Saturday, August 14, 2010

* You Can’t Go Home Again- The Midlife Crisis Of One Duane Jackson- Larry McMurtry’s "Texasville"- A Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the movie trailer for Texasville.

DVD Review

Texasville, Jeff Bridges, Cybil Sheppard, Timothy Bottoms, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, 1990

There is no question in my mind, at least, that Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show is a great post-World War II (about 1952), boom/bust oil patch Texas, but could have been a lot of places, 1950s places, coming-of-age story. Director Peter Bogdanovitch 1971 production, (with McMurtry writing the screenplay) stayed fairly close to the story line of the book and produced a great film out of the tangled teen relationships of three dust-blown, one-horse (and one movie theater), small-town Texas youngsters, Duane, Sonny and Jacy. I have watched that film several times over the last forty years and have not changed my mind in that regard; if anything I like it better these days.

Fast forward thirty years (thirty story-line years that is, about 1984) and take the same characters, the same writer, the same producer and the same actors (mainly) and make it a film about mid-life crisis (or crises) and the premises fall somewhat flat. It is not the acting. Jeff Bridges is well, Jeff Bridges, born for these Texas-type roles (witness Oscar-winning Bad Blake- Duane Jackson at 57). Cybil Sheppard (Jacy), although showing her age a bit and not the "hot" femme fatale teen of Last Picture is still okay. Timothy Bottom (Sonny) has definitely wilted. But like I say it is not the acting. Nor is it the writing, this is still based on good McMurtry material (unlike the seemingly endlessly contrived later parts of the Duane saga). Nor is it Bogdanovich who evokes 1980s boom-bust (some things don’t change) Texas well enough. Let’s just chalk it up to a preference for the black-and-white, dust bowl grit film footage of small-town Texas over color; a preference for the bite of original stories over sequels; and, most importantly, for distant coming-of-age stories over nearer mid-life crisis. If you can believe this I would rather now watch distant teen trauma (although I would not want to relive it, most of it anyhow) over more recent and symptomatic mid-life crisis. That story is “old.”

* On Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project- A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to a commentary by Professor David Cole (who worked on the case) on the recent ugly free speech (or rather anti-free speech) decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project by the U.S. Supreme Court. Watch your back, fellow leftists.

*Artist Corner- The Work Of Otto Dix- A Review

Click on the headline to link to an appreciation of the work of 1920s German artist, Otto Dix, by Sanford Schwartz.

Artist's Corner- The English Artist Richard Hamilton- A Guest Book Review

Click on the headline to link to an appreciation of the work of English artist, Richard Hamilton, by Julian Bell.

*Artist"s Corner- English Artist Richard Hamilton's Tribute Painting To Mordechai Vanunu- Blessed Are The Whistleblowers- Let Vanunu Go!

Click on the headline to link to a blog entry that shows a painting of Israeli class-war prisoner and nuclear arms whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu.

Markin comment:

The headline says it all- Israel let Mordechai Vanunu go!. Oh yes, as for the artist Richard Hamilton, those who honor brother Vanunu are kindred spirits.

Friday, August 13, 2010

*Out In The Be-Bop Night- Fragments On The Ethos Of Working Class Culture – Frankie’s Big Summer’s Day Walk, Circa 1960

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of the Capris performing their doo-wop classic, There's A Moon Out Tonight. This is sent out by request to Frankie, from the old neighborhood.

Markin comment:

No, this will not be a revival of the controversy in the Bolshevik Party in the post- Civil War Soviet Union of the 1920s. That controversy pitted those who championed a “proletarian culture” bias by the workers state in the cultural field and those who, like Leon Trotsky, argued for a policy of “let one hundred flowers bloom and contend” (although not in those words, and with the proviso that the tendency was not engaged in counter-revolutionary activity) against each other. (See chapters six and seven of Trotsky’s 1924 Literature and Revolution at the Leon Trotsky Internet Archives for further information on that dispute.) This is merely a tip of the hat to a small segment of the working class, and its ethos, in a small section of America in the 1950s and 1960s (now dubbed the “golden age” of the American working class).


This space, as any even casual reader can readily see, is driven by politics, and occasionally, by comment on culture and other ephemera. While I have, liberally, sprinkled my own experiences, political, cultural and personal, in entries throughout the years I have done so mainly in order to round out a “cautionary tale”, or some other devilish thing. On some very rare occasions I have just let the personal story drive the commentary, and force the reader to figure out what the heck was driving the thing, mainly hubris I think. Okay, I will dress that last remark up some to be “politically correct”, mainly “revolutionary” hubris. Egad!

Those occasions of personal reflection, in any case, were most in evidence a couple of years ago when I got caught up in doing some work, Jimmy Higgins work as its turned out, for my high school reunion committee (and, particularly, its hard-driving, relentless, merciless, hubristic, I am being kind , chairperson). That exercise, which churned up lots of evidences of the reasons for my continuing adherence to my working class roots and that also help explain my continuing fight for the historic interest of the class, made me think that once in a while I should, for a change of pace, do some additional pieces. Politics is in command in this space, as the Maoists in the 1960s used to be fond of saying (endlessly) during the period of the “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution”, but today I am posting the first of these off-the cuff entries.

As the first such entry will make clear I am approaching this series in a little different manner from the previously straight expository format. The more I thought about it the more I was struck by the pervasive working class ethos of my growing-up home town, even imbibed in by those who qualified for genuine professional middle class status, or other such statuses. That ethos drove, seemingly from cradle to grave, a whole way of life from attitudes toward the various childhood and teenage rites of passage: of gaudy spectacles like the Fourth Of July, where kids would run the gauntlet like the “running of the bulls” at Pamplona for cheapjack sodas and ice cream; of over-the-top Christmas house light displays although in many a house, and, perhaps, especially in those houses, the late hip-hop artist Biggie Smalls’ line “Christmas kinda missed us” had full force; of cheap carnival rides on rickety Ferris wheels, cotton candy sugar-smacked, fried dough mouth’d, three-chance-for a quarters, and other shell games to support local charities and youth programs; and, of those first awkward basement cellar long-faced, off-handedly dressed boys on one side, fresh-scrubbed, shoulder-showing, perky, sun-dressed girls on the other, giggling, suddenly lights out “petting” kid parties, somewhat chaperoned (wink).

And later on, of the hazings and harassments of entering new schools as one got older, graduating from elementary “punk” to middle school “crazy” to high school, well maybe we will survive and “learn a trade” or go with pa on his job; of block parties where the subtle “shanty” and “lace curtain” shadings and their meanings were faithfully observed by babe child and long-toothed grandpa alike: of that bloody, long-abandoned railroad track that literally divided the “right” from the “wrong” side of the tracks (and still does) between the respectable working class and the benighted working poor (my working poor); of cars, and who did and did not have a “boss” one, a ’57 Chevy one at that, kid and dad alike, and what that meant; and, of course, the endless, endless, endless high school struggle, no, not what you think, over the “high theory” issue of girls; of high school dances and of the yeses and noes embedded in the etiquette of such existence, and of Saturday night (Saturday end of night, last dance) that was built for such existences, whatever the etiquette; of the kinds of consumer products one chose, if affordable, from shoes to cars, and what was said about them and you. Whoa!

And on and on, of attitudes toward women, some of them pretty raw and still prevalent even now let us not kid each other, toward the big social issues, toward sorrows, envies and angers, and a whole range of other quirky things that make an ethos, and that are better described in story form than as an academic exercise. But above all about dreams, about the size and scope of dreams in a post-World War II environment where theoretically “the sky was the limit.” It is that dream part, that littleness dream part that is the axis of what I want to highlight. And as I said before, politics is in command, so another idea is to show how changing the society from one where the many are only permitted small dreams, like back in the old home town, to that projected in our communist future where “the red dream sky is the limit” will really be the limit.

Some short comments on Frank, the central character this sketch. Frank and I were bosom buddies all through junior high school. I had changed junior high schools in the seventh grade and, as most of you well know, such a transfer from a familar to an “alien” school is “the kiss of death” at that age. The turf, its parameters and etiquettes, are already etched in stone. The “ins” and “outs”, just vaguely named in elementary school, are now eternally, granitically confirmed. Frank, mad man, mad monk man (seriously considered at the time,the monk part), proto-beatnik that he was got me through those hard times. After some searching I recently found Frank, who already had been informed of what I was up to by that self-same class chairperson and in turn wanted me, no ordered me under maximum penalty, undefined, to write this little story. His way.

Frank’s path and mine diverged long ago. He is now a very high-priced and high-powered lawyer whose idea of pro bono work is to “donate” his time “saving the earth” by acting as an unpaid legal consultant to various Democratic Party political committees, state and national. Well, such is life, the political life any way. But remember this last little fact when you read old Frank's whiny little saga.

An Atlantic Summer's Day, Circa 1960-For Frank, Class Of 1964

This is the way Frank told me the story, mainly, so it’s really a Frank story that I want to tell you about but around the edges it could be my story, or your story for that matter:

Frank, long, winter-weight black-panted, long sleeve plaid flannel-shirted, thick-soled work boot-shod, de rigueur pseudo-beatnik posing attire, summer or winter, that he thought made him “cool”, at least for the be-bop, look-at-me-I'm-a-real-gone daddy, bear-baiting of the public (and not just the public) that he relished anguished over the job ahead the details of which will concern us later, not now. Melted by the late August sun like some Woolworth’s grilled cheese sandwich, he stood almost immobile, on the Sagamore Street side, looking toward the early morning vacant Welcome Young Field in front of him, as he slowly and methodically pulled out, for about the eighteenth time, or maybe about the eighteen thousandth, a now sweat-soaked, salt-stained, red railroad man’s handkerchief (also de rigueur) to wipe off the new wave of venial sin-producing (at least), swear-to-the-high-heavens-inducing sweat that had formed on his brow.

Frank had, after leaving his own house, already crossed the long-abandoned, rusty-steeled, wooden-tie worn Old Colony railroad tracks that separated the almost sociologically proverbial well-worn, well-trodden “good” from “bad” side of our town, his the “bad”, and mind too (that track, now used as part of the Red Line subway extension system, still stands guardian to that dividing line). He faced, and he knew he faced, even this early in the morning, another day in hell, Frank-ish hell, or so it seemed to him like that was where the day was heading, no question. Another one of those endless, furnace-blasting, dirt-kicking, hard-breathing, nerve-fraying, gates of hell, “dogs days”, August days. Worst, worst for old weather-beaten, you might as well say world-beaten Frank, a fiendish, fierce, frantic, frenzied 1960 teenage August day.

And, like I said, it was not just the weather either, although that was bad enough for anybody whose body metabolism cried out, and cried out loud and clear, for temperate climates, for low humidities, or just the cool, sweet hum of an ocean breeze now and again. But also, plain truth, it was just being a befuddled, beleaguered, bewildered, benighted, be-jesused kid that gummed up the works as well. Frank had it bad. I want to say, if memory does not fail me, that there aren’t double “dog days” like that now, heat-driven, sweltering, suffocating, got-to-break-out-or-bust teenage days, not August days anyway.

But, no, now that I think about it, that’s just not right, not at least if you believe, and you should, all the information about climate change and the rip-roaring way we, meaning you and me, and Frank too, have torn up old Mother Earth without thinking twice about it. Or even once, if you really look around. And about the 21st century angst-filled Franks that you see on those heat-swept streets now, except now the Franks are buried beneath some techno-gadgetry or other, and are not worrying about being be-bop, or real gone daddies, or being “beat”, or about bear-baiting the public or anything like that. But that’s a screed for another day; at least I want to put it off until then. Even writing about this day, this Frank-ish day, right now makes me reach for my own sweaty, dampish handkerchief. Let’s just call it a hot, dusty, uncomfortable, and dirty day and leave it at that.

What’s not “not right” though is that, Frank, a by now finely-tuned, professional quality sullen and also an award-worthy, very finely-tuned sulky teenage boy, usually, waited this kind of day out, impatiently, in his book-strewn, airless, sunless room, or what passed for his room if you don’t count his shared room brother’s stuff. And, maybe, the way Frank told it to me, he might have been beyond waiting impatiently, for he was ready, more than ready, for school to go back into session if for no other reason than, almost automatically come the “dog days”, to get cooled-out from this blazing, never-ending inferno of a heat wave that never failed to drain him of any human juices, creative or not.

And nothing, nothing, in this good, green world, seemingly, could get this black chino-panted, plaid flannel-shirted, salty sweat-dabbled, humidity-destroyed teenage boy out of his funk. Or it would, and I think you would have to agree, have to be something real good, almost a miracle, to break such a devilishly-imposed spell. In any case, as we catch up to him, he is not in his stuffy old bookcase of a room now but there he is walking, in defiance of all good, cool, common sense, long-panted, long-shirted, and long-faced, as I said was his fashionista statement to this wicked old world in those days, across Welcome Young Field on to Hancock Street. On a mission, no less. That is as good a place, the field that is, as any to start this saga.

Now come late August this quirky, almost primitively home-made-like softball field (with adjoining, little used asphalt tennis courts, little used in those days, anyway) was a ghost town during the day. The city provided and funded kids recreation programs were over, the balls and bats, paddles and playground things are now put away for another season, probably also, like Frank, just waiting for that first ring of the school bell come merciful September. The dust this day is thick and unsettled, forming atomic bomb-like powder puffs in the air at the slightest disturbance, like when an odd kid or two makes a short-cut across the field leaving a trail of such baby atomic bomb blasts behind them.

At this early hour the usually game-time firm white lines of the base paths are now broken, hither and yon, to hell from last night's combat, the battle for bragging rights at the old Red Feather gin mill, or something. They await some precious manicure from the Parks Department employees, if those public servants can fight their own lassitude in this heat. And while they are at it they should put some time, some serious patchwork time, fixing the ever-sagging, splintered, termited, or so it seemed on close inspection, but in any case rotted out wooden bleachers that served to corral a crowd on a hot summer’s night. Good luck, men. And if the work is not done, not to worry, the guys who play their damned, loud-noised, argue, argue loudly, over every play with the ever blind umpire, softball under the artificial night lights, if I know them and I do just like Frank does, know the grooves and ridges of the surfaces of the base paths like the backs of their hands, so don’t fret about them.

This field, this Welcome Young Field, by the way, is not just any field, but a field overflowing, torrentially overflowing, with all kinds of August memories, and June and July memories too. Maybe other months as well but those months come readily to mind, hot, sticky, sultry summer mind. Need I remind anyone, at least any Atlantic denizen of a certain age, of the annual Fourth of July celebrations that took place center stage there as far back as misty memory recalled. The mad, frenetic, survival-of-the-fittest dashes for ice cream, the crushed-up lines (boys and girls, separately ) for tonic (aka soda, with names like Nehi, grape and orange, and Hires Root Beer for good measure, for those too young to remember that New Englandism and those brand names), the foot races won by the swift and sure-footed (Frank said he almost won one once but “ran out of gas” just before the finish), the baby carriage parade, and the tired old, but much anticipated, ride on a real pony, and other foolery and frolic as we paid homage to those who fought, and bled, for the Republic. Maybe, maybe paid homage that is. A lot of that part gets mixed up with the ice cream and tonic. (Remember: that’s soda, you can look it up, but I’m telling you all the truth.).

Hell, even that little-used, like I said before little-used in those days, usually glass-strewn but now Parks Department cleaned up asphalt-floored tennis court got a workout as a dance/talent show venue, jerrybuilt stage platform and all. Every 1960 local American Idol wanna-be, misty Rosemary Clooney/McGuire Sisters-like 1940s Come On To My House, Paper Dolls torch singer jumped, literally, on stage to grab the mike and "fifteen minutes (or less)of fame." Needless to say every smoky-voiced male crooner who could make that jump got up there as well, fighting, fighting like a demon for that five dollar first prize, or whatever the payoff was. Later as it got dark, tunes, misty tunes of course, some of them already heard from those "rising stars" like some ill-fated encore, wafted in the night time air from some local band when the Fourth of July turned to adult desires come sundown after we kids had gorged, completely gorged, and feverishly exhausted, ourselves. That story, the dark night, stars are out, moony-faced, he looking for she, she looking for he, and the rest of it, (I don’t have to draw you a diagram, do I?), awaits its own chronicler. I’m just here to tell Frank’s story and that ain’t part of it.

This next thing is part of the story, though. In this field, this bedlam field, as Frank just reminded me, later, after Fourth Of July celebrations became just kids stuff for us, and kind of lame kids stuff at that, we had our first, not so serious, crushes on those glamorous-seeming, fresh-faced, shapely-figured, sweetly-smiling and icily-remote college girls, or at least older girls, who were employed by the Parks Department to teach us kids crafts and stuff in those summer programs that I mentioned before. Or had our first serious crushes on the so serious, so very serious, girls, our school classmates no less, determined to show Frank, Frank of all people, up in the craft-creating (spiffy gimp wrist band-making, pot-holder-for-Ma-making, copper-etching, etc.) department when everyone knew, or should have known, Frank was just letting them win for his own “evil” designs. (And maybe me, maybe I let them "win" too, although I will plead amnesia on this one.) Now that I think of it I might have tried that ruse on the girls myself, there was nothing to it then.

But enough of old, old time flights of fancies. I have to get moving, and moving a little more quickly, if I am ever going to accomplish “my mission”, or ever get Frank out of that blessed, memory-blessed, sanctified, dusty old ball field, sweaty flaming red railroad man’s handkerchief and all. I‘ll let you know about the mission, Frank's mission that is, as I go along like I told you I would before but it means, in the first place, that Frank has to go on this “dog day” August day to Norfolk Downs, or the “Downs” as I heard someone call it once and I didn’t know what they were talking about. We always called it just plain, ordinary, vanilla-tinged, one-horse Norfolk Downs. And Frank had to walk. He, hot as he was and as hot as it was, was certainly not going to wait for an eternity, or more, for that never-coming Eastern Mass. bus from Fields Corner to meander up Hancock Street. Not that Frank was any stranger to that mode of transportation, to that walking. Frank, as I know for certain and have no need to plead amnesia on, had worn down many a pair of heel-broken, sole-thinned shoes (and maybe sneakers too)on the pavements and pathways of this old planet walking out of some forlorn place (or, for that matter, walking into such places). Just take my word for that, okay.

You can take my word for this too. Frank is now officially (my officially) out of the softball field and walking, walking slowly as befits the day, past the now also long gone little bus shelter hut as you get up onto Hancock Street. You know that old grey, shingled, always needed painting, smelly from some old wino's bottle or something, beat-up, beat-down thing that was suppose to protect you against the weathers while you waited for that never-coming Eastern Mass. bus. He, Frank that is, insists that his observation of that hut be put in here despite the fact that he had no intention of taking the bus as I already told you. He is not even going to step into its shade for a minute to cool off. But get this. We have to go through this hut business because, if you can believe this, that lean-to has "symbolic" meaning. Apparently every time this know-it-all pseudo-“beatnik”, long pants, heavy shirt and all, had a beef with his mother (and, you know, let’s not kid each other, when the deal went down, the beef was ALWAYS with Ma in those pre-“parenting-sharing” days) he sought shelter against life’s storms there, before caving into whatever non-negotiable demands Ma insisted on. Sound familiar? But enough, already.

Well, if you get, or rather, if back then if you got on to Hancock Street, (and you actually made it past that historic Eastern Mass. hut, oops, "symbolic" hut) down at the far end of the Welcome Young Field and were heading for Norfolk Downs you have to pass the old high school just a few blocks up on your journey. Just past the old Merit gas station, remember. That gas station had been the scene of memories, Frank memories and mine too. But those are later gas-fumed, oil-drenched, tire-changed, under-the hood-fixated, car-crazy dreams; looking out at the (hopefully) starless be-bop ocean night; looking out for the highway of no return to the same old, same old mean streets of beat town; looking for some "high white note" heart of Saturday night or, better, the dreams accumulated from such a night; and, looking, and looking hard, desperately hard for the cloudless, sun-dried, sun-moaning under the weight of the day, low-slung blue pink Western-driven be-bop, bop-bop, sun-devouring sky and need not detain us here.

Don’t be scared by the thought of approaching the old school though, we all did it and most of us survived, I guess. Frank included. What makes this particular journey on this particular day past the old beige-bricked building “special” is that Frank (and I) had, just a couple of months before, graduated from Atlantic Junior High School (now Atlantic Middle School, as everyone who wants to show how smart and up-to-date they are keeps telling me) and so along with the sweat on his brow from the heat a little bit of anxiety is starting to form in Frank’s head about being a “little fish in a big pond” freshman come September as he passed by. Especially, a pseudo-beatnik “little fish”. See, he had cultivated a certain, well, let’s call it "style" over there at Atlantic. That “style” involved a total disdain for everything, everything except trying to impress girls with his long-panted, flannel-shirted, work boot-shod, thick book-carrying knowledge of every arcane fact known to humankind. Like that really is the way to impress teenage girls, then or now. In any case he was worried, worried sick at times, that in such a big school his “style” needed upgrading. Let’s not even get into that story now, or maybe, ever. Like I said we survived.

Frank nevertheless pulled himself together enough to push on until he came to the old medieval-inspired Sacred Heart Catholic Church further up Hancock Street, the church he went to, his church (and mine) in sunnier times. Frank need have no fear this day as he passed the church quickly, looking furtively to the other side of the street. Whatever demons were to be pushed away that day, or in his life, were looking the other way as well. The boy is on a mission after all, a trusted mission from his grandmother. Fearing some god, fearing some forgotten confession non-confessed venial sin like disobeying your parents, was child’s play compared to facing Gramma’s wrath when things weren’t done, and done right, on the very infrequent special occasions in his clan’s existence. I knew Frank's grandmother and I knew, and everyone else did too, that she was a “saint” but on these matters even god obeyed, or else. This special occasion, by the way, the reason Frank felt compelled to tell me this story, and to have me write it, or else, was the family Labor Day picnic to take place down at Treasure Island. (That’s what we called it in those days; today it is named after a fallen Marine, Cady Park, or something like that.) This occasion required a food order; make that a special food order, from Kennedy’s Deli.

And there it is as Frank makes the turn from Hancock Street to Billings Road. You knew Kennedy’s, right? The one right next to the big A&P grocery store back in those days. As Frank turned on Billings, went down a couple of storefronts and entered that store he had to, literally, walk in through the piled sawdust and occasional peanut shell husks on the gnarled hardwood floor. At once his senses were attacked by the smells of freshly ground coffee, a faint whiff of peanut butter being ground up, and of strong cheeses aging. He noticed a couple of other customers ahead of him and that he will have to wait, impatiently.

He also noticed that the single employee, a friendly clerk, was weighing a tub of butter for a matronly housewife, while a young mother, a couple of kids in tow, was trying, desperately, to keep them away from the cracker barrel or the massive dill pickle jar. The butter weighed and packaged the matronly women spoke out the rest of her order; half pound of cheese, thinly sliced, a pound of bologna, not too thin; a third of a pound of precious ham, very thinly sliced; and, the thing that made our boy pay attention, a pound of the famous house homemade potato salad, Kennedy's potato salad.

Frank winced, hoping that there will be enough of that manna left so that he could fill his order. That, above all else, is why he is a man on a mission on this day. Something about the almost paper thin-sliced, crunchy potatoes, the added vinegar or whatever elixir was put in the mix that made any picnic for him, whatever other treats might surface. Hey, I was crazy over it too. Who do you think got Frank "hip" to it, anyway? Not to worry though, there was plenty left and our boy carried his bundled order triumphantly out of the door, noticing the bigger crowds going in and out of the A&P with their plastic sheathed, pre-packaged deli meats, their tinny-tasting canned goods, their sullen potato salad, probably yesterday’s, and their expressionless fast exit faces. Obviously they had not been on any mission, not any special mission anyway, just another shopping trip. No, thank you, not today to all of that. Today Frank’s got real stuff.

“Wait a minute,” I can hear patient readers, impatiently moaning. This madman of a Frank story-teller has taken us, hither and yon, on some seemingly cryptic mission on behalf of an old friend, under threat or otherwise, through the sweat-drenched heat of summer, through the really best forgotten miseries of teenage-hood, and through the timeless dust and grime of vacant ball fields. He has regaled us with talk of ancient misty Fourth of July celebrations, the sexual longings of male teenagers, the anxieties of fitting in at a new school, and some off-hand remarks about religion. And for what, just to give us some twisted Proustian culinary odyssey about getting a pound of potato salad, famous or not, for grandmother. Well, yes. But hear me out. You don’t know the end. I swear Frank said this to me, shaking off the heat of the day on which he told me the story with a clean white handkerchief from the breast pocket of his light-weight suit jacket. After the purposeful journey the heat of that day didn’t seem so bad after all. That, my friends, made it all worth the telling, right?


Theres A Moon Out Tonight-The Cparis Lyrics

There's a (moon out tonight) whoa-oh-oh ooh
Let's go strollin'
There's a (girl in my heart) whoa-oh-oh ooh
Whose heart I've stolen
There's a moon out tonight (whoa-oh-oh ooh)
Let's go strollin' through the park (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)

There's a (glow in my heart) whoa-oh-oh ooh
I never felt before
There's a (girl at my side) whoa-oh-oh ooh
That I adore
There's a glow in my heart I never felt before (ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh)

Oh darlin'
Where have you been?
I've been longin' for you all my life

Whoa-uh-oh baby I never felt this way before
I guess it's because there's a moon out tonight

There's a (glow in my heart) whoa-oh-oh ooh
I never felt before
There's a (girl at my side) whoa-oh-oh ooh
That I adore
There's glow in my heart
I guess it's because

There's a moon out tonight
Moon out tonight
Moon out tonight
Moon out tonight
There's a moon out tonight

Thursday, August 12, 2010

*From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"-Quacks And Their Defender-In Defense Of Science

Click on the headline to link to the Workers Vanguard website for an online copy of the article mentioned in the headline.

Markin comment:

The question of health care and its alternatives has been much in the news of late. We, as Marxists, stand on the historically hard-fought battleground of science over religious and other superstitious means of caring for the human condition (a too often defensive battle as well against back-sliding as now, for those who think human progress is on an ever upward curve). I had not originally intended to post this entry but the above-linked article has required me to post it as of general interest. I would add that I am not surprised that even those who read leftist literature would be ensnared in touting their particular alternative "remedy". That side, the back-to-nature side, has been with us for a long time and raised its head very strongly in those "holistic" Whole Earth Catalog moonstone, mantra, mineral water, micro-diet, and add as many m-words, or any lettered words from antacids to zen as you want, heady days of the 1960s.


These are the articles referred to in the linked post.

Workers Vanguard No. 947
20 November 2009

Medical Science vs. Homeopathy


23 September 2009

Dear comrades,

In the otherwise excellent Women & Revolution article “Wealth Care USA” reprinted in the current WV (No. 943), I have objections to the following:

“In 1847 a small group of physicians had founded the American Medical Association primarily as a means to combat ‘sectarians,’ that is, nontraditional physicians such as homeopaths, who were seen as a threat to the wealth and social position of the medical profession. (The AMA even denounced the Surgeon General of the U.S. for cooperating with a homeopathic physician to save the life of Secretary of State William Seward, when he was shot the night of Lincoln’s assassination!)”

First of all, there is a factual mistake; William Seward was stabbed, not shot, in the attempt on his life.

I’m disturbed by the implied defense of homeopathy and other “nontraditional” (i.e., non-scientific) medicine. Two main principles of homeopathy (invented by Samuel Hahnemann in the early 19th century) are: 1) Like cures like. A substance which causes a symptom (such as poison ivy for a rash, or caffeine for insomnia) can be used to cure it. 2) Dilution. Said substance is made more effective by dilution. The curative substance is diluted so much that the remedy does not contain even a single molecule. But the water somehow contains a spiritual “memory” of it. This is obviously at odds with science, which as Marxist materialists we are champions of. Not surprisingly, it has never been demonstrated to work beyond a placebo effect. (A good new book with a discussion of homeopathy is Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science, by Robert L. Park.)

When so-called alternative medicines are shown not to work in scientific tests, their proponents often cry that they are victimized by the scientific establishment. Other current examples include HIV denialists and anti-vaccination conspiracy theorists.

The problem with medicine for profit is not that quackery is kept out. (Indeed, increasingly it’s not, with hospitals opening up centers for alternative medicine. See the PBS Frontline documentary “The Alternative Fix” for chilling scenes of a so-called holistic healer sitting in on a consult as an equal with trained doctors in a consult about a seriously ill patient, and a hospital staff homeopath treating an autistic child.) Engels noted in The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845):

“Another source of physical mischief to the working-class lies in the impossibility of employing skilled physicians in cases of illness. It is true that a number of charitable institutions strive to supply this want, that the infirmary in Manchester, for instance, receives or gives advice and medicine to 22,000 patients annually. But what is that in a city in which, according to Gaskell’s calculation, three-fourths of the population need medical aid every year? English doctors charge high fees, and working-men are not in a position to pay them. They can therefore do nothing, or are compelled to call in cheap charlatans, and use quack remedies, which do more harm than good.”

A future international planned socialist economy will provide health care for all, and sweep away the material basis for the persistence of dangerous anti-scientific quackery.

Communist greetings,
Jeff T.

* * *

6 October 2009

To: Editor, Workers Vanguard

In what was otherwise a pair of outstanding, accurate and refreshingly honest articles on health care in the USA and elsewhere in the Sept 25 Workers Vanguard, in the second article, (“The Great Health Care Debate/Wealth Care in USA”) was the following paragraph:

“In 1847 a small group of physicians had founded the American Medical Association primarily as a means to combat ‘sectarians,’ that is, nontraditional physicians such as homeopaths, who were seen as a threat to the wealth and social position of the medical profession. (The AMA even denounced the Surgeon General of the U.S. for cooperating with a homeopathic physician to save the life of Secretary of State William Seward, when he was shot the night of Lincoln’s assassination!)”

This paragraph is uncritical of homeopathy, and indeed arguably can be construed as suggesting homeopathy deserves a place in the rational practice of medicine along with scientific evidence-based, clinically-tested treatments.

I have little doubt the AMA’s primary motivation for attacking homeopaths in 1847 was to protect the profits and power of its membership, but it makes for a pretty poor condemnation of the AMA to accuse them of trying to “combat” and crush an organization of outright total quacks.

In the century and a half that has elapsed since 1847, there have been many hundreds of good (double blind, randomized, with meaningful sample size) clinical tests of homeopathy. NONE of them have found ANY homeopathic remedy to be superior in efficacy to a placebo. NONE. Homeopathy, as quackery, has been responsible for immense harm to health. This BOTH by turning people away from effective, science and evidence-based treatments, AND by the tendency of homeopaths to counsel parents against vaccinating children against childhood diseases. It was a mistake for Workers Vanguard to treat such a gross fraud in that fashion.

Homeopathy is most prevalent in India, in large part because quality evidence-based scientific medicine is not available to its population.

Any high school chemistry student can tell you what Avogadro’s number is: 6.02 x 10 to the 23rd power, the number of molecules in one “mole” [a mole is the molecular weight in grams of substance]. Knowing this, any high school chemistry student can calculate that at the dilution of its active ingredients specified for a large fraction of homeopathic remedies, it is highly unlikely a single molecule of that active ingredient remains. [Avogadro and Samuel Hahnemann (the latter being the man who founded homeopathy) were contemporaries.] Thus, most homeopathic “remedies” are nothing but PURE WATER, with NO active ingredient what so ever in the water. The “theory” of homeopathy is total crackpot nonsense in the light of current scientific knowledge of pharmacology and biochemistry. As such, one would expect to find homeopathy to be absolutely worthless. This is what a century of testing its specific remedies has confirmed.

As a scientist, a physician, and a Marxist, I share your contempt for the AMA, for most of the reasons you provided in the remainder of your discussion of the history of medical care in the USA. I never joined that organization, in part because I was well aware of most of what you presented. However, to repeat, attacking the AMA for its attack on quackery (regardless of its motivations for attacking quackery) is NOT an effective way to expose it.

A subscriber to Workers Vanguard since the early 1970’s, I note you have repeatedly (rightly and wisely) endorsed Enlightenment rationalism and evidence-based science, and (again rightly and wisely) repeatedly condemned superstition and faith-based beliefs. It is inconsistent with such a position to present so uncritically a mention of homeopathy.

You are rightly proud of the fact that, historically, you have rejected trendy and opportunistic “in” positions of liberals and the pseudo-left, taking unpopular but correct positions regarding feminism, black nationalism, the nature of the Cuban state, the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in support of a secular government, and other important issues. Why now even appear to be capitulating to current ignorant and fuzzy-headed (but popular in a segment of the left) knee-jerk and wrong ideas about “alternative medicine”?

As a side issue, I do note that in 1847, even mainstream medicine had little to offer in the way of effective treatments, and in fact was not at that time solidly based on science, and employed many untested, ineffective, and in some cases (such as blood letting) harmful to lethal “treatments”. It is doubtful that anyone in 1847…whether a total quack such as a homeopath, or a respected mainstream physician…had much to offer William Seward beyond bed rest. With few exceptions, it was not until roughly a century later, at the time of the availability of penicillin to the masses in the mid to late 1940’s, that science and evidence-based medicine began to provide substantial numbers of proven and effective treatments. None of this excuses your uncritical mention of, and arguable implicit support for the total quackery that is homeopathy in your article.

This is NOT, as I hope you understand, a political criticism. I find myself entirely in agreement with the political observations made in both articles, including (as mentioned above) your strong criticism of the AMA.

This is a matter of scientific and medical fact.

It behooves Marxists, when they refer to issues of science, to get their facts right. Scientific method (that group of approaches to examining the world which endeavor to minimize as much as possible the bias of the investigator), the greatest achievement of the Enlightenment and greatest advance in human thought, is the bed-rock on which Marxism stands.

I would urge you, comrades, to print a clarification regarding the matter.

Martin H. Goodman, MD


The best article I have read on that is exceptionally well-written, a delight to read, and extremely well documented with reference material the chapter on homeopathy in the book “Trick or Treatment” by Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh, published in 2008. Pages 93-143. This book also has chapters on acupuncture, chiropractic, and herbal medicine and attempts to cover all of alternative and complementary medicine. It presents the most up to date hard clinical scientific evidence regarding the efficacy...or lack there of...of “complementary and alternative” medical disciplines. The book’s introductory chapter expounds brilliantly what evidence-based clinical science is, and the inspiring history that led to its being adopted by honest, caring, serious healers. It should be read by all.

[All brackets and ellipses are the authors’. —ed.]

WV Replies:

We thank our readers for pointing out the error in the article “Wealth Care USA,” reprinted from Women and Revolution No. 39 (Spring 1991) in WV No. 943 (25 September). This error is particularly unfortunate given the growing popularity of quack “medicine” today. In the 21st century, these snake-oil treatments—homeopathy, chiropractic, “New Age” spiritualism, herbal remedies, acupuncture—are international multibillion-dollar businesses. While some of these treatments may be relatively harmless and may sometimes have a placebo effect, more often they are dangerous both in themselves and because they divert patients from needed medical treatment.

The distinction between science-based, mainstream medicine and homeopathy is stark and irreconcilable, though in the early 19th century “mainstream” medicine embraced many of the same mystical concepts. As physicist Robert Park explained in Superstition: Belief in the Age of Science (Princeton University Press, 2008), vitalism was “the prevailing medical superstition of the time,” representing “the belief that life involves some spiritual essence beyond chemistry or physics.” Purging through violent emetics and copious bleeding were common treatments. George Washington is only the most famous American to be killed by his doctors: in the hours before his death, he was drained of half his blood!

As sociologist Paul Starr notes in his 1984 book, The Social Transformation of American Medicine, historians point out that homeopathy and other “medical” sects “grew in the mid-nineteenth century because of the inadequacy of contemporary medicine, particularly the disastrous errors of ‘heroic therapy,’ which emphasized bleeding, heavy doses of mercury, and other modes of treatment now believed to range from the ineffective to the lethal.” At that time homeopathic therapy may well have been better than mainstream medicine: a treatment that is pure water at least will not poison the patient, as did calomel, antimony and belladonna, all popular tonics of the time.

In fact, American medicine in the mid 19th century was far behind its British and other European counterparts. As Dr. Dan Agin points out in Junk Science (2006):

“In 1875, there were 460 ‘medical schools’ in the United States (nearly four times as many as now), most of them diploma mills whose main function was to collect tuition fees. Students took courses consisting of two four-month or six-month terms at approximately $60 a term, and often the second term was a verbatim repetition of the first term…. In 1869, the dean of Harvard Medical School explained that the medical school had no written examinations because ‘a majority of the students cannot write well enough’.”

In the early years of the American Medical Association, its opposition to homeopathy was primarily motivated by a search for higher prestige and income. Nonetheless, the AMA’s main purpose was to improve the wretched state of medical education. Such medical professionalization was important and necessary. At the same time, the class, sex and race bias of capitalist society also meant that women, blacks and others were kept out of the practice of medicine.

The AMA later reconciled with the homeopaths over the fight to establish government licensing laws and regulation on the medical profession, and the opposition to homeopaths joining the AMA was dropped. But political squabbles continued to consume the AMA, and in 1886 the more scientifically minded members split off to form a separate learned association. In the 1930s, the AMA and homeopathic practitioners joined in their opposition to social insurance for health care, as described by Dr. Stephen Barrett of, which exposes medical and pseudoscientific quackery.

With the establishment of medical science—especially with the discovery of the germ theory of disease—the distinction between homeopathic quackery and real medicine became abundantly clear. What we know today in terms of science and medicine far outstrips what was known a century ago, and there is much more to learn, understand and discover; doubtless the knowledge of scientists in the next century will far outstrip ours. That said, science-based medicine has already “revolutionized medical practice, transforming it from an industry of charlatans and incompetents into a system of healthcare that can deliver such miracles as transplanting kidneys, removing cataracts, combating childhood diseases, eradicating smallpox and saving literally millions of lives each year,” as described by Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst in Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine (W.W. Norton, 2008). Advances in public health such as immunizations, closed sewage systems and clean drinking water brought about enormous leaps in human health and longevity.

Any medical practitioner who professes to follow Samuel Hahnemann’s mystical principles of homeopathy is a menace to the public. Yet, astonishingly, homeopathic medications are protected under the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938!

But scientific medicine is also not enough: Medicine for profit rations health care by class, race, sex and ethnicity, reserving the best care for the wealthy. The capitalist class can largely be blamed for the gullibility of the public: high costs place health care beyond the reach of many, and out of despair, many turn to something that promises miracles. Contributing to this problem is ignorance of the principles of science on the part of a population stripped of access to decent public education. As part of free, quality health care for all, a workers government would educate all in human biology and the principles of public health.

“Intelligent design” (i.e., creationism), medical quackery, anti-vaccine hysteria, religious delusions—these plagues are inherent to the capitalist order, which seeks to justify oppression and exploitation and to imbue the masses with superstition and submission to authority. As Marxists, we put forward a materialist understanding of reality, one based on scientific evidence and research. Marx famously called religion the “opium of the people,” and continued: “To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness. The demand to give up the existing state of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusion.”

Key to casting off such conditions is science. As Robert Park noted: “What science is learning about the laws that govern the universe gives us the power to transform the world into the closest thing to paradise that any of us will ever see. This knowledge did not come from sacred texts, or the revelations of prophets. Science is the only way of knowing—everything else is just superstition.” In a world communist society—where social classes and all forms of oppression are part of a distant, barbaric past—mankind will finally be able to put into place the power of science in the service of all humanity.


Workers Vanguard No. 948
4 December 2009

In Defense of Medical Science

Capitalist Reaction and Anti-Vaccine Hysteria

Free H1N1 Vaccinations for All!

For Free, Quality Health Care!

Since the outbreak of “swine flu” or Novel influenza A (H1N1) in Mexico in April, the virus has spread to over 200 countries killing at least 7,800 people, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the U.S., as of mid-October at least 22 million have contracted the virus and some 4,000 have died, including 540 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But in spite of the threat posed by the H1N1 virus, the capitalist rulers, indifferent to the health and welfare of working people and the poor, have dismally failed to provide the front-line measure against the epidemic—vaccination. Seven months after the initial outbreak, after numerous warnings by the government and media about the virus’s threat, thousands of anxious people across the country lining up for vaccination are simply told to go home because supplies have run out.

Meanwhile, anti-vaccine groups continue to propagate their fear-mongering and reactionary anti-science ideology against vaccination. When the New York State Department of Health briefly mandated seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccinations for health care workers—a measure we Marxists support—anti-vaccine groups seized on the objections of some unions to the mandatory vaccination, falsely claiming that this posed a threat to individual rights and that vaccines are dangerous.

The reality is that the influenza virus, which has a very rapid rate of mutation, poses a real threat to the life and well-being of people all over the world. During the 1918-19 worldwide flu pandemic, some 50 million people lost their lives. In the U.S. alone, about 36,000 die every year from the seasonal flu.

Unlike seasonal influenza, against which many people have some immunity, H1N1 is a relatively new virus to which most people have never been exposed, meaning most have little to no immunity. While healthy children and young adults are at risk, the virus is especially dangerous to pregnant women, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems or underlying disease conditions such as diabetes, asthma and heart and lung disease. Although the mortality rate of the H1N1 virus is thus far rather low, the virus has the potential to become far more lethal.

Priority of vaccination was set for these vulnerable sections of the population. But what is needed is production of ample amounts of vaccine to inoculate enough of the population to produce what public health professionals call “herd immunity.” The higher the proportion of immune individuals, the lower is the likelihood of the spread of disease. However, no H1N1 flu vaccine was available until the first week of October. Of the 195 million doses needed in the U.S. to effectively combat the H1N1 flu, only 51 million doses were available by the fourth week of November—this is in addition to substantial shortages of the seasonal flu vaccine. There have been cases of people lying about their age and women faking pregnancy in order to get vaccinated.

Under capitalism, medicine is driven by profit, not by the needs of society. Because vaccine production is not highly profitable, pharmaceutical companies are loath to invest in it. In 1967, there were 26 companies producing vaccines in the U.S. Today there are only four. Rather than investing in more efficient technology with a faster vaccine yield, these companies continue to use the same antiquated, low-yield technology that was used 50 years ago. Moreover, because many health insurance companies refuse to cover the cost of vaccinations, many pediatricians refer children to hospitals for immunization. At the same time, health delivery services are continually being slashed through budget cuts, layoffs of public health care workers and the closures of hospitals and clinics.

While research into vaccine development receives funding with an eyedropper, the U.S. imperialist ruling class pumps billions into germ warfare research and into fighting “bioterrorism,” which has been hyped up as part of the rulers’ reactionary “war on terror.” As journalist Arthur Allen wrote in his 2008 book, Vaccine: The Controversial Story of Medicine’s Greatest Lifesaver:

“No price was too high to pay for anything that had the magic word ‘terrorism’ attached to it. Congress was willing to authorize $1.9 billion to build and maintain a stockpile of smallpox vaccine, and $1.4 billion to create and stockpile a new anthrax vaccine. From 2002 to 2006 it spent $33 billion on biodefense. Yet in 2003, the NIH [National Institute of Health] invested less than $70 million on influenza vaccine research.”

Under capitalism, while providing quality medical care for everyone is within the bounds of material possibility, the availability and quality of health care for working people are subordinate to the drive for profit, with health care rationed by class, race and sex. In New York City, vaccines were diverted from those in hospitals and schools who need them most in order to secure the health of the wealthy bankers of Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.

We stand for free, quality health care for all, including full access to abortion and contraception. We fight for socialized medicine—the expropriation of the parasitic health care and drug companies, which are an immediate threat to the well-being of just about everyone in this country. Our aim is the mobilization of the working class in a fight for these and other such demands as part of the struggle for socialist revolution against the decrepit capitalist order. A rational, internationally planned socialist economy would devote the resources necessary to ensure that the population receives vaccinations and quality medical treatment in a timely manner. Massive resources would be invested in scientific research, to the benefit of the whole of society.

Mysticism and the Anti-Vaccine Hysteria

Although medical science is far from being able to treat all diseases, it has made it possible to control, through vaccination, many of the infectious diseases that were hideous scourges in past centuries. Until vaccines were introduced to stop them, diseases like measles, polio, diphtheria and mumps rolled viciously around the globe. Before it was eradicated, smallpox threatened 60 percent of the world’s population, killed every fourth victim (some 500 million in the 20th century alone), scarred or blinded most survivors and eluded any form of treatment. In the U.S., the polio epidemic of 1952 infected some 58,000 people and killed more than 3,000, leaving behind a legacy of terror and paralysis. Until 1963, four million people contracted measles annually; hundreds died each year and thousands were disabled for life by measles encephalitis.

Vaccines have saved the lives of countless millions across the world. Such “miraculous” advances, achieved through science-based medicine, are a refutation of the basic tenets of the anti-vaccine movement, which is based on a reactionary and superstitious ideology. With their hostility to immunization, the anti-vaccine evangelists—groups such as Generation Rescue, Age of Autism, the National Vaccine Information Center and—are perfectly willing to let millions of people in poor Third World countries die of preventable diseases. It is the same mentality as that of South African leaders, like former president Thabo Mbeki, who for years had criminally denied that AIDS is caused by a virus, advocating in place of anti-retrovirus medicines natural “remedies” in the form of herbs, vegetables and garlic.

To bolster their argument, anti-vaccine outfits claim that vaccines are ineffective and harmful to the body. They take their religious and anti-scientific cues from turn-of-the-century racists and anti-Semites like the mystic Rudolf Steiner, who established the Waldorf movement, and Reuben Swinbourne Clymer, who was vice president of the Anti-Vaccination Society of America in 1902. As Arthur Allen wrote in Vaccine, Steiner viewed “the body as a temple, the blood as a divine fluid, and vaccines as spiritual pollution.” He believed that “blond, blue-eyed people were disappearing from the world because they were ‘weaker physically and mentally stronger’ than ‘dark people’.”

Clymer’s 1957 book, The Age of Treason, a bible for medical quacks, is a harangue against vaccination, birth control, food additives, mood-altering drugs and “racial miscegenation”: “The enemies of God and mankind…have used or plan to employ inoculations for the purpose of destroying mental balance and making it impossible for the minds of children to develop beyond a more or less moronic or robot degree.” He put the blame of these “ills” on “militant socialists and the enemies of God and Man, many of whom are admittedly Jews.”

Anti-vaccine fanatics cite anecdotal evidence to falsely link vaccines to autism. They claim that vaccines are damaging to the immune system and that thimerosal, a mercury derivative that had been used as a preservative in multi-dose vials of vaccines, is the cause of brain damage in autistic children. The symptoms of autism, believed by many scientists to be a genetic disorder, become evident around the age of two years, which happens to be the same age children receive multiple vaccines. Credible scientific studies in several countries, involving hundreds of thousands of children, have found no link between vaccines or thimerosal and autism. Unvaccinated children developed autism at the same rate as the vaccinated, and the prevalence of autism remained the same after thimerosal was removed from vaccines in 2001.

The myth of vaccines’ link to autism is trumpeted by politicians of both capitalist parties, from Republican Congressman Dan Burton, an adamant supporter of “alternative medicine” quackery, to Democratic Senator John Kerry and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Contributing to the crusade, the media has provided the anti-vaccine fanatics with forums to spew their poison. They want to create a “debate” where none exists, much like their promotion of proponents of “intelligent design” mysticism. Generation Rescue spokespersons Jenny McCarthy, whose son suffers from autism, and her boyfriend Jim Carrey, as well as National Vaccine Information Center president Barbara Loe Fisher have become fixtures on talk shows, from Oprah Winfrey to Don Imus and Larry King. Meanwhile, the influential Huffington Post Web site has become a repository of all kinds of medical quackery. To her credit, actress Amanda Peet has stepped forward in defense of childhood vaccinations, declaring, “I was shocked at the amount of misinformation floating around, particularly in Hollywood.”

Science as a Candle in the Dark

Apart from minor reactions, vaccines are quite safe. They are certainly never as dangerous as the highly contagious diseases that they prevent (and contrary to popular myth, flu vaccines do not cause the flu). There could be no better proof of the effectiveness of vaccines than the fact that many ruthless killers like diphtheria and the measles are rare and, in many cases, unknown to young parents.

Ironically, the virtual disappearance of such diseases has given the anti-vaccine zealots ammunition to prey on ignorance, falsely claiming that infectious diseases are not deadly and that vaccines pose a threat. Meanwhile, some 20 states have religious exemptions to childhood vaccinations. Ominously, because of declining rates of childhood vaccinations, many dangerous diseases are making a comeback. For example, the number of reported cases of pertussis (whooping cough)—a highly contagious bacterial disease that can be lethal to infants—jumped from 1,000 in 1976 to 26,000 in 2004, while there have been a number of fatal cases of meningitis in unvaccinated children in Pennsylvania and Minnesota.

Many today do not remember the scientists who developed life-saving vaccines. In the 1950s, when polio was wreaking havoc, Dr. Jonas Salk, the pioneering virologist who developed the first safe and effective vaccine against it, was rightly hailed as a hero and his name became a familiar household word. The grateful citizens of Winnipeg, a site of a major polio epidemic in 1953, sent him a 208-foot telegram with more than 7,000 signatures. Salk did not patent his vaccine, believing it should be available for everybody. When asked who held the patent, he replied, “Well, the people…. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?” Salk was never awarded a Nobel Prize for his scientific breakthrough. But for his idealistic humanism, the FBI kept a file on him. Today, with most of these deadly diseases a distant memory, scientists like Dr. Paul Offit, an ardent defender of vaccines and co-inventor of a vaccine against rotavirus, a diarrheal disease that kills 600,000 children worldwide every year, have been targets of scurrilous attacks and death threats by opponents of vaccines.

Helping drive the anti-vaccine campaign are homeopaths, acupuncturists, chiropractors and other quacks who are opposed to science-based medicine. On its Web site, the International Chiropractors Association promotes a tract titled Vaccination: 100 Years of Orthodox Research Shows that Vaccines Represent a Medical Assault on the Immune System. According to Arthur Allen, when in the early 1990s the National Vaccine Information Center (then called Dissatisfied Parents Together) was about to go bankrupt, it was saved by a large donation from a chiropractors’ organization. What makes these quacks more dangerous is that they are at times more accessible than costly health care and are increasingly covered by insurance companies because they are much cheaper than real doctors. Sadly, these snake oil salesmen have become a source of “treatment” for a wide section of the population.

In its irrationality, fear mongering and anti-scientific backwardness, the hysteria against vaccines is reminiscent of the 1950s’ campaign against the fluoridation of public water, a measure to prevent tooth decay that was depicted as a Communist plot to control the mind and sap and pollute the “precious bodily fluids” of the population. Dr. Stephen Barrett of notes that “chiropractors have been in the forefront of political battles against fluoridation.” (Perhaps they think that tooth decay is susceptible to spinal manipulation!)

In the U.S., religion, promoted and embraced by whole sections of the bourgeoisie, supplies an ideology that attempts to harmonize conflicting class interests while keeping society firmly ordered: capital above labor, white above black, man above woman. It provides the breeding ground for backward anti-scientific ideologies, including creationism, which challenges the established facts of Darwinian natural selection as the motor force for evolution. Some 46 percent of Americans believe in the Biblical creation myth, while 79 percent believe in angels.

The rise of religiosity and anti-scientific attitudes is aided by the decline of education, especially in basic science, in public schools. The last time that the U.S. ruling class undertook a sustained effort to promote science education was after the Soviet Union launched its Sputnik I satellite in 1957. Fear of a Soviet lead in military technology led President Dwight Eisenhower to demand a billion-dollar program to improve science education and to enact the National Defense Education Act in 1958. Creationism was elbowed aside as the newly formed Biological Science Curriculum Study wrote evolution into new high school textbooks. But for decades, the U.S. has seen a growing tide of ideological reaction that became even more accentuated following the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers state in 1991-92, which gave a major boost to all-around religious delusion.

The backward ideology that feeds the anti-vaccine movement is shared by opponents of abortion and genetically engineered crops. For years, the Catholic church’s hierarchy “debated” whether it was sinful to be inoculated with the vaccine against rubella, which was grown on a cell line obtained from an aborted fetus. On the same ideological basis, federal funding for potentially life-saving stem-cell research was banned in the U.S. until very recently. In Britain, Prince Charles, ranting about genetically engineered foods, once stated, “I happen to believe that this kind of genetic modification takes mankind into realms that belong to God, and to God alone.” In his opposition to a technology that yields qualitatively better and more abundant crops, this relic of medievalism is willing to starve millions.

Public Health and Individual Rights

Last August, the New York State health commissioner issued a directive mandating vaccination against seasonal and H1N1 flu for all health care workers by the end of November. Several health workers unions—including the New York State Nurses Association, 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and AFSCME District Council 37—objected to the mandate and some filed suits claiming that the order violated their civil rights. A judge put a halt on the directive, which the state later suspended because of vaccine shortage.

We would be in favor of this mandate—now unfortunately annulled—as a public health measure that would protect those receiving vaccines and prevent the further spread of disease, especially among hospitalized people whose underlying conditions are aggravated by infection. Because herd immunity cannot always be achieved voluntarily, public health measures are sometimes drastic and intrusive, but they are often necessary to achieve that level of immunity and save lives. There are often times when public health and individual rights clash. But getting vaccinated violates no individual rights except the “right” to spread infection. Appropriate measures such as hand washing and the wearing of gloves and masks have been standard mandatory practices in hospitals for decades. Every state already requires health care workers to be immunized against measles, mumps and polio. Quarantines are at times established for those with dangerous infectious diseases. Some of the greatest advances made in health were made through public health measures like clean drinking water, improved hygiene and vaccines.

There is more than plenty to distrust about the capitalist government. But the anti-vaccine hysteria has nothing to do with a “healthy” mistrust of the state. Rather, it is motivated by anti-scientific prejudices.

It is testament to the political bankruptcy of the trade-union bureaucracy that union leaders who have presided over concession after concession to the bosses on health and pension benefits, reopening and extending contracts, are now posturing as defenders of their members’ rights by mobilizing them for a reactionary campaign against vaccinations. Instead, the trade-union movement should be demanding that vaccines be made available for all health workers against the preventable diseases to which they are exposed. The unions should be calling for unconditional, unlimited sick leave for all workers at full pay beginning with day one of employment. They should be in the vanguard of the struggle for free health care for everyone, which would help revitalize the labor movement. Such struggles are part of the fight to forge a vanguard party of the proletariat that will strive to combat social backwardness within the workers movement and stand for the primacy of science over superstition.

Where there is a real clash between the principle of individual rights and that of public health, resolution can be achieved only by examining the particular health threat posed. In the early 1980s, as the deadly AIDS epidemic was spreading, public health officials proposed to close gay bathhouses in San Francisco. Our initial reaction was to demand: “Government Out of the Baths!” This was incorrect. The issue was one of life and death. You don’t cite the First Amendment when the fire department is hacking through your walls to stop a fire. The point of closing the baths was to slow down the already exponential spread of AIDS and alert the gay men who were most at risk. In reconsidering our earlier incorrect position, we wrote in “The Agony of AIDS” (Women and Revolution No. 35, Summer 1988):

“Like everything else in this capitalist society, ‘public health’ is infused with class, race and sex bias. Early in this century, health officials blamed immigrants and the poor for diseases like syphilis and gonorrhea, which they claimed (falsely) were spread through drinking fountains. But the extraordinary powers granted by law to departments of public health are necessary to fight disease. This fight can often involve quite brutal interference of the state into private life.”

Another example of such necessary intrusion occurred in 1967 when the World Health Organization launched a successful campaign to rid humanity of smallpox. For eleven years, health workers, armed with vaccine and bifurcated needles, scoured cities and remote villages throughout Africa and Asia for cases and contacts. They broke into houses and vaccinated families against their repeated objections. Nick Ward, a WHO official in Bangladesh, described his team as “a band of vigilantes, about forty-four white, foreign infidels who were not likely to be excessively worried about the finer points of Muslim beliefs…. We nearly lost some of our people, though. Somebody was killed with an arrow in India, and another had his head slit open with a cleaver” (quoted in June Goodfield, Quest for the Killers [1985]). Time was key to the campaign’s success, and in the face of resistance, force was fastest. By 1979, in one of the greatest achievements of the 20th century, the smallpox disease was wiped from the face of the planet.

Public Health and Government Manipulation

Control of disease is as much a social question as a scientific one. Under capitalism, the profits of pharmaceutical and insurance giants come before public health, which is indelibly imprinted with the reactionary bigotry of capitalist society.

In the infamous Tuskegee experiments, 400 Southern black men with syphilis, who were never told they had it, were left untreated for some 40 years and allowed to die so that “researchers” could watch the ravages of the untreated disease as it destroyed their bodies and minds. Right-wing bigot Norman Podhoretz railed against government expenditure on AIDS vaccination research, writing, “Are they aware that in the name of compassion they are giving social sanction to what can only be described as brutish degradation?” To this day, the federal government refuses to fund needle-exchange programs to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS among heroin addicts. For several years, conservatives have been waging a war to prevent mandatory vaccination of schoolgirls against human papilloma virus (HPV) because it “promotes promiscuity.” HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases and a primary cause of cervical cancer, killing some 5,000 women each year. The vaccine has proven to be exceptionally effective. The right-wing zealots are telling women: practice abstinence or maybe die.

Using the current “swine flu” pandemic as a pretext, governments around the world have manipulated public health measures for their own purposes. Several governments slapped irrational bans on imports of live pigs. In Egypt, the government slaughtered all the country’s 300,000 pigs, even though the virus is not spread by pigs. The culling of the hogs was part of the continuing oppression of the Coptic Christian minority, the only group that raises and consumes pigs. In the process, the Egyptian government actually created a public health disaster: garbage piled high on the streets of Cairo as the Coptic pig farmers, known as the zabaleen (trash people), who collected much of the city’s garbage could no longer do their work, because the pigs that devoured the collected organic waste were killed. Meanwhile, in Ukraine, the government has banned public gatherings and rallies for the period leading up to elections in January.

As historical materialists and scientific socialists, we fight for a world socialist revolution to tear the means of production out of the hands of the greedy capitalist class. On an international scale, this would lay the material basis for a communist world free of exploitation and oppression. Then, all the positive gains of modern science can be used to form the basis for a qualitative expansion of scientific research, technological development and production output, which would all be put to the service of humanity. And all the fake science that is used to justify and defend capitalist rule can be rejected. In a 1925 speech, “Dialectical Materialism and Science,” Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky stated:

“For its needs, society requires knowledge of nature. But at the same time, society demands an affirmation of its right to be what it is, a justification of its particular institutions—first and foremost, the institutions of class domination—just as in the past it demanded the justification of serfdom, class privileges, monarchical prerogatives, national exceptionalism, etc. Socialist society accepts with utmost gratitude the heritage of the positive sciences, discarding, as is the right of inventorial choice, everything that is useless in acquiring knowledge of nature but only useful in justifying class inequality and all other kinds of historical untruth.”

*From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"-Haiti: Mass Misery Under Imperialist Occupation-All U.S./UN Troops Out!

Click on the headline to link to the Workers Vanguard website for an online copy of the article mentioned in the headline.

Markin comment:

This, I believe, is the first article on Haiti by this publication since the repudiation of their early previous line on Haiti (which I partly supported for reasons the have been detailed elsewhere in this space and need not detain us here)by their international governing body, the Internatioanl Communist League (ICL). Hopefully, we are all on the same page now and it is good to see this article and its points about the nature of the struggle for the desperately needed communist future in that place, and of the validity of Leon Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution in that struggle. Forward! U.S./U.N. get the hell out of Haiti now!

*From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"-Radical Lawyer Lynne Stewart Resentenced to 10 Years- Lynne Stewart Must Not Die In Jail!

Click on the headline to link to the Workers Vanguard website for an online copy of the article mentioned in the headline.

Markin comment:

I have mentioned the name and cause of people's lawyer, Lynne Stewart, repeatedly in this space as a kindred spirit. As I have highlighted in the headline- Free Lynne Stewart and her co-workers! Lynne Stewart must not die in prison!

*Why Must I Be A Teenager…- “Rebel Without A Cause”- A Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film of the movie trailer for Rebel Without A Cause.

DVD Review

Rebel Without A Cause, starring James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, directed by Nicholas Ray, 1955

One does not have to a consummate academic historian of the modern bourgeois family (since the 1700s), like the late Professor Lawrence Stone, to realize that being a teenager, of any class and in any period in the modern era, is fraught with terror, danger, loneliness, and maddening experiences (and those are the "good" teenage days) as one tries to cope with a world that one has not made, or been asked about making. While the locus of teen angst and alienation issues shift over time, and as a general proposition seems to me to have gotten more baffling in the modern hi-tech world, they tend to follow that above-mentioned pattern. Except that the rich and the middle class have more resources than the working class and poor to “cushion” the blows.

And that last statement kind of sums up the film under review, Rebel Without A Cause. The troubles of one deeply alienated, tongue-tied, slightly oedipal, middle class teen, Jim Stark (played by "live fast, die young and make a good corpse", short film-careered, hard-living, hard-driving, and I don’t mean just automobiles, but eternally worshipped “heartthrob”, James Dean), his wanna-be girl, Judy, nice, middle class, girl gone slightly wrong, ever so slightly incest-driven (played by Natalie Wood), and his wanna-be friend the slightly trigger-happy, family-abandoned forever “lost” boy, Plato, (played to a tee by Sal Mineo) seem minor compared to today’s mass assault on teen sensibility.

The film nevertheless disclosed in its own way the attempt to gather in the youth tribe (or, rather tribes, old Jim seems to have made a few "bad boy" enemies from another "tribe,"including one played by a very young Dennis Hopper) as our hero, Jim, tries to assert his manhood, his personhood, and his "style" in a post-World War II up- and-coming "little boxes" bourgeois community (California "little boxes", of course) that just wants to everybody, including said wayward teens to make “nice.” Making nice meaning, in those days, keeping your eyes straight forward with blinkers on, not stepping out of line, or else, and please, please don't say anything political that would offend anyone to the left of father "Ike". Actualy don't say anything political at all, as it turned out. Rumblefish, The Flatlanders or any of S.E. Hinton’s master works this is not, but as a slice, a thin slice, of dealing with the complexities of teen angst, and how adult writers and filmmakers think that it plays out as a reflection of their society at a particular period, it is worth a watch.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

**Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By- Country Joe And The Fish-"I-Feel-Like I 'm- Fixin'-To-Die"

Click on the title to link a YouTube film clip of Country Joe and The Fish performing the I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag.

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

The Fish Cheer & I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag

Gimme an F!

Gimme an I!

Gimme an S!

Gimme an H!

What's that spell ?

What's that spell ?

What's that spell ?

Yeah, come on all of you, big strong men,
Uncle Sam needs your help again.
He's got himself in a terrible jam
Way down yonder in Vietnam
So put down your books and pick up a gun,
We're gonna have a whole lotta fun.

And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

Well, come on generals, let's move fast;
Your big chance has come at last.
Gotta go out and get those reds —
The only good commie is the one who's dead
And you know that peace can only be won
When we've blown 'em all to kingdom come.

And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.


Well, come on Wall Street, don't move slow,
Why man, this is war au-go-go.
There's plenty good money to be made
By supplying the Army with the tools of the trade,
Just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,
They drop it on the Viet Cong.

And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam.
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

Well, come on mothers throughout the land,
Pack your boys off to Vietnam.
Come on fathers, don't hesitate,
Send 'em off before it's too late.
Be the first one on your block
To have your boy come home in a box.

And it's one, two, three
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam.
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

*Via The "HistoMat" Blog- On The Passing Of Public Intellectual Tony Judt

Click on the headline to link to an article via the HistoMat blog-concerning the recent passing of public intellectual, Professor Tony Judt.

Markin comment:

I have been following the Tony Judt’s serial memoirs in the last several issues of The New York Review Of Books so that I know some of the frustrations with his sheer balderdash that the writer in the linked article is discussing. For example, in the latest issue (August 19, 2010) Judt spent what precious time he had left bemoaning the decline of academic standards in the, historically, insidiously class-bound British higher education system, and the corresponding decline of the meritocracy of which he was a product in the “old” days, his old days in the 1960s. Well, everything, as we get older, was better in the old days all the way down the line, right?

On a more serious note, we can all, friend or foe, admire and honor Tony Judt’s courage in fighting the losing battle with serious illness that he fought with dignity and purpose. Still, we are political people and there is no need to soft-soap the hard fact that his political vision, his mushy social democratic political vision, was mired somewhere in the pre-World War I Second International days. In fighting the 21st century American imperial state-led “monster” military machine that is not enough, just as it was not enough in the 20th century.

*From The Archives Of The Black Civil Rights Struggle-Bruce Watson's "Freedom Summer"- A Guest Interview

Click on the headline to link to a Boston Sunday Globe, dated August 8, 2010, interview with noted history writer Bruce Watson (Bread and Roses, Sacco and Vanzetti, both reviewed in this space) about his new book, Freedom Summer.

Markin comment:

No question that those who went South in the early 1960s, especially into hell-hole Mississippi to register blacks to vote, were in the vanguard of the civil rights movement (except, of course, the real vanguard, those home-grown civil rights fighters who had to stay and fight the rearguard actions after the student volunteers left). As noted here, many of those civil rights fighters of the time, including this writer (although my time was spent in hell-hole Alabama) went on to fight other social battles elsewhere.

But here is my problem with this mist of time thing although the book is a very worthwhile read, and I think that it epitomizes what was, in retrospect, the limitations on that struggle. It was never just about the simple democratic question of voting, important as that was for those who were forcibly not permitted to do so, and placing that in the center those other issues jobs, land, equal access, legal justice, etc. were not addressed. Or worst, after the heyday of the civil rights movement when our eyes turned to the Vietnam anti-war struggle the black liberation struggle in the South was placed on the back-burner, way on the back-burner.

And it has never, in a positive way at least, gotten back to center stage. Oh, except for that coterie, that rather large coterie as I have become aware of lately and was confirmed by some of the remembrances here, of those who went South (or did the important support work in the North and West) who now, in a self-satisfied manner, assume (still, if you can believe it) that the election of one Barack Obama put paid to the question. At one point I avoided such people, some of them friends, purposefully. Liberals, blah.

Monday, August 09, 2010

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-Women's Emancipation and the Struggle Against Imperialism

Markin comment:

The following is an article from an archival issue of Women and Revolution, Winter 1991-92, 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's Emancipation and the Struggle Against Imperialism

In the epoch of imperialist decay, worldwide economic crisis and capitalist counterrevolution have put women in the cross hairs of reaction as the bankers and their politicians and priests drive them into the confines of the family, the kitchen and the church. In the U.S. politicians of both parties have egged on Bible bigots in the assault. on women's fundamental right to abortion, while women's social gains in the former deformed workers states of East Germany and Poland are among the first targets of capitalist restoration. Bourgeois ideologues call this the triumph of "democracy" and the "death of Communism."

The observation of the French Utopian socialist Charles Fourier that the emancipation of women stands as a decisive index of general social progress introduces "Women and the Permanent Revolution," here reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 17 (March 1973).
In the generation after the French Revolution, Fourier addressed the oppressed status of women as the most acute and manifest expression of the contradiction between capitalist society and its own ideals, "liberte, egalite, fraternite." Today, nearly two centuries later, daily life for the majority of women on the planet—nearly two billion poor women in the impoverished Third World—is little better than that of a beast of burden. Across vast regions of the globe women are swathed in the veil, or subject to hideous mutilations like female circumcision (suffered by some 100 million in Africa), or sold into marriage against their will. In the backward countries, the woman question engages the deepest prejudices and engenders the deepest fears in societies encumbered with ancient traditions, which are buttressed by imperialist domination. "Women and the Permanent Revolution," printed in Workers Vanguard before the consolidation of Women and Revolution as the journal of the Women's Commission of the Spartacist League, is devoted to illuminating the struggle against imperialism and racism and for national liberation, the emancipation of women and socialist revolution.

Flowing directly from the great historical transformation of the Industrial Revolution, Western women can generally take for granted certain fundamental rights such as the ability to choose a marriage partner, to learn to read and write, to vote. While they remain oppressed by the institution of the family, a key bulwark of capitalist rule, their overall position is, relative to that of the women of the East, a measure of the gains of capitalism over feudalism and tribalism. But capitalism's progressive historical role has long since ended. For example, the growth of capitalism spawned the social and political forces that destroyed the feudalist domination of the Catholic church and embraced the principles of the Enlightenment. But today the capitalists consciously manipulate and cynically reinforce the most deeply ingrained religious reaction. In the 1950s the high priest of the Cold War, John Foster Dulles, exulted that:

"...the religions of the East are deeply rooted and have many precious virtues. Their spiritual beliefs cannot be reconciled with Communist atheism and materialism. That creates a common bond between us, and our task is to find and develop it."
—quoted in Paul A. Baran, The Political Economy of Growth (1957)

While whipping up anti-Muslim racism to build domestic support for imperialist adventures, Washington forges military alliances with tribalist cutthroats in Afghanistan and theocrats in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

There is no margin for independent development of the backward capitalist countries. The weak "national bourgeoisie," intimately tied to imperialism and threatened by its "own" proletariat, cannot take up even the democratic tasks formerly associated with bourgeois revolutions, to say nothing of "building socialism." Against Stalinists and petty-bourgeois nationalists, Trotskyists hold that only the program of the permanent revolution can overthrow imperialist domination through workers revolution uniting all of the oppressed behind a Leninist vanguard party, the tribune of the people. Such a party will mobilize the revolutionary determination of the women toilers of the East as did the Bolsheviks in 1917 when they threw off the chains of tsarist society and broke the power of the Orthodox church.

Nationalism Against Women

When this article first appeared, the Algerian defeat of French colonialism in a bitter, bloody war was over ten years in the past. But among New Leftists and other petty-bourgeois revisionists, cheerleading for the left-nationalist FLN (National Liberation Front) included support for its disgusting embrace of the veil as a "symbol of resistance." Now Algerian women are being battered in a fundamentalist holy war as the Islamic Salvation Front seeks to take control of the country and completely eliminate even the paltry gains they have made.

This tragedy was replayed as farce in 1978 and 1979 when pseudo-leftists of all varieties hailed the seventh-century reactionary ayatollah Khomeini as the "anti-imperialist" leader of a great "progressive" struggle. At the height of Khomeini's popularity, the international Spartacist tendency (now the International Communist League) stood alone in telling the truth about the "Islamic Revolution" and calling for the exploited and oppressed to break from Khomeini and fight for a workers revolution.

With its extreme conditions of combined and uneven development Iran was the closest analogue to the Russian tsarist empire at the time of the overthrow of the Romanov dynasty. In such conditions of backwardness, even the mildest token reforms can evoke terrifying revenge against women from the strongholds of superstition. Khomeini first went into opposition against Iran's Peacock Throne during the "White Revolution" of 1963, when to counter the threat of a "red" socialist revolution the shah tampered with the Islamic code to afford some legal rights to women: Western dress was officially approved and the veil discouraged, while the right to vote was introduced. Though
these advances were generally limited to the upper classes, leaving the masses of Iranian women untouched, such tokens, combined with the shah's "land reform," were enough to spark the revolt of the mullahs against this perceived threat to their dominance of Iranian society. Based solidly on a reactionary social agenda and the class interests of the mullahs and bazaaris, the Khomeini forces took advantage of the popular revulsion against the U.S. imperialist-sponsored shah and his regime of dictatorship and torture.

Absent as a factor from the social convulsion in Iran was the working class, which has historically been militant and pro-Communist, and which included an important component of ethnic non-Persians (particularly Arab oil workers). The key element of a Bolshevik vanguard party, such as led the Russian working class to victory in 1917, was missing. As we said in our special issue on Iran, Down With Islamic Reaction! For Workers Revolution in Iran!":

"To unleash the tremendous revolutionary potential of the woman question requires a class-struggle leadership armed with a broad new vision of a social order of equality and freedom. The fight for the basic needs of the vast mass of Iranian women—an end to forced marriage; literacy and education; contraception; freedom from poverty and legal subjugation; No to the Veil!—is an attack on the foundations of the capitalist social order and poses nothing less than socialist revolution."
—Women and Revolution No. 19, Fall 1979

Afghanistan: Red Army Fought Tribal Reactionaries

The bitter experience of Khomeini's Iran, where thousands of leftists and other opponents have been slaughtered, where women are beaten and jailed if they do not wear the hijab (veil), exposes the deadly dangers of the Kabul government's reconciliation with the mullahs today in Afghanistan.

In 1980 the battle for Afghanistan became what was probably the first instance of a shooting war in modern history ignited specifically by the question of women's emancipation. The revolt of the CIA-backed mujahedin against the Soviet-backed regime was fueled by Kabul's attempts to reduce the bride price and to teach young girls to read. Faced with unenviable options on its Afghanistan border, the Brezhnev regime in the Soviet degenerated workers state chose what it saw as the lesser evil: intervention against the U.S.-backed tribalist reactionaries. This pushed the Soviet military into defending (however reluctantly) social progress and women's rights, opening the road to the liberation of the Afghan toilers from a miserably poor, feudal-derived state composed of a mosaic of nationalities, ethnic and tribal groupings with virtually no proletariat. Assimilation into the USSR through an Afghan workers state would have constituted enormous social progress. Calling for the defeat of Washington’s tribalist "holy warriors," we said, "Hail Red Army in Afghanistan!" and "Extend the social gains of the October Revolution to Afghan peoples!"
Gorbachev's criminal withdrawal of the Soviet armed forces from Afghanistan in 1989 was a cold-blooded betrayal of the Afghan and Soviet peoples. It also helped pave the way for the U.S. bloody war in the Persian Gulf and fueled imperialist appetites for counterrevolution in the USSR itself (see "Defeat Yeltsin-Bush Counterrevolution!", page 11).

Ancient Roots of Women's Oppression

In reprinting "Women and the Permanent Revolution" we note that our knowledge of the development of early human society has deepened in the intervening period. We know far more about these subjects than could Marx and Engels when they were first formulating the principles of historical materialism in The Holy Family and The German Ideology in the 1840s. It was not until later into the 19th century that the study of anthropology and archaeology developed; in particular Lewis Henry Morgan's Ancient Society (1877) had an enormous impact on Marxist thought. The exciting discoveries of more recent decades by no means negate the analysis given in Frederick Engels' The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, the key Marxist text on the subject. Instead, they amplify and reinforce the materialist under-' standing of the origins of women's oppression in the institution of the family.

It is now generally agreed—even by those who agree on little else—that agriculture was a fairly early discovery in the development of a more advanced technology. In the early, biologically based division of labor between men and women in the hunter-gatherer societies, women, as the gatherers, were likely to have been key to the discovery that one can cultivate plants, as well as to the invention of other arts like weaving. The social surplus made possible by such revolutionary technological advances laid the basis for the development of classes, with a ruling, leisured class able to live off the labor of others. The institution of the family, with accompanying monogamy and domestic enslavement of women, arose to ensure inheritance of property through the male line. As society differentiated into classes, rulers maintained their domination through the armed state.

Engels called the overthrow of mother right and the development of the family "the world historic defeat of the female sex"—the first entry of social oppression into human history. It is our task, as Marxist revolutionaries, to sweep away all institutions of oppression and exploitation through socialist revolution to build a new world of equality, dignity and abundance.

Women and the Permanent Revolution

For Marxists the emancipation of women from their special oppression is a precise gauge of the degree to which a society has been purged of social oppression as a whole. This interrelationship was first formulated by the Utopian socialist Fourier:

"The change in a historical epoch can always be determined by the progress of women towards freedom, because in the relations of woman to man, of the weak to the strong, the victory of human nature over brutality is most evident. The degree of emancipation of women is the natural measure of general emancipation."
—Theorie des Quatre Mouvements

Fourier was paraphrased by Marx in The Holy Family (1845):

"The relation of man to woman, is the most natural relation of human being to human being. It indicates therefore, how far man's natural behavior has become human, and how far his human essence has become a natural essence for him, how far his human nature has become nature for him."

In a blunter and more succinct fashion, Marx repeated the same point 23 years later in a letter to Kugelmann: "social progress can be measured exactly by the social position of the fair sex, (the ugly ones included)."

Monogamous Family Emerges

One of the ironies of history is that the origin of the special oppression of women is rooted in one of the earliest social advances—the development of human technology beyond the day-to-day struggle for bare subsistence characteristic of hunting and gathering societies. With the introduction of cattle breeding, metal working, weaving and, lastly, agriculture, human labor power became capable of producing a substantial social surplus. Under the impact of these technological developments, the institution under which labor power is reproduced, the family, underwent a profound transformation. As Marx and Engels pointed out in The German Ideology, the propagation of the species engendered the first division of labor between man and woman. Because of women's procreative functions, the lot of childbearing, child rearing and general domestic tasks fell to them. The household was the general sphere of woman's activity. However, the development of technology, domestication of animals (including other humans, usually war prisoners or slaves) and the land, and the development of tools took place in the general sphere of man's activity, and it was he that appropriated the concomitant expansion in social wealth. Thus, the advent of private property and the need to transfer this property through inheritance gave rise to the patriarchal law of inheritance and law of descent. The monogamous family was developed to ensure the paternity of the children, with the incumbent seclusion of the wife to ensure her fidelity. Seclusion meant an exclusion from public life and social production.

"Monogamous marriage was a great historical step forward; nevertheless, together with slavery and private wealth, it opens the period that has lasted until today in which every step forward is also relatively a step backward, in which prosperity and development for some is won through the misery and frustration of others."
— Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State

Prior to the growth of private property and the monogamous family, arms, like tools and property, were held in common. However, with the development of private ownership in the means of production and procreation, and the polarization of society into economic classes, weapons became monopolized by bodies of men separated from the rest of society. These armed bodies of men constituted the essence of the state. While appearing to stand above classes, the state is in reality the instrument whereby the dominant economic class in each epoch maintains its hegemony. The ancient state was the state of the slaveowners for holding down the slaves, the feudal state was the organ of the nobility for holding down the peasant serfs and bondsmen, and the modern, "democratic" state is the instrument of the capitalist class to maintain its dominance and ability to exploit labor.

In each epoch the family, like the state, has been principally an institution for perpetuating the dominant property form and the dominant economic class. For the slave, serf and wage slave—i.e., for those social classes without property to inherit or defend—the social institutions of inheritance and defense, the family and the gendarme, are principally institutions of subjugation.

Limitations of Bourgeois Progressivism

With the advent of industrial capitalism, the family entered a state of relative dissolution. In order to drive down wages, capitalism sought to lower the cost of producing and reproducing labor power through drawing the entire family into the labor process. This meant breaking down the guild structure, at first through "piecing out" work to individual families, and then by concentrating them into industrial sites and company towns. In countries with belated capitalist development, such as tsarist Russia, guilds and the development of home industry were skipped, and serfs drawn directly into large, bleak company towns.

The return of women to social production provides the precondition to their social emancipation, but under capitalism it meant the further enslavement and degradation of women, as they were forced to take on wage slavery in addition to their domestic slavery. Unable and unwilling to provide social substitutes for the economic role of the family, however, the capitalists encouraged women to return to the domicile and kitchen with consciously generated propaganda in favor of the family and religion. Thus capitalism expanded the productive forces and laid the technological basis for the socialization of domestic work and the replacement of the family as an economic unit, but was and is unable to accomplish this replacement, just as it laid the basis for the international socialization of the means of production, but still cannot eliminate national boundaries.

Capitalism depends for its survival on the traditional, archaic social institutions of class rule: private property, the monogamous family and the nation-state. As the productive forces generated by capitalism increase, they strain against the bounds set up by the social institutions upon which the system depends, and the capitalist class becomes more virulent in trying to shore up and reinforce institutions which become increasingly more reactionary. The capitalist-backed trend of women out of the plants and back to the domicile reached its zenith in the Nazi campaign for woman's enslavement to "Kinder, Kuche, Kirche,"— "children, kitchen, church."

The bourgeois revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries, which cleared away feudal institutions from the path of capitalist development, replaced social relations
based on obligations and privileges with those based on contractual equality, and thus had a profound effect on the family. Equality of rights between the sexes was given expression by the bourgeois revolution's most radical ideological advocates, especially in regard to the ownership and inheritance of property. But even in the realm of formal legality, the bourgeoisie was frightened by the consequences of its own revolution and immediately dug into the medieval past for archaic institutions with which to stabilize its rule. Thus, the French Revolution was followed by a further political counterrevolution, a Thermidor in which the agents of the bourgeois revolution, the rural poor and the urban sans-culottes, were disinherited. Thermion in terms of the family and the special oppression of women was provided by the Code Napoleon, which made women the property of their husbands, requiring a woman to obtain her husband's permission in order, for example, to obtain a passport, make a will or sign a contract.

In a similar fashion the equality of nations proclaimed by the bourgeois revolution was subordinated to the drive of the industrially advanced nations to subjugate less developed nations in the struggle for markets and raw materials. The interrelationship between the subordination of the equality of the sexes and the equality of nations is graphically demonstrated by French imperialism. When Napoleon III thought that a higher birthrate was essential to provide workers and soldiers for expanding the French Empire, he appealed to Rome and won from the Pope a redefinition of when life begins from the traditional Catholic view that it begins when the fetus can survive outside of the womb, to the present immediately-following-conception view. This transformed abortion from a venial into a mortal sin, and on this basis Napoleon III drew up the restrictive abortion law which France has today.

Women Under Decaying Capitalism

Thus the bourgeoisie was never consistently democratic, even when the democratic tasks necessary to consolidating its class rule were on the agenda. In the epoch of imperialism, the imperialist countries have a further direct interest in suppressing the democratic and national aspirations of the colonial and semicolonial masses. Had the imperialist powers in China supported the T'ai-p'ing Rebellion (in which armed women's brigades played an important part), a modern Protestant nation might have emerged there in the last century. Instead they backed the Manchus, upon whom they were already dependent to ensure stability. The road to imperialist subjection lay through bolstering the most reactionary and repressive aspects of semi-feudal society combined with the penetration of that society by the most advanced capitalist technique.
The inability of the "national bourgeoisies" of these colonial countries to shatter the feudal past and carry through a bourgeois-democratic revolution was conclusively demonstrated in the course of the last century. The national bourgeoisie, generally recruited straight from the old nobility, and dependent on relics of the feudal past for its survival (e.g.,' latifundia in South America), developed as the dependent broker for imperialism. The native bourgeois classes in the colonial world were unable to separate themselves from the entanglement with imperialist domination for fear of setting off forces—principally the anti-capitalist struggle of the workers, in alliance with the peasantry—which would sweep them from power as well.

Analyzing the tasks of a revolution in tsarist Russia and their means of accomplishment, Trotsky formulated the theory of the permanent revolution. He concluded not only that proletarian leadership would be required to accomplish the basic bourgeois-democratic goals of the revolution—since the bourgeoisie was unable to take a revolutionary path against the autocracy—but also that the proletariat would have to place its own, socialist goals immediately on the agenda if the revolution were to be successful. In order to uproot feudal autocracy and colonial domination, the working class would have to uproot the bourgeois order which had grown up within, and now propped up, these institutions.

The question of women's emancipation in the Third World continues to demonstrate the truth of Trotsky's conclusions and the lessons of the Russian Revolution which they anticipated. Equal rights for women is a basic democratic right, avowed by all democracies and accepted as a goal by all "national liberation" movements. Yet the special oppression of women is grounded in the very basis of the property system itself. Just as the anti-colonial struggle which limits its goals to the establishment of an independent state fails to provide real independence from the proletariat would have to place its own, socialist goals immediately on the agenda if the revolution were to be successful. In order to uproot feudal autocracy and colonial domination, the working class would have to uproot the bourgeois order which had grown up within, and now propped up, these institutions from imperialist domination, so the "revolution" which stops short of overturning capitalism has proven unable to uproot women's oppression.

Bangladesh provides such shocking examples of inhuman imperialist behavior that the complete domination of the "national liberation" struggle against Pakistan by the equally reactionary, rival Indian imperialists is forgotten. Yet this fact absolutely precluded the accomplishment of any democratic tasks by that movement. Among the victims of the struggle over Bangladesh were 200,000 Bengali women who were systematically gang-raped by the West Pakistani army. Marshal Khan's troops then had the heads of these women shorn, a mark of disgrace in Bengali society. The women were then turned loose, only to be rejected and massacred by their husbands, brothers and fathers as Sheik Rahman, former feminist Indira Gandhi’s faithful seneschal, came to power. The state that emerged behind the bayonets of the Indian army proved no more liberating for the women of Bangladesh than the regime which perpetrated bestial gang rape. The vengeful persecution of the Biharis under the new state is no consolation.

Algerian Independence Little Gain for Women

When "national liberation" does not simply replace one imperialist suzerain for another, as in Bangladesh, but results in a measure of real political independence within the context of continued imperialist economic domination—viz., Algeria—the unimproved condition of women reflects the continued failure to accomplish basic democratic tasks of the revolution for the masses. The Tripoli Program, basic manifesto of the Algerian Revolution, vaguely promised formal equality, but even the, law of the new regime codifies sexual inequality for women, many of whom fought in the FLN as both auxiliaries and commandos. For example, the maximum punishment for adultery committed by men is one year—for women, two. And the reality is much worse than the letter of the law expresses—while forced marriage is now illegal, every year even the government is forced to admit that many suicides take place to avoid forced marriages. This could be attributed to the difficulty in overcoming tradition, yet the attitude of the Algerian regime is one that is hostile to overcoming tradition. Boumedienne, president of Algeria's "Revolutionary" Council, said:

"We say 'no' to this [Western] type of evolution, for our society is an Islamic and a socialist society. A problem exists here. It involves respect for morality.... For we have seen among several peoples who have been recently liberated, that woman, once free, hastens to think of things which one need not cite here.... The evolution of Algerian woman and the enjoyment of her rights must be in the framework of the morality of our society." —8 March 1966

And this speech was given on International Women's Day! The speech inspired the walkout of a number of women. In "socialist" Algeria, where every student receives religious education, women have been kept out of politics, generally out of higher education, and under the veil as well.

Algerian society has not been without some democratic reforms, even reforms which touch upon the family. But each reform is elaborately justified only after tortuous religious debate and tedious reinterpretation of the Koran.

Modern imperialism has not forgotten its Rudyard Kipling, has not forgotten how to wrap itself in the mantle of a "civilizing mission," especially regarding the "weaker sex"—as it rapes both the women and the natural resources of the subjugated nations. French imperialists, whose Code Napoleon did not allow a woman to open a bank account or take a job without her husband's permission until 1966, paraded themselves in Algeria as the defenders and liberators of Muslim womanhood. Perhaps the most ludicrous expression of this pious hypocrisy was the so-called "Battle of the Veils." After 13 May 1958, when the French colons ransacked the Governor General's headquarters, bringing down the Fourth Republic, a leading colon woman organized the Feminine Solidarity Movement, which paraded de-veiled Muslim women around to give eulogistic speeches on how good it was to be liberated by the society of liberte, egalite, fraternite—the complete marriage of feminism and imperialism! In reaction, the veil became a symbol of the resistance to French imperialism, as did the Muslim family, the traditional customs, etc. Thus, not only were centuries-old customs of domestic slavery and oppression not abolished, but the symbols of these very customs were adopted by the "Revolution"! Thus Boumedienne says "no" not to French imperialist hypocrisy—his hatred of which is a sham—but to the basic achievements of the French Revolution.

The most articulate expression of Third World nationalism which, like the Russian Narodniks, reduces "socialism" and "revolution" to feudalistic revivalism, is to be found in that darling of the cafe revolutionaries, Frantz Fanon—the official ideologue of the Algerian FLN. While his L'An Cinq de la Revolution Algerienne (translated as A Dying Colonialism) is a testament to the courage and fortitude of the Algerian revolutionary woman—showing how involvement in the FLN revolutionized her social standing—Fanon finds her strength not in the liberating experience of equality imposed by commando life, but in patriarchal Muslim tradition:

"What is true is that under normal conditions, an interaction must exist between the family and society at large. The home is the basis of the truth of society, but society authenticates and legitimizes the family. The colonial structure is the very negation of this reciprocal justification. The Algerian woman, in imposing such a restriction on herself, in choosing a form of existence limited in scope, was deepening her consciousness of struggle and preparing for combat."

Fanon is quite correct when he states that after participating in the national liberation struggle the Algerian woman "could not put herself back into her former state of mind and relive her behavior of the past." But for Fanon, as for the Narodniks, the very cultural and social backwardness of the masses is itself a source of their revolutionary capacity. The Narodniks, the supreme petty-bourgeois radical democrats, denied the bourgeois character of the democratic revolution, i.e., agrarian revolution, national independence and democratic rights, which constituted the parameters of their program. For the Narodniks, for Fanon and for the official Algerian regime and its sundry Stalinist-Maoist-Pabloite apologists, such regimes are "socialist" despite their incapacity to carry through even the basic democratic tasks of bourgeois revolution. What emerges is a Third World nationalism, profoundly anti-democratic, feudalistic and in this case Muslim fundamentalist.

Women and the Russian Revolution

If the Algerian experience is the negative confirmation of the permanent revolution, the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 was both positive and negative confirmation. The Russian Revolution emerged from the cataclysmic experience of world war in a country which, like the colonial countries, combined the latest in capitalist technology—industries that were totally merged with finance capital and as such ultimately controlled by the Bourses of Western Europe—with the most backward medieval institutions. At the same time Russia was the "chattel-house" of nations, itself an imperialist power with expansionist appetites in Asia Minor and the Balkans. Given Russia's belated bourgeois development, it skipped over that stage which nurtures a strong urban petty bourgeoisie with strong democratic institutions and illusions. When the radicalized female of the intelligentsia entered politics, it was not as a feminist or suffragette, but as a terrorist. According to the reports of the tsarist Minister of Justice, Count Pahlen, of the 620 people summoned before the courts for revolutionary activities during the 1870s 158 were women. The 29-member Central Executive Committee of Narodnaya Volya (People's Freedom) in 1879 had ten women. One of the members of this group, Sofya Perovskaya, directed the assassination of Alexander II.

The terrorist activity of the radicalized middle-class women was the prelude to the militant class battles of Russia's working women. Concentrated primarily in textile industries, they were in the vanguard of the strike struggles of the late 1890s. After the turn of the century bourgeois feminists organized "Women's Political Clubs" in St. Petersburg. In the winter of 1907-08 the Russian Social Democrats organized the "Society for Mutual Help Among Working Women" and issued the publication The Working Woman. When the bourgeois feminists organized the first All-Russian Women's Congress in 1908 the "social-democratic women were represented by their own separate class group, numbering 45 women. Having passed their own independent resolutions on all questions, the women workers finally walked out of this 'ladies' congress" (A. Kollontai, Women Workers Struggle for Their Rights, 1918).

One of the differences between Bolsheviks and Men-sheiks was over whether to organize an independent proletarian women's group or participate in the bourgeois feminist groups. After the final split between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks in 1912 the Bolsheviks distinguished themselves by continuing to struggle to draw proletarian women into the revolutionary movement. The Bolsheviks resumed publication of The Working Woman in 1914 for International Women's Day. This holiday, which had originated in 1908in Manhattan's Lower East Side (Rutgers Square) by women in the needle trades, was adopted by the Second International under the leadership of Clara Zetkin in 1911. It was first celebrated in Russia at the instigation of the St. Petersburg textile workers in 1913 and celebrated again in 1914 complete with processional, mass meeting and the first appearance of the red flag in St. Petersburg. The next celebration was in 1917 and marked the opening of the Russian Revolution.

The Stalinists who try to fit the Russian Revolution into their two-stage schema claim that the February Revolution was the bourgeois-democratic stage of the revolution. While the February Revolution was bourgeois in that it put the bourgeoisie into power, there was very little democracy about it, especially in relation to the emancipation of women. Taking the church and ecclesiastical courts out of the private affairs of marriage and divorce was achieved only later, by the dictatorship of the proletariat. Likewise, it was only after the Bolshevik Revolution that a real effort was made to alleviate the domestic slavery of women through the establishment of nurseries, creches, maternity care, public dining halls and laundries.

The Bolshevik Revolution established another basic tenet of the permanent revolution—the need for proletarian leadership over the peasant movement. While the agrarian revolution was spontaneous, the struggle to summon peasant women to a full public and political life was not. The political mobilization of the peasant women required the courageous and persistent efforts of the Bolshevik party women, many of whom were recruited from the St. Petersburg textile factories which had been in the vanguard of the Russian class struggle for three decades prior to the revolution. Organized in the special Communist Party sections dedicated to drawing in the oppressed women masses behind the revolution, party cadre, often disguised in paranyas and eluchvons (the veiled clothing worn by the women in Muslim territories of the Soviet Union) would carry the message of the revolution to the most backward areas of Russia. In order to reach women in nomadic tribes the CP's women's sections would organize Red Yurtas, or large tents which dispensed medical as well as political propaganda. Their efforts culminated in the First All-Russian Conference of Proletarian and Peasant Women in November 1918, attended by 1,700 delegates. One of the participants described the conference as follows:

"In 1918, when the civil war was raging, when we still had to struggle against hunger, cold and unprecedented devastation on countless fronts, at this juncture the conference of proletarian and peasant women was summoned. Hundreds of working women, from the remotest factories and villages, had come to Moscow with their complaints, grievances and doubts, with all their cares great and small."
— F.W. Halle, Women in Soviet Russia (1933)

Thermidor Reverses Gains

But the Soviet Union, an economically backward country to begin with, ravaged by imperialist intervention and civil war, encircled and blockaded by hostile capitalist powers, was unable to provide the economic basis for the construction of socialism; it could only "generalize the want." Lenin and Trotsky realized that just as the democratic revolution must grow into the socialist revolution if the democratic tasks of the revolution are to be solved, so must socialist revolution grow directly into world revolution. The failure of the revolution to spread led to the seizure of power by the conservative state bureaucracy under Stalin in 1923 which converted the Soviet Union's isolation from a profound defeat into a rhetorical "victory" with the anti-Marxist, nationalist "socialism in one country" doctrine. As Stalin consolidated power, the new ruling elite also required the revival of the monogamous family as the, bulwark of this national "socialism"—just as it was a bulwark of the fascist political counterrevolution in capitalist countries.

The Stalinist political counterrevolution simply ran the film of the revolution backward in the realm of women's «rights. The party women's sections were liquidated in 1929; homosexuality was made a crime in 1934; abortion, which had been legalized in 1920, was illegalized in 1936; from 1935 through 1944 divorce was made increasingly expensive and complicated; and in 1944 even coeducation was abolished. To accomplish these measures, Stalin relied on the conservatizing influence of the peasantry, which generally was alone in welcoming them.

Of course, at each stage Stalinist apologists could find economic and social reasons for each of Stalin's counterrevolutionary measures. As Trotsky said in The Revolution Betrayed, "You cannot 'abolish' the family; you have to replace it. The actual emancipation of women is unrealizable on the basis of 'generalized want'!" Thus, even the revolutionary government of Lenin and Trotsky had to face horrendous problems, especially in terms of the family and women's emancipation. For example, in 1922 Lenin's wife Krupskaya estimated that there were seven million homeless children, while Lunacharsky, Commissar of Education, estimated nine million. Adoption had to be illegalized in 1926 to prevent the exploitation of child labor by the peasantry! The chief "accomplishment" of Stalin was to turn difficult conditions into a rationale for entrusting all power to a conservative, counterrevolutionary ruling clique which adapted to the backwardness in order to survive.

Women Under "Third World" Stalinism

In Yugoslavia, China, North Vietnam and Cuba, petty-bourgeois leaderships commanding peasant-based armies succeeded, because of exceptional historical circumstances, in overturning capitalism despite their completely pro-capitalist, "democratic" programs. This fact alone has enabled these countries to play a role free of direct economic and political subservience to imperialism; that is, enabled them to fulfill the basic task of the anti-colonial revolution. But these victories took place as military confrontations which were lost by the imperialist and allied native bourgeois forces despite the best efforts of the "revolutionary" leaderships to sell out the struggle in exchange for a "revolution" safely contained under capitalism (such as did happen in Algeria and most similar situations). The proletariat, a victim of earlier defeats, lacked leadership and failed to play a role as an active contender for power in these revolutions.

As a consequence, what emerged was not proletarian democracy, but regimes as bureaucratically deformed as that which emerged from the degeneration of the revolution in the Soviet Union—i.e., deformed workers states. Within these regimes, once again the emancipation of women is a most accurate gauge of the general emancipation. While women have been granted formal equality, no consistent, concerted effort has been made to liberate them from domestic slavery. While women have increased their access to socially productive roles, they are generally restricted to those areas which are a simple extension of domestic work, such as textiles and nursing. In North Vietnam, after 26 years of war, women are still not permitted to play a combat role in the regular army. And only the exigencies of war have forced the North Vietnamese bureaucracy to establish nurseries and creches. Birth control and abortion are legalized and illegalized at the whim of the bureaucracy.

Politically, women are no more or less disenfranchised than their husbands in the absence of proletarian democracy. In the absence of special party sections for women,
there are no special vehicles to train and equip them to enter the party. The recruitment of women is generally done through moral exhortation. Most women are shunted off to the local Women's Democratic Federation where they can circulate petitions for peace, justice and equality. In China, the Women's Democratic Federation, which once claimed a membership of 70 million, was headed by Liu Shao-chi's wife; it was therefore abolished by the Cultural Revolution!

In backward and colonial countries, petty-bourgeois classes oppressed by feudalism and imperialism, particularly the peasantry, are more numerous than the proletariat. In order to come to power, the proletariat must mobilize these classes behind it in the struggle against imperialism and for basic democratic rights. Yet the proletariat is the only consistently revolutionary, anti-capitalist force in these countries. In order to overthrow capitalism and begin an unobstructed path toward socialism, the revolution must be made on the proletariat's terms and with its program. 'The family as an economic unit enslaving women could then be replaced through socialization of the means of production and reproduction of labor power. But the revolution which rests on the peasantry or on a specious amalgamation of the interests of peasants and worker| (that is, on a modified program of a section of the petty bourgeoisie) finds that for the peasantry, the family is the existing economic unit of small-scale agriculture, as opposed to the factories and socialized industries of the workers. Unlike the workers, the class interests of the peasants are based on deepening private ownership of small plots, which means retaining the family structure. But the peasants are incapable of reorganizing society. Their conservatizing influence can only be overcome through the leadership of the workers.

Thus, the interrelationship between the land question and the family is a key to understanding the zigzags of the degenerated and deformed workers states. For industrialization requires a food surplus; a food surplus requires mechanization; mechanization requires industrialization, etc. How to break out of this vicious cycle? The New Economic Policy (NEP), primitive socialist accumulation (the tax in kind), persuasion and example were the methods of Lenin and Trotsky. Bureaucratic fiat, whose parameters are only the precipices of catastrophe, is the method of Stalinism, which veers from Stalin's "Kulaks, enrich yourselves" and Mao's New Democracy to forced collectivization and the Great Leap Forward. During the Great Leap Forward and Stalin's forced collectivization, women were encouraged to participate in social production, and the family tended to be subordinated. But these measures did not correspond to the real tempo of economic development, and no substitutes for the family as an economic unit were developed. Stalinist regimes were thus forced to strengthen the family structure as the only non-revolutionary way out of the chaos they had created and to conciliate the enraged peasantry. The proletariat, precisely the class for whom the family plays no economic role, is destined by history to lead the struggle for women's emancipation.

Women and Permanent Revolution

While class exploitation is the main axis of social struggle, it is not the only form of social oppression. Insensitivity to the special forms of oppression, national, racial and generational as well as sexual, is a form of opportunism. Economism, the ideology of trade-union bureaucrats and their hangers-on like the [then leftist] Labor Committee and the Workers League, thrives on such opportunism. However, refusal to see the interlocked nature of special oppression and the class struggle, to posit roads (e.g., bourgeois feminism) other than the class struggle for dealing with special oppression, is both reactionary and Utopian. Because the question of women's oppression and the family is fundamental to class society, the solution can only be a global uprooting of capitalist property and the preparation for a classless communist society. Only an international proletarian party, conscious of its tasks and mission, can provide the necessary leadership for such an upheaval.