Saturday, August 21, 2010

*From The Rag Blog- The Looming Spectre Of A Strike On Iran- A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to a The Rag Blog entry- The Looming Spectre Of A Strike On Iran- A Guest Commentary

Markin comment:

Hand Off Iran!

Below is a re-post of a commentary on Iran from a couple of years ago but still contains the key anti-imperialist points that need to be made as the United States and its allies (particularly Israel on this one) gear up their provocations.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hands Off Iran!


U.S. Out Of Iraq And Afghanistan Now! Hands Off Iran!

Correct me if I am wrong but I smell gunpowder in the air these days and it is not clear who is getting ready to ignite the fuse. No, I am not talking about any old wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hell, those efforts are old hat and, according to the putative Republican presidential candidate John McCain , at least in Iraq, will last about 100 years-so it is way too early to even worry about ending that little beauty. I assume by his lights we are to let our great- grandchildren end it. Moreover, President Bush is playing the eternal optimist on Iraq, a role that he has perfected to a tee in his disastrous presidency, by being authoritatively reported as saying that it would only take forty years to straighten out things there. His scenario would permit our grandchildren to conclude the war. Again, that is music for the future. Nothing to get nervous about now, right? What exercises me today though is that little recent buildup of talk pointing toward some off-the-wall adventure aimed at Iran either by American imperialism itself or, I believe, more probably by air strikes from the American surrogate in the area, Israel.

I have been harping on Iran, off and on, for a couple of years now ever since reading Seymour Hersh’s informative April 2006 article in the New Yorker (and later additions and updates to the core of that argument by Hersh and others). Nothing since that time has led me to believe that the White House, the American military or Israel has given up the dream of smashing Iran’s future capacities to develop nuclear weapons. Capacities, by the way, even some hostile conservative critics have recognized that Iran needs in order to defend itself in an increasingly hostile world, especially as it remains in the cross hairs of American imperialism.

Certainly it was not the little ‘diplomatic’ maneuver over the weekend of July 19th where a high ranking American diplomat actually sat in on the six nation talks, despite previous American disdain for such efforts, on the question of what the international response to Iran’s alleged nuclear buildup should be. And certainly it was not any rhetoric on the part of the cowboys who control the inner sanctum in Washington about trying to find non-lethal ways to curb Iran. The minute they start with that talk in Washington, hold onto your wallets- you are about to be fleeced.

The events of the past several weeks have brought my concerns into some focus. Israel’s air strikes against a target in Syria, the American drumbeat campaign to denigrate any finding that Iran is not within striking distance of being capable of making at least one nuclear bomb and, of course, the defiant, if comical, attempt of Iran to saber rattle with the testing of short-range missiles. Six months, for a Bush Administration that has nothing to lose, is a long time in politics, a long time to prepare and launch surgical attacks and a long time to create an American ‘public opinion’ committed to nipping Iran’s buildup in the bud. Every militant leftist in the world, while holding his or her nose at the political regime in Tehran, better prepare now to defend Iran’s right to have nuclear weapons in this crazy old world. That said, we better dust off those old posters- U.S. Hands Off Iran- And Keep Them Off!

*On The Death Of The "Old Man"- James P. Cannon's Political Obituary For Leon Trotsky

Click on title to link to American Socialist Workers Party founder and Leon Trotsky co-thinker James P. Cannon's appreciation of the life of Trotsky at a memorial meeting held in New York City in 1940 immediately after the assassination of Trotsky by a Stalinist agent.

*On The “Completion” Of The American Combat Troops Withdrawal From Iraq- A Note From A Carping “Professional Leftist”

Click on the headline to link to an American Left History blog entry-Hey, Even “Non-Professional Leftist” Senator John Kerry Gets It On Afghanistan, Kinda, dated Wednesday, August 18, 2010, referred to in this entry.

Markin comment:

This week they have been uncorking the champagne bottles at the Obama White House and bringing out the bottom desk drawer Scotch bottles out at the Pentagon over the completion, a little ahead of schedule, of the American combat troop withdrawal from Iraq. Of course, that little matter of 50,000 hostages (oops) troops still remaining should make anyone who has even a minimum grasp of what the words "total withdrawal" mean or the minimum math skills(or has a good graphic calculator) scratch their heads. Oh well, the debt-piling American governmental executive branch and its bottomless pit Pentagon allies never let numbers get in the way of a little military adventure- mission accomplished, part two, sir. (We will speculate on "part three" if things unravel a little more in Iraq when the insurgents put some “heat” on the Iraqi government, if the parties ever get around to putting one together). But that is music for the future. Right now I want to look at this situation from our side, our anti-war side. Why? Well, after over seven years of war only the most hardened leftist opportunist, or benighted Pollyannaish pacifist, can claim that any of our anti-war actions played a role in this draw-down.

A few years ago, around 2005 and early 2006, at a time when in the post-Bush re-election period the situation in Iraq, for a whole series of reasons, was unraveling and rank-and-file soldier discontent posed a real, if time limited, possibility that the war could have been ended then I had, on several occasion, headlined my commentaries with the slogan (roughly put here) - Rev Up The Troop Transports, Gas Up The Troop Trucks, Hell, Pass Out The Sneakers, Cut and Run Now! The gist of that slogan was predicated on the idea that we (meaning a then slightly resurgence anti-war movement combined with that palatable, if unfocused, troop discontent) has a shot at ending the war on our terms- immediate, unconditional withdrawal. Or at least to give them a hellish fight around that possibility. Well, this week the last combat units were trucked across the Iraq border to Kuwait with all due ceremony. Although, every leftist, hell, everyone to the left of the unlamented Cheney/Rumsfeld/Bush cabal, should rejoice that the American troops are being withdrawn from one of the world's hot spots, even if not completely, we can gather no succor from our failure to get those exit trucks and planes revved up on our dime. So the slogan, the now bitter-tasting slogan, is still in play- Obama-Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S. / Allied Troops And Mercenaries From Iraq!

Needless to say the shell game withdrawal in Iraq only frees up additional troops for the Afghan quagmire and that is where we of the anti-war movement still have a shot at affecting history, especially with recent polls trending (nice word, right)to opposition to that war among the general American populace. And here is where déjà vu comes in, as I reflect on our anti-war struggle over the past several years. I can remember in the late summer of 2002, as the Bush war-drums were being beaten for Iraq war, I was at an early, small anti-war demonstration trying, trying like hell, trying vainly nevertheless, along with others to avoid the Iraq quagmire. One of the other protesters at that demonstartion held a poster with the slogan–Down With The Bush-Kerry War Drive! I thought that odd at the time because, not being totally up-to-date with the inner workings of bourgeois politics, I did not realize that well-known anti-Vietnam warrior, Massachusetts Senator Kerry, had the presidential “fire in his belly” and was planning, seriously planning, to run for the Democratic nomination in 2004. As part of that posture in 2002 Kerry was ambiguous (hell his name defines that term, “on the one hand and then on the other” is his mantra), at least in public about whether he was going to support an upcoming (October 2002) Bush-inspired war resolution. This fellow protester, no radical as it turned out, had as it also turned out good “inside” information that he was going to support the resolution, as part of his emerging post-9/11 hard anti-terrorist presidential profile.

Now the reason that I have brought all this up is that this week we have been treated to another Kerry grandstand play in Afghanistan. Not having learned anything from his 2002 vote (or subsequent 2004 aborted presidential bid, based in part on that vote and his wishy-washy maneuvers away from it)dove-hawk, ploughshares/swordsman (you can fill in additional dichotomies at your leisure) Senator Kerry provided key support for the December 2009 Obama-initiated Afghan troop escalation strategy. In a recent post(see linked post above)I noted that now as Senate Foreign Relations Committee czar, Kerry is starting to get “queasy” over the quicksand situation in Afghanistan and has sat down with Afghan puppet Karzai to give him the “skinny”-shape up, or we (the U.S. government) will ship out, maybe.

As I said in that post no one would ever, at least since the minute that he got before the cameras in 1971 at the Senate hearings on Vietnam, accuse old Senator Kerry of being a “professional leftist”, a thorn in anyone’s side. But, I will take the Senator word as good coin TODAY (I will not, nor should you, speculate on tomorrow) about getting out and give him the slogan to fight around (when he is ready, of course) Obama-Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops And Mercenaries From Afghanistan! That, my friends, is the slogan that we desperately need to fight around, with or without Kerry, if we are going to get those exit troop transports and troop trucks revved up in Afghanistan. And this time on our dime. Forward!

Friday, August 20, 2010

*In Honor Of Leon Trotsky-Bolshevik Leader Of The Red Army On The 70th Anniversary Of His Death

Click on title to link to a YouTube film clip of Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky, founder, organizer, and leader of the Russian Red Army against the Whites in th ecivil war, on the 70th anniversary of his death.

*Those Who Fought For Our Communist Future Are Kindred Spirits- Honor Russian Revolutionary Leon Trotsky

Click on the title to link to the Leon Trotsky Internet Archive's copy of his 1923 article, "The Tasks Of Communist Education"

This is a repost of an entry from January 2009 used here to honor of the memory of this great communist internationalist revolutionary on the anniversary of his death.

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


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

Markin comment:

The name Leon Trotsky hardly needs added comment from this writer. After Marx, Engels and Lenin, and in his case it is just slightly after, Trotsky is our heroic leader of the international communist movement. I would argue, and have in the past, that if one were looking for a model of what a human being would be like in our communist future Leon Trotsky, warts and all, is the closest approximation that the bourgeois age has produced. No bad, right? Thanks, Comrade Trotsky.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

*Growing Up Absurd in 1950's Texas- Larry Mc Murtry's "The Last Picture Show"-The Movie- An Encore

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the movie version of Larry McMurtry's The Last Picture Show.

DVD Review

The Last Picture Show, written by Larry McMurtry, starring Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybil Sheppard, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, 1971

Having just recently re-watched this great movie and after having kind of panned its sequel, Texasville (see post dated August 14, 2010), for no other reason (although there were more) that I liked the coming-of-age story of Last Picture better than the more recently experienced mid-life crisis (mine, and Duane’s) of Texasville I want to expand a little on the movie. A couple of years ago I gave it a few lines as an addendum to a review of Larry McMurtry’s book. Some of the points made there apply to both works, some to the film itself, especially in light of Jeff Bridge’s recent (2010) Oscar-winning performance in Crazy Hearts as Bad Blake-basically Last Picture’s Duane at 57.

There has been no shortage of coming of age stories in modern American literature. The late J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is merely the most famous and probably widely known of the genre. Here Larry McMurtry, the Texas bibliophile, Old West aficionado and flea market pack rat gives us his take on growing up absurd in a faded, dust-blown, one-horse (and one movie theater) semi-boom (and bust)town Texas during the Korean War era in the early 1950's with his central cast of Duane, Sonny and the femme fatale, Jacy.

Although the locale is different from Catcher in the Rye, the issues raised by the teenagers who drive the stories and those of their perplexed and clueless parents are the same. And what do those issues entail? Sex, the meaning of existence, sex, what to do on Friday night, sex, what to do on Saturday night, sex- well you get the drift. And those dilemmas of youth and its fight for recognition as presented through the main male characters, Sonny and Duane, are in McMurtry's hands well thought out and, at times, poignant. The attention to detail that McMurtry is noted for is on full display in the interplay between the “jock” students (Duane), the nerds (Sonny, kinda) and the “in” crowd (Jacy). High school football, the whys and wherefores of the high school classroom and the sheer fight to find one's own identity in this mix all contribute to a very strong trip “down memory lane” for this watcher.

From my own personal experience I know how tough it was to grow up in the 1950's (the later part) and it is good to see that there are indeed some universal ailments that are common, like those mentioned above, to the “tribal community” called youth in America. Moreover, watch this movie because it also has a few things to say about the adults, especially Sonny's lover, the older woman and the football coach's wife Ruth (played by Cloris Leachman in a mostly understated but powerful role), and their dilemmas as well. Damn, McMurtry is singing my song here.

The film version of this book strongly evokes visually the points that McMurtry tries to make in the book. It helps that he was the screenwriter in this effort. Fine performances were turned in by the young Timothy Bottoms, who story is more central in the movie than in the book. Jeff Bridges, at the start of his illustrious career, is tailor-made for these "bad", misunderstood man/boy roles (see his role as Bad Blake in Crazy Hearts) and who gets less play here than in Texasville. And Cybil Sheppard as, frankly, a very “hot”, sex-crazed (maybe), high school teaser as the object of Sonny and Duane's attentions (and of a fierce rivalry for her “attentions”). Also a very fine old cowboy, symbolic dying Old West performance by Ben Johnson. Also by Cloris Leachman as, the above-mentioned, neglected abused dish rag of a coach’s wife and as Sonny's genteel influence, older woman lover. And all in black and white to highlight the dusty, main street is the only street, small Texas town grit and boom-bust oil patch ambience. This is high plebeian art.

*Once Again On Jeff Bridges- The Songs Of "Crazy Heart"

Click on the headline to link to a YouTube film clip of Townes Van Zandt performing If I Needed You.

CD Review

Crazy Hearts: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Jeff Bridges and various artists, New West 2010

I have already give kudos to Jeff Bridges for his Oscar-winning performance in Crazy Hearts elsewhere so we need not go into that one in detail. That one was easy. See it. Why? Well, if for no other reason that Jeff Bridges finally won an Academy Award for his lead role as Bad Blake in it, a role that he has been waiting for about forty years to cash in on. Every since I first saw Bridges as Duane Jackson in the screen version of Larry McMurtry’s great novel of the New West, The Last Picture Show, I have known that he had the righteous, good-hearted, hard-drinking, devil-take-the-hinter post, sexually energetic and troubled “old geezer” that he personifies in the Blake role in him. He has done other fine performances but there is something just a little extra that he brings to that good-ole-boy role, young or old.

Frankly Bridges, through the character of Bad Blake, an alcoholic, back roads traveling, down on his luck, hard living country singer, an “outlaw” singer for sure, carries the film. The story line, in film and in real life (think Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and half of male Nashville), has been done to death. So Bridges’ performance and the soundtrack are the important in redeeming the production. And part of that excellent performance by Bridges was his actually singing some of the material. That in itself was refreshing (and brave), somewhat akin to actors doing their own stunts.

Of course having legendary music man T-Bone Burnett on board never hurts. The CD is a mix of Bridges film songs (including variations on some of the songs, as was done in the film, including by Ryan Bingham on I Don't Know0 and other country and blues artists. Outstanding other songs, as always, are done by Lightnin’ Hopkins (Sam Phillips) and Townes Van Zandt (an outlaw singer/songwriter who could have been put of that list above, as well). If you are in an “outlaw” country mood get this. Hey, watch the film too, okay.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

*Hey, Even “Non-Professional Leftist” Senator John Kerry Gets It On Afghanistan, Kinda

Click on the headline to link to a National Public Radio report on Senator John Kerry's meeting with Afghan President Karzai.

Markin comment:

Of course part of the headline to this entry refers to the “tempest in a teapot” comment by White House publicity flak, Robert Gibbs, concerning the “unfair” heat that the “professional left” (whatever that is in his universe) has been giving his boss over little things like the almost total abandonment of anything a progressive could stand for, including that nasty little over-the-top dramatic escalation in Afghanistan last year that has Obama’s signature all over it. The other part refers to recent news (see linked post) that Senate Foreign Relations Committee czar, Senator John Kerry, is starting to get “queasy” over the quicksand situation in Afghanistan and has sat down with Afghan puppet Karzai to give him the “skinny”-shape up, or we (the U.S. government) will ship out, maybe.

Now no one would ever, at least since the minute that he got before the cameras in 1971 at the Senate hearings on Vietnam, accuse old Senator Kerry of being a “professional leftist”, a thorn in anyone’s side. Not at least to the Obama’s administration where he provided key support for the December 2009 troop escalation strategy. But, I will take the Senator's word as good coin TODAY (I will not, nor should you, speculate on tomorrow) about getting out and give him the slogan to fight around (when he is ready, of course) Obama-Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S. / Allied Troops And Mercenaries From Afghanistan!

*Victory To The South African Public Workers- Break With The ANC- For A Workers Government

Click on the headline to link to a site thta has information about the South Africa public workers strike, August 18, 2010.

Markin comment:

As the news indicates the very trade union conscious South African workers are at it again. Victory to the South African Public Workers! That said, South Africa over the past couple of decades is prima facie evidence, if only in the negative, of Bolshevik revolutionary Leon Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. The gist of that theory noted that in the age of modern imperialism, and we are certainly deep, knee-deep, in that era, the working class would have to lead the bourgeois democratic struggle in the less advanced countries (in the original specific case, Tsarist Russia) in the process of creating workers states, and then on to our communist future.

Of course the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in 1917 confirmed the wisdom of that theory as the Russian bourgeoisie proved to be just barely to the left of the benighted Czar and the working class took power. Equally true, however, is the fact that in now countless other situations in less advanced countries, including South Africa, the counter-posed Stalinist (or some other reformist variety) theory of two-stage revolution has been the norm. That “theory” has posited, in one form or another, that first the democratic stage has to be completed, organized around the demands of all those who can be gathered around democratic demands (bloc of four classes, popular front, etc.) and led by, in effect, and in the end to the benefit of the local bourgeoisie.

Well, in South Africa the bourgeois “gravy-train” African National Congress (ANC) has over the past couple of decades gotten just what they wanted, or most of the what they wanted, a black- run government that truly benefits the white, mainly, capitalist class and a little something for themselves. And the masses. Oh, I forgot to tell you that other part of that two-stage theory of revolution. What about the second part, when does that happen? Ya, you guessed it, never. And that, my friends, is why today’s headline reads as it does. It is time, way beyond time, for the working class, the rural poor, and the various ethnic and racial groups that make up South Africa, along with whatever whites are really to fight, to break with the ANC and fight for a workers government. And from the look of things, pronto. Break with the ANC! Fight for a workers government!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

*From The "HistoMat" Blog- Remembering Leon Trotsky On The 70th Anniversary Of His Death- Raya Dunayevskaya

Click on the headline to link to a review of a biography of Raya Dunayevskaya- whose memories of Leon Trotsky are posted below via the HistMat (Snowball) blog.

Remembering Leon Trotsky

Seventy years ago this week the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky was murdered. In 1965, in 'Some Memories of Trotsky', one of Trotsky's secretaries from 1937-38 in Mexico at a time when Stalinist terror was in full swing, the Russian born Marxist humanist Raya Dunayevskaya recollected her thoughts, and I will reprint them below:

Because of the heroism of the former Russian Commissar of War, the rigors of exile when Stalin won the struggle for power, and the tragedy of Trotsky's assassination at the hands of a GPU assassin, much that has been written about Trotsky's later years has a subjective air about it. His last years seem to have provided a field day for psychological approaches even on the part of political analysts. Recently, a novel has been published -- and a TV "special" based on it -- which imputes to Trotsky a change in political outlook which allegedly he was unwilling to admit. Only people who have no thoughts of their own can so misconstrue the thoughts of others.

Leon Trotsky at no time let the subjective factor enter into any of his anaIyses of objective situations. Quite the contrary.

I remember one incident during the Moscow Trials, when "the General Staff of the Revolution" was killed off by Stalin, and Trotsky himself was accused of the most heinous crimes. The Russian bureaucracy had the state power -- and the Lubianka; the money, the brutality, the total disregard for history and, most of all, the time -- a whole decade -- in which to fabricate the greatest frame-up in all history.

The Mexican press would hold open two columns of space for Trotsky to answer the charges levelled against him at the Moscow Trials in 1937-38. He had only a couple of hours in which to write his answers -- and that only by virtue of the fact that President Cardenas intervened on his behalf and asked the press to inform Trotsky of the charges as they came in on the teletype. Trotsky never knew what the accusations would be, nor what the year was in which he was alleged to have done this or that crime. Moreover, the Trials had come at a time of the greatest personal grief in the Trotsky family, for the long arm of the GPU had reached out to kill the only living son of Trotsky, Leon Sedov. It was a predetermined, insidiously planned feat of a master intriguant, calculated to give Trotsky the blow that they hoped would render him incapable of answering the accusation against himself, that they knew would come in two short weeks.

Indeed, the death of Leon Sedov inflicted the deepest wound, and in a most vulnerable spot. Lev Davidovich and Natalia Ivanovna Trotsky locked themselves into their room and would see no one. For a whole week they did not come out of their room, and only one person was permitted in -- the one who brought them the mail, and food of which they partook little.

Those were dismal days for the whole secretarial staff. We did not see either L.D. or Natalia. We did not know how they fared, and feared the consequences of the tragedy upon them. We moved typewriters, the telephone, and even doorbells to the guardhouse, out of sound of their room. Their part of the house became deathly quiet. There was an oppressive air, as if the whole mountain chain of Mexico was pressing down upon this one house.

The blow was the harder not only because Leon Sedov had been their only remaining living child, but also because he had been Trotsky's closest literary and political collaborator. When Trotsky was interned in Norway, gagged, not permitted to answer the charges leveled against him in the first Moscow Trials (August 1936), Sedov had penned Le Livre Rouge, which, by brilliantly exposing the Moscow falsifiers, dealt an irreparable blow to the prestige of the GPU.

In the dark days after the tragic news had reached us, when Lev Davidovich and Natalia Ivanovna were closeted in their room, he wrote the story of their son's brief life. It was the first time since pre-revolutionary days that Trotsky had written by hand.

On the eighth day, Leon Trotsky emerged from his room. I was petrified at the sight of him. The neat, meticulous Leon Trotsky had not shaved for a whole week. His face was deeply lined. His eyes were swollen from too much crying. Without uttering a word, he handed me the handwritten manuscript, Leon Sedov, Son, Friend, Fighter, which contained some of Trotsky's most poignant writing. "I told Natalia of the death of our son," read one passage, "in the same month of February in which, 32 years ago, she brought to me in jail the news of his birth. Thus ended for us the day of February 16, the blackest day in our personal lives....Together with our boy has died everything that still remained young within us...."

But even this great grief did not dim Trotsky's ardor for the revolutionary cause. The pamphlet was dedicated "to the proletarian youth." If the GPU had counted on this blow to disable him, they counted on the wrong man.

The following morning, the papers carried the announcement of the Third Moscow Trials (March 1938). Trotsky labored late into the night. One day he was up at 7 a.m. and wrote until midnight. The next day he arose at 8 a.m. and worked straight through to 3 a.m. the following morning. The last day of the week he did not go to sleep until five in the morning. He drove himself harder than any of his staff.

"The Old Man," as we called him affectionately, wrote an average of 2,000 words a day. He gave statements to the NANA, the UP, AP, Havas Agence [Agence France-Presse], France, the London Daily Express, and the Mexican newspapers. His declarations were also issued in the Russian and German languages. The material was dictated in Russian. While I transcribed the dictation, the other secretaries checked every date, name and place mentioned at the trials. Trotsky demanded meticulous, objective research work; the accusers had to be turned into the accused.

Yet so unused to subjectivism was this revolutionary that he was deeply incensed when the daily press printed "rumors" that Stalin had, at no time, been a revolutionist, but had always been "agent of the Tsar" and was now "wreaking vengeance." When I brought him the newspapers which carried this explanation of the blood purge resulting from the Moscow Trials, Trotsky exclaimed, "But Stalin was a revolutionist!"

"Wait a moment," he called to me as I was leaving the room, "We'll add a postscript to today's article." Here is what he dictated:

"The news has been widely spread through the press, to the effect that Stalin allegedly was an agent provocateur during Tsarism, and that he is now avenging himself upon his old enemies. I place no trust whatsoever in this gossip. From his youth Stalin was a revolutionist. All the facts about his life bear witness to this. To reconstruct his biography ex post facto means to ape the present reactionary bureaucracy."

Again, when the John Dewey Commission of Inquiry into the Charges Made Against Leon Trotsky had brought in the verdict: Not Guilty, and a press conference was called, Trotsky was asked: "Do not pessimistic conclusions in regards to socialism flow from the Moscow Trials and the verdict of the Commission?" Trotsky replied:

"No. I do not see any basis for pessimism. It is necessary to take history as it is. Humanity moves forward as did some pilgrims: two steps ahead, one step back. During the time of the backward movement, all seems lost to skeptics and pessimists. But this is an error of historical vision. Nothing is lost. Humanity has developed from the ape to the Comintern. It will advance from the Comintern to actual socialism. The judgment of the Commission demonstrates once more that the correct idea is stronger than the most powerful police force. In this conviction lies the unshakable basis of revolutionary optimism."

Unfortunately, optimism, no more than subjectivism, is at the root of political attitudes. It is theory -- the philosophical premise for it -- which is decisive. Because his theory -- that Russia still remained a workers' state, "though degenerate," and must be "defended" when World War II broke soon after the Hitler-Stalin Pact was concluded -- appeared to me to be at variance with both the reality of state capitalism in Russia and its total perversion of the Humanism of Marxism as a theory of liberation, I broke with Trotsky. My break from Trotsky's politics in no way changed my attitude toward him as one of the greatest revolutionists of our age, one who, with Lenin, led the great October Revolution. He remains "the man of October."

Monday, August 16, 2010

*Songs To While Away The Class Struggle By-The Late Hip-Hopper Biggie Smalls' "Juicy"- Some Home Truths For The Obama Age

Click on the title to link a YouTube film clip of the late hip-hop artist, Bigger Small, performing Juicy.

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.


Markin comment:

Ya, Biggie Smalls was speaking some truth. Not our refined language Marxist truth but on the same page, mostly. Here are the lyrics raw, like life. Christmas kind of missed us, and birthdays were the worst days around my home too. Living while being poor, black or white, is a m----------r, that's for sure.

Biggie Smalls LYRICS



(Fuck all you hoes) Get a grip motherfucker.

Yeah, this album is dedicated to all the teachers that told me
I'd never amount to nothin', to all the people that lived above the
buildings that I was hustlin' in front of that called the police on
me when I was just tryin' to make some money to feed my daughters,
and all the niggaz in the struggle, you know what I'm sayin'?

Uh-ha, it's all good baby bay-bee, uh

[Verse One:]

It was all a dream
I used to read Word Up magazine
Salt'n'Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine
Hangin' pictures on my wall
Every Saturday Rap Attack, Mr. Magic, Marley Marl
I let my tape rock 'til my tape popped
Smokin' weed and bamboo, sippin' on private stock
Way back, when I had the red and black lumberjack
With the hat to match
Remember Rappin' Duke, duh-ha, duh-ha
You never thought that hip hop would take it this far
Now I'm in the limelight 'cause I rhyme tight
Time to get paid, blow up like the World Trade
Born sinner, the opposite of a winner
Remember when I used to eat sardines for dinner
Peace to Ron G, Brucey B, Kid Capri
Funkmaster Flex, Lovebug Starsky
I'm blowin' up like you thought I would
Call the crib, same number same hood
It's all good

Uh, and if you don't know, now you know, nigga, uh


You know very well who you are
Don't let em hold you down, reach for the stars
You had a goal, but not that many
'cause you're the only one I'll give you good and plenty

[Verse Two:]

I made the change from a common thief
To up close and personal with Robin Leach
And I'm far from cheap, I smoke skunk with my peeps all day
Spread love, it's the Brooklyn way
The Moet and Alize keep me pissy
Girls used to diss me
Now they write letters 'cause they miss me
I never thought it could happen, this rappin' stuff
I was too used to packin' gats and stuff
Now honies play me close like butter played toast
From the Mississippi down to the east coast
Condos in Queens, indo for weeks
Sold out seats to hear Biggie Smalls speak
Livin' life without fear
Puttin' 5 karats in my baby girl's ears
Lunches, brunches, interviews by the pool
Considered a fool 'cause I dropped out of high school
Stereotypes of a black male misunderstood
And it's still all good

Uh...and if you don't know, now you know, nigga

[Verse Three:]

Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis
When I was dead broke, man I couldn't picture this
50 inch screen, money green leather sofa
Got two rides, a limousine with a chauffeur
Phone bill about two G's flat
No need to worry, my accountant handles that
And my whole crew is loungin'
Celebratin' every day, no more public housin'
Thinkin' back on my one-room shack
Now my mom pimps a Ac' with minks on her back
And she loves to show me off, of course
Smiles every time my face is up in The Source
We used to fuss when the landlord dissed us
No heat, wonder why Christmas missed us
Birthdays was the worst days
Now we sip champagne when we thirst-ay
Uh, damn right I like the life I live
'Cause I went from negative to positive
And it's all...

(It's all good)

...and if you don't know, now you know, nigga, uh
Uh, uh...and if you don't know, now you know, nigga
Uh...and if you don't know, now you know, nigga, uh

Representin' B-Town in the house, Junior Mafia, mad flavor, uh
Uh, yeah, a-ight

[Thanks to for these lyrics]
[Thanks to, for correcting these lyrics]

*From "The Workers' Press" Blog-Reporting on the 2010 Commemoration of the General Strike of 1877

Click on the headline to link to a Workers' Press blog entry-Reporting on the 2010 Commemoration of the General Strike of 1877

*Quackery Quack'd-Once Again, In Defense Of Science And The Scientific Method- A Short Note

Click on the headline to link to an American Left History blog entry, dated Thursday, August 12, 2010, From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"-Quacks And Their Defender-In Defense Of Science, that is referred to in this blog entry.

Markin comment:

Recently, in an entry entitled From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"-Quacks And Their Defenders-In Defense Of Science, dated Thursday, August 12, 2010 (see linked post above), I noted that we Marxists have stood on the historically hard-fought ground of science, and the battle-scarred scientific method, as humankind has tried to drive forward in the pursuit of knowledge and a better understanding of the universe, a universe we were not privy to making but we sure as hell have to exist in. I noted in that historic battle our main enemies have been organized religion and all manner of other superstitions, from quaint talismanic charms to belief in witchcraft. For a long time I believed that we were winning that battle, at least in high-tech, high science capitalist-driven societies, although, as I also noted, not without plenty of back-sliding. Now I am not so sure.

As the linked entry above demonstrates not only has there been a loss of working class political consciousness, especially in the post-Soviet landscape, over the past several decades, expressed most vividly in the overwhelming one-sidedness of the class struggle of late, but that retrogression has seeped in wildly exaggerated doubts about the validity of the scientific method as a means of understanding the universe, and conquering the unknown. And that among people who should know better, or be presumed to know better. No where is that notion more true than is the struggle for the scientific method in field of medicine, the care of the human condition. Quackery has always been with us, no question, but now quackery in pseudo-scientific form, from the ashram to the zodiac, has become epidemic. That it has spilled over into the consciousness of the “progressive” movement is not that surprising, if still annoying. After all that milieu is as fad-crazy as any other, perhaps more so, from the virtues of goat’s milk yogurt (fresh from the goat, non-machine set, non-pasteurized, thank you) to Obama-waving.

In the previous commentary I also mentioned that back in the heady days of the late 1960s, that side, the back-to-nature side, that fleeing from science to the occult side, had raised its head very strongly as those "holistic" Whole Earth Catalog therapies from meditation (fifty-seven varieties), moonstone (or birthstone, or some damn stone), mantra (om-om-om-ing Allen Ginsberg-channeling), mineral water (calorie-free, fresh from spring, no plastic-containers, please), micro-diet (Christ, how many variations on brown rice can you make?) , and add as many m-words, or any lettered words from antacids to zen as you want, bloomed. This reflected, I think, the retreat from political struggle in the face of the “monster’s” in- your-face willingness to leave us face down in some unnamed ditch if we continued in our opposition. Some people, as it turns out many people, were not up for that. But they were also not “up for” a full retreat back into the bosom of bourgeois society, at least for a while. I have, however discussed those issues elsewhere in this space and need not go through those details here. To finish up, I will end with an anecdotal piece of “evidence” about how the retreat from science hit close to home.

People I think, including at one point this “people”, me, have confused the chaotic, mainly privately-owned and funded, organization of Western medicine with the scientific pursuit of cures for what ails the human condition. This malady hit me square in the face when I had several major medical problems a few years ago and got no apparent relief from Western medicine, or rather the relief suggested was beyond what I was willing to undergo at the time (major surgeries and much time in recuperation). So, naturally, I, historical materialist or not, started “searching” for home-cures, or their equivalent.

Naturally, as well, in Boston, and in any major city (hey, out in the country too, think Vermont) all you have to do is step out the door and you will be run over by chiropractors (stone-chuckers, clickers, tickers, foot-stompers, your choice, I am not kidding), acupuncturists (Chinese, Japanese, big needles, small needles, hell, I bet, no needles, for the faint of heart), massagers (health massagers, of course, this is after all a commentary on medicine, the other kind you are on your own), homeopaths (water, colonic, homicidal (oops), etc., ad nauseaum), naturopaths (whatever that is), faith-healers, faithless healers, faithless faith-healers, snake-dancers, fire-eaters, fire-eating snake-dancers, and so on. I have not even included the myriad “alternative therapies” such as meditation, mediation, mood stone-wearing, zodiac-consulting (all twelve signs, no less), bead-thumbing, moxa-breathing, power yoga (and fourteen other brands, all with funny-sounding foreign names, okay, look them up on the Internet, they are there), and just plain talking through the pain (not for free talking through the pain, though) that are lined up on the streets, any streets, ready, for cash (or credit card) to take the pain away, or the promise of it in four (or eight or twenty) easy sessions.

That is the key, the promise to take the pain away. But, praise be, I got “religion” in the end. After some time at those pursuits, pin-cushioned, cracked-boned, hydro-this and that, yadda- yadda- yadda-the other thing, I had already spent more time, money and pain than if I had just taken my medicine, my scientifically-induced medicine, and got it over with. And I did so. Talk about using the trial and error method, the method of “high” science.

That brings me to my last point, a point I am very fond of using, and that brings us back to politics, Marxist politics. Isaac Deutscher, Leon Trotsky’s definitive biographer, once noted that Trotsky mentioned (I think in the final chapter of Literature and Revolution), that mankind faced three great tragedies in life-the struggles around hunger, death, and sex- and that the international labor movement, at least it radical end, had centered its efforts on relief of that first tragedy. Trotsky, as I recall no stranger to the medicos, medicine chest, and the hospital bed in his life, mused that, after we had conquered that demon hunger, under our communist future the other two would be confronted in a much better way than they had been faced previously. And after all what is the struggle for medical breakthroughs, for the triumph of the scientific method, than to keep death at a further than arm’s length. That is as good a reason to fight for our communist future as any you are likely to hear. And the banner- Free quality “real” health care for all!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

*From "The Rag Blog"- Harry Targ On Robert Gibbs And His "Professional Left" Comment- "The Spectre Of Communism Is Haunting...Obama?"

Click on the headline to link to a The Rag Blog entry on the flap over White House's Robert Gibbs' remarks on "professional leftists."

Markin comment:

I freely admire that, after great efforts, much medication (including more than one whiskey-soaked night), and a couple or twenty therapy sessions a few years ago I seriously tried to follow closely the arcane, and frankly boring, every day minutia of bourgeois politics, especially during the never-ending election campaign cycles. I also freely admit that I gave it up in “defeat”; I waved the white flag and returned to the warm comfort of communist propaganda writing. Apparently blogger Harry Targ has not given up on that ghost. My hat is off to Brother Targ, he has better nerves than I do. And also a tip of the hat for his commentary, although his political prospective seems rather murky and, well, totally electoral.

Now here is a view from the “professional left” that will really make old Robert Gibbs’ hair stand on edge. It’s that old “spectre of communism” tag in the headline that will really cause him a few sleepless nights. Let’s start with Obama-Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops And Mercenaries From Afghanistan and Iraq! And move on to fight for a workers party that fights for a workers government based on workers councils! So you see for this “professional leftist” it is not even about Obama (shocking, really shocking, as that might seem at the White House) but talking over their heads to the desperately-seeking-solutions working masses. Whatever made them (the Obamians) think it was about them. A couple of years ago we called it by the name Bush, so only the name has changed.