Saturday, July 03, 2010

*The Streets Are Not For Dreaming - We Need An All Out Anti-War Push To Get Out Of Afghanistan- And We Need To Start Now

Click on the headline to link to a UJP website entry on the recent House vote to approve an Afghan War supplemental war budget. That's extra dough on top of the "regular" Afghan war budget. We won't even mention the "regular" regular war budget-the 700 billion one.

Markin comment:

Damn right the streets are not for dreaming now. If they ever were, except for a couple of minutes in the 1960s before the American imperial state, Johnson/Nixon version front and center, pulled the hammer down and we barely got off of those streets with our lives. But enough of talk of those ancient times. Enough also, for the moment, of the dreamy 1960s remembrances of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters acid tests, of fast souped up 1950s vintage cars revving up for the Saturday night “chicken run”, of oldies but goodies records from the dawn of rock and roll, of end of the night songs at school dances and what to do when that time comes and you have two left feet, and of other such sentiments that have filled the space of late.

We are at war now. No, not in the way you think, the obvious way, with the Obama version of the American imperial state endlessly pouring men and materials into his Afghan adventure that will stretch out to infinity. We know, and know painfully well, what we have to do in opposition to that adventure. Nor am I speaking of the complacency of a Congress that keeps the fires of the war machine stoked with every appropriation the Obama administration asks for, most recently with the House approval of the “supplemental” Afghan war budget (not to be confused with the “regular” Afghan war budget, or, heavens, with the “regular” regular war budget). We too know how to deal with that.

What we are war with, first and foremost, is the complacency of the genetic anti-war movement, if the scattered remnants, individuals and clots of anti-warriors that we have been reduced to warrant that title. A “movement” that draws many thousands to Detroit for the U.S. Social Forum talk/slugfest but cannot draw that number to the streets of Washington for a protest of a vicious Obama-driven imperial policy is hardly worthy of the name.

There, I got that off my chest. And that’s all I needed to do, for openers. I have been in politics of one kind or another practically all of my conscious life and one thing that I have learned is that you don’t get people, especially political people, moving based on trying to guilt trip them, at least not for the long haul that we need them. And that is my real point. The polls of late, to the extent that they are indicative, point to something of a shift in sentiment (and much else) about Obama's Afghan war policy. American war allies are deserting the ship like rats. The McChrystal expose demonstrated that the generals at the top are still clueless on the question of kicking down every door in some benighted Afghan village to “win” friends. Hell, even the ever so tepid and pliant Congress is beginning to question (theoretically, but not in cold hard cash department) the “mission.”

In short, we are, or should be, in the catbird seat. So, forget the past half-heartedness in the face of earlier “deaf” ears, the fear of breaking with the Obama administration, the fear of alienating the black liberation movement, the fear of… well, you know the rest. Back to the struggle, back to the streets and back to our fighting slogan- Obama- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops And Mercenaries (Not Just General McChrystal) From Afghanistan!

Note: For those who wince at my characterization of the recently held U.S. Social Forum as a talk fest I will give a very compelling reason for that usage. And I will not even mention the various “anti-imperialist”, “anti- capitalist” sources, like the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, and who knows who else, that funded this confab. I will make a strictly political point here.

In 2004, a presidential election year and a year when the Democratic Party national convention was held in Boston. That was the year, if you recall, that one Massachusetts U.S. Senator John Forbes Kerry was proclaimed the Democratic nominee. Senator Kerry, if you will also recall, voted with both hands and feet (or was it one hand and one foot) for President George W. Bush’s 2002 Iraq War resolution, among his other sins. Clearly a situation, in any case, for anti-war militants and others to stage a protest, a vocal one to boot, against the Democratic Party and its nominee.

2004 was also a year that, not by chance, that the U.S. Social Forum (made up of many anti-war and progressive organizations and individuals, as least that is what they allege in their written propaganda) was held in Boston at the nearby University of Massachusetts/Boston campus at the same time as the convention. A perfect lash-up for a very strong and well-attended protest (that was set, moreover, the day before the convention started, a Sunday), right?

No such luck. The vast bulk of the attendees at the Forum could not find the time to tear themselves away, for a couple of hours, from some pressing anti-war or anti-imperialist workshop in order to hit the streets. Or, and here is the real crux of the matter, were ordered not to or discouraged from attending that protest by the Forum leadership or their organizations. My group of local anti-war militant and I had political differences with the organizers of the protest (ANSWER) but when the deal when down and a simple anti-war statement had to be made the place for all militants was in front of the Democratic Party Convention Hall chanting our opposition to the Bush/Kerry (now Obama) Iraq and Afghan Wars. Simple right?

Fortunately this year’s Forum was not interrupted by the need to deal with presidential elections; although I would make a very strong case that the not very distant (from Detroit) Toronto meeting of the G-20 could have used a few thousand more protesters, if they could have torn themselves away from those lovely workshops.

Friday, July 02, 2010

*From The UJP Website- House Approves Extra Afghan War Budget

Click on the headline to link to a UJP website entry on the recent House vote to approve an Afghan War supplemental war budget. That's extra dough on top of the "regular" Afghan war budget. We won't even mention the "regular" regular war budget- the 700 billion one.

Markin comment:

"...And, speaking of world imperialism, let us keep our eyes on the prize, including the recent news that the beloved House that liberals and reformists see at the last refuge of hope and who just gave away the store on the Supplemental Afghan War budget. Here is our resp one- Obama (and friends in the Congress)- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./ Allied Troops And Mercenaries From Afghanistan!

*From "The Rag Blog" -In Honor Of Class- War Prisoner Marilyn Buck- A Report

Click on the headline to link to a "The Rag Blog" entry on the recent celebration/benefit for class-war prisoner Marilyn Buck.

Thursday, September 27, 2007 Bob Feldman

`Marilyn Buck'

Way out in California
Is where they have her locked
For she is strong and beautiful
And her name is Marilyn Buck.

They sentenced her to eighty years
Because she is morally tough
Her rebel soul they cannot break
And her name is Marilyn Buck.

From Texas to Chicago
The War she tried to stop
She fought alongside Black comrades
And her name is Marilyn Buck.

Assata Shakur, from prison freed,
Did give them all a shock
And another rebel they could not find
Her name was Marilyn Buck.

The Capitol bombed, where the Congress met
To finance CIA plots
And one of the resisters charged
Her name was Marilyn Buck.

Political prisoners still locked up
The list is very long
There’s Mutulu Shakur and Sekou Odinga
And each one deserves their own song.

There’s Sundiata Acoli and Mumia
And Herman Bell and Robert Seth Hayes
And Jamil Al-Amin and the Africas
And Carlos Alberto Torres.

So if you get discouraged
And wish you had more luck
Remember the freedom fighters
And the soulful Marilyn Buck.

Yes, way out in California
Is where they have her locked
For she is strong and beautiful
And her name is Marilyn Buck.

To listen to this protest folk song, you can go to the following music site link:

The Marilyn Buck protest folk song is sung to the tune of the traditional folk song, “Mary Hamilton.” Marilyn Buck ( is currently imprisoned in the Pleasanton federal prison in Dublin, California. For more information about the current situation of U.S. political prisoners like Mutulu Shakur, Sekou Odinga, Sundiata Acoli, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Herman Bell, Robert Seth Hayes, Jamil Al-Amin (f/k/a H.Rap Brown), the Africas and Carlos Alberto Torres, you can check out the Jericho Amnesty Movement site at and the Prison Activist Resource Center at .

Thursday, July 01, 2010

*Coming Of Age In The 1950s, Period- Oldies But Goodies - An Encore

Click on the headline to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Betty Everett performing here classic rock number,"It's In His Kiss". Oh, ya.

CD Review

Oldies But Goodies, Volume Three, Original Sound Record Co., 1987

I have been doing a series of commentaries elsewhere on another site on my coming of political age in the early 1960s, but here when I am writing about musical influences I am just speaking of my coming of age, period, which was not necessarily the same thing. No question that those of us who came of age in the 1950s are truly children of rock and roll. We were there, whether we appreciated it or not at the time, when the first, sputtering, musical moves away from ballady Broadway show tunes and rhymey Tin Pan Alley pieces hit the radio airwaves. (If you do not know what a radio is then ask your parents or, ouch, grandparents, please.) And, most importantly, we were there when the music moved away from any and all music that your parents might have approved of, or maybe, even liked, or, hopefully, at least left you alone to play in peace up in your room when rock and roll hit post- World War II America teenagers like, well, like an atomic bomb.

Not all of the material put forth was good, nor was all of it destined to be playable fifty or sixty years later on some “greatest hits” compilation but some of songs had enough chordal energy, lyrical sense, and sheer danceability to make any Jack or Jill jump then, or now. And, here is the good part, especially for painfully shy guys like me, or those who, like me as well, had two left feet on the dance floor. You didn’t need to dance toe to toe, close to close, with that certain she (or he for shes). Just be alive…uh, hip to the music. Otherwise you might become the dreaded wallflower. But that fear, the fear of fears that haunted many a teenage dream then, is a story for another day. Let’s just leave it at this for now. Ah, to be very, very young then was very heaven.

So what still sounds good on this CD compilation to a current AARPer and, and perhaps some of his fellows who comprise the demographic that such a 1950s compilation “speak” to. Of course, Come Go With Me by the Dell Vikings, Betty Everett’s It’s In His Kiss and the savage drum line of Frankie Ford’s Sea Cruise. But what about Jerry Butler’s gospel-tinged For Your Precious Love? Yes, I know, this is one of the slow ones that you had to dance close on. And just hope, hope to high heaven that you didn’t destroy your partner's shoes and feet. Well, one learns a few social skills in this world for no other reason that to “impress” that certain she (or he for she) mentioned above. I did, didn’t you?


It's In His Kiss

Does he love me, I wanna know
How can I tell if he loves me so
Is it in his eyes, oh no you'll be deceived
Is it in his eyes, oh no he'll make believe
If you wanna know, if he loves you so
It's in his kiss
That's where it is, oh yeah
Or is it in his face, oh no it's just his charm
In his warm embrace, oh no that's just his arm
If you wanna know, if he loves you so
It's in his kiss
That's where it is, oh it's in his kiss
That's where it is, oh-oh
Kiss him and squeeze him tight
And find out what you wanna know
If it's love, if it really is
It's there in his kiss
How 'bout the way he acts, oh no that's not the way
And you're not listening to all I say
If you wanna know, if he loves you so
It's in his kiss, that's where it is
Oh yeah it's in his kiss, that's where it is

Oh-oh, kiss him and squeeze him tight
And find out what you wanna know
If it's love, if it really is
It's there in his kiss
How 'bout the way he acts, oh no that's not the way
And you're not listening to all I say
If you wanna know, if he loves you so
It's in his kiss
That's where it is, oh yeah it's in his kiss
That's where it is, oh it's in his kiss

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

*I Feel Those Appalachian Mountain Breezes Again- I Hear Those Lonesome Fiddles- A CD Review

Click on the headline to link ota "YouTube" film clip of one of the fiddlers on the CD under review, J.P. Fraley. Sorry, I could not find "Annadeene's Waltz" mentioned below for you to hear here.

CD Review

The Art Of Traditional Fiddle: From The North American Tradition Series, Rounder Records, 2001

Over the past couple of years my interest in mountain music, the music that formed part of my parental heritage, has increased as a quick search of such entries in this space attest to. Those reviews have run the gamut from the famous, and important, work of the various Carter Family combinations (and generations) to the "discovery" by the folk revivalists of the 1960s of the likes of banjo player Roscoe Holcomb to the interest by urban folk artists of that period like the Greenbriar Boys and The New Lost City Ramblers. One of the driving forces of that simple, plain music is the banjo; another is, as under review here, the fiddle.

Today, in this space, I am also reviewing a tribute album celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Appleseed Records (2007), now a fixture in preserving folk and protest music. I mentioned there that certain record labels have gained a niche for themselves in music history by establishing, driving, or preserving certain traditions. That is the case here with Rounder Records who for over forty years has put together off-beat, but extremely valuable, compilations of traditional music from the shores of Cape Breton to Appalachia to Western America.

In the Appleseed review I noted that for the history of the label there is a more than informative booklet that came with that 2-disc CD set, including plenty of discology-type information about each track. For this CD there is also a very informative booklet (as is usual with Rounder products), also including plenty of discology-type information about each track. That leaves the final question of what is good here. That is a harder question than usual in that everything here is an instrumental featuring the fiddle so it is driven more by mood than anything else. The mood, as described in the headline- mountain breezes and lonesome fiddles. And you should think of this compilation that way as well, especially as some of the pieces are very short. The one that you MUST listen and that kind of evokes everything I am trying to describe is J.P. Fraley's "Annadeene's Waltz". Heaven by fiddle.

*As Obama Wades Neck Deep In The "Big Poppy"- A Cautionary Tale- Pete Seeger's ""Waist Deep In The Big Muddy"- An Encore

Click on the headline to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Pete Seeger performing his classic anti-war song, "Waist Deep In The Big Muddy".

Markin comment:

In a week where American President Obama has indeed entrenched himself deeper in Afghanistan (the "Big Poppy") and has gone out of his way, way out of his way, to make it his own "splendid little war" this song seems very, very appropriate.

Pete Seeger Lyrics

Waist Deep In The Big Muddy Lyrics

It was back in nineteen forty-two,
I was a member of a good platoon.
We were on maneuvers in-a Loozianna,
One night by the light of the moon.
The captain told us to ford a river,
That's how it all begun.
We were -- knee deep in the Big Muddy,
But the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, "Sir, are you sure,
This is the best way back to the base?"
"Sergeant, go on! I forded this river
'Bout a mile above this place.
It'll be a little soggy but just keep slogging.
We'll soon be on dry ground."
We were -- waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, "Sir, with all this equipment
No man will be able to swim."
"Sergeant, don't be a Nervous Nellie,"
The Captain said to him.
"All we need is a little determination;
Men, follow me, I'll lead on."
We were -- neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

All at once, the moon clouded over,
We heard a gurgling cry.
A few seconds later, the captain's helmet
Was all that floated by.
The Sergeant said, "Turn around men!
I'm in charge from now on."
And we just made it out of the Big Muddy
With the captain dead and gone.

We stripped and dived and found his body
Stuck in the old quicksand.
I guess he didn't know that the water was deeper
Than the place he'd once before been.
Another stream had joined the Big Muddy
'Bout a half mile from where we'd gone.
We were lucky to escape from the Big Muddy
When the big fool said to push on.

Well, I'm not going to point any moral;
I'll leave that for yourself
Maybe you're still walking, you're still talking
You'd like to keep your health.
But every time I read the papers
That old feeling comes on;
We're -- waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a
Tall man'll be over his head, we're
Waist deep in the Big Muddy!
And the big fool says to push on!

*From “The Rag Blog”- “Bob Feldman 68” Blog- A People’s History Of Afghanistan, Part Twelve

Click on the headline to link to a “The Rag Blog” entry from the “Bob Feldman 68” blog on the history of Afghanistan

Markin comment:

This is a great series for those who are not familiar with the critical role of Afghanistan in world politics, if not directly then as part of the history of world imperialism. Thanks, Bob Feldman.

And, speaking of world imperialism, let us keep our eyes on the prize- Obama- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./ Allied Troops And Mercenaries From Afghanistan!

Monday, June 28, 2010

*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 Betrayed": 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 published 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 Community 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 victimization 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 representatives 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 programmatic 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 proliferation 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. Ultimately, 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 commemorative book James P. Cannon As We Knew Him, longtime 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 nationalism, 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 conservative, 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 conservative 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" (SWP Discussion 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 movement 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. Simultaneously, 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 elementary 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 that the revolution is accomplished by living a revolutionary lifestyle: "The State is a 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 liberation 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 negatively: 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 produces this society's wealth, to make a socialist revolution. 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 fundamental 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 oppression 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 Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-In Defense of Homosexual Rights: The Marxist Tradition

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for "Communism and homosexuality".

Markin comment:

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

In Defense of Homosexual Rights: The Marxist Tradition

Defense of democratic rights for homosexuals is part of the historic tradition of Marxism. In the 1860s, the prominent lawyer J.B. von Schweitzer was tried, found guilty and disbarred for homosexual activities in Mannheim, Germany. The socialist pioneer Ferdinand Lassalle aided von Schweitzer, encouraging him to join Lassalle's Universal German Workingmen's Association in 1863. After Lassalle's death, von Schweitzer was elected the head of the group, one of the organizations that merged to form the German Social Democratic Party (SPD). The SPD itself waged a long struggle in the late 19th century against Paragraph 175 of the German penal code, which made homosexual acts (for males) a crime. August Bebel and other SPD members in the Reichstag attacked the law, while the SPD's party paper Vorwarts reported on the struggle against state persecution of homosexuals.

In 1895 one of the most infamous anti-homosexual outbursts of the period targeted Oscar Wilde, one of the leading literary lights of England (where homosexuality had been punishable by death until 1861). Wilde had some socialist views of his own: his essay, "The Soul of Man Under Socialism," was smuggled into Russia by young radicals. When the Marquess of Queensberry called him a sodomist, Wilde sued for libel. Queensberry had Wilde successfully prosecuted and sent to prison for being involved with Queensberry's son. The Second International took up Wilde's defense. In the most prestigious publication of the German Social Democracy, "Die Neue Zeit", Eduard Bernstein, later known as a revisionist but then speaking as a very decent Marxist, argued that there was nothing sick about homosexuality, that Wilde had committed no crime, that every socialist should defend him and that the people who put him on trial were the criminals.

Upon coming to power in 1917 in Russia, the Bolshevik Party began immediately to undercut the old bourgeois prejudices and social institutions responsible for the oppression of both women and homosexuals— centrally the institution of the family. They sought to create social alternatives to relieve the crushing burden of women's drudgery in the family, and abolished all legal impediments to women's equality, while also abolishing all laws against homosexual acts. Stalin's successful political counterrevolution rehabilitated the reactionary ideology of bourgeois society, glorifying the family unit. In 1934 a law making homosexual acts punishable by imprisonment was introduced, and mass arrests of homosexuals took place. While defending the socialized property forms of the USSR against capitalist attack, we Trotskyists fight for political revolution in the USSR to restore the liberating program and goals of the early Bolsheviks, including getting the state out of private sexual life. As Grigorii Batkis, director of the Moscow Institute of Social Hygiene, pointed out in "The Sexual Revolution in Russia," published in the USSR in 1923:
"Soviet legislation bases itself on the following principle:

'It declares the absolute non-interference of the state and society into sexual matters so long as nobody isinjured and no one's interests are encroached upon

"Concerning homosexuality, sodomy, and various other forms of sexual gratification, which are set down in European legislation as offenses against public morality—Soviet legislation treats these exactly the same as so-called 'natural' intercourse. All forms of sexual intercourse are private matters." [emphasis in original]

—quoted in John Lauritsen and David Thorstad, The Early Homosexual Rights Movement 1864-1935

*From The "Bob Feldman '68" Blog- "The Ballad Of Harvey Milk"

Click on the headline to link to a "Bob Feldman '68" blog entry- his song "The Ballad Of Harvey Milk" that connects right in with today's theme on the anniversary of the Stonewall uprising in 1969.

*Remember Stonewall 1969-The Other “Milk” Film- “The Times Of Harvey Milk”

Click On To Link To Guest Commentator Amy Rath's, Editor Of "The Women And Revolution" Pages Of The Working Class Newspaper "Workers Vanguard", Review Of "Milk' in 2009.

The Other “Milk” Film- “The Times Of Harvey Milk”

Originally reviewed in 2009 on the 25th Anniversary of “The Times Of Harvey Milk” documentary.

DVD Review

The Times Of Harvey Milk, Harvey, George Moscone and others, 1984

In the recent hoopla over the commercial film “Milk”, about the political rise and assassination (along with the Mayor, George Moscone) of the first acknowledged openly gay politician, San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and the Oscar-worthy performance by actor Sean Penn this little film documentary has been overshadowed. This is unfortunate on two counts. First, this film won, on its own merits, an Oscar, as well, for the Best Documentary of 1984. Secondly, for those with a political perspective, especially those with a leftist perspective, this documentary is a more satisfying and instructive film about the limitations of electoral politics as a vehicle for the advancement of any oppressed sector of society.

Below the headline for this review I have placed a link to a 2009 review of “Milk” by Amy Rath, editor of the Women and revolution pages of the working class newspaper “Workers Vanguard”. The points made there about the limitations of sectoral politics by segments of the oppressed are close to my own views and therefore I will merely make a few comments here about some other points of interest in the film.

This documentary is driven by footage of the events that led up to Harvey Milk’s political victory, his term of office, short as it was, the events surrounding the trial of his murderer, fellow Supervisor Dan White. And the outrage, justifiably so, of the gay community and others, over the jury verdict in the case (manslaughter). As is the nature of such efforts there are the inevitable “talking heads” who give their take on Milk, the meaning of his political life, some personal observations and comments by those who were influenced by, or worked politically with, Milk.

Two of the commentators stick out. One, a lesbian professor from San Francisco State (I think that is the right school) gives an overview of what the Milk campaign meant for the gay community and the struggle for political power in one city. The other, an old time local labor leader (important in a big labor town, at least at that time), who, seemingly kicking and screaming, came to admire Harvey Milk. One should pay careful attention to his comments even a quarter of a century later as, despite some real gains made by the gay and lesbian rights movement, there is nevertheless still a ”culture gap” that he expressed very well about his attitude toward gays before working with Milk and that is not uncommon, if politically incorrect, in many neighborhoods today.

Twenty five years after the release of this film how does the legacy of Harvey Milk’s work stand up? I don’t mean the limitations of the parliamentary (and legal) road to social reform. That is covered in the Rath article on “Milk”. I have also dealt with the question in other contexts around the women’s liberation struggle, the black liberation struggle and other questions of strategic importance to the struggle for a more just society. Rather I want to finish here with a little comment about Harvey Milk, the gay man. From this documentary it is clear that he was very political, very committed to the struggle for gays rights, not afraid, as in the case of Proposition 6 (the 1978 efforts by some right-wingers to exclude homosexuals from the public teaching profession), to tackle the yahoos and had a certain charisma. In short, all the attributes of any politico (at least a potentially successful one). But that is neither here nor there. What I think Milk’s short political life ultimately means was caught in the speech included in the film that he made after that Proposition 6 defeat where he called on all gays and lesbians to “come out of the closet" (a seemingly quaint term now but very advanced then) and fight the yahoos wherever they are and wherever you are. That, my friends, despite my differences of political strategy with the late Harvey Milk is very good advise indeed.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

***From The "Workers' Press" Blog- Labor History Celebration in St. Louis: Commemorating the Strike of 1877

Click on the headline to link to a "Workers' Press" Blog entry- "Labor History Celebration in St. Louis: Commemorating the Strike of 1877."

Markin comment:

This is an early important (and little known) action by a then important section of the American labor movement in the emerging industrial Midwest "heartland". Moreover, that strike (and other labor actions elsewhere that year) occurred in the same year that the Republican Party, including segments of its Radical Republican wing, sold out Radical Reconstruction in the South (by among other things removing the last of the Federal troops there at a time when such action left blacks and their white supporters virtually defenseless against white racial reaction), in order to get one Rutherford B. Hayes into the White House.

*From The Pen Of Leon Trotsky- On The United Front

Click on the headline to link to a "Leon Trotsky Internet Archives" online copy of "On The United Front" from his 1921 Volume One of "The First Five Years Of The Communist International".

Markin comment:

It is always worthwhile to go back and read Leon Trotsky on many subjects, but it is especially worthwhile on an issue like the proper ways to use the united front as a tactic in our arsenal in the struggle for working class power.

*From The "Renegade Eye" Blog- Once Again On The Ex-Afghan Commander, General McChrystal- A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to line to a "Renegade Eye" Blog entry on the ex-Afghan Commander, General McChrystal.

Markin comment:

Who? Oh ya, that guy Obama dumped for his 'real' choice General Petraeus. And that is old, old news indeed. What is also old news, at least at this space, but nevertheless bears repeating, and will always bear repeating, is -Obama- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops And Mercenaries (Not Just General McChrystal) From Afghanistan!

*From "The Rag Blog"- Free Class-War Prisoner Marilyn Buck Now!

Click on the headline to link to a "The Rag Blog" entry for a benefit in Texas for class-war prisoner and information about her and her case these days.

Markin comment:

I will just repeat here a comment that I have made previously on an entry on "The Rag Blog" on Marilyn Buck's case:

"Every young leftist militant, hell, every old leftist militant and even those who have lost their way since the 1960s and forgot what we were fighting for then, and now, should read this story. It tells two tales- if you go up against the American imperial state you better be ready to win, or else. And it also tells that there really was some very, very good human material, like Marilyn Buck, in the 1960s with which we could have built that better world we were fighting for if we could have understood the first tale better. I wish, and I wish like crazy, that we had a few more, actually quite a few more, militants like Marilyn Buck these days. Let's get moving. All honor to Marilyn Buck and the other fighters, like Mumia, still behind bars for "seeking that newer world."

*From "The Rag Blog" - A Now Old News Guest Commentary On Ex- Afghan Commander- General McChrystal

Click on the headline to link to a "The Rag Blog" post for an old news now guest commentary on American ex- Afghan commander, General Stanley McChrystal. Who?

Markin comment:

Who? Oh, ya, that guy Obama dumped for his 'real' choice General Petraeus. And that is old, old news indeed. What is also old news, at least at this space, but nevertheless bears repeating, and will always bear repeating, is -Obama- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops And Mercenaries (Not Just General McChrystal) From Afghanistan!

*From The "SteveLendmanBlog"- An Update On The Class-War Prisoner Lynne Stewart's Case- Free Lynne Stewart- She Must Not Die In Jail

Click on the headline to link to the "SteveLendmanBlog" entry- "Updating Lynne Stewart's "Love Struggle:" Part II."

Markin comment:

The headline says it all- Lynne Stewart's "Love Struggle:" Part II and Free Lynne Stewart (and he co-workers). Lynne Stewart must not die in jail.