally meaningless slogan as well.
However, there was a layer of SWP "old guard" conservatives, trade-union oriented and socially con¬servative, who, while they dared not challenge feminism and black nationalism so openly, found the gay movement hard to swallow. By the time the SWP got geared up to drop its ban on homosexual members and mount an intervention into the gay movement, that movement itself was already showing signs of dying down. Spring 1971 was the height of the SWP's brief infatuation with gay liberation: they mobilized heavily for gay marches and for a gay contingent in the April antiwar peace crawl in Washington. The Militant ran gay-oriented articles (many authored by Thorstad) in virtually every issue.
But as Thorstad later recalled, "The party's involvement had hardly begun when the brakes began to be applied" (Gay Liberator, December 1974-January 1975). In May 1971 the SWP announced a "probe" into the gay liberation movement that, in hindsight, was really the beginning of a withdrawal from it. The following year saw a lengthy literary discussion in the SWP's internal bulletin, which forms the bulk of the documents in Thorstad's collection. This concluded with the 1973 SWP convention where a "Memorandum on the Gay Liberation Movement" outlined the Barnes gang's intention to drop gay lib politics.
Without rejecting the sectoralist method which had led the SWP to briefly tail the gay movement, the Memo basically concluded that there was not enough of a movement to tail. This reality was covered with some orthodox Marxist phrases about taking no position on whether gay was better,, worse, or just as good as straight. The gay question, the Memo said, was simply a question of democratic rights, not (as gay activists would have it) a broader struggle to liberate everyone's sexual nature. And in a revealing aside on just how far lifestylist counter-culturalism had been allowed to flower inside the SWP, the Memo authors felt obliged to note that male comrades should not wear dresses and that "sexual activities... have no place at party socials." ,
The Memo, although it praised the gay liberation movement (with the exception of its "ultraleft" [sic] sector), naturally enough was seen as a gross betrayal by the gay liberationists recruited during the SWP's Spring fling, and especially by chief gay spokesman David Thorstad. A wave of quits predictably followed. As Thorstad explained in his December 1973 resignation statement: "It [the Memo] has made it impossible for gays to reconcile their commitment to gay liberation with party membership" (Cay Liberation and Socialism, p. 127).
Anita Bryant and "The Turn"
The SWP dumped the gay movement in '73 mainly because there didn't seem to be a lot of recruits to gain. There was also an element of concession to conserva¬tive SWP leaders like Tom Kerry and Nat Weinstein. So it was not unexpected that when, in 1977, Anita Bryant's hate campaign against homosexuals provoked a brief spate of massive demonstrations in U.S. cities, it also provoked a renewed interest in the gay movement in the SWP. SWP leader Doug Jenness authored a "clarification" on the '73 Memo, writing that "...we solidarize with the sentiment of the gay liberation movement that 'gay is good'" interpreting this not as advocacy of homosexuality (which of course it was!) but as a statement that "gay people are just as good as heterosexual people" (SWPDiscussion Bulletin, Vol. 35, No. 5, 11 June 1977). An SWP gay oppositionist wrote that "since the June 7 Miami referendum, differences over the party's tactical orientation to the gay move¬ment have been completely superceded by dramatic events—The party has responded in a revolutionary fashion to the latest upsurge of the gay movement" (SWP Discussion Bulletin, Vol. 35, No. 11, 9 July 1977).
But no sooner had the mass marches ceased than SWP interest in the gay movement ceased. Simultane¬ously, having watched the black nationalist, feminist, antiwar and other New Left movements die off in the 1970s, the SWP suddenly discovered the working class. That is to say, Barnes & Co. found something new to tail: the liberal wing of the trade-union bureaucracy. The very same people who had been the architects of what they now called the "long detour" from the working class into the various "independent mass movements" of the oppressed now began declaiming the elemen¬tary Marxist concept that the working class alone has the social weight to make socialist revolution and serve as the liberator of all the oppressed. Cynical? Certainly. Dishonest? By all means. This "turn" meant not only the end of the SWP's dabbling with gay lifestylist politics, but an adaptation to the most backward attitudes, not just among the working class, but increasingly to new moods of conservatism being enforced by a reactionary bourgeois backlash against the "permissive" 1960s.
In part in a drive to ingratiate themselves with liberal union reformers like Ed Sadlowski of the Steelworkers and Arnold Miller of the Mine Workers, the Barnes leadership sought to purge the SWP of its more flagrantly non-"proletarian" elements. Flamboyant gay liberationists were on the top of the list. It only remained to find a reasonable excuse to publicly ditch the gay orientation. In February 1979 an excuse was found—age-of-consent laws and the turn of part of the gay movement (Thorstad in particular) to the explosive issue of "cross-generational" sex and rights for gay youth.
At a Philadelphia conference to plan for a national gay march on Washington, SWPers took an active part. One of the demands raised was "full rights for gay youth, including revision of age-of-consent laws" (later watered down to "protection for lesbian and gay youth ..."). Little more than a month later the Militant (13 April 1979) ran a major article, "The Class-Struggle Road to Winning Gay Rights," in order to reject the march on Washington and blast the very existence of a "so-called gay movement defined by sexuality." The most vicious thrust was a direct attack on Thorstad for having "foisted" the issue of "man-boy love" on the gay movement.
"The repeal of age-of-consent laws is a reactionary demand..." proclaimed the SWP; "saying that children have the 'right' to 'consent' to sex with adults is exactly like saying children should be able to 'consent' to work in a garment factory twelve hours a day." The Militant even rejected '"non-abusive consensual' sex by adults with children": "Laws designed to protect children from sexual and economic exploitation by adults are historic acquisitions of the working class and should be enforced." The SWP refused to mobilize for the Washington march they had helped to plan. Forgione and Hill fought a losing battle against the new direction internally while Michael Maggi, a former co-thinker of Thorstad's who had seen the light in 1973 and become a loyal Barnesite, termed Thorstad a "baby-fucker" and ordered gay literature in the SWP's New York City bookstore thrown out, according to No Apologies.
The issue of age-of-consent laws (or rather, the frightening, still socially taboo issue of childhood sexuality) is inflammatory. Nonetheless, opposition to such laws must be elementary for defenders of democratic rights for youth, whatever their sexual orientation. As Young Spartacus (Summer 1979) put it:
"Revolutionaries, unlike the social-democratic SWP,
oppose any and all legal restrictions by the capitalist state
on effectively consensual sexual activity. Get the cops out
of the bedrooms! We know that such measures are not
designed to protect children but to enforce the sexual
morality of the nuclear family, which is at the root of the
oppression of women, youth and homosexuals "Those who, like the SWP, join the reactionary chorus calling for the capitalist state to enforce the sexual codes based on the morality of the bourgeois family only help to prop up a key bastion of child abuse and one of the strongest pillars of capitalist oppression."
"Gay Liberation" and Marxism
While Forgione and Hill were making their last stand for gay lifestylism in the SWP, they attempted to claim that the Barnes leadership was going the way of the "sectarian" Spartacist League. As Hill wrote:
"The party leadership appears to have capitulated to the sectarian-workerist traits which we used to blast in our opponents. We ridiculed the 'class struggle' formalism of the sectarians such as the Spartacist League who charged that our attitude toward struggles such as women's liberation and Black liberation was'petty-bourgeois.'We encouraged the developments of these and other mass movements for social change."
—SWP Discussion Bulletin, Vol. 36, No. 22,12
July 1979
In some ways Forgione and Hill were simply the most consistent defenders of the SWP's course throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. "Key terms used in the past/' they wrote, "such as 'best builders' of the 'independent mass struggles/ are giving way to the 'worker-Bolsheviks' of 'labor's strategic line of march'....the party is beginning to drift away from the theoretical acquisitions of the past, 20 years" (SWP Discussion Bulletin, Vol. 36, No. 22).
Quite so. But what Forgione and Hill cannot comprehend is that what they term "theoretical acquisitions" had been simply opportunist rationales for tailing petty-bourgeois, self-boosting, mutually-conflicting "mass movements" and that Barnes' "turn" was not toward genuine Trotskyism but toward tailing a new "mass movement"—labor reformism.
What unites all the somewhat disparate elements in the "gay community" is a common commitment to the politics of the gay lifestyle. To the gay liberationist, at bottom simply being openly homosexual is in itself a political act. To the "socialist" gay liberationist, it is even revolutionary. As Forgione put it: "It has been through this struggle for self-affirmation as-an equal human being ('coming out') that has led increasing numbers of lesbians and gay men... to become quite convinced that this society is sick and has to be either radically changed or replaced" (SWP Discussion Bulletin, Vol. 36, No. 17, 9 July 1979).
"Coming out" is obviously a personal decision—and one which, given the realities of life in this society, has potentially serious consequences. But for the New Left and its various spin-offs, the personal is political. Quoting anarchist Gustav Landauer in his review, Scott Tucker is quite explicit tha%the revolution is accom¬plished by livinga revolutionary lifestyle: "TheState isa condition, a certain relationship between human beings, a mode of human behaviour; we destroy it by contracting other relationships, by behaving differently."
Would that it were so easy to create a new society! The state happens to enforce its morality and its exploitative form of production, with cops, courts, prisons—internationally with MX missiles and armies— and those who go against it are going to get attacked.

The best proof that gay liberation is a petty-bourgeois ideology is that an openly gay lifestyle in a "gay community" is only possible in severely restricted and largely middle-class "gay ghettoes"—West Hollywood, Castro Street, the West Village. What about gay men and lesbians who do not or cannot move to one of these gay islands in a sea of "patriarchal capitalism"? Cay liberation has no answer.
In fact, Forgione and Hill revealed their own petty-bourgeois biases by their violent resistance to the SWP's "turn" to the working class. They took offense when SWP leaders implied that gays were a petty-bourgeois species, and insisted that there are gay workers too. But when it came time to reach out to their "brothers" in the steel and auto plants, Forgione and Hill seemed strangely reluctant. This is not to give any credence to the Barnes gang's "proletarian" credentials, but Forgione and Hill seem to assume that the only role for homosexual socialists is doing "gay work" in the "gay community."
Can homosexuals, as Thorstad insists, liberate themselves? Here the question of "social weight," referred to ad nauseum in the SWP documents, rears its head. For all that the Socialist Workers Party used this concept simply cynically, nonetheless they have a point—and one on which the Spartacist League insisted while Barnes & Co. were hopping on and off the gay liberation bandwagon. We are for "the sexual libera¬tion of everybody"—however, we certainly do not intend to legislate the sexual behavior of future generations by putting our "seal of approval" on any particular sexual mode in this necessarily deforming society—gay, straight, mixed, whatever. That is why we pose our demands in the sexual-personal area nega¬tively: against moralistic state legislation of sexuality. • But more immediately, changing this society means a struggle for power—which means creating a powerful mass party rooted in the working class, which alone has the cohesiveness and social weight, because it pro¬duces this society's wealth, to make a socialist revolu¬tion. To eliminate the oppression of homosexuals, rooted in the sexual morality of the bourgeois family, it will ultimately be necessary to replace the family with other cooperative institutions in a socialist society. The immediate aftermath of socialist revolution will wipe out all discriminatory laws and criminal sanctions against "deviant" sexual behavior. But a more funda¬mental transformation is required to change deeply-rooted, ancient attitudes toward sex roles and sexuality. We don't think this is an easy, or simply resolved, question by any means. Nonetheless, the ultimate goal of Marxism has always been the creation of a society in which every individual can develop his potential to the utmost, freed of economic compulsion and attendent psychological miseries.
The job of revolutionaries is to forge a revolutionary vanguard party which can, as Lenin said, serve as a "tribune of the people," fighting all forms of oppres¬sion as part of the necessary education of the proletariat in assuming its leading role in the creation of a new society. In the end the "best builders" of rights and freedom for homosexuals will be those who, whatever their sexual orientation, are builders of such a party.

*From "The Rag Blog"- Arizona's Crackers : 'Illegal is Not a Race'

Click on to link to a "The Rag Blog" entry- Arizona's Crackers : 'Illegal is Not a Race'

Markin comment:

Down With The Arizona anti-immigration law! Full citizenship rights for all who make it here (America). And by the way let's fight for some historic justice by giving Arizona back to where it belongs- Mexico. Then those Anglo rednecks in Arizona better start worrying about THEIR immigration papers!

From Green Left Global News & Info-Bank Of America Protest: Dozens Storm Bank Branch In DC

Click on the headline to link to a "Green Left Info" entry on a spirited protest at the Ban of America.

Markin comment:

Now we are starting to get some place. The brothers and sisters in D.C. found a one of the correct targets for our wrath. And they were workers. Dare I think of the words-"anti-capitalist struggle". Probably, no definitely, premature but in the right direction.

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-Sex, Race And Class In The "American Century"

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Spring 1987 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.

Markin comment:

I have posted this entry as a snapshot in time from this period (1980s)presented by a revolutionary whose real working class experiences in the 1960s are probably a little bit different from those of most of us who became serious leftists at that time.


Down With U.S. Imperialism!

Sex, Race and Class in the "American Century"

On 22 November 1986 the Spartacist League held a forum in San Francisco called "Fight Reagan Reaction with Class Struggle!" We print below an edited transcript of the speech given by comrade George Crawford, an SL Central Committee member.
Tonight we're going to be talking about domestic reaction within the United States now—Reagan's war or, very importantly, the ruling class's war, against what is known as the Vietnam syndrome, which came from the U.S. defeat on the battlefield at the hands of the heroic Vietnamese workers and peasants. Now, this is also an international phenomenon, there's America's military attacks on Libya, on Grenada, many evidences of this. But inside the United States you have what you could call a moral rearmament, which is an enforced social reaction coming from the government in league with and using what is known as the Moral Majority forces, religious fundamentalists. It's stepping up, becoming greater every day.

Everybody is constantly amazed that there's no opposition to this incredible crusade against every kind of democratic right; that the Democratic Party basically tries to out-Moral Majority the Moral Majority. And the point that I want to make in the talk is that this is not simply the Republican Party or Reagan. This is a war against the population by an entire ruling class, because something is seriously wrong from their viewpoint with America. Very important for them that, one, workers work for what they're paid and, two, most importantly, volunteer to die en masse when necessary. And if a ruling class does not have that, it's in trouble. And it doesn't have that now, it's a long shot from there.

The 1950s: The Bomb and the Red Purges

I want to go back and describe a little bit about the '50s. The U.S. won World War II and it came out of World War II as the strongest and the overwhelming imperialist. The other imperialists economically were destroyed through the process of World War II. But the Soviet Union also won World War II, and not only that, within a very few years it had the atom bomb. And so the U.S., you might say at the very pinnacle of what it had declared its century, looked over its shoulder and there was the Soviet Union with the atom bomb. The atom bomb was very important to the U.S., by the way, and was used. It's a matter of record that the atom bomb was used not for victory over Japan but to send a message to the Soviet Union for after the war. It was a calculated decision, to the point of even keeping Stalin totally in the dark; they did not want him to know what was going on in terms of the development and the dropping of the bomb.

So the U.S. lost its trump card within a very short time after World War II. Not only that, the U.S. had another problem. The original organizers of the AFL-CIO were in the main some kind of communists. They belonged to the Communist Party, they belonged to the Trotskyist party, they maybe were Musteites; but they were still there. And so in the late '40s, these people were neutralized. Either they were physically thrown
out of the unions, or they were isolated, or they were beaten up.

I remember when I went to work in '64, this was in a rubber plant in L.A., and it was about '69 when I started becoming political; and within about three years I met two guys, and I'd worked with the guys or around them for about eight years, and I had no idea that these people used to be political. Turned out that they were all, not members of the CP because there were no members of the CP left, they were supporters of the CP. One guy had three generations of union members which meant there were union members in his family before 1900. And the other one was a guy that, well, finally he told me that he had a full set of Capital locked away in his basement, which nobody else knew about. But then over a period of time he had convinced himself that communism's okay and all that, and Marx was right and all that, but the real question is the Catholics. And no one in the plant knew that these people were in the least bit leftist. They had not gone to a union meeting since the meeting in 1949 when they took the communist organizers out in the parking lot and beat them up.

Now, the '50s were pretty rough. One of the things in the '50s is that the population actually believed that this was the American Century, and that communism was, indeed, irrelevant—except as an external international phenomenon which was the enemy. But inside the U.S. there was a belief—and I'm not sure it was in all layers of the population, certainly less in terms of blacks—that U.S. imperialism is going to have things its way. And, after all, it had absolutely no competition from any other imperialist power in the '50s. U.S. Steel could produce at less than full capacity and simply dictate world steel prices, and pay incredible dividends (which paid off about 20 years later in plants that can't compete).

There was no pill, of course. You know, this "Just say no"? Boy, we grew up with this "Just say no." You know, it brings one to rage. And for the most part you unfortunately had to say no. Was it because you wanted to be a good citizen or a good Catholic? No, it was fear! Because 15 percent of your graduating class of women were pregnant in high school and they didn't graduate. And you had two choices: in L.A. either you sent your girlfriend or went with her to Tijuana, and since you couldn't speak Spanish you stood out in the avenue with a $20 bill and you ended up with a woman dying or horribly mutilated with infection because the only person that stops is a cab driver. So that wasn't an option. Or you went to one of these incredible homes where the women put their babies up for adoption. And of course the third thing was marriage. So your life's over. At 18, forget it. That's it. The woman doesn't graduate from school, maybe you graduate from school. If you're lucky you've got an old man working in a unionized job and gets you a job, if you're not lucky it's gas station mechanic forever. There's a good film about this called Fat City, a John Huston film.

And so you did not get an enormous amount of questioning about options, what do I want to do in life, what will I do next year in life? It was there, you just did it—or it did it to you. And left politics, or politics per se was not even an alternative. And I'm sure where I grew up was a bit worse, because it was one generation away from the South, a Southern working-class area, but there was no option, one could not conceive of thinking about becoming a revolutionary politician. I mean, the political debate that was going on was whether the Democrats sold out Eastern Europe and China, and if you were a Republican you said yes and if you were a Democrat you said no and that's as far as it went. And that's what the ruling class liked a lot. Because the workers did not create a hell of a lot of trouble. They were economically combative, that is true, but the politics one would say were at an all-time low.

The Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War

What happened to change all this? First of all, you had the civil rights movement. The civil rights movement was very, very powerful because here is a fundamental democratic right that should exist by the very underpinnings—and formal underpinnings, and agreed by all, in the Constitution—of our society. Yet it was impossible and did not happen and the civil rights movement was a failure. Right now they try to pass off what a success it was. At the time we all knew it was a failure, and that what was happening was simply tokenism, and what was happening was that the real leaders of the civil rights movement were being butchered and murdered by the state.

And the second thing of course that happened was the Vietnam War. I want to tell one story about the Vietnam War. We were talking about the Vietnam syndrome and I think this story makes it actually clear. In 1969 I was just beginning to become involved in organized politics and just by chance dropped by Newsreel, a kind of New Leftist group, and they were involved in military organizing on the West Coast. Now, the main and only training camp for the Marines on the West Coast is called Camp Pendleton, it's a critical camp. It's got some of the greatest real estate in the western United States. To get into Camp Pendleton you literally have to go to Oceanside. Well, that's Marine property, basically—it isn't, but it is.

And so there was a demonstration by an organization called the Movement for a Democratic Military. Now the organizer was a black sergeant, supporter of the Black Panther Party. There was a bus with Black Panther Party members going from L.A. to Oceanside for the rally. So I decided to go down with various people to this rally. And I got down there, and there's this little amphitheater right on the ocean, like in a hundred little seaside towns, and you've got an audience of about 500 Vietnam vets or about-to-be Vietnam vets because they're sitting there waiting for demobe orders home. Black and white, overwhelmingly from the South, Marines, sitting in there listening to all the antiwar speakers, including the Black Panthers! And the Black Panthers had a position that the Viet Cong should win the war—long live the revolution of the Viet Cong. And so around the edges of the amphitheater, of course, you've got the other Marines singing the Marine anthem and burning the Viet Cong flag. They had that Green Beret guy that was against the war and various other people, a woman and a doctor and all that, and they spoke for a while. After about an hour and a half, we were approached by military Movement guys who said, "You really ought to leave about now because something's going to happen soon." And so as we were leaving on the only road out of Oceanside, I looked back and fights were starting and the streets of Oceanside became one big melee that night.
Now, first of all, one does not want to say that this is revolutionary integrationism because there was no consciousness of class, there was no place for this to go because there was no mass party. We were too small. But in a little, not insignificant way, class war was beginning a little bit that night in Oceanside. And for the bourgeoisie and everybody who has an interest in capitalism, including the labor bureaucracy, this is the height of their horrors. They can't stand this. This must be reversed no matter what.
And so actually as a postscript to what happened in Oceanside, the Movement for a Democratic Military tried to sustain their organization, and they had a little storefront in Oceanside, and every night or every other night, they got shotgun blasts into their storefront for about six months. And then the cops ran a massive provocateur operation on them, and then some months later there was a massive indictment of antiwar guys and the indictments were held in Arizona. They pulled them all out to Arizona and they resurrected some anti-IWW laws that hadn't been used since the early 20th century.

The other thing is that for the first time the soldiers in the war watched TV almost every night and so they got to hear the total crap that was being put forth on American TV news about how "we are winning the war," and they knew it was all lies, total lies. So in a sense what you had was a snapshot, like a very bright flash bulb, on the real nature of this class society, stripping away all the hypocrisy.

"Ethnic Purity" Carter Paved Way for Reagan

After that the bourgeoisie knew they were in trouble. And so a wing of the bourgeoisie adopted a defeatist position on the war. Now when the SL said that at the time, everybody laughed at us because they were all in the popular front with this wing of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie wanted to get out of this war, they wanted to get out of an impossible situation before it got worse. (They actually did that, they were able to co-opt the antiwar movement in the U.S. Along the way they had to dump Nixon because he wasn't the guy that was going to reinstill faith in anything, it was quite clear.) But what you had was a generation of people that looked at life and figured, what do I really want to do with my life? Sex was one of the answers, there were a lot of answers. But the point of it is that since then the initial reaction to Washington and the government regardless of the power is "Bullshit! What are they trying to do to us now?" And that exists today.

Now, I remember after Watergate reading in the New York Review of Books about how liberals were very upset about Watergate, and they were very pissed off at Nixon. And liberals said: the major problem with Watergate is that it damaged the imperial presidency, possibly beyond repair; and we as liberals know that all progress for the common man must come through the United States imperial presidency. And so this moral rearmament became urgent for them. So you get Jimmy Carter, the born-again, "ethnic purity" Democrat, and that was his purpose.

First of all, you should remember that Jimmy Carter wasn't just an ass. One time in his life he was a nuclear sub officer. So he had to have something going for him that was not obvious. Jimmy Carter, in his anti-Communist crusade, the "human rights" crusade, installed the boycott of the Olympics. It was under Carter that we got the establishment for the first time of religious fundamentalists in Washington; it was under Carter that leftists in Greensboro were slaughtered, an action that was organized by the FBI, like many if not most of these Klan executions in the South are. But he blew it pretty good—the killer rabbit and everything. Some nuclear sub officer!

So what we got was Reagan and Meese. The first thing they did is they got PATCO, the air controllers. Now, these people are so educated and are so white-collar that they were the tip of the top layer of the labor aristocracy. They come out of the service, they're at the top. And so these guys decided their work was impossible—which everybody knows it is—and they needed more money and they needed better working conditions. So they went on strike.

Now, the money demands were irrelevant. There are not that many of these guys. Any other administration would simply pay them off. But rather than pay them off, Reagan fired them all, got two union leaders, put leg irons on them and paraded them across the country, making sure there were lots of photographs. And if he can do this, and does want to do this, and is so proud of doing this to those guys, what the hell is he going to do to the rest of us? That was the message.

Then there was the MOVE bombing, just total fire-bombing, genocide of blacks, children, simply because MOVE didn't fit in, simply because they were different. They were no threat to anybody, everybody knows that. It was genocide, straightforward. State-enforced social reaction targeting everybody they suspect of not being in sympathy with a white, Christian fundamentalist, English-speaking America where deviants will not be tolerated.

Now, Rambo. This is Reagan's hero, this is the Reagan administration's movie. What is Rambo? First of all the guy's kind of short, second of all he was a draft dodger, third of all he's an ex-porn star. And this is the guy that kills 5,000 Vietnamese in 45 minutes? It's incredible, nobody believes it, it's just a simple lie. It has no power at all. And the viciousness of this enforced reaction with Reagan is because nobody believes. So the only way forward for Reagan is terror against the American population.

Reagan's Soldiers:
Religion in the Service of Reaction

Now, I want to talk for a few minutes about the nature of Reagan's soldiers, the cutting edge of Reaganism in terms of the active domestic policy, and that's the religious right, the Moral Majority, whatever you want to call them. These people have always been around. First of all, these people are not the Jehovah's Witnesses, who are very sincere in their religious beliefs and suffer for it. These people are not the Amish in Pennsylvania. These people are not particularly religious. I'm not saying that they're enlightened or advanced. What they are demagogues, and they use religion.

These people are also always used, historically. And who are they always historically used by? They're used by the Southern upper class. There was a movie some time ago called Advise and Consent. And always you have the Senator who gets down there and it's the Sam Ervin type and he's got this drawl and he's just the country boy and all, except he's got a Phi Beta Kappa key from Harvard, he's got the Oxford scholarship, his family goes back three hundred years in the South, one of the old slave-owning families. And he's the master. He's the master not simply in that sense for blacks but also for the Southern poor whites, who he calls "Southern white trash," which is the layer you're talking about in terms of these revivalists and such in the South.

These fundamentalist leaders have always served their master. And what these guys are all about is money. Now there was a line from Prizzi's Honor. Some woman has ripped off the Mafia for money, you know, it's not too smart. Jack Nicholson is going with that woman and so he's got trouble now. And he looks at her and he says: You know, Italians like money more than they like their sons, and they like their sons an awful lot. Well, these guys like money more than the racism, and they like the racism an awful lot.

The people that take these guys really seriously are sort of like the types you would see going out on Saturday night to a professional wrestling match and taking it really seriously. I'm sure they must have more people but what I'm trying to say is they are not on their own a significant percentage of our society in terms of power or anything else. Maybe in Alabama, yes, but only if a Huey Long was in office, you see. That's their relationship, always. So they are powerful because of the Reagan government but most of all they are powerful because they serve a need that the entire bourgeoisie has right now, which is this terror on the American people to restore in the population unquestioning loyalty in preparation for the anti-Soviet war drive. That's what purpose they serve.
You could say, well, this doesn't make any sense at all, why is it critical to go after sex videos for this question? Isn't this creating problems? You're going after people, they're not leftists, they just want to be left alone. Why isn't there something like a Brave New World where you've got those pleasure pills and all that sort of stuff, and then you've got total totalitarian society? Because class society doesn't work like that, because it's class; because reaction takes particular historical forms. In Germany, there was Hitler; in this country it takes the form of the Ku Klux Klan.

And so what these people's ideology represents is classical—the ideology of the Ku Klux Klan in this country. If you're talking about fascism and how the bourgeoisie needs fascism at a certain point and turns around and uses these dogs, that's what's going on now. Not in the sense that these people have taken power, no. Not in the sense that the Reagan government is fascist, no. But in the sense of using these people and using this ideology, that is certainly going on.

I want to talk a little bit about their ideology. (I want to use Gore Vidal because Gore Vidal really hates Christianity. As he says, his secret hero is Herod, Herod and the Apostate Julian, the last pagan.) Of course, they pick and choose from the Bible what they want, even though they'll tell you that every word in the Bible is god. Except they fight over which Bible. For example, as the Jews will tell you, the Bible bars shellfish, the Bible bars pork, etc. Well, somehow those things are not effected. They're not effected because Paul sold out on those issues in order to get a hearing from the Romans.
But to them what the Bible is, very important, is a justification for their racism. The whole thing about the descendants of Ham is used by these people. In secular terms, when you hear the cry of "law and order" or "cut welfare" or "the death penalty" those are simply code words for "get blacks." And as for Jews, "these are the people that killed Christ, these are the Christ-killers." And it will never change.

And sex, well, the main teacher for them is Paul, that's the main guy that they swear by. As a comrade said last night, the Catholics call him Saint Paul and for those who have met him personally they call him Paul. The twice-born, the third-born, the people who talk in tongues, who have visions nightly; no priests, they do it—personally.

So, anyway, Paul had a position on sex: forget it. His position was that sex under any circumstances regardless was a sin. It was a departure from purity. You should go out in the desert and wait for God to come to this earth. And God was going to come in six months. God didn't come in six months. Well, God was going to come in nine months. God didn't come in nine months. And he's having trouble with his people, right? Certain things are happening and they're getting upset. And he finally said: it's better to marry than burn. And he wasn't talking about the fires of hell when he's talking about burn. So he will let you marry, but that's as far as it goes.

Now, the position on women for the entire Judaic-Christian tradition is one of the most backward positions there is. It's that women exist simply as a repository of the sacred sperm, that a woman is commanded to serve and obey her husband as he is in turn commanded to serve and obey his temporal, Bible-quoting master. And Constantine, when he was having trouble with the Roman Empire, figured out that Christianity was the best thing that he had. So he made it the state religion. It wasn't actually that big, it certainly was no threat. But it was used, it was the greatest thing for state reinforcement of ideology. Been that way ever since.

Gore Vidal talks about homosexuality in the Bible. And it turns out there's quite a bit of homosexuality in the Bible. Vidal talks about the stuff with David and Jonathan, and it's quite clear. David's always talking about his love for Jonathan. And Vidal talks about Ruth and Naomi. He says, it's quite clear about their emotions toward one another, that this would be the basis for joint ownership of a pottery shop in Laguna Beach.
But then you get to Leviticus. And Leviticus on homosexuality is something like, if one man lie with another man, thereby he be put to death. Real hardcore stuff, from then on.

And Paul of course was dealing with Leviticus. Why does Paul hate sex so much? Aside from maybe he was a little peculiar and he had his problems, why does he hate sex so much? What is the political reason? Well, what Paul was competing against was the Roman gods, the pagan religions. And the greatest god of the pagan religions was the Goddess of Fertility. And, of course, when they went to a Sunday ceremony, they got it on. And they really got it on. The hardest teachings of the Bible against homosexuality and against sex in general come right after what is known as the Babylonian captivity, where the Jews were forced to live in the city of Babylon for a period of time. And it turns out that Babylon was the Paris of the B.C. world. It's sort of like in the First World War, once the farm boys see gay Paree, that's it, boy, ain't never goin' back to the farm. Well, once the Jews got to Babylon they really didn't want to go back to that desert. Not only did they have as much sex in ways that they could never conceive of (human sex, not goats) but indoor plumbing, everything, it was a very advanced city. And the Jewish ruling class had a problem, they somehow had to get the Jews back into the desert. And so you get all these moral strictures on sex. In other words, what was going on in sixth century Palestine was very similar to what they're trying to pull off today. Sex is bad; go out and get killed or live in the damned desert. So, the Bible is a historical document.

"Moral Rearmament" Is Enforced Social Conformity

What are the issues that are coming up today? First of all, women. For what the bourgeoisie is talking about socially, it's essential that women get out of the factory, certainly that women get out of the trade unions. They don't want women to have class consciousness, that's a no-no. They want to get them out of the productive process, back into the home. They want to eliminate their rights. They want to eliminate day care. They want to eliminate abortion. And they're simply doing that by abortion-clinic bombing and terror. What they'd like to do is eliminate the pill, but only the Pope thinks he can pull that off. Their key slogan for women is: Defeat ERA and Save the Family.
There is a study that's just come out that said: For 20 years, the federal government before the Reagan administration had systematically destroyed the family; we have and are going to reverse every one of those policies. What were those policies? The biggest one was welfare. So we're going to save the family by cutting off welfare. Now, figure 20 years back from where Reagan got in office. What do you get? The beginning of the civil rights movement. It's not an accident.

Sex. The Supreme Court has made sodomy illegal, i.e., you will go to jail for sodomy. The point is the way the ruling is formulated: it's illegal because it is against historical Christian-Judaical principle. Well, where does that stop? They can say blacks are unequal because of historical Christian-Judaical principle. (And the head of the Supreme Court turns out to be a racist vigilante.) There's no limit to this. It's a total elimination of separation of church and state. Our position on sex is: government out of the bedrooms, let people figure it out themselves.

AIDS. The first thing you've got to understand is that these people think that AIDS is the greatest thing that's ever happened. As long as it doesn't get in a massive way into the heterosexual population, it's like god speaking. The more homosexuals die, the better it is. So, of course, they do not fund AIDS projects. And, of course, Dianne Feinstein is not going to release needles to drug addicts so AIDS would not be spread many, many times over by using dirty needles. This should be an enormous scandal.
I saw this liberal program on AIDS the other night. I was listening for one of these liberal doctors to get up and say, "We need money. We need massive funding." And they wanted to say it, it's quite clear, but for some reason they didn't say it. But they said everything else. They got the hottest researcher around (he's from Scotland, actually) and he said: AIDS as a virus is very difficult medically, what needs to be done now is massive experimenting; we can sit around, we could talk about it forever, but what needs to be done is trial and error in an international sense. And in the next scene they talk about the technical problems, and the man who narrated says: the problem that scores of researchers are running into across the country— "Scores" of researchers are working on the vaccine for AIDS across the country, that's it! And we're talking about a screaming national health emergency. But the government is coming from a totally different direction on this AIDS question. They want to politically exploit it, it's good for them.

Death penalty. The death penalty simply means: kill blacks. The death penalty was temporarily ruled unconstitutional in 72, largely as a result of the U.S. bourgeoisie trying to clean up its act in terms of how it was seen internationally. By the way, this country is one of the few countries that actually has the death penalty; most of the European countries don't. The interesting thing about the death penalty is that it's a forbidden topic for debate now. We just had a major election in California over [State Supreme Court chief justice] Rose Bird, over the death penalty. Her right-wing attacker's every other word is: she doesn't believe in the death penalty. I saw a number of her commercials; she didn't have the guts to get up and say: I oppose the death penalty. I think it's barbaric, inhuman. And the majority of the world, and the state, and the ruling class of the world agree with me. No, politics has gone so far to the right that she didn't even say that. She said: well, um, I oppose the judiciary being political. You try to figure out what that means.

In fact, the entire election was absurd. All these justices say they're friends of labor. Not one of those guys mentioned unions throughout the entire campaign. Reagan's Central America policy is very unpopular with the population. Why didn't [Democratic Senator] Cranston run his campaign on opposition to Central America? It's because he's got Reagan's position on Central America. He didn't want to make Central America an issue. That's what we're talking about, bipartisan support to the war drive. Also, bipartisan support to this social crusade against you.

The drug witchhunt. The ruling class has declared a war on drugs. Total hypocrisy. The ruling class has pushed and made money from drugs I don't know since when. The British used drugs as one of their ways to conquer China; Hong Kong was founded on the profits of the opium trade. And who ran drugs all through the Vietnam War and before that out of the Golden Triangle? It was the CIA. Who provided the planes? It was CIA airplanes. When they talk about landing in those paddy fields, what do you think they were loading? It wasn't all orphans.

And in the cities. As just one example, you have the movie The French Connection, the biggest bust in heroin that's ever happened in New York City. They had the trial years later, not one speck of that heroin was left. They couldn't find it, it was all gone. It'd all been sold. It's obvious and has been documented—it's the cops. The cops either hold the pushers up for their cut and then the pushers charge that much more; or they just take the entire thing and sell it themselves. So what you get between the pushers and the cops is combat for profit. And that's the vice squad.

So this war on drugs is simply a tool to build the police department, to eliminate democratic rights so the police can go anywhere to terrorize black kids. And not only that. The conditions of capitalism in the ghettos are so severe with generational unemployment, with no possibility of getting out for these kids, no possibility of jobs, so why not take drugs? A black mother in the ghetto knows that there's a struggle every day, second by second, to save her child from that damned pusher. So what you get is the black hustlers like Jesse Jackson that come up and say to this black woman, "Yeah, you've got to support your cops, that's the answer." It's a rotten shell game.

Now, we're opposed to laws against what they call "crimes without victims." Basically it's a matter of personal rights. We feel that if somebody wants to take drugs, that's his own right. What kind of sex people want, that's their own right. We're against the state intervening in any of these questions. Now, it doesn't mean that we don't give a damn about a generation of ghetto kids that become addicts. But how do you fight that? How you fight that is by struggling against the ruling class and the conditions they impose by which the kids become addicts.

Now, in the black movement, there's always been two wings. One, the Jesse Jacksons and George Washington Carvers, the Uncle Toms, who say what you've got to do is, don't ask for anything from the white man, improve yourself in the eyes of the white man, and if you're good and good long enough, then you'll get something. And basically what it does, it accepts the terms of the racism of the oppressor. Jesse Jackson's recent statement is that drugs kill more than Klan ropes—does he want a united front with the KKK against drugs? Or what about a united front with the local racist politician against drugs? And then you've got Farrakhan who pushes the same stuff, except in his case, even worse—anti-Semitism, hustling black shampoo.

And then you have the wing of Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. Du Bois which fights against the conditions, and fights against the racists, and fights for equality. Our position is for revolutionary integrationism, black liberation through socialist revolution.
In California there was an "English-only" proposition on the ballot. Now, this is simply vengeance. Everybody who's had any contact with immigrants knows that the first thing they want to do and have to do is learn English. And by and large they always do learn English. It's critical for them obviously in terms of making money. What this stuff is of going after English-only and destroying bilingual education is to eliminate the possibility of immigrants learning English, to eliminate the possibility of them Irving a decent life in the United States so they don't come here.

Now, of course, one must understand that there are two classes of immigrants. There's the people who come from right-wing reaction, the states which are overwhelmingly supported by the U.S. government, like the Haitians. They don't get in. And then there are the exploiters, the people like [South Vietnam's Marshal] Ky, the protégé’s of the U.S., the U.S. stooges. Not only do they get in, but they get everything.

Dictatorship of the Property Party

Everybody talks about the two-party system in the United States. There's not a two-party system, there's a one-party system. And that party is the property party. The people that belong to that party are less than one percent of the population of the United States, and they own the United States. And they own the government; they run the Republican and the Democratic parties.

The only difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is how they do things, not what they do, and not where they're going. Basically when you become a politician in the Republican or Democratic parties, you get a job. And you don't go to your constituents and get a job. No, you go to the businessman, at whatever level, and get hired, get his endorsement. You're a hireling of the bourgeoisie. Capitalist politicians are generally not the top people around. These are the people who are not good enough to make a great career in the professions, law or things like that. So, you know, you've got a big mouth and you're not particularly successful, not real smart and you don't mind being a prostitute and saying whatever somebody tells you, you become a politician. The property party is what really makes the difference, that's what calls the shots in this country. The class nature of this country is that the people who own this country are the people who run this country. It is their dictatorship.

There is a major economic crisis, it's a crisis that capitalism's had since its inception. What you've got in this country is a question of overproduction in every major field. Protectionism is coming up over the question of U.S. cars, or whatever, and this is reactionary and we're opposed to it.

And you've got overproduction internationally, in steel, in cars, in computer chips. What happens when you get overproduction that exceeds the market's ability to buy? These things are not sold. You get bankruptcies. Economies go under. Now, what happens if you're the U.S. bourgeoisie, you can't sell your stuff, and you've become a weak country economically, but because of a quirk of history you have the strongest military forces, aside from the Soviet Union, in the world? Do you just sit there and say, well, we're not going to sell anything this year, so I think this country is simply going to go down the drain and I'm going to lose everything I got? No, you use your cards. You use your ace, and your ace is your military card. It's the only card the U.S. has right now. So you go into various countries or various areas of the world and you seize those markets. What that is is war. And capitalism has never resolved an overproduction crisis yet through any other agency except war.

Why do we always talk about the anti-Soviet war drive? Why can't there be coexistence, why can't they just disarm? Why can't they recruit some Democrats, maybe they'll get along? They can't get along for two reasons. One, the very fact of the existence of the Soviet Union as a workers state, however degenerated, threatens capitalism. But, two, you've got to sell your goods. And one-sixth of the world's humanity, if you can open it up for private property, that's an enormous market. That would give capitalism a new lease.

In the Communist Manifesto Marx says that the history of man is the question of class struggle, and that where one class cannot triumph over another in a clear way, sooner or later it leads to the ruination of both classes. So what we are facing is barbarism. The only alternative to that is the international proletariat taking power, and the critical aspect is not the lack of a working class or the lack of militancy or anything like that. We've seen plenty of that, we've seen strikes historically and even in the recent period. The question is leadership. And that's the Spartacist League."